Five trades for Matt Garza.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Chicago Cubs right-hander Matt Garza might end up being the best starting pitcher dealt at baseball’s July 31 trade deadline.
After beginning the season on the disabled list, Garza has returned to form as a top-of-the-rotation difference-maker. In his past three starts, he’s gone at least seven innings and given up less than a run per game with 23 strikeouts. It’s clear his stuff is all the way back and his command and control is phenomenal. As such so is his trade value.
The Cubs’ front office is concentrating on fixing its pitching in the long-term, and that’s what they’ll focus on in any trade talks for Garza. The preference will be acquiring young starting pitching which is either close to the big leagues or major league ready.
The Cubs match up well with the Cleveland Indians, Texas Rangers, San Diego Padres, Los Angeles Dodgers and Colorado Rockies, as all can offer them major league-ready pitching either in the rotation or the bullpen. Garza’s injury history makes him somewhat of a risk, and perhaps that will temper some the return on Garza the Cubs are hoping for. So here are five trades the Cubs could realistically make for Garza:
1. Cleveland Indians
RHPs Cody Allen and Dylan Baker
The Indians don’t have any young starting pitching to surrender for a rental such as Garza, but they might be willing to sacrifice a significant bullpen arm if they can make a major acquisition for the pennant race. Allen’s velocity is now up to 94-97 mph and his hard 84 mph slider is nasty, with curveball-type tilt. Allen, 24, is striking out more than 10 per nine innings and could replace Kevin Gregg as the Cubs’ closer if Gregg is dealt as expected at the deadline, as well. Baker would be a solid throw-in for the Cubs. Baker was the Indians’ fifth-round draft pick in 2012 and currently has a 3.63 ERA in low Class A. He throws in the mid-90s with a hard slider that doesn’t break much and looks more like a cutter.
2. Texas Rangers
LHP Robbie Ross and IF Drew Robinson
It would be difficult for the Rangers to part with Ross, who’s been an integral part of the Rangers’ bullpen the past two years. However, Garza would be a solid No. 2 starter between ace Yu Darvish and No. 3 Derek Holland and would greatly improve their chances of winning the AL West and advancing in the playoffs.
The Cubs, on the other hand, could put Ross into the rotation -- he started in the minors -- and since he’s not eligible for salary arbitration until 2015, he would fit nicely in their long-term plans. Robinson would be a solid throw-in. He can play second or third and has some gap-to-gap power.
3. San Diego Padres
LHP Robbie Erlin and RHP Keyvius Sampson
Erlin originally was drafted in the third round by the Rangers in 2009. He was included in a 2011 trade deadline deal for setup man Mike Adams, who was one of the best in the business at the time. Erlin had a 5.25 ERA in 12 Triple-A starts this season, but has pitched very well since being promoted to the majors, posting a 3.60 ERA with 12 strikeouts and one walk in 15 innings. His fastball sits 88-91 mph with a slow 12-6 curveball and a solid change.
Sampson has a history of shoulder and elbow injuries but finally appears healthy. This season he has a 3.64 ERA between Double- and Triple-A with almost a strikeout per inning. He has a 90-94 mph fastball with late sink and a solid changeup.
4. Los Angeles Dodgers
RHPs Stephen Fife and Matt Magill
In Fife and Magill, the Dodgers can offer the Cubs two young major league-ready starters, both of whom have had time in the majors this year. Fife’s 88-92 mph fastball highlights a solid four-pitch mix that includes a curveball, changeup and slider. His repertoire doesn’t wow scouts, but he should be a solid back-of-the-rotation starter in time.
Magill’s fastball, however, is 92-95 mph and runs in on right-handed hitters. When his slider has optimum spin, it’s a wipeout pitch. His changeup needs more work to be effective. He has had trouble with control and command at the major league level, but in time he should settle down and improve. He also could become a back-of-the-rotation starter.
