- The Pirates signed outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall to a one-year, $2.75MM deal in the offseason, but he hasn’t played yet and it doesn’t appear he will anytime soon. Chisenhall’s still at home mending from left calf tightness. The 30-year-old opened the season on the injured list because of a finger issue, and not long after he started a rehab assignment April 19, the team shut him down because of the calf problem. The same calf prevented Chisenhall from playing past July 1 last year – his final season with the Indians.
- Catcher Francisco Cervelli, out since May 26 with a concussion, will be reexamined by a neurologist on Thursday. He still hasn’t been cleared for workouts. Cervelli’s season got off to a poor start even before his latest concussion-caused absence, while fellow Pirates backstops Elias Diaz and Jacob Stallings have also posted subpar aggregate production. Diaz has hit well over the past month, though.
- While Reliever Keone Kela hasn’t taken a major league mound since May 4, he could start throwing again Thursday or Friday. Kela had gone on a rehab stint toward the end of last month, but the Pirates halted it May 31 after he suffered a setback in his injured right shoulder. A headline-grabbing acquisition for the Pirates last summer, the 26-year-old Kela has struggled to a 4.63 ERA/5.63 FIP with 8.49 K/9, 3.09 BB/9 and a 37.1 percent groundball rate in 11 2/3 innings this season.
- One of Keone’s fellow righty relievers, Nick Burdi, has returned to throwing. However, he’s still dealing with symptoms from the nerve injury that forced him to the IL almost two months ago. Burdi incurred his injury April 22 in his most recent outing. The flamethrowing 26-year-old had begun the season in encouraging fashion prior to that night, when he allowed five earned runs in a third of an inning and saw his ERA go from 4.32 to 9.35. Although an ERA that ugly is hard to ignore, it’s worth noting Burdi has put up a stellar 17:3 K:BB ratio in 8 2/3 innings this season.
Reds lefty Alex Wood, who’s dealt with back spasms since he arrived for Spring Training in late February, “didn’t respond well” after his latest bullpen session, reports manager David Bell (via MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon). Wood, who was acquired in an offseason trade that also sent Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp from Los Angeles to Cincinnati, will likely seek a second opinion on the creaky back, placing his eventual Reds debut in even further doubt. Thanks to stellar early-season performances from Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray, and Tyler Mahle, among others, Cincy’s starting five leads the NL in nearly every rotation category, doubly impressive when given the puny dimensions of Great American Ballpark. Still, it’s a unit that should both anticipate heavy regression and yearn for the return of Wood, whose recent-year track record stands apart from each of his potential rotation mates.
The latest on a few other NL franchises…
- The Brewers and Mets were the teams most connected to Gio Gonzalez in the rumor mill before the lefty agreed to sign with Milwaukee on Thursday. Gonzalez confirmed Saturday that the Mets were indeed the other club pursuing him, per Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “The Mets were in there but they have such a great rotation. The Brewers met my expectations and needs,” Gonzalez said. “Either way, it was a win-win for me. Two great teams were coming at you. It came down to wants and needs with Milwaukee. I played with them last year so I had the feel for what they’re trying to do.” While Gonzalez lauded the Mets’ rotation, he nonetheless may have been an upgrade for New York. The Mets have been running out the much-maligned Jason Vargas as their fifth starter, after all, yet they only viewed Gonzalez as a marginal-at-best upgrade over him, Mike Puma of the New York Post tweeted this week. Their bearishness on Gonzalez helped pave the way for the 33-year-old to rejoin the Brewers, with whom he performed well after they acquired him from Washington last August. Now, Gonzalez will slot back into a Brewers rotation that entered Saturday with the NL’s worst ERA (5.77). His first outing of the year will come Sunday against – you guessed it – the Mets.
- Banged-up Pirates outfielders Corey Dickerson and Lonnie Chisenhall aren’t recovering as hoped. Dickerson felt tightness in his strained right shoulder while throwing from 110 feet Saturday, and Chisenhall’s now dealing with left calf tightness that has forced the team to stop his rehab assignment, according to Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. It’s a new issue this year for Chisenhall, who started the season on the IL because of a broken hand. However, it’s all the more troubling because Chisenhall – then with the Indians – missed large chunks of the previous two seasons because of calf problems in both legs.
