Brandon Webb threw off flat ground on Saturday morning, his first throwing session since saying he felt “stagnant” last week. Manager A.J. Hinch told John Hickey of AOL Fanhouse that he was encouraged by the right-hander’s progress:
“He showed more life in his arm today,” Hinch said. “Throwing a few
breaking balls may not sound like big news, but it is to us. That means
he’s able to throw without reservation, and that’s big.”
Assuming his surgically-repaired shoulder feels up to snuff, the Diamondbacks hope he can throw a bullpen session within the next week or so before facing live hitters for the first time. Still, Hinch recognizes that time is working against Webb:
“Edwin Jackson, Ian Kennedy and Dan Haren have all thrown twice (in spring
games) and are working on their third time,” Hinch said. “He hasn’t
thrown off a mound yet while other rotation candidates are stretching
themselves out in games. The fact that we are running out of time for
him (to start games in the first week of the season) is fairly obvious.”
If Webb opens the season on the disabled list, as expected, that would push Billy Buckner up to fourth in the rotation. And technically, because the Diamondbacks have two days off in the first eight days of the new season, they probably wouldn’t even need a fifth starter until the beginning of the third week of the season. Still, if Webb isn’t ready by then, Hinch will have to choose between an uninspiring group that includes Kevin Mulvey, Rodrigo Lopez, Cesar Valdez, Bryan Augenstein and as mentioned earlier, possibly Kris Benson.
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.