Kemp makes sense in left field.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
When Don Mattingly benched Matt Kemp for five straight games recently because of poor defense, I couldn't help but think of how recently Kemp was considered one of the best players in baseball.
In 2011, Kemp hit .324 with 39 home runs and 40 stolen bases, leading the National League in WAR and finishing second in the MVP voting. Injuries have precipitated a decline in Kemp's offensive production since that amazing season, but his defense has been a problem for much of his career. The Dodgers seem to recognize this and are now playing Kemp in left field. This is a smart move.
Since 2010, Kemp has cost the Dodgers an estimated 73 runs with his poor defense, per the defensive runs saved (DRS) metric. That is the worst total of any player at any position, and that is despite injuries that limited him to only 179 total games in 2012 and 2013. This season, Kemp has cost the Dodgers 12 runs, again the worst total in baseball.
Worst DRS totals, 2010-14
1. Matt Kemp: -73
2. Rickie Weeks: -70
t-3. Michael Young: -59
t-3. Raul Ibanez: -59
t-5. Michael Cuddyer: -57
t-5. Hanley Ramirez: -57
When you watch Kemp play, you wouldn't expect him to be a poor defender. Obviously he is fast; you don't steal 30 or more bases three times in your career without speed. And he has a good arm. Since 2010, he has thrown out 20 baserunners without the use of a relay man, a total that trails only Adam Jones among center fielders. However, those tools have not translated into the ability to consistently turn balls in play into outs.
Baseball Info Solutions measures how frequently a player turns balls in play into outs relative to other players at his position with a stat called plus/minus, which is an approximate measure of a player's range (essentially the range component of DRS). Kemp's minus-78 plus/minus runs saved is 30 runs worse than the next-worst center fielder, Adam Jones, since 2010.
With Carl Crawford going on the DL because of a sprained ankle, Kemp may find himself playing a lot of left field over the next few weeks. Given his profile of poor range but a good arm, that move may be the best thing for Kemp long term.
Left is right
Over the past five seasons, 11 players have transitioned from playing at least 500 innings in center field with minus-5 plus/minus runs saved or worse in one season to at least 500 innings at a corner outfield spot in the next. All 11 players had a better DRS total in the corner outfield spot than they did in center field the previous year. On average, players improved by 12 DRS.
Players who moved from center to left or right, with at least 500 innings per season in each spot.
PLAYER YEAR CF DRS DRS AS CORNER OF
Shane Victorino 2013 -2 24
Josh Hamilton 2013 -11 -8
Alex Rios 2012 -9 4
Rajai Davis 2012 -9 1
Melky Cabrera 2012 -6 -1
Michael Brantley 2011 -14 8
Carlos Beltran 2011 -5 0
Torii Hunter 2011 -10 9
Kosuke Fukudome 2010 -7 -1
Nick Swisher 2009 -11 -7
Lastings Milledge 2009 -13 4
Kemp was on pace to be the worst center fielder to potentially qualify for this list, but even if Kemp is slightly below average as a left fielder, he is still good enough offensively to make a positive impact at his new position. Kemp has an OPS of .755 this season, which is 150 points lower than his best offensive seasons in 2011 and 2012. However, his current OPS is still 30 points better than the average OPS of left fielders this season. With slightly below-average defense and slightly above-average offense, Kemp would be about average overall as a left fielder. It is a far cry from his MVP-caliber seasons, but he would still help the Dodgers at that level of production.
The bigger issue for the Dodgers may be that they don't have a strong alternative in center field on their major league roster. Other than Kemp, Andre Ethier is the only other Dodger with more than a few innings in center field this season. And Ethier has cost the Dodgers three runs in limited time in center field since the start of 2013. Of course, that's better than Kemp. And top prospect Joc Pederson, who has a 1.077 OPS for Triple-A Albuquerque, is the long-term solution anyway.
If the Dodgers want to maximize Kemp's value, left field is the place for him.
How Boston improves its outfield.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
In 2012, absolutely nothing went right for an injury-riddled Boston Red Sox team, which lost 93 games and finished in last place in the AL East. In 2013, absolutely everything went right -- rebound seasons, unexpected health -- as they won their third World Series title in a decade. With most of the championship roster returning in 2014 (minus a key contributor or two), plus a full season from top prospect Xander Bogaerts and the exciting potential of a Grady Sizemore comeback, the Red Sox seemed positioned to contend again.
Instead? Through 50 games, the 2014 squad was actually five games behind the pace of the 2012 disaster. Through Thursday, the Red Sox were in fourth place, eight games behind the Toronto Blue Jays. Maybe this won't be their year, but there's no indication that the Red Sox are ready to pack it in, as evidenced by last week's move to bring back Stephen Drew. Unlike what's happening in Texas, this isn't an injury-fueled disaster that can't be overcome, and despite how impressive the Jays have been, the AL East looks to be as weak as it has been in years.
If the Red Sox can merely get some of their bats to bounce back to long-established career norms, and possibly figure out what's ailing Clay Buchholz (easier said than done, of course), this is still a talented team that can contend.
Well, except for the outfield, which absolutely cannot go on as it is. Sizemore has been healthy but unproductive; Shane Victorino has missed time with two hamstring injuries in two months; Jackie Bradley Jr. is on his way to showing for the second year in a row that he isn't ready to be in the big leagues. We could merely say the Red Sox outfield has been horrible, but it's probably more educational to show by just how much, using wRC+:
If the Red Sox are to turn their season around, they are going to need to fix that outfield. But what can they do? Fortunately, they have options.
The "Where Does Anyone Go When They Need an Outfielder" option
Need an outfielder? Look to the Los Angeles Dodgers, who have so many that they can't even get top prospect Joc Pederson and his .340/.448/.629 line out of Triple-A. Yasiel Puig isn't going anywhere, no one wants a return engagement in Boston for Carl Crawford, and Matt Kemp's injuries and contract probably make him untradeable. That leaves Andre Ethier.
Not that this is a new idea, of course; Ethier's friendship with college teammate Dustin Pedroia and occasionally testy relationship with Dodger management have put him squarely in Red Sox trade rumors for most of the past five years or so. While Ethier has recently taken over center field from Kemp, the presence of Pederson behind him hardly means that he's irreplaceable, though his contract -- $53.5M guaranteed from 2015 to 2017, plus the remainder of this year's $15.5M -- and his absolute inability to hit lefty pitching lower his value considerably.
To merely look at Ethier's season line, his 107 wRC+ would indicate a career-worst year, but that's somewhat misleading. The notoriously streaky Ethier suffered through a tough April (78 wRC+) but has been red-hot in May (140 wRC+), while shocking most by proving he's at least passable defensively in center field.
He is all but unplayable against lefties, though he still mashes righties; since 2010, his 149 wRC+ against righties is better than that of Joe Mauer, Ryan Braun and Carlos Gonzalez. The Dodgers would need to eat some of the contract, and they couldn't be expecting elite talent in return. The imperfect Ethier would immediately be Boston's best outfielder.
Likelihood: Moderate. The Dodgers are going to trade an outfielder at some point, even with Crawford injured, but anything this obvious rarely actually happens, and the Sox found great success back in 2012 by dumping an overpriced outfielder on the Dodgers (Crawford), not taking one on.
The "Let's Make a Huge Splash Because We Can" option
[+] EnlargeGiancarlo Stanton
AP Photo/Lynne Sladky
The Red Sox appear to be a likely trade suitor for the services of Marlins masher Giancarlo Stanton.
Based on the team's history of trading young stars before they become expensive, just about no one believes the Miami Marlins are going to be able to retain Giancarlo Stanton past 2016, when he'll become a free agent headed into his age-27 season. But the list of trade suitors could be smaller than expected, because any interested party would need to satisfy the Marlins' high demands for prospects (sorry, New York Yankees), be able to afford to pay Stanton now and in the future (sorry, Pittsburgh Pirates), be in a position to win soon (sorry, Chicago Cubs), and have a need for an outfielder (sorry, Dodgers and Angels).
