What we're watching – June 24

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– With the Giants already 4-1 against the A’s this season, 301-game
winning Randy Johnson will face one-game winner Gio Gonzalez in
Oakland. Gonzalez, who is filling in for Josh Outman, will be making
his first start of 2009 after pitching in relief twice last month. He’s
1-4 with a 7.59 ERA in seven starts and five relief appearances during
his young career, but he had allowed just one earned run in his last
five starts for Triple-A Sacramento. Johnson beat the A’s earlier this
month by allowing two runs over seven innings. He’s 3-1 with a 2.83 ERA
in his last six starts.

– The Cubs and Tigers lived up to Tuesday’s Game of the Night
billing, with Ryan Raburn hitting a walkoff homer in the bottom of the
ninth to give Detroit a 5-4 victory. There should be another good
matchup tonight, as Rich Harden and Rick Porcello are scheduled to
start. Porcello has won all three of his interleague starts, giving up
five runs — three earned — over 18 2/3 innings in the process. With
right-handers hitting just .190 off him, it’s not going to be easy for
Derrek Lee to extend his hitting streak to 21 games.

– It’s up to Kenshin Kawakami to keep the Braves’ scoreless streak
going after back-to-back shutouts of the Cubs on Monday and the Yankees
last night. Kawakami, who has been part of one shutout this season when
he blanked the Jays for eight innings on May 22, hasn’t allowed more
than three earned runs in any of his last nine starts. The Bombers, now
surely sick of facing pitchers they’ve never seen before, have lost
five of their last six games. Joba Chamberlain will be on the mound as
they try to end the skid.

Game of the Night

Philadelphia vs. Tampa Bay – The series opener in the rematch of
last year’s World Series was over quickly, as the Phillies jumped all
over David Price on their way to a 10-1 win. The Rays will attempt to
bounce back with Matt Garza on the mound, but Garza is winless since
May 16. He’s given up eight homers in his last five starts, which seems
like good news for Ryan Howard and Chase Utley. Joe Blanton, who beat
the Rays in his World Series start last October, is also having
problems with the long ball, with 16 allowed in 76 2/3 innings for the
season. However, he hasn’t taken a loss since May 9.

Kolten Wong lashes out after losing his starting role with the Cardinals

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Kolten Wong is no longer the only second baseman being considered for a starting role on the Cardinals’ roster, and he’s not happy about it. On Saturday, GM John Mozeliak and manager Mike Matheny hinted that Wong could lose playing time to Jedd Gyorko or Greg Garcia in 2017 — in other words, an infielder who brings a little more pop at the plate. Prior to the Cardinals’ game against the Marlins on Sunday, Wong gave his heated response to the media. Via Ben Frederickson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

I don’t think you give somebody a contract for no reason,” Wong said. “When you are given a contract, you are expected to get a chance to work through some things and figure yourself out. Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, all these guys never figured their stuff out until later on down the road. It’s the big leagues. It’s tough, man. For me, the biggest thing is I just need people to have my back. When that comes, it will be good. But, I think right now, it’s just staying with my play, understanding I’m working toward getting myself more consistent, understanding what kind of player I can be. If that’s going to be with another team, so be it.

When pressed, Wong said that he would rather be traded away from St. Louis than step into a limited role with the team. “I don’t want to be here wasting my time,” he told the press. “I know what kind of player I am. If I don’t have the belief here, then I’ll go somewhere else.” The 26-year-old was inked to a five-year, $25.5 million extension prior to the 2016 season, complete with a $12.5 million option and $1 million buyout.

Part of Wong’s frustration stems from the Cardinals’ backtracking on their stated commitment to him as their starting second baseman last winter. Mozeliak admitted that while Wong had the defensive tools necessary to hold down the position, he failed to impress at the plate. It’s an argument that Wong hasn’t been able to rebut this spring, going 8-for-44 with two extra bases and 10 strikeouts in camp. He hasn’t looked much better in the regular season, sustaining a career .248/.309/.370 batting line with a .678 OPS and 5.1 fWAR over four years with the organization.

Still, the second baseman feels that he should have been given some heads up that he was playing to keep his starting role this spring, admitting that he entered camp with the mentality of someone who had a guaranteed spot on the Cardinals’ roster and not someone whose job security was dependent on his day-to-day results. “I need the time to consistently figure out how to be me and succeed at this level,” said Wong. “Everybody goes through it. Not everybody is Mike Trout.”

The Tigers are trying to convert Anthony Gose into a pitcher

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Tigers’ center fielder Anthony Gose wants to try his hand at pitching, according to comments made by manager Brad Ausmus on Sunday. Gose is poised to start the year in Triple-A Toledo after receiving a midseason demotion to Double-A last summer following an altercation with Triple-A manager Lloyd McClendon.

While the experiment won’t detract from Gose’s outfield work in Triple-A, the 26-year-old is expected to take on additional bullpen sessions throughout the year. According to MLB.com’s Jason Beck, the left-handed hitter last took the mound in high school, where his fastball was clocked as fast as 97 m.p.h. Gose ultimately rejected the idea of starting his professional career as a pitcher, despite receiving favorable assessments from scouts.

Ausmus said the idea first surfaced at the end of the 2016 season. It appears to be a fallback option for the outfielder, who has struggled at the plate over his five-year career in the majors. Via Chris McCosky of the Detroit News:

Doolittle in Oakland did it and he was in the big leagues a couple of years later,” Ausmus said. “It’s going to take some time. He’s going to have to be a sponge and catch up on experience fast. But we feel it’s worth investigating.