5. Colorado Rockies
LHP Drew Pomeranz and C Will Swanner
Pomeranz made his 2013 major league debut Sunday against the Giants after posting a 4.20 ERA in 85 2/3 innings pitched at Triple-A Colorado Springs. He was acquired two years ago for Ubaldo Jimenez, but struggled a year ago finishing with a 4.93 ERA in his first full season with the Rockies. Scouts have told me they like Pomeranz but question if he ever will be effective at Coors Field.
As a result, Colorado might deal him to get an arm like Garza to go with Jorge De La Rosa and Jhoulys Chacin at the top of its rotation. Pomeranz would be quite a coup for the Cubs’ Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer, if they could get him for Garza.
Swanner, 21, is a big-framed, slow-legged catcher with power. He profiles as a backup catcher and first baseman, but because of the power would be a nice throw-in for the Cubs.
O's must trade for a starter.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
On a macro level, the Orioles have been fairly consistent this season. They've won at least 15 games in each month of the season, and their standing in the ESPN Power Rankings has been fairly well clustered. They have been ranked no higher than No. 4 and no lower than No. 13. Fresh off a sweep of the rival Yankees, they rank seventh this week, but that ranking might be their ceiling if they are unable to improve their starting pitching.
It's hard to know who's in and who's out on a daily basis, given how many pitchers the O's have shuffled through. Ten different pitchers have started games for Baltimore this season. Of them, only three -- Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez and Chris Tillman -- have pitched well enough to retain their starting spot as we move into the second half. The bottom line is that their starting rotation -- which ranks 28th in FIP- -- is not getting the job done.
Jason Hammel was the talk of the town in the first half of last season, but a knee injury killed his momentum, and he hasn't been the same since. He has tossed a quality start just 44 percent of the time this season, which is a below-average rate. With a significant drop in both his strikeout rate and ground ball percentage, he is seeing a lot more hard-hit balls fly off opponents' bats. When everything is firing on all cylinders for Hammel, he is a solid No. 3 starter, but that is definitely not the case this season.
There are a number of unpalatable options to go with Hammel. Zach Britton, who has a higher walk rate than strikeout rate, Jake Arrieta (6.46 BB/9), Steve Johnson (on the 15-day disabled list) and Tsuyoshi Wada, who was so bad during his rehab from Tommy John surgery (8.14 ERA in six outings) that the team out righted him to Triple-A. None of them should be trusted moving forward.
Then there are the two guys who pitched Friday, phenom Kevin Gausman and success story T.J. McFarland.
Gausman clearly has the tools, and with a .337 batting average on balls in play as well as a very high 21.2 percent HR/FB ratio, you could make the argument that he has been unlucky in his initial showings. However, he's far from a sure thing for 2013. McFarland, a Rule 5 pick from the Indians last winter, is even less of a sure thing.
Point is, if the O's want to make sure they don't waste one of the best lineups in baseball, a rotation upgrade is in order. Here's a look at who they should target as well as some possible trade chips.
The name at the top of everyone's wish list heading into July is going to be Cliff Lee. First off, there's no certainty that he will be on the market. But if he is, it will be a long shot for the O's to grab him. Yes, they could deal Dylan Bundy and Jonathan Schoop in a package for Lee, as they are two players the Phillies could certainly use. But with both on the mend -- Tommy John surgery for Bundy and a back injury for Schoop -- the deal would require quite a bit of faith on Philadelphia's part. Probably more faith than they're willing to show, even though Schoop might just be the perfect replacement for impending free agent Chase Utley.
Having both of their top prospects on the shelf will probably be enough to scare off more than just Philadelphia. As such, Baltimore may have to re-focus on different pitchers.
Dennis Wierzbicki/USA TODAY Sports
Chicago's Jake Peavy would be a good get for Baltimore.
Jake Peavy would be a good get, but there are two potential problems with netting Peavy. First, he doesn't want to leave Chicago, and second, he still has a year left on his contract. Also complicating things is the fact he has a player option that kicks in if he hits certain innings limits in 2013 and/or '14. He isn't likely to hit them, but it's certainly something that needs to be taken into account.
