The Week Ahead: Smoltz returns, a day early

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John Smoltz makes his anticipated return to the mound on Thursday. It
is also his anticipated debut for the Boston Red Sox, who signed him
away from Atlanta in the offseason after the Braves showed somewhat
tepid interest in keeping their aging star.

There is one problem with Smoltz’s return, it would have been a lot more fun if it had come a day or two later.

On Thursday, Smoltz will take the mound in Washington against
baseball’s worst team – the Washington Nationals. On Friday, Boston
begins a three-game series at Turner Field against the Atlanta Braves.

Clearly the Red Sox are easing the veteran right-hander back into things, and Smoltz himself says that’s fine with him.

“I’m not afraid of any challenge or anything that comes about. It’s
just, I’ve got to be realistic to see that this scenario would have
been much more than just a regular first-game start.”

Smoltz already paid respects to his former teammates when the Braves
were in Boston this past week, but it still would’ve been fun to have
them face off against each other. Now the only way that happens this
year is if both teams reach the World Series – unlikely to say the
least.

Meanwhile, Boston fans, already undoubtedly pleased with Dice-K’s trip to the disabled list,
can get excited about adding another strong, veteran pitcher to the
rotation. A guy who has made it a habit to be dominant on the mound, even when injured.

“Even when he’s not healthy, his numbers don’t fluctuate,” marveled
Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell. “He’s had a remarkable career.”

FIVE SERIES TO WATCH

  • Cardinals at Mets, June 22-25: This four-game set could go a
    long way toward determining whether the Mets can hang with the
    contenders for the rest of the season.
  • Phillies at Rays, June 23-25: A rematch of last October’s World Series. Only this time, Pat Burrell will be wearing the home whites at Tropicana Field.
  • Cubs at White Sox, June 26-28:
    The Cubs enter the week on a four-game winning streak and have climbed
    within 2 ½ games of the NL Central lead. The White Sox have won two
    straight and have climbed within throwing distance of .500.
  • Red Sox at Braves, June 26-28: Smoltz is back in the house, though he won’t pitch for the Red Sox in Atlanta. Unless … anyone want some rain on Thursday?
  • Yankees at Mets, June 26-28: The Subway Series, Part Deux. The
    Yankees took two of three at Yankee Stadium, but now we’re travelling
    to Queens. Will it make a difference? Will A-Rod take a break?

    ON THE TUBE

    Monday, 7:10 p.m. ET: Cardinals at Mets (ESPN2)
    Wednesday, 7:10 p.m.: Yankees at Braves (ESPN2)
    *Saturday, 4:10 p.m.: Cubs at White Sox (FOX)
    *Saturday, 4:10 p.m.: Red Sox at Braves (FOX)
    *Saturday, 4:10 p.m.: Angels at Diamondbacks (FOX)
    Sunday, 1:30 p.m.: Red Sox at Braves (TBS)
    Sunday, 8:05 p.m.: Yankees at Mets (ESPN)

    *Check local listings

  • Marlins, Mariners are “fairly close” on a trade for David Phelps

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    Jon Morosi reports that the Mariners and the Marlins are “fairly close” on a trade that would send reliever David Phelps to Seattle. Earlier Ken Rosenthal and others reported that the sides were talking, but that a deal was not imminent.

    Phelps, 30, had a fantastic 2016 season, posting a 2.28 ERA in 64 games while striking out 11.8 batters per nine innings. He’s not been as strong this year, but he’s still been a solid setup man, posting a 3.45 ERA in 44 games while striking out 51 batters and walking 21 in 47 innings. He throws in the mid-90s and induces grounders. Basically everything you want in a reliever, right?

    The Mariners could probably use rotation help more than bullpen help, but solid innings are solid innings at one point and improving your pen takes some of the pressure off of your rotation.

     

    Corey Seager has more homers than any other shortstop in Los Angeles Dodgers history

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    Corey Sager homered in the Dodgers’ win over the White Sox last night. It was his 45th career homer, 44 of which have come while playing shortstop. While that’s great given that the guy has only played in 270 games, it’s not a lot of homers in an absolute sense. Thousands of players have more homers than that, obviously. Baseball has been around for a long time!

    But it’s enough to set a record. A Los Angeles Dodgers record, specifically, for the most homers from a shortstop. It puts Seager past Rafael Furcal, who hit 43 while wearing Dodger blue. The record for the franchise, including Brooklyn, is Pee Wee Reese, who hit 122.

    It seems astounding that no other Dodgers shortstop has hit more than 44 homers in the nearly 60 years since the club has been in Los Angeles, but it’s true. If you had asked me before I saw the factoid mentioned on Twitter I would’ve bet my life that Bill Russell would’ve had more. Not because he had any power — he was, in fact, one of the more punchless players of his era — but because he simply played in L.A. so long, logging 1,746 games at short for Walt Alston and Tommy Lasorda. Nope. He only hit 46 in his 18-year career, with a handful of those coming as an outfielder. His season high is seven. Seager has hit seven homers in May of his rookie season.

    Oh well, you learn something new every day.