I’m starting to wonder when a Stephen Strasburg start will no longer be a must-see event. We’re not quite there yet.
Strasburg improved to 4-2 by tossing six shutout innings in a 4-0 win over the Marlins on Friday night. We’ve seen the young phenom struggle in the first inning a few times already and that pattern continued on Friday, as Strasburg walked two and threw a wild pitch in a 34-pitch opening frame. He managed to wiggle his way out of any damage and actually settled down quite nicely from there, holding the Fish to just four measly singles while striking out seven.
He was pulled after throwing a major league-high 99 pitches, 63 of them for strikes. It was the first scoreless outing of his major league career.
Nationals manager Jim Riggleman told Steve Dorsey of MLB.com that he was impressed by how Strasburg bounced back after a rough first inning.
“There’s been three or four times where in the first inning he’s been up
in the 30s in pitches, which is kind of a little agonizing for
everybody because we want him to be able to go six or seven innings,”
Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said. “But he really regrouped and
became a very tough challenge for the Marlins tonight. They had some
great at-bats against him in the first couple of innings, and as Stephen
has done before, he just got tougher and tougher as the game went
Strasburg now has a 2.03 ERA and 1.03 WHIP over his first eight big league starts. He already leads the Nationals with 68 strikeouts in 48 2/3 innings.
Former Mets catcher Johnny Monell signed a contract with the KT Wiz of the Korea Baseball Organization, per a report by Chris Cotillo of SB Nation. The 30-year-old originally struck a deal with the NC Dinos on Thursday, but the deal appeared to fall through at the last minute, according to Cotillo’s unnamed source.
Monell last surfaced for the Mets during their 2015 run, batting a dismal .167/.231/.208 with two extra bases in 52 PA before the club DFA’d him to clear space for Bartolo Colon. While he’s had difficulty sticking at the major league level, he’s found a higher degree of success in the minor league circuit and holds a career .271 average over a decade of minor league play. He played exclusively in Triple-A Las Vegas during the 2016 season, slashing .276/.336/.470 with 19 home runs and a career-high 75 RBI in 461 PA.
The veteran backstop appears to be the second MLB player to join the KT Wiz roster this offseason, as right-hander Donn Roach also signed with the club last month on a one-year, $850,000 deal.
Brewers’ right-hander Phil Bickford received a 50-game suspension after testing positive for a drug of abuse, per the Los Angeles Times’ Bill Shaikin. This is the second time Bickford has been suspended for recreational drug use, as he was previously penalized in 2015 after testing positive for marijuana prior to the amateur draft.
Bickford was selected by the Giants in the first round of the 2015 draft and was later dealt to the Brewers for lefty reliever Will Smith at the 2016 trade deadline. He finished his 2016 campaign in High-A Brevard County, pitching to a 3.67 ERA, 10.0 K/9 rate and 5.0 BB/9 over 27 innings.
Two other suspensions were handed down on Friday, one to Toronto minor league right-hander Pedro Loficial for a positive test for metabolites of Stanozolol and one to Miami minor league outfielder Casey Soltis for a second positive test for drugs of abuse. Loficial will serve a 72-game suspension, while Soltis will serve 50 games. All three suspensions are due to start at the beginning of the 2017 season for each respective minor league team.
Brewers’ GM David Stearns issued a statement after the Commissioner’s Office announced Bickford’s suspension (via Vince Lara-Cinisomo of Baseball America):
We are very disappointed to learn of Phil’s suspension, but we fully support the Minor League Baseball Drug Prevention and Testing Program and its enforcement by the Commissioner’s Office. Phil understands he made a mistake, and we fully anticipate that he will learn from this experience.