Max Scherzer came back from his brief demotion to Triple-A pitching like a new man and fortunately for the Tigers it looks like Rick Porcello is following in his footsteps.
Optioned to Triple-A over the weekend after following up his strong rookie season by going 4-7 with a 6.14 ERA in 13 starts this year, Porcello tossed eight innings of one-hit ball last night against the Reds’ affiliate.
He was facing a lineup that included quality prospects Yonder Alonso, Todd Frazier, and Juan Francisco along with former big leaguers Chris Burke, Wladimir Balentien, and Ryan Hanigan, so the outing is fairly impressive. He managed just three strikeouts, but handed out only one walk and induced 15 ground-ball outs.
Here’s what he said afterward:
I think it’s good for me to come down here and work on a couple of things and get some confidence. I had a pretty good sinker tonight and a good slider. It was a pretty effective mix of pitches. I’m just trying to work on my slider and try to shorten it up a bit and throw it consistently for strikes down in the zone. I felt comfortable with it tonight. That’s pretty much what they wanted me to come down here and work on. That and to keep my sinker down in the zone.
Scherzer’s demotion lasted all of two starts and he has a 3.48 ERA with 41 strikeouts in 31 innings since returning, so Porcello may not be long for Toledo.
Veteran utilityman Reid Brignac is in camp with the Astros on a minor league deal. The 31-year-old is close to being done as a major leaguer as he owns a career .219/.264/.309 triple-slash line across parts of nine seasons. In an effort to prolong his big league career, Brignac is now attempting to become a switch-hitter, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports.
I’m going to try it out this year. It was something that I just thought long and hard about and I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to try and see how it goes.’ I used to switch-hit when I was younger off and on, nothing consistent. I could always handle the bat right-handed. I play golf right-handed, so I do a lot of things that way that feel natural.
I just want to get to the point where I’m trying to stay in games, not get pinch-hit for, not starting games because a lefty is starting. … That could help me stay in the games longer. I’m trying to add a new element. I play multiple positions and now if I can switch hit and be consistent at it, then that can only help me.
As Brignac mentions, he’s also verstile. He’s a shortstop by trade, but has also logged plenty of innings at second base and third base, and has occasionally played corner outfield.
There aren’t any examples — at least that I can think of — where players began switch-hitting late in their careers and actually succeeding in the major leagues. As the saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But here’s hoping Brignac bucks the trend.
Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons fell off the map a bit last year due to a combination of the Angels’ mediocrity, Simmons’ lack of offense, and a month-plus of missed action due to a torn ligament in his left thumb.
Simmons is still as good and as smart as ever on defense. That was on full display Monday when the Angels hosted the Padres for an afternoon spring exhibition.
With a runner on first base and nobody out in the top of the second inning, Carlos Asuaje grounded a 2-0 J.C. Ramirez fastball to right field. The runner, Hunter Renfroe, advanced to third base. Meanwhile, Asuaje wandered a little too far off the first base bag. Simmons cut off the throw to first base, spun around and fired to Luis Valbuena at first base. Valbuena swiped the tag on Asuaje for the first out of the inning.