Can the Texas bullpen hold up?

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Going into Wednesday’s games, 10 American League relievers had made at least 22 appearances. Five of them happen to pitch for the same team:
1. Will Ohman (Orioles) – 25
2. Daniel Bard (Red Sox) – 24
2. Neftali Feliz (Rangers) – 24
2. Chris Ray (Rangers) – 24
5. Scott Downs (Blue Jays) – 23
6. Randy Choate (Rays) – 22
6. Phil Coke (Tigers) – 22
6. Frank Francisco (Rangers) – 22
6. Darren O’Day (Rangers) – 22
6. Darren Oliver (Rangers) – 22
With 46 games in the books, five Rangers relievers are on pace to appear in about 80 games. A sixth, Dustin Nippert, has appeared in 19 games and thrown 24 2/3 innings, so while he hasn’t been as used as often, he’s on pace to throw 87 innings in relief.
Breakdowns are almost certainly on the way. Feliz, who was handled so carefully after being moved to the pen last year, is on 86-inning pace. Francisco has a history of arm problems and has never thrown more than 63 1/3 innings as a major leaguer. He’s on pace for 73 right now.
Ray, in his second year back from Tommy John surgery, hasn’t put in a full season since 2006. O’Day was given up on by the Angels two years ago because of a shoulder injury.
Oliver has a track record of durability, but his current 83-inning pace would be a new career high for him as a reliever. He threw 72 and 73 innings in his last two years with the Angels. The appearances might be more of an issue here than the innings. The Angels tended to give him longer appearances than the Rangers have. He appeared in 54 games in 2008 and 63 last year. Right now, he’s on pace for 77 appearances.
The Rangers do have fallbacks on the way. Matt Harrison, who opened the year in the rotation, is going to try his hand at relieving after returning from a case of biceps tendinitis. And top prospect Tanner Scheppers could be this year’s Feliz if he’s needed in a setup role later this year.
Still, manager Ron Washington is walking a dangerous path. In doing so much mixing and matching of O’Day, Ray and Oliver based on matchups, he’s given them workloads they’re simply not accustomed to. If he’s going to keep those guys healthy, he’ll have to start winning some games while using only two or three of his best relievers, rather than four or five.

Giancarlo Stanton dented the outfield wall in Marlins Park

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If we haven’t said it before, it bears repeating: When it comes to pure muscle mass and power, no major league player rivals the sheer force of Giancarlo Stanton. His record-setting 504-foot home run in 2016 has yet to be bested in the Statcast era (though it narrowly beat out Jake Arrieta‘s 503-foot blast in 2015, because baseball is weird), he broke the Dodgers’ outfield fence on an attempted catch at the wall last Sunday, and he carries 25 home runs that have each exceeded 460 feet.

It should come as little surprise, then, that when Stanton muscled his 12th home run of the season against the Angels on Friday night, it not only hit the batter’s eye, but left a visible dent in the wall:

Stanton’s mammoth shot put the Marlins on the board in the first inning, setting the stage for a four-run effort that gave the club an early lead. The home run measured a cool 462 feet, the slugger’s longest of the season. He still has a little ways to go to catch up to the 2017 season leader, Jake Lamb, whose 481-foot home run against the Rockies currently leads the pack.

The next item on Stanton’s bucket list? If we’re lucky, maybe something a little like this:

Bud Norris exits outing with right knee soreness

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Angels’ right-handed reliever Bud Norris made his 23rd appearance of the season on Friday, and after just three pitches, he was done for the night. He worked a 2-1 count to Marlins’ Dee Gordon in the eighth inning, then promptly exited the field after experiencing some tightness in his right knee. Neither Norris nor manager Mike Scioscia believe the injury is cause for major concern, and the 32-year-old right-hander admitted that it may have had something to do with his lack of stretching before he took the mound. For now, he’s day-to-day with right knee soreness, with the hope that the issue doesn’t escalate over the next few days.

While the Angels are lucky to have avoided serious injury, they’ll need Norris to pitch at 100% if they want to stay competitive within the AL West. They currently sit a full nine games behind the league-leading Astros, and haven’t been helping their cause after taking five losses in their last eight games. Friday’s 8-5 finale marked their third consecutive loss of the week.

 

When healthy, Norris has been one of the better arms in the Angels’ bullpen. Through 23 2/3 innings, he’s pitched to a 2.66 ERA, 3.4 BB/9 and an outstanding 11.8 SO/9 in 23 outings. The righty hasn’t allowed a single run in four straight appearances, recording three saves and helping the club clinch four wins in that span. This is his second setback of the year after sustaining a partial fingernail tear on his pitching hand during spring training.