Jack Morris was asked about the exploits of aces Justin Verlander and CC Sabathia. And he used the opportunity to take a swipe at the Nationals:
“I think everybody in the Washington Nationals’ front office should pay attention that guys should go deep into games … when I see CC complete a game two days after Justin did, and I see guys doing it, it reminds me that there’s still hope because — I can say this, Phyllis, and you can’t tell me I can’t say this ‑‑ I believe the pitch count is overrated. I think the whole thing will come to fruition, the cycle, the experiment, and they will see that there is value in starting pitching to go deep in the games, to help save the bullpen.”
At the outset I gotta say that Jack Morris going after the Strasburg shutdown is the very definition of mixed feelings for me. Can’t we just say they’re both wrong and be done with it? Short of that, can we ask Morris what it was like to pitch year-in-year-out with his innings eating peers Dave Rozema and Mark Fydrich?
OK, that’s too simple. How about this: pointing to the accomplishments of perhaps the two most reliable workhorses in baseball and saying “look, everyone should do that” is silly. There have always been amazing pitchers who can do that sort of thing — Morris was one of them, by the way — but that doesn’t mean everyone can or should.
It also doesn’t mean, by the way, that shutting down Strasburg early is somehow justified either. Because even if you advocated keeping him going like I did, I don’t think anyone suggested that he should do things like throw 132 pitches like Justin Verlander or go on three days rest all the damn time like CC Sabathia did back in 2008. You can extend his season and have him available without him being used like tried-and-true beasts such as Verlander and Sabathia.
How about this: some pitchers can do that kind of thing. Some pitchers can’t. All pitchers should be watched and monitored by their teams so as to maximize their effectiveness. For some that means low pitch or innings counts. For others it doesn’t. All pitchers should be used in such a way so as to balance concerns about their health and concerns about the team winning.
But sure, if you want to reduce it all to “pitching counts are an atrocity” or “no one should throw more than XXX innings or pitches,” go ahead and live in your simple little world.
In a special for USA TODAY Sports, Mike Vorkunov details how six teams — the Mets in particular — provide an education program that helps their Dominican prospects earn high school diplomas. It seems like an obvious win-win: smarter players make smarter decisions, making them more likely to achieve their potential as athletes. That, of course, requires spending money, which is why only six teams make the investment. For the players, if baseball doesn’t work out, they are better able to support themselves in other ways.
Vorkunov lists the Pirates, Tigers, Phillies, Diamondbacks, and Mariners as the other teams who provide an education program for their Dominican prospects. We learned earlier this month that the Phillies were also investing in making sure their minor leaguers eat healthy. As Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer reported, “few teams” supply their minor league players with healthy food options.
Juan Henderson, the head of the Mets’ Dominican academy, said, “We see the benefit of it. I gotta tell you, we’re working with a new generation of baseball players. You see in the past that players just carry a bat and a glove and a helmet on the baseball field and in the academy. Those years, I think, are going to be pretty much over. Now they also do that, but they also carry books, they also carry an iPad, they also carry a laptop.”
Kudos to the six teams for making a great decision and here’s hoping the other 24 teams follow suit.
Angels first baseman Albert Pujols cranked out a two-run home run in the third inning against Rangers starter Derek Holland, breaking a scoreless tie. It’s the ninth homer of the season for Pujols and the 569th of his career, putting him into a tie with Rafael Palmeiro for 12th on baseball’s all-time home run leaderboard.
Harmon Killebrew is Pujols’ next target at 573, followed by Mark McGwire at 583 and Frank Robinson at 586.
Pujols hadn’t homered since May 13. He entered Monday night hitting a mediocre .228/.309/.395 with eight home runs and 28 RBI in 188 plate appearances.
Monday has unfortunately been a day of injury news. Royals outfielder Alex Gordon is the latest to hit the 15-day disabled list, as he has been diagnosed with a fractured scaphoid bone in his right wrist. The club has recalled infielder Cheslor Cuthbert from Triple-A Omaha.
Gordon suffered the injury colliding with third baseman Mike Moustakas attempting to catch a fly ball on Sunday afternoon. He is expected to miss three to four weeks, MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan reports.
Gordon was having a tough 2016 campaign and the injury only makes it worse. He’s hitting .211/.319/.331 with four home runs and 10 RBI in 166 plate appearances on the year.
The Royals will likely use Jarrod Dyson and Paulo Orlando in left field in Gordon’s absence.
The Orioles announced on Monday night that the club has traded reliever Brian Matusz to the Braves in exchange for minor league pitchers Brandon Barker and Trevor Belicek. The Braves are also receiving a Competitive Balance Round B pick (76th overall) in the 2016 draft.
Matusz, 29, made his season debut on April 23 after battling a back injury since early March. It’s been a struggle, as the lefty has yielded eight runs on 11 hits and seven walks with just one strikeout in six innings. He is earning $3.9 million and can become a free agent after the season.
MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports that the Braves are expected to designate Matusz for assignment. Essentially, the Braves bought the draft pick for Matusz’s remaining salary of $3 million of $3.9 million total.
Barker, 23, has been pitching at Double-A Mississippi after getting a taste of Triple-A last year. So far this season, the right-hander has a 2.00 ERA with a 40/12 K/BB ratio in 45 innings spanning eight starts and a relief appearance.
Belicek, a 23-year-old left-hander, has spent most of the year with Single-A Rome, compiling a 2.49 ERA with a 29/1 K/BB ratio in 25 1/3 innings over 11 relief appearances.