After playing 15 seasons in the majors Mark Loretta retired this week and immediately joined the Padres’ front office as a special assistant to the baseball operations staff.
Loretta has lived in San Diego since having the best stretch of his career as the Padres’ starting second baseman from 2003-2005 and also knows new general manager Jed Hoyer from their season together with the Red Sox in 2006, so it was an easy decision:
When you say the word retirement, it sounds like your retiring from life. I’m looking at this as the next step. I’m interested in how teams market themselves and business development. We don’t have anything set in stone. Jed is allowing me to experience and learn a whole different side of things. I’m looking at this year as an open-ended situation. I think that it will allow me to make decision on what I want to do.
In other words Loretta will get a taste of front office life this season and then decide if he wants to stay behind the scenes or pursue another on-field career as a hitting coach or manager. As for his playing career, Loretta was often perceived as a super-utility man because of his defensive versatility, but he was more than that as a two-time All-Star and career .295 hitter who walked nearly as often (555) as he struck out (605).
In fact, since the mound was lowered in 1969 only 12 middle infielders have logged at least 5,000 career plate appearances with a higher on-base percentage than Loretta at .360. The complete list: Joe Morgan, Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Chuck Knoblauch, Willie Randolph, Roberto Alomar, Barry Larkin, Bobby Grich, Luis Castillo, Craig Biggio, Lou Whitaker, and Nomar Garciaparra. Some pretty decent company for a guy most casual fans have probably never even heard of.
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.