The Red Sox fit all those criteria, and Stanton is off to another fantastic start, trailing only Troy Tulowitzki in WAR to date, and positioning himself as a legitimate MVP candidate. (The idea of Stanton targeting the Green Monster is more than a little appealing.) The main problem here: Miami is playing surprisingly well, sitting in second place in the NL East, and won't give up Stanton unless the team completely falls apart. It will be difficult for them to survive with Jose Fernandez gone and Henderson Alvarez hurting, but this may be more of a long-term project for Boston.
Likelihood: Low (in 2014), favorable (after 2014).
The "Small Improvement That Won't Sell Tickets but Makes Sense" option
Most likely, the team will go for minor improvements, hoping that Victorino and Daniel Nava can provide a semblance of what they did last year, and even though many teams aren't ready to send away talent in early June, that doesn't mean there aren't options out there. Seth Smith, one of the major's foremost lefty platoon bats, is off to a raging start for the fading Padres and would be an improvement over Nava as Jonny Gomes' platoon partner.
But what the Red Sox really need is someone who can handle center, which Smith can't. One intriguing possibility may be Colorado's Corey Dickerson, who has hit well in his limited major league career (118 wRC+) but has been diminished in Denver thanks to the breakout of Charlie Blackmon. Boston could also look south to the collapsing New York Mets, who have Juan Lagares, an elite defensive center fielder who is showing some life at the plate despite a manager who doesn't seem to appreciate him; or to Seattle, and Michael Saunders, a quality right fielder and league-average bat who could spot in center until Victorino or Bradley is capable.
Likelihood: High. The Red Sox have to do something other than wait, and while second base prospect Mookie Betts has recently begun playing center in Double-A, it's unfair to expect him to come up immediately and be the savior after just a few games at his new position, although he did play there in high school.
Red Sox taking needless risk with Lester.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
There are 119 days remaining in the Major League Baseball season, and depending on whether the Boston Red Sox make the playoffs, perhaps 119 days until Jon Lester throws his last pitch of the year.
But the Red Sox may have much less time than that to negotiate a new long-term deal with Lester, who is the unquestioned anchor of the staff and is off to the best start of his career, with a 3.15 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP. Lester gave the Red Sox their seventh straight win Sunday with a 12-strikeout gem against the Rays, matching his season high for fastball velocity, at 92.6 mph with the pitch (according to ESPN Stats and Info). Rays hitters were 1-for-13 with six strikeouts and a walk against that pitch.
He is averaging almost seven innings per start, and has 22 walks and 95 strikeouts in 80 innings. The Red Sox have no one else like him. John Lackey was a big part of the 2013 championship, but he turns 36 in October and may be around for only one more season. The future of Clay Buchholz is a complete mystery. Felix Doubront is hurt, and hasn't really established himself as a reliable force. Jake Peavy will be a free agent in the fall, with his Cy Young days behind him.
And yet the Red Sox have dallied in their talks with the left-hander, who spoke over the winter of his desire to remain with the Red Sox, the only team he's ever played for. Boston reportedly offered $70 million in negotiations earlier this year, a number that seems well below market value for a 30-year-old left-hander who has had success while pitching in the rugged AL East.
Some of the delay in negotiations for some of the players headed for free agency in the fall make sense. Hanley Ramirez is off to a relatively slow start, and while the Los Angeles Dodgers would like to retain him beyond this year -- almost certainly as a third baseman, rather than a shortstop -- they'd like to see him have a strong, injury-free season to show he's worth an investment. The San Diego Padres and Chase Headley have been in a three-year stalemate over what his actual value is. Max Scherzer turned down a whopper offer from the Tigers and decided to bet on himself in the fall.
But Boston's hesitance with Lester doesn't make any sense, and instead, seems right out of the Philadelphia Phillies' negotiation playbook with Cole Hamels -- a strategy that was a complete and utter failure. Hamels, if you recall, was set to become a free agent in the fall of 2012, and in the fall of 2011, the Phillies dangled the thought of an $80 million deal. That was rejected outright. In the spring of 2012, Matt Cain got a $112.5 million extension from the Giants, and it was only after that that Philadelphia indicated a willingness to go past $100 million.
Hamels -- who, like Lester, had already made some money in his career -- rejected that and decided to bet on himself. And finally, on July 25, the Phillies capitulated, offered a six-year, $144 million, or about 75 percent more than what they had offered just eight months before.
A lot of agents and players will tell you privately that even when their public stance is that they are always ready to listen, they reach a tipping point in the summer before free agency when they decide to test the market. Heck, at this point, Lester probably has about 20 to 22 regular season starts remaining, and if the Red Sox keep lagging, or keep offering him deals far less than Hamels, Cain or even Homer Bailey, he and his representatives could just decide to wait out the last weeks and test the market.
Which would leave the Red Sox for 2015 and beyond with very little in the way of established starting pitching, despite the fact that Boston actually has incredible financial flexibility. Lackey, Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino are signed through next season. David Ortiz and Buchholz are signed through 2015, with options attached for 2016 and 2017.
Dustin Pedroia is the only veteran signed beyond 2015, and his contract is team-friendly, especially for a big-market, big-money team like the Red Sox. If they cho0se to be aggressive in their negotiations with Lester, they certainly have the money.
But the slow pace of the talks is gaining attention within the industry among rival officials who had always assumed that Boston would re-sign Lester. Increasingly, rival execs are speculating about why Boston waits, whether it's a devotion to a fiscal discipline after the Red Sox were able to shed the contracts of Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, or a belief that the Red Sox can lure other veterans to a deals more favorable to the team, or because of something in the medical history. Only Red Sox owner John Henry knows for sure; team president Larry Lucchino said on the radio the other day that he expects the talks with Lester to continue.
We'll see. But as the calendar rolls along and Lester keeps pitching well as he continues to move toward free agency, the price tag for the Red Sox might only go up. If, in the end, he walks away without Boston having taken one last legitimate shot, it will really hurt the franchise -- in their 2015 pitching, in the eyes of the players who remain, as well as a lot of fans who would not understand how they lost their best pitcher to the Yankees, Dodgers, Mariners, Giants or some other team when they have the need and the money to spend.
Lester helped the Red Sox to a near-perfect day, as Shaughnessy writes. He was asked The Question about his contract situation in his postgame press conference. A couple of Boston youngsters were promoted to the big leagues.
Around the league
• Don Mattingly told a great story about Yasiel Puig before Sunday Night Baseball: He met with Puig in the midst of some struggles the outfielder was having during spring training, and asked him who he wanted to be remembered like when his career was over. Puig's responded, "Derek Jeter."
Mattingly said, "We can work with that."
That Puig set such a high bar for himself in how he wanted to be regarded within the sport allowed the manager to go back to that conversation, when needed, to remind Puig of all that he needs to do to achieve his goal of being like Jeter, such as being on time for pregame stretch and being reliable. Mattingly has seen enormous improvement in Puig. "Incredible," he said. "Huge strides."
Mattingly noted that Adrian Gonzalez has been engaged in a series-to-series contest with Puig about which player can get on base more often, and Mattingly believes this might be helping Puig focus on swinging at pitches in the strike zone and being willing to take walks, when given.
But as well as Puig has been playing, the Dodgers continue to lag; with their 5-3 loss to the Pirates, they are a whopping eight games behind the Giants in the loss column.
• San Francisco hammered the Cardinals, behind Tim Hudson; they are the best team in the majors right now.
• Or maybe Oakland is the best team: The A's swept the Angels over the weekend, padding their lead in the AL West. The Angels were no match for the Athletics, writes Mike DiGiovanna.