There's also the fact Peavy is currently on the shelf, and hasn't been the most durable guy the past half decade. Finally, when he has been healthy this season, he has been allowing more than his fair share of home runs. It hasn't been a career-long problem, but since the Ballpark at Camden Yards is just as much of a bandbox as is U.S. Cellular Field, it's yet another thing that might make Peavy less than an ideal acquisition.
One player who has kept his home runs down this season has been Bud Norris, who has successfully survived the Astros' migration to the American League. He may not keep his HR/FB percentage as low as his current 5.7 percent mark, but even if it comes up some, he should still be a pretty effective pitcher. And with the Astros in the process of a long-term rebuild and in need of pitching, a Norris-for-Eduardo Rodriguez swap could make a lot of sense.
The fourth-ranked prospect in the O's system and 100th-best prospect in the game overall entering the season, Rodriguez offers a lot of potential. The southpaw is currently at high Class A in his age-20 season, so he is still probably at least a year away. If the Astros could be convinced to throw Jose Veras or Wesley Wright into the deal, as well, that might help even out the potential of losing out on the lefty with the potential to have plus velocity.
An option with more experience than Norris would be Matt Garza. Garza is older than is Norris, and while Norris is probably a more attractive option given that he still has a couple of years of team control left, Garza might be the better option for just this year. For one thing, the soon-to-be free agent might not cost as much. For another, he has the experience of pitching in American League East ballparks, given his history with the Rays.
He's also been hot as of late. He's allowed just two runs in his past three starts. Rodriguez would be a good fit in a deal for Garza, as the Cubs need pitching.
Whoever Baltimore targets, the bar is so low for the final spots in its rotation that there are a number of other guys who could fit the bill, as well. The best options outside of Lee, Peavy, Norris and Garza include Ricky Nolasco, Scott Feldman and Joe Blanton, who has thrown quality starts in six of his past seven outings. Shaun Marcum might be a good choice, but he has a tendency to fade down the stretch and has already been hurt this season. Yovani Gallardo might be an option if the Brewers put him on the block, but like with Lee and Peavy, the cost might be prohibitive.
If the O's are able to land one dependable starter, they could be a force come the postseason, should they reach it. They won't need five starters in the postseason, and could conceivably shift Gausman into a high-leverage role similar to how the Rays used David Price in 2008. This would strengthen an already solid bullpen. But first the O's need to get to the postseason, and they must upgrade their rotation to make it there.
Zimmer, Cole impress in Wilmington.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
I made my first trip to Frawley Stadium in Wilmington, Del., on Saturday night, receiving a wonderful welcome from the Blue Rocks' staff and catching a few famous pitching prospects in the process, thanks to a doubleheader against the Potomac Nationals.
Wilmington Game 1 starter, Kyle Zimmer, was the Royals' first overall pick in the 2012 rule 4 draft, a converted position player who showed a big fastball and curveball and had a very easy, athletic delivery that pointed to a top-of-the-rotation ceiling. All of that was on display on Saturday night, as he threw a seven-inning shutout. It was a game in which he gave up just two hits and one hard-hit ball while punching out six batters.
Zimmer showed three plus pitches on Saturday, led by a 93-97 mph fastball that he moved around the zone well and was willing to elevate to get swings and misses. He held that velocity into the final innings, still hitting 95-96 regularly as the game wound down. His curveball is still a thing of beauty, 78-83 with depth and angle to it, and he's comfortable throwing it to both sides of the plate.
The changeup was less consistent but flashed plus at 85-86, with some late action, but was more effective because he sells it so well out of his hand. The only below-average pitch he threw was his 85-87 mph slider, by far his worst offering with barely any tilt to it. However he used it far more often than was justified. Throw that out and you can easily project him as a starter who works with three pitches graded 60 or better if he just develops more feel for the changeup.
