In my NLDS preview the other day I blithely assumed that Chad Billingsley would pitch Game 3 for the Dodgers, but that’s apparently not the case. Vicente Padilla gets the nod. Joe Torre said that Billingsley’s simulated game “went fine” but if that were the case you’d think that the guy would be the Game 3 starter over a famously erratic guy who was designated for assignment by the Rangers for being a clubhouse cancer earlier this year. Joe Torre has forgotten more about baseball than I’ll ever know, but I can’t help but think that he’s reading too much into Padilla’s last start. Yes, he mowed down the Rockies, but the game was meaningless and it was not exactly their starting nine.
But Billingsley isn’t the only All-Star who will be riding the pine for L.A. Torre also named Ronnie Belliard the starting second baseman for tonight’s game. While he and Orlando Hudson have been splitting time down the stretch, as Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness notes, Belliard has hit really well against Game 2 starter Adam Wainwright, so he is probably going to get that start as well, rendering Hudson a full-blown backup.
Both of these moves are defensible on the micro level. The big picture, however has to be rather disquieting for Dodgers fans, because teams who win World Series tend not to have to depend on guys like Vicente Padilla and Ronnie Belliard in key roles.
MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch reports that Cardinals’ shortstop Aledmys Diaz has been sporting a new look around Busch Stadium with a pair of “strobe glasses,” technology-enhanced specs designed to help athletes focus on the ball. Like a strobe light, the lenses of these glasses affect a player’s vision by rapidly changing opacity, giving its wearers the illusion that the objects they see are moving more slowly than normal. Once a player adjusts to the new speed of play, they gain a greater sense of control and are able to time their actions with more precision.
Diaz isn’t the first MLB player to utilize the technology, just the first Cardinals’ player to do so. It’s been tested by Bryce Harper, Corey Brown, Tommy Joseph, Austin Hedges and Joe Mauer, among others around the league, and has been used for everything from refining a catcher’s reflexes behind the plate to tweaking a hitter’s ability to track a pitch. Per Langosch, Diaz has been using the glasses to hone in on the ball during pregame drills, increasing both his confidence and response time on the field and improving his defense at short.
The shortstop has been the focus of some concern this season after seeing a sizable dip in his production at the plate, and his five fielding errors, 0.6 UZR and 0.6 fWAR haven’t helped matters, either. He sustained a minor thumb injury during an at-bat on Friday night, and was left off of the Cardinals’ starting lineup on Saturday, though manager Mike Matheny didn’t rule out his ability to pinch-hit during the series. While the strobe glasses are a good start, Diaz will need more than a pair of specs to match the spotlight-worthy performance he turned out during his rookie season in 2016.
Red Sox’ left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez may finally get a chance at cracking the rotation again, assuming all goes well in Double-A Portland first. Rodriguez took the field prior to the club’s afternoon session with the Angels, firing 68 pitches in a simulated game as he prepared for an upcoming rehab assignment in Portland on Thursday.
The 24-year-old southpaw suffered a right knee subluxation during pregame warmups on June 1, and it’s been a slow path to recovery ever since. It’s not the first time Rodriguez has had issues with his right knee — he sustained a similar injury during spring training last year — and this time around, the Red Sox weren’t about to gamble with their starter’s health. Ian Browne of MLB.com reports that Rodriguez was put in a knee brace and underwent exercises designed to help him regain some mobility and stability while he worked back up to full strength on the mound.
He’ll still need to prove he can throw a 75- to 80-pitch outing in Double-A, and barring any significant setbacks, will likely rejoin the Red Sox’ pitching staff when they visit the Rangers next month. In the meantime, the club will continue to cycle starters through the No. 5 spot, which has seen no fewer than three different pitchers since Rodriguez hit the disabled list. The lefty is 4-2 in 10 starts this season after logging a 3.54 ERA, 3.1 BB/9 and career-high 9.6 SO/9 through his first 61 innings.