So, yeah, that amazing September comeback didn’t result in a whole lot of October excitement, but the Rays should only be stronger in 2012.
This was supposed to be something of a rebuilding year for Tampa Bay after the losses of Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena and the decimation of a bullpen that was could have been considered baseball’s best in 2010. The Rays, though, managed to hang tough and win 91 games to make it into the postseason.
There will be no similar exodus this winter. The only significant players not under control for 2012 are Casey Kotchman and Johnny Damon. That doesn’t mean everyone will be back — B.J. Upton could be traded and the Rays may figure it’s not worth exercising Kelly Shoppach’s $3.2 million option — but the Rays shouldn’t have to cut corners this winter.
The Rays will also get a full season from Desmond Jennings next year and perhaps one from Matt Moore, depending on how they want to play it. They could stick with their rotation of James Shields, David Price, Jeremy Hellickson, Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann at the start of the season, allowing them to finesse Moore’s service time a bit. Or they could trade a starter for a shortstop and plug Moore right in. He’d likely be one of the AL’s top lefties right away.
Either way, the Rays will be a big-time threat. Depending on how the winter plays out, the American League’s three best teams on paper next year could all play in the East.
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.