Of course, I'm burying the lede a little by omitting the fact that Zimmer had been terrible so far in 2013 before Saturday night, bringing a 5.92 ERA into the game while allowing eight homers in 65 innings, even though Wilmington is a pitchers' park where it's very difficult to homer. I can only speculate on why the guy I saw look so dominant on Saturday has given up so much solid contact, with a .341 BABIP before that outing, in high Class A. One possibility is overuse of the slider -- largely at the expense of the changeup, a pitch with more promise right now -- and that he needs to throw more to get more consistent with it.
A stronger theory is that Zimmer tends to rush through his delivery, which produces inconsistent results from pitch to pitch because he's not always releasing the ball at the same point. His tempo varies too wildly, and I think it starts because he drifts off the rubber too soon rather than staying tall and striding forward in a way that would let him control his body more. I haven't seen the “bad” Kyle Zimmer, so these are just my own hypotheses, but they're two things that could fairly easily be tested without much risk of harming Zimmer for the short or long term.
• The Potomac Nationals aren't exactly the '27 Yankees on offense, but they did roll out two legitimate prospect arms as starters in the two games on Saturday. A.J. Cole was the more impressive of the two, working at 93-97, mostly at the higher end of the range with very little effort and a very quick arm. Cole was originally drafted by the Nats, traded to Oakland in the Gio Gonzalez deal, then reacquired a year later in the Michael Morse trade after a disappointing year in the A's system.
Cole's main problem is that he's about a pitch and a half away from a starter's arsenal. In high school, he had a true curveball, but that's now become a slurvier breaking ball anywhere from 77-84, and he's getting on the side of the pitch, producing a flatter break and making it easier to see when he's throwing that rather than the fastball. (A Nats source told me that in Cole's previous outing, he was on top of the ball more and getting more depth, so I appear to have seen a lesser version.)
He barely uses his 80-82 mph changeup, and used it only versus lefties. He cuts off his delivery and comes across his body a little bit to get to his glove side, which isn't great for long-term shoulder health or for command. I loved Cole as a potential No. 2 starter after his huge 2011 season, but the Cole I saw on Saturday night is going to end up a reliever unless he gets that depth back on the breaking ball and develops a third pitch.
• Lefty Robbie Ray started the first game for Potomac, showing a four-pitch arsenal with nothing plus but some potential as either a fifth starter or a middle reliever. Ray's fastball sat 90-93 but played down because his delivery is all slow and his stride is so short. He gave up two homers to right-handed batters on the pitch, bringing his season totals to eight allowed to righties versus just one to a lefty. That's the result of the straight fastball and fringe-average changeup, which is behind the spike curveball that breaks sharply downward but is usually out of the zone. There's a little more in there than he's showing now, and speeding up the delivery or extending his stride might tap into it enough to make him a solid fourth or fifth starter in the majors at some point.
• There were no bats of note in either lineup, with Wilmington's Jorge Bonifacio on the DL and Cheslor Cuthbert recently promoted to Double-A. The Nats' lineup included Michael Taylor (not the former Phillies farmhand) who looks like he hasn't gained a pound since high school and was blown up by velocity all night. He needs to get a lot stronger before he can regain any sort of prospect status. Right now he's all looseness and athleticism but can't translate any of it into production.
How Davis developed into an elite hitter.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
BALTIMORE -- Chris Davis was anxious at the plate against CC Sabathia on Friday, chasing pitches out of the strike zone, perhaps in the way that he did in those frustrating days when he was with the Texas Rangers. During that game, Robinson Cano reached first base and he turned to Davis.
"Man, slow down," he said. "You've got 28 homers and it's not even the All-Star break." "Yeah, I know," Davis said, acknowledging that he had been hyper-aggressive. "Our pitchers know it, too," said Cano.
