UPDATE: Rule 5 top pick Josh Rodriguez makes the Pirates


UPDATE: So much for all that. Now general manager Neal Huntington has announced that Rodriguez will make the Opening Day roster after all.


Prior to the Rule 5 draft in December the Pirates talked about not being particularly excited about their options with the No. 1 pick and then made a selection that was widely panned, taking infielder Josh Rodriguez from the Indians.

In recapping the draft, Baseball America described Rodriguez as an “offensive-minded utility type” and “bench fodder, not a potential regular.”

Four months later Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette writes that Rodriguez “probably will not make the 25-man roster out of spring training” and the Pirates must offer him back to the Indians if he doesn’t remain on the major-league roster all season.

That may seem like a misstep by the Pirates, particularly since everyone is so used to their making missteps over the years, but ultimately the Rule 5 draft is a crapshoot where the success stories are few and far between and even teams with the No. 1 pick rarely strike gold. In fact, the No. 1 pick in the Rule 5 draft failed to stick in the majors all season in 2010 (Jamie Hoffman), 2009 (Terrell Young), 2008 (Tim Lahey), and 2007 (Ryan Goleski).

There have been plenty of worthwhile Rule 5 selections during that time, including stars like Josh Hamilton and Joakim Soria, but it looks like the No. 1 pick will fail to stick for the fifth straight season.

Angels claim Todd Cunningham off waivers from the Braves

Todd Cunningham
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The Angels have claimed outfielder Todd Cunningham off waivers from the Braves,’s Mark Bowman reports. Pitcher Jo-Jo Reyes was designated for assignment to create room for Cunningham on the 40-man roster.

Cunningham, 26, took only 93 trips to the plate for the Braves this season, batting .221/.280/.267 with 15 singles, four doubles, four RBI, and 13 runs scored. He did play above-average defense in limited playing time. Cunningham will simply serve as organizational outfield depth for the Halos.

The waiver claim is the first move made by new Angels GM Billy Eppler, who joined the team from the Yankees earlier this week.

Cardinals take 1-0 NLDS lead over the Cubs behind John Lackey’s brilliant outing

John Lackey
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John Lackey flirted with a no-hitter but settled for 7 1/3 terrific, shutout innings to beat the Cubs in Game 1 of the NLDS on Friday. The right-hander held the opposition to two hits and a walk while striking out five. Lefty reliever Kevin Siegrist struck out two to finish the eighth without issue. Closer Trevor Rosenthal worked around a one-out walk and a two-out single in the ninth to seal the 4-0 win, recording all three outs on called strike threes.

Lackey brought a no-hitter into the sixth inning, but lost it quickly when Addison Russell hit a ground ball single up the middle to lead off the frame. Russell would steal second base but was stranded.

Opposing starter Jon Lester wasn’t too shabby himself, relenting three runs on five hits while walking one and striking out nine in 7 1/3 innings. The first run came around in the first inning on Matt Holliday‘s RBI single, which followed a one-out double by Stephen Piscotty. Tommy Pham pinch-hit in the pitcher’s spot in the eighth inning and launched a solo home run off of Lester to double the Cardinals’ lead. Lester walked Matt Carpenter before exiting. Pedro Strop came in and promptly served up a two-run home run to Stephen Piscotty.

The closest the Cubs came to scoring was when Dexter Fowler sent a deep fly ball to right field with a man on base and two outs in the sixth inning, but Randal Grichuk caught it with a foot or two to spare in front of the fence on the warning track.

The two clubs will play Game 2 of the NLDS on Saturday at 5:30 PM EDT. Kyle Hendricks will start for the Cubs and oppose Cardinals lefty Jaime Garcia.

Astros err in letting Scott Kazmir start sixth

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Scott Kazmir went winless with a 6.52 ERA in six September starts. He allowed 41 hits, eight of them homers, in 29 innings, posting an 18/11 K/BB ratio. When the Astros got five innings of two-run ball from him Friday against the Royals, they should have thanked their good fortune and moved right along to the pen.

And they knew this. They must have. Josh Fields got up in the pen after Kazmir issued a one-out walk in the fifth. The left-hander got out of the frame, making himself eligible for the victory in what was then a 4-2 game, but it was still very surprising to see him come back out for the sixth, particularly with the switch-hitting Ben Zobrist (.926 OPS against lefties) and right-handed Lorenzo Cain due up.

Kazmir retired Zobrist, but he gave up a double to Cain. He was then pulled, even with the left-handed Eric Hosmer coming up. Manager A.J. Hinch had committed my biggest baseball pet peeve: he sent his starter back to the mound with the idea of pulling him after his first mistake.

It worked out terribly. Oliver Perez gave up a pair of soft hits to Hosmer and Kendrys Morales before walking Mike Moustakas. Fields then entered and walked the unwalkable Salvador Perez to tie the game at 4. The Astros gave up another run in the seventh and lost the game 5-4.

Maybe that’s the way it would have worked out anyway. Kazmir did give up just the one baserunner. It might not have even harmed the Astros if Perez had better luck.

Still, the thinking that went into the decision was disturbing. It’s always better to bring that reliever in with no one on base when you can. That’s especially the case with this Astros pen, which lacks a double-play specialist, much less a Wade Davis. But anyone in that pen would have been a better choice than sending Kazmir out to face Zobrist and Cain for a third time. Hinch needs to be more aggressive going forward.