Around the Major Leagues: 2013 Week 8

Votto leads the red-hot Reds

Updates on the major news across Major League Baseball during the eighth week of the season. Joey Votto and Justin Masterson are League Players of the Week.

AL East

 

- While Dylan Bundy sits out with elbow stiffness, Kevin Gausman has become the Orioles’ top pitching prospect.  The ‘prospect’ tag may soon be displaced with a firm ‘major league starter’ title in Baltimore’s rotation.  The 22-year old was promoted from Double-A Bowie to make his major league debut this past Thursday against the Blue Jays.  The Louisiana State alum went on to fan five Toronto batters with a fastball that hummed at 97 miles per hour, occasionally hitting 99.  Though Gausman took the loss after surrendering five runs over five innings, the right-hander impressed with a solid arsenal.

 

- For the first since being let go by the Red Sox in 2011, Indians manager Terry Francona returned to a dugout in Fenway Park.  The Boston Herald outlined the anticipated emotional return prior to the game from the former Boston manager here.

 

- One would normally expect a top year, even career best, for a big-named player in a contract season.  Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case for Jacoby Ellsbury.  The Boston center fielder is off to a sluggish start, batting .249 with only 12 extra-base hits and a .317 on-base percentage over 49 games.  Though off to healthy start this year, Ellsbury will need to lift off offensively during the final four months of the season. That is, if he expects to entice multiple teams in contemplating a nine digit offer that was once possible after he finished second in Most Valuable Player voting following a brilliant 2011 season.  With Ellsbury already a six-year major league veteran, one has to ponder if 2011 was an anomaly.

 

- Health, or lack thereof, has been a striking factor in Toronto’s current last place ranking in the AL East.  The Blue Jays rotation will grow a bit more complete with the return of Josh Johnson, who made his second rehab start this past Saturday.  Johnson was less than impressive in his first four starts of the season to the tune of a 6.86 earned-run average with nine walks and three surrendered home runs before being sidelined with triceps inflammation.  The right-hander has been just one disappointment in the expensive roster overhaul that Toronto undertook in the off-season.

 

- The Yankees just can’t catch a break health-wise.  Neither can Curtis Granderson.  Fewer than two weeks since the return of the New York center fielder from a fractured forearm, Granderson was once again struck by a pitch, fracturing his pinkie.  The injury is expected to sideline the power hitter for a minimum of four weeks.

 

- The injury news isn’t all bad for New YorkMark Teixeira is eyeing a return next week, which would come after playing two rehab games in Double-A Trenton, according to the New York Post.  The first baseman is eligible to come off the disabled list on May 30, which would allow him to make his first appearance since suffering a tendon injury in his right wrist on March 5.

 

AL Central

 

- John Danks returned to the mound for the White Sox this past Friday for the first time in over a year since undergoing left shoulder surgery.  The left-hander tossed a quality start against the hapless Marlins, striking out five and surrendering three runs over six innings.  Danks’ control hadn’t missed a beat, as he didn’t walk a batter, though Miami first baseman Nick Green was hit by an errant pitch.  Chicago won the game 4-3 in 11 innings, running their record to 22-24 with a healthier rotation.

 

- Perhaps with one of the more surprising starts to the season, the Minnesota Twins were 18-17, one game over .500.  The success didn’t last long, as the Twins’ losing streak reached 10 games with a 6-0 loss to the Tigers on Friday night.  Phil Miller of the Star Tribune suggests that changes would happen in a recent article should the Twins not turn around their misfortune.  Manager Ron Gardenhire’s job still appears to be safe, however.

 

- Surprisingly, Miguel Cabrera’s incredible start to the season has caught little pub.  Perhaps everybody is just used to it.  The Tigers third baseman is up to something that’s worth noting; much too early to put it in the books, but definitely worth mentioning.  At the end of the day this past Sunday, Cabrera was leading all American League hitters in batting average (.385), 43 points above second-place James Loney.  Cabrera was also leading all AL batters in RBI (57), 11 ahead of second-place Chris Davis.  Cabrera trails only Davis in home runs by two with 14 of his own, putting him on pace to possibly win a second-consecutive Triple Crown.  Brian Manzullo of the Detroit Free Press questioned why nobody seemed to care about Cabrera’s hot start in a recent article.

 

- Indians starter Justin Masterson took American League Player of the Week honors for the period ending on May 19.  The hurler failed to give up a run over two starts, earning two victories with 20 strikeouts and five walks over 16 innings.  Masterson and his 7-3 record and 3.20 earned-run average have been a major reason why Cleveland currently holds a Wild Card spot.

 

AL West

 

- The Angels’ resurgence over the past week has come at a much needed time, and Los Angeles will soon be receiving the help of their ace pitcher.  Jered Weaver, who hasn’t pitched since fracturing his elbow on April 7, was successful in an extended spring training game this past Wednesday, according to the LA Times.  Weaver could return to the Angels’ rotation next week.

 

- What can be said about Mike Trout that hasn’t been said since his MVP-worthy rookie season in 2012?  Here’s one: the Angels outfielder became the youngest player in American League history to hit for the cycle, according to the LA Times.  Trout achieved the feat in a 12-0 clobbering of the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday.  Stay tuned as sophomores Mike Trout and Bryce Harper achieve more feats.