• Andrew McCutchen put on an incredible show Sunday Night Baseball, with a homer and two doubles. Here's the tremendous catch that McCutchen made during Sunday's game.
• For a guideline on when Gregory Polanco will be called up from Triple-A: Gerrit Cole made his debut for the Pirates June 11 of last season. Whenever Polanco arrives, he is expected to be the leadoff hitter.
• Mark Buehrle completely shut down the Royals, and he's got 10 wins.
• Chris Sale pitched a two-hitter and recorded his sixth career complete game in beating the Padres Sunday. Since the start of last season, only two pitchers have more complete games than Sale's five (Adam Wainwright seven, David Price six).
Sale has made three starts since coming off the disabled list. His numbers: 2-0, a 0.50 ERA and an opponent BA of .054 (3-56). Lefties are 0-12 against him over this stretch, while righties are 3-44.
• Stuart Sternberg, who will decide whether the Rays will be buyers or sellers, is confident his team can bounce back, as Joe Smith writes.
• Edwin Encarnacion. Again. Encarnacion hit his 17th home in the last 26 games Sunday. According to Elias, he's the first player since Shawn Green in 2002 to hit as many as 17 homers in a 26-game span.
• The Indians had a big weekend, in sweeping the Rockies.
• Kyle Lohse rolled, and the Brewers gained ground on the division.
Moves, deals and decisions
1. Liked the Bryan Morris deal for both the Pirates -- who get a draft pick and the dollars attached to it -- and for the Marlins, who need to bolster their staff. The Marlins are expected to be one of the more aggressive teams in adding help before the trade deadline.
2. Mike Moustakas was recalled by the Royals.
3. Liam Hendriks was sent back to the minors.
4. Joe Mauer turned down an offer for a mental break.
Dings and dents
1. Ryan Zimmerman played another game in left field, as James Wagner writes.
2. Carlos Beltran could be back Thursday.
3. Juan Lagares is going for an MRI.
4. Buck Showalter doesn't want to discuss timeframes when it comes to Matt Wieters.
5. Allen Craig appears to be OK after getting hit in the head.
6. Yordano Ventura is lined up to pitch Thursday.
7. Joey Votto has improved a lot.
8. Arizona's A.J. Pollock is going to need surgery.
9. Robinson Cano: Still out.
10. Chad Billingsley wants to get back in early July.
1. Tanner Roark threw well, but lost.
2. David Robertson blew a save chance.
3. Manny Machado had a big day.
4. The Cardinals suffered another ugly loss.
5. The Tigers fell flat at the end of a West Coast road trip.
6. The Twins put together a big rally.
7. Arizona was hurt by the long ball.
8. Roenis Elias shut down the Tigers.
• Long games have drained the Phillies' bullpen, writes David Murphy.
• Lucas Duda set off a celebration, writes Tim Rohan.
• The Braves swept the Marlins, with another homer from Evan Gattis -- who has more homers (11) than walks (nine).
• A pitching change did not work for Miami.
• David Carpenter is going through a rough stretch.
• Jared Hughes and other Pittsburgh relievers love stranding runners.
• The Cubs were tested by ejection and injury.
• Mattingly and Andre Ethier are OK after their dugout clash on Saturday.
• Tyler Matzek had a less-than-stellar debut.
• Mark Appel says he was humbled by his tough outing Saturday. He said he felt entitled to certain things.
I don't know Appel, but it would seem like a pretty good sign that he stepped up and answered for his brutal performance.
• Shin-Soo Choo got a break.
• The Rangers and Yu Darvish dominated Washington. From ESPN Stats and Info, how Darvish won:
A) He was tough on righties: right-handed batters went 2-for-16 with eight strikeouts, missing on 14 of 31 swings (45 percent).
B) A 36.7 swing-and-miss percentage, his highest rate this season.
C) He put hitters away: Nats went 1-for-15 with eight strikeouts and one walk in plate appearances that got to two strikes
• Derek Jeter is serious about becoming an owner.
• Brock Holt had four doubles, and made some history:
Four doubles in a game by a 1B since 1900 (team result)
2014: Brock Holt (won)
2004: Adam LaRoche (won)
1996: Jeff Bagwell (won)
1956: Vic Wertz (won)
1901: Pop Dillon (won)
• The Nationals were involved in a double challenge and lost both.
• The Tigers could be tempted to take a pitcher in the draft, writes Lynn Henning.
• The Padres are looking at some healthy options with pick No. 13.
• The Rockies are likely to draft a pitcher or two early in the draft.
• Jeff Francoeur and Jason Lane are pitching in the minors.
• David Price must show more maturity, writes Steve Buckley.
• Vanderbilt has moved on with tremendous pitching, writes David Climer.
• Don Meyer was remembered at Lipscomb Sunday.
And today will be better than yesterday.
Puig transforming into model of stability.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
LOS ANGELES -- Matt Kemp's mood is measured here daily, like the smog index, and Hanley Ramirez's future is unclear, whether he'll be a shortstop, or even a Dodger. The team's defense is a roll of the dice day to day, and so is the bullpen.
It says something about how far Yasiel Puig has come in his development that as June begins, he has become the model of stability within this organization. Every day, he arrives and asks questions, and every day, he seems to get better and better, steadily eroding the mountain of mistakes that he used to make.
"If you see him play every day," said Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti, "he's gone up a notch. We needed him to be a little more refined, to make an adjustment."
He's done that. Which is what all the other Dodgers wanted from him: to stop making the same mistakes over and over and over.
Oh sure, it's very possible that when you watch the Dodgers play the Pittsburgh Pirates on "Sunday Night Baseball" (8 ET on ESPN and WatchESPN), Puig could make a baserunning mistake, and yes, he could overthrow a cut-off man. But it is apparent to the other players on the team that Puig, who moved at hyperdrive speed in everything when he arrived, is slowing the game down.
Puig's plate discipline has improved dramatically, as shown by the numbers from FanGraphs. The percentage of pitches outside the strike zone at which he has swung has plummeted from 38.9 percent in 2013 to 27.8 percent this season. The percentage of pitches inside the zone at which he has swung has dropped from 79.6 percent to 71.2 percent, which speaks to his selectivity. Overall, he has swung at 45.4 percent of pitches, after swinging at 54.4 percent last year.
Last season, Puig racked up 97 strikeouts and 36 walks. This year, that ratio has changed significantly: He's got 43 strikeouts and 26 walks, and he's on track to accumulate 74 walks this season, which is pretty remarkable for such an aggressive player in his first full season. He's hitting .340, and is on track for 80 extra-base hits.
The other Dodgers say he is much more open to suggestions, to constructive criticism, than he was when he first arrived. They also say the volume of simple baserunning and fielding mistakes has been reduced, which means all the great things he does aren't mitigated as much as they were last year.
Other notes on Dodgers, Pirates
• Ramirez had a big day on Saturday, as the Dodgers blew out Pittsburgh. T.J. Simers wants to know: Where's the love for Matt Kemp?
• Sunday night, Zack Greinke is set to pitch against Edinson Volquez. With Dan Shulman and John Kruk getting a week off, the ESPN broadcast will be something very different: Karl Ravech will be the ringleader for a team of analysts (and one reporter) and a night of conversation about this game, and the rest of Major League Baseball. One of the best things about working at ESPN is hanging out in the green room on a given night and listening to the perspectives and stories from folks like Barry Larkin, Mark Mulder, Doug Glanville, Eric Wedge and Aaron Boone, and that's what we'll have this evening.
• Gregory Polanco batted leadoff in his Triple-A game, and this is a lot more than a matter of getting a young player as many plate appearances as possible in preparation for his promotion to the big leagues. The Pirates don't have an established leadoff hitter in the big leagues, and because Polanco has been relatively patient and can run, he will be strongly considered for this role whenever he is called up. Polanco has a .411 on-base percentage in the minors, with 26 extra-base hits and 12 stolen bases.