- The Braves have placed reliever Jesse Biddle on the IL with a right thigh bruise and right calf strain, Mark Bowman of MLB.com writes. Atlanta recalled righty Shane Carle in a corresponding move. The IL placement continues a difficult stretch for Biddle, who, as Bowman notes, has retired just 10 of the last 23 batters he gone against. The southpaw faced four batters in a loss to the Rockies on Friday and failed to retire any of them, though one reached on an error, and yielded four runs (one earned) on three hits. Biddle has still notched a solid 3.18 ERA in 11 1/3 innings this year, but he has also walked upward of seven hitters per nine and seen his swinging-strike rate plummet from 10.4 percent in 2018 to 6.8 this season.
Danny Duffy is scheduled to make what could be his final rehab appearance tonight for AA-Northwest Arkansas, writes the Kansas City Star’s Lynn Worthy. Though the 30-year-old had initially expressed interest in returning to the club as a reliever, GM Dayton Moore prefers the lefty return to a patchwork rotation: “That’s the natural question to ask for a lot of reasons as we’re looking for more consistency in our bullpen and you want to put quality arms in the back end, but we’ve gotta have guys that can start. We’ve gotta have guys that can go out there and set the tone every fifth day. We’ll be open-minded as we go forward.” Both units are again in shambles for a struggling Royals club, though the nightmare bullpen – last in the AL in all relevant park-adjusted metrics – is arguably in more dire need. Duffy’s 2018 season was his worst in years, but the eight-year MLB vet remains far and away the most talented arm on the 12-man Royal staff.
In more injury and rehab news from around the game…
- Rays top prospect Brent Honeywell, on the mend from a February 2018 Tommy John surgery, couldn’t make it through his first start in extended spring training without a setback, Eduardo Encina of the Tampa Bay Times was among those to report. The 24-year-old, who was on track for a late-May/early-June return to competition, felt soreness in his forearm, the same symptom that was a surgery precursor 14 months ago. The team was quick to note that it’s “fairly common” for TJ rehabbers to experience similar issues, though the thinly-veiled unease wasn’t hard to detect. Honeywell be shut down indefinitely for the time being, though there’s no word on whether or not the club will ask him to shelve his said-to-be arm-shredding screwball, which has baffled minor leaguers high and low throughout his professional tenure.
- The Pirates lost another outfielder to injury yesterday in center fielder Starling Marte, the club’s fourth in an early-season string of maladies at the positions. Offseason acquisition Lonnie Chisenhall, though, is finally on the mend: the 30-year-old began a rehab assignment at Triple-A Indianapolis yesterday, and appears set to rejoin the club in the coming days. The oft-injured lefty will apparently see time at third base and first base, in addition to the corner outfield spots, writes MLB.com’s Adam Berry, and will look to add his much-improved bat (128 wRC+ over his last 365 MLB PA) to a surging Pirate club.
2:33pm: Bucs trainer Todd Tomczyk told reporters, including Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic (Twitter link), that it’s “inaccurate right now” to suggest Chisenhall will miss four-to-six weeks. The issue appears to be in his finger; for the time being, he’ll be shut down for ten days before being reevaluated.
10:21am: The Pittsburgh org has now announced the rest of its roster moves, as MLB.com’s Adam Berry covers (Twitter links). Jordan Lyles will also open the season with an IL stint owing to discomfort in his right side. He’ll be joined there by fellow reliever Dovydas Neverauskas, catcher Elias Diaz, corner infielder/outfielder Jose Osuna, and Polanco.
The club will indeed add Shuck, Cabrera, and lefty Francisco Liriano to the 40-man. To create roster space, righty Edgar Santana was placed on the 60-day IL while recovering from Tommy John surgery and the team designated relievers Jake Barrett and Aaron Slegers for assignment.
10:09am: Pirates outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall has been diagnosed with a broken hand, per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (via Twitter). He’s expected to miss four to six weeks of action to open the season. The team has also announced it’s Opening Day roster, which as expected includes veteran outfielder Melky Cabrera.
It’s a tough-luck development for the 30-year-old, who was hit by a pitch late in camp. This is hardly the way he hoped to begin an effort at a bounceback season after an injury-marred pair of seasons.
Chisenhall inked a one-year, $2.75MM deal with the Bucs over the winter. The hope was that he’d serve as the primary option in right field while Gregory Polanco is working back to full health. Instead, he’ll have to do the same before he can contribute.
To open the year, at least, Cabrera will get a run instead in the corner outfield. It seems he’ll be joined in the mix by JB Shuck, another minor-league signee who spent camp with the Pittsburgh organization, though that has yet to be announced.
