Scot Shields was perhaps the elite setup man of the aughts (we really need a better name for 2000-2009), posting a 2.98 ERA from 2002-2008 while averaging around 90 innings per season, but ended the decade on a low note with an injury wrecked 2009 campaign and is now unlikely to be ready for spring training.
Shields had knee surgery about eight months ago, but has not been cleared to throw off a mound yet and Angels pitchers report to camp next Wednesday. He’s still hoping to be ready for Opening Day, but that seems unlikely given that Shields is 35, logged just 18 innings last season before being shut down, and has yet to get back on a mound eight months later.
I don’t know how quickly I’ll get on a mound. We’ll probably have to take it slow. We’ve got a whole month and a half or two months to get ready. I know my body. It’s close to being 100 percent, and we’ve still got two months.
Shields may still believe that he can be ready for Opening Day, but the Angels’ lack of confidence in him returning to form was shown by overpaying Fernando Rodney with a two-year, $11 million deal despite already having Kevin Jepsen around as a potential setup man for Brian Fuentes. Even if he’s healthy, Shields figures to begin the season working middle relief.
The Cubs wrapped up a four-game series against the Reds at Wrigley Field on Thursday afternoon, suffering a 13-10 loss to split the set. They’ll match up again against the Reds next week for a three-game series in Cincinnati. That’s good news for Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant, because that means he’ll get to see Reds first baseman Joey Votto some more.
As CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney reports, Bryant has grown quite fond of Votto. Bryant has already won a World Series ring, a Rookie of the Year Award, and an MVP Award, but he still looks up to Votto. According to Bryant, Votto is “the best player ever.” He added, ““He’s my favorite player. I love watching him. I love talking to him, just picking his brain. He gets a lot of (heat) about his walks and working at-bats and some people want him to swing at more pitches. But, gosh, I mean, he does an unbelievable job. You know that he’s going to give you a great at-bat every time he goes up there. It’s definitely a guy that I look up to and I can learn from.”
Bryant said that Votto is “a future Hall of Famer, that’s for sure.”
Bryant also explained how his approach changed by watching Votto. He said that in his rookie season, he was “swinging at everything.” Votto, however, is “aggressive, but he’s not going to swing at a pitch until he wants it.”
Indeed, in Bryant’s rookie season, he struck out in nearly 31 percent of his 650 plate appearances. This season, he has struck out in only 19 percent of his PA. His walk rate has also increased by more than 2.5 percent since his rookie campaign. Compared to last year, Bryant is down in HR and RBI, but his average is the same, his on-base percentage is markedly better, and his slugging percentage is only down by a minute amount.
Diamondbacks second baseman Daniel Descalso hit his team’s third inside-the-park home run of the season during Thursday’s 4-0 win over the Astros. In the top of the fourth inning, with the score 1-0 and the bases empty, Descalso ripped a 1-0, 83 MPH change-up to right-center field. The ball caromed off the wall, heading towards left field, which sent center Jake Marisnick on the chase. Marisnick tried to pick up the ball with his glove, but dropped it, which sealed Descalso’s destiny for an inside-the-parker.
It had only been five days since the Diamondbacks’ last inside-the-park home run. David Peralta hit one against the Cubs on August 12. Ketel Marte legged out his club’s first ITPHR on July 26 against the Braves.
As ESPN Stats & Info notes, the Diamondbacks have three as a team, which is amazing because the other 29 teams have hit seven combined.