Meanwhile, the Pirates' leadoff hitters this year have posted a .688 OPS, 20th in the majors.
Polanco is a unique case, writes Travis Sawchik.
Around the league
• Masahiro Tanaka continues to make a strong case to start the All-Star Game for the American League.
• Oscar Taveras announced his presence with authority in his debut, Derrick Goold writes.
From the Elias Sports Bureau: At 21 years and 346 days old, Taveras is the youngest Cardinal to homer in his MLB debut since Eddie Morgan on April 14, 1936. He did everything right, writes Bernie Miklasz.
• Craig Kimbrel tied a record, David O'Brien notes.
• Ryan Zimmerman made his rehab start in the outfield.
• The Red Sox-Rays feud has regressed to the point that they're challenging each other's metaphors. The good thing is that Rubby De La Rosa just worried about pitching, and shut out the Rays for seven innings. From ESPN Stats & Information, how he did that:
A. On Saturday, 43.8 percent of his pitches were changeups. This was a career high, (17.6 percent was his previous high for a start).
B. The Rays were 2-for-16 with six strikeouts in at-bats ending in his changeup, with only one hard-hit ball.
C. He averaged 95.2 mph with his fastball (and the maximum fastball velocity was 99.3 mph).
D. De La Rosa threw 58.1 percent of his pitches in the strike zone, his highest rate in any start.
E. Hitters were 2-for-18 with seven strikeouts in at-bats ending in a pitch in the strike zone.
• The Rays have lost five straight games. To make matters worse, Wil Myers is out with a wrist injury.
• Jason Hammel figures to be dealt sometime this month or early next month, and he showed excellent stuff on Saturday in shutting down the Brewers, as Mark Gonzales writes. From ESPN Stats & Information, how he won:
A. His 94.5 mph average fastball velocity tied for his best in any start over the past two seasons.
B. Hammel recorded five strikeouts with his slider, his most in any start over the past two seasons.
C. He coaxed 19 swings-and-misses, his most in any start since 2009.
D. He faced just one batter with runners in scoring position, his fewest in any start this season.
• The Nationals are back to .500. Of all the teams in the majors, they might be the biggest mystery, given the talent level of the players they field daily.
Moves, deals and decisions
1. Rafael Montero was returned to the minors.
2. The Cubs signed Crane Kenney to another five-year deal.
3. There has been a Rogers reorganization, and John Lott wonders if this will impact how much flexibility Alex Anthopoulos has this summer.
4. Tony La Russa and Kevin Towers spent significant time together Saturday. From Nick Piecoro's story:
"It's not 100 percent clear in my mind what the best way is to go forward," La Russa said. "I just know that he's a general manager that I know better than most because we've had an association and we've competed against each other and have an association through a mutual friend, (Reds GM) Walt Jocketty. I know that he's really a skillful guy and has talents. How does that all come together? We're still trying to figure it out."
He made it sound like part of that is figuring out where La Russa himself fits into the equation given his unique job title.
"Is there anybody in baseball that has this kind of responsibility? The answer is no," La Russa said. "You don't walk in and say, 'Here's a blueprint that's been established.' Fortunately, you've got somebody like Kevin who has a wealth of experience.
"He's also a competitor and he's saying let's figure it out and make it work. He's not saying, 'I'm a traditionalist and if they bring in somebody like you, I'm going to hit the highway.' Some guys could respond like that."
5. The Dodgers could take legal action over SportsNet LA, writes Bill Shaikin.
Dings and dents
1. The future of East Carolina's Jeff Hoffman has been barely dimmed by elbow surgery, writes Tyler Kepner.
2. Michael Pineda has been shut down after another setback.
3. Mark Teixeira got a shot of cortisone in his wrist.
4. A.J. Pollock suffered a broken hand.
5. Mike Trout is dealing with a back problem.
1. The White Sox struggled again without Jose Abreu.
2. Johnny Cueto completely dominated Arizona.
3. The Indians continue to hang in there: They beat the Rockies in extra innings.
4. The Marlins unraveled in a loss.
5. Bad news for Aaron Brooks.
6. The Mariners pieced together a lineup and beat Detroit.
• Yoenis Cespedes did it all on Saturday, John Shea writes. That included throwing out two players at the plate in the second inning against the Angels.
From the Elias Sports Bureau: Cespedes is the first outfielder to throw out two players at the plate in a single inning since Shin-Soo Choo performed the feat on April 24, 2011, against the Twins.
• The Rangers are ready for June after an injury-filled May, writes Drew Davison.
• Evan Grant writes how a unique analytics theory might help the Rangers' rotation.
• Some of the Twins aren't surprised by the success of a former teammate.
• Drew Smyly struggled in a loss.
• The Tigers will form their identity, championship or not, writes Jerry Green.
• Greg Holland has stayed true to his roots.
• Nelson Cruz continues to propel the Orioles, writes Eduardo Encina.
• Chris Tillman won, at a time when the O's really needed it.
• Manny Machado is still searching to find his 2013 form.
• The Jays closed out May with a one-sided win, fittingly, getting a nice performance from Marcus Stroman.
• The Mark Buehrle way: Rely on your catcher, not analytics.
• Edwin Encarnacion is an underrated superstar, writes Richard Griffin.
• Will Venable had a big day.
• Tyler Matzek could help the struggling Colorado rotation, writes Patrick Saunders.
• The Rockies' pitching staff has been a problem, writes Woody Paige.
That's been the case for about two decades. There is no greater challenge in Major League Baseball than the Rockies' challenge of building and maintaining a pitching staff from season to season, and even month to month.
• The Giants witnessed what might be the start of a great career, Henry Schulman writes.
• Winning affects the lineup choices of Bruce Bochy.
• From ESPN Stats & Information: With a pair of homers Saturday, Anthony Rizzo now has 48 home runs before his 25th birthday. He now trails only Ron Santo (104), Ernie Banks (65) and Billy Williams (57) -- all Hall of Famers -- for the most homers by a Cub before turning 25.
• Brandon Cumpton had a really bad day.
• Devin Mesoraco shows no signs of slowing down, writes Hal McCoy.
• You may have heard this before: A Cardinals draft pick is rising quickly.
• From ESPN Stats & Information: Giancarlo Stanton led the majors in average home run distance in May (minimum five homers), averaging 437.1 feet per homer. Stanton hit eight home runs in May, the shortest of which was 412 feet (the average home run distance in MLB this season is 396.8 feet).
• Jarrod Saltalamacchia had a lousy May.
• Mark Appel, last year's No. 1 pick, had a disastrous outing on Saturday.
• The Astros have the first pick in the draft and are considering six different players, writes Evan Drellich.
• The Phillies have a new draft philosophy, writes Jim Salisbury.
• The Rays will have a chance to build up their weak farm system, writes Roger Mooney.
• The Brewers expect to do well in the draft this week, writes Tom Haudricourt.
• Paul Hoynes writes that Manny Ramirez has one more apology to make: to Terry Francona.
• Bronson Arroyo offered a pure evaluation of his former team.
• Reggie Jackson recalled his glory days in Oakland. He put his differences behind him, Carl Steward writes.
• Vanderbilt is one win from advancing to the super regional.
• Don Meyer's former players are coming together today to honor him.
And today will be better than yesterday.
Moves for Blue Jays to stay in the hunt.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The Blue Jays won 11 straight games last June on their way to finishing in last place, so the excitement over the team's strong May is restrained. When you haven't made the playoffs in 21 seasons, you understand how Lucy always pulls the football away from Charlie Brown.
