Daily Dose: The Dice-Man Cometh (Back)

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No one seemed to know quite what to expect from Daisuke Matsuzaka’s return to the rotation Tuesday night, but he looked like the effectively wild 2008 version instead of the totally ineffective 2009 version. Starting for the first time since June 19 he took a no-hitter into the fifth inning, struck out six, worked primarily in the low-90s, and held the Angels scoreless for six frames for just his second victory of the season.
Matsuzaka was far from perfect, throwing just 52 of 93 pitches for strikes and issuing three walks, but even while going 18-3 with a 2.90 ERA last year control was always an issue. Prior to coming off the disabled list Matsuzaka had a 3.86 ERA and 23/9 K/BB ratio in 21 innings while rehabbing his strained shoulder in the minors, so there is some reason for optimism even beyond Tuesday night’s impressive return.
While the Red Sox give Matsuzaka a three-week audition for October here are some other notes from around baseball …


* After various setbacks and altered timetables Jake Peavy is officially scheduled to make his White Sox debut Saturday against the Royals. Sidelined since June 8 with an ankle injury and then elbow problems, Peavy is finally ready to return now that the White Sox are basically out of the playoff mix. Kansas City is a favorable matchup to return to, but Peavy is expected to be on a limited pitch count initially.
* After three straight rough outings Cliff Lee bounced back in a big way Tuesday with a complete-game shutout against the Nationals, making him 7-2 with a 2.67 ERA in nine starts for Philadelphia. Lee has averaged over seven innings per start since the July 29 trade that sent six players to Cleveland, completing three of his nine outings while posting a 60/9 K/BB ratio in 64 innings.
* Carlos Zambrano struggled Tuesday night amid reports that the Cubs plan to shop him this offseason, giving up five runs over five innings in a no-decision against the Brewers. He had a season-high nine strikeouts, but walked four, uncorked two wild pitches, and coughed up a 4-0 lead. Zambrano is owed $18 million per year through 2012, yet has ERAs of 3.95, 3.91, and now 3.94 during the past three seasons.
* News that the Rangers are skipping Kevin Millwood’s next turn in the rotation would raise lots of eyebrows if not for the fact that he’s 1-3 with a 7.62 ERA in his last five starts and 2-5 with a 6.29 ERA in a dozen outings since July 1. Even still rumors are swirling that MLB has told the financially struggling team to limit future commitments and Millwood is just 4.1 innings away from triggering a $12 million option for 2010.
AL Quick Hits: Victor Martinez left the team Tuesday due to an undisclosed personal issue and Kevin Youkilis was out of the lineup with back spasms… Andy Pettitte has been scratched from Wednesday’s start with a sore shoulder … Detroit will pay $18 million to Magglio Ordonez next year after his plate appearance-based option vested Tuesday … David Ortiz went 2-for-4 with a homer Tuesday, surpassing last season’s long-ball total with 24 … Michael Young (hamstring) rejoined the lineup Tuesday as a designated hitter after being out all month … Jarrod Washburn left Tuesday’s start with knee pain after giving up four runs in the first inning … Brett Tomko will have his next start skipped after complaining of elbow discomfort following his complete-game shutout Monday … Travis Snider homered twice Tuesday, but also struck out for the 38th time in 86 at-bats since returning from Triple-A … Tim Wakefield (back) threw a bullpen session Tuesday, but there’s no timetable yet for his return to the rotation.
NL Quick Hits: Adam Wainwright was denied his 19th victory Tuesday despite seven innings of two-run ball … Chipper Jones (groin) is expected to miss at least two more games and could be sidelined for the entire week … Jose Valverde was unavailable again Tuesday because of a 101-degree fever … Adam LaRoche went 4-for-4 with two homers Tuesday and is batting .351 with 12 homers in 40 games since returning to Atlanta … Aaron Cook (shoulder) threw a simulated game Tuesday and reported “no pain” and “a little rust” … Mike Hampton is expected to miss all of next season and may be forced to retire after undergoing rotator cuff surgery Tuesday … Tommy Hanson tossed seven shutout innings Tuesday, allowing three hits while improving to 10-3 with a 2.65 ERA … Tony La Russa said Tuesday that he’s uncertain when Troy Glaus (oblique) will return … Francisco Rodriguez was unavailable Tuesday after his wife gave birth to twins … Manny Parra (neck) will have an MRI exam Wednesday.

Aaron Judge broke a dubious record last night

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Aaron Judge hit a monster home run in last night’s win over the Mets, but he also set a dubious record. Judge struck out for the 33rd consecutive game, setting a new mark for a position player in a single season.

Yes, that’s qualified. No pitchers, of course, as I assume many of them have struck out in more than 33 straight games. Also,  Adam Dunn once struck out in 36 straight games, but that straddled two seasons: he struck out in the final four games of 2011 and the first 32 games of 2012. Still, Judge’s feat is impressive, and given the nature of his game and the state of baseball these days, it’s not hard to imagine him striking out in three or four more straight games anyway.

None of which, by the way, should be all that much of a slight on Judge. The guy is still hitting .291/.420/.614, even with his second half slump. If I was a manager I’d happily accept his whiffs in exchange for everything else he brings to the table. It’s not 1959 anymore, and strikeouts are not the worst thing that can happen.

The Cubs gave Rick Renteria a World Series Ring

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It was revealed, in the course of a Jerry Reinsdorf interview the other day, that the Chicago Cubs gave Chicago White Sox manager Rick Renteria a World Series ring.

Renteria, of course, managed the Cubs for one season — in 2014 — and was fired when Joe Maddon became available after exiting his contract with the Rays. Renteria did an OK job with the Cubs — they were 73-89, which was seven games better than they had been the year before, and in the normal course would never have been fired after that showing — but the thinking by the Cubs front office was that they wanted Maddon, and not Renteria, to be in charge of taking a young and talented team from the land of rebuilding to the land of contention. Which Maddon did, far more quickly than most expected.

It’s a nice gesture by the Cubs, and I have no issue with it at all. If you can do a nice thing that costs you little or nothing, it’s always good to do it. And, based on his comments before yesterday’s White Sox-Dodgers game, Renteria did appreciate it. He’s been nothing but gracious since his undeserved (even if understandable) firing by the Cubs. He’s a high-road guy.

Still, I’m wondering what the inspiration for it was, because as far as I know, it’s pretty unusual for a team to give a former manager a ring in this situation, especially if the former manager had no greater history with the club (Renteria never played or coached in the Cubs system before 2014). At the time the judgment — put bluntly — was that the Cubs had a better chance to win with Maddon than Renteria, so it feels sort of . . . revisionist for them to be doing this now. Or even disrespectful on some unintentional level. Isn’t it sort of like the ex who dumped you for someone else a couple of years ago giving you a gift on their wedding day? How would that make you feel? “Glad I helped make you a better person for your new partner,” no one would say, ever.

In reality, I imagine that the thinking is a benign and somewhat cosmic “it takes a village” kind of thing and that the Cubs brass believes that anyone who had even a small hand in what became the 2016 Cubs should be rewarded. And, like I said above: nice gestures are good things and this is a nice gesture.

Still, there’s an element to this that strikes me as weird. Almost as if it’s a guilt-assuaging move on some level. “Er, uh, sorry for that awkwardness when we dumped you for the prettier girl a couple of years back. No hard feelings?”