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.

Aledmys Diaz is trying to improve his defense with strobe glasses

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MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch reports that Cardinals’ shortstop Aledmys Diaz has been sporting a new look around Busch Stadium with a pair of “strobe glasses,” technology-enhanced specs designed to help athletes focus on the ball. Like a strobe light, the lenses of these glasses affect a player’s vision by rapidly changing opacity, giving its wearers the illusion that the objects they see are moving more slowly than normal. Once a player adjusts to the new speed of play, they gain a greater sense of control and are able to time their actions with more precision.

Diaz isn’t the first MLB player to utilize the technology, just the first Cardinals’ player to do so. It’s been tested by Bryce Harper, Corey Brown, Tommy Joseph, Austin Hedges and Joe Mauer, among others around the league, and has been used for everything from refining a catcher’s reflexes behind the plate to tweaking a hitter’s ability to track a pitch. Per Langosch, Diaz has been using the glasses to hone in on the ball during pregame drills, increasing both his confidence and response time on the field and improving his defense at short.

The shortstop has been the focus of some concern this season after seeing a sizable dip in his production at the plate, and his five fielding errors, 0.6 UZR and 0.6 fWAR haven’t helped matters, either. He sustained a minor thumb injury during an at-bat on Friday night, and was left off of the Cardinals’ starting lineup on Saturday, though manager Mike Matheny didn’t rule out his ability to pinch-hit during the series. While the strobe glasses are a good start, Diaz will need more than a pair of specs to match the spotlight-worthy performance he turned out during his rookie season in 2016.

Eduardo Rodriguez could rejoin the Red Sox rotation in July

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Red Sox’ left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez may finally get a chance at cracking the rotation again, assuming all goes well in Double-A Portland first. Rodriguez took the field prior to the club’s afternoon session with the Angels, firing 68 pitches in a simulated game as he prepared for an upcoming rehab assignment in Portland on Thursday.

The 24-year-old southpaw suffered a right knee subluxation during pregame warmups on June 1, and it’s been a slow path to recovery ever since. It’s not the first time Rodriguez has had issues with his right knee — he sustained a similar injury during spring training last year — and this time around, the Red Sox weren’t about to gamble with their starter’s health. Ian Browne of MLB.com reports that Rodriguez was put in a knee brace and underwent exercises designed to help him regain some mobility and stability while he worked back up to full strength on the mound.

He’ll still need to prove he can throw a 75- to 80-pitch outing in Double-A, and barring any significant setbacks, will likely rejoin the Red Sox’ pitching staff when they visit the Rangers next month. In the meantime, the club will continue to cycle starters through the No. 5 spot, which has seen no fewer than three different pitchers since Rodriguez hit the disabled list. The lefty is 4-2 in 10 starts this season after logging a 3.54 ERA, 3.1 BB/9 and career-high 9.6 SO/9 through his first 61 innings.