The Rangers are matching up with the Blue Jays for the first time this season, which means catcher J.P. Arencibia gets the chance to face his former team. The Jays non-tendered Arencibia last December, and shortly thereafter Arencibia signed a one-year, $1.8 million deal with the Rangers. Despite hitting 64 home runs between 2010-13 in Toronto, Arencibia received criticism for his low batting average (.212) and on-base percentage (.258). The average ranked as the third-worst in that time span among qualified hitters while the on-base percentage was dead last.
The two teams opened up the series on Friday night, and there was radio silence between Arencibia and the Toronto media. But he broke it on Saturday to accuse Toronto writers of portraying him as the team’s villain. Via Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star:
“I learned the media controls a lot of things and the only question that you guys were writing in the off-season was what they were going to do behind the plate, when obviously the pitching was something that needed to be addressed,” he told the Star after taking batting practice. “But I was the only question because I was the villain of the team.”
“I think the media made me out to be a monster — I wasn’t. They changed a lot of things that I said or made up stories. So I thought that that was a big thing that went down. I learned how much media does control things.”
Arencibia also added that he is very much enjoying his time with the Rangers, citing a different and more fun culture. However, he is slashing a meager .133/.182/.233 in 66 plate appearances. His poor performance with the Rangers isn’t as likely to draw as much criticism because he doesn’t have a history with the team. Arencibia was taken in the first round, 21st overall, in the 2007 draft. He crushed minor league pitching, bashing 80 home runs between 2008-10, giving fans the hope that he would be the club’s catcher of the future. Alas, it was not meant to be.
At any rate, it sounds like Arencibia has a bit of a persecution complex.
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.
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.