The Rays are preparing to give a long look at outfielder Mallex Smith, as Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes. As he nears his 25th birthday, Smith has upped his offensive game, with a .373/.418/.510 batting line. Though he’s carrying an unsustainable .432 BABIP, it’s notable that Smith has been striking out at a meager 12.5% clip. With Kevin Kiermaier just starting a lengthy DL stint, there’s little reason not to see whether Smith can stake a claim to an everyday job. Topkin also covers some of the other players who could see additional opportunities due to the loss of Kiermaier.
Here’s more from the rest of the AL East:
- Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski gave an honest answer when asked by Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald whether he foresaw the team’s unbelievable start to the season. “We thought the capabilities were there,” said Dombrowski. “But for me to say we expected it to this point, that would be a bit much.” Still, he did acknowledge that he and the rest of the front office truly believed that last year’s tepid run production would turn around, with or without the addition of J.D. Martinez. Sox fans will want to read the entire piece, which gives an interesting look at all the things going right in Boston at the moment.
- The story isn’t quite the same in Baltimore, where the Orioles are off to a miserable opening run. One bright spot has been Andrew Cashner, one of several offseason pitching additions. Jon Meoli of the Baltimore Sun examines whether his 3.00 ERA through 24 innings — which follows a 3.40 mark in 166 2/3 frames last year — could be sustainable despite still-middling peripherals. Skipper Buck Showalter seems to believe that Cashner has matured as a pitcher and “came into his own last year.” He says he’s “hoping that we’re going to reap the benefits of that” over the full course of the current season. Of course, as Meoli explains, there are certainly some reasons not to buy in.
- Relief pitching was expected to be an overwhelming strength for the Yankees in 2018, but Marc Carig of The Athletic writes (subscription link) that there are some cracks in the pen. Beyond just short-term struggles with results, the Yanks have seen cause for deeper concern with some pitchers. In particular, Dellin Betances has shown a bit of a velo drop and, perhaps more worryingly, reduced spin rate. There are similar issues for Tommy Kahnle, who is now on the DL after not looking capable of sustaining his 2017 breakout in the early going.
- The Blue Jays have received generally promising news on star third baseman Josh Donaldson, as Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca tweets. Skipper John Gibbons says that, though Donaldson isn’t going to be ready to come back after the minimum ten-day stint, he has resumed throwing and is feeling “great.” The real question, though, is whether Donaldson will be able to throw without limitation after showing reduced form early in the season.