- Ian Desmond is nearing a return to the Rockies, manager Bud Black tells Nick Groke of the Denver Post. Desmond has been with the team but is splitting off to work at the team’s extended Spring Training complex this weekend, where he’ll begin playing in rehab games. According to Groke, Desmond will play multiple positions as he preps for the possibility of logging some outfield work in addition to his time at first base. Black tells Groke that Desmond is “closer than you think” to returning. Previously, Black has mentioned the possibility of Desmond working in the outfield against lefties to keep the Mark Reynolds’ hot right-handed bat in the lineup.
The Rockies announced on Wednesday that they’ve placed lefty reliever Mike Dunn on the 10-day disabled list due to back spasms. Filling Dunn’s place on the 25-man roster will be fellow veteran Chad Qualls, who will return to the ’pen after missing the first three weeks of the season due to tightness in his right forearm. Dunn’s subtraction from the relief corps comes as a blow to the Rox, given how excellent he’s been thus far in the first few weeks of a three-year, $19MM deal. Through his first 7 2/3 innings as a member of the Rockies, Dunn has allowed just one run on five hits and two walks with 10 strikeouts. The 38-year-old Qualls, meanwhile, will be looking to rebound after posting a 5.23 ERA in the first season of a two-year deal with the Rox.
The injury to Madison Bumgarner and the slow start from the Dodgers has created an unexpected window for the Rockies and Diamondbacks in the National League West, argues Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. While both Colorado and Arizona come with some question marks — the Rockies will soon be trotting out a three-rookie rotation, while the D-backs are braced for a potential injury to a somewhat improved Shelby Miller — both teams are stocked with emerging talent. First-year managers Bud Black and Torey Lovullo both spoke to Rosenthal on Sunday about their teams’ quick starts to the year. Interestingly, Black suggested that it’s possible that Ian Desmond will see some time in the outfield upon his return from a fractured hand, as that would allow him to get both Mark Reynolds and Desmond into the lineup against tougher left-handed starters. While the season is still in its early stages and much can change — the D-backs and Rockies were both .500 on this day last year, and the White Sox had baseball’s third-best record — the influx of young talent and return of injured stars in both Colorado and Arizona at least gives both clubs optimism that they could soon return to contention.
- The Rockies’ plan when they signed Ian Desmond during the winter was to play him exclusively at first base this year, but Mark Reynolds’ hot start has them rethinking that idea, Owen Perkins of MLB.com suggests. Desmond hasn’t debuted yet this season because of a fractured left hand, but when the shortstop/outfield option does come back (likely sometime in May), the Rockies might take advantage of his ability to handle multiple positions. When asked if that’s the case, manager Bud Black said “yes,” but he noted that using Desmond at short isn’t under consideration. Colorado has a young starter there in second-year man Trevor Story, though he’s hitting a mere .156/.260/.406 in the early going.
Star Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera left tonight’s game with a groin strain, as Evan Woodberry of MLive.com reports on Twitter. For now, there’s no real indication of the severity of the injury; Detroit will take a closer look tomorrow.
Here’s more on the injury front:
- Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca provides an update on some injured Blue Jays hurlers. While there had been some hope that J.A. Happ would be able to return after missing just one start, he was still feeling elbow discomfort when he played catch yesterday. There is still hope, though, that Aaron Sanchez will be ready to return from his blister issues to re-take his turn in the rotation.
- The Rockies have received promising updates on the injury front, as Nick Groke of the Denver Post reports. Ian Desmond’s hand has healed to the point that he was able to hit off of a tee. He’ll soon be followed by David Dahl, whose latest medical check-brought positive news.
- Likewise, the Orioles have reason to hope they’ll welcome back closer Zach Britton in short order. As Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets, manager Buck Showalter says that Britton’s MRI results were very promising. Britton, who hasn’t been quite his dominant self thus far in 2017, hit the DL with forearm soreness.
- Rangers righty A.J. Griffin is heading to the 10-day DL with what the team is describing as ankle inflammation caused by gout. It doesn’t seem likely to require an extended absence, but the issue arises at an unfortunate time for the 29-year-old (and the struggling ballclub). Griffin is off to a solid start, having allowed seven earned runs on nine hits — and an excellent 16:4 K/BB ratio — over 15 1/3 innings.
- There were a few updates from the Reds, as provided by Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer (Twitter links). Righty Homer Bailey could be ready for mound work as soon as the end of the month, per skipper Bryan Price. Bailey has made just eight starts since the start of the 2015 season; he’s working back from surgery to remove bone spurs. Southpaw reliever Tony Cingrani, meanwhile, was placed on the 10-day DL with an oblique strain, with outfielder Phil Ervin taking his place on the active roster.
- Alex Meyer made a start tonight for the Angels, taking the roster spot of reliever Mike Morin, who is headed to the DL with neck stiffness, as Maria Guardado of MLB.com tweets. Morin, who’ll soon turn 26, has been hit hard in his 6 2/3 frames to open the season.
