Hank Blalock said today that he plans to exercise the opt-out clause in his minor-league contract with the Rays if he’s not added to the 25-man roster by tomorrow:
I don’t have any plans on playing minor-league baseball this year. At this time in my life, if there’s no major-league opportunities for me then I’ll find something else to do. I feel like the team has to make a decision with me. I love it here. I like the way I’ve been treated, I like my teammates, I like the staff. I’d like to be part of helping the Rays win the World Series. I hope they keep me. This is where I want to stay.
If he makes the team Blalock would likely platoon with Pat Burrell at designated hitter, but with outfielder Matt Joyce expected to begin the season on the disabled list Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times reports that the Rays may choose to keep the younger, more versatile Reid Brignac as their final bench player.
Blalock had 25 homers in 462 at-bats last season, but hit a career-worst .234 with a putrid .277 on-base percentage and 108/26 K/BB ratio, missed most of 2007 and 2008 with injuries, and may no longer be able to play third base regularly thanks to shoulder problems. In other words there are good reasons for why he managed only a minor-league deal, although the contract would pay $900,000 if he makes the team.
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.