Tonight’s the night. Strasmas II. The Strassurection. Call it what you want, but Stephen Strasburg returns to a major league mound to face the Dodgers. His first game that counts since Tommy John surgery a year and three days ago.
Everyone talks about the physical adjustments after ligament surgery. The velocity often comes back fairly quickly, but the touch and command lags. Often by weeks and months. One thing people don’t talk about is the mental adjustment. There can’t be anything more boring and tedious than injury rehab. Most of it is spent by oneself, working out early mornings at some facility a thousand miles from where the team is playing and a million miles from the mental state a major leaguer would expect to have in the middle of a baseball season.
But it had to have been even more extreme for Strasburg, for he went from the center of the baseball world’s attention to that painful solitude practically overnight. And now his return is more highly anticipated and hyped than just about any similar return I can recall. His physical journey has been as tough as any rehabbing pitcher’s, but his mental journey has to have been much tougher.
So let’s watch tonight to see if he can snap off some of that crazy stuff he showed during those few crazy weeks he captured the nation’s attention in 2010. But let’s also see if we can’t tell if he’s, well, a little crazy from the roller coaster ride.
Rookie left-hander Steven Matz hasn’t pitched since September 24 because of a back injury, but he’s on the Mets’ playoff roster for the NLDS and looks likely to start Game 4 against the Dodgers.
Matz prepped for a potential start by throwing 80 pitches in a simulated game Thursday and apparently experienced no issues. Even setting aside the health question mark Matz has started just six games in the majors, but he’s 4-0 with a 2.27 ERA and 34/10 K/BB ratio in 35.2 innings.
Matz is one of 11 pitchers on the NLDS roster, along with 14 position players. No big surprises.
Here are the Astros and Royals lineups for Game 2 of the ALDS in Kansas City:
2B Jose Altuve
RF George Springer
SS Carlos Correa
LF Colby Rasmus
DH Evan Gattis
3B Luis Valbuena
1B Chris Carter
C Jason Castro
CF Jake Marisnick
SP Scott Kazmir
Carlos Gomez remains out of the lineup with an intercostal injury, so Marisnick makes another start in center field after going 2-for-4 with standout defense in Game 1.
SS Alcides Escobar
2B Ben Zobrist
CF Lorenzo Cain
1B Eric Hosmer
DH Kendrys Morales
3B Mike Moustakas
C Salvador Perez
LF Alex Gordon
RF Alex Rios
SP Johnny Cueto
Royals manager Ned Yost sticks with the same lineup as Game 1, which isn’t surprising given that he trotted out the same lineup for basically the entire postseason run last year. Cueto gets the ball after Yost chose Yordano Ventura for Game 1 duties.
Most new general managers like to bring in their own manager and Jerry Dipoto is no different. Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times reports that Dipoto has decided to fire manager Lloyd McClendon, who was brought in by Seattle’s old front office regime two offseasons ago and has a 163-161 record.
McClendon is under contract for 2016 and met with Dipoto this week, saying all the right things afterward about wanting to remain on the job and work together. Ultimately, though, McClendon has never drawn particularly positive reviews as a manager and Dipoto no doubt has some specific favorites in mind to replace him. Divish names Tim Bogar, currently a special assistant with the Angels after being brought into that role by Dipoto, as a “favorite” for the job.
Divish notes that Dipoto may have been even more inclined than most new GMs to bring in his own guy to manage because reportedly losing a power struggle against Mike Scioscia led to his departure from the Angels earlier this season. In seven total seasons as a big-league manager McClendon has a .451 winning percentage and zero playoff appearances.