Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times alerts us to something neat: the Mariners are going to call up and presumably play the first Italian-born player in nearly 50 years. And it’s not as if he were born at Aviano Air Base and came to the states when he was still in diapers, either. He’s totally Italian:
[Alex] Liddi, 23, will also be the first graduate of the MLB European Academy to play in the majors as well as the first Italian born and raised player to do it … Liddi stayed in his native city of San Remo and played amateur baseball in Italy until signed by Seattle at age 17.
Cue a bunch of obvious Italian stereotypes because most of us just can’t help ourselves. And cue some not-so-obvious ones from people like me.
You see, my wife’s family is Italian. Like, really Italian with a whole branch of it including her much older half-sister having been born, raised and still living over there. Which means I have a nephew named Marco over there who is not much younger than Liddi, and through a couple of meetings and a lot of silly interaction on Facebook I have been exposed to a fair amount of Italian youth culture. Which is simultaneously awesome, hilarious and frightening.
If Liddi is anything like that completely ridiculous nephew of mine and his dozens of completely ridiculous Italian friends, I would highly, highly recommend that the beat writers get near this guy in the clubhouse after games because he will NOT offer you the boilerplate “I just want to help the team win some games” rebop. Rather, he’ll, like, dance and then name-check some weird European combination hip hop/death metal band and then show you inappropriate pictures of his friend’s girlfriend which — when you see them — you’ll wonder how in the hell his friend let him have a copy in the first place. And when you try to gently criticize him, everyone will yell at you for being insensitive to the impressionable young boy.
Or maybe I’m just working through some family issues right now.
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.