- Meanwhile, Angels righty Garrett Richards is said to be making some progress but isn’t yet able to begin throwing, Guardado tweets. Continued biceps weakness is still the culprit. The Halos are understandably taking care to ensure that Richards is at full health before pushing him forward.
- Rays lefty Xavier Cedeno is experiencing forearm tightness will require at least a brief DL placement, as Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports. It’s not seen as a significant injury, but the loss of Cedeno does leave Tampa Bay without a southpaw in the pen. The 30-year-old has not looked sharp early; as Topkin notes, he has struggled to prevent inherited runners to score. And Cedeno has surrendered four walks without recording a single strikeout in his seven appearances.
- Dodgers lefty Scott Kazmir is still dealing with hip tightness that is preventing him from progressing back to the hill, as Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times reports on Twitter. The veteran southpaw is not yet nearing a rehab stint, per the report.
- The Brewers will welcome back righty Matt Garza from the DL to make a start on Monday, per a team announcement. Garza was not ready to open the year due to a groin strain. He’ll bump southpaw Tommy Milone to the bullpen.
- The Rockies have signed left-hander Steve Ascher to a minor league contract. The 23-year-old was previously with the Rays, who selected him in the 17th round of the 2014 draft. Ascher has spent most of his professional career at the Single-A level, though he did ascend to Double-A last season. In 46 innings, Ascher logged a 4.30 ERA, 7.04 K/9 and 3.52 BB/9.
Just last year, the Rockies’ bullpen ranked in baseball’s bottom third, coming in 21st in baseball with a 2.2 fWAR. So far this year, their relievers are the best in the game using that same metric, with a 1.4 fWAR and a 2.80 ERA that’s remarkable considering the context in which they pitch. The Denver Post’s Nick Groke explains the bullpen’s transformation, beginning with the signings of Greg Holland and Mike Dunn last winter. “Greg Holland and Mike Dunn have been fabulous for the mentality of the bullpen,” says manager Bud Black. “They have made a marked difference with the professionalism of that group. There’s no doubt they have set the standard.” So far, the pair have combined for 11 1/3 scoreless innings, and Dunn has performed very well despite his signing receiving lukewarm reviews from commentators. As Groke points out, Holland and Dunn look like far better gambles so far than Chad Qualls and Jason Motte were in 2015-16 (Qualls is currently hurt; the Rockies recently released Motte, and he signed a minor-league deal with the Braves.) Of course, it’s very early in the season.
More on the Rockies, who improved to an NL West-best 8-5 on Saturday:
- With top starter Jon Gray set to miss at least a month with a foot injury, the Rockies figure to turn to one of Jeff Hoffman, German Marquez or Harrison Musgrave to fill the void, writes Thomas Harding of MLB.com. Veteran swingman Chris Rusin has more major league starting experience than any of them, but he isn’t in contention to reenter the Rockies’ rotation because they like the value he provides to their bullpen, Black indicated. The 24-year-old Hoffman and the 22-year-old Marquez are among the premier prospects in the game, with Baseball America ranking the former 36th and the latter 53rd, and the two garnered some big league experience last season. While the 25-year-old Musgrave hasn’t yet cracked the bigs, nor does he carry a high-end prospect pedigree, he did come close to winning a job with the Rockies during the spring, notes Harding.
- Outfielder David Dahl, on the shelf since early March with a stress fracture in his ribcage, feels healthy enough to return, but the Rockies are taking a cautious approach with the 23-year-old, per Groke. Dahl won’t be able to swing a bat until at least next week, as the Rockies first want to see the results from the MRI bone scan he’ll undergo April 21. “Honestly, I’ve been saying I’m ready to play. But they said you can feel good, but it still might not be healed,” said Dahl. “They want to make sure the bone scan comes back and it shows it’s healed.” If the scan yields good news, it should put Dahl on track to make his 2017 debut in May.
7:22pm: Gray has been diagnosed with a stress fracture in his foot, per manager Bud Black (via Groke, on Twitter). The right-hander is expected to miss at least a month of action.
6:09pm: The Rockies have placed top righty Jon Gray on the 10-day DL, as Nick Groke of the Denver Post reports on Twitter. Colorado also needed a replacement for outfielder Gerardo Parra, who’s on paternity leave, so both Raimel Tapia and Shane Carle have been recalled.
Gray has been dealing with an injury to his left big toe for some time. While there was some concern that he wouldn’t be ready to open the year, Gray nevertheless took the hill for Opening Day and made two more starts. But he left early in his most recent outing with an apparent recurrence of the injury.
[RELATED: Updated Rockies Depth Chart]
It’s still unclear just what is causing Gray to experience discomfort, Groke notes in another tweet. A prior MRI did not set off any alarm bells, but presumably he’ll now be reevaluated. With Chad Bettis likely out for the year, Colorado can ill afford much missed time from their best pitcher. But the club is also surely hoping that rest and a closer look will help the young righty get past the malady once and for all.