So Davis slowed down on Saturday and clubbed two more homers, becoming only the eighth player in major league history to reach 30 by the end of June -- and he's still got one day to go, with the Orioles set to face the Yankees on "Sunday Night Baseball," looking for a sweep.
Davis sat down in the Orioles' dugout Saturday and talked about all the elements that have gone into his remarkable start: The adjustments on his swing, the change in his bat, the lowest moments of the past.
Cano is again the captain for the American League in the Home Run Derby, and I asked him during the Yankees' batting practice if he had finished picking the guys to make up his team. He said that he's close. Based on what he's seeing in Davis, it's hard to imagine that he won't pick the Orioles first baseman.
From the Elias Sports Bureau: Davis is the eighth player in MLB history -- and only the third in American League history -- to have 30 homers before the end of June.
30-plus HRs before end of June
Chris Davis -- 2013
Albert Pujols -- 2009
Barry Bonds -- 2001
Luis Gonzalez -- 2001
Sammy Sosa -- 1998, 1999
Mark McGwire -- 1998
Ken Griffey Jr. -- 1994, 1998
Babe Ruth -- 1928, 1930
Davis is the only one of those eight players to also have at least 25 doubles before the end of June. Saturday was his 81st game of the season. He's now on pace for 117 runs, 49 doubles, 59 homers and 156 RBIs. Nobody in MLB history has ever finished a season with those numbers.
From ESPN Stats and Information: How has Davis developed into one of the elite hitters in baseball this season? Improvement in three key areas:
More contact: During his first two seasons in the majors, Davis struck out 32.3 percent of the time he came to bat. No player, age 23 or younger, in MLB history struck out more often over the course of his first two seasons. This season: 26.3 percent, an enormous improvement.
More fly balls: Last season, Davis hit 33 home runs while hitting fly balls only 39 percent of the time, just slightly above the league average of 36 percent. This season? He's hitting fly balls 48 percent of the time (sixth in MLB).
Better plate discipline: Over the previous four seasons, Davis swung at 36 percent of pitches out of the zone. This season: 29 percent. This has allowed him to get into better counts -- counts he can do damage in. From 2009 to '12, Davis saw a 2-0 or 3-1 count in 14 percent of his plate appearances. This season, he's seeing those counts in 23 percent of his plate appearances and hitting .490/.679/1.163 with a MLB-leading 10 homers in those situations.
Both of Davis' home runs Saturday came against curveballs. He leads the majors with 10 homers versus breaking balls this season.
Most HR versus breaking balls
Chris Davis -- 10
Miguel Cabrera -- 9
Robinson Cano -- 8
Ian Desmond -- 8
In the Orioles' clubhouse before the game, it was a loud atmosphere, as players and coaches took turns battling it out in pool and pingpong. The Yankees' clubhouse was much more reserved. The respective environments probably mean nothing, but on the other hand, the Yankees' players privately acknowledge how much they're struggling: They rank 29th in the majors in runs scored this month, and they are drifting in the standings. On the other hand, Baltimore is playing well, with a lot of confidence, and the Orioles blasted the Yankees on Saturday night.
This was an embarrassing loss, even by the Yankees' recent standards, writes David Waldstein.
Yankees GM Brian Cashman is not ready to throw in the towel.
The Orioles bashed their rivals, writes Dan Connolly.
Some trade stuff:
1. The Rays are still in evaluation mode -- not targeting anything specific -- knowing that they will be getting help from within as David Price and Alex Cobb return to the rotation from the disabled list.
2. I wrote here last week how the Diamondbacks, seeking starting pitching, have interest in the Brewers' Yovani Gallardo, a Mexican-born player who could be a marketable player for Arizona. In their conversations with the Cubs about Jeff Samardzija, Chicago asked for top pitching prospect Archie Bradley as well as Tyler Skaggs. That ended those very brief discussions.
The perception of at least one rival evaluator is that the Diamondbacks are open to moving Skaggs, and that when Arizona gets a starting pitcher, Skaggs is likely the guy who will be at the center of that deal.
