Kung fu Cueto emerges as brawl villain

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One interesting result of the big Cardinals-Reds square dance on Tuesday night – aside from the fact that only the managers were ejected, is that Brandon Phillips was not the one to emerge as Public Enemy No. 1.

(You can see different videos of the brawl here, here and here.) 

The real post-brawl villain was Cincinnati kicker – I mean pitcher – Johnny Cueto, who went all kung fu in a panic after he was shoved against the net behind home plate. Cueto said he was trying to protect himself, but the Cardinals said he was reckless in lashing out with his cleats, giving St. Louis pitcher Chris Carpenter some scrapes on his back and sides, and catcher Jason LaRue a potential concussion.

From John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer:

“All I know is we exchanged words and the next thing I know I was in the net with somebody kicking me in the back from behind,” Chris Carpenter said. “I wasn’t throwing any punches, nobody was throwing any punches, and then we’ve got some guy kicking me in the back and ends up kicking my backup catcher in the face and splitting his face open.

The Cardinals said LaRue may have a concussion.

“He could have done some real damage (on LaRue), he got him in the side of his eye, he got him in his nose, he got him in his face. Totally unprofessional. Unbelievable. I’ve never seen anything like that. He got kicked square in the side of the face with spikes. C’mon, give me a break.”

Like on Monday, the Cardinals got the last laugh, winning 8-4 to move into first place in the NL Central. Cueto (11-3) took the loss, allowing five runs (four earned) and 5.1 innings.

Now we’ve got some serious juice in this division race, a race that some think could go all the way to the end. The teams lock horns again on Wednesday, then again for a three-game series in St. Louis in early September. Buckle up folks, it’s going to be a fun ride.

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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.