Here’s the latest from around the American League:
- The Astros have weathered the absences of several top starters, though the team is surely looking forward to welcoming them back in time to make a full rotation assessment before the trade deadline. First in line seems to be righty Lance McCullers; as Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle writes, the excellent young hurler is set to return to the bump on Saturday. He has missed time with a lower back issue, but it doesn’t appear to be cause for much concern in the bigger picture.
- Meanwhile, fellow Astros righty Charlie Morton is scheduled for a short rehab outing tonight, as Kaplan further writes. The hope is that he’ll be ready to make it back to the MLB hill before the All-Star break. Morton has been quite a pleasant surprise, despite the time missed for a lat strain. He has not only provided 57 2/3 solid innings, posting a 4.06 ERA, but has shown the promise of delivering even better results. Morton is sitting in the mid-nineties with his fastball while carrying 10.1 K/9, both of which dwarf his prior full-season marks.
- The division-rival Angels continue to face pitching questions of their own, but decided to pass on a chance to add veteran righty Doug Fister to the active roster — instead allowing him to return to free agency by exercising his opt-out clause. Los Angeles did want to keep the veteran around, per Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register, who tweets that GM Billy Eppler asked Fister to keep working with the organization’s Triple-A affiliate. But Fister’s camp evidently sees greater opportunity on the open market, where he could conceivably find a MLB roster spot if there’s a team that has an immediate need for pitching and believes Fister is prepared to return to the game’s highest level.
- It still isn’t clear what the Yankees will do at the first base position for the rest of the year, but it’s an increasingly interesting question. MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch looks at the latest. There’s some renewed hope that youngster Greg Bird can work back to health, as he’s set to resume baseball activities soon following a cortisone shot in his problematic ankle. But he’s a total question mark after a long layoff and distinct struggles at the plate this year. Meanwhile, manager Joe Girardi offered a tepid review of Chris Carter, who’s currently the preferred option. Prospect Tyler Austin has been productive at Triple-A, but is also whiffing at a hefty rate. GM Brian Cashman says that he thinks the club is still best-served by relying on Carter for the time being, while offering optimism that the internal options will come through this year. Still, it’s fair to wonder whether the Yanks will end up exploring the trade market this summer.
- It seems the Red Sox are positioned to land the top Venezuelan prospect when the new July 2nd signing period opens, Ben Badler of Baseball America writes. Catcher Daniel Flores draws rare praise for his skills behind the dish. And while there’s still some work to do with the bat, Badler says there’s still power to be tapped into for the switch-hitter. You’ll want to read the entire post for a full sense of just why Flores is seen as such a special prospect. It seems Boston could return to the international market with a bang after finishing a one-year ban on bonus pool-limited signings.