From Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post …
In his fifth professional season and more than three years removed from Tommy John surgery, Strasburg has a reached a point at which he feels comfortable building off his current, considerable arsenal. Along with his fastball, curve and changeup, Strasburg is working to add a slider.
“It’s just a work in progress,” Strasburg told Kilgore on Tuesday in Nationals camp. “It’s something that I’ve been messing with. I’m just trying to get a feel for it. I’m not going to dump any of my other pitches. But I’ll just have something in the back pocket. … I think my arm is more flexible, like I’m staying behind it more.”
Strasburg, 25, owns an outstanding 2.96 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and 10.4 K/9 through his first 434 1/3 career major league innings. He is the third-ranked starting pitcher — behind only Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers and Cliff Lee of the Phillies — in the 2014 Rotoworld Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide.
Yankees first baseman Greg Bird gave his team tons of confidence to hand him the everyday job at first base to start the 2017 regular season, batting .451/.556/1.098 with eight home runs in 51 spring at-bats. But he’s followed that up by hitting .107/.254/.214 through the first month of the regular season.
GM Brian Cashman doesn’t have any intent to demote Bird back to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch reports. Cashman said, “It’s not even an option for me in my mind right now, at all.”
Bird didn’t start Sunday’s game against the Orioles, a 7-4 loss in 11 innings. Lefty Wade Miley started for the Orioles, prompting manager Joe Girardi to put Chris Carter into the lineup at first base. If Bird isn’t able to figure things out, Carter might have an increased role on the team.
Rays starter Chris Archer threw his first pitch to Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista behind the slugger’s back with one out in the first inning of Sunday afternoon’s game in Toronto. Bautista and Archer then had a staredown. Home plate umpire Jim Wolf issued warnings to both teams. Bautista ultimately flied out to right field and he appeared to have a quick word with Archer on his way back to the dugout.
Archer could have been exacting revenge — euphemistically known as “protecting his teammate” — because Jays reliever Joe Biagini hit Rays outfielder Steven Souza in the seventh inning of Saturday’s game. Souza was forced to leave the game and underwent an X-ray, which came back negative. He was held out of Sunday’s lineup. Biagini’s pitch did not appear to be intentional.
The Jays won Sunday’s contest 3-1 with no further incident. The two clubs meet again in Tampa for a three-game series starting on May 5, so we’ll see if Sunday was the last of the bad blood between them.