It appears the Royals will have to trudge through 2019 without the face of their franchise, catcher Salvador Perez, who may need Tommy John surgery. While they’ve been connected to free-agent catcher Martin Maldonado in the wake of the Perez news, general manager Dayton Moore said Saturday he’d rather go forward with in-house options Cam Gallagher and Meibrys Viloria and pick up “depth” at the position than add another potential starter, Lynn Worthy of the Kansas City Star reports. It’s unclear whether that mindset would close the door on a Maldonado signing, however. Even though the 32-year-old Maldonado has accrued plenty of playing time in recent seasons, the defensively adept veteran may not be in position to hold out for a starting job at this juncture.
More from the game’s Central divisions…
- Tigers owner Christopher Ilitch suggested Saturday the team will attempt to extend general manager Al Avila before his contract runs out after the 2020 season, though discussions haven’t yet gotten underway, Jason Beck of MLB.com relays. Avila, the Tigers’ GM since 2015, is “doing an excellent job” overseeing the rebuilding franchise, said Ilitch, who also spoke highly of manager Ron Gardenhire as he enters his second season with the club. Beyond that, Ilitch hinted the club’s poised to become more active in free agency as its rebuild progresses, per Beck, which jibes with previous statements from Avila.
- Pirates outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall left the team’s game Saturday with “general lower extremity tightness,” according to Kevin Gorman of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The severity is unknown, but it’s not particularly reassuring news after Chisenhall missed all but 29 games last year with the Indians while dealing with calf problems. The Pirates signed the 30-year-old Chisenhall to a $2.75MM guarantee in free agency, in part because starting outfielder Gregory Polanco will miss at least the beginning of the season after undergoing shoulder surgery last September.
- Cardinals reliever Brett Cecil will stay out of game action until late next week as he battles mechanical issues, Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com writes. Cecil and the Cardinals insist he’s physically fine, but the southpaw noticed in his Wednesday appearance that he was leaving the mound too early and didn’t have his left arm in the correct position when he came set, Langosch writes He’ll need to fix those issues to have any chance at rebounding from a dreadful 2018 in which he logged a 6.89 ERA with 5.23 K/9 and 6.89 BB/9 in 32 2/3 innings. Cecil’s now in the third season of a four-year, $30.5MM contract that hasn’t worked out as hoped for the Cardinals thus far.
Nov. 27: The Pirates have formally announced the signing, via press release.
“Lonnie Chisenhall adds an experienced, productive and versatile player to our Major League Team,” said GM Neal Huntington in a statement accompanying the announcement. “When healthy, Lonnie has been a quality hitter while offering defensive flexibility. He also provides us an immediate option in right field while Gregory Polanco is getting healthy and his abilities and versatility will make our club better once Polanco returns.”
Chisenhall, 30, missed much of the 2018 season owing to a nagging calf injury. If he can avoid the DL, and earn playing time, he’ll have a chance to boost his salary in Pittsburgh. Per Rosenthal, the deal comes with some reasonably hefty potential incentives. Chisenhall will receive $250K upon reaching 250, 300, 350, and 400 plate appearances along with $500K if he makes it to 450, 500, 550, and 600 trips to the dish. That’s a potential $3MM boost.
Of course, it’d be rather surprising to see the left-handed-hitting Chisenhall receive enough action to max out the contract. He has only topped the five-hundred PA barrier once in his career, most of which has been spent in platoon duty. And for good reason: Chisenhall has been 58 OPS points better against right-handed than left-handed pitching in the majors.
For the Bucs, Chisenhall represents a part of a solution for the absence of Gregory Polanco, who is expected to miss a big chunk of the season recovering from shoulder surgery. Frankly, it’s unclear what the club will receive from Polanco in 2019, so it was imperative that a fill-in be found.
While a right-handed hitter might have dovetailed better with the existing unit by the time Polanco is back in action — after all, he and Corey Dickerson both hit from the left side — adding a lefty makes for a cleaner immediate fit with the team’s slate of reserve options. Pablo Reyes, Jose Osuna, and Patrick Kivlehan are among the players who could compete for bench duties. Of course, it’s also still possible that a higher-end asset could fall into the Bucs’ laps at some point over the offseason.
Regardless of how the platoon machinations work out, this is an interesting signing. Chisenhall is a sneaky upside play, given the ceiling he has shown on both sides of the ball.