But there is hope, given the circular nature of the lineup and the relative health of the lineup. Jose Reyes is playing every day and so are Jose Bautista and Melky Cabrera, and Edwin Encarnacion tied a May record for homers that was set by Mickey Mantle. So yeah, Toronto has a real shot, especially in a year in which the other teams have been hammered by injuries in the way the Jays were last year.
Sometime after next week's draft, the Jays (and other teams) will start to dig into the question of how they can improve themselves with deals during the summer. But there probably already are some guidelines in place.
1. The Blue Jays are not going to be in the market for Jeff Samardzija or David Price, the two best available starting pitchers.
The Cubs and the Rays will want huge return for their respective aces, and while the Jays have a distinct need for a rotation upgrade, they will stay out of these particular high-end sweepstakes. Toronto paid heavily in prospects for the R.A. Dickey and Reyes deals, and with Samardzija and Price closing in on free agency in fall 2015, the Blue Jays have no intention of forking over two or three of their best prospects for a pitcher they probably wouldn't be able to sign -- and probably wouldn't sign in Toronto, anyway.
2. The Jays will look on the second-tier shelf for starting pitching. Jason Hammel, who has a history in the AL East and is currently with the Cubs, could be a fit, given that he's a free agent in the fall and won't be nearly as expensive as Samardzija or Price. Justin Masterson is another candidate if the Indians decide to move him; he's a free agent after this season, as well. Maybe Francisco Liriano could be had, depending on what the Pirates do.
Toronto's pursuit of Ervin Santana in the spring is instructive: Had the Jays signed him, the deal would've included deferred money, which underscores the lack of financial flexibility that general manager Alex Anthopoulos will have as he works this summer.
Look, if the Jays start to pull away in the AL East and fans fill the empty seats in the Rogers Centre, the team's ownership group could ratchet up the available dollars. But Toronto already set a payroll record -- by far -- so it may be that Anthopoulos will have to be creative in the way he was during the Santana talks. He could ask a trade partner to assume more salary in return for a better package of prospects, or he could look for opportunities to use a swap of bad contracts to get something done (and he's got one to deal in that of Ricky Romero, who is owed about $13 million through 2015).
3. The best-case scenario for the Blue Jays is that Sergio Santos comes back from his forearm tightness and becomes a weapon for their bullpen. But if that doesn't happen, they'll look to add a bullpen piece during the summer, a search that could always extend into the August waiver period, when more teams will declare themselves as sellers.
4. The Jays will look for a second baseman, but for now, they've got a good thing going with Brett Lawrie playing second base and Juan Francisco and Steve Tolleson sharing time at third base. Francisco has nine homers and an OPS of over .900.
Toronto lost for the second straight game Friday, as they were shut down by the Royals. Marcus Stroman steps into the rotation today for the Jays.
On Friday's podcast, Toronto Star beat reporter Brendan Kennedy talked about what's gone well for the Blue Jays so far this season, while Karl Ravech and Justin Havens discuss the mulligans they'd like to have on preseason picks gone awry -- and the strangest trophies and ribbons they've won. For me, it was a dog who eluded a game warden -- only to be given an award by the same unwitting game warden months later.
• No team in the majors has had two bigger wins than Kansas City, which went into Toronto slumping. Lorenzo Cain had a big day. Aaron Brooks will get the ball for the Royals today.
• The Indians' Corey Kluber just keeps rolling along: He shut down the Rockies on Friday.
From ESPN Stats & Info, how he won:
A) Threw an average fastball velocity of 94.2 mph, his best in any start this season. Rockies went 3-for-13 with seven strikeouts and one walk in at-bats ending with Kluber's fastball.
B) Recorded five strikeouts looking, most of any start in his career.
C) Put hitters away: struck out 12 of 17 batters that went to two-strike counts
He's building his case to be an All-Star, writes Zack Meisel.
• Giancarlo Stanton hit a 450-foot homerun in the first inning off Julio Teheran, Stanton's fifth homerun of at least 450 feet this season, more than any other team in major league baseball.
• Of all the rivalries in baseball, I'd give the current Venom Ranking this way:
1. Rays-Red Sox, who had major issues Friday, concluding with David Ortiz saying that this is war. Presumably, you will see a Red Sox pitcher retaliate today.
There's a chance that the Tampa Bay-Boston situation is so bad that the umpires will just start ejecting pitchers the first time anybody is hit or thrown behind.
David Price defended his actions. Watching it live, it looked as though Ortiz was hit on purpose, but only Price knows for sure.
The umpires were given the heads up before the series started.
• The Giants just never lose anymore: They beat the Cardinals, again.
• Sandy Koufax's hotel led to a big-money era, writes Michael Beschloss.
• Baltimore is a viable candidate for the 2016 All-Star Game.
• You can't beat the Astros, you can only hope to contain them: That's seven straight wins for Houston, and counting.
Moves, deals and decisions
1. The Cardinals promoted Oscar Taveras and Randal Grichuk, which makes sense if they play, writes Bernie Miklasz.
2. Kendrys Morales should be a priority for the Yankees, writes John Harper.
I respectfully disagree. If the doctors are telling them that Mark Teixeira's wrist is structurally sound, and Carlos Beltran is making progress in coming back, and Alfonso Soriano continues to serve as a DH with Ichiro Suzuki in right field, what's the guaranteed role for Morales? It doesn't make a lot of sense for the Yankees to spend $5 million to $6 million for someone who really doesn't have a position to play other than DH, and I don't know how much it makes sense for Morales, either; he needs to play to rebuild his value. And if Teixeira's is OK for him to play, even sporadically, and Beltran and Soriano are active, where are Morales's at-bats going to come from?
3. Rubby De La Rosa starts for the Red Sox today.
4. Reds manager Bryan Price made lineup changes.
5. The Giants need to work out a deal with Pablo Sandoval, writes Bruce Jenkins.
Dings and dents
1. No timetable has been set for Gio Gonzalez.
2. Ryan Zimmerman could be back Tuesday.
3. Cliff Lee is getting closer to throwing.
4. Mat Latos was scoreless in a rehab outing.
5. Jose Abreu will be back Monday, it appears.
6. Mike Pelfrey is going to see a specialist about his elbow.
7. Henderson Alvarez is good to go for his next start.
8. Alex Cobb's next start has been pushed back by a day.
9. Yu Darvish is ready for his Sunday start.
10. The Rockies got good news about Nolan Arenado.
11. Robinson Cano is dealing with a hand contusion.
12. Matt Cain went on the disabled list.
Red Sox walk-off triples since 1950:
Friday: A.J. Pierzynski versus the Rays
1996: Troy O'Leary versus the Twins
1957: Gene Stephens versus the Senators
1954: Sammy White versus the Orioles
1950: Walt Dropo versus the Senators
It's time for the Baltimore hitters to be accountable, writes Peter Schmuck.
Justin Verlander was solid.
Victor Martinez and Miguel Cabrera are on a pace to drive in about 250 runs, combined.
Brad Ausmus thinks the pitch counts have affected pitchers.
Tanner Scheppers struggled in his Triple-A rehab appearance.
Oakland thumped the Angels.
Kole Calhoun has thrived since returning to the leadoff spot.
Wilson Ramos needed five balls for a walk.
The Mets' shortstop time share is working.
The Braves are telling Tommy La Stella to shake it off.
Francisco Liriano broke through.
The Pirates' bullpen pieces fit.
Has Kris Bryant outgrown the minors?
The hits just keep on coming for the Brewers.
The Dodgers lost again and lost more ground to the Giants. Steve Dilbeck wonders: Will this team ever get on a roll?
The Diamondbacks are playing much better in May.
Jon Gray was roughed up.
Cameron Maybin did some damage.
The Phillies defended snitching to the NCAA. From the piece:
"You wouldn't believe the number of people in professional baseball who have come up to me and our group over the course of the year and say, 'Thank you for what you did. You guys aren't the bad guys in this situation,' " Wolever said yesterday while discussing the upcoming draft.
