Angels rookie Jordan Walden throws really, really hard

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Joel Zumaya amazingly never ceased being the hardest-thrower in baseball even while battling all kinds of arm injuries over the past few years, averaging 99.3 miles per hour with his fastball both this season and last season.
However, now that Zumaya is sidelined while recovering from July elbow surgery the “hardest-thrower” title is vacant and R.J. Anderson of Fan Graphs writes that Angels rookie reliever Jordan Walden may be ready to claim it.
Called up last week, Walden has made three appearances, faced 13 batters, and thrown a total of 50 pitches. Of those 50 pitches 36 have been fastballs and they’ve clocked in at an average of 98.9 miles per hour. I watched in awe as he repeatedly cracked triple-digits in his big-league debut against my beloved Twins last week, but was surprised to find that his minor-league numbers aren’t nearly as jaw-dropping.
He moved from the rotation to the bullpen this season, posting a 3.44 ERA, .277 opponents’ batting average, and 41/24 K/BB ratio in 50 innings between Double-A and Triple-A before the call-up. Those certainly aren’t terrible numbers, but managing just 41 strikeouts in 50 innings while opponents bat .277 sure seems odd given his incredible fastball velocity and seemingly solid slider.
Consistently throwing strikes appears to be Walden’s biggest issue, but if he can harness his raw stuff while continuing to pump 99-mph heat at hitters from a low arm angle he sure looks like a potentially dominant late-inning reliever. And he may just be the hardest-thrower in baseball, at least until Aroldis Chapman and his mythical 105-mph fastball arrive in Cincinnati later this week.

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.