Darren O’Day isn’t a conventional pitcher. He’s given plenty of quality right-handed hitters a tough time during his big-league career. Still, it was kind of telling that Alex Rodriguez couldn’t catch up to his 85-mph fastball in Thursday’s loss to the Orioles.
A-Rod did get a single and a walk in five plate appearances Thursday. However, Yankees manager Joe Girardi again made the call to pull him with the game on the line. Unlike Wednesday, it didn’t pay off tonight, as Eric Chavez lined out in his place to end the 13-inning marathon. Still, pretty much everyone figures A-Rod would have struck out anyway.
Starting Rodriguez against left-hander Joe Saunders on Thursday was the right move. Now that the Orioles are going back to a righty in Jason Hammel for Game 5, it’s time for Rodriguez to take a seat. His bat is too slow to make him a threat right now, and if he’s capable of guessing fastball and cheating on it, he certainly hasn’t showed it so far.
Chavez should play third base in his place. Chavez hit .298/.365/.543 with 16 homers in 245 at-bats against righties during the regular season. A-Rod hit .256/.326/.391 with 10 homers in 317 at-bats.
Really, as bad as A-Rod has looked, this doesn’t even make for a tough call. Rodriguez is hardly the only Yankee struggling — Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson aren’t getting it done either — but Chavez has been the superior option against righties for months now and with the season on the line, the Yankees can’t afford to be going with their lesser players. It’d do or die, and A-Rod appears long dead.
The San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser reports that Athletics’ right-hander Sonny Gray will not pitch in the World Baseball Classic after failing to meet the necessary criteria for insurance coverage. He missed 70 days on the disabled list with forearm tightness and a back strain in 2016.
According to Oakland GM David Forst, Major League Baseball tried to persuade the insurance carrier to waive the requirements for Gray to pitch for Team USA, but the request was ultimately refused. Without coverage, Gray will be unable to participate in the competition, though Forst adds that the 27-year-old is still in perfect health as Opening Day approaches and should benefit from a slower spring training schedule without the added commitment on his plate.
Injuries complicated a down year for Gray, who pitched to a career-worst 5.69 ERA, 3.2 BB/9 and 7.2 SO/9 rate through 117 innings in 2016. His 1.4 HR/9 and 17.8% HR/FB rates suggested that he felt the effects of the home run spike more than most, capping a disappointing follow-up to his All-Star campaign during 2015.
While Gray works up to a healthy and productive start to the 2017 season, the Athletics will still see two players on WBC rosters next month: right-handed reliever Santiago Casilla, who is scheduled to pitch for the Dominican Republic, and fellow righty John Axford, for Team Canada.
Rangers’ outfielder Josh Hamilton is scheduled for another knee exam on Monday, according to Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Hamilton left camp last week after feeling some pain in his left knee and received a PRP injection to alleviate the symptoms. Wilson notes that both Dr. Walt Lowe and Rangers’ assistant general manager Mike Daly noticed little improvement in the days following the injection.
More drastic measures could be necessary if the 35-year-old intends to return to the field this year. MLB.com’s TR Sullivan adds that the Rangers are considering arthroscopic surgery for Hamilton, which would set him back at least 4-6 weeks and eliminate any real chance of his making the Opening Day roster in April. Until they see the results of the surgery, however, the Rangers won’t rule out Hamilton’s potential return to the big leagues in 2017.
Hamilton is looking at his third major procedure since the end of the 2015 season. He missed all of the Rangers’ 2016 campaign after undergoing reconstructive knee surgery last spring and has not seen a full workload in the majors since his 2013 run with the Angels. Should he make a full recovery this season, he figures to see some time at first base/DH or the corner outfield.