My virtual friend* Jonah Keri alerted me to something interesting from last night’s Rays-Orioles game. I didn’t see it live, but I just went back and watched the highlight on MLB.tv and I agree that it’s interesting enough to be worth passing along.
*While my previous professional life involved meeting real people, life as a blogger basically entails talking to people on the Internet all day. Jonah is one of those people who — if we were insurance salesmen or consultants or something — I would have met in person a long time ago, but because we’re both basically Internet baseball people, we’ve only chatted, exchanged tweets and emails, etc. There are a lot of people I know like that, actually, and henceforth I’m just going to refer to them as my “virtual friends” until I’ve actually had the chance to meet them in person. After all, what if I met Jonah tomorrow and we hated each others’ guts on some visceral level? Would have hated to call him my friend without knowing that!
One out, seventh inning, Rays up 8-4, runners on the corners and Miguel Tejada at bat. Tejada hits a ball into right center that Rays’ right fielder Ben Zobrist had to run for, but totally should have caught. Instead, it hit off his glove and skipped to the warning track. Jonah watches a lot of Rays games these days — for good reason — and says that it’s a play that Zobrist usually makes.
Zobrist goes after the ball, but it’s B.J. Upton — not Zobrist — who is, in Jonah’s words “hustling his ass off.” Upton beats Zobrist to the ball, grabs it and throws it in.
It’s a little thing in the course of a long season — and it didn’t end up saving any runs here — but how often do we hear about B.J. Upton hustling? Never, really, but you can be damn sure that the moment he loafs he’s going to be all over ESPN and the blogs and everywhere. For that matter, if Upton just let a ball doink off his glove like Zobrist did — which did end up costing the Rays runs — I’m guessing he’d get a lot more flak for it than Zobrist did.
Again, not a big thing, but I think it’s worth noting that B.J. Upton hustled last night.
The writing was on the wall, but the Yankees made it official on Saturday: Aroldis Chapman is no longer closing games for the Bronx Bombers. Comments from manager Joe Girardi suggested that the move is a temporary one, however, and he told reporters that Chapman will be utilized at “different points” in the game as the Yankees try to pinpoint the source of the left-hander’s struggles.
There’s no question that the flame-throwing southpaw has been off his game for a while, and his season 4.29 ERA, 4.3 BB/9 and 12.6 SO/9 hints at some of the issues he’s been facing. He imploded in each of his last three appearances, issuing a cumulative five hits, six runs and five strikeouts over just 3 1/3 innings. It seems plausible that the left rotator cuff inflammation that sidelined him several months ago has resurfaced, but the veteran lefty said Friday that he doesn’t believe any physical issues have caused his decline.
While Chapman works out the kinks in his mechanics, the Yankees will look to some combination of Dellin Betances and David Robertson to cover the ninth inning. Girardi wouldn’t commit to either reliever in the closer’s spot, however, and said he’d take it on a case-by-case basis depending on the match-ups in any given game. The long-term plan is still to reinstate Chapman, whenever that might make sense for the team.
“He’s been scuffling over the past 10 days, two weeks,” Girardi said. “I just thought for us to get him back on track, maybe the best way would be to move him around a little bit until he gets going. When we get him going like I believe he’ll get going, there’s a good chance I’ll put him right back in that closer’s role.”
The Nationals officially activated Stephen Strasburg off the 10-day disabled list, the team announced Saturday. They’ll pencil him into the starting lineup for their second set against the Padres on Saturday night. Strasburg is expected to assume Max Scherzer‘s roster spot after Scherzer landed on the disabled list with neck inflammation prior to Friday’s series opener. No other roster moves appear to be necessary for the time being.
Strasburg, 28, is finally looking stable after serving a 26-day stint on the DL with a right elbow nerve impingement. It’s the first serious injury he’s sustained since last August, when he missed 20 days with inflammation in his right elbow, and one the Nationals are taking seriously as they juggle multiple stints for their elite starters. He’ll enter Saturday’s competition with a 10-3 record in 20 starts, supplemented by a 3.25 ERA, 2.7 BB/9 and 10.4 SO/9 through 121 2/3 innings.
Elbow issues are nothing to be played around with, but Strasburg’s performance in his lone rehab outing relieved any residual apprehension the Nats might have had about his activation this weekend. He tossed 66 pitches for High-A Potomac, hitting 95 MPH with his heater and logging three hits, one run, one walk and five strikeouts over five innings. Club manager Dusty Baker is hoping for a similarly dominant start against the Padres, and told reporters that he’ll hold Strasburg to a performance count as the righty works his way back to a full-time gig.