What we're watching – June 8

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– The Rays and Yankees have split the first two games of rain-shortened
three-game series, and Andy Sonnanstine and Andy Pettitte will go in
the deciding game tonight. Sonnanstine is 4-5 with a 7.07 ERA, but he’s
turned in two nice outings in no-decisions against the Bombers this
year, allowing four runs in 12 1/3 innings. Pettitte, who was matched
up against Sonnanstine on April 15, has also faced the Rays twice and
received two no-decisions. He gave up eight runs in 13 1/3 innings
between those two outings. Carlos Pena has owned Pettitte, going
11-for-33 with four homers against the left-hander.

– Scott Feldman, who has picked up victories in each of his last
three starts, will try to improve to 6-0 by beating the Blue Jays. He’s
yet to pitch seven innings in any of his starts, but he’s been getting
great bullpen support, even when the runs haven’t really been there.
Casey Janssen, who is 1-2 with a 5.82 ERA in three starts since joining
Toronto’s rotation, will be the opposing starter. He was solid in his
first two outings, but he needs to bounce back from a poor showing
against the Angels last week in order to guarantee his continued
presence in the rotation.

– Nate McLouth gets to take on his former team just five days after
being sent from the Pirates to the Braves. He’s one of four former
Pirates on the Atlanta roster, which is pretty unusual for a team that
has 13 players either homegrown or at least having never played for
another major league organization. Mike Gonzalez and Jeff Bennett were
both drafted by the Pirates, and David Ross also served a stint in the
organization.

Game of the Night

San Francisco vs. Florida – Just four days after picking up win No.
300, Randy Johnson will go for No. 301 on short rest. He’s allowed
three runs — two earned — in 17 1/3 innings over his last three
starts, and he’s 8-1 with a 1.78 ERA against the Marlins in his career.
The opposing pitcher will be 22-year-old Sean West, who has a 3.31 ERA
in three starts since being called up last month. West is 6-foot-8, so
tonight’s matchup will rank tied for second on the list of tallest
opposing starting pitchers. The matchup between the 6-foot-10 Johnson
and the 6-foot-9 Daniel Cabrera ranks as the biggest. Cabrera versus
fellow 6-foot-9 hurler Mark Hendrickson had stood alone in second.

Aledmys Diaz is trying to improve his defense with strobe glasses

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MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch reports that Cardinals’ shortstop Aledmys Diaz has been sporting a new look around Busch Stadium with a pair of “strobe glasses,” technology-enhanced specs designed to help athletes focus on the ball. Like a strobe light, the lenses of these glasses affect a player’s vision by rapidly changing opacity, giving its wearers the illusion that the objects they see are moving more slowly than normal. Once a player adjusts to the new speed of play, they gain a greater sense of control and are able to time their actions with more precision.

Diaz isn’t the first MLB player to utilize the technology, just the first Cardinals’ player to do so. It’s been tested by Bryce Harper, Corey Brown, Tommy Joseph, Austin Hedges and Joe Mauer, among others around the league, and has been used for everything from refining a catcher’s reflexes behind the plate to tweaking a hitter’s ability to track a pitch. Per Langosch, Diaz has been using the glasses to hone in on the ball during pregame drills, increasing both his confidence and response time on the field and improving his defense at short.

The shortstop has been the focus of some concern this season after seeing a sizable dip in his production at the plate, and his five fielding errors, 0.6 UZR and 0.6 fWAR haven’t helped matters, either. He sustained a minor thumb injury during an at-bat on Friday night, and was left off of the Cardinals’ starting lineup on Saturday, though manager Mike Matheny didn’t rule out his ability to pinch-hit during the series. While the strobe glasses are a good start, Diaz will need more than a pair of specs to match the spotlight-worthy performance he turned out during his rookie season in 2016.

Eduardo Rodriguez could rejoin the Red Sox rotation in July

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Red Sox’ left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez may finally get a chance at cracking the rotation again, assuming all goes well in Double-A Portland first. Rodriguez took the field prior to the club’s afternoon session with the Angels, firing 68 pitches in a simulated game as he prepared for an upcoming rehab assignment in Portland on Thursday.

The 24-year-old southpaw suffered a right knee subluxation during pregame warmups on June 1, and it’s been a slow path to recovery ever since. It’s not the first time Rodriguez has had issues with his right knee — he sustained a similar injury during spring training last year — and this time around, the Red Sox weren’t about to gamble with their starter’s health. Ian Browne of MLB.com reports that Rodriguez was put in a knee brace and underwent exercises designed to help him regain some mobility and stability while he worked back up to full strength on the mound.

He’ll still need to prove he can throw a 75- to 80-pitch outing in Double-A, and barring any significant setbacks, will likely rejoin the Red Sox’ pitching staff when they visit the Rangers next month. In the meantime, the club will continue to cycle starters through the No. 5 spot, which has seen no fewer than three different pitchers since Rodriguez hit the disabled list. The lefty is 4-2 in 10 starts this season after logging a 3.54 ERA, 3.1 BB/9 and career-high 9.6 SO/9 through his first 61 innings.