Offensively, Chisenhall has produced at about a league-average clip over his eight-year career. But he churned out a 117 wRC+ in 2014, the season in which he saw his most extensive playing time (142 games, 533 plate appearances). And since the start of the 2017 season, he’s a .297/.368/.503 hitter with 13 home runs over 365 plate appearances. That represents a notable power surge as against his prior track record, though it came in a short sample and showed up more in ’17 than in his brief ’18 effort.
With the glove, Chisenhall went from a questionable third baseman to a high-end right fielder in 2015. The exuberant defensive metrics have cooled in the years to come, but he generally grades out in sight of average. It’s at best questionable whether he’ll be more than a solid performer in the field, particularly given that he’ll be looking to move past the longstanding lower-leg ailment, but there’s reason to think the Pirates will at least have an average defender for their money.
All things considered, as Jason Rollison of Bucs Dugout noted in tweeting the club’s interest recently, it seems like a nice match that will serve both player and team. Chisenhall joins Jung Ho Kang as a reasonably high-upside early signee, giving the Pirates two roster pieces at a palatable price and leaving a relatively robust amount of spending capacity untapped for further additions. (Of course, some potential payroll space could be held and deployed at midseason if the team proves worthy of further investment.)
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez is coming off a disappointing season in which he endured plenty of criticism for both his underwhelming offensive performance and his subpar pitch blocking behind the plate. Nevertheless, New York will again rely on Sanchez as its starting backstop in 2019, general manager Brian Cashman recently told ESPN Radio’s Michael Kay (hat tip to Mike Axisa of River Ave Blues). “We know what he’s capable of doing,” Cashman said. “And I’m already getting phone calls to be honest from clubs trying to knock on our door to see if he’s available. And he’s not … He will be our catcher.” Sanchez was the game’s best hitting catcher from 2016-17, a 754-plate appearance span in which he batted .284/.354/.568 with 53 home runs, but dropped to .186/.291/.406 with 18 HRs in 374 PA in 2018. A .197 batting average of balls in play (down from .308 the previous two seasons) played a part in that, though, and Statcast suggests Sanchez deserved much better offensive numbers than his bottom-line results. Perhaps thanks in part to that data, not to mention his past production, it appears the Yankees are counting on a return to form in 2019 from the soon-to-be 26-year-old. Sanchez is slated to play his final pre-arb season next year, meaning he’ll earn a bargain salary. That only adds to Sanchez’s appeal for the Yankees and the teams that have inquired about him.
More from the American League…
- There’s almost no chance the Indians will re-sign pending free-agent outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall, Jordan Bastian of MLB.com writes. The 30-year-old’s coming off his second straight injury-plagued season (he played just 82 games in 2017 and only 29 in ’18), and the Indians seem to have a cheaper in-house replacement in Tyler Naquin, Bastian observes. Chisenhall, to his credit, was a strong offensive contributor during his limited playing time over the past couple years. He has also been a member of the Cleveland organization since it drafted him 29th overall in 2008, so a parting of ways would mean the end of a long union between the two sides.
- The Orioles came in second in the race for Cuban pitching prospect Sandy Gaston, whom the Rays reeled in earlier this week, according to Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com. Meanwhile, the Mesa brothers – two other Orioles targets who joined the Marlins last weekend – were essentially a package deal, despite earlier reports to the contrary, per Kubatko. Although Baltimore had the most international pool space available, it lost out on all three prospects, leading to questions as to what went wrong for the beleaguered franchise.
The Angels announced Tuesday that they’ve placed outfielder Justin Upton on the 10-day disabled list due to a laceration on his index finger. Jack Magruder of MLB.com writes that Upton required stitches after he sustained a severe cut at his home on a wine glass that had broken. Upton expressed frustration and regret over incurring an off-field injury in this manner, though it sounds as if he’ll only require a short-term absence from the team. The Angels aren’t contending for the postseason anyhow, but Upton would surely like to be on the field competing and pursuing a third consecutive 30-homer season. The slugger is in the first season of a five-year, $106MM extension with the Angels and has batted .267/.352/.474 with 26 big flies on the year.
Some more injury news from around the league…
- The White Sox will be without Jose Abreu for the next two weeks after he underwent outpatient surgery on his groin area, writes Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun-Times. Abreu reported to Guaranteed Rate Field on Tuesday complaining of pain in his abdomen and was hospitalized prior to the start of the game. He figures to be formally placed on the 10-day disabled list tomorrow, giving the Sox an open roster spot. The ChiSox also lost Leury Garcia to a Grade 2 hamstring strain that could end his season, as he’s projected to miss anywhere from three to six weeks with the injury.
