Daily Dose: Webb may be done for 2009

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Brandon Webb has undergone two MRI exams since canceling a bullpen
session last Friday after a setback with his injured shoulder and
manager A.J. Hinch said Tuesday that “it’s hard to say” if Arizona’s
ace will pitch again this season. “The priorities have shifted to
making sure we know everything about his health, about what’s causing
his pain,” Hinch said. “Pitching in 2009 is a distant second.”

Webb hasn’t pitched since a rough Opening Day outing and has
struggled dating back to last August, which has the Diamondbacks very
concerned given that he’s made no progress in three months on the
sidelines with what was initially termed a muscle injury. There’s now
speculation that he’ll need surgery to repair tears in his tendon or
ligament, but there’s no real use guessing without the MRI results.

While the Diamondbacks’ season keeps going from bad to worse, here are some other notes from around baseball …

* Joey Votto came off the disabled list Tuesday and revealed that
his month-long absence was due to depression following the death of his
father last year. “There were nights that I couldn’t be alone,” Votto
said. “The very first night I was alone was when I went to the
hospital. I couldn’t take it. It just got to the point where I felt I
was going to die, really.”

Votto described how panic attacks led him to seek medical help and
caused him to be removed from several games, which makes his batting
.357/.464/.627 in 38 games all the more amazing. Obviously the Reds and
Votto’s fantasy owners will be keeping close tabs on him going forward,
and he hopped back into the lineup Tuesday night by going 1-for-4 with
two strikeouts while batting third.

* Plans for Kelvim Escobar to replace Scot Shields in the Angels’
bullpen took a hit Monday when he had a “pinching sensation” in his
injured right shoulder while playing catch. He met Tuesday with Dr.
Lewis Yocum and said afterward: “I think I need to slow down. I
expected to feel a lot better, but sometimes it takes time.” Escobar’s
uncertain status may lead to the Angels pursuing relief help via trade.

* San Diego activated Scott Hairston from the disabled list Tuesday
and cleared room for him by placing Brian Giles on the shelf with a
knee injury. Whether knee issues are to blame for Giles’ abysmal
.191/.277/.271 line is unclear, but sending him to the DL is the
easiest way to clear the Padres’ outfield logjam that includes
Hairston, Tony Gwynn Jr., Chase Headley, and recent call-up Kyle
Blanks.

AL Quick Hits: Roy Halladay (groin) tossed a bullpen session
Tuesday and is on track to rejoin the rotation next week … Magglio
Ordonez was back in the lineup Tuesday after a brief benching …
Chien-Ming Wang pitched fairly well Tuesday while giving up three runs
in five innings, but still fell to 0-6 … Alex Gordon (hip) is expected
to begin a rehab stint next week … Josh Outman (elbow) is slated to
undergo an MRI exam Wednesday and won’t be able to throw for at least a
few days … Asdrubal Cabrera (shoulder) reportedly could come off the
disabled list as soon as Thursday … Ryan Raburn blasted a walk-off
homer as a pinch-hitter Tuesday as Kevin Gregg blew his third save …
Jason Kubel remained out of the lineup Tuesday with flu-like symptoms …
Scott Kazmir (quad) said Tuesday that he’s ready to rejoin the rotation
after one rehab start and hours later David Price was rocked for 10
runs in a World Series rematch against the Phillies.

NL Quick Hits: Joel Pineiro tossed a complete-game shutout
Tuesday, giving up just two hits to the Mets … Ryan Howard (flu)
started at designated hitter and hit an RBI double Tuesday … Jonathan
Broxton picked up a one-out save Tuesday when Hiroki Kuroda couldn’t
quite finish the game … Derrek Lee went 2-for-3 with a double Tuesday,
extending his hitting streak to 20 games … Dave Bush is expected to
miss 2-3 weeks with a small tear in his biceps … Aramis Ramirez
(shoulder) is scheduled to take batting practice Friday … Miguel
Montero will be Arizona’s main catcher with Chris Snyder (back) put on
the disabled list Tuesday and Chris Young (groin) may soon be joining
him … Tommy Hanson struggled with his control Tuesday, but improved to
3-0 by shutting out the Yankees for 5.1 innings … Raul Ibanez (groin)
took batting practice Tuesday and hopes to come off the DL when
eligible next week.

