Justin Upton was putting together one of the greatest seasons in baseball history for a 21-year-old, batting .301/.374/.541 with 20 homers, 48 total extra-base hits, 66 RBIs, 68 runs, 16 steals, and 45 walks through 103 games before suffering a strained oblique Wednesday. He was placed on the disabled list Thursday and a similar injury cost Upton a month last year, so he may be out until September.
Despite being benched on Opening Day by a manager who was fired, Upton has emerged as one of the game’s brightest young stars by posting a .915 OPS that ranks 11th all time among 21-years-olds behind Ted Williams, Jimmie Foxx, Joe DiMaggio, Albert Pujols, Mel Ott, Ken Griffey Jr., Eddie Mathews, Cesar Cedeno, Joe Jackson, and Hal Trosky. His injury is a speed bump on a Hall of Fame path.
While the Diamondbacks’ hugely disappointing season takes another painful turn here are some other notes from around baseball …
* Jason Bay and J.D. Drew are both banged up and Rocco Baldelli landed on the disabled list Thursday after fouling a ball off his foot, so Boston recalled prospect Josh Reddick and shifted Kevin Youkilis to left field. Youkilis has 17 career starts in the outfield and the move allowed the Red Sox to keep Mike Lowell and Victor Martinez in the lineup while giving Casey Kotchman his first start with the team.
Kotchman responded by homering against the Yankees after going deep just six times in 336 plate appearances with the Braves. Bay may end missing the entire New York series with a strained hamstring, but Drew was able to reach base four times while playing through a groin injury. Reddick won’t have any fantasy value, but Kotchman could have some brief AL-only upside if he gets hot right away.
* After watching J.A. Happ’s brilliant 10-strikeout complete-game shutout against the Rockies, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. made it clear Thursday that he’s in no danger of giving his spot in the Phillies’ rotation to Pedro Martinez. Amaro said that Happ “isn’t going anywhere” and “deserves to stay in the rotation” after going 6-2 with a 2.80 ERA in 14 starts, adding that a six-man rotation is possible.
* John Smoltz struggled again Thursday, failing to make it out of the fourth inning versus the Yankees while allowing eight runs on nine hits and four walks. Smoltz is now 2-5 with an ugly 8.32 ERA in eight starts for the Red Sox and while a 33/9 K/BB ratio in 40 innings suggests that he’s still somewhat effective eight homers and a .343 opponents’ batting average show that he’s hardly fooling anyone yet. AL Quick Hits: Frank Francisco pitched a scoreless eighth inning Thursday to set up C.J. Wilson for the save … Thanks to nice run support Joba Chamberlain won Thursday despite allowing two homers and a career-high seven walks … Tommy Hunter kept defying the odds Thursday with seven innings of three-run ball while improving to 4-2 with a 2.64 ERA … John Danks gave up seven runs Thursday and has struggled in three straight starts since missing a turn in the rotation with a finger injury … Jed Lowrie left Thursday’s game after straining his forearm on a swing … Adrian Beltre singled in all four at-bats Thursday in his third game back from shoulder surgery … Bruce Chen won Thursday for the first time since 2005, snapping a streak of 13 straight losses … Juan Cruz (shoulder) went on the shelf Thursday after allowing 29 runs in his last 28 innings … Hank Blalock homered Thursday, but is hitting .198 with 24 strikeouts and zero walks since the break. NL Quick Hits: Guillermo Mota, Joe Torre, and Prince Fielder all avoided being suspended for Tuesday’s bean-ball incident … After going deep in three straight games, Jimmy Rollins missed the cycle by a homer Thursday … Cliff Lee struck out nine over seven innings of one-run ball Thursday, making him 2-0 with a 1.12 ERA for the Phillies … Ryan Zimmerman was 4-for-4 with a homer Thursday and is now just one long ball shy of matching his career-high of 24 from 2007 … Alex Romero went 4-for-7 with a steal and hit a tie-breaking double in the 12th inning Thursday … Chris Coglan turned in his fifth straight multi-hit game Thursday and also swiped his sixth base … As expected, Bobby Parnell will replace Jon Niese (hamstring) in the rotation … Clint Barmes went hitless for a sixth straight game Thursday, making him 8-for-74 (.108) since the All-Star break … Despite winning 63 games last year and being 44-65 this season manager Bud Black’s contract was extended Thursday by the Padres.
