The Rangers may step up their pursuit of Lance Berkman now that Nelson Cruz will be sidelined for three weeks following yet another hamstring injury, but an intriguing in-house replacement is on his way from the minor leagues.
According to Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, prospect outfielder Leonys Martin will take Cruz’s place on the active roster tomorrow.
Martin, who defected from Cuba last year, was added to the 40-man roster after signing a five-year, $15.5 million contract with the Rangers in May. The 23-year-old batted .348/.435/.571 with four homers, 24 RBI and a 15/8 K/BB ratio over 135 plate appearances with Double-A Frisco, but has struggled a bit since being promoted to Triple-A Round Rock last month, hitting .263/.316/.314 with a .630 OPS over 192 plate appearances. Still, he has plus-speed and is highly regarded for his defense in center field.
It wasn’t too long ago that the Rangers were considering using Martin as their primary center fielder down the stretch, but given his struggles in Triple-A and the strong play of Endy Chavez, that’s unlikely to happen now. Wilson believes that David Murphy will serve as the primary right fielder during Cruz’s absence, so Martin will likely function as a backup outfielder and pinch-runner down the stretch.
The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.
Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”
Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”
The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.
Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.
There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.
Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.