Daily Dose: End of the line for Big Unit?

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Randy Johnson seemed optimistic after having his injured shoulder
examined by team doctors Monday, explaining: “I’m feeling a lot better
than I was three weeks ago” and will “have to get with the doctor and
see what he recommends and just kind of take it from there.” Less than
24 hours later his Hall of Fame career was put in serious jeopardy
following the diagnosis of a partially torn rotator cuff.

Johnson is hoping to pitch again this season, but the soon-to-be
46-year-old has been transferred to the 60-day disabled list and won’t
throw again for at least 2-3 weeks. He’s been relatively effective
while going 8-6 with a 4.81 ERA and 80/31 K/BB in 92 innings this year,
but rotator cuff injuries are incredibly tough to come back from for
26-year-olds, let alone 46-year-olds. Cooperstown class of 2015?

While one of the greatest left-handed pitchers in baseball history
could be facing the end of the line, here are some other notes from
around baseball …

* Even after trading Ryan Garko the Indians inexplicably refuse to
simply call up Matt LaPorta and stick him in the lineup every day, but
in the meantime they did bring up former top prospect turned current
bust Andy Marte. Marte has had zero success in the majors, hitting .211
with a .603 OPS in 174 games, but is still just 25 years old despite
being around forever and has been thriving at Triple-A.

While playing at Triple-A for the fourth straight year, Marte has
hit .327/.369/.593 with 18 homers and 24 doubles in 82 games to reverse
a long trend of declining production. Between his .277 career batting
average and poor 50/22 K/BB ratio this year the odds are against Marte
hitting more than .250 or so, but he blasted 25 homers per 600 PA at
Triple-A even prior to showing this season’s huge pop.

* Jason Giambi’s trip to the disabled list with a quadriceps injury
opened the door for Daric Barton to get another long look in Oakland,
but he suffered a hamstring injury of his own five games in and joined
Giambi on the shelf Tuesday. Barton’s long-term outlook has declined
dramatically during the past two seasons and he now looks likely to
become merely a solid regular rather than a potential star.

He’s expected to return in 2-3 weeks, but with Giambi also sidelined
the A’s have turned to minor-league veteran Tommy Everidge at first
base. Everidge made his MLB debut Tuesday and went hitless in his first
four at-bats before delivering an RBI double with two outs in the ninth
inning as the A’s erased a three-run deficit against Jonathan Papelbon.

Everidge is 26 years old and had a mediocre track record in the
minors prior to this season, but hit .306/.380/.489 in 55 games at
Double-A and .382/.432/.636 in 43 games at Triple-A to earn the
call-up. My guess is that he won’t stick in the majors, but Everidge
has averaged 21 homers per 600 plate appearances along with solid plate
discipline, so he could certainly have AL-only value for a little bit.

AL Quick Hits: Chien-Ming Wang has decided on shoulder surgery
after meeting with Dr. James Andrews, ending his brutal season at 1-6
with a 9.64 ERA … Jim Thome was held out of Tuesday’s lineup with back
soreness … Matt Wieters had his first four-hit game Tuesday, raising
his batting average to .273 … In a swap of backup outfielders, the
White Sox acquired Mark Kotsay from the Red Sox for Brian Anderson … As
of Tuesday night, general manager J.P. Ricciardi said that his “gut”
feeling has Roy Halladay staying in Toronto … Daisuke Matsuzaka told
Japanese reporters Monday that the Red Sox’s training methods are to
blame for his shoulder problems … Scott Kazmir threw more than seven
innings Tuesday for the first time in over a year, holding the Yankees
to one run while beating CC Sabathia … Ian Kinsler left Tuesday’s game
with a strained calf … Mark Buehrle followed his perfect game by being
flawless through five innings Tuesday, setting the MLB record with 45
straight batters retired before falling apart in a loss.

