Daily Dose: Halladay and Downs go down

Leave a comment

Already wrecked by injuries, the Blue Jays’ pitching staff will likely
add two more big names to the disabled list. Roy Halladay experienced a
setback with his groin injury during a bullpen session Wednesday and is
headed for the shelf, but noted that he “absolutely” expects to rejoin
the rotation when eligible on June 28. Brett Cecil seems like the best
candidate to fill-in after holding his own in his debut.

Halladay could pitch again this month, but Toronto will probably be
without Scott Downs for quite a bit longer after he sprained a toe
while hitting Tuesday. Downs has done a great job since taking over
closer duties from B.J. Ryan, saving eight games with a 1.98 ERA and
28/4 K/BB ratio, but Ryan may get a second chance after eight straight
scoreless appearances. Jason Frasor is the other option.

While the Blue Jays try to stay above .500 with approximately 50
pitchers on the DL, here are some other notes from around baseball …

* Pedro Martinez has reportedly been working out five days per week
recently in the Dominican Republic and said Wednesday that he’s close
to signing with an undisclosed team. “There’s a good chance I’ll be
signing soon, but there still isn’t anything firm,” Martinez said. He
listed the Cubs and Rays as the two teams that “have shown the most
interest” before adding that “we’re negotiating with them.”

* It took 14 games and 50 plate appearances, but Matt Wieters hit
his first career homer Wednesday against Tim Redding. Wieters is
batting .240/.283/.380 with a 12/3 K/BB ratio and four extra-base hits
overall, which clearly isn’t the production that owners had in mind
when he was called up amid crazy hype last month, but he’s 10-for-35
(.286) over the past 10 games and will get on track soon enough.

* Erik Bedard was placed on the disabled list Wednesday and will
have his sore shoulder examined by Dr. James Andrews next week, which
could ruin whatever plans the Mariners had of cashing in the impending
free agent before the July 31 trading deadline. Bedard is 5-2 with a
2.47 ERA and 65/22 K/BB ratio through 66 innings, so if healthy he
would have been very attractive to contending teams.

* John Smoltz made his final minor-league rehab start Wednesday,
giving up one run in four innings at Triple-A. He threw just 60 pitches
in preparation for his Red Sox debut next week, striking out three,
walking one, and allowing three hits. His first matchup will be next
Thursday against the Nationals, but mixed leaguers will likely want to
take a wait-and-see approach initially.

AL Quick Hits: Brad Penny picked up his 100th career win by
allowing one run in five innings Wednesday … Scott Kazmir (quadriceps)
tossed 4.2 shutout innings in his first rehab start Wednesday at
Single-A … Torii Hunter (ribs) came off the bench Wednesday, going
1-for-2 while playing center field … Derek Jeter (ankle) sat out
Wednesday’s game, but an MRI exam revealed no big damage … Dustin
Pedroia was 3-for-5 with three RBIs and two steals Wednesday … Carl
Pavano’s next start has been pushed back four days due to a sore
shoulder … Pat Burrell played the outfield Wednesday for the first time
with the Rays … Scott Richmond had a career-high 11 strikeouts over
eight innings of one-run ball Wednesday for his first win since May 3 …
Chien-Ming Wang fell to 0-5 with a 12.65 ERA, giving up three runs over
five innings Wednesday as Phil Hughes relieved him with two shutout
frames … Zack Greinke allowed six runs Wednesday for his worst start.

NL Quick Hits: Micah Owings tossed six innings of two-run ball
Wednesday and smacked a three-run homer in a 4-3 win … Gary Sheffield
homered Wednesday for the third time in five games, quieting concerns
about his knee injury … Pablo Sandoval started at third base Wednesday
for the first time this month and went 0-for-3 … Ryan Braun left
Wednesday’s game with lower back tightness … Jerry Manuel said
Wednesday that Jose Reyes (calf) is at least a week from beginning a
rehab stint … Tim Lincecum allowed four runs in eight innings Wednesday
for his first loss since April 12 … Alfonso Soriano continued to
struggle Wednesday by going 0-for-4 with his sixth error … John Lannan
held the Yankees to a pair of runs in 8.1 innings Wednesday before Mike
MacDougal got the final two outs for a save … Joey Votto took batting
practice Wednesday and is close to beginning a rehab assignment …
Jonathan Broxton (toe) was unavailable Wednesday.

