Tony Sipp Astros

Tony Sipp pulls double-duty for the Astros

4 Comments

Tony Sipp was a centerfielder at Clemson, but once he became a pitcher he thought the days of patrolling the outfield were behind him.

Nope.

Welcome back to National League baseball, home of the double-switch and creative substitutions.

The Astros were shorthanded in the bullpen on Monday. Fellow lefty Darin Downs, who pitched two innings the day before, was unavailable and Rudy Owens was the long man in the pen, ready to come in if the one-run game went to extra innings.

“Coming into that situation as a staff we kind of knew that once Cosart came out of the game we were going to have to be creative and try to match our guys up as best we could. Having a guy like Tony Sipp who can play the outfield, it gives you that kind of flexibility.”

So Sipp became a strategic pawn in Bo Porter’s master plan.

“When (Sipp) left the dugout (in the eighth inning) he knew he was going to get the first guy and that Williams was going to come in and get Goldschmidt, and then he was going to have (Miguel) Montero,” Porter said. “So it was pretty much explained to him before he left the dugout, so no one was shocked.”

Knowing and being prepared might be two entirely different things, though. Sipp struck out Gerardo Parra and out came Porter to make his unusual double switch, bringing in Jerome Williams to face right-handed hitting Paul Goldschmidt and sending Sipp to right field.

“I didn’t think it was actually going to happen, though. He gave me a warning, but I’m like, ‘Alright, okay Bo,’” Sipp said.

[RELATED: Drake is coming to an Astros game]

Once in the outfield, Sipp started running the possibilities through his head.

“I don’t think I had time to be nervous, I was just more focused more than anything because obviously if I let a guy, if I misplay a ball then I put myself in a worse situation because I have to come back and face Montero, I knew that,” Sipp said. “I joked around with Dexter and told him, ‘Hey, if I have to dive for a ball back me up.’ He was like, ‘Hey, you better not dive.’ Ultimately I would have had to work with whatever situation I had out there so I was fully prepared to dive.”

Williams ended up walking Goldschmidt and Sipp was brought back to the mound to face Miguel Montero, who he also struck out. Kyle Farnsworth then replaced Sipp, who took a seat on the bench to watch Martin Prado strike out to end the inning and preserve the one run lead.

Video: Nelson Cruz hits second-longest home run of 2016

ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 14:  Nelson Cruz #23 of the Seattle Mariners celebrates his solo homerun with Daniel Vogelbach #20 of the Seattle Mariners to take a 2-1 lead over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim during the seventh inning at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 14, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Getty Images
1 Comment

There’s certainly never a bad time to hit a home run, but when you get the opportunity to crush a triple-deck, 493-foot shot off of Tyler Duffey, you should take it. With the Mariners down 2-0 to the Twins in the fourth inning, Cruz hammered a fastball to deep left field for his 39th long ball of the season — and the second-longest home run hit in 2016, to boot.

It doesn’t hurt that the Mariners are 1.5 games back of a playoff spot, although they’ll have to oust the Blue Jays, Orioles, or Tigers to get a wild card. They’ve gone 3-3 in the last week, dropping two consecutive series to the Astros and Blue Jays and taking their series opener against Minnesota 10-1 on Friday night.

Cruz, for his part, entered Saturday’s game with a .299/.337/.610 batting line and six home runs in September. According to ESPN.com’s Home Run Tracker, Cruz sits behind Edwin Encarnacion and Mike Napoli with 13 “no-doubt” home runs in 2016, third-most among major league sluggers. It’s safe to say he can add Saturday’s moonshot to that list.

Marlins’ outfielder and undisputed home run king Giancarlo Stanton remains untouched at the top of the Statcast leaderboard with a 504-ft. home run, and it’s difficult to envision any slugger reaching beyond that before the end of the season. Even so, Cruz won’t need to clear 500 feet to extend an impressive hitting record. One more home run will put the 36-year-old at 40 on the year, making 2016 his third consecutive season with at least 40 homers, and his second such season doing so in Seattle.

Report: John Farrell won’t rule out a postseason return for Pablo Sandoval

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - APRIL 11:  Pablo Sandoval #48 of the Boston Red Sox looks on from the dugout before the Red Sox home opener against the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park on April 11, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Orioles defeat the Red Sox 9-7.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Getty Images
7 Comments

It’s been a strange season for Red Sox’ third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who lost his starting role in spring training, went 0-for-6 in three regular season appearances, and underwent season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder in May. That was the last the Red Sox were supposed to hear about Sandoval until spring 2017, when he was expected to rejoin the team after a lengthy rehab stint in Florida.

On Saturday, manager John Farrell was telling a different story. Per MLB.com’s Sam Blum, Farrell hinted that Sandoval could return to the team as soon as October, albeit in a very limited capacity.

At the time of the surgery, it was all looking at the start of next Spring Training,” Farrell said. “We’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves here, but at the same time, we compliment him for the work he’s put in, the way he’s responded to the rehab, the way he’s worked himself into better condition. We’re staying open-minded.

If the 30-year-old does return in 2016, don’t expect him to look like the three-home run hitter of the 2012 World Series. Should the Red Sox lose another player to injury, Sandoval might be called on as a backup option, but he’s unlikely to see substantial playing time under any other circumstances. Despite making two appearances at DH in the instructional league, Sandoval has not started at third base since undergoing surgery, though Farrell noted that a return to third base would be the next logical step in his recovery process.

Sandoval has yet to hit his stride within the Red Sox’ organization after hitting career-worst numbers in 2015. According to FanGraphs, his Offensive Runs Above Average (Off) plummeted to -20.2, contributing approximately two wins fewer than the average offensive player in 2015. (The Diamondbacks’ Chris Owings held the lowest Off mark in 2015, with -26.3 runs below average.) Sandoval has not appeared in a postseason race since the Giants’ championship run in 2014.

Heading into Saturday evening, the Red Sox could clinch their spot in the postseason with a win over the Rays and an Orioles’ loss.