- The ailing back of Angels starter Matt Harvey seems to be mended, as he tells reporters (including Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic; Twitter link) that he has been symptom-free since hitting the IL recently. Skipper Brad Ausmus says that Harvey will face live hitters and then likely undertake a rehab assignment of unknown duration. The larger question is what, if anything, Harvey can do to emerge from his malaise on the mound. Fellow one-year free agent signee Trevor Cahill has also struggled badly. Otherwise, the Halos rotation may finally be rounding into form with Andrew Heaney’s return, the emergence of Griffin Canning, ongoing solid work from Felix Pena, and good health for Tyler Skaggs.
- It looks like Athletics hurler Paul Blackburn will get his first shot at MLB action this year, as Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that he’s likely to come onto the roster to pitch this weekend. Blackburn, 25, has pitched to a 4.48 ERA in 16 starts over the prior two seasons but has remained on optional assignment at Triple-A to begin the present campaign. He carries a 4.55 ERA in 57 1/3 innings there, recording a 45:18 K/BB ratio and surrendering ten long balls.
- Mariners righty Gerson Bautista seems ready to return from the injured list, as Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times reports on Twitter. The 24-year-old has been sidelined with a pec strain. He has already thrown a dozen innings on an extended rehab assignment and now has a locker waiting for him in Seattle, which certainly suggests an imminent activation. Bautista struggled in a brief debut showing last year with the Mets and ended up being dealt to Seattle as a part of a significant multi-player swap. While he didn’t mow down opposing MLB hitters in his first attempt, Bautista did show off a 97 mph heater and posted strong strikeout numbers last year in the upper minors. Because Bautista had been moved to the 60-day IL, his activation will require both a 40-man and active roster move. [UPDATE: The Mariners announced that Bautista has been activated from the IL, with right-hander Andrew Moore heading to Double-A to create roster space.]
The Rangers announced that they’ve traded right-hander Cory Gearrin to the Athletics in exchange for minor league right-handers Abdiel Mendoza and Teodoro Ortega. Oakland also announced the move, adding that righty Paul Blackburn will go from the 10-day DL to the 60-day DL to clear 40-man roster space.
Gearrin, 32, had spent the past several seasons in the bay area with the cross-town Giants. But he landed with the Rangers after being included in a mid-season move in which the San Francisco organization shed some salary obligations, including the remainder of Gearrin’s $1.675MM salary.
The remainder of that money will now be paid by the A’s, who have added several bullpen pieces over the course of the summer as they have flown up the standings. The Oakland ballclub currently sits 2.5 games back of the division-leading Astros, but still has time to make up that ground and also enjoys a healthy 4.5 game pad over the Mariners for the final Wild Card spot.
Gearrin will not only help the A’s by bolstering their middle-relief mix, but will perhaps also help reduce the load on several of the team’s other bullpen arms down the stretch. He has never really functioned as a late-inning arm, but that’s not really something the Oakland organization is much in need of at the moment.
[Related: Oakland Athletics depth chart]
Since landing with the Rangers, Gearrin has turned in 21 1/3 effective innings. He carries a 2.53 ERA in that span, leaving him with a 3.51 mark on the season, and has been more effective at limiting the long balls that plagued him earlier in the year in San Francisco. At times in the past, Gearrin has produced quite a few groundballs, but he’s getting them on less than forty percent of the balls put in play against him in 2018.
While this move is no doubt mostly intended to boost the team’s immediate outlook the A’s will also gain some potential future considerations in the swap. Gearrin can be controlled for one final season via arbitration.
On the other side of the bargain, the Rangers will lose the chance to hang onto Gearrin at a fairly cheap rate for 2019. Instead, they’ll pick up a pair of lower-level arms. Mendoza, who’ll soon turn 20, owns a 3.32 ERA with 6.5 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9 in 57 innings at the low-A level. Ortega is just 18 and is in his first professional season in the Dominican Summer League. He impressed there, however, with a 2.11 ERA and 10.1 K/9 against 2.3 BB/9 over his 42 2/3 frames, which have come over six starts and eight relief appearances.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Speaking with reporters (including Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times) on Saturday, Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano was apologetic about the 80-game suspension he has been serving since mid-May. Cano tested positive for Furosemide, which is a diuretic that masks the effects of PEDs, though he suggested that he didn’t knowingly take a banned substance. “The city of Seattle has become my second home for my family and I. I’m grateful to the organization, my teammates and the fans and as you guys know, I’ve been getting tested for the last 12 seasons and I’ve never had an issue with MLB policy,” Cano said. “I was being treated for some medical ailments and I was being supervised by a doctor. But at the same time, I understand that everything that goes into my body, I’m responsible for that.”
Because the Mariners (56-34) have been on a roll without Cano, who’s eligible to return Aug. 14 but ineligible for postseason play, it’s unclear whether he’ll man second base again when he comes back. Dee Gordon has moved from center field to second in Cano’s absence, and it’s possible the Mariners will keep Gordon at the keystone through season’s end. Asked if he’d be on board with shifting positions upon his return, Cano noted, “I haven’t talked to (general manager) Jerry (Dipoto) yet, but I would do anything for the team.” Should Gordon remain at second, the 35-year-old Cano could head to first, where Ryon Healy has only offered league-average offense this season.
Here’s more on Seattle and two other playoff hopefuls from the AL West:
- Thanks in part to the presences of Gordon and Healy, not to mention Cano’s age, he may have to move to designated hitter as early as next year, Bob Condotta of KLAY 1180 AM writes. The Mariners have Nelson Cruz at DH now, but he’ll be a free agent after the season. While Cruz is having yet another outstanding campaign at the plate, he’s unlikely to land an overly long or expensive contract considering his age (38) and inability to contribute on defense, Condotta posits. As such, whether the Mariners re-sign Cruz may hinge more on roster flexibility than whether they’re interested in meeting his asking price. Bringing Cruz back would affect not only the DH situation in Seattle, but also the team’s infield and outfield pictures, as Condotta explains in his piece.
- The Athletics announced that they’ve reinstated left-hander Brett Anderson from the 10-day disabled list and placed righty Paul Blackburn on the 10-day DL (retroactive to Saturday) with right elbow lateral epicondylitis. Anderson missed nearly two months with a left shoulder strain, adding to a long list of injuries in the 30-year-old’s career. He struggled in 15 1/3 innings before hitting the shelf, yielding 13 earned runs on 25 hits. Blackburn has endured a similarly poor season in the run prevention department (7.16 ERA in 27 2/3 frames), though ERA estimators FIP (3.56), xFIP (4.33) and SIERA (4.37) suggest he has deserved far better. It’s unclear how much time Blackburn could miss, but the location of his injury is alarming – especially considering he sat out all of April and May with a right forearm strain. Swapping Anderson for Blackburn will continue to leave the A’s with more than a full rotation’s worth of starters on the DL (depth chart).
- The three weeks leading up to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline will serve as a left field audition for Astros prospect Kyle Tucker, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal says. If the just-promoted Tucker doesn’t look ready to contribute on a regular basis, the Astros will “likely” look to acquire a veteran stopgap, according to Rosenthal, who points out that left field has not been an area of strength for their offense this season. Tucker, 21, made his Astros debut Saturday and went 1 for 4 with three strikeouts and a walk.
The Athletics announced a series of roster moves Thursday, activating righty Paul Blackburn from the 60-day DL and transferring outfielder Boog Powell from the 10-day DL to the 60-day DL in his place. To make room on the active roster for Blackburn, who’ll start tonight’s game, Oakland optioned catcher Bruce Maxwell to Triple-A Nashville.
Maxwell became a controversial figure last season as the first (and still only) MLB player to take a knee during the National Anthem, but he received quite a bit more negative attention months later when he was arrested and charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. (He reached a plea agreement in mid-April.) While the Athletics front office publicly voiced support for Maxwell as a player, the team also went out and signed Jonathan Lucroy to a one-year deal, supplanting Maxwell as the starter.
Thus far, that looks to have been a wise move. Maxwell didn’t hit much in two previous seasons with the A’s, and he’s off to a dismal .182/.207/.309 start to the season, albeit in a small sample of just 58 plate appearances. Lucroy, meanwhile, has posted a solid .263/.320/.359 slash, though that respectable production is still light years away from his peak form. He’ll continue to handle the bulk of the catching duties, and it seems that Josh Phegley will now serve as his primary backup for the time being.
Blackburn, meanwhile, has yet to pitch in the Majors this season due to a forearm strain suffered in Spring Training. Now healthy, he’ll look to step up in an injury-plagued Athletics rotation that has lost Jharel Cotton for the season and currently has Andrew Triggs, Daniel Gossett and Brett Anderson on the MLB disabled list.
Blackburn delivered mixed results for the A’s in 10 starts last season. On the one hand, he posted a very strong 3.22 ERA with a terrific 56.3 percent ground-ball rate and just 2.45 walks per nine innings pitched in 58 2/3 innings. On the other hand, he missed fewer bats than any pitcher in MLB, averaging just 3.38 strikeouts per nine innings pitched and turning in a 5.8 percent swinging-strike rate. Fielding independent pitching metrics all felt his true talent level was more than a run higher, with SIERA most bearishly pegging him at 5.15.
