- Left-hander Alex Wood will make at least one more start for the Dodgers, manager Dave Roberts told reporters (link via MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick). However, it’s also possible that Wood, who tossed six one-hit innings against the Giants in his most recent outing, will remain in the rotation even when Rich Hill is ready to be activated from the disabled list. “I think Alex has done everything he can to warrant a case to continue to be in the rotation,” said Roberts. “…I can’t say with 100 percent confidence when Rich will be back as a starter. There is talk about Rich potentially coming back sooner in a role out of the ’pen and that would leave an opportunity for Woody — who has pitched really well — to stay in the rotation.” Roberts has suggested on multiple occasions that Hill could be eased back from his blister problems as a reliever, though given the magnitude of his contract and last season’s excellence as a starter, one has to imagine that the team would eventually prefer that Hill rejoin the rotation.
- Roberts also conceded the fact that outfielder Andre Ethier will be sidelined until June, “at the earliest,” as Andy McCullough of the L.A. Times writes. The Dodgers have been without Ethier since he was diagnosed with a herniated disk in his back late in Spring Training, and he’s yet to resume baseball activities more than five weeks after receiving an epidural injection. “The time that it’s taken, at this point, it’s almost like [he’ll need] a spring training again,” said Roberts. “…I’m not saying it needs to be a dedicated six weeks. But from the time of baseball activity, it’s easily fair to say [it’ll take] a month after that.” In Ethier’s absence, Andrew Toles has seen quite a bit of playing time, though he’s batting just .207/.258/.362 through 62 plate appearances.
The Marlins have announced the claim of righty Joe Gunkel off waivers from the Dodgers. He has been optioned to Double-A Jacksonville, where he’ll serve as a near-MLB-ready depth option for the Fish.
Gunkel, 25, has bounced from the Red Sox to the Orioles to the Dodgers over the past 18 months before today’s arrival in the Marlins organization. Though he’s yet to crack a Major League roster and hasn’t generated considerable prospect fanfare — he topped out as the No. 20 prospect in a weak Orioles farm system this past offseason, per Baseball America — it’s not hard to see why he’s held appeal to so many clubs.
A former 18th-round pick, Gunkel has displayed pristine control throughout his minor league career, averaging just 1.5 walks per nine innings pitched over the life of 439 1/3 frames. And, as recently as 2015, thre righty posted a combined 2.68 ERA with 7.0 K/9 against 1.7 BB/9 in 144 2/3 innings between Class-A Advanced and Double-A.
In 2016, Gunkel’s ERA took a step backward (4.02), but he turned in a career-high 161 innings between Double-A and Triple-A while still showing off a staunch aversion to free passes (1.2 BB/9). Gunkel averaged 6.1 K/9 and induced grounders at a roughly 41 percent clip between those two levels. Gunkel has three minor league options remaining, meaning that he can be shuttled back and forth between the minors and Majors without first needing to clear waivers from now through the end of the 2019 campaign (if he ultimately sticks with one organization).
The Dodgers have designated Triple-A right-hander Joe Gunkel for assignment, reports J.P. Hoornstra of the Southern California News Group (Twitter link). His 40-man spot will go to vaunted prospect Cody Bellinger, who will make his Major League debut tonight in left field for the Dodgers. To clear a spot for Bellinger on the 25-man roster, the Dodgers optioned outfielder Brett Eibner back to Triple-A Oklahoma City, per Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times (Twitter link).
Gunkel has a solid minor league track record, having tossed 104 1/3 innings with a 2.59 ERA, 6.0 K/9 and a strong 1.3 BB/9 rate for the Orioles’ Double-A affiliate in 2015. The 2016 season wasn’t as strong for Gunkel, though he did still post a 4.02 ERA with 6.1 K/9 against 1.2 BB/9 in 161 innings between Baltimore’s Double-A and Triple-A affiliates. Baltimore designated Gunkel for assignment earlier this month to clear a spot on the roster for hard-throwing reliever Miguel Castro after picking him up from the Rockies. Shortly thereafter, he was flipped to the Dodgers for cash or a player to be named later.
The Dodgers will promote top prospect Cody Bellinger, according to MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick (via Twitter). The 21-year-old will provide a left-handed-hitting option at first base and the corner outfield, though it’s unknown how long he’ll remain in the majors.
Bellinger flew up top prospect charts with a strong 2016 season, in which he slashed .271/.365/.507 over 477 plate appearances, the vast bulk of them coming at Double-A. After an excellent stint in the Arizona Fall League, Bellinger sat at seventh among all prospects leaguewide in the ranking of Baseball America.
Since that time, Bellinger has taken Triple-A by storm. Through 77 trips to the plate, he owns a .343/.429/.627 batting line with five home runs and seven steals. Adding him to the active MLB roster, though, will require the creation of a 40-man space.
