Tales of Feliz, Bard figure to scare off future starting conversions

25 Comments

If the Reds were still thinking of putting Aroldis Chapman into the rotation next year, today’s announcement will surely give them pause.

Former Rangers closer Neftali Feliz will undergo Tommy John surgery and miss most or all of 2013 after being diagnosed with a torn UCL in his elbow. It means two of this year’s three big relief-to-starting pitching conversions have gone awry, as Daniel Bard is currently trying to figure things out back in the pen at Triple-A Pawtucket.

For what it’s worth, the third has been a huge success, what with Chris Sale pitching in the All-Star Game for the White Sox. However, that came with a hiccup, as concerns about his elbow prompted the White Sox to shift Sale back to the pen briefly in May. It was thought to be a permanent conversion, with Sale going into the closer’s role, but the left-hander was able to talk them out of it.

Personally, I’ve always felt that midseason relief-to-SP conversions were a bad idea. The Braves are actually trying that again with Kris Medlen now, even though the same switch two years ago likely led to his need for Tommy John surgery. The Padres tried it with Andrew Cashner this year, and he quickly landed on the DL, though not with an arm problem.

The Rangers, Red Sox and White Sox all prepared their youngsters as best they could, using them as starters in spring training and going slowly with them. Feliz got off to a nice start after the move, going 3-1 with a 3.16 ERA in 42 2/3 innings, but his elbow put him on the DL in mid-May. Bard was simply horribly inconsistent in going 5-6 with a 5.24 ERA. He had a 34/37 K/BB ratio in 55 innings.

Chapman was the big name some thought might go from the pen to the rotation next year, but he’s been so strong in as a reliever that it’d take a lot of guts for the Reds to make the switch. There aren’t many other youngsters likely to make the move.  The Cubs could try turning Arodys Vizcaino back into a starter next year after getting him from the Braves in Monday’s Paul Maholm-Reed Johnson deal. He’s missed the entire 2012 season following Tommy John surgery. Tampa Bay’s Wade Davis, a starter throughout his career until this year, could be put back into the rotation if traded, but he seems to have come along nicely as a reliever and is probably better off there.

Renfroe slam helps Rays sweep young Blue Jays in 1st round

Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports
Leave a comment

The Tampa Bay Rays gathered in front of their dugout and posed for a celebratory team picture they’re hoping will not be the last they take this postseason.

Hunter Renfroe hit a grand slam and the top-seeded Rays won a postseason series for the first time in 12 years, overpowering the young Toronto Blue Jays 8-2 Wednesday to finish a two-game sweep of their wild-card matchup.

And with a roster featuring just a handful of players who have posted impressive resumes so far, the AL East champs believe they’re nowhere near finished.

“We’ve been confident since Day One. So if we put the our heads down and just do what we’ve been doing and prepare like we’ve been preparing, the sky’s the limit,” winning pitcher Tyler Glasnow said.

Said manager Kevin Cash: “We have very good players first and foremost.”

“I understand the back of the baseball card stuff and some of our guys are not as established,” he said. “What we do have, what makes it formidable is that the entire roster is used to help us win games. We do that consistently during the season and are definitely going to do it in the postseason.”

Renfroe launched the first playoff grand slam in franchise history during a six-run second inning. Glasnow kept Tampa Bay ahead from there, allowing two runs – on a pair of homers by Danny Jansen – in six innings.

Mike Zunino hit a two-run homer off Blue Jays ace Hyun Jin Ryu during Tampa Bay’s big inning. Manuel Margot and Randy Arozarena also drove in runs as the Rays advanced to the AL Division series against either the New York Yankees or Cleveland Indians.

The next round starts Monday at Petco Park in San Diego. Renfroe is plenty familiar with the stadium – he hit 85 home runs in the previous three years for the Padres before being traded to the Rays last December.

“The opportunity in front of us is where you want to be,” Cash said.

The Rays celebrated with some hugs and handshakes after the final out.

Glasnow, who walked one and struck out eight before a small gathering of family and friends who were allowed to attend the series at Tropicana Field.

Ryu was rocked for a season-high seven runs in 1 2/3 innings, the lefty’s shortest outing of the season for the wild-card Blue Jays.

It was a disappointing finish for Toronto, which overcame a slow start to make a surprising run to its first playoff berth since 2016 with a roster featuring 19 players without previous major league playoff experience, including Cavan Biggio, Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

“Great season. I’m proud of my kids to make it to this point,” second-year Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said.

“It’s obvious that the Rays are a pretty good team, that’s why they’re picked to go to the World Series,” he said. “In this series, we didn’t hit. We only scored three runs. That’s not enough to beat that team.”

The Rays, who won the opener 3-1 with a nice mix of pitching, defense and timely hitting, had dropped five consecutive multigame postseason series dating to the 2008 World Series.

A year ago, they beat Oakland in the AL wild-card game before losing to Houston in the division round – a five-game setback that nevertheless heightened team expectations heading into this season.

Ryu signed with the Blue Jays in free agency last winter after being an All-Star with the Los Angeles Dodgers and finishing second in NL Cy Young Award balloting in 2019.

The 33-year-old lefty had the AL’s fourth-best ERA this season. And, his career mark of .295 is third-best behind Clayton Kershaw (2.43) and Jacob deGrom (2.61) among active pitchers with at least 700 innings pitched.

Ryu’s impressive credentials meant nothing Wednesday.

The Rays began the first inning with three straight hits and scored their first run on Manuel Margot’s one-out single. Ryu escaped a bases-loaded jam by striking out Willy Adames, however his outing got worse the next inning.

After Zunino’s homer made it 3-0, Tampa Bay loaded the bases again on a double, walk and shortstop Bo Bichette’s second error of the day.

Renfroe, obtained from San Diego in an offseason trade that sent Tommy Pham to the Padres, hit his grand slam into the left field seats to extend the lead to 7-0.

“They were getting hits off all my pitches. I don’t think they were necessarily sitting on one or something like that,” Ryu said through a translator. “I just didn’t have a good game.”

“We have a lot to be proud of, we really do,” Jansen said. “We knocked on the door and next year we’re going to be ready to go through it.”

TRAINER’S ROOM

Blue Jays: 1B Rowdy Tellez, who had a pinch-hit single in Game 1 Tuesday, remained out of the starting lineup. He was placed on the 10-day IL on Sept. 9 with a right knee sprain and missed the rest of the regular season.

Rays: INF Yandy Diaz (right hamstring strain) started at third base, his first game since Aug. 31.

UP NEXT

The Rays will play in the AL division round for the sixth time in franchise history, with all of the appearances coming since 2008.

More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports