Last week the Reds demoted Mike Leake to the bullpen in an effort to keep the rookie’s innings count in check, but after back-to-back ugly relief outings they’re now thinking about shutting him down altogether.
Leake gave up six runs while recording one out last night and afterward manager Dusty Baker said:
We’re addressing that now. He’s getting hurt mostly on his slider and sinker. His sinker is not sinking as good. And his slider isn’t rolling. It’s not as sharp.
Since beginning his career 5-0 with a 2.22 ERA through 11 starts Leake has allowed 55 runs in 66 innings, during which time opponents have hit .336 with a .560 slugging percentage. To put that in some context, teammate and MVP candidate Joey Votto is hitting .323 with a .589 slugging percentage. So for the past 10 weeks Leake has essentially turned every hitter he’s faced into Votto.
In addition to moving Leake to the bullpen and now possibly shutting him down, the Reds are also planning to bring five-time Opening Day starter Aaron Harang back from the disabled list as a reliever and have reportedly discussed moving the similarly struggling Edinson Volquez to the bullpen as well. Cincinnati has a ton of starting pitching depth, but not all of it is looking particularly good heading into the stretch run.
Even if they shut down Leake the pitcher they may want to keep Leake the hitter around, because he’s batting .348 with a .423 on-base percentage in 58 plate appearances.
It was only a matter of time before Mike Trout courted another all-time record, and on Saturday, he found himself in elite company with his 25th and 26th home runs of the season. He put the Angels on the board with a 429-foot blast in the first inning, depositing an 0-1 fastball from the Orioles’ Kevin Gausman into the left field bleachers:
In the third inning, with the Angels up 2-1, Trout returned to tack on another insurance run. He targeted Gausman’s slider for his second solo shot of the evening and cleared the center field fence with a 418-footer to bring his total to 26 home runs on the year.
Trout has mashed at a staggering .339/.471/.596 clip since his return from the disabled list last month, and Saturday’s totals helped mark his sixth consecutive season with at least 25 home runs. That’s a record few have matched before their age-26 season; in fact, only Hall of Fame sluggers Eddie Mathews and Frank Robinson have ever pulled it off.
Assuming he continues to rake in hits and plate appearances over the last six weeks of the regular season — and there’s nothing to indicate that he won’t — Trout is in line to join elite company of a different kind. The 26-year-old entered Saturday’s game with a 206 OPS+ (park-adjusted on-base plus slugging). According to MLB.com’s Matt Kelly, that means Trout’s hitting at a better clip than the average Major League player by a full 106 percent. Should he finish the year with a 200 OPS+ and 502 plate appearances or better, he’ll be the first player to do so since Barry Bonds obliterated the competition with his 263 OPS+ in 2004.
The Blue Jays acquired right-hander Tom Koehler from the Marlins in exchange for minor league right-hander Osman Gutierrez and cash considerations, the clubs announced Saturday. Koehler is in his sixth year with the Marlins and stands to make $5.75 million in 2017. He’ll be arbitration eligible in 2018 and is set to enter free agency by 2019.
The 31-year-old right-hander struggled to a 7.92 ERA, 4.7 BB/9 and 7.1 SO/9 over 55 2/3 innings with Miami in 2017. He was optioned to Triple-A New Orleans in late July, where he rebounded with a 1-1 record in seven starts and whittled his ERA down to a 1.67 mark. The Blue Jays have yet to establish Koehler’s role within their organization, but are hoping to see a turnaround from the righty when he breaks back into the big leagues.
Gutierrez, 22, was assigned to Single-A Greensboro on Saturday. He has yet to find his footing in the minors, and exited a 78-inning stint with Single-A Lansing after racking up a career-worst 7.85 ERA and 8.2 SO/9. His lack of control is particularly alarming, with a 6.2 BB/9 that dwarfs the 2.0+ BB/9 of seasons past, but he still has plenty of time to figure out his mechanics before reaching the Show.