NL Quick Hits: Roy Oswalt has been diagnosed with a strained
back after exiting Tuesday’s start in the second inning … Matt
Lindstrom (elbow) is due to come off the disabled list this weekend,
but may not immediately resume closing … Pedro Martinez hinted that he
hopes to join the Phillies’ rotation after his second rehab start
Friday at Triple-A … Todd Wellemeyer has been shifted to the bullpen
after posting a 5.79 ERA and 1.75 WHIP in 110 innings, with Mitchell
Boggs replacing him in the rotation for now … Troy Glaus’ rehab stint
has been indefinitely put on hold because of lingering back pain …
Oakland shipped Sean Gallagher to San Diego to complete the Scott
Hairston deal, making him a nice fantasy sleeper for next season …
Colby Rasmus (heel) was back in the lineup Tuesday after sitting out
four games … After missing four weeks with a broken toe, Ryan Dempster
came off the shelf by allowing six runs over five innings Tuesday.

Jose Canseco to join NBC Sports California as an A’s analyst

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Hey, I have a new coworker: Jose Canseco has been hired by NBC Sports California as an Athletics pregame analyst.

OK, maybe he’s not technically a coworker, as the folks at NBC Sports California — formerly CSN Bay Area — and I do not hang out at the water cooler, have potlucks in the conference room or exchange secret Santa gifts at Christmas time, but dang it, I’m gonna TELL people I work with Jose Canseco. The only downside will be people assuming that, because he and I are on the same team, my performance is something less than authentic. Or, perhaps, Canseco may write another book and tell all of my secrets.

Anyway, Canseco will be part of NBC Sports California’s A’s Pregame Live and A’s Postgame Live shows. Live TV can be hard. I’ve done a bit of it, and there is certainly more to that gig than meets the eye. You can’t always prepare for what happens on the fly. I’m sure Canseco will do well, however, as he’s great with coming up with the best stuff off the top of his head.

2017 Preview: Cleveland Indians

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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 Cleveland Indians.

The Cleveland Indians almost won the World Series without their best hitter for the whole season and two of their starting pitchers for the playoffs. This year that hitter — Michael Brantley — is back and the starters — Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar — are healthy. Oh, and they added arguably the best free agent bat available in Edwin Encarnacion.

Baseball teams love to downplay their expectations, but given where the Indians are at the moment, anything less than another American League Pennant will have to feel like a disappointment, right? Fortunately for the Indians, they stand as the favorites to do just that.

They didn’t lose much in the offseason. Yes, World Series hero Rajai Davis is gone, but the Indians outfield will be fine if Brantley remains healthy. Mike Napoli‘s loss will be felt but it will be made up for with Encarnacion’s bat and probably then some. Coco Crisp left too, but he was not a key part of the equation.

The biggest losses are guys from last year who will start the year on the disabled list, most notably Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall. Kipnis is just starting to work out following time off to rest his sore shoulder. Chisenhall ran into a wall the other day and is being evaluated. There is no sense that either will miss extended time, however.

Otherwise, the lineup should score a lot of runs, with on-base machines Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor setting the table for Encarnacion, Brantley and Carlos Santana, who is entering his walk year. The Indians trailed only the Red Sox in runs scored in the American League last year and they should score a lot of runs this year as well.

The strength of the club, however, remains its pitching. Corey Kluber looked like his old Cy Young self last year, particularly in the playoffs. Danny Salazar built on his excellent 2015 season in the first half before falling prey to injury. Carlos Carrasco posted an ERA+ of 141 before breaking his hand and Josh Tomlin and Trevor Bauer both stood out for fourth and fifth starters.

The bullpen is excellent too, as relief ace Andrew Miller is joined by Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw and newcomer Boone Logan make up one of the relief corps in baseball.

Pitcher health is probably the biggest uncertainty for any contender, but the Indians have the best pitching in the AL if everyone stays healthy. And maybe even if one or two guys don’t.

It’s hard to find much fault with the 2017 Cleveland Indians. They are the class of their division and, while the slog of the regular season turns a lot of surefire contenders into hash before it’s all said and done, there is no reason to look at the Indians right now and think of them as anything other than the best team in the American League.

Prediction: First place, American League Central.