Kershaw, who has been diagnosed with a mild disc herniation in his lower back, is the biggest reason his team is currently seven games over .500 and at the top of the Wild Card standings. They’ll be forced to lean heavily on Kenta Maeda in his first MLB season as well as Scott Kazmir, who has a 4.67 ERA and has only completed six innings in seven of his 16 starts. Kershaw’s injury also means that 19-year-old Julio Urias, who the Dodgers had planned on moving to the bullpen in the near future in order to limit his workload, will likely stick around in the rotation for a bit longer, as will Brock Stewart, who made his MLB debut on Wednesday after starting the year in High-A.
With the two most likely internal candidates to replace Kershaw, at least for his scheduled start on Friday, being Jharel Cotton (4.98 ERA, 3.3 BB/9, 10.7 K/9 in Triple-A) and Chase De Jong (2.45 ERA, 2.7 BB/9, 8.2 K/9 in Double-A), the Dodgers decided to trade for Braves pitcher Bud Norris, who would be sufficiently rested for Friday’s start and had been pitching well as of late.
After a rough start to the season—he posted an 8.74 ERA in five starts before being banished to the bullpen —the 31-year-old Norris has bounced back nicely since returning to rotation in early June (2.15 ERA, 29.1 IP, 21 H, 8 BB, 29 K in five starts). He’ll make his Dodgers debut against the Rockies at Dodgers Stadium, where he has a career 3.10 ERA in 29 innings pitched.
While the Nats could’ve went the boring route to replace Stephen Strasburg by inserting the versatile Yusmeiro Petit into the starting rotation, they did the baseball world a favor by calling up Lucas Giolito, who many consider to be the top pitching prospect in baseball.
The only disappointment in Giolito’s MLB debut against the division rival Mets on Tuesday was that his start was cut short because of a rain delay. In his four scoreless innings of work, the 21-year-old allowed one measly hit to go along with a pair of walks.
So is Giolito up for good? That probably depends on the state of the rotation when Strasburg is ready to return. But Giolito has probably earned at least another start or two and the Nats can be patient with Strasburg as long as the youngster is pitching well. However many innings the Nats will allow him to throw this season—he’s at 75 innings so far after throwing 117 innings in 2015—it sure would be fun to see them utilized at the big league level.
Michael Conforto had a great rookie season in 2015. He had a great start to the 2016 season. Then he struggled, just like any big leaguer struggles. The league had figured out how to get him out. Almost two months into his prolonged slump, it was evident that the 23-year-old was having a hard time making an adjustment to these latest plans of attack.
Therefore, the Mets have attempted to shake things up by sending Conforto to Triple-A last weekend and giving another young prospect, Brandon Nimmo, a chance to spark a struggling Mets offense. It hasn’t happened. At least not yet.
With only five singles and no walks in 20 at-bats, the 23-year-old Nimmo’s Triple-A success (.917 OPS in 63 games) hasn’t carried over during his first week in the majors. He’ll need to pick up the pace if he’s to hold off Conforto (5-for-16, HR, 3 BB, K in Triple-A), who shouldn’t need much time to get back on track.
4. Athletics RF Josh Reddick Activated From 15-Day DL
One of the biggest potential trade chips of the 2016 season, Reddick has returned to action after missing more than a month with a fractured thumb. He’ll have plenty of time to establish his value and set the A’s up for a nice return prior to the August 1st deadline.
While he isn’t likely to maintain his .310 batting average and .383 on-base percentage—he’s 1-for-9 with one walk since being activated on Tuesday—the 29-year-old is a solid all-around player who can hit 20 homers and knock in 75 runs while hitting at the top, middle or bottom of a contending team’s lineup.
Billy Beane acquired Sean Manaea and Daniel Mengden in separate pre-deadline deals in 2015 for Ben Zobrist and Scott Kazmir. He could be in an even better position this year with Reddick and Rich Hill.
5. Rays Closer Alex Colome (Biceps Tendinitis) Placed On 15-Day DL; Closer To Be Determined
New closer alert! Well, not really. The last place Rays aren’t really ahead enough in the 9th inning for it to matter very much and this might actually be the least inspiring group of closing candidates I’ve ever seen. If the decision has been made on who’ll get the ball in the 9th inning of a close game, it hasn’t been announced.
“Closer-by-committee” is a common short-term solution whenever a closer goes on the disabled list or has pitched himself out of a job. In most cases, it’s just a way of not putting too much pressure on the guy who is expected to be the first in line for the job.
But in the case of the Rays, their “committee” consists of a few pitchers who don’t have the typical closer’s arsenal of at least one “plus” pitch and none are having very good years in their current lesser-leverage roles. But the opportunity to earn a save will probably arise before Alex Colome or Brad Boxberger returns from the disabled list. Until then, we can only guess if it will be Erasmo Ramirez, Xavier Cedeño, Matt Andriese, Danny Farquhar or someone else who is first in line.
CORRECTION: The Rays did have a save opportunity in Thursday’s game. Ryan Garton started the 9th inning with a 7-2 lead and departed with a 7-3 lead and the bases loaded after four consecutive singles. Ramirez entered the game and proceeded to record one out and give up two walks, two singles and a double before exiting with his team down 10-7. I’m guessing that he might not get another shot.