Clint Hurdle, Terry Francona named Managers of the Year

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The Manager of the Year awards, annually given to the guys whose teams exceed expectations by the greatest amount, was claimed Tuesday by Pirates skipper Clint Hurdle in the NL and the Indians’ Terry Francona in the AL.

Hurdle was the easy winner in the Senior Circuit, receiving 25 of the 30 first-place votes. He was listed second on the other five ballots. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly was second, getting two first-place votes and 17 second-place votes. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez was first on three ballots, but he was second on just four, so he finished well behind Mattingly in third place.

The Cardinals’ Mike Matheny was the only other NL manager to receive votes. He was second on four ballots and third on seven.

The AL vote was much closer, with Francona receiving 16 first-place votes to Red Sox manager John Farrell’s 12. A’s skipper Bob Melvin got the remaining two and finished in third place. Overall, Francona finished with 112 points to Farrell’s 96. Both were left off two ballots.

In all, nine AL managers received votes, with Joe Girardi finishing fourth, Joe Maddon fifth and Jim Leyland sixth. Buck Showalter, Ron Washington and Ned Yost each received a single third-place vote.

They were the first Manager of the Year awards for both Hurdle and Francona, who met in the World Series while guiding different teams in 2007. Hurdle had his high finish with the Rockies that year, ending up third in the NL balloting. Francona had never finished higher than fourth in the balloting despite his 744-552 record in eight years with the Red Sox. Of course, expectations were higher then.

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.