- The Rockies have bumped veteran right-hander Chad Bettis to the bullpen, as Nick Groke of The Athletic was among those to tweet. It seems likely his new role will dovetail with the return of Tyler Anderson from a stint on the injured list. Soon to turn 30, Bettis was also bumped to the pen for seven outings last year, though he still took twenty starts. He has struggled to an 8.78 ERA over his first 13 1/3 innings of the 2019 campaign, with eight walks to go with nine strikeouts and twenty base hits already on the ledger. Bettis is earning $3.35MM this year in advance of a final season of arbitration eligibility. In other news out of Colorado, the club seems likely to place outfielder Noel Cuevas on the 10-day injured list after he came down with a quad strain, manager Bud Black told reporters including Kyle Newman of the Denver Post (via Twitter).
The Rockies announced today that backstop Drew Butera’s contract was selected from Triple-A. He’ll take the active roster spot of fellow receiver Chris Iannetta, who was placed on the 10-day inured list with a strained lat muscle.
In other roster moves, the club announced that outfielder Noel Cuevas and righty Antonio Senzatela are also joining the big league club. Outfielder Yonathan Daza and righty Yency Almonte were optioned down to make way.
It’s not clear at this point how severe an injury Iannetta is dealing with, but it’s hardly promising to see him go down. He’s the latest veteran position player to hit the IL, further downgrading an already terrible offensive outlook for the Colorado organization.
Butera has loads of MLB experience and represents a worthwhile insurance policy to cash in. But he’s known far more for his sturdy presence behind the dish than his work with the bat in hand. The 35-year-old is a .201/.258/.299 lifetime hitter in the majors.
The Red Sox, Yankees, Cubs and Rockies were among the majors’ most successful clubs in 2018, when the quartet comprised 40 percent of the league’s playoff bracket. No one was better than the Red Sox, who rolled to 108 regular-season wins before steamrolling the Yankees, Astros and Dodgers in the postseason en route to their latest World Series title. The Yankees, despite their loss to archrival Boston, enjoyed a more-than-respectable year in which they notched 100 victories. And Colorado knocked out Chicago in the National League wild-card game, a battle of two 90-plus-win teams, before succumbing to Milwaukee in the divisional round.
Given the excellence those clubs displayed last year, it would have been fair to expect each of them to earn playoff berths again in 2019. Instead, while we’re just a couple weeks into the season, all of those teams have tripped out of the starting block, having combined for 19 wins in 58 games. They’re the only members of last year’s playoff field that are under .500 at this point.
Boston, whose roster is almost the same as its title-winning version (sans relievers Craig Kimbrel and Joe Kelly), dropped a game to the lowly Orioles on Saturday. Fifteen contests into the season, the Red Sox have already lost 10 times – something they didn’t do until Game 35 a year ago. Neither their all-world offense nor their high-end pitching staff from 2018 have come close to replicating those performances thus far, and questions have swirled around ace Chris Sale. Signed to a five-year, $145MM extension before the season, Sale’s velocity – which began dropping amid an injury-limited 2018 – has continued to plummet. Unsurprisingly, the 30-year-old’s effectiveness has waned as his fastball has lost power. Not only has Sale allowed an earned run per inning across 13 frames, but one of baseball’s all-time strikeout artists has fanned just eight batters.
Maybe Sale is battling a physical issue, but the Yankees are dealing with plenty of their own. Eleven of their players, including standouts Luis Severino, Giancarlo Stanton, Gary Sanchez, Didi Gregorius, Miguel Andujar, Aaron Hicks and Dellin Betances are on the IL. The majority of that group won’t be back in the near future – or perhaps until 2020 in the case of Andujar – while Severino, Gregorius, Hicks and Betances haven’t suited up yet this year. With so many integral contributors unavailable, the Yankees have started 6-8. That would be less concerning if not for their inability to capitalize on an easy early season schedule. The Yankees have played 11 games against the Orioles, Tigers and White Sox, all of whom are regarded as bottom feeders, and only won six of those matchups. The AL East rival Rays (11-4) have taken advantage, evidenced by their 4.5-game lead on New York and their six-game edge over Boston.
Over in the NL, the Cubs – on the heels of a widely panned offseason – have sputtered to a 5-9 showing and a four-game deficit in the Central, which could be one of the majors’ most competitive divisions. Although cornerstone hitters Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber haven’t resembled their best selves, the Cubs’ offense has still done well statistically. Their pitching has been abysmal, on the other hand. Yu Darvish, who’s in Year 2 of a huge contract, continues to perform nothing like the pitcher he was pre-Chicago, while the bullpen the Cubs did little to bolster over the winter has looked predictably vulnerable.
