Daily Dose: Holland breaking out?

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Derek Holland entered Sunday at 4-7 with a 5.60 ERA in 82 innings, but hurled a complete-game shutout against the Angels, striking out eight with just one walk and three hits. Holland also had a near-complete game against the Mariners last week, striking out 10, walking one, and allowing two hits in 8.2 innings of one-run ball, so the 22-year-old southpaw may be on the verge of a sustained breakout.
According to Baseball America he was Texas’ second-best prospect behind only Neftali Feliz coming into the season and Holland has a strong 77/30 K/BB ratio in 91 innings. His biggest problem has been serving up 14 homers and keeping the ball in the ballpark could be a career-long struggle in Texas, but he induces quite a few grounders, misses plenty of bats with mid-90s heat, and has ace upside.
While the Rangers break in extremely promising young pitching during a pennant race, here are some other notes from around baseball …


* Not only was Matt Palmer demoted to the bullpen last month despite going 8-1 in a dozen starts, he’s being passed over in favor of 22-year-old prospect Trevor Bell with the Angels needing a fill-in starter Wednesday versus the Rays. Palmer was nowhere near as good as his record suggests and has posted a putrid 55/42 K/BB ratio in 91.2 innings overall, but it’s still surprising to see Bell get the nod.
Bell is certainly a quality prospect and the former first-round pick has a 2.70 ERA in 22 starts between Double-A and Triple-A this season, but 87 strikeouts in 140 innings and a modest ground-ball rate make him highly unlikely to have that kind of success in the majors. He could have some AL-only value if he sticks around, but Tampa Bay is a very tough first assignment and his upside is limited.
* Junichi Tazawa’s big-league debut involved coming into a 0-0 game in the 14th inning and serving up a walk-off homer to Alex Rodriguez at Yankee Stadium, so replacing John Smoltz in the rotation Tuesday should be a relative piece of cake. Detroit is a favorable first matchup, because the Tigers rank 10th in the league in OPS against right-handers, but Tazawa isn’t a viable mixed-league option yet.
AL Quick Hits: Scott Kazmir failed to make it out of the fifth inning Sunday, giving up seven runs for the fourth time in 10 starts … Roy Halladay picked up his 12th win Sunday by tossing at least eight innings for the 10th time in 22 starts … Jake Westbrook had a setback in his recovery from Tommy John elbow surgery and is now unlikely to pitch this season … Michael Cuddyer went 4-for-5 with a pair of homers Sunday, giving him eight long balls since July 1 … Brian Matsutz had a rough second career outing Sunday, getting chased in the third inning … Marco Scutaro went 4-for-5 with a career-high 10th homer Sunday … Brett Cecil won’t make his next start after an MRI revealed two small tears in his left knee, but is hoping to avoid the disabled list … Jarrod Washburn struggled Sunday and has now allowed 11 runs in two Tigers starts … Brett Anderson has allowed just 13 runs in his last eight outings after another Quality Start on Sunday.
NL Quick Hits: Aaron Harang snapped a streak of seven straight losses Sunday by beating Matt Cain … Johan Santana is tied for the NL lead with 13 wins after throwing eight innings of one-run ball Sunday … Milwaukee acquired setup man David Weathers from Cincinnati for a player to be named later … Josh Johnson held the Phillies to one run over seven innings Sunday as the Marlins completed a three-game sweep … Wandy Rodriguez returned from a hamstring injury with seven shutout innings Sunday … Chris Coghlan extended his multi-hit streak to eight games with four knocks Sunday … Tim Stauffer lowered his ERA to 2.90 by allowing one run in five innings Sunday, but fell to 1-4 … Jason Hammel won Sunday despite surrendering 11 hits in five innings … Adam Rosales was 3-for-4 with a homer Sunday while subbing for Scott Rolen (concussion) … Aaron Cook will miss Tuesday’s start with turf toe, but hopes to take his turn Saturday.

Pirates sign left-hander Cory Luebke

Cory Luebke Getty
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Eric O'Flaherty wasn’t the only reclamation project added by the Pirates today, as the club also announced that they have signed left-hander Cory Luebke to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.

Luebke once looked like a solid rotation piece for the Padres, but he hasn’t thrown a pitch in the majors since April 27, 2012. He’s undergone a pair of Tommy John surgeries since. Now 30 years old, he logged seven innings in the minors last season before requiring a procedure to remove loose bodies around a nerve in his forearm. The Padres cut ties with him in November after declining a $7.5 million club option for 2016.

It’s hard to count on much from Luebke at this point, but he told Adam Berry of MLB.com that he feels healthy and hopes to compete for a bullpen job in the spring.

White Sox reportedly considering Ian Desmond

Ian Desmond
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Many have speculated on a potential match between the White Sox and Ian Desmond this winter, but we haven’t heard much in the way of legitimate interest. That could be changing with spring training right around the corner, as MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reports that Chicago is among the teams considering the free agent shortstop.

After turning the page on Alexei Ramirez this offseason, the White Sox currently have Tyler Saladino in line to serve as their starting shortstop in 2016. The 26-year-old is considered a strong defender, but he batted .225/.267/.335 with four homers over 254 plate appearances as a rookie in 2015. Desmond is coming off a nightmare of a walk year and has seen his strikeout rate climb by 8.5 percent since 2012, but he possesses more offensive upside and it’s not hard to imagine a bounceback campaign while calling U.S. Cellular Field home.

Similar to fellow free agents Yovani Gallardo and Dexter Fowler, Desmond is attached to draft pick compensation after turning down a one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer from the Nationals. It’s a big reason why a potential deal with the Rays is reported to be a “long shot.” Chicago’s No. 10 overall pick in this year’s draft is protected, so they would give up their No. 28 overall pick if they sign a qualifying offer free agent like Desmond.

Pirates sign reliever Eric O’Flaherty

Eric O'Flaherty
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Left-hander Eric O'Flaherty has agreed to a minor-league deal with the Pirates that includes an invitation to spring training.

O’Flaherty was one of the best relievers in the league for the Braves from 2009-2013, posting a combined 1.99 ERA in 249 innings, but Tommy John elbow surgery derailed his career and he struggled for the A’s and Mets in 2015 while dealing with shoulder problems.

It’s tough to know if O’Flaherty is healthy at this point, but the 31-year-old southpaw certainly has a chance to be a nice reclamation project for the Pirates on a no-risk contract.

Mariano Rivera to get his plaque in Monument Park on August 14

Mariano Rivera
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The greatest closer in history is going to get the ultimate honor the New York Yankees bestow on August 14. That’s when Mariano Rivera will get his plaque in Monument Park at Yankee Stadium before a game against the Rays.

There was some chatter in the last year or two about whether the Yankees were somehow lowering their standards out there, what with guys like Tino Martinez getting honored. But if that’s something you care about it won’t matter in this instance. Rivera would’ve been worthy even if the old snobby ways had held and only inner-circle types got a plaque, what with him being a key member of five World Series-winning teams and his status as the all-time saves leader in the regular season and the postseason.

The Yankees retired Rivera’s No. 42 in 2013. He’ll get his plaque in August. Then, on the first ballot for which he is eligible, he’ll be voted into the Hall of Fame, likely with a percentage in the mid-to-high 90s.