Daily Dose: Big Papi heating up

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David Ortiz has finally broken free of his season-long slump, taking CC
Sabathia deep Thursday for his third homer in five games. It’s
certainly not time to say that Big Papi is back to his usual self yet,
but he’s now 9-for-29 (.310) with three long balls already this month
after batting .185 with one homer in 178 at-bats through the end of
May.

Unfortunately for Ortiz and his fantasy owners this hot streak
figures to be put on hold over the weekend–and for nine of the next 15
games–because Boston will be playing under NL rules during interleague
games. He’ll no doubt see plenty of pinch-hitting opportunities and may
get a couple starts, but the Red Sox will just hope that he doesn’t
cool off before the AL schedule resumes on June 29.

While the Red Sox win eight straight games versus the Yankees for
the first time since 1912, here are some other notes from around
baseball …

* Kelvim Escobar looked fairly good in his return to the Angels’
rotation Saturday, but will give up plans of starting another game this
year after determining that his surgically repaired shoulder simply
isn’t ready for the workload. He’ll move to the bullpen, where he’s had
plenty of success in the past, and Angels relievers have combined for
an AL-worst 5.71 ERA. Matt Palmer will replace him in the rotation.

* David Price struggled to throw strikes again Thursday, failing to
make it out of the fifth inning while handing out six walks and needing
105 pitches to record 13 outs. Price has an impressive 26 strikeouts
and .188 opponents’ batting average in 19 innings, but 18 walks and
just 58 percent strikes. He showed good control prior to this season,
but walked 18 in 34.1 innings at Triple-A before the call-up.

* John Maine admitted Thursday that his shoulder “hurts a little
bit,” so New York placed him on the disabled list after initially just
pushing his next start back a day while saying that he was going
through a “dead arm” period. “Nothing serious,” Maine said. “My
shoulder is just fatigued. It’s dead. I think I pushed it a little too
much. Now it’s starting to lock up on me.” Fernando Nieve may fill-in
Saturday.

* Chien-Ming Wang will remain in the rotation for now, with manager
Joe Girardi saying Thursday that the struggling right-hander will make
one more start before the Yankees reevaluate his role. “At some point,
production is important,” Girardi said. “We told him that it’s a very
important start.” Wang will start Wednesday at home against the
Nationals, with his pregnant wife set to be induced Tuesday.

AL Quick Hits: Zack Greinke allowed three runs over 7.1 innings
in a no-decision Thursday, but two of them scored off the bullpen … Jim
Thome will be limited to pinch-hitting duties for the next nine games
of interleague play … Jason Bartlett (ankle) is expected to remain
sidelined until next week, but Pat Burrell (neck) will rejoin the
lineup Friday after missing a month … Ervin Santana allowed six runs
over 4.2 innings Thursday and now has a 7.47 ERA in six starts since
coming off the disabled list … Garrett Olson beat his old team
Thursday, holding the Orioles to two runs over five innings … Luke
Scott went deep again Thursday, giving him nine homers since coming off
the DL on May 27 … Gavin Floyd took a shutout into the eighth inning
Thursday, but got a no-decision when Bobby Jenks blew a save … Koji
Uehara returned from the DL by allowing four runs over five innings
Thursday … Orlando Hernandez will try a minor-league comeback with
Texas.

NL Quick Hits: St. Louis is reportedly interested in Miguel Tejada, which could be a good fit
… Max Scherzer shut out the Giants for 7.2 innings Thursday, tossing a
career-high 116 pitches … Willy Taveras went hitless Thursday and is
0-for-20 this month while battling through hamstring soreness … Huston
Street gave up a three-run homer Thursday while working on a fourth
straight day … Fighting the blogosphere
hasn’t slowed Raul Ibanez down, as he smacked a three-run homer
Thursday … Javier Jazquez had a dozen strikeouts over eight innings of
one-run ball Thursday, but got a no-decision … Mike MacDougal worked
three innings in the past two days, so Joe Beimel picked up a one-run
save Thursday … Carlos Delgado (hip) is reportedly still at least three
weeks from swinging a bat … Geoff Blum delivered his second
game-winning hit in 24 hours Thursday with a walk-off single in the
13th inning.

Tommy La Stella talks about his refusal to report to the minors in 2016

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In late July of 2016, Cubs infielder Tommy La Stella was demoted to Triple-A. It wasn’t personal. It was a roster crunch situation and La Stella had options left so, despite the fact that he had been an effective player to that point of the season, it made sense to send him down.

La Stella didn’t take the demotion well. In fact he refused to report to Iowa and went home to New Jersey instead. It was not until August 17 that he finally reported and then only after prolonged discussions with the Cubs and the assurance that he’d be back in the majors once rosters opened up. Which he was, after spending just over a week down on the farm.

Such a move by a player would, normally speaking, make him persona non-grata. His teammates would shun him and the organization would, eventually, cut bait, with the press characterizing him as a me-first player as he walked out the door. That did not happen with La Stella, however, who remains with the Cubs two years later and, by all accounts, is a popular and important guy in the Cubs’ clubhouse, even if he’s not one of the team’s big stars.

Today Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic has an in-depth story about La Stella, what went down in 2016 and how he and the Cubs have proceeded since then. The story is subscription only, but the short version is that there was a lot of understanding and empathy on the part of the Cubs organization and their players about what was going on in La Stella’s head at the time and how everyone allowed everyone else the space to work through it.

I’m happy to read this story, because all too often we only hear about such incidents as they occur, with little followup. To the extent the story is told, most of the time its completely one-sided, with the player who acts out being treated like a bad seed with little if any explanation of his side of things. And, yes, there are always two sides to the story. Sometimes even more.

Kudos to Rosenthal for telling this story. Here’s hoping the next time a player is involved in a controversy that, in the moment, makes him appear to be a bad seed or have a bad attitude, we hear more about it then too.