The Phillies got their middle-of-the-order hitter Friday, picking up two-time All-Star Hunter Pence from the Astros for first baseman Jonathan Singleton, RHP Jarred Cosart, RHP Josh Zeid and a still undisclosed fourth player.
It’s the right-handed bat the Phillies felt they needed to slot in behind Chase Utley and Ryan Howard in the order. Pence, though, hasn’t been all that much better than Domonic Brown of late. He’s batting .200 with just two RBI in 45 at-bats since the All-Star break. Since June 1, he’s hitting .297/.344/.424 with three homers and 19 RBI in 172 at-bats.
Maybe now that he’s finished with the trade rumors, he’ll improve. The Phillies are certainly banking on it after surrendering their top two prospects. Singleton, who is just 19, was hitting .284/.387/.413 for Single-A Clearwater this season. Because of Howard’s presence, the Phillies tried him in left field earlier this year. But that didn’t take. Singleton should be a 30-homer guy down the line, and he could be an upgrade over Brett Wallace by the end of 2013.
Cosart, 21, was also at Clearwater and was 9-8 with a 3.92 ERA and a 79/43 K/BB ratio in 108 innings. He lacks polish for someone regarded as a top pitching prospect, but he throws in the mid-90s and shows a plus curveball. He’s a definite candidate to flame out, but he has top-of-the-rotation potential.
Zeid isn’t so talented. The 24-year-old had a 5.65 ERA and a 56/27 K/BB ratio in 63 2/3 innings while splitting time between the rotation and the pen for Double-A Reading. If he makes it in the majors, it’ll be as a middle reliever.
Pence is the Phillies’ answer to Carlos Beltran, and the fact that he’s under control through 2013 necessated the big offer. He will give the Phillies offense a lift, and he may well make a difference as a No. 5 hitter come playoff time. Still, it’s debatable whether he was really enough of an upgrade to justify the investment. He has a 119 OPS+ since 2009, which puts him a bit below fellow corner outfielders Nick Swisher and Josh Willingham and barely above Corey Hart and Bobby Abreu. He is an above average defender and an asset on the basepaths, but he’s not truly a star and he’s about to get paid like one.
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.
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.