The Astros are lining up to pursue pitching at the trade deadline, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes. Houston has its sights set on a quality starter and left-handed reliever, per the report. That hasn’t really changed since the winter, of course, though the team has posted the best record in baseball to this point even without having made the desired upgrades. Rosenthal discusses some possible targets, but it seems that the ’Stros haven’t yet fixed on any particular paths to adding these pieces. General manager Jeff Luhnow did recently tell MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart that the team doesn’t feel any urgency to rush into early trades thanks to its excellent start to the season, so the Astros may well wait to see how the full landscape of the trade market develops before pursuing upgrades.
Here’s more from the American League West:
- As the Mariners continue searching for solutions in the pen, the team has at least temporarily taken Edwin Diaz out of the closer’s role. As Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times writes, though, Steve Cishek did not succeed last night after being pressed into duty just after being activated. Fellow righties Nick Vincent and Tony Zych could also be options going forward, though the latter is also still being handled with care after a long injury layoff. For the time being, it seems, the ninth inning is in flux for Seattle.
- Meanwhile, Mariners righty Ryan Weber, who is among the organization’s many players on the 10-day DL, has been diagnosed with a “stretch of the musculocutaneous nerve,” per a club announcement. Details are sparse, but that nerve services the arm and plays a key role in elbow function. At present, it’s not known how long Weber could miss, but his absence removes yet another depth option from an injury-ravaged Seattle staff.
- The Angels may be charting a whole new course with their pitching staff, Rick Souddress of SB Nation observes. Numerous Halso pitchers are utilizing their four-seam fastballs at career-low levels, Souddress points out. Matt Shoemaker, David Hernandez, J.C. Ramirez, Bud Norris, Yusmeiro Petit and Cam Bedrosian (prior to his injury) are among Angels hurlers that have moved away from their four-seamers, and each has experienced success since doing so. The change is not unique to 2017, either; the 2016 season saw Shoemaker drop his ERA from 9.00 to 3.88 upon making that type of switch, while Bedrosian had a breakout year and Ramirez found success late in the campaign. It’s not clear whether the move away from four-seamers is a strategy implemented by GM Billy Eppler, pitching coach Charles Nagy or others in the organization, though Souddress rightly notes that the decrease correlates with Eppler’s arrival as general manager. Last year’s collective fastball usage of 52.3 percent was the Halos’ lowest rate since 2002, and this year’s 47.9 percent usage rate is their lowest (and fourth-lowest in all of baseball, per Fangraphs).