Author: Matthew Pouliot

Alex Rodriguez

Alex Rodriguez isn’t the Yankees’ backup third baseman any longer


Alex Rodriguez, who has started two games at third base playing behind Chase Headley this season, will likely be limited to DH duties for the foreseeable future, manager Joe Girardi told the New York Daily News.

A-Rod has been bothered by a sore left hamstring, and while that’s not a major issue, the Yankees think they can spare him aches and pains by keeping him out of the field. That also probably means no more starts at first base, where he’s played just once this year and looked pretty awkward in doing so.

With A-Rod out of the mix, Stephen Drew has started taking grounders at third base and likely will play there whenever Headley needs a day off. Drew is still the Yankees’ primary second baseman, but the team is looking to work Jose Pirela more into the mix anyway.

Rodriguez entered Tuesday’s game with a .250/.360/.558 line and eight homers in 104 at-bats this season.

First-inning success fueling Yankees start, while failures bury Indians

Mark Teixeira, Brett Gardner

In theory, anyway, every manager in baseball designs his lineup to give his team the best chance of scoring in the first inning of the game. And it generally works: there have been 509 runs scored in the first innings of games this year, 23 more than the next highest-scoring inning.

One team’s pitching staff hasn’t been contributing to that total, though. The Pittsburgh Pirates have allowed just three first-inning runs in 31 games. It’s not simply the best mark in baseball, but it blows everyone else out of the water. No other team has allowed fewer than 10 first-inning runs.

First-inning runs allowed
1. Pirates – 3
2. Nationals – 10
2. Royals – 10
4. Giants – 12
4. Marlins – 12
4. Rays – 12

27. Blue Jays – 24
27. Dodgers – 24
27. Red Sox – 24
30. Indians – 27

On the flip side, the Pirates have been a middling offensive team in the first, totaling 14 runs. The Yankees lead the way there.

First-inning runs scored
1. Yankees – 31
2. Braves – 28
2. Tigers – 28
4. Padres – 27

26. Marlins – 11
26. Mets – 11
28. Indians – 10
29. Phillies – 9
30. White Sox – 7

The Yankees have the game’s best run-differential in the first inning this year, which plays a big role in their 20-12 record. They’ve outscored the opposition by 17 runs in the first and just 13 over the remainder of the game.

First-inning run differential
1. Yankees +17
2. Pirates +11
2. Royals +11
4. Tigers +10
5. Padres +9

27. Phillies -11
27. Red Sox -11
29. White Sox -13
30. Indians -17

We can also see just how difficult it is to consistently dig out of an early hole. The Red Sox and Indians were both expected by most to be contenders this year, and the White Sox had their share of backers, as well. All are struggling. The Indians, with the AL’s worst record at 11-19, have a -17 run differential in the first, though they’re practically matching the competition the rest of the way (-2 from the second inning on).

Red Sox place Shane Victorino on 15-day disabled list

Shane Victorino

The Red Sox probably got a little better today in placing Shane Victorino on the 15-day disabled list with a strained hamstring.

Due to various ailments, Victorino has been day-to-day since pretty much the start of the spring, and he’s hit just .143/.302/.171 in 35 at-bats to begin the regular season. He also hasn’t looked like his old self in right field. It seems pretty obvious that he can’t help the Red Sox unless he’s 100 percent — and perhaps not then — so it makes sense to sit him out for a couple of weeks to get him healthy.

With Rusney Castillo still on the minor league DL because of a shoulder injury, the Red Sox will get by with some combination of Brock Holt, Daniel Nava and Allen Craig in right field. Holt probably deserves most of the playing time against right-handers, considering he’s off to a 14-for-33 start at the plate and he’s the best defender in the group.

Matt Barnes was called up from Triple-A as Victorino’s replacement, giving the Red Sox the eight-man bullpen they might need with their rotation of 5 1/3-inning pitchers.

Former Cubs catcher, Expos manager Jim Fanning dies at 87

jim fanning

Jim Fanning, best known as a former general manager and manager of the Expos, passed away Saturday at age 87.

Fanning did a bit of everything over the course of his long career in baseball. He played in 64 games as a catcher for the Cubs from 1954-57, hitting .170 with no homers in 141 at-bats. After calling it a career at age 33, he went into managing in the minors, and then he found himself with the Expos at their birth, becoming their general manager prior to the expansion draft in 1968. He later served as their director of scouting and took over as manager in 1981, occupying the role through the 1982 season and again briefly in 1984.

Fanning also worked for the Blue Jays towards the end of his career, serving as an ambassador. He adopted Canada as his home and was elected into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2000. In 2009, the Blue Jays held a pregame ceremony for him, honoring his 60 years in baseball.

Josh Hamilton heads back where he belongs

Josh Hamilton

With the Angels so terribly eager to dump him, Friday’s trade couldn’t have possibly worked out much better for Josh Hamilton.

Hamilton, ostracized by Angels management after his drug relapse, will return to a setting that suits him far better, even if his time in Arlington didn’t end on a high note. While there is lingering bitterness from part of the fan base, some of it deserved after negative comments that Hamilton made, there’s nothing so bad it can’t be put into the past. Obviously, Hamilton is embracing it, since he’s giving up money to make the trade happen. Hamilton was, after all, a bonafide superstar in Texas, winning MVP honors in 2010 and going to All-Star Games in each of his five seasons with the club. He hit 43 homers and drove in 128 runs in his final season there in 2012.

Just getting back into a ballpark that favors left-handed power hitters should do wonders for Hamilton. His decline in Anaheim wasn’t all about the tough hitting environment there, but it did exacerbate his problems. In 2014, all 10 of Hamilton’s homers came in road games. He hit .249/.314/.302 at home and .278/.347/.527 on the road. Basically, he was still a star while playing outside of Southern California.

It’s too much to ask Hamilton to match those road numbers after he returns from shoulder surgery this year, especially with everything else he’s dealing with off the field, including a divorce, but this is the best-case scenario for him from an on-field standpoint. And it’s a nice gamble for the Rangers, since they’ll be paying a fraction of the $25 million per year he’s owed through 2017. Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan says they’ll be on the hook for a mere $15 million total.

The Rangers will have to wait for Hamilton to finish rehabbing his shoulder, but once healthy, he’ll fill their massive void in left field. They opened the spring with Ryan Rua, Jake Smolinski, Michael Choice, Carlos Peguero and veterans Ryan Ludwick and Nate Schierholtz competing for the job, eventually settling on Rua and Smolinski. Rua, though, is going to miss at least a month with an ankle injury, and he wasn’t likely to settle in as a quality regular anyway.