Don’t blame me for the word “macho,” which I thought went away when “Three’s Company” went off the year. Boswell uses it. But at least he uses it in the service of a good point:
Nothing in baseball is trickier than figuring out how to handle small day-to-day injuries that can quickly turn into four- to six-week trips to the DL. After 38 seasons of covering baseball, I don’t think anybody is much good at it. But you can spot patterns and problems. Whether consciously or not, the Nats have developed an ultra-macho team culture of playing with “minor” injuries. While the Nats are conservative in recovery protocols after major surgeries, they seem to be just the opposite in dealing with “dings.” It’s not working. And it’s contributing to killing their 28-29 season.
Boswell gives numerous examples of banged-up Nats players whose effectiveness seems to have been hampered by injuries that probably should have landed them on the disabled list.
Boswell doesn’t put too fine a point on who is to blame, however. He politely notes that, perhaps, Mike Rizzo’s assessment of players’ ouchies has not been accurate. He talks about a culture that Davey Johnson has created of players being hard-nosed. He also gives voice to Rizzo’s comments that maybe the players aren’t playing “smart” with injuries.
But as with the case with the Mets a few years ago, isn’t this also an issue for the medical staff? Are they doing their job? Is Rizzo pulling the trigger fast enough on DL calls? Is Johnson’s “World Series of Bust” pronouncement from the spring being taken far too literally? And is the team doing anything about it?
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.