3. The Giants are not only looking for pitching, but a right-handed-hitting outfielder. San Francisco's offense has faded, and on Saturday, Matt Cain's strong outing was wasted. They've scored 18 runs in their last nine games.
4. Matt Garza has allowed just two runs over his last three starts and is throwing well, and rival evaluators believe the Cubs will move him quickly. They should be able to get more than the value of a first-round draft pick, given Garza's history of pitching successfully in the AL East. Besides the NL West teams, the clubs interested are said to be the Rangers and Orioles. Keep in mind that anytime the Padres engage with the Cubs, they could have a slight advantage because some of Chicago's front office -- most notably, GM Jed Hoyer -- came from San Diego and knows the team's farm system well.
5. For the Cardinals and other teams, the trade deadline is coming into focus, writes Derrick Goold.
6. The phone of Brewers GM Doug Melvin is ringing, writes Tom Haudricourt.
7. Henderson Alvarez is ready to rejoin the Miami rotation, and Ricky Nolasco could be the guy he replaces.
Around the league
1. The Pirates are the first team to reach 50 victories. They're 20 games over .500 and in first place.
From Elias: The Pirates are the first team to 50 wins for the first time in more than 50 years (1902, 1903, 1908, 1909, 1921, 1960 were the previous seasons). The Pirates haven't made the playoffs since 1992. In the 20 full seasons since then, Pittsburgh had, on average, earned its 50th win of the season in Game No. 113.
The Pirates still have a long way to go, says Clint Hurdle.
2. Bruce Rondon got a chance to pitch in a close game, and it didn't go well. The Tigers have the front-runner for the AL Cy Young Award in Max Scherzer and the likely front-runner for the MVP in Miguel Cabrera. They have so many great parts to their team -- and as of this morning, they are slogging along at 43-36, 14-16 over their last 30 games. Detroit's lead over Cleveland is one game.
As one executive mused the other day: The Indians are a dangerous team, in spite of their flaws, because they play with a ton of energy and have a good offense. Nick Swisher got a big hit for them Saturday.
There's pressure on these five Tigers, writes Bob Wojnowski.
3. Matt Harvey could be headed for an early shutdown. Which makes sense, given his importance in the Mets' world and the fact that the team figures to be playing meaningless games in September. Save the bullets for when they really count.
4. Oakland suffered a key loss when Jarrod Parker went down with a hamstring injury. Presumably, this could open the door for Dan Straily or Sonny Gray to be promoted.
Moves, deals and decisions
1. The Orioles are not close to signing catcher Matt Wieters, and unless something changes dramatically, the expectation within the Baltimore organization is that Wieters will play out his time with the team before becoming a free agent after the 2015 season. Wieters is represented by Scott Boras, whose clients almost always go into free agency rather than sign a long-term deal once they get within range of the open market.
2. Jeff Francoeur was designated for assignment.
3. Cole Hamels is getting a mental break.
4. Kevin Gregg's success could lead to a headache for Dale Sveum, because it's likely Gregg will get traded and the manager will have to find another closer.
5. Drew Pomeranz will start for the Rockies today, writes Patrick Saunders.
6. The Dodgers' outfield is about to get crowded with the return of Carl Crawford.
Dings and dents
1. Bryce Harper is set for his final rehab game.
2. Johnny Cueto was placed on the disabled list.
3. For now, Evan Longoria isn't going on the disabled list, writes Marc Topkin.
4. Derek Jeter must run the bases before taking the next step in his rehabilitation.
5. Peter Bourjos got hurt again.
6. Josh Beckett is going to have surgery.
7. Evan Gattis is waiting for clearance.
Gausman learning as he goes.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
BALTIMORE -- Orioles pitcher Kevin Gausman has a gift for speaking anecdotally, remembering details as if he was drawing from a mental picture. Which is really great for him, because he may be a witness to history, in his first year in the major leagues.