As for Powell, he’s been out since early April with a sprained right knee. He’s already missed nearly two full months of action and has yet to go out on a minor league rehab assignment, so today’s transfer is purely a procedural move to open a 40-man spot for Blackburn. Powell has already spent 60 days on the DL anyhow, and the move to the lengthier DL doesn’t reset his eligibility for activation.
6:00pm: Blackburn will be shut down for ten days, says manager Bob Melvin (h/t Jane Lee of MLB.com).
4:18pm: The Athletics rotation has taken another blow, this time involving righty Paul Blackburn. He is dealing with a right forearm strain, as Jane Lee writes in a piece for MLB.com. It now seems all but certain that Blackburn will not be ready to join the staff to open the year. With the rotation already missing Jharel Cotton and recent signee Trevor Cahill not quite ready to go, that leaves Oakland with much less depth to begin the season than had been anticipated. Lee suggests that “by default”, the A’s early-season rotation is now set to consist of Kendall Graveman, Sean Manaea, Daniel Mengden, Andrew Triggs and Daniel Gossett.
The 24-year-old Blackburn made ten starts last season in his first taste of major-league action. While the righty pitched to a nice 3.22 ERA and a 56.3% ground ball rate, his 4.76 xFIP and shockingly low 3.38 K/9 left some question marks surrounding his capability to repeat that level of run-prevention.
Blackburn was a supplemental first round pick of the Cubs back during the 2012 draft. He came to the Athletics organization by way of a 2016 trade that sent Danny Valencia to the Mariners. Blackburn made his major-league debut on July 1st, 2017, when the righty allowed zero earned runs in six innings against the Braves.
Former Athletics right-hander Jarrod Parker has officially decided to halt any comeback attempts and retire, he tells Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. The now-29-year-old Parker was a promising building block for the A’s in 2011-13, posting a 3.68 ERA through his first 384 big league innings at ages 22 through 24.
Once the ninth overall pick in the MLB draft (Diamondbacks, 2007), Parker found his way to Oakland as part of the return that Arizona surrendered when initially acquiring a more established, controllable young righty: Trevor Cahill. Parker showed all the promise in the world, landing on five Top 100 lists from Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus after being drafted out of high school, and the fine early work in his career serves as a testament to what might have been had injuries not ruined a promising career.
Unfortunately for the talented young Parker, his elbow simply didn’t allow him to realize his considerable potential. The righty twice underwent Tommy John surgery before fracturing his elbow in his comeback attempt from that second Tommy John procedure. Unfathomably, Parker re-fractured the epicondyle bone in his elbow, necessitating a fourth elbow surgery. Parker’s former teammate Ryan Cook, A’s executive vice president Billy Beane and former A’s lefty Barry Zito are among the notable names who raved to Slusser about Parker’s raw potential and expressed sadness over never seeing how high his ceiling could have been.
Parker, now looking to the future, tells Slusser that he’d look to work in the health industry, potentially serving as a rehab coordinator for players returning from injury.
A bit more on the A’s…
- Also via Slusser, Oakland catcher Bruce Maxwell did not reach a plea agreement in his recent settlement conference, thus prompting a second such meeting to be scheduled for April 13. Maxwell, who is facing charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and disorderly conduct after allegedly pointing a firearm at a delivery person back in October, is slated for an Aug. 9 trial if no plea agreement can be reached. Maxwell is still expected to serve as Oakland’s primary catcher in 2018 despite those struggles; Slusser adds (via Twitter) that GM David Forst cited the team’s long relationship with Maxwell as a factor in its decision to give him a chance as the starting backstop in 2018. Maxwell was the Athletics’ second-round pick back in the 2012 draft.
- Jane Lee of MLB.com breaks down the rotation situation in Oakland, noting that only right-hander Kendall Graveman and left-hander Sean Manaea are considered locks to hold down a starting job at present. The final three spots are up for grabs in a race consisting of Andrew Triggs, Jharel Cotton, Daniel Mengden, Daniel Gossett and Paul Blackburn — assuming Oakland does not make any further additions to the staff. Lee adds, on Twitter, that manager Bob Melvin said Mengden’s strong finish to the season has him in the lead for the third spot in the rotation right now, but the A’s look to have a fairly sizable competition for rotation innings.
