Robin Roberts: 1926-2010

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Robin Roberts.jpgPhillies great Robin Roberts has died. He was 83 years-old. No word on the cause of death, but judging by the surprise in the blogosphere and Twittervese it was not necessarily expected.

Roberts led the NL in wins for four straight years in the 1950s, winning 28 games in 1952 and 23 each of the next three years.  His win totals are remarkable give that, aside from the Whiz Kids year of 1950, the Phillies were never anything special. They won 83 games once, but otherwise dwelled in fourth and fifth place during Roberts’ prime.

Roberts was the ultimate workhorse, even for the era in which he played, pitching over 300 innings each year between 1950 and 1955, and 297 in 1956. There was no Cy Young award during his best stretch of years, but he almost certainly would have won it multiple times had there been one.

I obviously never got a chance to see Roberts pitch, but he is one of my historical favorites. I used to look at his entry in the Baseball Encyclopedia, marveling at his win totals and innings pitched, wondering how it was possible for a mere mortal to do such a thing.  The truth may be that all of those innings took their toll on Roberts — he swooned badly in mid career, rebounding only once he left Philly and went to Baltimore, where he was treated with a bit more care — but that doesn’t take away from his obvious greatness.

Universally described as a class act by all who knew him, Roberts will no doubt be missed.

Aledmys Diaz is trying to improve his defense with strobe glasses

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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.

Eduardo Rodriguez could rejoin the Red Sox rotation in July

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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.