First of all, Orioles third baseman Manny Machado is chasing Earl Webb's single-season doubles record. He doesn’t turn 21 for another five days, but he only needs 29 more after raking his 38th double of the season on "Sunday Night Baseball." And Chris Davis is beyond the midway point of, perhaps, breaking the American League’s single-season record for homers, which is still held by Roger Maris; Davis smashed his 31st homer on Sunday.
Somewhere out in the Baltimore bullpen, Gausman watched it all. He is 22 years old with six appearances in the big leagues, and in one of those, he faced Miguel Cabrera, who is on his way to being one of the greatest hitters of all time. However, it was a gesture that Cabrera made during one of his at-bats against Gausman that seems to have stuck with the young pitcher -- a sign of affirmation.
Before this season, Gausman had never thrown a circle changeup. Instead, he only threw a split-fingered change, with the velocity reading about 10-12 miles per hour slower than his fastball. But Gausman soon found that big-league hitters weren't fooled by that pitch. He needed a circle change that would be closer in velocity to his fastball, aiding its deceptiveness.
In the midst of an at-bat against Cabrera on June 2, Gausman threw a fastball down and in with the count 1-1 to make Cabrera move his feet. As Fernando Rodney learned over the weekend, Cabrera can take offense to having fastballs in the area of his head, but he seemed to understand what Gausman was doing, and why: He looked out at the rookie and nodded.
Then Gausman threw him an off-speed pitch, and Cabrera -- with his extraordinary eye-hand coordination -- managed to foul it off with an emergency hack, and again, he looked out at Gausman and nodded.
The count reached 3-2, and Gausman aimed a fastball at the outside corner, mid-90s paint. Cabrera took it for strike three to end the top half of the sixth inning, and as Gausman walked off the mound, he saw it again --Cabrera giving him a little nod: Nice job, Kid.
Something to remember, forever. Contact with greatness. Or, in this case, no contact.
• Because Gausman is the youngest member of the bullpen, he is expected to carry the bag of baseballs to the pen at the outset of each game. However, during the weekend series against the Yankees, he realized he also forgot to take sunflower seeds. One of the other relievers noticed Mariano Rivera nearby in the Yankees’ bullpen. "Why don’t you ask Rivera for some seeds?" his teammate said, cajoling.
Gausman knew better than to take that bait. He hopes to have a conversation with the all-time saves leader sometime this summer.
• On Saturday, Gausman was sitting in the bullpen when Chris Davis came up for his first at-bat in the first inning, and he remembers thinking to himself: "What if he hit a ball right at me?"
A second later, Davis crushed a long home run to the back of the Baltimore bullpen -- the ball landed inches away from Gausman.
Moments in time for a rookie pitcher. Moments to remember. And there were more on Sunday Night, when the Orioles closed out a sweep of the Yankees.
From ESPN Stats and Info: Chris Davis hit his 31st homer of the season Sunday, the seventh-most by a player through June and the most since Barry Bonds (39) and Luis Gonzalez (32) in 2001.
Davis is one of baseball’s best stories, writes Kevin Cowherd.
It seemed like everybody was in the building at Camden Yards -- including owner Peter Angelos -- and the Orioles responded, writes Eduardo Encina. Brian Roberts was back in the lineup for Baltimore.
The loss dropped the Yankees into fourth place in the AL East.
Alex Rodriguez will have a workout today and then will determine his next course of action. Joe Girardi is staying away from the A-Rod fray, writes Ken Davidoff.
Around the league
• The Pirates waited and waited before winning again, adding to their streak and MLB-best record of 51-30, as Jenn Menendez writes.
• As we all know, the Pirates are looking for their first winning season since 1992. While they're unlikely to continue at this pace and win 102 games, history says they're a lock to get that winning season.
