Edward Mujica has been brilliant since stepping into the Cardinals’ closer role, converting 21 consecutive saves with a 2.20 ERA and 25/1 K/BB ratio in 28.2 innings heading into last night.
And then last night against the Angels he blew his first save of the season by serving up a game-tying two-run homer to Josh Hamilton and a game-winning single to Erick Aybar, with both hits coming on changeups.
After the game Mujica explained to Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com that catcher Yadier Molina had called for a fastball on both pitches:
With a 1-0 count against Hamilton, Molina called for an inside fastball. Mujica shook it off, wanting to throw his signature split-changeup. Hamilton crushed it for a two-run homer. … Nine-hole hitter Erick Aybar worked the count to 2-1, at which point Molina, again, called fastball. Mujica instead went back to his changeup. Aybar dropped it into left to send the Cardinals to their second walk-off loss of the season.
“I didn’t follow Yadi, and that’s a mistake I can’t make anymore,” Mujica said. “From now on, I’m just going with Yadi. It was a big mistake.”
Molina is such an amazing defensive catcher and is consistently given so much credit for the Cardinals’ success that shaking him off leading to blown saves makes for a very interesting narrative. It’s at least worth noting, however, that Mujica’s changeup has been an incredibly effective pitch. In fact, according to Fan Graphs it’s been one of the 10 best pitches thrown by relievers this season. I’ll be curious to track if Mujica throws it less often going forward.
The dust hasn’t quite settled after right-hander Dellin Betances‘ arbitration hearing with the Yankees on Saturday. The case was decided in the team’s favor, awarding Betances with a $3 million salary for the 2017 season instead of the $5 million he initially requested. Yankees’ president Randy Levine held a press conference to voice his outrage over the figure presented by Betances and his agency, saying it had “no bearings in reality” since Betances does not have the elite closer status required for a salary bump of that magnitude.
Needless to say, the comments caused some consternation within Betances’ camp. The reliever publicly addressed the outburst, telling the press that he was prepared to put his differences with the team aside until he heard what Levine had to say. Via MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch:
Players union executive Rick Shapiro and Betances’ agent, Jim Murray, also spoke out in the right-hander’s favor. Shapiro presented Betances’ case during the hearing on Saturday and called Levine’s comments “an absolute disgrace to the arbitration process and to all of Major League Baseball.” In a report from FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, Shapiro added: “The only thing that has been unprecedented in the last 36 hours is that a club official, after winning a case, called a news conference to effectively gloat about his victory – that’s unprecedented.”
Murray spoke exclusively to Rosenthal, accusing the president of effectively bullying the 28-year-old during the arbitration process and claiming that Levine had both mispronounced Betances’ name throughout the hearing and blamed the reliever for “declining ticket sales and their lack of playoff history.” Like Betances, Murray said that the agency was ready to accept the arbiter’s decision and move on before Levine’s decision to air his grievances to the media. “The only person overreaching in this entire situation is Randy,” Murray told Rosenthal. “He might as well be an astronaut because nobody on earth would agree with what he is saying. Even the others in the room would disagree with him.”
Royals’ manager Ned Yost is shaking things up in 2017, starting with left fielder Alex Gordon. Yost told MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan that “every scenario is open,” and expects to utilize Gordon in right and center field this spring while he figures out where to position Jorge Soler and Brandon Moss.
Gordon, 33, hasn’t manned right field since a three-game experiment with the Royals back in 2010 and has yet to play center field during any regular season to date. The focus, however, isn’t on Gordon’s capabilities. Among the three outfielders, he carries the best defensive profile and appears to be the most versatile of the bunch.
According to Flanagan, Soler and Moss are average on defense and will continue working closely with Royals’ coach Rusty Kuntz as the season approaches. One arrangement could see Gordon in center field, flanked by Soler in right field and Moss in left, though Yost foresees Soler taking some reps at DH if his defensive chops aren’t up to snuff.
While Moss is prepared to see starts at either outfield corner, Yost appears to be set on keeping Soler in right field, at least for the time being. The club is hoping for a bounce-back season from the 24-year-old outfielder, who was acquired from the Cubs in December after batting a lackluster .238/.333/.436 and sustaining a slew of minor injuries throughout the 2016 season.