In the middle of 18th straight losing season, Pirates planning "meaningful" payroll increase for 2011

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Craig noted this morning that the Pirates are one defeat away from their 18th straight losing season and their current 109-loss pace would be the team’s worst record during that horrendous stretch.
But fear not, Pirates fans, because today team president Frank Coonelly said the following to Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette:

We have the capacity to add to payroll in a meaningful way. We’ll be evaluating the trade market and free agency and, if we see a player or players we like, we’ll be aggressive in pursuing that player.

However, he also added that the Pirates “are not going to be in the market for Cliff Lee” or similarly expensive free agents because “when we bring in players at that level, they have to be the Jameson Taillon and Pedro Alvarez types through the draft.”
All of which is reasonable, because certainly other small- or -mid-market teams that have experienced success recently haven’t done so by spending a ton through free agency. Pittsburgh has the lowest payroll in baseball this season at $39 million, but Coonelly was quick to note that a “meaningful” increase for 2011 would still not get them into the same range as, say, the Reds and their $76 million payroll.
Also of interest from the interview is that Coonelly replied “nobody’s job is absolutely safe” when asked if he still had confidence in manager John Russell and general manager Neal Huntington. “I hate the vote-of-confidence questions, but I do still have confidence in Neal and JR,” Coonelly said. “But we need to figure out why we’re underperforming the way we are.”
I don’t mean to pick on poor Pirates fans, but can it really be called “underperforming” when it’s happened for 18 straight seasons? And is it really “underperforming” to have MLB’s worst record when you also have MLB’s lowest payroll? Isn’t that just “performing”?

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.