From ESPN Stats and Info: The Pirates won their ninth straight game Sunday, their longest win streak since winning 10 straight in 2004. The win moved the Pirates to a MLB-best 51-30 on the season, tied for their best record through 81 games in more than 40 years. Each of the previous two times the Pirates won 51 games by the halfway point, they made the playoffs.
From Elias: Since MLB went to a 162-game schedule in 1962, 57 teams have been 21 or more games over .500 through 81 games. None of those 57 finished below .500.
But are they a lock for the playoffs? In the Wild Card era (since 1995), three teams (2002 Mariners, 2003 Mariners and 2006 White Sox) missed the playoffs despite being 20 or more games over .500 at the end of June.
A five-day break has been beneficial for Jason Grilli, writes Rob Biertempfel.
• The Indians have tied the Tigers in the AL Central, after their win over the White Sox and the Tigers loss to the Rays. As John Lowe writes, the Tigers have scored in only five of their last 36 innings.
However, it’s still really early in this race, as Paul Hoynes writes.
Joe Maddon was upset that the Tigers targeted Ben Zobrist. Maybe it’s a good thing these two teams don’t face each other again this season, writes Tom Gage. The Rays got the final say, writes Marc Topkin.
We had Cleveland GM Chris Antonetti on the podcast Thursday, and on Friday, Tim Kurkjian and I talked a whole lot about Yasiel Puig.
• The NL West is awesome: five teams within four games of each other, including the hard-charging Dodgers, who got four more hits from Yasiel Puig on Sunday.
From Elias: Puig, who debuted in the majors on June 3, went 4-for-5 with a double and a triple in the Dodgers’ 6–1 victory against the Phillies to improve his batting average to .436 (44-for-101). That’s the highest average for any player in baseball’s modern era (1900 to date) in the calendar month of his major-league debut (minimum: 60 at-bats). Only one other player who debuted in the majors since 1900 collected as many hits during his first calendar month in the big leagues as Puig. That was Joe DiMaggio, who went 48-for-126 (.381) in May 1936.
Moves, deals and decisions
1. White Sox GM Rick Hahn sounds as if he’s ready to begin selling, writes Toni Ginnetti.
2. Cliff Lee may be available, but the question for the Red Sox is whether they are willing to pay the price, writes Tim Britton,
3. It would make sense for the Phillies to trade Chase Utley, writes David Murphy. I agree completely. Ruben Amaro indicated that Utley is not untouchable.
The question is going to be whether the Phillies can get anything worthwhile in return, because there doesn’t appear to be a high volume of teams that would move aggressively to get him. The Orioles might, depending on whether Brian Roberts can stay healthy, but Ryan Flaherty has played well offensively and defensively of late, and Baltimore and Philadelphia had a tough time agreeing on deals last summer. Even if the Orioles had Roberts and Flaherty, they could still use Utley as a designated hitter.
None of the NL Central contenders need a second baseman, nor do most of the NL West teams. Atlanta wouldn’t push for a deal, and neither would Washington. Oakland could be a good landing spot, but the Phillies would presumably have to eat some money to make it happen, which would greatly complicate any deal.
I wrote here in April that the Royals would be the perfect fit, but we don’t know whether K.C. would surrender something decent. They are certainly winning enough to be in the conversation, standing 4 1/2 games out of first place.
There’s no question about this point: Trading Utley in midseason would allow the Phillies to move on gracefully from his time with the team and give them a chance to play Freddy Galvis daily.
4. Larry Beinfest isn’t talking about any Ricky Nolasco deal. But it’s coming, soon, and the Dodgers have been right in the middle of the talk.
5. The Dodgers designated a reliever for assignment.
Dings and dents
1. The Reds are going to slow down Johnny Cueto’s rehab, writes Mark Sheldon.
2. The Nationals are excited to have Bryce Harper back.
3. Lance Berkman’s knee continues to be sore.
4. Buster Posey is dealing with some aches, which means Brandon Belt sits.
5. Jarrod Parker may be able to make his next start, writes John Hickey.