What we're watching – June 16

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– Baseball’s hottest pitcher, Justin Verlander, will make his first
interleague start of the year against the Cardinals, who will counter
with Adam Wainwright. Verlander is 7-0 with a 1.10 ERA in his last nine
starts, and he’s 8-0 with a 2.30 ERA lifetime during interleague play.
The Cardinals’ lost their series against the Tigers in both 2007 and
2008, though they did win one that mattered more back in 2006.

– In a matchup of the past two World Series losers, the Rays and
Rockies will go at it in Coors Field. Colorado is aiming for a 12th
straight victory, which would top the franchise record of 11
established during the run to the postseason in 2007. Jeff Niemann and
Jorge De La Rosa will be the starters.

– As a result of being swept by the Angels over the weekend, the
Padres have now lost 11 interleague games in a row, tying the mark
established by the Mets in 2003-04. In order to avoid breaking the
record, they’ll probably have to do some damage against the Mariners’
Felix Hernandez, who has allowed three earned runs in his last four
starts. Kevin Correia pitches for San Diego.

– Since Ervin Santana’s troublesome elbow needs a break (and, most
likely, a new ligament), Sean O’Sullivan will make his major league
debut for the Angels against the Giants. O’Sullivan, 21, was 6-4 with a
5.82 ERA, 82 H and 49/15 K/BB in 68 IP between Double-A Arkansas and
Triple-A Salt Lake. Obviously, the Angels would have just as soon left
him in the minors for the rest of the season, but he does have fourth
or fifth starter potential thanks to his command and quality curveball.

Game of the Night

White Sox vs. Cubs – The crosstown rivals enter their first
interleague matchup this year with 30 wins apiece. Both are in third
place in their respective divisions, and both have suffered due to
struggling offenses. In fact, the Cubs just fired their hitting coach
on Sunday. The series opener will feature John Danks and Carlos
Zambrano. Danks has had problems with the long ball, but the Cubs have
hit just nine homers against left-handers all season. Zambrano, who has
lowered his ERA from 4.64 to 3.39 with three straight excellent
outings, is 5-2 with a 4.45 ERA lifetime against the White Sox.

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.