25 years ago today: Angels rookie Wally Joyner hits 11th, 12th homers

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A brief trip back to “Wally World.”

23-year-old first baseman Wally Joyner was probably the biggest story of the early part of the 1986 season, hitting homer after homer on his way to becoming the first rookie voted into the All-Star Game.

And it was a big surprise. Joyner was well regarded as a prospect after being taken in the third round in the 1983 draft, but he hit exactly 12 homers in both of his full seasons in the minors. In the PCL in 1985, he finished with a modest .283/.363/.440 line and 73 RBI in 477 at-bats.

That kind of line probably wouldn’t have gotten him a gig in 2011. The Angels, though, believed the power spike he experienced in Puerto Rico over the winter was for real and chose to have him replace future Hall of Famer Rod Carew as their first baseman headed into the 1986 season.

Joyner was a star from day one. He homered in his second game as a major leaguer, and he ended April with a .333-6-16 line. The first half of May proved even better: he followed his two-homer game against the Red Sox on May 12 with another one four days later. 36 games into his rookie season, he was hitting .316/.361/.645 and leading the majors with 15 homers and 37 RBI.

Joyner, though, was unable to maintain the pace. He hit just seven homers over the rest of the season and finished second to Jose Canseco in the AL Rookie of the Year balloting. Worse, after a great start in the ALCS against Boston, he went down with a leg infection, preventing him from playing in the final four games as the Angels were eliminated. He was 5-for-11 with a homer and two doubles in the first three games.

Joyner went on to have his best season as a sophomore in 1987, finishing with 34 homers and 117 RBI. He remained a valuable player in subsequent seasons, particularly in 1991, his last year with the Angels before he signed with the Royals, and in 1997, when he hit .327 for the Padres. However, he never went to a second All-Star Game.

Also, while Joyner was thought of very highly as a defensive first baseman, he failed to win a Gold Glove. The Yankees’ Don Mattingly had a stranglehold on the award at the time.

In 2001, Joyner returned to the Angels for a farewell tour and hit .243 in 161 at-bats. He ended his career with a .289/.362/.440 line, 204 homers and 1,106 RBI in 16 seasons.

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.