Plucky Diamondbacks can’t count on a repeat performance

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They were the comeback kids of 2011: the Diamondbacks won a major league-high 48 games in which they were trailing on their way to the NL West crown.

Too bad that’s not the kind of thing a team can count on carrying over from year to year.

Ian Kennedy, Miguel Montero, Ryan Roberts, Josh Collmenter, Gerardo Parra all might have had career seasons for Arizona. Starting pitchers Daniel Hudson and Joe Saunders likewise exceeded expectations, and the team’s best hitter, Justin Upton, played in 159 games after missing significant time in each of his first three seasons.

It’s not that everything went right for the Diamondbacks; Stephen Drew’s injury was a big inconvenience and the team got little from first base and second base for much of the season.

But more went right than anyone would have counted on six months ago, which is why Kirk Gibson is very likely to be named the NL’s Manager of the Year after the World Series.

It’s not going out on a limb to suggest that things won’t break so well in 2012. Kennedy could be excellent again and still not win 21 games. Roberts is a flawed player, one who will probably need to be returned to a utility role as next year goes along. Collmenter’s funky delivery and two-pitch arsenal probably won’t fool so many hitters.

So, the Diamondbacks need to be aggressive. Adding a legitimate No. 3 starter to pitch behind Kennedy and Hudson has to be the priority. Top prospect Jarrod Parker may be that pitcher as the season goes along, but it’d be for the best if he can start the year in the minors.

The Diamondbacks will also address second base, whether it’s in re-signing free agent Aaron Hill or looking elsewhere. They don’t need to do a whole lot else for the offense. Paul Goldschmidt looks like the answer at first. I’m not sure Parra will hit so well again, but he’s a nice option in left field while he’s cheap. Besides the second baseman, they really just need a solid player to pair with Roberts.

Arizona will likely enter 2012 as the favorites in the NL West, but that simply doesn’t count for much. Let’s hope owner Ken Kendrick untightens the purse strings some more in an effort to keep the Diamondbacks on top.

Aledmys Diaz is trying to improve his defense with strobe glasses

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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.

Eduardo Rodriguez could rejoin the Red Sox rotation in July

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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.