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2016 MLB thread. Baseball is upon us! Royals are the champs - Page 229
They need to do a better job of taking care of their young arms.
I think all teams from high school to the pros need to take better care of pitchers. I was so pissed at Stasburg coming out. Everyone knew his throwing motion wasn't good but nothing was ever done about it until he got injured.
I saw a great feature on HBO. It centered on Seattle's Steve Delabar but it also showed how he was working with the ex pitching coach at USC, Tom House on improving his mechanics while throwing harder. He's created a program (along with the USC school of medicine) that protects against shoulder & elbow injuries... It was a great story...
Not so much the motion of his arm, he has a pretty fluid and repeatable delivery. It was the huge spike in the speed of his fastball, that is usually a warning sign that there may be problems with the elbow and TJS is needed. Same thing happened to Danny Duffy this year.
Speaking specifically on the Orioles, they need to better manage their young arms is how I'll put it. They really mismanaged Matusz last year and their handling of Bundy so far has been shoddy. Matusz, Arrieta, Britton and Tillman were supposed to be the future and the only one on track to be a #3 at best right now is Arrieta.
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Our pitching is coming along
It's the Mariners. Harden OWNS the Mariners.
LMFAO dude you're so right
I'm trying so hard to see any bright spots this season, didn't realize we have a 3 game winning streak vs. the A's and the M's
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Lest anyone forget, the Tampa Bay Rays were 9 games behind the Boston Red Sox on the evening of Sept. 1 last season, with 27 days left in the regular season. On the same night, the St. Louis Cardinals were 8½ games behind the Atlanta Braves, and now the Cardinals' players have the burden of trying to figure out whether to wear their championship rings on a daily basis.
So late May is probably not the time to blow up a team.
There have been early-warning phone calls placed by general managers of some struggling teams. If their respective teams don't start playing better, they are saying, they'll probably be active before the July 31 trade deadline -- so they're suggesting that other teams evaluate them for any interesting possible targets now. "It's just a heads-up," said one general manager.
But the addition of a second wild-card team to each league may keep teams believing in their chances longer than they might have in the past.
Consider the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. In the first 49 days of their season, they saw their new Hall of Fame-caliber superstar have the worst start of his career; fired their hitting coach; demoted their closer; and lost a $21 million outfielder to a major injury. This was Murphy's Law, times two.
But in the aftermath of Dan Haren's dominant outing against the Mariners, the Angels are sitting a comfortable 3½ games behind the Blue Jays in the standings for the second AL wild-card spot -- not where they expected to be, but certainly not in a place appropriate for panic.
Albert Pujols has 13 hits in 40 at-bats (.325) in his last 10 games, with four homers and four walks; he hit his 450th homer Thursday, as Bill Plunkett writes. The injury to Vernon Wells was probably a blessing in disguise for the Angels, because it cleared some of Mike Scioscia's lineup complications and allows him to play his best defensive outfield possible. The Angels' starting pitching is turning out to be as good as expected: The LAA rotation leads the AL in starters' ERA. And the addition of Ernesto Frieri has been a spectacular success, stabilizing the Angels' bullpen: He hasn't allowed a hit in nine appearances, and 19 of the 26 outs he has registered have been strikeouts.
Meanwhile, the start of the season has been disastrous for the Diamondbacks, but Arizona is 5 games out in the wild-card standings. The Brewers have been ravaged by injury, and they are 6½ games out; the Rockies are 8 games out. Detroit is one good week away from the front-runners. There are miles to go before they sleep.
From ESPN Stats & Information, how Haren shut out the Mariners:
A. He threw 84 of 126 pitches (66.7 percent) to the outside part of the plate or further away, his fourth-highest percentage in a start in the last four seasons. Mariners hitters were 2-for-16 with eight strikeouts in at-bats ending with a pitch in that location.
B. Seven of Haren's career-high 14 strikeouts came with his slider/cutter, his most strikeouts with the pitch in a start in the last four seasons. Mariners hitters were 1-for-11 overall against the pitch, and all but one of the outs with the slider/cutter were recorded on the outside part of the plate.
C. Mariners right-handed hitters were 1-for-13 against Haren, including 0-for-10 against the slider/cutter, missing on 13-of-22 swings (59.1 percent) on the pitch.
D. Mariners hitters were 2-for-14 in at-bats ending with Haren's fastball. Haren recorded six strikeouts on the fastball, his most in a start since May 21, 2010.
