Daily Dose: The other LaRoche

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Many people were quick to write off Andy LaRoche when he got off to a
bad start in the majors, batting just .184/.288/.272 in 111 games
between the Dodgers and Pirates. However, as awful as those early
numbers were LaRoche’s track record in the minors predicted long-term
success and sure enough he finally appears to have gotten on track at
the age of 25.

Pittsburgh showed patience when LaRoche started the season 2-for-22
and he’s responded by going 47-for-139 (.338) with 16 extra-base hits
in 40 games since, giving him a nice .304/.374/.435 mark overall.
LaRoche may never develop more than 20-homer pop, but he’s hitting for
a nice batting average, getting on base at a good clip, and playing
solid defense just like his minor-league stats predicted.

While the Pirates are rewarded for their patience with LaRoche, here are some other notes from around baseball …

* Beginning the year with Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson in the
rotation hasn’t worked out especially well for Oakland, as the
21-year-olds have combined to go just 4-10 with a 4.93 ERA in 20
starts. Despite that manager Bob Geren revealed that the A’s will call
up 22-year-old Vince Mazzaro to make his big-league debut Tuesday
against the White Sox.

Much like Cahill and Anderson, Mazzaro is a good prospect who likely
isn’t ready to thrive in the majors yet. Taken out of high school in
the third round of the 2005 draft, Mazzaro posted ERAs of 5.05 and 5.33
at Single-A before going 12-3 with a 1.90 ERA in 22 starts at Double-A
last season. However, at 22 years old with a 3.80 ERA and 71/26 K/BB
ratio in 90 innings at Triple-A rushing him seems silly.

* An MRI exam on Grady Sizemore’s inflamed left elbow revealed no
structural damage, but Indians trainer Lonnie Soloff said Monday that
he may still be facing surgery. Sizemore is expected to spend two weeks
resting the elbow and getting treatment, but if he doesn’t show
significant improvement during that time he’s a candidate for
arthroscopic surgery that would sideline him for another 4-6 weeks.

* Edinson Volquez’s return from the disabled list lasted all of one
inning Monday, as he experienced numbness in several fingers on his
pitching hand and exited after getting swinging strikeouts on Rick
Ankiel and Jason LaRue. Volquez is set to be examined further Tuesday
and had been on the DL for two weeks because of back spasms.

* Rich Hill struggled in his start last week, but bounced back
Monday with seven shutout innings against the Mariners. Hill was one of
my favorite sleeper targets this year because he still possessed
big-time strikeout ability if the control issues that plagued him last
season could be cured. Spring elbow problems delayed his Orioles debut,
but he now has a 4.15 ERA and 22/12 K/BB ratio in 21.2 innings.

AL Quick Hits: Joba Chamberlain likely quieted some critics
Monday by throwing eight innings of two-run ball … White Sox general
manager Kenny Williams said Monday that he never talked to the Astros
about Roy Oswalt … Coco Crisp will be away from the Royals for at least
the next few days following the death of his great grandmother … Jeremy
Bonderman (shoulder) threw eight shutout innings in a rehab start
Sunday at Triple-A … Victor Martinez started at designated hitter
Monday despite fouling a ball off his knee Sunday … Xavier Nady
experienced elbow pain while playing catch Monday, but will try to
throw again Tuesday as he attempts to avoid Tommy John surgery … Jarrod
Washburn lost his duel with Hill despite slicing his ERA to 3.22 with
seven innings of one-run ball … John Smoltz (shoulder) allowed one run
over five innings in a rehab start Sunday at Single-A.

NL Quick Hits: Carlos Beltran was once again scratched from the
lineup Monday with a stomach virus … Jose Valverde (calf) tossed a
25-pitch bullpen session Monday and is scheduled to do so again
Wednesday … Kyle Lohse (forearm) reported no problems following a
bullpen session Sunday and is on track to start Wednesday … Aramis
Ramirez (shoulder) said Monday that he’s still hoping to rejoin the
Cubs after the All-Star break … Anibal Sanchez (shoulder) is slated to
come off the disabled list to start Tuesday … Mike Cameron is
day-to-day after leaving Monday’s game with a knee injury … Ricky
Nolasco pitched well Monday in his second start at Triple-A, allowing
one run in seven innings … According to Jerry Manuel, Jose Reyes (calf)
could come off the DL as soon as Friday … Troy Glaus (shoulder) has
been cleared to resume throwing … Hiroki Kuroda came off the shelf
Monday with five solid innings against Arizona, allowing two runs.

Watch: Ryan Goins tags Todd Frazier with the hidden ball trick

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The Yankees are facing a convoluted path to the postseason, and they didn’t do themselves any favors after Todd Frazier fell for Ryan Goins‘ hidden ball trick in the third inning of Friday’s series opener. With one out and Frazier on second base, Jacoby Ellsbury skied a deep fly ball to right field, where it was caught by Jose Bautista just shy of the warning track and tossed back to Goins at second. Goins faked the throw to Marco Estrada, then sneakily (or not so sneakily, depending on your vantage point) gloved the ball and caught Frazier off the bag for the third out.

Of course, it helped that Frazier’s back was turned during the throw, so Goins’ fake-out may not have been as obvious as it was when the Yankees reviewed the tape several minutes later.

Goins earned another spot on the highlight reel in the sixth inning, mashing his second grand slam of the season while Frazier — and the rest of the Yankees’ offense, sans one home-run-record-slaying Aaron Judge — scrambled to catch up. The Yankees currently trail the Blue Jays 8-1 in the bottom of the eighth inning, and will need to pull off a comeback (and hope the Astros and Athletics clinch their respective games) before they can lay claim to a playoff spot.

Blue Jays shut down Steve Pearce for the rest of 2017

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The Blue Jays have shut down left fielder Steve Pearce for the remainder of the season following a lingering case of lower back stiffness. Pearce has not appeared in a game since September 8, when he was forced to exit in the first inning after experiencing back pain during his at-bat. Per Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca, he’s scheduled to return to Florida next week, where he’ll receive epidural injections to address the pain.

Pearce, 34, impressed in his first season with Toronto. He battled through a calf injury during the first half of the season and finished the year with a modest .252/.319/.438 batting line, 13 home runs and a .757 OPS through 348 PA. By September, the Blue Jays started testing the waters with outfield prospect Teoscar Hernandez, who shouldered the bulk of the starts in left field after Pearce was sidelined with back issues.

With the Blue Jays all but eliminated from playoff contention, however, there’s no rush to get Pearce back to the outfield. He should be in fine shape to compete for another starting role in spring, and could face stiff competition from Hernandez if the rookie continues building on his .278 average and three home runs this month. The veteran outfielder is slated to receive the remaining $6.25 million on his contract in 2018 and will be eligible for free agency in 2019.