Ryan Zimmerman needing a stint on the disabled list certainly isn’t a surprise considering the third baseman’s shoulder injury hasn’t shown any improvement, but the Nationals’ choice to replace him on the roster is a shocker.
General manager Mike Rizzo announced that Bryce Harper will be called up from Triple-A tomorrow to make his MLB debut this weekend at Dodger Stadium, which seemingly comes out of nowhere given that the top prospect was hitting just .250 with a .333 on-base percentage and .375 slugging percentage in 20 games at Triple-A.
Despite that lackluster production, Harper is coming to the majors at age 19 and with a grand total of 57 games above Single-A. Presumably the Nationals wouldn’t call him up to do anything but play every day, which means Rick Ankiel, Roger Bernadina, and Xavier Nady will lose outfield playing time and Mark DeRosa may see most of his remaining action paired with Chad Tracy at third base.
Harper’s arrival is coming significantly sooner and after significantly less success at Triple-A than anyone could have expected, with Rizzo admitting that “this isn’t the optimal situation developmentally.” However, it’s also worth noting that by keeping him in the minors for even a few weeks the Nationals have likely delayed his eventual free agency by an extra year.
UPDATE: Adding to the drama? Stephen Strasburg will be on the mound for the Nationals tomorrow.
UPDATE #2: Rizzo said the plan is for Harper to play left field, where he started just two twice in 20 games at Triple-A, and the GM indicated that there’s no guarantee he’ll stay in the majors once Zimmerman returns.
Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon hasn’t selected a fifth starter for his 2017 rotation yet, but told reporters that he could envision left-handers Brett Anderson and Mike Montgomery sharing the spot throughout the year. Neither pitcher was stretched out to the full 200-inning threshold last year, Maddon added, and suggested that the two could alternate innings out of the rotation and bullpen as needed (via MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat).
Anderson, 29, was acquired by the Cubs in January on a $3.5 million deal. He’s coming off a rough 2016, during which he underwent back surgery and missed all but 11 1/3 innings of his last season with the Dodgers. His last full, healthy year in the majors yielded a 3.69 ERA, 2.3 BB/9 and 5.8 SO/9 over 180 1/3 innings with Los Angeles in 2015.
Montgomery, meanwhile, is vying for a rotation spot after pitching almost exclusively from the bullpen during the second half of the Cubs’ 2016 run. The 27-year-old lefty put up a 2.82 ERA, 4.7 BB/9 and 8.9 SO/9 over 38 1/3 innings for Chicago last year, returning in the postseason to post a 3.14 ERA during the Cubs’ championship finish.
Maddon also mentioned the possibility of throwing a sixth starter into the mix, which would help prevent his other starters from getting overworked too early in the year. Either way, Anderson and Montgomery are expected to get a lot of looks early in spring training as rotation spots are finalized in the weeks leading up to Opening Day.
Orioles’ center fielder Michael Bourn is expected to be sidelined for four weeks while he rehabs a broken ring finger on his right hand, according to reports from the Baltimore Sun’s Peter Schmuck. Bourn broke the finger while playing catch with a football after a spring training workout.
The veteran outfielder re-signed with the club earlier this week on a minor league deal and was prepared to compete for a bench role this season. He’s in line to receive a $2 million salary if he makes the major league roster and can make an additional $3.5 million in incentives based on a set number of plate appearances. Now, however, his chances of cracking the roster out of spring training look considerably diminished, as his current timetable gives him an approximate return date of March 25 if all goes well.
Bourn had an impressive, if short-lived run with the Orioles following his trade to Baltimore last August, batting .283/.358/.435 with two home runs and a .793 OPS in 55 PA. While still somewhat removed from the totals that brought him an All-Star nod with the Braves in 2012, his defensive chops should give the Orioles some depth in center once he’s healthy again.