Josh Hamilton had worn out his welcome elsewhere, but the Texas Rangers promised him a fresh start last season. Based on Hamilton’s natural talent, it was possible to squint and see the upside, and in Hamilton’s first at-bat back in Texas, he ripped a double and received a standing ovation. Things didn’t stay quite so terrific — he was recently released.

Yost couldn’t contain himself, and clearly felt like he had to do something. Perhaps he thought Mondesi, as a rookie, couldn’t handle the pressure of the situation, or that with his blazing speed, he might beat out the sacrifice, or that as a struggling .184 hitter entering the game, Mondesi had to be treated like a pitcher.

Ryan Baillargeon is a reporter for MLB.com based in Baltimore and covered the Blue Jays on Monday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

The Tampa Bay Rays have a firm hold on last place in the American League East, 18 ½ games out of first place as they prepare for the final month of what has been a frustrating season. But their starting pitching has evolved in recent weeks, performing like it had been expected to at the outset of the season, with Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi et al. working effectively. In fact, Tampa Bay has the best ERA in the AL since the All-Star break, and the second-best in the majors. Archer won again Sunday.

The worst team in the AL East can go toe to toe in terms of starting pitching quality with any division opponent on any given day in September, and Tampa Bay’s next 26 games are all against AL East teams.

Meanwhile, the AL Central is inhabited by the Twins, who have essentially stopped winning and are losing games by an average of more than three runs per game over the past three weeks. And the AL West contenders — Rangers, Astros and Mariners — will have the opportunity to feast on two teams that have struggled almost all year, the Athletics and Angels.

No wonder an AL official used this term about what might happen with the AL East playoff contenders down the stretch: cannibalize.

The Nationals said placing Strasburg on the DL was strictly precautionary and that they hoped he would be able to return once he is eligible. So far the signs have all been positive for Strasburg, who has also played catch numerous times in the past week.
Full Game Coverage
“Our trainers are on top of it,” manager Dusty Baker said. “They have a program mapped out for him, and only his body can tell us how he is and if he’s going to stay on track.”

Leave a reply

This is the time of year that non-contending teams are finishing up the evaluations of their entire organization and deciding, among other things, if they want to make a managerial change. As I wrote, there were several managers on the hot seat early in the season, including John Gibbons of the Toronto Blue Jays, Brad Ausmus of the Detroit Tigers and Bryan Price of the Cincinnati Reds. Fortunately for all three managers, their seats have cooled considerably; Gibbons and Ausmus are in pennant races, and Price has piloted the Reds to the second-best record in the National League since the All Star break, which should save his job.

They tied for the league lead in wins with Joe finishing second in the Cy Young voting for the Astros and Phil, pitching on a terrible Braves team, finishing sixth. Joe’s best season was 1982 (6.8 WAR), and Phil went 17-4 that year with a 3.65 ERA.

The easy road for the Los Angeles Dodgers would have been finding a way to keep A.J. Ellis, who was traded to Philadelphia on Thursday, and still acquire Carlos Ruiz. Given that Ellis is a free agent after this season and has no lasting value to the Phillies, this presumably was something that could’ve happened.

By keeping Ellis for another six days leading up to the September roster expansion, the Dodgers would’ve veered around the clubhouse-culture landmines — like the reaction of Ellis’ best friend on the team, Clayton Kershaw, who happens to be the most important person in the organization.

It’s not as if Kershaw will interrupt his rehabilitation because Ellis was traded; Kershaw will always compete ferociously, and he’ll work through his back trouble and get back on the mound. Ruiz has hit lefties better this year than Ellis has and might well turn out to be an upgrade. But the risk in the deal is real because it creates a 20/20 hindsight situation.

If the Dodgers go on to win the NL West and reach the World Series for the first time since 1988, this deal will probably be forgotten and forgiven by the players. Chase Utley, Ruiz’s former teammate in Philadelphia, can vouch for how good Ruiz can be, with the 2008 championship ring they both wear as evidence.

But if the Dodgers’ recent success fades and the San Francisco Giants run them down, and they exit quickly from the playoffs, this will be added to the list of decisions in which the Dodgers’ front office was perceived to be tone-deaf to the sentiments of its players.

It’s a little tricky to combine relievers and starters here, as relievers get to throw harder since they work in shorter stints бн but Chapman and Cabrera are pretty clearly a cut above, accounting for 62 percent of all 100-plus mph pitches in baseball this year (per MLB Statcast data). Syndergaard leads all starters in the same department with 80 such pitches; the only other starter with more than 20, Eovaldi, is about to get his third elbow.

There’s a lot of velocity out there right now, but I looked closely at this list, and the one thing I took away from it is that velocity is no guarantee of success, even though it’s what everyone wants and pays for. Not pictured: Mets starter Bartolo Colon, who doesn’t crack 90 anymore and rarely throws any off-speed pitches but has a 3.36 ERA/4.01 FIP this year.

