With rotation spot in jeopardy, Francisco Liriano pitches no-hitter

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Francisco Liriano has brought no-hit stuff to the mound plenty of times in his 95 major league starts, but this was a major upset:

1. Liriano entered tonight 1-4 with a 9.13 ERA and a 1.90 WHIP this season.  He was very much in danger of losing his rotation spot to Kevin Slowey with another bad outing.

2. Liriano had never pitched a complete game as a major leaguer.  He had gotten just one out in the seventh inning this year.

3. He was at 86 pitches after six innings tonight.  He hadn’t thrown more than 97 pitches in a game this season, and had he thrown 20-25 pitches in the seventh tonight, he might not have been brought back out for the eighth even if he still had the no-hitter intact.

Liriano, though, shook it all off and became the first Twin to throw a no-hitter since Eric Milton in a 1-0 win over the White Sox tonight.  He outpitched Edwin Jackson, who famously threw a 149-pitch no-hitter for the Diamondbacks last year.

Liriano ended this one at 123 pitches.  He was able to finish it off because he threw just seven pitches in the seventh and eight in the eighth.  Double plays after three of his six walks helped a bunch, as did some fine plays from Denard Span and Danny Valencia.

The Twins will hope that it’s a turning point for Liriano or maybe even for the team as a whole.  For what it’s worth, Liriano never looked as dominant tonight as he did at certain points during his strong 2010 season.  A team hitting better than the White Sox are very possibly would have gotten to him tonight.  Still, it was obviously a big step in the right direction for Liriano, and it means that if Slowey is going to replace anyone in Minnesota’s rotation, it will be Nick Blackburn.

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.