Craig Kimbrel, Jeremy Hellickson named Rookies of the Year

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The official award season is upon us and the first announcement has been made: your 2011 Rookies of the Year are Craig Kimbrel in the NL and Jeremy Hellickson in the AL. Kimbrel was voted the award unanimously. Hellickson received 17 of the 28 first place votes.

Kimbrel seemed like a lock for some time.  Closing games is a high profile endeavor, and Kimbrel closed them like crazy.  He led the league with 46 saves, breaking Neftali Feliz’s record for rookies in the process.  A dominant force out of the pen in 2011, Kimbrel struck out 127 batters in 77 innings while only issuing 32 unintentional walks, for a K/BB ratio of 3.97. Therein lies the key to his success, as over the course of his minor league career he only stuck out 2.55 batters for every one he walked.

As for Hellickson, his 13 wins — five down the stretch as Tampa Bay made their improbable late drive for the AL Wild Card — and 2.95 ERA put him fairly easily past Mark Trumbo and Eric Hosmer.  He led all rookie pitchers in ERA, innings (189), starts (29) and opponents’ batting average (.210).

Finishing behind Kimbrel was his Braves teammate Freddie Freeman, then Vance Worley and Wilson Ramos.  Complete voting results can be found over at BBBWA.com.

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.