The latest installment in the ongoing Orioles-Red Sox feud is this: Boston left-hander Chris Sale is reportedly not in line for a suspension after throwing behind Manny Machado on Tuesday. Despite recent comments from MLB chief baseball officer Joe Torre earlier this week, ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that a “final determination” has been made and Sale will not receive an official punishment from the league.
The original beef between the two teams — Machado’s spikes-high slide into Dustin Pedroia‘s leg, which has since been deemed unintentional by all involved parties — has escalated over the past two weeks. Sale’s pitch, a 98 m.p.h. fastball aimed behind Machado’s knees, was the third such incident to spawn from Pedroia’s injury. Now, it appears that the Red Sox won’t receive so much as a slap on the wrist for behavior that, should it continue, could unnecessarily injure another player.
Torre and MLB commissioner Rob Manfred appeared to take different approaches to the conflict. According to Torre, Manfred issued a joint warning to the teams during a conference call on Wednesday, letting them know that any further behavior would result in discipline by the league. Torre, on the other hand, said he’d rather not have the players and umpires “walking on eggs” as they approach each game, and felt that the situation didn’t warrant any pregame warnings going forward. Wednesday and Thursday’s games passed without too much drama, and the two teams aren’t scheduled to meet again until a series in Baltimore on June 1. Whether Manfred’s warning will prevent further retaliation remains to be seen, but given the league’s leniency so far, it may not be enough.
To the surprise of, well, very few, the Mariners didn’t make the cut for the postseason this year. While they threw their hats in the ring for a wild card berth, their pitching staff just couldn’t stay healthy, from the handful of pitchers who contracted season-ending injuries in spring training to Felix Hernandez‘s shoulder bursitis to structural damage in Hisashi Iwakuma‘s right shoulder. Left-hander James Paxton missed 79 days with a lingering head cold, strained left forearm and pectoral strain. Heading into the 2018 season, the lefty told MLB.com’s Greg Johns that he plans to “nerd out big-time” in order to prepare for a healthy, consistent run with the club.
So far, Johns reports, that entails a new diet and workout program, hot yoga sessions and blood testing. “I just think there’s more I can do,” Paxton said. “I haven’t done the blood testing before. Finding out if there’s something I don’t know about myself. It’s just about learning and trying to find what works for me.”
When healthy, the 28-year-old southpaw was lights-out for the Mariners. He helped stabilize the front end of the rotation with a 12-5 record in 24 starts and supplemented his efforts with a 2.98 ERA, 2.4 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 136 innings. Despite taking multiple trips to the disabled list, he built up 4.6 fWAR — the most wins above replacement he’s compiled in any season of his career to date. Had he not been felled by a pectoral injury in mid-August — one that came with a five-week trip to the disabled list — the club might have been been able to make a bigger push for the playoffs.
Of course, even if Paxton manages to stay healthy next season, the Mariners still have the rest of the rotation to worry about. They cycled through 17 starters in 2017 and tied the 2014 Rangers with 40 total pitchers over the course of the season. Per GM Jerry Dipoto, their top four starters (Paxton, Hernandez, Iwakuma, and Tommy John candidate Drew Smyly) only contributed 17% of total innings pitched, just a tad below the 40% average. Finding adequate big league arms and compensating for injured aces (both current and former) will be tough. Still, getting a healthy, dominant Paxton back on the mound for 30+ starts would be a huge get for the team — whether or not the postseason is in their future next year.