Adam Dunn was benched yesterday for the second straight game as his season-long slump gets deeper and deeper, and now the White Sox are saying the struggling designated hitter has a sore knee.
Or at least that’s the official reason manager Ozzie Guillen gave for sitting Dunn, although “we faced lefties in both games and Dunn can’t hit them to save his life” would have been a sufficient explanation. Dunn is 2-for-64 versus southpaws this season.
Doug Padilla of ESPN Chicago writes that Guillen didn’t even know which knee was bothering Dunn, speculating that the injury may simply be a way for the White Sox to get him out of the lineup and on to the disabled list for an extended break.
Chicago is off today and for now Dunn is scheduled to rejoin the lineup tomorrow, but there’s a DH alternative crushing the ball at Triple-A, where 22-year-old Dayan Viciedo is hitting .311 with 16 homers, 24 doubles, and an .876 OPS.
Of course, getting Dunn on the DL and Viciedo into the lineup would be a short-term solution for a long-term problem, as he’s under contract for $14 million in 2012 and $15 million in both 2013 and 2014. Assuming he doesn’t retire, that it.
Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.
The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.
Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.
Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon hasn’t selected a fifth starter for his 2017 rotation yet, but told reporters that he could envision left-handers Brett Anderson and Mike Montgomery sharing the spot throughout the year. Neither pitcher was stretched out to the full 200-inning threshold last year, Maddon added, and suggested that the two could alternate innings out of the rotation and bullpen as needed (via MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat).
Anderson, 29, was acquired by the Cubs in January on a $3.5 million deal. He’s coming off a rough 2016, during which he underwent back surgery and missed all but 11 1/3 innings of his last season with the Dodgers. His last full, healthy year in the majors yielded a 3.69 ERA, 2.3 BB/9 and 5.8 SO/9 over 180 1/3 innings with Los Angeles in 2015.
Montgomery, meanwhile, is vying for a rotation spot after pitching almost exclusively from the bullpen during the second half of the Cubs’ 2016 run. The 27-year-old lefty put up a 2.82 ERA, 4.7 BB/9 and 8.9 SO/9 over 38 1/3 innings for Chicago last year, returning in the postseason to post a 3.14 ERA during the Cubs’ championship finish.
Maddon also mentioned the possibility of throwing a sixth starter into the mix, which would help prevent his other starters from getting overworked too early in the year. Either way, Anderson and Montgomery are expected to get a lot of looks early in spring training as rotation spots are finalized in the weeks leading up to Opening Day.