Your Monday Afternoon Power Rankings

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Youkilis throwing bat.jpg1. Yankees: The only critical thing I can say is that for the past few years the Yankees have gotten off to slow starts and everyone with half a brain has said “don’t panic, it’s early.” I suppose that’s a two-way street and that we shouldn’t become overly optimistic before the break of May. But really: does anyone think that this Yankees team is as likely to crater as last year’s team was to rebound? I don’t. 

2. Rays: Lost in all of the Boston navel-gazing is the fact that the Rays are a pretty awesome team.

3. Twins: Second best in runs scored per game in the A.L., second best in runs allowed per game in the A.L.

4. Giants:  With Zito and Sanchez pitching like they have the rotation has gone from really good to phenomenal. And while I don’t think the offense is going to hold up, right now they’re third in the NL in runs scored. With their pitching, anywhere in the top 10 will keep them in it all season.

5. Phillies:  The recent mini-skid drops them down a couple of notches, but taking care of the Braves in the next three games would easily restore their early-season luster. 

6. Cardinals:
For all the ink that was spilled over Saturday’s game, it was only one game and I assume everyone in Cardinals Nation is pretending it simply didn’t happen. More germane: the fact that the team directly behind St. Louis in the Central is a pretender, and the no one else below them looks particularly good.

7. Athletics: I feel like I’m sleeping on the Athletics having them this low, what with their rotation and everything. I suppose I’m just flashing back to last season, however, when every time I looked up Gio Gonzalez was getting creamed or something. But you know what? Throw a bunch of young arms at the wall and a few are going to stick. Braden, Gonzalez and Anderson have stuck, Sheets and Duchscherer are providing some special veteran seasoning and this A’s team boasts some pitching you just don’t want any part of.  We’ll know soon whether I’m truly underestimating them: the Yankees come into town for three starting tomorrow.

8. Marlins: Two of three from the Phillies is nice indeed. The Phillies were quoted yesterday saying that they truly view Florida as a contender. If the past few years have taught us anything it’s that we discount Florida at our peril. My thing, though, is that you’re not going to go far in life betting on things like Nate Robertson being a pillar of your rotation, and I don’t think that anyone can ride Jorge Cantu and Dan Uggla to glory.  We’ll see, but I still think that this team does the slow fade thing over the course of the season.

9. Braves: They survived the west coast swing, which usually kills them, they absorbed an utter shellacking by San Diego and a no-hitter from Ubaldo Jiminez, and at the moment their offense consists of three guys, one of whom is 20 years-old and is bound to slump eventually. The fact, then, that they’re only a game back is practically a miracle. The Phillies series is bigger for the Braves than it is for Philadelphia.
 
10. Tigers: You don’t lose two of three to the Royals and keep your lofty ranking.


11. Blue Jays: Losers of four of five and, in my mind at least, a
little less than halfway towards finding their true level. At least
insofar as the Power Rankings are concerned.

12. Rockies: The no-hitter from Ubaldo Jiminez was nice, but
having their closer back would be nicer. Or at least having their
current closer not walk so many damn guys.

13. Padres:
Three wins in a row for the Padres, courtesy of the Diamondbacks’ awful
bullpen. But you know what’s cooler than that? The
Padres are now giving away free programs at all home games
. I find
that very cool for some reason.

14. Dodgers: The play of
the year happened over the weekend: no, not Manny’s pinch-hit homer, but
Ned Colletti designating Russ Ortiz for assignment.

15.
Angels
: Jered Weaver and Ervin Santana’s excellent outings over the
weekend are a nice couple of steps on the journey back towards the top
of the pitching rankings, which is where this team needs to be in order
to do what’s expected of them.

16. Pirates: A very
deceiving 7-5, as they have been outscored by 22 runs this season, which
is the second worst in the NL.  Don’t get used to them being in second
place in the Central.

17. Indians: Four wins in a row has
everyone vibing optimistic, and now they’re getting Russell Branyan and
his attendant power added to the mix. I fear that a nine-game road trip
through Minnesota, Oakland and Anaheim is going to bring everyone
crashing back to Earth, however.

18. Mariners: Two of
three from Oakland and Detroit and now three games against the hapless
Orioles may prove to be the springboard back to respectability.

19.
Rangers
: Four losses in a row, and now they face an angry Boston
Red Sox team. Not sure if it’s a good Boston Red Sox team, but
they’re certainly angry.

20. Diamondbacks:  Their bullpen
is an utter mess. How messy? They gave up 14 runs in 7.2 innings vs.
the Padres over the weekend.

21. Royals: Reason to worry?
Zack Greinke did not top 94 mph with his fastball and averaged 91.2 mph
for the game against the Twins on Friday night.

22. Brewers:
Pitching, it was the Brew Crew’s downfall last year, and so it appears
to be again this year.

23. Cubs: After losing two of three to the Astros I should do
what they sometimes do in college football rankings and give them a
ceremonial last place slot. But hey: Soriano
isn’t going to be hopping anymore
.

24. Mets: Ike
Davis’ callup is a reason for optimism. Know what would be even better?
Firing Jerry Manuel and moving Jenrry Mejia to the rotation.

25. Nationals: Pfun Pfact: Ivan Rodriguez is leading the NL in
hitting. Bet you didn’t know that. And hey, between him and Livan
Hernandez pulling his mini-Hershiser act, at least the team is trying to
be interesting until Strasburg comes.

26. White Sox: A
suddenly sputtering offense and a four game losing streak has the White
Sox off to their worst start in 13 years. If only someone had predicted
this maybe it could have been avoided. Oh, wait, everyone predicted
this.

27. Red Sox: This is being covered everywhere — including
here
— so I’ll spare you. Come back next week, though, as we’ll
have the results of [bleeping]
Brookline High’s
game against
Walpole
this Thursday. 

28. Reds: The starting
pitching — expected to be a strength — has been terrible. Where have
you gone Aroldis Chapman, Reds’ Nation turns its lonely eyes to you.

29.
Astros
: The Astros have hit three home runs this year. Three.
That’s only three more than you’ve hit.

30. Orioles: The
team is skidding, the manager is on the ropes and the owner is
sorta-kinda-but-probably feuding
with the historical face of the franchise
.  I remember back when
Orioles fans were looked at with jealousy. Now I pity them.

Mets leaning on Jay Bruce, Neil Walker as Lucas Duda insurance

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MAY 12:  Pinch hitter Lucas Duda #21 of the New York Mets walks back to the dugout after striking out for the first out of the ninth inning against Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on May 12, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  The Dodgers won 5-0.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.

Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”

Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”

The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.

Jason Kipnis diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Jason Kipnis #22 of the Cleveland Indians celebrates after scoring a run on a wild pitch thrown by Jon Lester #34 of the Chicago Cubs (not pictured) during the fifth inning in Game Seven of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.

There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.

Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.