The Tigers rearrange their rotation on account of weather
Because of the inclement weather festering over the Chicago area, the Tigers enter Thursday’s contest with the Chicago White Sox having still only played one game. Happily, it was a pretty fun game. In an effort to keep his starting pitchers on regular work, and with Matt Boyd and Michael Fulmer now well removed from their last spring training starts, manager Brad Ausmus decided to re-order his rotation to keep anyone from sitting too long.
Matt Boyd, who last pitched on March 30, will now get the ball on Thursday instead of Jordan Zimmermann. Michael Fulmer will still take the mound for the Tigers’ home opener against the Boston Red Sox on Friday, with Zimmermann and then Daniel Norris taking the mound over the weekend. Justin Verlander will get back in the action on Monday to wrap the four-game series.
Dixon Machado gets Omar Infante’s advice
There’s a lot of mentoring going on as the Tigers’ veterans help raise up the new crop of talent. Justin Verlander has taken on the elder statesman role, dispensing advice to his young rotation mates. Francisco Rodriguez has done the same for Bruce Rondon. And now that utility infielder Dixon Machado has made the 25-man roster, he sought out the man he beat out, former Tigers’ second baseman, Omar Infante for advice on how to stay sharp in a backup role.
Is the shift losing its shine?
One of the key developments in recent years, has of course been the use of a wide variety of defensive shifts to take advantage of hitters’ batted ball tendencies. As writers have begun to question whether the shift has reached beyond its maximum utility, FanGraphs’ Travis Sawchik investigated and found that we’re still not there yet. Until players are more capable of adjusting their approach, shifts are still going to be effective in suppressing hits and runs.
Stephen Piscotty scored a hat trick of the worst kind
St. Louis Cardinals’ outfielder, Stephen Piscotty, was a victim of one of the odder series of events you’ll see in a baseball game on Tuesday night. Chicago Cubs’ starter, Jake Arrieta, hit Piscotty in the right elbow with a pitch. After taking first base, Piscotty proceeded to steal second base, where a throw from Cubs’ catcher, Wilson Contreras, drilled him in left elbow. Then, on a swinging bunt from Kolten Wong that eluded Arrieta, Piscotty attempted to score all the way from second, and was successful. However Javier Baez’ throw home drilled Piscotty in the head. Rough inning! Fortunately Piscotty passed his concussion protocol and appears basically no worse for wear.
⚾ How? Cardinals outfielder Stephen Piscotty gets hit with a baseball 3 times in the same inning pic.twitter.com/tFc5I6dqjj— The Fanatics View (@thefanaticsview) April 5, 2017
Chris Sale thinks he’s prepared for Boston’s expectations
Dave Dombrowski’s prize offseason acquisition, former White Sox’ ace, Chris Sale, took the mound for the first time with his new team Wednesday night. Things went quite well. Sale spun seven scoreless innings, punching out seven, and allowing just three hits. Dombrowski, as you do, joked that he hadn’t liked Sale at all when he was with Chicago, but that all those same attributes that annoyed him now seemed like positives.
More important than a single start, however, is how well Sale appears to be fitting in with his new club. Dombrowski, Porcello and manager John Farrell all weighed in on Sale’s leadership qualities, and the way he’s embraced the challenge in front of some of baseball’s most unforgiving fans. The Red Sox need him to take the reins with David Price and several other important pieces of their pitching staff out of action. We’ll see how that famous temper holds up when things don’t go his way there. Somehow Chris Sale with the Red Sox feels right. Let’s just hope the Tigers continue to have their way with him.
Francisco Lindor is nothing but trouble
We’re only in week one, but so far the Cleveland Indians have picked up right where they left off with a pair of come from behind victories. The Texas Rangers’ vaunted bullpen, however, has not picked up where they left off. On Monday, it was setup man Matt Bush who was victimized by Edwin Encarnacion for an eighth inning home run that tied the game at 5-5. Rangers’ closer, Sam Dyson, then coughed up three runs to blow the game.
Wednesday night, it was Dyson falling apart again. Indians’ shortstop, Francisco Lindor, crushed a walkoff grand slam against Dyson to complete a three-game sweep. Lindor is going to be a problem for the AL Central for a long, long time. Meanwhile, the Rangers’ bullpen, which was one of the game’s best in 2016, is looking pretty shaky already.
The World Baseball Classic may be taking a toll on pitchers
Pitching injuries and spring training tend to go together, as elbows and shoulders give out under the process of building arm strength. The World Baseball Classic may not have helped matters for several pitchers. We’ve already seen that Sam Dyson, who pitched for Team USA, has started the season with a pair of disastrous outings. He’s the lucky one.
Drew Smyly has landed on the 60-day DL with a strained flexor tendon in his throwing elbow. Smyly looked outstanding in the WBC, flashing 95 miles per hour and blowing away hitter after hitter in one of the best starting pitching performances from a Team USA squad that featured plenty of them. Smyly has received a platelet rich injection in the elbow in an effort to stimulate healing.
Seth Lugo, who was a WBC workhorse for Team Puerto Rico, isn’t doing much better. The New York Mets’ pitcher was diagnosed with a partial UCL tear. Some reports suggest optimism that he may only need a few weeks, but that seems a bit pollyanna-ish.
Jose Quintana of the White Sox, who pitched for Team Columbia, has no injury issues apparent. However, he was hit up for three home runs by the Tigers on opening day, and showed rather terrible fastball command by his standards. On the plus side, Bruce Rondon and Francisco Rodriguez both looked solid after pitching for Team Venezuela.
These injuries and struggles aren’t proof of anything. However, the perception that the WBC is a bad deal for pitchers early in their seasonal progression would bode poorly for future participation, as front offices worry about pitchers they’ve invested in ramping their intensity up too early in the year.
Social media round-up
The Tigers’ 2015 number one draft pick is probably very happy to be staying in Florida this spring.
MLB’s new marketing strategies are getting way over the top.
This just ain’t right.
Neither is this!
He’s a bit of a firebrand for controversy, but I, for one, am hoping for many more moments like this from Yasiel Puig.
#Dodgers Yasiel Puig: "All I'm thinking about is putting the ball in the air or I'm going to have no money in my pockets."— Bill Plunkett (@billplunkettocr) April 6, 2017
Your OPS is in the air, Yasiel. You too George Springer. The Astros and Rangers are off to a tale of two starts.
Meanwhile, your perception that Nick Castellanos was hammering Jose Quintana’s stuff on Tuesday, was very accurate.
Nicholas Castellanos has two batted balls today of exactly 107.9 MPH. One was launched at 18 degrees (out) the other at 22 degrees (HR)— Daren Willman (@darenw) April 4, 2017