Haren became the fifth pitcher over the last 10 seasons with at least 14 K's in a shutout. The pitcher with the most K's during this span was Toronto's Brandon Morrow. He had 17 in an August 2010 game against the Rays.
• The Braves' heavy use of their primary relievers last season received heavy scrutiny from within the organization during the offseason, and naturally, there has been significant adjustment.
Through the first 45 games of the 2012 season, Craig Kimbrel has eight fewer appearances than he did through the first 45 games of 2011, and Jonny Venters and Eric O'Flaherty each have seven fewer appearances.
• In the Frank McCourt era, the Dodgers might've averaged about $200,000 annually in their international signings. On Thursday, they announced signings that cost them something in the range of $400,000-$500,000, another sign of change for the organization under the team's new ownership.
Agree completely. If Oswalt wants to get paid significant dollars, I don't think Texas will be the team to give him that for a half-season of work, especially in light of Oswalt's history of back trouble.
• The Indians' sweep of the Tigers and the Reds' four-game sweep of Atlanta felt like statements for each of those teams -- and Ohio baseball rules, as of this morning; both Cleveland and Cincinnati lead their respective divisions. The Indians beat Justin Verlander, as Dennis Manoloff writes. From his story:
Perez spent four days cracking the fan base for lack of support, then three days doing his job under a cumulonimbus cloud. He saved Tuesday night's game for Ubaldo Jimenez and Wednesday night's for Pestano, both times receiving ovations throughout.
The Tigers left Cleveland six games out of first place, and feeling some urgency -- even Justin Verlander, writes Drew Sharp.
Moves, deals and decisions
1. J.C. Romero signed with the Orioles.
2. The Marlins shipped a pitcher to the minors after their latest loss.
3. The Rangers claimed a reliever.
4. Even if it means ponying up $180 million, the Rangers need to re-sign Josh Hamilton. Just my opinion, but I think there is zero chance the Rangers guarantee that much money in any offer to the center fielder.
Dings and dents
1. Emilio Bonifacio is out for four to six weeks.
3. A tough year got tougher for a Twins outfield prospect.
8. One Padre pitcher had Tommy John surgery, and another is getting a second opinion from the Tommy John surgeon.
By The NumbersFrom ESPN Stats & Information:
3: Pitchers since 1900, including Dan Haren Thursday, to throw a shutout on the road with four or fewer hits, no walks and at least 14 strikeouts.
12: Wins by Justin Verlander in his last 13 starts following a Tigers' loss prior to Thursday.
31: Home runs by Albert Pujols on "middle-middle" pitches, second-most in MLB on that pitch since the start of the 2009 season.
458: Distance in feet of Giancarlo Stanton's home run Thursday, the second time in four days he has hit a 450-plus foot home run at Marlins Park.
1. Hours after the White Sox lost John Danks to the DL, they won a slugfest; Paul Konerko went 2-for-4 with a home run. Since the start of the 2010 season, Konerko is one of three players with a .300 BA, .950 OPS and 75 HR, along with Josh Hamilton and Miguel Cabrera are the others.
2. Marlins' pitchers got lit up, as Clark Spencer writes.
3. The Twins hit a bunch of home runs and still lost, as Ben Goessling writes.
5. The Mets got blasted.
• Bryce Harper is fitting in with the Nationals.
• The Yankees strongly refuted a published report about the Steinbrenners selling the team.
• The Yankees need to roll in their upcoming road trip, writes Ken Davidoff.
"I just worry about playing baseball," Lawrie said before the series. "I'm just glad to be back and to get back out there. I can't worry about the umpires. It's hard to play this game as it is, let alone play against nine other guys and then play against four other guys, the umpires. It's really hard to do that. I feel the best way to do things is to worry about our team, worry about our guys."
On Tuesday, Lawrie raced to second on a fly ball to centre field. He popped up out of his slide, did a little Tampa two-step as he looked around for where the ball ended up, rushing back to first base safely. Even though Lawrie never actually passed second base, umpire Rob Drake enthusiastically punched the air for an out call as soon as the Rays appealed. The ruling was that he had jab-stepped towards third and not re-touched the base on his way back to first. Iffy at best.
But once again, Lawrie sprinted straight at Drake in threatening fashion, although he says there was never mayhem on his mind. In fact, he stopped on a dime, right in Drake's face demanding an explanation. As innocent as his intentions may have been, he seemed threatening. Drake's response, according to Lawrie, was "Don't argue with me."
The ump's finger jabs to the face are clear in photos.
"I wish I could say that there is no residue to be honest with you," Farrell said of Lawrie's suspension. "But still, there are going to be moments inside of a game where the emotions might be heightened because of the game situation, the score, the inning, who's involved. It's upon all of us to remain composed and operate at that effort level that keeps people under control."
• The Rays' defense hasn't been so good as they deal with injuries, writes Roger Mooney.
• The Astros' offense has been trending downward.
• A streaker who ran onto the field in St. Louis "appeared to have been drinking," police say.
• Dusty Baker helped his shortstop find his swing.
A must read on lineup protection.
McCutchen and lineup protection.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The Pittsburgh Pirates are threatening all-time records for offensive ineptitude. They are scoring just 2.86 runs per game and posting a .266 on-base percentage, which would tie the 1908 Brooklyn Superbas for the lowest mark any team has posted since 1900. And yet, surrounded by teammates who are performing at historically inept levels, center fielder Andrew McCutchen has been brilliant.
Through his first 41 games, McCutchen was hitting .338/.391/.543 and racking up 20 percent of the team's home runs and runs scored totals by himself. Already a budding star, McCutchen is posting career highs in batting average, OBP and slugging percentage, and he's doing it with the worst surrounding cast anybody has had in quite some time.
The Pirates' rotation of "cleanup hitters" -- which has included Pedro Alvarez, Neil Walker and Casey McGehee -- has combined to hit .199/.258/.280 when batting behind McCutchen. With this kind of protection, you might think McCutchen would be on a career-high pace for walks and rarely seeing a pitch anywhere near the strike zone.
You would be wrong. McCutchen is actually seeing more pitches in the strike zone this year than in any other season of his career. Here are the Pitch F/X data for percent of pitches he has seen in the zone over the past four years:
2009: 53.9 percent
2010: 53.0 percent
2011: 51.4 percent
2012: 55.1 percent
As a response to the increased number of strikes he's seeing, McCutchen is also swinging at more pitches than ever, and the combination of more strikes and more swings has led to the lowest walk rate of his career. After drawing 89 free passes last year, he had just 13 in the first quarter of the 2012 season, and two of those were intentional.
It's hard to explain these results under the umbrella of the "protection theory," which holds that batters get better pitches to hit if there is a quality hitter on deck, as pitchers don't want to issue a walk that would put a runner on for that quality hitter. It's hard to imagine the Pirates' cleanup hitters are intimidating anyone right now, however, so how do we explain why McCutchen is being thrown so many strikes in a lineup that is one of the most futile in the game's history?
Small sample size would be one explanation, as one example doesn't prove anything conclusively. But we can look around the league and see other scenarios where the protection theory would suggest a significant difference from what is taking place. In Milwaukee, Ryan Braun's protector shifted from Prince Fielder to Aramis Ramirez, and the lack of Fielder's presence was supposed to lead to a significant uptick in walks for Braun as pitchers chose to go after the much weaker hitting right-hander instead.
However, Braun's percentage of pitches in the strike zone has also gone up from what it was a year ago and, like McCutchen, he's also walking less than he did when he was better protected. In fact, even with Fielder in Detroit, Braun has yet to draw an intentional walk this season, and his .323/.393/.621 line would be the best of his career. The idea that Fielder's presence was getting Braun better pitches to hit is harder to swallow when Braun gets more strikes and hits even better after Fielder switches leagues.
For another example, simply look to another team in the NL Central, as Joey Votto is mashing the ball for the Reds but regularly getting stranded by an anemic collection of cleanup hitters behind him. The combination of Brandon Phillips and Scott Rolen (along with a couple of appearances from Jay Bruce and Ryan Ludwick) have combined to post a .648 OPS in the No. 4 spot in the order, 50 points lower than what the Reds' No. 8 hitters have done. Votto is perhaps the game's best left-handed hitter, but despite being protected by a second baseman whose primary value comes from his defense, he's seen no change in the rate of strikes he's been thrown. In fact, over the past four years, the percentage of pitches that Votto has seen in the zone has hardly moved at all, coming in between 44.4 and 44.9 percent in each season since 2009.
If the protection theory was true, we'd have expected Braun's walk rate to spike, McCutchen to be leading the league in free passes, and Votto's performance to fall off once the Reds had to move a middle infielder into the cleanup spot. We haven't seen any of those things, and it's worth noting that Miguel Cabrera -- the guy now benefiting from the intimidating on-deck presence of Fielder -- is having his worst offensive season since 2008.
The protection theory sounds true enough, but it begins to break down once you look at the evidence and think through the conclusions it forces you to draw. After all, the basic premise of the theory is that pitchers are going to change their approach in such a way that it benefits the hitter being protected, making it more likely he gets a pitch to hit. However, that is the result the pitcher is supposedly trying to prevent, so the protection theory forces us to believe that pitchers choose to throw pitches that make it more likely that they have to face the scary on-deck hitter with a man on.
If the protection theory held true in real life, it would be on prominent display in Pittsburgh, Milwaukee and Cincinnati. The evidence suggests that pitchers simply aren't pitching McCutchen, Braun and Votto any differently now than they were when they were better protected, and all three are carrying their teams despite a lack of firepower behind them.
Dave Cameron covers baseball for ESPN Insider. He is the managing editor of FanGraphs, where he has worked since 2008, and has been covering baseball since he founded USSMariner.com in 2003. He has written for The Wall Street Journal since 2009. You can find his ESPN archives here and follow him on Twitter here.
Not the same Indians.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
"I felt last year at this point we had played our best baseball. You couldn't play any better than the way we played the first 45 games. Unfortunately, we had some guys go down. But I still don't think we have played our best baseball [this year]." -- Indians manager Manny Acta
For the first two months of last season, the Cleveland Indians looked like a fairy-tale team. On May 22, fresh off their 28th win in 43 games, they sat atop the AL Central with a winning percentage 50 points higher than any other team's and a lead over the second-place Detroit Tigers that had stretched to seven games. The Indians were among the best in baseball at almost everything: Their hitters' .276 true average (TAv) was the highest in the American League, their defense had converted 72.9 percent of balls in play into outs (the AL's third-highest rate), and their pitching staff's 4.30 fair run average (FRA) ranked a respectable fifth.
Their third-order winning percentage, an estimate of how successful they should have been based on their underlying statistics and the quality of their opponents, was an AL-high .613. Quite simply, the Indians were playing like the league's best team.
Baseball Prospectus wasn't buying it. We projected the 28-15 Indians to regress to a sub-.460 mark during the rest of the season. Our seemingly pessimistic projection turned out to be too generous: Cleveland actually won at a .437 clip from May 22 on, going 52-67 to finish at 80-82. By the end of the season, the Indians had completed a transition from all systems go to full system failure: their TAv fell to .261 (ninth), their defensive efficiency declined to 70.7 percent (ninth), and their FRA inflated to .463 (sixth). The fairy tale had an unhappy ending.
Fast forward to 2012: Through 44 games, the Indians are again exceeding expectations. At 26-18, this year's edition is three games behind the pace set by last year's club, and its 4-game lead in the AL Central is only half as large as the 2011 team's was at the same point last season. Given that most pundits pegged the Tigers to run away with the division, though, the Indians' presence in first place is surprising no matter the margin. Last year's Indians turned out to be a tease, but there is good reason to believe that this team can make it to the playoffs this year.
If this year's club follows the same trajectory as 2011's, it won't have as far to fall. The Indians have played well, but they can't be confused for the AL's top team: They've allowed the same number of runs as they've scored, and they rate no better than fifth in the AL in TAv, DE and FRA. The Indians are the only AL Central team better than .500, but every team in the AL East boasts a better run differential.
However, the Indians' lackluster run differential is somewhat deceptive. They've outhit their opponents and put more runners on than all but two other AL teams, but they've scored only the 11th-most runs per time on base. Their problem hasn't been how much they're hitting but when they're hitting, and that's not a problem that's likely to persist.
Consequently, if anything proves to be the Indians' undoing, it probably won't be their offense. Despite the sustained excellence of 2011 breakout bat Asdrubal Cabrera, Cleveland's hitters lack power, but they do put the ball in play, striking out less often than any team but the Kansas City Royals. Working long counts is the lineup's strong suit: Led by Carlos Santana, Travis Hafner and Shelley Duncan -- who hasn't done much besides walk -- the Indians have drawn more free passes than any other team. If they could sustain their 11.2 percent walk rate during a full season, it would be the highest recorded by any club since Seattle walked in 12 percent of its plate appearances in 2000.
That was so long ago the Mariners were actually good at getting on base. Given how little offense the Indians have gotten from their left and center fielders, the impending return of Grady Sizemore could give them a boost even if he doesn't regain any semblance of the production he supplied in his prime.
Cleveland's potentially fatal weak point is pitching. The team's offense has the best strikeout-to-walk ratio in baseball, but its pitching staff -- thanks largely to the extreme struggles of Ubaldo Jimenez -- has the worst. Indians pitchers simply don't miss bats: They've struck out only 16.1 percent of the batters they've faced, ahead of only the Oakland Athletics and Minnesota Twins.
No playoff team since the post-strike playoff format was instituted in 1995 has qualified for the postseason with a staff that strikes out so few batters relative to the league average. The average playoff team's staff has had a "strikeout percentage plus" (K%+) of 106, compared to a league average of 100. The 2005 Braves staff had the lowest K%+ of any 1995-2011 playoff team, at 89. The Indians are at only 84, which doesn't bode well for their future run prevention.
Cleveland's pitchers compensate for their inability to miss bats by keeping the ball on the ground more often than any other team but Toronto, getting grounders on 49 percent of their balls in play. Grounders are good, and they're even better when the defense behind a worm-burning staff is adept at turning them into outs. Last season, Indians opponents hit .237 on ground balls against them, the eighth-highest rate in the AL. This season, Indians opponents have hit just .197 on grounders, the second-lowest rate in the AL.
The Indians also have turned double plays at the third-highest rate in the AL, erasing some of the runners their arms have put on via the base on balls. There is some evidence that pitchers who allow more ground balls also tend to allow fewer ground-ball hits by inducing weaker contact, but clearly the Indians' infield of Casey Kotchman, Jason Kipnis, Cabrera and Jack Hannahan has done an excellent job of supporting the likes of contact-prone Derek Lowe and Justin Masterson.
On Wednesday, manager Manny Acta said, "I still don't think we have played our best baseball." PECOTA disagrees, but it doesn't foresee another collapse in the Indians' future, forecasting a .522 winning percentage for Cleveland the rest of the way.
Despite their lackluster play, the Tigers -- whom the Indians came from behind to beat on Wednesday night -- remain the real threat. Even if the Indians' 9-2 record in one-run games regresses and Detroit outplays them from now on, as PECOTA expects, Cleveland's current five-game cushion gives it a good chance of outlasting the Tigers' attack. Our playoff odds put the Indians' chances of holding on to claim the Central at just a tick better than 50 percent. At the same point last season, we gave them only a 40 percent chance, sensing an inferior team hidden behind a superior record. Thanks to the additional wild-card team in 2012, the Indians' odds of qualifying for the playoffs without winning the division are nearly three times higher than they were at the 43-game mark last season, bringing their overall odds of postseason play to approximately 60 percent.
Through their first 43 games, the 2012 Indians haven't been quite as good as Cleveland's ill-fated 2011 team. But from Game 44 on, they'll be better. And they might just be better enough.
Ben Lindbergh is the managing editor of Baseball Prospectus. He has contributed to three BP annuals, and he served as assistant editor of Baseball Prospectus 2011 and the two-volume Best of Baseball Prospectus collection. He daylights as a baseball analyst for Bloomberg Sports, has interned for multiple MLB teams and recently became a member of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Rojas reports that Oviedo has received a pardon from the U.S. State Department, which is, he writes, "a mandatory requirement for eligibility for a visa to travel to the United States and continue his career."
Oviedo is still in his native Domincan Republic after being banished from the United States for using a false identity, but he is awaiting word from the U.S. consulate about getting his visa, which will allow the right-hander to travel back to the United States.
The timing of that process isn't known, although it appears possible that Oviedo could make it out of the Domincan Republic within two weeks, if not sooner.
Assuming Oviedo is approved for and obtains the visa fairly soon, the 30-year-old will have to serve an eight-week suspension handed out by Major League Baseball, meaning any chance at pitching for the Marlins again will come in the second half of this season.
- Jason Catania
With the O's in first place in the AL East, the club is reportedly close to signing Jones to a long-term extension, according to FoxSports.com's Ken Rosenthal.
Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports that Jones has already taken a physical, which is part of team protocol before agreeing to terms on a long-term deal with a player. Connolly also indicates that while nothing is settled and terms have yet to be disclosed, he expects such an extension would overtake the largest contract ever given to an Orioles player, surpassing the six-year, $72 million contract signed by Miguel Tejada prior to the 2004 season.
If the deal is completed, inking Jones, who was set to become a free agent after 2013, is a good sign for the Orioles' future. The centerfielder is a former All-Star who is still just 26, and he's off to what could be his best season yet, hitting .311 with 14 homers.
Because of his looming free agency, there had been much speculation that the O's could look to shop Jones this year, in return for younger, cheaper players to help turn around a franchise that hasn't had a winning campaign since 1997. But the hot start -- 28-17 through Thursday -- may have given both club and player reason to believe they were better off with each other than without.
- Jason Catania
What Anthony Rizzo has been doing to Triple-A pitching is starting to get a little ridiculous. The Cubs first base prospect is batting .353/.417/.707 at Iowa, including 16 home runs and 43 RBIs in 45 games. Skipper Dale Sveum says the club will "have to talk" about calling up the first baseman in June.
Gordon Wittenmyer wrote earlier in the week Sun-Times that Rizzo could be in the Cubs lineup within three weeks.
CBSSports.com's Scott Miller gives two reasons why Rizzo hasn't been called up yet. One of them? Finding a way to fit both Rizzo, a pure first baseman with no experience at any other position, and upstart slugger Bryan LaHair into the same lineup. Without the luxury of the DH in the NL, two possible options for Chicago are to move LaHair to the outfield -- or trade him.
LaHair has played a little outfield in his career -- parts of 11 games last season and 51 games in 2010. He's clearly a first baseman, but in the short-term the club could force a position switch.
- Jason A. Churchill
Matsui's poorly-timed slump
Tampa Bay Rays
While Matsui will surely be up at some point, likely to split his time between the outfield and designated hitter, the soon-to-be-38-year-old is not hitting all that well at Triple-A, according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.
Matsui's line: 4-for-33 (.121 BA) with just 1 walk.
The Rays have had a rash of injuries, what with Desmond Jennings, Jeff Keppinger and Brandon Guyer recently hitting the disabled list -- not to mention, third baseman Evan Longoria, who's been out since the end of April -- so Matsui's slump may be costing him a chance to get some regular at-bats in the bigs.
- Jason A. Churchill and Jason Catania
Free agent Roy Oswalt could sign with a team soon, and there have been indications he could be leaning toward a return to the Lone Star State.
Some rival executives tell ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney they are convinced Oswalt is going to sign with the Texas Rangers "because of his links to that team, because of the Rangers' strong postseason chances, and because of Texas' proximity to Oswalt's Mississippi home."
The surprising Orioles, though, appear to be interested in the right-hander as a way to upgrade their rotation, according to CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman. Given that Oswalt has made it clear he wants to play for a team with a title shot, the O's might not be at the top of his list. Then again, here we are at Memorial Day weekend and Baltimore sits atop the AL East and owns the second-best record in baseball.
As for Oswalt's readiness, the initial reports on his throwing sessions with Boston and Philadelphia were good, reports Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. "It probably would take him a few weeks to get ready, but everybody's going to need pitching a month from now, so it's a good investment for down the road," a scout tells Cafardo.
Oswalt is already more than familiar with the state of Texas, having pitched for a decade in Houston before being traded to the Phillies during the 2010 season. The Rangers' incentive for landing Oswalt likely picked up this week when starter Neftali Feliz went on the 15-day DL with a right elbow strain.
Other clubs that could be legitimate contenders for Oswalt's services include the Red Sox, Cardinals and Tigers.
- Doug Mittler
The Colorado Rockies may still get a boost to their starting rotation by June.
Jorge De La Rosa, who is on the recovery track from Tommy John surgery, was recently shut down after feeling soreness in his left forearm, but that setback apparently hasn't pushed his return date too far from where it was previously expected. In fact, De La Rosa will begin his second rehab assignment -- a maximum of 30 days -- by pitching for Triple-A Colorado Springs on Sunday. He is scheduled to throw about 75 pitches.
The Denver Post's Troy Renck speculated via Twitter that De La Rosa could still make it back by the last week of June. There was a chance he could have returned the first or second week of June before his forearm soreness became an issue.
It's a bit early to worry about who will be bumped from the rotation when De La Rosa is ready to return, especially since the Rockies rotation has been in flux all season. The club surely just wants to get De La Rosa back, as he would easily be one of their better starters.
- Jason Catania
The Yankees left fielder had played in two minor league games as part of his rehab assignment and was thought to be close to returning a few weeks ago, but an MRI revealed the injury to be worse than when it was originally diagnosed.
Gardner was supposed to take some swings Thursday but that now will not happen until at least Monday, but this is not expected to be an injury that keeps him out for the long haul as no structural damage was found in the tests.
The Yankees are carrying five outfielders, and journeyman Dewayne Wise is likely to remain on the active roster until Gardner is ready to return.
- Jason A. Churchill and Jason Catania
If the Nationals buy
The Washington Nationals have been a very active club over the past two years, spending big money in the draft, making impact trades and ponying up to extend the contracts of their own. Through the first 45 games or so, they sit atop the National League East and could be in position to be buyers at the trade deadline. What areas might they look to upgrade, and who might be on their radar?
Outfield is probably the first priority with Mike Morse yet to play this season and Jayson Werth out long-term.
Plus, GM Mike Rizzo has been searching for a centerfield solution for what seems like, well, since the franchise was the Montreal Expos. We've discussed at length the potential targets there -- Adam Jones, Denard Span, perhaps even B.J. Upton -- but the club isn't getting much offensively from their middle infield group either.
Should the Giants continue to fade off the pace of the division-leading Dodgers, Melky Cabrera could be available as a short-term fix in center field for the Nats, and the Cubs would surely be willing to move David DeJesus. The A's are always ready to deal and Josh Reddick might be a nice fit for the Nationals in a corner.
Washington could also shore up its bullpen or add an impact starter, but those aren't major weaknesses for the club in 2012.
- Jason A. Churchill
The Seattle Mariners finally may be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel for centerfielder Franklin Gutierrez. He's been out all season with pectoral and plantar fasciitis injuries, the latter occurring during his rehab, after missing a good portion of last season with a stomach ailment.
Larry Stone of the Seattle Times reports that the 29-year-old has worked out with the team this week, running and throwing, and will continue to do so until returning to Arizona Sunday for a week's worth of extended spring training games.
It seems the earliest Gutierrez could return is the third week in June, since he'll start a rehab assignment after the extended spring training tests, but late June or early July appears to be the best-case scenario.
Saunders, a left-handed batting outfielder who has held down center field in Gutierrez's absence, appears to be fairly safe. Figgins, as Rumor Central's Doug Mittler wrote Thursday, could be on the bubble to keep his roster spot when. And Liddi has been used in the outfield a few times over the past week or so with mixed results, but the club only needs four outfielders.
- Jason A. Churchill
The Boston Red Sox, who are dealing with an almost laughable lack of outfield depth due to injuries to Carl Crawford, Jacoby Ellsbury, Ryan Sweeney and Cody Ross, may get some help by the name of Ryan Kalish, who could return in June.
Kalish, reports Alex Speier of WEEI.com, has been playing in extended spring training games and could be sent out on a rehab assignment by mid-June.
That timetable could mean Kalish is available to the big club by the end of June or early July, barring any setbacks. A safer, more conservative expectation may be just after All-Star break. There's a chance Ellsbury could be back around that time, too.
- Jason A. Churchill
It's no secret that Figgins (.180 BA) has come nowhere close to living up to the four-year, $36 million free agent contract he signed prior to the 2010 season. With the Mariners needing to clear a roster spot for catcher Miguel Olivo over the next few days, there had been some speculation that it was time to cut the cord.
Larry LaRue of the News Tribune says the idea should at least be considered, even if Figgins will earn $17 million this year and next. LaRue concludes that the Mariners have better defensive reserves for the infield and outfield and that Figgins is bypassed even as a pinch runner.
Turns out, outfielderCasper Wells was the player sent down to make room for Olivo. But could Figgins' time left in Seattle be long?
- Doug Mittler
Mauer’s Comeback: Albatross No More?
The Minnesota Twins have not had many bright spots this season, but one seems to be the return of Joe Mauer‘s bat. After an injury-plagued disaster of a 2011 seasons, Joe Mauer is hitting like his old self again. After his 2-4 with a home run and a walk peformance in yesterday’s losing effort against the White Sox, Mauer now has a classic, Mauer-esque .301/.414/.423 (138 wRC+) line on the season.
One of the biggest concerns for the Twins going into the season was that they would not only be terrible (which has happened), but that if they needed to move one of their big contracts (Mauer and Morneau) for rebuilding purposes, that neither player would hit well enough to bring back much in trade given what they are owed. This is not to say that the Twins “have
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