Scouting ain't easy, but it's necessary

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As
you sit back and watch the draft tonight — or, more realistically,
read about it tomorrow — you’ll no doubt look at the list of players
your team has taken and wonder “who the hell are these guys?”

And
that’s the central dynamic of the baseball draft from the average fan’s
point of view, isn’t it? Not knowing the names of the players on whose
backs the future of the franchise rides? This isn’t like football or
basketball which farms their player development and promotion business
out to the colleges (many of which are supported by your tax dollars,
by the way). For every Stephen Strasburg, there are several hundred Joe
Blows even fairly serious baseball fans have never heard of.

But
trust that someone has heard of these guys, and that someone is the
person who scouted them. You probably have an image in your mind of
your typical Major League scout, and that image probably looks something like this. And there are certainly scouts like that. Hopefully a lot of them, because I like to see guys like that at baseball games.

But
there’s way more to it than wearing sweet hats and chomping on cigars.
To find out just how much more to it, you’d do well to read the
Cincinnati Enquirer’s multi-part-feature on the life of the Major
League scout:

Chris Buckley, Reds senior director of scouting,
figures he travels between 150 and 200 days a year. Dodgers scout Marty
Lamb said he drives an estimated 40,000 miles a year to watch baseball
games. Brian Hiler, a Cincinnati-based scout for the Kansas City
Royals, said the scouting life is short on glamour and truly a labor of
love . . .

. . . Anecdotal evidence, interviews, Internet
research and other sources say scouts above the part-time rank can
start in at around $20,000 per year and that scouting directors for
most teams top $100,000 per year. Area scouts/part timers might not get
much more than gas mileage and expenses.

It’s a rough business. It takes both a subjective and an objective eye. Even if you’re good at it, you’re going to be wrong most of the time.

But, boy, I sure can think of a thousand worse jobs to have, can’t you?

Julio Urias to undergo season-ending shoulder surgery

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The news has gone from bad to worse for Dodgers’ left-hander Julio Urias, who is scheduled for anterior capsule surgery on his left shoulder next Tuesday and expected to be sidelined through the middle of the 2018 season. His MRI came back negative on Wednesday, giving the Dodgers some hope that the 20-year-old’s bout of shoulder inflammation wasn’t masking any structural damage, but the pain lingered several days later and prompted further concern from the club. The procedure will be performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache.

Urias was optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City in late May and placed on the disabled list with left shoulder discomfort several weeks into his assignment. At the major league level, he owned a 5.40 ERA, 5.4 BB/9 and 4.2 SO/9 through 23 1/3 innings, going 0-2 in five starts with Los Angeles. He made a brief rebound in Triple-A, posting three wins and striking out 17 of 67 batters in 17 1/3 innings before landing on the DL.

It’s a tough blow for the southpaw, who had yet to hit his stride in the majors before getting sidelined with shoulder issues. The Dodgers were especially mindful of this outcome for Urias, and had taken preventative measures to protect his arm by establishing a strict innings limit last season. According to club president Andrew Friedman, there’s a small silver lining here: while Urias’ injury will keep him out of work for at least 12 months, he doesn’t appear to have sustained any damage to his labrum or rotator cuff, and could be facing a much more streamlined recovery process as a result. Whether he’ll be able to rebound once he takes the mound again remains to be seen.

Tigers release Francisco Rodriguez

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Tigers’ right-handed reliever Francisco Rodriguez was released on Friday, per a team announcement. The club recalled fellow right-hander Bruce Rondon from Triple-A Toledo in a corresponding move.

The former closer got the boot after losing his closing role in early May, giving left-hander Justin Wilson a chance to impress at the back end of the bullpen. It’s been a rough year for Rodriguez, who manufactured six blown saves and a 7.82 ERA, 3.9 BB/9 and 8.2 SO/9 over 25 1/3 innings for the Tigers. The final straw, it seemed, came with Robinson Cano‘s grand slam in the seventh inning of the Tigers’ 6-9 loss to the Mariners on Thursday.

While the demotion to a clean-up role and an apparent lack of communication caused Rodriguez considerable frustration, he’s two years removed from his last dominant performance as a major league closer and has shown few signs of returning to form. His recent slump doesn’t diminish the impressive totals he’s racked up over his 16-year career — 437 saves and six All-Star nominations among them — but if he can’t break out of it soon, he may not receive the kind of high leverage role he’s seeking with another big league team, either.