"We've always operated with integrity and we've been open and up front with kids and their advisers and we will continue to do so. We've got a tremendous reputation, always have and always will. It has not hurt us a lick, because each guy is an individual, every player is different, as it is in the major leagues."
Added Wolever, "I realize a lot of people rushed to conclusions and judgment without knowing all the facts that went on, and we decided to stay out of it. It really was in the hands of the NCAA. So we let them do their job. We gave them the information they asked for and we let them do their job."
Wolever said his lone regret of the situation regarded the Phillies drafting players who had no intention of signing with them.
"I think the NCAA needs to stand up and say, look, all these kids are represented, they have agents and advisers, if you are going to have rules, then enforce them, and if you are going to not, then don't have them," he said.
Presumably, the Phillies will continue to act with integrity, in their service for the NCAA, and report all contacts they have with advisers/agents for all of their players -- and for that matter, all of the contact they've had in the past.
Otherwise, the Phillies' action really wouldn't be steeped in integrity, but rather, in self-interest.
• Herb Washington returned to the Coliseum.
• Vanderbilt opened the NCAA tournament with a shutout.
And today will be better than yesterday.
Rumors.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
What happens when Crawford returns?
June, 2, 2014
By AJ Mass | ESPN.com
The light at the end of the tunnel for the Los Angeles Dodgers is that they may be getting Carl Crawford back as soon as he is eligible to return from the disabled list. As Brian Kamenetzky of ESPN Los Angeles writes, manager Mattingly sounded optimistic that his outfielder could be back in action as soon as June 11, his first day of eligibility.
"Once he does, Mattingly faces some difficult decisions on how to portion out playing time among his four marquee outfielders, now that defensive problems have pushed Matt Kemp out of center field. Only Yasiel Puig has played well enough to earn daily inclusion in the lineup (and benching him would likely cause a riot, locally). Crawford was great in May, hitting .333 with four home runs and 14 RBIs, but neither he nor Andre Ethier is effective against left-handed pitching," Kamenetzky says.
It may be Ethier who gets the short end of the stick in terms of playing time, as there seems to be a potential rift building between the outfielder and Mattingly. As Dylan Hernandez of Los Angeles Times reported, the two had a very visible disagreement during Saturday's game.
"Ethier and Mattingly appeared to be engaged in a heated argument in the dugout in the bottom of the eighth inning. When Ethier disappeared down the clubhouse tunnel, he was followed by Mattingly," Hernandez wrote. "Ethier and Mattingly have had differences over the years. In the wake of the 2011 season, Mattingly estimated that Ethier's lack of emotional control resulted in his squandering 100 at-bats. Last year, Mattingly benched Ethier on a day on which he publicly questioned his team's mental toughness."
Tags:Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford, Yasiel Puig
Rays injuries continue to mount
June, 1, 2014
By AJ Mass | ESPN.com
The Tampa Bay Rays may have lost more than a game on Friday, after Wil Myers collided with teammate Desmond Jennings on the final play -- a walkoff hit from A.J. Pierzynski that was helped greatly by the impact -- and hurt his right hand in the process.
As Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times writes, "Myers did not play Saturday due to a sore right wrist, which was covered by a plastic brace." Myers met with a doctor in the afternoon, but did not know how serious the injury was or how long he'll be out.
"It could be very minor, insignificant, I'm not sure," said Rays manager Joe Maddon. "Once it gets checked out, I'll know more. It's really hard to create conjecture on that. It could be nothing, could be something, so let's wait and see what the doc says."
Kevin Kiermaier started in Myers' place on Saturday, and may be the only realistic option to do so again on Sunday, as the Rays may have to keep Sean Rodriguez on call to jump in at catcher. Ali Solis, who made his first major league start on Saturday had to leave in the third inning after suffering a "nasal contusion."
According to Smith, "Solis said he's fine and can play today, grateful his nose is only swollen and not broken." However, Jose Molina will likely get the start, and if Solis can't in fact play, it would be Rodriguez to get the emergency call behind the plate.
Tags:WIl Myers, Sean Rodriguez, Kevin Kiermaier, Ali Solis
Timetable for Yankees missing SP?
June, 1, 2014
By AJ Mass | ESPN.com
The New York Yankees are already down three-fifths of their starting rotation, but they thought they'd be getting at least one of those arms back soon. However, now it appears that might not be the case at all and that they'll continue to have to make do with what they have.
Ivan Nova is out for the year due to Tommy John surgery and CC Sabathia's knee problems are keeping him shelved until at least July. But now, the team has announced that they've shut down Michael Pineda following yet another setback in his attempt to return to the team.
According to Danny Knobler of ESPN New York, "Pineda had to be shut down from throwing after feeling more discomfort in his lat muscle while playing catch Friday, Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. Girardi said that Pineda has had another MRI exam, and will be shut down 'for a little bit.'"
"This was not the news we wanted," Girardi said. "But it's what we're dealing with. He's going to be shut down for a while."
Tags:Ivan Nova, Michael Pineda, CC Sabathia
Mariners hoping for Cano's return
June, 1, 2014
By AJ Mass | ESPN.com
While the Seattle Mariners continue to call Robinson Cano "day-to-day," the fact remains that he's now missed three straight games with a contusion on his left hand. At what point do fans need to be a little concerned?
As Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune writes, "the Mariners distributed 20,000 Robinson Cano bobblehead dolls prior to Saturday’s game against Detroit with Cano absent for a third straight game from the starting lineup" adding that it's not like the second baseman to miss time. "Cano played in at least 159 games for the Yankees in each season from 2007-13 and had started the Mariners' first 52 games this season prior to his injury."
Nick Franklin and Willie Bloomquist have filled in for Cano while he's been out, and should Cano miss any more time, expect it to be the latter who continues on in relief. Franklin's bat has been non-existent as he's gone 2-for-his-last-28 at the plate, and is hitless in his last 16 at-bats.
Tags:Robinson Cano, Willie Bloomquist, Nick Franklin
Is Pedroia injury cause for concern?
June, 1, 2014
By AJ Mass | ESPN.com
The Boston Red Sox played without Dustin Pedroia on Saturday, as the second baseman sat due to an injured right hand he had suffered the night before. The team is optimistic that this is nothing more than a day-to-day concern.
As Scott Barboza of ESPN Boston reports, manager John Farrell said X-rays to Pedroia's hand came back negative, and an MRI taken later showed no structural damage. Jonathan Herrera started in Pedroia's place on Saturday, and would presumably do so again on Sunday, if need be -- though Farrell said he thought there would not be such a need.
Still, it should be pointed out that the Red Sox plan to recall prospect Garin Cecchini from Triple-A before Sunday's game. Cecchini, a third baseman, might only stay with the team for one day, as Stephen Drew will be joining the team on Monday. The fact the team feels the need to add an extra infielder to the roster at all might mean there is at least some concern that Pedroia is not quite 100 percent out of the woods just yet.
Tags:Dustin Pedroia, Stephen Drew, Jonathan Herrera, Garin Cecchini
How long will Pollock be out?
June, 1, 2014
By AJ Mass | ESPN.com
The Arizona Diamondbacks are 11 games under .500 and sit in the cellar of the National League West. However, things still got worse for the team on Saturday when outfielder A.J. Pollock was hit on the hand with a 92 mph fastball from Johnny Cueto and fractured his wrist.
Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic writes that Pollock will be placed on the disabled list Sunday and "is expected to miss considerable time... Neither the Diamondbacks nor Pollock offered a timetable, but last season both second baseman Aaron Hill and infielder Willie Bloomquist missed two months with fractured bones in their hands."
"We're waiting to figure out what we're going to do," Pollock said, acknowledging that surgery was an option. "They're going to do more tests."