Speaking of vulnerable, the Rockies have christened their season with the majors’ worst record (3-12) and its last-ranked run differential (minus-36). If the Rockies are going to overcome their horrific start to pick up their third straight playoff appearance, they’ll need far more from their position players. Their hitters have put together a woeful 37 wRC+ and minus-2.6 fWAR, both of which easily rank last in the game. Injuries have played a part, as regulars David Dahl, Daniel Murphy and Ryan McMahon are all on the IL. Meanwhile, the Rockies’ primary offensive catalysts – Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story and Charlie Blackmon – have all been duds so far. Those three won’t stay down forever, though, and Colorado’s starting staff also has the talent to rebound from its early season mediocrity. But the Rockies can’t afford to let this skid continue to fester, especially considering they’re stuck in a division with the perennial champion Dodgers. Realistically, it’s wild card or bust for the Rockies, but rallying to steal one of those two spots in a crowded NL won’t be easy.
While it would be unwise to panic on April 13, there are more reasons for concern than expected in all of these teams’ cases. Then again, the same was said last year about the Dodgers, who began 16-26 on their way to 92 wins and another pennant. The Red Sox, Yankees, Cubs and Rockies can take solace in that, perhaps, but do you believe any of them are already in serious trouble?
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Per mlb.com’s transaction page, the Rockies have signed OF Craig Gentry to a minor league deal. The 35-year-old outfielder was signed by the Giants in mid-February, but ostensibly had been released at some point near the end of Spring Training. Gentry’s already reported to Triple-A Albuquerque, where he went 2 for 5 in last night’s 10-3 defeat at the hands of Tacoma.
Gentry remains one of the few active players – along with perhaps Jarrod Dyson of the Diamondbacks and Alex Gordon of the Royals – to sustain elite outfield defense well into his mid-thirties. Never a full-time regular at a position with any of the four organizations with whom he’s been a part, Gentry’s still managed to post 54 defensive runs saved in just over 3,330 innings since his debut in 2009. Though he’s failed ever to show much power (a career .339 slugging percentage in 1402 big-league plate appearances), Gentry’s always been a solid on-base threat, with a .333 career OBP responsible for the bulk of his career 85 wRC+ line.
At the very least, he’ll be a solid late-inning option for a Colorado club that’s relied on aging and inexperienced veterans at the position over the last few seasons. Ian Desmond is the latest to try his hand, but the veteran former first baseman has plunged even further into an ever-widening abyss at the plate. The club apparently doesn’t trust the injury-prone David Dahl or the wiry Raimel Tapia at the position, and already punted incumbent Charlie Blackmon over to right, so Gentry seems a prime option to give MLB’s toughest center field a crack.
- Rockies first baseman Daniel Murphy will not require surgery to repair his fractured left index finger, Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post reports on Twitter. That seems generally promising, if only because it’s always preferable to avoid the risks of a procedure. It’s not clear exactly how long he’ll be sidelined; at last look, the club expected he’d be out of commission through at least the end of the month, but that seems like the bare minimum. Whatever the duration, it’ll be more than desirable for a team that currently sports the league’s worst offense.
The Rockies announced Tuesday that they’ve placed outfielder David Dahl on the 10-day injured list due to a “left-side core injury.” Fellow outfielder Yonathan Daza has been recalled from Triple-A in his place. Dahl’s injury isn’t believed to be especially serious, and the hot-hitting 25-year-old in fact told MLB.com’s Thomas Harding that he hopes to return after a minimal 10-day stay on the IL (Twitter link). Dahl joins Daniel Murphy as a key middle-of-the-order presence whose absence will surely be felt by a Rockies lineup that entered play Tuesday tied for 20th in total runs scored (37th), 24th in batting average (.219), 26th in on-base percentage (.283) and 23rd in slugging percentage (.350). Dahl was off to a scintillating .343/.385/.629 start to the season through 39 plate appearances.
The Cubs’ offense clicked in today’s home opener, but there’s still some cause for concern. Left-hander Jon Lester exited the game in the third inning due to tightness in his left hamstring, per Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. Lester had singled and scored in the prior frame, and Wittenmyer notes that the southpaw was slow to get up after sliding safely into home plate. More will be known after an MRI tomorrow, as Wittenmyer tweets. While Lester says he’s optimistic and isn’t even counting out making his next scheduled start, it seems safe to assume he’ll miss at least one outing. If that comes to pass, the Cubs would likely have to turn to righty Tyler Chatwood to make a start, given that Mike Montgomery is currently on the injured list due to a lat strain.
