Penny dropped from rotation; Smoltz was tipping pitches?

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Boston dumping Brad Penny from the rotation certainly shouldn’t be shocking to anyone, but that the move is taking place in mid-August and involves Penny being bounced in favor of Junichi Tazawa rather than John Smoltz is pretty surprising.
Prior to Smoltz joining the Red Sox there was all kinds of talk about whether they should part with Penny to make room in the rotation, but they kept both and then Smoltz’s struggles made it a moot point. However, Penny definitely pitched his way out of the rotation by going 7-8 with a 5.61 ERA and 89/42 K/BB ratio in 131.2 innings spread over 24 starts, including 0-4 with a 9.11 ERA in his last five outings.
He’ll move to the bullpen for now while Tazawa makes one more start, and then Tim Wakefield’s return from the disabled list could shake things up further. Penny is one of just seven AL starters with an average fastball velocity of at least 94.0 miles per hour and he threw the pitch more often than any other starter in the league except for Jeff Niemann of the Rays, relying on his heater 72.4 percent of the time. All of which tells you that getting major-league hitters out involves a lot more than just throwing really hard.
Meanwhile, after watching Smoltz toss five shutout innings with nine strikeouts in his return to the NL yesterday the Cardinals are apparently convinced that he was tipping his pitches while getting knocked around in the AL. Tony La Russa told reporters yesterday that “it’s pretty clear he was tipping his pitches” while Smoltz said merely that he “very well could have been.”
We may never know the truth on that, but whatever the case moving to the NL and being on schedule to face the Padres, Nationals, and Pirates in his first three starts gives Smoltz every opportunity to succeed. I’ll have to double-check the Cardinals’ schedule to be certain, but I’m pretty sure that his fourth start would be against the Little League World Series runner-ups.

Report: Mariners have interest in Reds’ Jay Bruce

ATLANTA, GA - JUNE 14:  Jay Bruce #32 of the Cincinnati Reds waits to bat prior to hitting a three-run homer in the first inning against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field on June 14, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that the Mariners are among the teams that have contacted the Reds about outfielder Jay Bruce. The Mariners enter play Wednesday 51-48, six games out of first place in the AL West and 4.5 games out of the second AL Wild Card slot. Adding an impact bat like Bruce could help in their effort to reach the postseason.

Norichika Aoki and Seth Smith have handled the bulk of the playing time in left field. While Smith has hit well, Aoki has not. Bruce came into Wednesday’s game against the Giants batting .271/.324/.567 with 24 home runs and a league-best 78 RBI.

Bruce can become a free agent after the season if his controlling team declines his $13 million club option for the 2017 season by paying him a $1 million buyout. If he’s traded mid-season, his new team won’t be able to make him a qualifying offer, so the club option may be more enticing than it looks at first glance.

The Padres have homered in 25 consecutive games, tying an NL record

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - JULY 16:  Adam Rosales #9 of the San Diego Padres hits an RBI single during the tenth inning of a baseball game against the San Francisco Giants at PETCO Park on July 16, 2016 in San Diego, California.   (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
Denis Poroy/Getty Images
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A third-inning two-run home run by Adam Rosales off of R.A. Dickey put the Padres up 2-0, but it also helped the Padres tie a National League record. The Padres have homered in 25 consecutive games, matching the 1998 Braves, the 1994 Tigers, and the 1941 Yankees. The major league record is 27, set by the 2002 Rangers.

The Padres hit three in total on Wednesday in an 8-4 victory against the Blue Jays. One of those dingers was an eighth-inning solo shot by rookie Alex Dickerson, who has now homered in four consecutive games himself. The one he hit on Monday is worth watching, as it got into the upper deck at the Rogers Centre.

As the Padres recently traded Melvin Upton, Jr. to the Jays, Dickerson is likely going to see regular playing time. That’s especially true if he keeps hitting like this.