In the meantime, Martin Prado could be used to help out what could end up being a rotation that includes Gerardo Parra, Cody Ross, Ender Inciarte and Alfredo Marte in the team's three outfield spots.
Tags:Gerardo Parra, Martin Prado, Cody Ross, A.J. Pollock
Toronto's quest for pitching
May, 31, 2014
By Doug Mittler | ESPN.com
The Toronto Blue Jays are the surprise leaders in the American League East, and they just might need to add another starter if they intend to keep it that way.
After balking at adding a free agent starter such as Ervin Santana over the winter, the Jays have been cast as likely buyers as the July 31 deadline approaches. Toronto, apparently convinced they can win the East, are among the teams linked to Cubs righthander Jeff Samardzija, who will be a free agent after next season. “While they struck out on Samardzija before, one major league scout said they haven’t given up trying to repackage but are still insistent on not giving up Drew Hutchison,” reported Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reporting earlier this week.
Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com says the Jays might be more inclined to seek a short-term rental and trade for the Royals’ James Shields, who will be a free agent after the season. The Jays are particularly impressed with Shields’ proven track record of pitching in the AL East while with Tampa Bay.
Shields may not be available unless the Royals fall out of realistic playoff contention, but plenty can happen between now and the end of July.
As for other options, the Cleveland Indians could shop free-agent-to-be Justin Masterson if they fall out of contention.
ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney has more on what the Jays may or may not do this summer:
Moves for the Blue Jays to stay in hunt
"The Blue Jays are not going to be in the market for Jeff Samardzija or David Price, the two best available starting pitchers. The Cubs and the Rays will want huge return for their respective aces, and while the Jays have a distinct need for a rotation upgrade, they will stay out of these particular high-end sweepstakes. Toronto paid heavily in prospects for the R.A. Dickey and Jose Reyes deals, and with Samardzija and Price closing in on free agency in the fall of 2015, the Blue Jays have no intention of forking over two or three of their best prospects for a pitcher they probably wouldn't be able to sign -- and probably wouldn't sign in Toronto, anyway."
Tags:Toronto Blue Jays, James Shields
Is Ned Yost safe in KC?
May, 31, 2014
By Doug Mittler | ESPN.com
The Kansas City Royals shuffled their coaching staff Thursday, so it is only logical to ask what that means for the job status of manager Ned Yost.
The Royals are just 26-28 and 6.5 games off the pace in the American League Central. While the season hasn’t panned out up to now, general manager Dayton Moore tells FOXSportsKansasCity.com that Yost’s job is safe, even if it was far from a ringing endorsement. "Yes, I have faith in Ned," Moore said. "He is doing what he can."
The Royals no longer view themselves as a rebuilding franchise and still have every intention of ending a playoff drought that dates to 1985. That could make Moore less patient with his manager than he might have been in past seasons. But what are his options at manager if Yost is sacked?
Dale Sveum, who was moved from third-base coach to hitting coach in Thursday’s shuffle, has big league experience, but his two seasons as skipper of the Cubs did not go well (127-197).
We’re just speculating here, but Dusty Baker has made no secret of his desire to manage again after being let go by the Cincinnati Reds after last season. The 64-year-old Baker has his critics, but he is a three-time Manager of the Year.
Tags:Kansas City Royals, Ned Yost
Some at-bats for Solis?
May, 31, 2014
By Doug Mittler | ESPN.com
With Jose Molina being overworked, the Tampa Bay Rays may give rookie Ali Solis his first career start behind the plate this weekend in Boston.
Ryan Hanigan landed on the disabled list earlier this week with a hamstring injury, and Molina is expected to catch his seventh straight start on Saturday. Manager Joe Maddon said the playing time between the two active catchers is expected to be 2-1 in favor of Molina, so Solis is likely to be behind the plate on Sunday, reports Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune.
The 26-year-old Solis replaced Molina in the ninth inning Wednesday after Molina took a foul tip off his face mask.
Tags:Tampa Bay Rays, Ali Solis
The market for Kendrys Morales
May, 31, 2014
By Doug Mittler | ESPN.com
Baseball’s First-Year Player draft is less than a week away, and few people are looking forward to its conclusion more than Kendrys Morales. The draft pick compensation for the free agent first baseman will finally be lifted, automatically lifting his market value.
There has been plenty of speculation this week, including this report from Ken Rosenthal, that the New York Yankees will be among the interested parties once the embargo is lifted. First baseman Mark Teixeira continues to have issues with his surgically-repaired wrist. The Yankees also could use an extra at-bat given the uncertain status of outfielder Carlos Beltran, who is on the disabled list with an elbow injury that may require surgery.
John Harper joined the chorus in Saturday’s New York Daily News, noting the Yankees “don’t have a true backup at first base.” Kelly Johnson had all sorts of trouble there on Tuesday in St. Louis, prompting manager Joe Girardi to have Brian McCann play first on Wednesday for the first time in his career.
The Yankees won’t be alone in pursuing Morales, especially with the draft compensation lifted. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com says the Brewers, Rangers and Mariners are potential suitors.
Morales is willing to return to Seattle, where he played in 2013, and the Mariners could use an upgrade over Justin Smoak, who is hitting just .222.
The Orioles have been linked to Morales, but Heyman says they may be more inclined to add pitching.
Finding at-bats for Taveras in St. Louis
May, 31, 2014
By Doug Mittler | ESPN.com
The waiting for Oscar Taveras is finally over. Following Friday night’s game with the Giants, the St. Louis Cardinals announced they have called up the top outfield prospect from Triple-A Memphis.
Taveras, who was batting .325 in 49 minor league games with seven homers and 40 RBIs. He will take the place of Matt Adams, who was put on the disabled list with a left calf strain.
The Cardinals’ front office has been cautious about promoting the uber-talented Taveras, insisting that they didn’t have roster space for him. The injury to Adams solved that issue, but it will be interesting to see how management distributes playing time when Adams returns.
“You can’t take somebody who has been a major-league player for three or four years who is performing at a high level like Allen Craig and say, ‘You’re not playing anymore,’” GM John Mozeliak told the Post-Dispatch. “Look at how Matt Adams has played this entire season, and you’re not going to kick him to the curb. You’d have to be careful about that.”
Adams is enjoying a breakout season (.325 BA, .474 SLG), but could still see his at-bats reduced because he struggles to hit left-handers.
Beginning Wednesday, the Cardinals play seven straight games in American League ballparks, allowing manager Mike Matheny to play Taveras in the outfield and use Craig as a DH.
ESPN Insider’s Christopher Crawford has more on the fantasy implication of Friday’s promotion:
Time to pick up Taveras .. now
" The Cardinals called up Taveras to play -- the Cardinals are one of the smartest organizations in baseball, and they aren't going to have their best prospect on their major league roster if he's not going to be in the lineup -- but because the Cardinals have some depth in the outfield, you shouldn't be surprised if Taveras gets some days off, particularly against left-handed pitching. Still, you should expect the young outfielder to be in the lineup on a consistent basis, and it wouldn't surprise me a bit if this was a guy who hit .285/.350/.450 with 10-15 homers and a handful of stolen bases, assuming he's up for good. The future for Taveras, however, is even brighter. Assuming he can make the same tweaks he has at every level, this is the type of hitter you can help build your fantasy club around, and if you're fortunate enough to own him in a keeper league, you have a guy who can make multiple All-Star teams -- and maybe even win MVPs -- that you can put in your lineup. If he's available in your league, get him right now."
Tags:St. Louis Cardinals, Matt Adams, Oscar Taveras
Will the Phillies send Brown to AAA?
May, 30, 2014
By Joe Kaiser | ESPN.com
As ESPN Insider Eric Karabell points out on Friday, few players have had as disappointing of a start to the season in 2014 as Domonic Brown.