Here’s more from the NL …
- Clayton Kershaw will make what is expected to be his final rehab start tomorrow for the Dodgers’ Double-A affiliate, tweets Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register. If Kershaw is indeed ready to be activated after that outing, he’ll step back into the rotation in place of fellow southpaw Julio Urias, Pedro Moura of The Athletic tweeted last night. Los Angeles hasn’t exactly felt Kershaw’s absence in the win-loss column, as they’re sitting at 8-2 on the season, but he’ll nevertheless be a boon to an already dangerous roster that sports baseball’s best run differential (+36). Urias has shown a velocity uptick to open the new season, but the Dodgers will be happy to take things slow given that he only returned from injury in time to record 15 2/3 total innings last year.
- Rockies left fielder David Dahl exited last night’s game early due to an abdominal injury sustained on a swing, writes MLB.com’s Thomas Harding. While the outfielder himself doesn’t believe he’ll need to miss an extended period of time, manager Bud Black offered a more cautious outlook, simply stating that the Rox have their “fingers crossed” and are hoping for a slight tweak as opposed to something like an oblique strain that would require a trip to the injured list. Dahl has been brilliant to start the 2019 season for the otherwise offensively challenged ballclub, raking at a .343/.385/.629 clip and getting a look as the team’s cleanup hitter. Should he require an IL stint, Raimel Tapia would figure to fill in during his absence.
- Although Rockies owner Dick Monfort seems interested in extending left-hander Kyle Freeland, the two sides haven’t engaged in talks yet, Heyman reports. Colorado just extended righty German Marquez for a guaranteed $43MM – a number Heyman regards as “an obvious floor” for Freeland, who’s in his final pre-arbitration season and has three years of control left thereafter. Freeland, 26 next month, made a major case for long-term security in 2018, in which he amassed 202 1/3 innings of 2.85 ERA pitching and finished fourth in the NL Cy Young race.
According to a team announcement (Twitter link), the Rockies have placed left-handed pitcher Tyler Anderson on the 10-day injured list due to left knee inflammation. In a corresponding move, the team recalled right-hander Yency Almonte from Triple-A.
Anderson, 29, has looked out of sorts in his first two starts of the season, surrendering 11 runs in just nine innings of work. His slow start comes on the heels of an impressive 2018 campaign in which Anderson worked 176 innings, posting a 4.55 ERA while striking out 164 batters.
It’s disappointing news for a Rockies team that has had to endure more than its fair share of injuries early in the season, with infielders Daniel Murphy and Ryan McMahon also on the IL. With Anderson unavailable, it’s unclear just how the Rockies will fill his spot in the starting rotation. The preferred candidate, Antonio Senzatela, is also on the injured list, so he was not an option to replace Anderson. Yency Almonte, who will fill Anderson’s spot on the 25-man roster, has not started a game at the Major League level, but started 10 games in Triple-A last season. However, the Rockies plan to use Almonte as a reliver in the big leagues.
A bullpen day is not out of the question when Anderson’s turn in the rotation comes up next, but the circumstances are not ideal for a Rockies team that already had questions surrounding the back end of the rotation. For the time being, though, it appears that the Rockies will need to patch together a rotation while Anderson and Senzatela recover from injuries. Anderson’s spot in the rotation will come up next on Wednesday. Jeff Hoffman, who started 16 games for the Rockies in 2017, remains in Triple-A as a depth rotation option.
The Rockies have placed infielder Ryan McMahon on the 10-day injured list due to a left elbow strain, as per a team announcement. Infielder Josh Fuentes has been called up from Triple-A to take McMahon’s roster spot.
McMahon has been in the starting lineup for seven of Colorado’s eight games as either a first baseman or second baseman, getting more time at first base since Daniel Murphy hit the IL. There hasn’t been much production yet for McMahon (.200/.310/.280 over 29 PA) as the former top prospect is still looking to break through at the Major League level. McMahon has only a .661 OPS in 255 PA for the Rockies over the last three seasons, though the team was hoping McMahon could take that next step in more of a regular role this season. McMahon and Garrett Hampson were expected to split time at second base in the wake of DJ LeMahieu’s departure.
With both Murphy and McMahon now sidelined, Mark Reynolds, Pat Valaika, and Fuentes are likely to handle the bulk of the time at first base until McMahon is back. There hasn’t yet been any indication about the severity of McMahon’s injury, though it seems reasonable to assume he’ll return before Murphy, who isn’t expected back until May.
Fuentes’ promotion caps off his unlikely rise through the Rockies’ farm system. After going undrafted, Fuentes signed on with the Colorado organization as a minor league free agent and proved his value, hitting .300/.349/.477 over 2034 PA in the minors. This included a big 2018 season that saw him named as both the MVP and Rookie Of The Year in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League. With extensive experience at both first base and third base, Fuentes also provides some extra backup at the hot corner for his cousin, Rockies superstar Nolan Arenado.