Sure, Miguel Cabrera won the Triple Crown. But that’s only because no one wanted to give Dan Johnson 550 at-bats.
Johnson hit his first three homers of the season for the White Sox in a 9-0 win over the Indians on Wednesday. He took David Huff deep in the second and fifth innings and then hit the second of back-to-back homers with Dayan Viciedo off Vinnie Pestano in the ninth.
Johnson had just 17 at-bats this season going into the night. He was in the starting lineup primarily because the White Sox didn’t want Adam Dunn to get two strikeouts and break Mark Reynolds’ single-season record of 223.
As you may remember, Johnson also came up big in last year’s season finale. Playing for the Rays, he hit a pinch-hit homer in the bottom of the ninth to send the game against the Yankees into extra innings. The Rays went on to win in 12 to overtake the Red Sox for the AL wild card.
In all, Johnson has 56 homers in 1,320 major league at-bats. The first 42 of those came with the A’s from 2005-07. After getting overtaken in Oakland’s plans, he briefly went to Japan, but didn’t find it to his liking. He’s mostly torn up Triple-A ever since. When he has played in the majors, he’s hit .184 with 12 homers and 40 walks in 217 at-bats over the last three years.
Johnson is 33 now and he’s not an exceptional first baseman, so it’s hard to say whether anyone will give him a real opportunity next spring. The White Sox don’t have room for him with Paul Konerko and Dunn under contract, so they’ll likely make him a free agent later this month.
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.