As the second half of the 2023 regular season continues, here are three things we’ll be keeping an eye on around the baseball world throughout the day today:
1. O’Neill to return:
Cardinals outfielder Tyler O’Neill has been out since early May with a low back strain, but the 28 year old is expected to rejoin the team ahead of tonight’s game against the Marlins. O’Neill is on the 60-day IL, so a corresponding move will be necessary to make room for him on the 40-man roster. It’s been a difficult season for O’Neill, as he’s slashed just .228/.283/.337 with a 70 wRC+ in 99 plate appearances. In addition to his poor performance at the plate and time on the shelf due to injuries, O’Neill was benched early in the season by manager Oli Marmol for a perceived lack of hustle.
Despite all that, president of baseball operations John Mozeliak indicated yesterday that O’Neill will be the club’s starting left fielder upon his return. With Lars Nootbaar and Jordan Walker locked into center and right field respectively, that seemingly leaves Dylan Carlson as the odd man out. Still just 24 years old, Carlson was once a consensus top-20 prospect in the sport but has struggled to turn that promise into production at the big league level as he’s slashed just .236/.324/.376 (102 wRC+) in 686 plate appearances since the start of the 2022 campaign.
2. DeSclafani to return:
The Giants and Reds were rained out in the 8th inning of yesterday’s 2-2 game at Great American Ballpark. The game is set to be finished this evening before the second game of the series tonight. According to Mark Sheldon and Allie Kaylor of MLB.com, fans who have tickets to tonight’s game can come early to watch the end of last night’s game in addition to the regularly scheduled game, while fans who had tickets to last night’s game can present them at the ballpark’s box office for a $5 discount on tickets to today’s game. Last night’s game is set to resume at 4:40pm CT.
Once tonight’s regularly scheduled game begins at 6:10pm CT, Giants right-hander Anthony DeSclafani is expected to take the mound after being placed on the 15-day IL earlier this month with shoulder fatigue. DeSclafani was excellent across 11 starts during the first two months of the season, with a 3.48 ERA and 3.67 FIP in 67 1/3 innings of work. Since then, however, DeSclafani has struggled mightily, with a 6.92 ERA and a 5.28 FIP in six starts, half of which lasted just three innings. If DeSclafani’s time on the shelf has helped him rest up and return to form, he’ll be a major asset to a Giants club in the thick of the wild card race despite getting less innings from their starting pitchers than any team in baseball besides the A’s and Rockies.
3. Rays vs Rangers:
Two of the AL’s top teams are in the midst of a key series, as the Rays (60-37) and Rangers (56-39) partake in a three game set at Globe Life Field. The Rangers won the series opener 3-2 last night, a win that put them 3.5 games ahead of the second-place Astros for the AL West crown. By contrast, the Rays’ loss last night leaves the Orioles nipping at their heels, just one game behind Tampa in an extremely competitive AL East division. Tonight’s game is set to begin at 7:05pm CT.
Right-handed youngster Taj Bradley is set to take the mound for the Rays at 7:05pm CT tonight against veteran hurler and former Ray Nathan Eovaldi, who has emerged as the ace of Texas’ pitching staff following the loss of Jacob deGrom to Tommy John surgery earlier this season with a 2.38 ERA in 117 2/3 innings of work. On the other hand, Bradley has had an up-and-down rookie campaign. The youngster sports an ugly 5.43 ERA in 61 1/3 innings despite a much stronger 3.99 FIP thanks in part to brutal results in his last three starts, where he’s allowed 16 earned runs while managing just 12 1/3 innings.