Rick Porcello

With scouts watching, Rick Porcello turns in gem

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At least according to the numbers, Rick Porcello turned in one of the best outings of the spring so far Monday, striking out six in four scoreless innings against the Astros. The watchers were likely pretty impressed, too.

With Porcello rumored to be available in trade talks, today’s performance came in front of a “ton” of scouts, according to FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal. MLB.com said it was “more than a half-dozen.”

The Tigers are weighing whether Drew Smyly’s emergence as a rotation option has made Porcello expendable. The truth is that they don’t get as much from Porcello as another team might; the groundballs he so frequently generates too often skip past Jhonny Peralta, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. Give him another set of infielders and he probably would have finished with ERAs in the low-4.00s the last couple of years. Instead, he’s come in at 4.92, 4.75 and 4.59 since a stronger rookie season in 2009.

However, there is a problem in trading Porcello; especially after moving Justin Turner last summer, they’d have very little rotation depth beyond their top five with Porcello gone. Rule 5 pick Kyle Lobstein, veteran Shawn Hill, prospect Casey Crosby and relief candidate Duane Below are their next best options and none inspire much confidence. For that reason, the ideal Porcello trade might be similar to the one the A’s pulled off with the Diamondbacks last year, when they got Jarrod Parker in return for Trevor Cahill.

Alternatively, the Tigers could trade Porcello for a closer candidate. However, there don’t appear to be any teams looking to move established closers at this time. The Cubs’ Carlos Marmol is very much available, but he’s hardly a safe choice to close for a contender these days. Perhaps the best fit would be with Colorado and Rafael Betancourt. The Rockies could certainly use another starter with upside, and while Betancourt isn’t a big name, he’s an excellent reliever.

For now, the Tigers might as well take a wait and see approach and keep their six starters until the end of the spring in case one gets hurt. They’ll also have a better handle on their bullpen by the final week of the month.

Cardinals will bring back Mike Matheny for the 2017 season

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - SEPTEMBER 16:  Manager Mike Matheny #22 of the St. Louis Cardinals looks on while the umpires review a call against the San Francisco Giants in the top of the third inning at AT&T Park on September 16, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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The Cardinals went from winning 100 games last season to 82 entering Wednesday evening’s game, and they might not even make the playoffs. Still, the organization will bring back manager Mike Matheny for the 2017 season, Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.

Owner Bill DeWitt, Jr. said, “Mike’s done a really good job for us. There’s no thought that we’re going to go in any different direction.”

GM John Mozeliak also expressed his support, saying, “Mike takes a lot of heat, and I’ve defended him and I will continue to. I really feel like some of the things that we’re dealing with aren’t fair to put on the manager.”

Mozeliak continued, “I do feel like all of us are always held accountable for what we do here, so there’s nobody excluded from that. But having said that, I don’t look at him as someone that we are where we are because of that.”

Matheny has received criticism for his bullpen usage, but the Cardinals have only 15 blown saves as a team, the fourth-lowest total in baseball this season.

Pete Mackanin on Phillies’ bullpen: “Somebody else has to [bleeping] step up.”

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JUNE 15: Manager Pete Mackanin #45 of the Philadelphia Phillies makes a pitching change in the eighth inning during a game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Citizens Bank Park on June 15, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Blue Jays won 7-2. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
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The Phillies’ bullpen led to yet another loss on Tuesday. Severino Gonzalez, Luis Garcia, Joely Rodriguez, and David Hernandez combined to allow six runs in five innings, allowing the Braves to come back and win 7-6 after falling behind 6-0 after the first two innings.

The game prior, the Phillies’ bullpen surrendered 14 runs in four innings in a 17-0 loss to the Mets. The game before that, the bullpen yielded four runs in four innings, nearly squandering the Phillies’ 10-0 lead after four innings. And last Thursday, the Phillies had taken an 8-6 lead in the top of the 11th, but Edubray Ramos served up a walk-off three-run home run to Asdrubal Cabrera. It’s been a tough month.

Manager Pete Mackanin ripped the bullpen when speaking to the media after Tuesday’s game. Via Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly:

Neris was going to close for us. I thought about using him with two outs in the eighth. But, at some point, somebody else has to do a (bleeping) job. Somebody else has to (bleeping) step up. In two games now, every reliever I brought in has given up a (bleeping) run. That’s unheard of.

The Phillies currently own the fourth-worst bullpen ERA in baseball at 4.97.  Only the Rockies (5.12), Reds (5.07), and Diamondbacks (4.98) have been worse.

In fairness to the bullpen, aside from Jeanmar Gomez (who lost his job as closer earlier this month) and free agent signee David Hernandez, the bullpen is intentionally comprised of young, inexperienced pitchers as the Phillies are still rebuilding. If the Phillies were aiming for a playoff spot, it would be one thing, but the struggles are to be expected when one throws 24-year-olds into the deep end.