Playoff ratings were up 20 percent from last year

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So much for the whole “baseball is dying” theme. MLB issued the following press release this afternoon declaring this year’s playoffs as a ratings success:

For the entire month of Postseason baseball beginning with the Wild Card games, viewership increased +20% across FOX, TBS and MLB Network (6.3 million average viewers), the largest year-over-year increase since 2009. In addition, 2013 marks the first year since 2001 that viewership increased for every round of the Postseason as well as the All-Star Game.

The World Series finished with an average of 14.9 million viewers, up +17% over last year and marking the largest year-over-year viewership increase for the World Series since 2009. As for Game 6 on Wednesday night, 19.2 million viewers tuned in, making it the most-watched MLB game since Game 7 of the 2011 World Series, based on Nielsen data. The game was the highest-rated show across all of television on Wednesday, and FOX once again won the night in primetime against all competition, something it has done on all six nights of the World Series.

There are some caveats with this announcement, as the Associated Press points out. Last year’s World Series had the lowest average rating ever and didn’t have much drama to it, so it didn’t take much for this one to be a marked improvement by comparison. This year’s World Series will also go down as the lowest-rated for a matchup that went at least six games. However, it’s perfectly logical to see this as a sign of the times with television viewership on the whole as opposed to “sky is falling” evidence of baseball’s downfall. All in all, a pretty good month for MLB.

Aledmys Diaz is trying to improve his defense with strobe glasses

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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.

Eduardo Rodriguez could rejoin the Red Sox rotation in July

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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.