Blue Jays hire Eric Wedge as player development advisor
In a move which will surely lead to some speculation about John Gibbons’ future, the Blue Jays have hired former Indians and Mariners manager Eric Wedge as player development advisor.
John Lott of Vice Sports notes that the hiring has been rumored for a while, as Wedge knows new team president Mark Shapiro and general manager Ross Atkins well from when he managed in Cleveland. According to an announcement from the team, Wedge will work closely with the front office and new player development director Gil Kim “on strategies to enhance the Player Development system.”
Gibbons is a holdover from the previous front office, so as these situations often go, it’s not hard to imagine Shapiro and Atkins wanting to put in their own guy if the team disappoints.
When Pete Rose’s application for reinstatement was denied in December, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred wrote that the all-time hit king had done nothing to change his habits from when he violated Rule 21, baseball’s anti-gambling rule. In a stunning lack of self-awareness, Rose informed Manfred during their meeting that he continues to bet on baseball where it is legal. Now that his banishment from MLB has been upheld, Rose has apparently decided to double down on his reputation.
In a commercial that will air locally in Las Vegas during the Super Bowl, Rose helps promote the William Hill sports betting app. Former Las Vegas mayor Oscar Goodman is also featured. As you’ll see below, Rose’s ban for betting on baseball is used as the punchline.
It’s a clever spot. Rose is free to make a living, so if he wants to own his reputation at this point, that’s cool. No judgment here. While Manfred’s ruling seemingly left the door open for the Hall of Fame to make their own determination about his status, Rose might feel that he has nothing left to lose.
Rose has often used not being in the Hall of Fame as a form of self-promotion. We posted the commercial here, so it accomplished exactly what it was supposed to accomplish for all involved. But Rose also can’t act shocked why he continues to stand outside the gates. We’re all in on the joke, whether he wants to admit it or not.
UPDATE: Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com reports that Chavez won his arbitration case and will make a $4 million salary in 2016.
10:47 a.m. ET: Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca reports that the Blue Jays and right-hander Jesse Chavez had an arbitration hearing on Friday, with a decision expected today.
Chavez, who was acquired from the Athletics this offseason, requested $4 million and was offered $3.6 million by the Blue Jays when arbitration figures were exchanged last month. Toronto is known as a “file-and-trial” team, so they bring these cases to a hearing unless a multi-year deal can be reached. The three-person panel of arbitrators will choose one salary or the other.
Chavez, 32, posted a 4.18 ERA and 136/48 K/BB ratio in 157 innings across 26 starts and four relief appearances last season. He’s expected to compete for the fifth spot in Toronto’s rotation this spring.
After trading Ender Inciarte to the Braves as part of the Shelby Miller deal, Yasmany Tomas will go into 2016 as a regular in the Diamondbacks’ lineup. Signed to a six-year, $68.5 million contract in December of 2014, Tomas batted .273 with nine home runs and a .707 OPS over 426 plate appearances during his first season in the majors last year while struggling defensively between third base and right field. Third base is out as a possibility at this point, but the Diamondbacks are mulling over another defensive change for him.
“We’re definitely talking about it,” Hale said. “(Outfield coach) Dave McKay and I, (General Manager Dave Stewart) and (Chief Baseball Officer) Tony (La Russa), we think it might be best to switch them around.”
When the third base experiment flopped, the Diamondbacks put Tomas in right because they felt he would be the most comfortable there. The metrics weren’t kind to him. He’ll now have a full spring training to work on things if the club decides to make a change. Peralta isn’t the defender that Inciarte was, but he’s better than Tomas, so it’s understandable why the Diamondbacks would change their alignment.
Tomas is likely to be a liability no matter where he plays, but the Diamondbacks won’t mind as much if his bat begins to meet expectations. For a team with designs on the postseason, he’s a big key for this lineup.