Mike Leake will make his minor league debut within the next few days after the Reds chose to demote him, rather than Edinson Volquez, to open up a spot on the roster for Jose Arredondo on Saturday.
Leake, the eighth overall pick in 2009, became the first draftee to skip the minors and go straight to the majors since Oakland’s Ariel Prieto in 1995 when the Reds made him their fifth starter to begin 2010. He looked like a Rookie of the Year candidate initially, but he began struggling in August and he was eventually shut down due to right shoulder fatigue.
Leake was expected to make this year’s squad as a middle reliever, but he was put into the rotation as a result of the injuries to Johnny Cueto and Homer Bailey. He gave the Reds four quality starts in six tries to begin the season, but since his other two outings were awful, he had a 5.77 ERA. Recently reassigned to the pen, he allowed one run in two innings over three appearances.
Volquez looked like a strong candidate for demotion after another sloppy outing Wednesday. He’s 3-1 in eight starts, but his ERA stands at 5.74 and he’s walked 33 in 42 1/3 innings. The Reds will stick with him for now, but they do plan to use Leake as a starter in the minors, making him a candidate to step back into the rotation at the end of the month.
Arredondo is returning to the majors for the first time since 2009. He was an outstanding setup man for the Angels as a rookie in 2008, going 10-2 with a 1.62 ERA, but he struggled to a 6.00 ERA the following season and then underwent Tommy John surgery. The Angels non-tendered him after the procedure, and the Reds, knowing he’d miss all of 2010, signed him, hoping it’d pay off this year. He had a 2.30 ERA and a 21/6 K/BB ratio in 15 2/3 innings during his rehab assignment.
There’s certainly never a bad time to hit a home run, but when you get the opportunity to crush a triple-deck, 493-foot shot off of Tyler Duffey, you should take it. With the Mariners down 2-0 to the Twins in the fourth inning, Cruz hammered a fastball to deep left field for his 39th long ball of the season — and the second-longest home run hit in 2016, to boot.
It doesn’t hurt that the Mariners are 1.5 games back of a playoff spot, although they’ll have to oust the Blue Jays, Orioles, or Tigers to get a wild card. They’ve gone 3-3 in the last week, dropping two consecutive series to the Astros and Blue Jays and taking their series opener against Minnesota 10-1 on Friday night.
Cruz, for his part, entered Saturday’s game with a .299/.337/.610 batting line and six home runs in September. According to ESPN.com’s Home Run Tracker, Cruz sits behind Edwin Encarnacion and Mike Napoli with 13 “no-doubt” home runs in 2016, third-most among major league sluggers. It’s safe to say he can add Saturday’s moonshot to that list.
Marlins’ outfielder and undisputed home run king Giancarlo Stanton remains untouched at the top of the Statcast leaderboard with a 504-ft. home run, and it’s difficult to envision any slugger reaching beyond that before the end of the season. Even so, Cruz won’t need to clear 500 feet to extend an impressive hitting record. One more home run will put the 36-year-old at 40 on the year, making 2016 his third consecutive season with at least 40 homers, and his second such season doing so in Seattle.
It’s been a strange season for Red Sox’ third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who lost his starting role in spring training, went 0-for-6 in three regular season appearances, and underwent season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder in May. That was the last the Red Sox were supposed to hear about Sandoval until spring 2017, when he was expected to rejoin the team after a lengthy rehab stint in Florida.
On Saturday, manager John Farrell was telling a different story. Per MLB.com’s Sam Blum, Farrell hinted that Sandoval could return to the team as soon as October, albeit in a very limited capacity.
At the time of the surgery, it was all looking at the start of next Spring Training,” Farrell said. “We’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves here, but at the same time, we compliment him for the work he’s put in, the way he’s responded to the rehab, the way he’s worked himself into better condition. We’re staying open-minded.
If the 30-year-old does return in 2016, don’t expect him to look like the three-home run hitter of the 2012 World Series. Should the Red Sox lose another player to injury, Sandoval might be called on as a backup option, but he’s unlikely to see substantial playing time under any other circumstances. Despite making two appearances at DH in the instructional league, Sandoval has not started at third base since undergoing surgery, though Farrell noted that a return to third base would be the next logical step in his recovery process.
Sandoval has yet to hit his stride within the Red Sox’ organization after hitting career-worst numbers in 2015. According to FanGraphs, his Offensive Runs Above Average (Off) plummeted to -20.2, contributing approximately two wins fewer than the average offensive player in 2015. (The Diamondbacks’ Chris Owings held the lowest Off mark in 2015, with -26.3 runs below average.) Sandoval has not appeared in a postseason race since the Giants’ championship run in 2014.
Heading into Saturday evening, the Red Sox could clinch their spot in the postseason with a win over the Rays and an Orioles’ loss.