Here are the day’s minor moves from around the league…
- The Orioles announced that right-handers Tyler Wilson and Logan Verrett have both cleared waivers and been assigned outright to Triple-A Norfolk. The O’s exposed both players to waivers as a means of opening 40-man spots for Pedro Alvarez and top catching prospect Chance Sisco. Wilson, 27, has logged a 5.02 ERA over 145 1/3 innings with the Orioles from 2015-17, and his numbers at Triple-A have taken a step back in the past two years as well. Verrett, also 27, saw just 10 2/3 innings with the Orioles this year after coming over from the Mets organization this past spring. He’s struggled to a 5.10 ERA with below-average K/BB numbers in Triple-A as well.
- The Twins announced that they’ve selected the contract of right-hander Michael Tonkin and created space by recalling righty J.T. Chargois from Triple-A and placing him on the Major League 60-day disabled list. The 27-year-old Tonkin was once one of the more promising bullpen prospects in the Twins’ system, but he’s underwhelmed in numerous auditions over the past few years. Minnesota outrighted him earlier this year, but he’s back after pitching to a brilliant 1.73 ERA with 13.2 K/9, 2.8 BB/9 and a 45.5 percent ground-ball rate in 41 2/3 innings with Triple-A Rochester. Chargois posted video game numbers between Double-A and Triple-A last year and was viewed as a potential option in 2017, but he’s missed most of the year with a right elbow impingement.
- Right-hander Raul Alcantara is back with the Athletics, who have selected his contract and opened a 40-man spot by placing righty Paul Blackburn on the 60-day disabled list. Alcantara was outrighted after clearing waivers earlier this year, and he responded to his 40-man removal by posting a solid 2.67 ERA in 33 2/3 Triple-A frames (albeit with just 5.9 K/9 against a more impressive 1.9 BB/9 mark). Blackburn left a start in late August after being struck in the hand by a line drive, and while he’s only been diagnosed with a contusion, his season is over with that placement on the 60-day DL. He missed fewer bats than just about any pitcher in the league but still managed a 3.22 ERA in 58 2/3 innings with the A’s in his debut campaign.
- The Rays selected right-hander Chaz Roe’s contract from the minors in advance of tonight’s game. Tampa Bay picked up Roe in a minor trade with the Braves earlier this year. The 30-year-old pitched 21 innings with Tampa’s Triple-A affiliate in Durham and worked to an even 3.00 ERA with a ridiculous 35-to-5 K/BB ratio. In parts of five big league seasons, Roe has a 4.16 ERA with 9.6 K/9, 4.5 BB/9 and a 54.4 percent ground-ball rate.
Rockies right-hander Chad Bettis underwent chemotherapy earlier this year to treat testicular cancer, but it doesn’t look as if that’s going to stop him from taking the mound in 2017. In terrific news, the 28-year-old has progressed enough in his recovery that he’s on pace to begin a minor league rehab assignment during the upcoming All-Star break, writes Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post. “It’s a really good feeling to watch this unfold,” said manager Bud Black, whose playoff-contending team could use more rotation depth. Bettis would provide that, having served as a solid starter for the Rockies since joining their rotation on a full-time basis in 2015.
More from around the game:
- With home runs having spiked over the past couple seasons, Ben Lindbergh and Mitchel Lichtman of The Ringer concluded earlier this month that Major League Baseball is playing with a juiced ball. However, MLB insists that’s not the case. On Saturday, the league sent a memo to all 30 teams declaring that “there is no evidence that the composition of the ball has changed in any way,” reports Bob Nightengale of USA Today. The ball’s size, weight, COR (bounciness), seam height and circumference are tested at least three times a year at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell Baseball Research Center, according to the league. The exact cause for the HR increase is up for debate, but an all-time high 13.7 percent of fly balls have cleared fences this year. That’s up from 12.8 percent last season, which was a record at the time.
- Given the high frequency of pitcher injuries, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson believes teams will soon begin valuing durability over velocity, as Roger Rubin of Newsday writes. “I think what you’ll find over the next several years is clubs will be more interested in ‘pack horses’ instead of ‘thoroughbreds’ because it’s about being able to go out . . . and get 30 starts,” Alderson said Friday. There’s an emphasis on velocity at all levels, but Alderson noted that throwing harder “often leads to injury,” adding, “The things that might be the difference between good pitching and great pitching may also be the difference between health and an injury.”
- Jesse Hahn is tied for second among Athletics in starts (13), yet the team demoted him to Triple-A on Sunday. In response, Hahn told reporters (including John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle): “It’s a little frustrating. I thought I’d been having a really good season up until these last two starts. I don’t want to say it’s unfair because I understand it’s a business thing, but I don’t like that I was kind of judged off of two starts there.” Hahn’s ERA climbed from 3.56 to 5.30 thanks to those outings, both of which came against the formidable Astros. They racked up 15 earned runs over just four innings against Hahn. His trip to the minors will lead to more starts for rookie righty Paul Blackburn, whom the A’s acquired from the Mariners over the winter for Danny Valencia. Blackburn, 23, made his major league debut Saturday and held the Braves to three hits, a walk and an unearned run across six frames.
