J.A. Happ probably would have opened the season as the most well-compensated pitcher in Triple-A if Ricky Romero hadn’t struggled so mightily this spring. Inserted into the Blue Jays’ rotation instead, Happ struck out six in 5 1/3 innings and combined with three relievers on a two-hit shutout of the Red Sox on Saturday.
The Blue Jays got homers from J.P. Arencibia and Colby Rasmus to account for all of their runs in the 5-0 game.
Rather than retain Happ as a reliever, the Blue Jays were expected to keep him stretched out by letting him lead Triple-A Buffalo’s rotation initially this season. That only changed at the very end of the spring, when they opted to demote Romero instead. Before that, Happ was frustrated enough with his situation that he considered asking for a trade. It’s safe to say he’s a lot happier now; not only did he get the rotation spot, but he received a two-year, $8.9 million contract at the end of March.
It was a miserable day for the Red Sox. Starter John Lackey, making his return from Tommy John surgery, left clutching his arm in the fifth and was diagnosed with a biceps strain that figures to keep him out for some time. His likely replacement in the rotation, Alfredo Aceves, came in and soon afterwards gave up a three-run bomb to Colby Rasmus.
The Red Sox also went 26 outs between hits. Jacoby Ellsbury started the top of the first with a double, but he was left stranded. The next hit came when Dustin Pedroia collected an infield single with two outs in the ninth. Mike Napoli followed that with a drive to the wall in center, only to be robbed by Rasmus.
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.