When I wrote the Angels preview the other day I assumed that Mark Trumbo would be taking over the first base job until Kendrys Morales can come back. As I said, Trumbo “hit the tar out of the ball at Salt Lake City last year, hit the tar out of the ball down in Venezuela over the winter and has continued to hit the tar out of the ball this year during spring training.”
Apparently that’s not good enough for Mike Scioscia, because he’s taken a shine to Howie Kendrick at first base over the past 10 days, and said yesterday that he’d use him there at least a couple of times a week. Here’s Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times:
Scioscia believes that infield will provide better overall defense, because Kendrick, who has started 53 major league games at first, rates a slight edge over Trumbo, whom the manager described as “a work in progress” defensively. “. . .He’s adequate and improving,” Scioscia said.
Look, the example of Brandon Wood is proof that, no, you can’t trust everyone who rakes at Salt Lake City to be good in the majors. But really: is Mike Scioscia truly going to make his decision of who plays at first base based on defense?
The Tampa Bay Rays have signed lefty swingman Ryan Merritt to a minor league contract. Nah, it’s not a big signing but we’ll take anything today.
Merritt, who has spent his entire career in the Indians organization, spent the entire 2018 season at Triple-A Columbus. It wasn’t a bad year for him — he posted a 3.79 ERA and a 52/2 K/BB ratio in 13 starts and two relief appearances covering 71.1 innings — but the Tribe just couldn’t find a role for him at the big league level. He has shown in the past, however, that he can hack it in the bigs, having posted a 1.71 ERA in 31.2 innings with the Indians between 2016-2017.
His thing is that he simply doesn’t strike guys out at anything approaching a typical clip for a big leaguer: 3.7 per nine innings in his small sample of major league outings and 6.3 Ks per nine innings in the minors. Which, while it may not prevent him from having success at the big league level, is likely a reason for the limited number of chances he’s been given.
The Rays are probably the best place he could go, frankly. They’ve shown themselves willing to utilize guys in unique ways and are more likely than most teams to find places to spot a lefty control specialist who has shown he can both start and come out of the pen.