The Indians released Japanese right-handed starter Daisuke Matsuzaka on Tuesday after he posted a 3.92 ERA in 103.1 innings with Triple-A Columbus. The Mets signed him yesterday and immediately inserted him into the rotation to make his debut in Queens against the heavy-hitting Tigers, his first Major League appearance since October 3, 2012.
The Tigers quickly got to Matsuzaka. After Austin Jackson struck out to lead off the first inning, Torii Hunter smashed a solo home run to left inning. Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder followed up with singles, but “Dice-K” was able to work his way out of trouble. The Mets got the run back in the bottom half of the first on a Marlon Byrd RBI single.
In the second, Hunter and Cabrera teamed up to blow the game wide open. With runners on first and second and two outs, Hunter hit a ground-rule double, scoring one run. Then Cabrera crushed a three-run home run to left, his 41st of the season, to left field to put the Tigers up 5-1. It was also the 362nd home run of the third baseman’s career, putting him one ahead of Joe DiMaggio and tying him with Todd Helton for 76th all-time.
Matsuzaka calmed down, retiring ten consecutive Tigers after the Cabrera home run. He was pulled after five innings having allowed the five runs on six hits and a walk while striking out four. He threw 86 pitches. Carlos Torres came on in relief of Matsuzaka in the sixth.
The news has gone from bad to worse for Dodgers’ left-hander Julio Urias, who is scheduled for anterior capsule surgery on his left shoulder next Tuesday and expected to be sidelined through the middle of the 2018 season. His MRI came back negative on Wednesday, giving the Dodgers some hope that the 20-year-old’s bout of shoulder inflammation wasn’t masking any structural damage, but the pain lingered several days later and prompted further concern from the club. The procedure will be performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache.
Urias was optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City in late May and placed on the disabled list with left shoulder discomfort several weeks into his assignment. At the major league level, he owned a 5.40 ERA, 5.4 BB/9 and 4.2 SO/9 through 23 1/3 innings, going 0-2 in five starts with Los Angeles. He made a brief rebound in Triple-A, posting three wins and striking out 17 of 67 batters in 17 1/3 innings before landing on the DL.
It’s a tough blow for the southpaw, who had yet to hit his stride in the majors before getting sidelined with shoulder issues. The Dodgers were especially mindful of this outcome for Urias, and had taken preventative measures to protect his arm by establishing a strict innings limit last season. According to club president Andrew Friedman, there’s a small silver lining here: while Urias’ injury will keep him out of work for at least 12 months, he doesn’t appear to have sustained any damage to his labrum or rotator cuff, and could be facing a much more streamlined recovery process as a result. Whether he’ll be able to rebound once he takes the mound again remains to be seen.
Tigers’ right-handed reliever Francisco Rodriguez was released on Friday, per a team announcement. The club recalled fellow right-hander Bruce Rondon from Triple-A Toledo in a corresponding move.
The former closer got the boot after losing his closing role in early May, giving left-hander Justin Wilson a chance to impress at the back end of the bullpen. It’s been a rough year for Rodriguez, who manufactured six blown saves and a 7.82 ERA, 3.9 BB/9 and 8.2 SO/9 over 25 1/3 innings for the Tigers. The final straw, it seemed, came with Robinson Cano‘s grand slam in the seventh inning of the Tigers’ 6-9 loss to the Mariners on Thursday.
While the demotion to a clean-up role and an apparent lack of communication caused Rodriguez considerable frustration, he’s two years removed from his last dominant performance as a major league closer and has shown few signs of returning to form. His recent slump doesn’t diminish the impressive totals he’s racked up over his 16-year career — 437 saves and six All-Star nominations among them — but if he can’t break out of it soon, he may not receive the kind of high leverage role he’s seeking with another big league team, either.