Leave a reply

SEATTLE — New York Yankees rookie Gary Sanchez is taking everyone’s at-bats. First, he stripped Brian McCann of his catching gear, after becoming the Yankees’ regular catcher. Now, Joe Girardi won’t even sit Sanchez on what was supposed to be a day off.

Sanchez is expected to be behind home plate on Wednesday afternoon as Masahiro Tanaka faces Hisashi Iwakuma. The last time Sanchez caught Tanaka, Tanaka fired 7? scoreless innings against the Angels. In that series, Sanchez threw out Mike Trout on a one-hop throw and picked off a guy at first.

Girardi studies his catcher probably with more intensity than any other position. It was the position he played in the majors. He is a big believer that it is defense that comes first with a catcher, which is something he has preached to Sanchez.

With that said, Girardi notices all the nuances of the position. Sanchez checks them off. That is why he caught a day game after a night game over the weekend.

Sanchez is also crushing the ball, which is why Girardi kept him in the lineup Tuesday. Girardi plans on riding the impressive 23-year-old as far as he will take the Yankees. Does anyone watching, besides opponents, want Sanchez to have a day off, anyway?

“I’m feeling great right now,” Jones said Monday. “On a scale of 1 to 10, it’s probably like a two right now. It healed up fast, I got great treatment in so it wasn’t bad for what I did. We’re looking great right now and hoping for a speedy recovery.”

The Seager-Turner-Gonzalez combination just meant that it was the usual suspects who produced. Seager has delivered all throughout his rookie season, Turner’s emergence about two months ago started the offensive revival, and Gonzalez’s production of late is really what has turned the offense dynamic.

“[Those were] very competitive at-bats one through eight [in the lineup], but the 3-4-5 guys really came up huge for us,” manager Dave Roberts said. “Bumgarner is one of the elite pitchers in baseball and [our] focus to grind out at-bats and get some key hits and have a lot of traffic and stress him all night, get the pitch count up and get those big hits, was a huge lift.”

Others in the Dodgers’ offense are starting to get into the act as well. Rob Segedin and Andrew Toles each hit their second career home run Tuesday after going back-to-back on Monday at Cincinnati. Toles finished with two hits and three RBIs, which would have been a busy day under the circumstances, but he didn’t even enter the game until the sixth inning as a pinch hitter.

OK, so maybe it’s not really official yet. But Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter said after Tuesday night’s 8-1 win over the Washington Nationals that his ace is headed to the 15-day disabled list with shoulder inflammation. So let’s call it unofficially official. Which unofficially officially makes the Orioles’ chances of reaching the playoffs a whole lot worse than they would’ve been if Tillman were healthy.

“It certainly helped,” said Showalter, who became the third manager this season to win three challenges in the same game. Two of his successful challenges came on Turner’s steal attempts, both of which were initially ruled safe. “We needed each one of them. It kept any momentum from getting going.”

If the O’s are going to keep their own momentum going without Tillman, they’ll need to continue the all-hands-on-deck approach, both when the Battle of the Beltway relocates to Nats Park on Wednesday, and beyond.

“We are going to miss him on the mound,” center fielder Adam Jones (4-for-5 on Tuesday) said of Tillman, “but we’re still going to keep fighting and grinding. When he comes back hopefully after the 15 days, mid-September, whenever he does, he comes back fresh and ready to make his last three or four starts in a tight race.”

For what it’s worth, Tillman himself doesn’t seem terribly concerned about how his team will fare without him. Or, if he is, he’s not letting it show.

“These guys are hitting the ball well, having fun as a group,” Tillman said. “So we’d like to keep it going. We’re playing good baseball.”

Only time will tell if it’s good enough.

Leave a reply

Kershaw, who was 11-2 with a 1.79 ERA when he was injured, is optimistic he’ll have better results this time.

“We got to the point the last time where I was throwing off the mound,” he said. “This time, I’ve done everything I need to do. We gave it a shot the first time, and we were pretty aggressive. There were no signs that it would backfire, but it did. This time, we’ve been more conservative.”

Roberts expects Kershaw to throw 20 to 25 pitches Saturday and, if all goes well, 40 in another bullpen session Tuesday in Los Angeles.

Kershaw was asked why he decided to rejoin his teammates in Cincinnati.

“Skyline Chili,” he said, smiling, mentioning a local delicacy. “It’s fun to be on the road with the guys. It’s no fun watching on TV. I like being on the road.”

Roberts also said left-hander Rich Hill, who has been on the disabled list since July 18 with a left middle finger blister, likely will be activated next week and make his Dodgers debut after being acquired in an Aug. 1 trade with the Oakland Athletics.

