With another weekend of baseball set to kick off, here are some things we’ll be keeping our eye on around the league…
1. Harper dealing with back spasm
Phillies superstar Bryce Harper was removed from last night’s game due to a mid-back spasm and will undergo further evaluation, with Todd Zolecki of MLB.com among those to relay the info. It’s unclear at this point how serious the issue is, though it would obviously be an unwelcome development if Harper had to miss any time. Manager Rob Thomson described Harper as day-to-day, per Matt Gelb of The Athletic. Harper already missed over a month of the season due to last year’s Tommy John surgery and has also been limited defensively since being activated in early May.
He has been able to hit but hasn’t quite been himself. His .294/.380/.429 batting line amounts to a wRC+ of 120, still well above average but that would be his lowest rate of production since 2016. He’s seemingly been getting better as the year has gone along, however, slashing .303/.386/.438 in July and .324/.350/.622 in August. Having to put a pause on his season after building so much momentum would be unfortunate for the Phils, though they will surely hope the issue is mild and passes quickly.
2. Will Chang finally clear waivers?
Infielder Yu Chang hasn’t hit too much in the majors but his defensive acumen clearly has appeal. Last year, he began the season with the Guardians but had exhausted his option years and bounced around quite a bit. After getting designated for assignment by the Guards in May, he went to the Pirates in a cash deal before bouncing to the Rays and Red Sox on waiver claims.
The Sox non-tendered Chang in November but later re-signed him on a major league deal when Trevor Story required elbow surgery. Chang missed over two months due to a hamate fracture and has now been nudged off the roster by the return of Story, getting designated for assignment on Tuesday. He’s hit just .204/.265/.359 in his career but is above-average at all four infield spots and can be controlled for two seasons beyond the current campaign. With the trade deadline having passed, he will be on the waiver wire again and could appeal to a club that seeks infield depth.
3. The return of Sale?
The Red Sox haven’t listed a starter for tonight’s game against the Tigers but it seems likely to be Chris Sale. The lefty has been on the injured list for over two months due to shoulder inflammation but has been on a rehab assignment of late and manager Alex Cora recently hinted that Sale could be back in the big leagues by Friday, with Christopher Smith of MassLive among those to relay the info.
Injuries have been a huge issue for the southpaw in recent years, as he hasn’t thrown 60 innings in a season since 2019. Prior to landing on the IL, he tossed 59 innings this year with a 4.58 ERA. The Sox would surely love to get him back to his previous ace level, but results similar to earlier this year would also be welcome. They have frequently been deploying openers and bullpen games to cover for the absences of Sale, Garrett Whitlock and Tanner Houck. Both Whitlock and Houck are currently on rehab assignments and could return to the club soon as well.