The 23-year-old Tapia, who is considered one of the organization’s top prospects, already received his first taste of the majors last year. He struggled in brief action, but hit well in his first attempt at the upper minors last year while also curbing what had been a growing strikeout problem. Tapia is off to a hot start in 2017, slashing .406/.472/.594 through seven games at Triple-A. Whether or not he’s slated for more than a fill-in appearance this time around remains to be seen.
Carle, 25, will get his first shot at the game’s highest level. He has typically pitched as a starter in the minors, but moved to a relief role in the Arizona Fall League and has been working from the pen at Albuquerque. His first two appearances haven’t gone very well, but Carle could help provide some innings as a long man or perhaps even a spot starter. For the time being, though, Chris Rusin will step into the rotation.
Right-hander Bronson Arroyo is only two starts into his comeback attempt with the Reds, but the 40-year-old is seemingly giving himself a short leash to produce on the mound, writes Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Following an outing in which he surrendered five runs in six innings yesterday, Arroyo told reporters, “The next two times out, if I don’t see something a little bit crisper and able to keep us in the ballgame a little bit better, maybe you’re at a dead end street. I’m not sure.”
A bit more from around the Senior Circuit…
- Rockies right-hander Jon Gray left last night’s contest after aggravating a toe injury that bothered him in Spring Training, and MLB.com’s Thomas Harding writes that Gray will be reevaluated this morning. The problematic toe is on Gray’s plant foot on the mound, and the Rockies want to be careful with the injury so he doesn’t alter his mechanics to compensate for the pain. Gray could miss a start with the injury, though to this point there’s been no talk of him becoming the latest in a long list of Rockies to land on the disabled list.
- The Mets are planning to promote southpaw Sean Gilmartin prior to tonight’s contest in order to add a fresh arm to their bullpen in the wake of last night’s 16-inning marathon game, per Betsy Helfand of the Las Vegas Review Journal (Twitter link). The Mets went through eight pitchers last night, including four relievers who threw two or more innings. As Helfand points out, Gilmartin and right-hander Erik Goeddel are essentially the only two viable options on New York’s 40-man roster, and Goeddel has been slowed of late by a groin injury. The Mets have long been touted for their rotation depth, but multiple injuries and the trade of Gabriel Ynoa to the Orioles has thinned out their upper-level options on the 40-man roster.
- ESPN’s Mark Saxon breaks down each element of the Cardinals’ struggles thus far in the 2017 campaign, noting that the team’s rotation and run production figure to be sound in the long run, but the bullpen and defense look far shakier. As Saxon observes, Alex Reyes’ injury now looks costlier than ever with the underperformance of the bullpen. Matt Adams continues to represent a clumsy fit for the Cardinals’ roster as well, with Saxon suggesting the team seek to trade him in exchange for a true fourth outfielder that can play all three positions. That may prove difficult, of course, as the team wasn’t able to drum up much of a market for Adams this offseason in a crowded market for players with similar skill sets.
Diamondbacks bench coach Ron Gardenhire is slated to undergo surgery for prostate cancer next Tuesday, as Bob Nightengale of USA Today writes in an update on the former Twins skipper. As Nightengale writes, the bad news came at a particularly disappointing time for Gardenhire, given that he was returning from a layoff after leaving Minnesota. But he’s tackling the condition with typical form, as Nightengale writes. “Cancer is a big word, you know, but it’s been pretty special having so many people reach out,” says Gardenhire, who adds that he “can’t wait to sit in that dugout again.”
Here’s more from around the game:
- ESPN.com’s Andrew Marchand penned an interesting profile of Yankees assistant GM Jean Afterman, who is currently the only woman holding that position leaguewide. Afterman has a fascinating and varied background; she ultimately became a lawyer and later helped pioneer the movement of players from Japan to the majors. While Yankees GM credits her as a “pit bull” who could easily hold a position as his peer, she says she prefers to remain with the organization as an adviser. It’s a fun look at an interesting person that also tackles the ongoing question of whether the game can do more to grow the involvement of women in upper management.
- In another profile, Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com takes a look at controversial Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria as he reportedly prepares to sell his franchise. Crasnick examines some of the differing angles on Loria, focusing on his relationship with the tragically departed Jose Fernandez. Loria also defends his place in the game and discusses the possibility of taking an ambassadorship to France in a sit-down with Crasnick, which you’ll want to read for yourself.
- Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado chatted with Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, who calls the star performer “one of the game’s most inquisitive superstars — if not the most inquisitive.” As he looks to build upon his standing as one of the game’s better all-around players, Arenado is described as constantly seeking to improve by interview subjects such as agent Joel Wolfe, former skipper Walt Weiss, and a variety of veteran players. Soon to turn 26, Arenado has compiled back-to-back forty-plus home run seasons, and also significantly boosted his walk rate last year while continuing to provide high-quality defensive work at third. Of course, his park-adjusted batting production suggests he has been more a very good than a great hitter to this point in his career, though he has improved at the plate in every season in the majors and could perhaps continue to do so if he can expand upon that growth in the plate-discipline department.