Hill threw 75 pitches in a simulated game Thursday at the Dodgers’ spring training facility before joining the team Friday in Cincinnati. Hill said he expects to make his debut Wednesday against the San Francisco Giants, according to The Orange County Register.

ANAHEIM, Calif. — There were real questions if New York Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez had the right attitude to justify his $3 million signing bonus as a 16-year-old. There was a feeling that his inability to master preparation could negate his talents.

For outfielder Aaron Judge, there was never that question. The Yankees scouting department believed Judge was a leader coming out of Fresno State. Their scouts felt as if they knew the type of person they were bringing into the organization with the 32nd selection of the 2013 draft.

So far, what is remarkably clear about both of them is the professionalism that seems like remnants of the Core Four. It would be crazy right now to truly compare these young players to Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada, but the one thing you can tell in this early stage is their attitude. Both Sanchez and Judge appear to have the right approach.

On Friday night, in the Yankees’ 7-0 drubbing of the Los Angeles Angels, Sanchez added three more hits, including two doubles, to raise his average to .389. He is the first Yankees rookie to have four consecutive multi-hit games since another No. 24, Robinson Cano, in 2005. For good measure, Sanchez added his first stolen base.

Judge went 0-for-5, but sits at .304.

The ground floor for Yankees stardom is handling your preparation and surroundings. Before Friday’s victory, reporters at Sanchez’s locker looked as though they needed to take a number to speak with him, but the 23-year-old — with the aid of a translator — patiently spoke with each and every one of them. Judge was equally accommodating on the other side of the room.

Leave a reply

Can you have too much of a good thing? Not when you’re piling up victories, but it can complicate the handing out of awards.

It’s problematic for voters when a team has two players arguably worthy of winning the Most Valuable Player Award in the same season, as do the Cubs in Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant.
Look at the 1996 Mariners. Ken Griffey Jr. was in his prime, and Alex Rodriguez looked like anything but a 20-year-old in his first full season. Both delivered a 1.000+ OPS and a WAR of at least 9.4. One was an American League Gold Glove Award winner in center field; the other a terrific shortstop.

Either could have won the AL Most Valuable Player Award. But they split the vote, and the Rangers’ Juan Gonzalez won the award in one of the tightest and most memorable award races.

Mariners manager Lou Piniella and Rodriguez both said Griffey should have won the AL MVP Award, and the two voters from Seattle would agree when it was time to cast their votes. Both voted Griffey first and Gonzalez second, and that was the margin that allowed Gonzalez to edge out A-Rod, 290-287.

The Rizzo-Bryant dynamic is evolving along the same lines. I don’t see anyone more deserving than the two Cubs.

I’d be surprised if Joe Maddon voices an opinion if he’s asked when September rolls around, and I’d advise Bryant not to defer to Rizzo when he gets the chance. Let’s just let this thing play out and see where the chips fall. Everybody’s gonna have an opinion, and mine:

The Gurriel brothers are one step closer to making their Major League dreams come true.

Last month, older brother Yulieski Gurriel, 32, signed a $47.5 million deal with the Astros and is quickly making his way up the Minor League ranks. On Monday, younger brother Lourdes Gurriel Jr., 22, was declared a free agent by Major League Baseball and officially became eligible to sign.
Lourdes, who is currently training in Panama, is expected to have a large showcase for all 30 teams as well as private workouts in the coming months at a time and place to be determined. The Astros have been open about their interest in signing both Gurriels. Lourdes is expected to test the market for the best deal.

“We would like to play together on the same team, have my brother near me,” Yulieski told MLB.com earlier this year. “But if the circumstances don’t permit it and we have to go different paths, that’s what we will do.”

Lourdes is not expected to sign anytime soon and here’s why: Cuban players who are at least 23 years old and have played in a Cuban professional league for five or more seasons are exempt from the international signing guidelines established by the Collective Bargaining Agreement, effectively making them free agents once they are eligible to sign with a big league club.

Leave a reply

But Donatell still expresses an urgency to make that leap intelligently, young or not.

“It’s a mindset you create, it’s a culture. There’s no question about it here, and you’ve got a great measuring stick. You know, it was so great here (in defenses under Lovie Smith) a few years back, and we’re looking to create that different places. It’s not a switch you just turn on. It takes a little bit of time. We’re not comfortable with waiting for it to happen. We want to speed it up and get going, where people have fun.”

When all was said and done in 2015, a look at the starting lineups showed Donatell wound up relying on Porter, Kyle Fuller and Adrian Amos in three of those spots, with undrafted free agent Bryce Callahan developing trust in the nickel package. The latter will be given an opportunity to compete for one of the outside spots this preseason, while the 25-year NFL coaching veteran praises the way Amos wasn’t intimidated, took on greater responsibilities as his rookie season went on, and kept getting himself ready every week despite a shoulder injury that required surgery right after the season.