UPDATE: Donald Trump declines Nats offer to throw out the first pitch

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UPDATE: Welp, we wont’ get to see that:

Sad!

8:53 AM: It’s just gossip now, but Politico is hearing that Donald Trump is in talks to throw out the first pitch at Nationals Park on Opening Day. The Nats are not commenting. Neither are the Palm Beach Cardinals of the Florida State League, who no doubt feel slighted given that the president effectively is a local.

With the caveat that, on Opening Day, tickets are likely to be more expensive and thus you’re likely to have a lot more rich people and friends-of-the-owners in attendance, thereby ensuring a more conservative crowd, I’m struggling to imagine a situation in which Trump strolls on to a baseball field in a large American city and isn’t booed like crazy. He’s polling as low as 36% in some places. He’s not exactly Mr. Popular.

Oh well. I look forward to him three-bouncing one to Matt Wieters and then grabbing his phone and tweeting about how it was the best, most tremendous first pitch in baseball history. Or blaming Hillary Clinton for it in the event he admits that it was a bad pitch.

2017 Preview: Texas Rangers

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Texas Rangers.

The Rangers somehow won the AL West last year despite not being super great at any one aspect of the game. There are stars here — Adrian Beltre, Cole Hamels, Yu Darvish and Rougned Odor are all spiffy players — but the Rangers won the division by being greater than the sum of their parts. They scored a decent number of runs despite some bad collective peripheral numbers and they allowed more runs than anyone in the AL except the Twins and Athletics. Yet they had a great record in one-run games and outperformed their pythagorean record by a WHOLE lot. Luck shined brightly on the 2016 Rangers.

It’s hard to expect luck to hold in any instance, but that’s especially the case when there have been some pretty significant changes. Changes like the loss of Carlos Beltran, Ian Desmond and Mitch Moreland. In their place: A full season, the Rangers hope, from Shin-Soo Choo, a converted-to-outfield Jurickson Profar and Mike Napoli. That may wash out OK, especially if Choo is healthy, but it wouldn’t be shocking to see some regression in two of those offensive slots.

Starting pitching is also a big question mark. Cole Hamels at the top is not a problem, obviously, and if Yu Darvish is healthy and durable the Rangers have an outstanding 1-2 punch. Martin Perez in the third spot presents promise, but he’s been exactly average so far in five major league seasons. The back end of the rotation has some real problems. Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross are hurt at the moment and even if healthy, Cashner seems to be a shell of his once-promising self. A.J. Griffin is looking to pitch in his first full season since 2013. If the Rangers are strong contenders all year it’s gonna be on the “Spahn and Sain and two days of rain” model, but I have no idea what rhymes with “Darvish” and that’s sort of a problem.

The bullpen is going to look a lot like it did last year. Sam Dyson will close, but manager Jeff Banister has shown in the past that he’s not a slave to keeping guys in any one role down there. Jeremy Jeffress will likely set up but he’s closed before. Some think Matt Bush or Keone Kela could close. We’ll see Tanner Scheppers and lefty Alex Claudio. Banister has a Manager of the Year Award on his mantle and while that often doesn’t mean anything, it usually suggests that a guy knows how to deal with his pen. Banister will do OK with what he has.

Really, though, the rotation is a concern, as is hoping that a 35-year-old Mike Napoli and a soon-to-be 38-year-old Adrian Beltre can continue to be the types of players who can form the offensive core of a playoff team. There’s talent and a track record here, but there’s a lot of uncertainty. For that reason, I suspect the Rangers will fall back a smidge this year, even if they’re a playoff contender.

Prediction: Second Place, American League West.