Video: Nelson Cruz hits second-longest home run of 2016

ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 14:  Nelson Cruz #23 of the Seattle Mariners celebrates his solo homerun with Daniel Vogelbach #20 of the Seattle Mariners to take a 2-1 lead over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim during the seventh inning at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 14, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Getty Images
1 Comment

There’s certainly never a bad time to hit a home run, but when you get the opportunity to crush a triple-deck, 493-foot shot off of Tyler Duffey, you should take it. With the Mariners down 2-0 to the Twins in the fourth inning, Cruz hammered a fastball to deep left field for his 39th long ball of the season — and the second-longest home run hit in 2016, to boot.

It doesn’t hurt that the Mariners are 1.5 games back of a playoff spot, although they’ll have to oust the Blue Jays, Orioles, or Tigers to get a wild card. They’ve gone 3-3 in the last week, dropping two consecutive series to the Astros and Blue Jays and taking their series opener against Minnesota 10-1 on Friday night.

Cruz, for his part, entered Saturday’s game with a .299/.337/.610 batting line and six home runs in September. According to ESPN.com’s Home Run Tracker, Cruz sits behind Edwin Encarnacion and Mike Napoli with 13 “no-doubt” home runs in 2016, third-most among major league sluggers. It’s safe to say he can add Saturday’s moonshot to that list.

Marlins’ outfielder and undisputed home run king Giancarlo Stanton remains untouched at the top of the Statcast leaderboard with a 504-ft. home run, and it’s difficult to envision any slugger reaching beyond that before the end of the season. Even so, Cruz won’t need to clear 500 feet to extend an impressive hitting record. One more home run will put the 36-year-old at 40 on the year, making 2016 his third consecutive season with at least 40 homers, and his second such season doing so in Seattle.

Report: John Farrell won’t rule out a postseason return for Pablo Sandoval

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - APRIL 11:  Pablo Sandoval #48 of the Boston Red Sox looks on from the dugout before the Red Sox home opener against the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park on April 11, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Orioles defeat the Red Sox 9-7.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Getty Images
6 Comments

It’s been a strange season for Red Sox’ third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who lost his starting role in spring training, went 0-for-6 in three regular season appearances, and underwent season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder in May. That was the last the Red Sox were supposed to hear about Sandoval until spring 2017, when he was expected to rejoin the team after a lengthy rehab stint in Florida.

On Saturday, manager John Farrell was telling a different story. Per MLB.com’s Sam Blum, Farrell hinted that Sandoval could return to the team as soon as October, albeit in a very limited capacity.

At the time of the surgery, it was all looking at the start of next Spring Training,” Farrell said. “We’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves here, but at the same time, we compliment him for the work he’s put in, the way he’s responded to the rehab, the way he’s worked himself into better condition. We’re staying open-minded.

If the 30-year-old does return in 2016, don’t expect him to look like the three-home run hitter of the 2012 World Series. Should the Red Sox lose another player to injury, Sandoval might be called on as a backup option, but he’s unlikely to see substantial playing time under any other circumstances. Despite making two appearances at DH in the instructional league, Sandoval has not started at third base since undergoing surgery, though Farrell noted that a return to third base would be the next logical step in his recovery process.

Sandoval has yet to hit his stride within the Red Sox’ organization after hitting career-worst numbers in 2015. According to FanGraphs, his Offensive Runs Above Average (Off) plummeted to -20.2, contributing approximately two wins fewer than the average offensive player in 2015. (The Diamondbacks’ Chris Owings held the lowest Off mark in 2015, with -26.3 runs below average.) Sandoval has not appeared in a postseason race since the Giants’ championship run in 2014.

Heading into Saturday evening, the Red Sox could clinch their spot in the postseason with a win over the Rays and an Orioles’ loss.