After no-hitter, Ervin Santana overshadowed no more

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Back in 2003, when Johan Santana was a 20-year-old in the Angels farm system, he worried that he might have to spend his career being confused with that pitcher with the same name who was dominating hitters for the Minnesota Twins.

He thought it might be wise to make a change, to make a name for himself. “I just came up with Ervin … Ervin Santana, that sounds good.”

Indeed it does.

On Wednesday against the Cleveland Indians, Ervin Santana put his name in the history books, becoming the first Santana – Johan, Ervin, Carlos or otherwise — to throw a no-hitter.

He did it with cold-blooded efficiency, throwing 76 of his 105 pitches for strikes. His four-seam fastball averaged 93 mph with plenty of movement, and his slider dropped off the table, yet was thrown for strikes more than 73 percent of the time. (Check out some more facts here)

He allowed only two base runners — one when Ezeqiuel Carrera reached on an Erick Aybar error in the first, and the other on a walk to Lonnie Chisenhall in the eighth — and struck out 10, including five of the final eight batters.

It all added up to a performance that Fangraphs called the most dominant of this season’s three no-hitters, despite the fact he actually allowed a run.

“Good fastball, good slider,” Cleveland Indians manager Manny Acta said. “He just attacked the zone.”

At 81-63 with a 4.31 ERA, Santana’s career has been fairly nondescript. Solid, yet unspectacular. He was overshadowed as a youngster by Johan Santana, and overshadowed as a big leaguer by teammates Jered Weaver and Dan Haren.

Santana has been better than his 6-8 record suggests this season, and has a 2.04 ERA over his last seven starts. But at 28, and with seven big league seasons under his belt, he still resides somewhere in the neighborhood between potential star and possible journeyman.

Is Wednesday’s feat a sign of better things to come? Angels catcher Bobby Wilson, who directed Wednesday’s masterpiece, thinks so, telling Lyle Spencer of MLB.com:

“We talked about attacking hitters. ‘Don’t give them too much credit. You’re here for a reason. Obviously, you have the stuff. Trust it and go after guys.’

“That’s what Ervin did, and if he keeps doing it, he’ll have a better chance every time he goes out there.”

For one day, at least, Santana gets the stage to himself. For one day, he is the ace with his name in lights.

Enjoy the moment, Ervin.

Bonus link: A song about how Santana changed his name.

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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.