Major League Baseball just announced that Lance Berkman and Jacoby Ellsbury have won the Comeback Player of the Year Awards. Obviously they both had great years after (a) a lost year for Ellsbury due to injury; and (b) a mostly lost year for Berkman which, due to a trade that didn’t work out well and general ineffectiveness, had people thinking his career was over or at least in steep decline. Instead, each of them will get a lot of MVP votes this year.
But I can’t say I agree with the pick of Ellsbury. The award, voted on by the MLB.com beat writers, is “presented annually to one player in each League who has re-emerged on the baseball field during the season.” Yes, Ellsbury re-emerged after a season on the disabled list. But Bartolo Colon re-emrged from the freaking dead, didn’t he? I’m rather shocked he didn’t win.
It’s not about who had the better season. Ellsbury obviously did. But with his age and his pre-injury track record, it shouldn’t be at all surprising that Ellsbury was productive this year. Indeed, it would have been a bigger story if, at age 27, he had yet another injury-marred season and was nearing the end of his career. That he bounced back with health is awesome — and that he performed at such a high level is surprising — but is his story one of a promising player having a breakout year or the story of a true comeback?
Meanwhile, yes, Colon’s second half fade and injuries certainly put a damper on the enthusiasm for his comeback. But what a freaking comeback it was! Given his age, conditioning, the nature of his injury and the fact that he dropped off the face of the Earth for the 2010 season, I’d say that it was more likely that we’d see him elected Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Puerto Rico than we would to see him in the rotation of a playoff contender, let alone an effective member of that rotation for much of the year.
No, this isn’t important. Yes, it’s totally subjective. But they pay me to argue about unimportant and subjective crap all the time, so here we are. And I can’t shake the notion that while Jacoby Ellsbury came back nicely, Bartolo Colon was more or less resurrected. Shoulda been him.
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.