A couple of years ago, MLB did a nice thing, accommodating teams with doubleheaders by allowing them to play with a 26th man for the day. Of course, one of the reasons it took so long for the rule to come about is that the league knew that no matter how it tried to structure the rule, MLB teams would seek to exploit it.
Take, for example, the 2014 Baltimore Orioles and Kevin Gausman. On Wednesday night, Gausman pitched six scoreless innings as part of a 2-0 shutout of the Rays. On Friday night, he was demoted back to Triple-A, not because he’s out of the rotation, but because the Orioles saw a chance to game the system. Since the 26th man in doubleheaders is not beholden to the 10-day rule (players optioned to the minors must stay there for 10 days unless being recalled to replace an injured player), Gausman can be recalled to start next Friday in the Orioles’ doubleheader against the Rays.
The original plan was for Gausman to start next Wednesday instead, but since the Orioles have six starters, shuffling things around for him to go Friday was no problem. Making the move gives them an extra middle reliever (Brad Brach) to use in the series against the Yankees and White Sox, and depending on what they want to do with Gausman after his start next Friday, essentially allows them to play with an extra roster spot for a week and a half, putting their opponents at a disadvantage.
That certainly wasn’t MLB’s intention in crafting the rule. But, then, MLB typically does a lousy job of crafting rules, as we’ve seen with some of the replay/plate blocking stuff this year and we’ll see again on July 1, when the Yankees dominate international signing day. The Orioles are hardly the first to try to use the 26th man rule for a several-day advantage and they won’t be the last. Plus, as far as these things go, it’s far less distasteful that placing a starting pitcher on the bereavement list a day after his start and activating him the day before his next start. It’s on MLB to tighten up the 26th man rule, if it cares to do so.
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.