Bill Baer

Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Chris Archer is viewed through netting as he follows through to the Baltimore Orioles in the third inning of a baseball game in Baltimore, Friday, April 8, 2016. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

Extended netting made a difference at Nationals Park


Braves first baseman Kelly Johnson lined out to end the top of the sixth inning during Thursday’s game against the Nationals at Nationals Park. He broke his bat after making contact, and a sawed off part of his bat rocketed towards the crowd behind the Nationals’ dugout.

But… there was netting. Nobody got hurt, unlike a fan at Fenway Park last year who was hit by a broken bat shard and suffered serious injuries.

During the offseason, Major League Baseball issued netting recommendations, which suggested stadiums extend netting to the ends of both dugouts. Good thinking.

Pablo Sandoval will undergo an MRI on his ailing shoulder

Pablo Sandoval
AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

Earlier, Craig wrote about the increasingly ugly relationship between Pablo Sandoval and the Red Sox. The third baseman was placed on the disabled list with a shoulder injury, which was weird because Sandoval never underwent any testing to get more information. As Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports pointed out, that’s rare and usually only happens when a player suffers a catastrophic injury where the diagnosis is obvious.

Although a bit late, it turns out Sandoval did undergo MRI on Thursday, per Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. The results won’t be known until Friday.

It sounds like Sandoval was the one who requested an MRI. Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski commented on the matter:

Rosenthal also explains that Article XIII D of the collective bargaining agreement allows players to seek a second medical opinion, which means Sandoval is entitled to an MRI at his request.

Bryce Harper crushes first career grand slam for 100th career homer

Getty Images

Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper joined the 100-homer club in style, blasting his first career grand slam to right field off of Braves starter Julio Teheran in the bottom of the third inning on Thursday. The salami gave the Nationals a 4-1 lead.

It’s hard to believe, but it’s true: Harper hadn’t hit a grand slam in his 33 previous opportunities, though he still had a .912 OPS with the sacks full.

Harper, at 23 years and 181 days old, is the eighth-youngest player to reach 100 career homers. He’s also only the third National to hit 100 homers, joining Ryan Zimmerman and Ian Desmond.

Pirates sign Justin Masterson to a minor league contract

Boston Red Sox pitcher Justin Masterson works against the Oakland Athletics during the first inning of a baseball game Tuesday, May 12, 2015, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
AP Photo/Ben Margot

MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reports that the Pirates and pitcher Justin Masterson have agreed to a minor league contract. Presumably, Masterson will report to Triple-A Indianapolis.

Masterson, 31, struggled mightily over the last two seasons. He compiled a 5.88 ERA with the Indians and Cardinals in 2014, and a 5.61 ERA with the Red Sox last year. He’s always been inconsistent, but the Pirates are hoping to set him back on the right path.

Masterson won’t be privy to major league pitching coach Ray Searage, but perhaps Searage’s magic touch can be transferred over a phone or Skype call.

Some stat nuggets from Vincent Velasquez’s amazing start against the Padres

Philadelphia Phillies' Vince Velasquez pitches during the first inning of a baseball game against the San Diego Padres, Thursday, April 14, 2016, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
AP Photo/Matt Slocum

Phillies starter Vincenet Velasquez recently put the finishing touches on a complete game shutout during which he held the Padres to three hits and no walks while racking up 16 strikeouts on 113 pitches. As expected, the start lent itself to lots of interesting trivia.

Velasquez is the first Phillie to strike out 16 in a game since Cliff Lee on May 6, 2011 against the Braves. He’s the sixth in Phillies history, joining Lee, Curt Schilling, Steve Carlton, Chris Short, and Art Mahaffey. Schilling is the only one to do so without walking a batter.

Velasquez is the first to strike out at least 16 within his first 25 career games since Kerry Wood, who struck out 16 in his 25th career game on August 26, 1998. Of course, Wood also struck out 20 in his fifth career game on May 6, 1998 against the Astros.

Per ESPN’s Jayson Stark, Nationals ace Max Scherzer is the only other active pitcher with a 16-strikeout, zero-walk complete game. Velasquez and Scherzer are also the only pitchers to record 20-plus swinging strikes on the four-seam fastball in a single game, per’s Mike Petriello.

Via WFAN and WIP’s Joe Giglio, Velasquez joins Wood, Roger Clemens, Frank Tanana, Vida Blue, Mark Prior, and Doc Gooden in the list of pitchers to strike out 16 batters with zero walks at the age of 23 or younger.

Velasquez touched 97 MPH in the first inning. His last two pitches in the ninth inning were also 97 MPH, according to (the broadcast radar gun showed 96). That’s notable because, as Joel Sherman of the New York Post points out, the Phillies were the only team in baseball dating back to 2007 without a pitcher (min. 10 starts) to average at least 94 MPH with the fastball. Velasquez averaged 95.5 MPH on Thursday.

And one for the Padres… via Stark, the Padres are the first team to get shut out five times in their first 10 games to begin a season.