The Dodgers fielded trade inquiries on the blue-chip prospect over the winter, as they have recently for other hyped youngsters such as Corey Seager, Julio Urias, and Joc Pederson. But Los Angeles has held firm on those players, all of whom will now have reached the majors. With Pederson on the DL, a need arose for another outfield bat, and it’ll be Bellinger who gets the call — at least temporarily. As Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times tweets, Bellinger is expected to see time in left and center.
Looking longer term, Bellinger’s promotion comes late enough into the season that his path to free agency would be delayed by one year, but not so late that he’d avoid Super Two status. If Bellinger remains in the Majors to stay, he’d accrue 159 days of Major League service time, putting on track to reach arbitration after the 2019 season and free agency upon completion of the 2023 campaign.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Pederson, who just turned 25, has a groin injury. It doesn’t seem likely to keep him out for a lengthy stretch, but the Dodgers evidently felt it was worth getting out ahead of with a DL placement. He’ll look to pick up his hitting a bit upon his return, after posting a tepid .220/.322/.340 mark through his first 18 games of the season.
Notably, too, Los Angeles is set to bring up talented young starter Julio Urias for his 2017 debut, per J.P. Hoornstra of the Southern California News Group (Twitter link). The 20-year-old had opened the year at Triple-A as part of an effort to control his innings.
Urias has unsurprisingly dominated at the highest level of the minors, though he has also permitted nine walks in his 14 frames. Still, he has nothing left to prove there; the young southpaw already turned in 77 innings of 3.39 ERA ball in the majors last season.
It seems that Urias will take the ball Thursday, meaning that righty Kenta Maeda will be bumped from his next scheduled start. He’ll pitch Friday, per skipper Dave Roberts, as MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick tweets. The 29-year-old has been hit hard in the early going, with 24 hits and seven long balls recorded against him through 19 innings — though he has also maintained his excellent strikeout (9.0 K/9) and walk (2.4 BB/9) rates.
After this first outing, Urias could stay in the majors or head back to Albuquerque. How things shake out could also depend in part upon the status of Rich Hill, who is still on the DL with a troublesome blister.
- Center fielder Joc Pederson left the Dodgers’ win over the Diamondbacks on Sunday with right groin tightness, and the likelihood is that he’ll miss some games, according to Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register. The Dodgers, already dealing with injuries to outfielders Andre Ethier and Franklin Gutierrez, will re-evaluate Pederson on Monday. A 25-plus-home run hitter in each of first two major league seasons, Pederson has gotten off to a sluggish start this year, with a .220/.322/.340 batting line and only one homer in 59 PAs.
- Kenta Maeda now has an 8.05 ERA through his first 19 innings after another rough start last night, though Dodgers manager Dave Roberts still expressed faith in his starter. “We’re definitely going to hang with him. But we’re going to talk through some things, and see what’s best for Kenta,” Roberts told Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times and other reporters, adding that the Dodgers could potentially skip Maeda’s next start. Maeda has been hampered by a whopping 22.6% homer rate, a lack of grounders and an increase in hard contact (though only from soft to medium contact, by Fangraphs’ calculations). As McCullough, Maeda’s problems actually date back to last season, as Maeda was less effective down the stretch than in the first half of his MLB rookie year.
- Dodgers left-hander Julio Urias “might” make his first big league start of 2017 in the coming week, manager Dave Roberts said Saturday (via Ken Gurnick of MLB.com). Urias would step in for Alex Wood, who Gurnick notes would return to the bullpen after making a start in place of the injured Rich Hill on Friday. The 20-year-old Urias tossed 5 2/3 scoreless innings and 93 pitches Friday with Triple-A Oklahoma. As for Hill, who has dealt with chronic blister issues since last year, he has “tinkered” with a new grip during his latest DL stint, per Roberts. Hill has also tried to cure his problems with pickle juice and rice, among other methods mentioned by Gurnick. It seems the 37-year-old has made progress in his recovery. “It’s toughened up for sure,” Hill said of the blister.
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.
- There’s “no evidence of any real trade talk” between the Brewers and Dodgers involving Ryan Braun, per Heyman. He notes that the Brewers may feel a slight sense of urgency due to the fact that Braun will achieve 10-and-5 rights on May 24 (thus allowing him full veto power over any trade). The improved production out of Yasiel Puig could make Braun a less appealing target, as Puig himself has the ability to be a dynamic weapon against lefties if he can return to form. Even if Braun does ultimately reach 1o-and-5 status, Heyman notes that the Dodgers are said to be his preferred destination in a trade, so he could very well approve the deal after that point.
- Also of note to Dodgers fans, Los Angeles showed interest in right-hander Brad Ziegler this offseason and were willing to discuss something in the range of $12MM over two years. Ziegler, instead, signed with the Marlins for two years and a total of $16MM. To this point, he’s yielded just one run with a 6-to-1 K/BB ratio and a ridiculous 81 percent ground-ball rate through his first eight innings.