 

- Check out this video of another blown call faced by the umpires in a recent Mariners - Rangers match-up, fueling the fire for more discussion about instant replay.

 

NL East

 

- The Phillies will be without their starting second baseman for the next two-to-four weeks after Chase Utley was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a mild oblique strain.  Utley told the Philadelphia Inquirer that it was the ‘best case scenario’ after feeling pain in his right side during batting practice Tuesday.  It’s been said before but can’t be said enough - Utley has been possibly the most underrated player of the past decade.  At 34-years old, the left-hander remains a valuable player following recent seasons playing on balky knees.  According to Fangraphs, Utley’s WAR (Wins Above Replacement) of 1.5 currently ranks fifth for all qualified second basemen in baseball this season.

 

- Evan Gattis has taken Atlanta by storm.  By blasting 10 home runs, the power hitter has amassed 20 total extra-base hits for the Braves, trailing only Didi Gregorius of the Diamondbacks for National League rookies in OPS (.883).  Gattis isn’t known for getting on base at a consistent clip, evidenced by his eight walks in 125 at-bats, though his power will give him plenty of opportunities in Atlanta.  David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution explains here why sending down Gattis is no longer an option.

 

- The Miami Herald had an interesting find that Marlins fans should probably pass over - as of May 26, the Miami Marlins have the worst record of any team in professional baseball.  That includes the majors, minors, and even the Mexican League.  The night is darkest just before the dawn.  Anybody?  Okay, maybe not in this case.

 

NL Central

 

- Matt Garza made his 2013 debut on Tuesday against the Pirates, 10 months after suffering a stress reaction in his right elbow.  The Cubs hurler was nearly flawless over five scoreless innings, allowing only one hit and fanning five.  Garza walked three batters and threw a wild pitch, but the outing went as well as one could expect.  Garza is likely auditioning for a seemingly inevitable deadline deal for the Cubs.

 

- The 2013 season hasn’t been all bad for Chicago.  The Cubs seen to have finally found their closer.  Scoreless over 12 innings this season with six saves and one win, Gregg has found the role to his liking.  The Chicago Tribune covers the struggles of the pitchers who formerly occupied the role and the current success of Gregg here.

 

- Joey Votto took National League Player of the Week honors for the period ending May 19.  The Reds slugger led the majors with a .583 batting average and .655 on-base percentage.  Votto belted two home runs, amassed 22 total bases, and drove in five runs.

 

- Tyler Kepner of the New York Times recently spoke to agent Scott Boras about Shin-soo Choo’s impending free agency.  The Reds center fielder has a .441 on-base percentage, which has been a revelation for Cincinnati’s offense after facing problems in the leadoff spot last season.  Choo appears headed to free agency without a deal, though a return to the Reds is certainly possible.

 

- At a glance, Kyle Lohse’s 3.76 earned-run average for the Brewers would indicate that the right-hander has pitched better than his 1-5 record.  The win-loss record isn’t the hurler’s only concern, as Lohse skipped his start on Saturday against the Pirates due to elbow soreness.  Quoted by the Journal Sentinel, manager Ron Roenicke stated that it’s not serious, and Lohse is expected to return for his next scheduled start.  However, no fan wants to see the words ‘elbow’ and ‘soreness’ anywhere near each other in the same sentence.

 

- The starting rotation of the Cardinals made the front page of Sports Illustrated recently, which included an article about the success of the staff this season.  Two-fifths of that rotation is now currently out.  Jake Westbrook is dealing with lingering discomfort in his right elbow, though the biggest blow to the Cardinals rotation came when it was announced that Jaime Garcia would undergo season-ending shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder.  The left-hander is expected to be ready to take part in Spring Training next season.

 

NL West

 

- To put it simply, starter Patrick Corbin of the %%MATCH_35%% Diamondbacks has been incredible thus far into the 2013 season.  With a perfect 8-0 record and a miniscule 1.77 earned-run average, the left-hander has baffled hitters with 56 strikeouts and limited the walks with only 20 in 68.1 innings.  The Arizona Republic recently detailed Corbin’s success here.

 

- Don Mattingly’s job security for the Los Angeles Dodgers has come under increased scrutiny with the rough start that the team has experienced.  Mattingly recently called out his team for lacking mental toughness, benched outfielder Andre Ethier, and is going with a lineup ‘that is going to fight’, according to the LA Times.  If things don’t turn around, the Dodgers support for Mattingly may wane at a quickened pace.

 

- Dennis Lin of the San Diego Tribune recently explained why starters Jason Marquis and Edinson Volquez are likely setting themselves up as trade targets for the upcoming July 31 trading deadline.  Lin went on to say that the Padres have up-and-coming starters to fill in for the two starters should they be traded, as San Diego isn’t likely to compete for a playoff spot this season.

 

- Colorado, Arizona, and San Francisco are currently hovering at or near the division lead in the West.  One injury could set a team off in a tight race that may last through the end of the season.  The Giants hope that isn’t the case after losing starter Ryan Vogelsong for the next four-to-six weeks after breaking his hand following a fouled off pitch against the Washington Nationals.  Vogelsong was trying to fight his way through significant struggles that has seen his earned-run average on the season balloon to 7.19 in nine starts preceding the injury.

 

 

Pierce Jefferson can be reached via email at piercerjefferson@yahoo.com. Follow him on twitter (@MLBPJ).

 

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