After dealing Milledge, Nationals continue outfield shakeup by demoting Dukes to Triple-A

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One day after shaking up their outfield by sending Lastings Milledge to the Pirates while bringing in Nyjer Morgan, the Nationals demoted Elijah Dukes to Triple-A this morning.

Dukes hasn’t been a disaster at the plate, batting .244/.308/.415 with
six homers and 20 total extra-base hits in 57 games, but he struggled
in June and the Nationals are reportedly unhappy with his defense, baserunning, and overall approach.

All of which sounds an awful lot like their reasoning for selling low
on Milledge, complete with not realizing that struggling in center
field doesn’t preclude someone from being a defensive asset in a corner
spot. Milledge is now out of the picture completely and Dukes is headed
to Syracuse, yet Austin Kearns sticks around despite hitting
.197/.330/.322 in 58 games this season after batting .217/.311/.316 in
2008.

The difference, of course, is that Milledge and Dukes are both young
players with minor-league options remaining and some value on the trade
market while Kearns is a 29-year-old veteran making $8 million. So
instead of writing him off as a sunk cost and giving his playing time
to younger outfielders in what’s destined to be another 100-loss season
the Nationals are … well, I’m not entirely sure what the Nationals
are doing.

A mid-April demotion to Triple-A paved the way for Milledge being
traded and if they take that path with Dukes the Nationals will have
parted with two promising-yet-troubled outfielders when their values
were at all-time lows. Dukes has flaws both on and off the field, but
he’s hit .237/.345/.435 with 29 homers, 66 total extra-base hits, and
101 walks in 190 games, is a good defensive corner outfielder, and
turned 25 last week.

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.