Mike Sweeney retires

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Mike Sweeney is announcing his retirement today.  Given that this word is coming via Royals writers and the announcement is happening in Surprise, Arizona, he is apparently retiring as a Royal, if not in a formal contractual sense, then at least in a cosmic sense.

Which is appropriate, as Mike Sweeney was the Kansas City Royals for many, many years. He played thirteen of his sixteen major league seasons in Kansas City, excelling in a Royals uniform. His career line in Kansas City was .299/.369/.492.  He played 1,282 games and smacked 197 homers there.

He was also one of the few bright spots during his tenure on that team. He became a full time player in 1999. Between then and 2007 the Royals lost 100 games four times, 97 games twice and 93 games once. The only bright spot from a team perspective came in 2003, when the Royals surprised everyone, holding on to first place in the AL Central for a long, long time before fading but, ultimately, finishing above .500.  It was that year, however, when Sweeney began to suffer an increasing number of injuries, playing in only 108 games.  After 2005 he never played in 100 games again.

Upon leaving the Royals, Sweeney bounced from Oakland to Seattle to Philadelphia where he played some first base, did some designated hitting and served as a pinch hitter/hugging/inspirational guy.  That inspirational part was always a bit complicated, however, as it is with most players.  When things were going well — like they did during his time with the Phillies — Mike Sweeney was a living, breathing, hugging pep-squad.  When things turned sour — like his time in Seattle last year — things got ugly.

The ups and downs of life in a major league clubhouse aside, Sweeney has long been a good baseball citizen. He’s extremely active in the community. He’s a man of faith and family. With the exception of Jeff Weaver, he’s generally been a well-liked fellow.

Nice career. Too bad he never got to be part of a winning team when he was in his prime. Good travels, Mike Sweeney.

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.