Here were some of Donatell’s other thoughts Thursday.

On Fuller entering his third season:

“The biggest difference right now is he’s more familiar with what we’re doing, more sure of himself, which means he’s going to react faster. We’re always looking for them to `spike’ the second year we have them, improve. He’s getting used to the group of coaches we have, a new system, and right now he’s on a path to keep improving.”

On waiver pickup Harold Jones-Quartey rebounding from a mid-season benching to having excellent games in returning to starting safety the last two games:

“He was learning on the run. We gave him some game action, let him marinate a bit, then brought him back. But part of your talent, and we make no exception, is if you get the ball for us, there’s a place for you in our defense.”

On fourth-round draft picks Deon Bush and Deiondre’ Hall, and sixth-round selection DeAndre Houston-Carson:

“We like them all. We’ve got a great room, but time will tell on that one. Time will definitely tell. We’re excited for the preseason because that really tells us a lot.”

Those games begin next Thursday, in the preseason opener at Soldier Field against the Denver Broncos.

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman John Urschel completed an offseason unlike any other NFL player as he pursued his doctorate in mathematics at the renown Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

His focus is on spectral graph theory, numerical linear algebra and machine learning. He earned A’s in all four classes that he took there this spring.

Though this is a remarkable story, were the Ravens concerned that their potential starting left guard wasn’t entirely committed his football career this offseason?

“You do wonder,” coach John Harbaugh said. “I wouldn’t be strictly honest if I say it didn’t cross my mind.”

Harbaugh then said with a smile, “You spend a lot of time on the math, buddy.”

But Harbaugh acknowledged he wasn’t really worried about Urschel being ready in terms of preparation and conditioning, because he knows this is a player who has his priorities in order.

“He’s a football player first,” Harbaugh said. “He knows that that’s his profession at this time in life. He’s 100 percent committed to his football, and I’d say he’s 100 percent committed to his math. As we said, life is not a pie chart. He commits himself to the things that are all important and does a great job of it. I have no concerns whatsoever about him not being prepared.”

Leave a reply

On top of that, Texas succeeded where Cleveland could not, swinging a deal for Milwaukee Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy. The Rangers have been a logical landing spot for Lucroy for months now, and the deal makes sense. They also received reliever Jeremy Jeffress, who has a 2.22 ERA over 44 2/3 innings. He’s hardly a throw-in here.

The Rangers did surrender significant future talent to make both moves, but they are clearly in win-now mode. At 62-44, the Rangers came into the day with the best record in the American League. By 4 p.m. ET, they separated themselves from the pack.

Just a few days ago, you could have made the case the Marlins were winners. The team had just picked up both Andrew Cashner and Colin Rea from the Padres, and it looked like they were taking advantage of their wild card spot.

WINNER: CLEVELAND INDIANS
The Indians may have missed out an acquiring Lucroy, but picking up Andrew Miller from the Yankees is significant. The 31-year-old lefty has been one of the best relievers in the majors for quite some time now. Over the past four seasons, he has a 1.98 ERA over 200 innings. During that period, he’s notched an incredible 328 strikeouts.

While this season is important, Miller is under team control through 2018. So even though the team gave up significant talent to pick up Miller, including outfield prospect Clint Frazier, it’s not like Miller is a rental player.

Picking up outfielder Brandon Guyer isn’t exciting, but he’s hit lefties well over his career. His .283/.383/.463 slash line against southpaws should make him at least a useful platoon piece, and insurance in case Michael Brantley struggles to return from his shoulder injury.

The Tigers got a ton of offense Tuesday night – and that wasn’t even the most important part of their 11-5 victory over the Chicago White Sox.

The most encouraging aspect of Detroit’s seventh straight win was Anibal Sanchez’s performance.

Sanchez (5-12) allowed one run in six innings to win for the first time as a starter since April 28 – a span of 11 starts. He gave up six hits and three walks, and didn’t yield a homer. He came into the game having served up 18 home runs in 94 2/3 innings.

”This might be the best I’ve pitched all year,” said Sanchez, who lost his rotation spot in June but got it back due to injuries. ”I felt really good with my command. That’s something that I’ve been looking for all year long.”

Sanchez was expected to move back to the bullpen after Jordan Zimmermann returns to the mound Thursday, but the Tigers placed Mike Pelfrey on the disabled list following Tuesday’s game with a lower-back strain. That means Sanchez will stay in the rotation for at least one more start.

”I was really impressed with the way he was able to pitch up in the zone again with his fastball,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. ”That’s what he was doing when he was successful.”

Miguel Cabrera hit his third home run in two games and Victor Martinez also went deep for Detroit. Andrew Romine and Cameron Maybin tripled in a six-run fifth.

Leave a reply