- There’s heightened “concern” regarding Ervin Santana following the right-hander’s visit with a hand specialist, tweets Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Twins skipper Paul Molitor told reporters that Santana is slated to undergo followup x-rays and an MRI to further determine the extent of the damage in his still-ailing right middle finger. The organization isn’t sure whether Santana will return in 2018, but Molitor said that it’s looking “less likely.” Santana has made just five starts in 2018 and struggled to an 8.03 ERA after undergoing surgery on that finger back in February. The Twins hold a $14MM club option on him, but given his injuries and poor performance, that seems unlikely to be exercised.
- The Indians could welcome Edwin Encarnacion back to the lineup as soon as Thursday, writes MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian, but they’ve received less encouraging news on outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall and right-hander Nick Goody. Chisenhall hasn’t progressed as quickly as the team would’ve hoped as he rehabs a severe calf strain and is still working his way back at the team’s Spring Training facility in Arizona, per manager Terry Francona. Goody, meanwhile, suffered a setback in his rehab from an elbow injury. He’s been shelved for three and a half months and is slated to meet with Dr. Keith Meister and Dr. James Andrews later this week.
Here are a few players to hit the disabled list today…
- Rangers outfielder Ryan Rua has been placed on the DL with back spasms, the club has announced; they’ve recalled center fielder Delino DeShields to take his spot on the roster. Rua’s been worse than a replacement level player this year, according to both Fangraphs and Baseball Reference, hitting a meager .194/.223/.371 across 132 plate appearances. He’s struck out in exactly a third of his plate appearances while drawing just five walks in that span.
- The Padres announced that Luis Perdomo is going back on the disabled list due to a strained right shoulder, while left-hander Jose Castillo will activated from the DL in the same transaction. Perdomo allowed six earned runs in just 2 1/3 innings in his most recent start, and the former Rule 5 Draft selection has endured an ugly season to date. The right-hander has barely averaged four innings per start, walking nearly five batters per nine innings while posting a 7.94 ERA for the Friars. It’s surely a disappointing development for a San Diego ballclub that’s been very patient with him in his development since holding him on their active roster for the entire 2016 season.
- The Indians’ outfield woes continue, with Tyler Naquin becoming the latest player to hit the disabled list. Naquin’s been dealing with a hip injury, as was earlier reported, so the official move comes as little surprise. Right-hander Adam Plutko will be recalled in his place, as tonight’s scheduled starter Mike Clevinger is dealing with a minor illness and may have to miss his start. Naquin’s been only marginally above replacement and sports a .264/.295/.356 slash line, but he was one of few options in the Tribe outfield worth playing and they’ll now likely be intensifying their search for a viable replacement for Lonnie Chisenhall.
The Indians announced to reporters today that outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall will miss the next eight to 10 weeks due to a Grade 3 strain of his left calf muscle (Twitter link via Ryan Lewis of the Akron Beacon-Journal). That timeline will keep Chisenhall on the shelf until at least early September, and if there are any setbacks along the way in his recovery, it could potentially jeopardize the remainder of his season.
It’s a tough loss for the Indians, to be sure. While Chisenhall has been quite prone to injury over the past two seasons, he’s also been an extremely productive hitter when on the field, slashing .297/.368/.503 with 13 homers, 23 doubles and a pair of triples through 365 plate appearances. He was limited to 82 games last season by a concussion, a shoulder sprain and a calf strain, and this will now be his second extended absence of the 2018 season due to a calf injury.
Cleveland has recently been relying on Michael Brantley, Greg Allen and Tyler Naquin in the outfield, with Brandon Guyer and Rajai Davis also representing options on the big league roster. Former first-rounder Bradley Zimmer also remains on hand as an option at the Triple-A level.
For Chisenhall himself, the timing could scarcely be worse. He’s just months away from free agency, and in a best-case scenario, he’d have roughly four weeks to demonstrate his health to teams before the end of the season. He’s already been limited to a mere 95 PAs in 2018, and it’s now quite possible that he’ll head into free agency having played somewhere in the vicinity of 130 to 140 games combined in the two-year platform to his first trip to the open market. Given his success at the plate dating back to 2016 and the fact that he’ll be 30 years old for all of the 2019 season, Chisenhall should still find Major League offers on the market, but his stock is obviously weakened handily by what is now his third calf injury of the past calendar year.