Brown appeared to be on the right track when he broke out as a 25-year-old last season with 27 home runs. But that was then, and his reality now is a .200 batting average and .555 OPS through the first 190 plate appearances of 2014. On top of that, the power hasn't been there; he has only three home runs.
Is it time for the Phillies to send Brown to the minors?
That's somewhat debatable. However, the Phillies appear to have their minds made up on the matter. They're not sending him to Triple-A Lehigh Valley.
"Not at this stage," general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. told the Daily News when asked if sending Brown down as an option. "We have to get Dom right here before we start thinking about that stuff."
Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg explained to the newspaper that Brown, an All-Star last season, could be pressing. But he also said that pitchers are attacking Brown differently.
"[Pitchers] are expanding the zone and he's having a hard time laying off of those pitches," Sandberg said. "I see him getting fastballs, pitches in, pitches away, and he's just not connecting on his pitch."
Things could get worse before they get better, but for now it appears Brown will have to work his way out of his troubles at the big league level.
Tags:Philadelphia Phillies, MLB, Insider, Dominic Brown
Impact of Franklin's contact problems
May, 30, 2014
By Joe Kaiser | ESPN.com
Thursday's game against the Los Angeles Angels is one young Seattle infielder Nick Franklin would like to forget: the 23-year-old was the victim of the Golden Sombrero, striking out in all four plate appearances.
Unfortunately for Franklin, making contact has become a big problem in his second season in the big leagues, and regardless of where he plays in the field the penchant for striking out could potentially limit where he hits in the lineup going forward.
After whiffing 113 times in 412 plate appearances last season, the ratio has been considerably worse in his limited opportunities thus far in 2014: 18 K in 45 PA.
Thursday's forgettable performance was his chance to hit in the two-hole under first-year M's skipper Lloyd McClendon, but it was his customary spot in the lineup last season under Eric Wedge. Now, it was just one game, but his four Ks were just the latest example of his big contact issues, and if he can't turn it around we can't see Franklin getting many more chances batting anywhere in the top 5 of the batting order.
Tags:Nick Franklin, MLB, Insider
Still wait-and-see for Wieters?
May, 30, 2014
By Joe Kaiser | ESPN.com
The Baltimore Orioles hope to know by July 1 whether injured catcher Matt Wieters will require season-ending elbow surgery, making the month ahead a very important one. Where do things stand as we enter the final days of May, and how is Wieters feeling? Here's the latest.
Wieters is scheduled to throw for the first time in three weeks on Friday, per Eduardo A. Encina of The Baltimore Sun, so we should have a better indication of where the catcher is in the rehab process after that.
But judging by Wieters' comments heading into Friday, there's room for optimism.
"It’s gotten a lot better over the last few days, which is what we were waiting on," Wieters told the newspaper on Thursday. "Now it's just a matter of going through the throwing progression and hopefully everything keeps getting better.
"Every movement that gets me back towards getting on the field is good."
Wieters received a platelet-rich plasma injection in his elbow on May 12, and has continued to receive treatment for the injury. Newly acquired backstop Nick Hundley will continue to serve as the Orioles' primary catcher in Wieters' absence, and we'll keep you posted on any updates going forward.
Tags:Matt Wieters, MLB, Insider
Nathan's closer job in jeopardy?
May, 30, 2014
By Joe Kaiser | ESPN.com
Joe Nathan has already blown more saves (4) this season in Detroit than he did all of last season in Texas (3), and the Tigers have to be worried about the 39-year-old's struggles over the first two months of the season.
Worried enough to make a change?
We're not at that point yet, and with Nathan being signed to a two-year, $20 million deal over the winter, Detroit has too much invested in him to make any hasty decisions regarding his role.
But at some point, things need to turn around or a change will have to be made in order for the Tigers to be considered among the World Series favorites.
Mike Axisa of CBSSports.com explained several alarming trends regarding Nathan this season.
"Both Nathan's strikeout and walk rates are trending in the wrong direction, and his homer rate has jumped big time this year," Axisa noted, following yet another high-wire act by Nathan on Thursday.
Nathan now sports a 5.23 ERA and 1.31 WHIP in 22 appearances, and his decreased velocity is another reason to wonder if he'll be able to turn it around; his average fastball, which was 94 mph in 2012, is down to 91.4 mph according to PitchFX.
Tags:Detroit Tigers, Joe Nathan, MLB, Insider
Pirates' plans with Grilli
May, 30, 2014
By Joe Kaiser | ESPN.com
Jason Grilli returned to his role as the Pittsburgh closer on Thursday night, preserving a win over the Dodgers to record his sixth save of the season.
But after missing the final two months of last season with a right forearm strain and sitting out the past month with a strained left oblique, the Pirates will have to be careful with how much they use the 37-year-old veteran.
According to Tom Singer of MLB.com, the Pirates' staff "will be mindful enough of Grilli's workload to make back-to-back appearances uncommon, and three days in a row out of the question."
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle touched on that following the win over the Dodgers.
"We'll keep an eye on his pitches, and get together on what is a serviceable number for him to come back the next day," Hurdle said.
Mark Melancon will slide back to his eighth-inning setup role as long as Grilli is healthy enough to remain the closer, but on days when Grilli can't go (such as the scenarios mentioned above) he'll likely be asked to close again.
Tags:Pittsburgh Pirates, Jason Grilli, MLB, Insider
Tigers pondering change at SS?
May, 29, 2014
By AJ Mass | ESPN.com
The Detroit Tigers have gotten very little offensive production out of their shortstop this season. With the bulk of the games at the position coming from Andrew Romine and Danny Worth, the duo has combined to hit just .199 with one home run and nine RBIs.
Lynn Henning of the Detroit News says that anemic output is why "front-office chief Dave Dombrowski and former manager Jim Leyland (now a Dombrowski adviser) were on hand at Toledo this week" to scout Eugenio Suarez and Hernan Perez -- the two potential shortstop options down at Triple-A.
"Suarez has the bat... He is hitting .393 in seven games in Toledo, which followed his .284 effort (and robust .850 OPS) in 42 games at Double A Erie," Henning writes. However, he adds that Suarez's defense leaves a lot to be desired as "Suarez made seven errors in his 42-game rehearsal at Erie and has made a pair of miscues in his first seven games at Toledo."
"Suarez is clearly ahead of Perez, offensively. But any comparison should note that Perez has at least played in the big leagues while Suarez hasn't tasted the reality of pitches at Comerica Park and at other stops where baseball's best staffs can often dissect a kid hitter."
So, although the Tigers appear to be exploring a potential call up at shortstop, it's by no means a lock to happen. And even if it does, there's no clear favorite to get that call.
Tags:Danny Worth, Andrew Romine, Eugenio Suarez, Hernan Perez
Judgment day nears for Johan
May, 29, 2014
By AJ Mass | ESPN.com
When Johan Santana signed a minor league deal with the Baltimore Orioles, the agreement included an opt-out clause which would allow the pitcher to become a free agent again if he was not on the major league roster by a certain date. That date arrives on Friday.
As Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun writes, the two sides are negotiating a new deal which would see the pitcher remaining with the Orioles with the promise of joining the major league roster on or around June 18.
"The plan is for Santana to throw one more game, approximately 85 pitches, in extended spring training before making his first start with an affiliate June 8 for Triple-A Norfolk at Durham," Connolly writes. "If that goes well, he’d go to Double-A Bowie on June 13 for a home game against Harrisburg, with the hopes of being ready for the Orioles by June 18 or 19."
Manager Buck Showalter said that he envisions Santana as being a starter for the Orioles when he arrives, "assuming he can handle the workload physically." At the moment, Wei-Yin Chen seems to be the starter with the shortest amount of rope, after the pitcher has thrown back-to-back starts in which he allowed five earned runs.