Diamondbacks ace Brandon Webb has been sidelined with a strained
shoulder muscle since struggling in his Opening Day start, but played
catch from 120 feet earlier this week and said yesterday that he’s still hoping to return before the All-Star break.
Before he can think about rejoining Arizona’s rotation Webb will have
to stretch his arm out to throwing from 150 feet, progress to pitching
off a mound, throw several bullpen sessions, and then complete a
minor-league rehab assignment.
In other words, he’s still facing a long road back. Or as Webb put
it: “You can’t just start going into games right away. You’ve got to
build your arm up.”
Arizona has filled Webb’s spot in the rotation
with Yusmeiro Petit, Billy Buckner, and Bryan Augenstein, who’ve
combined to post a 6.80 ERA while the team goes 2-7 in nine starts. If
you assume for a moment that a healthy Webb would have reversed those
figures with the team going 7-2 in his starts, the Diamondbacks could
be sitting at 26-22 right now and Bob Melvin would probably still be
Unfortunately instead they’re holding the fourth-worst record in the
league at 21-27 and even if Webb is able to return by the All-Star
break the Diamondbacks will likely be completely out of the NL West
picture (they’re already 12.5 games back of the Dodgers) and may also
be trailing by double-digit games in Wild Card race (they’re 6.0 games
behind the Brewers right now).
Former first base and infield coach Nick Leyva was promoted to senior advisor of baseball operations on Saturday, per a report by Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The Pirates also fired third base coach Rick Sofield, with no named successor as of yet.
Leyva joined the Pirates’ organization in the 2011 offseason as a third base coach under manager Clint Hurdle. He shifted to his role as the first base coach and infield coach in 2014, when first base coach Rick Sofield was reassigned to third base prior to the 2015 season. According to Biertempfel, the swap was made in order to optimize the team’s baserunning strategies, all of which appeared to fall flat during the 2015 and 2016 seasons:
The results this season were awful. The Pirates ranked 13th in the National League with a minus-7.0 BsR — a FanGraphs.com metric that measures how many runs above or below league average a team gets via its baserunning.
In 2013 and 2014, the Pirates had one of the top five BsR ratings in the NL. In 2015, they were seventh with a 2.8 BsR.
This season, the Pirates made the second-most outs at third base in the league and were last in taking extra bases on singles and doubles. Their baserunners went from first to third base on hits a league-low 63 times.
Sofield, in particular, highlighted the Pirates’ poor baserunning choices in games like this one, when he sent Sean Rodriguez home too early during the last vestige of a ninth inning rally against the Phillies.
Following the announcement, Pirates’ GM Neal Huntington issued a statement elaborating on Leyva’s role within the organization:
We have great respect and appreciation for both men. We thank them for their time and effort as part of our Major League team and the Pirates organization. It was a difficult decision, but we felt it was the right time to make this change on our Major League staff. We look forward to Nick’s continued impact in his future role with the Pirates. Nick has held nearly every coaching position at the major league level and at the minor league level, including Major League manager, in his extensive career and will be a quality mentor for our minor league managers, coaches and players.
With Game 6 of the NLCS just hours away, the Dodgers will opt for a lefty-heavy lineup against right-hander Kyle Hendricks. Batting leadoff is rookie outfielder Andrew Toles, who made one appearance at the top of the lineup during the 2016 season. The Cubs, meanwhile, will bench Jason Heyward in favor of Albert Almora Jr.. This will be Almora’s first start of the playoffs, and while he has yet to face Kershaw in October, his right-handed bat could play well against the lefty at the bottom of the lineup.
Game time is scheduled for 8 PM EDT; lineups are below.
1. Andrew Toles (L) LF
6. Wilson Contreras (R) C
8. Albert Almora Jr. (R) RF
9. Kyle Hendricks (R) RHP