This week’s installation of “Knocking Down The Door” includes two highly-touted center field prospects, a reliever who had been doing his best Kenley Jansen impression in Double-A before a recent promotion to Triple-A, and a pair of starting pitchers who can’t be too far off from making their MLB debuts after dominating in their last outings.
Chance Adams, SP, New York Yankees (Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre)
If the Yankees, one of three teams in baseball to have only used five starting pitchers this season, need to dip into their farm system for rotation help, they appear to be in good shape with Chance Adams waiting in the wings.
The 22-year-old right-hander has risen up the ladder swiftly without much of a struggle in 220 2/3 minor league innings. After posting a 1.03 ERA in six Double-A starts to begin the season, he hasn’t slowed him down one bit since a promotion to Triple-A. He recently lowered his ERA to 1.57 after tossing one-hit ball over six shutout innings with two walks and a season-high 12 strikeouts in his fourth start with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
There doesn’t appear to be an immediate opening in the Yankees’ rotation, although Masahiro Tanaka’s recent performance—21 earned runs and 30 hits over his last 17 2/3 innings—might be an indication that he’s not completely healthy and could use a stint on the disabled list.
Paul Blackburn, SP, Oakland Athletics (Triple-A Nashville)
Acquired from the Mariners this past offseason for Danny Valencia, Blackburn has not wasted time in impressing his new organization. After not allowing a run in three of his last four starts, including seven shutout innings on Sunday, the 23-year-old has his ERA down to 3.26 with a 2.4 BB/9 and 6.7 K/9.
With Jharel Cotton’s demotion to Triple-A last month lasting only two starts due to injuries to Kendall Graveman and Jesse Hahn, Blackburn’s emergence could afford the A’s the opportunity to get him back down to there to work on things for an extended period this time around.
Derek Fisher, OF, Houston Astros (Triple-A Fresno)
It’s clear that Fisher’s overall game needs some work—50 strikeouts in 53 games; caught stealing 10 times in 19 attempts—and the powerful Astros lineup doesn’t appear to need any help right now. But it’s hard to ignore the rest of his numbers (.338/.397/.606; 14 HR, 16 2B, 19 BB) and not wonder how much more firepower he could add to the bottom of the Astros’ lineup in place of left fielder Nori Aoki, who isn’t doing much out of the No. 9 spot (.624 OPS).
Prior to a hitless game on Sunday, the 23-year-old Fisher had been on a nine-game hitting streak in which he had a .486 batting average (18-for-37), four doubles and four homers. It would likely benefit him to continue working on his game down in Triple-A, but he could also learn on the job in a low-pressure environment while giving the Astros much more production than they’re currently getting out of left field.
Austin Meadows, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates (Triple-A Indianapolis)
When the Pirates were in need of an outfielder in mid-April after the 80-game suspension of Starling Marte was announced, Meadows was in a deep slump and not deserving of his first MLB call-up. With Marte’s return still more than a month away, however, it’s not too late for the Pirates to get a look at their top prospect, who has turned things around and has the potential to give a struggling team a much-needed shot in the arm.
Since posting a .503 OPS with five walks and 20 strikeouts in April, the 22-year-old has hit .302 with two homers, 12 doubles, 11 walks, 20 strikeouts and six stolen bases over his last 31 games. Adam Frazier, who is currently getting most of the starts in left field, has been one of the few bright spots for the Pirates. His ability to play multiple positions, however, makes him valuable as a super-utility man, which will be his role if Meadows gets the call.
Jesen Therrien, RP, Philadelphia Phillies (Triple-A Lehigh Valley)
Therrien is only one scoreless appearance into his first Triple-A stint, but if his numbers at Double-A are any indication—1.26 ERA, 28 2/3 innings, 14 hits, three walks, 39 strikeouts—the 24-year-old right-hander shouldn’t be far away from helping a beleaguered Phillies bullpen.
With Joaquin Benoit on the disabled list, Jeanmar Gomez demoted to the bottom of the depth chart and Edubray Ramos not having the impact the team was hoping for, the rebuilding Phillies could not only use some reinforcements, they could also start looking towards the future and finding out which young arms will be able to help them in 2018 and beyond.
“Knocking Down the Door” is a weekly feature that identifies minor leaguers who are making a case for a big league promotion.
Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Mariners’ acquisition of utilityman Danny Valencia from the Athletics in exchange for right-hander Paul Blackburn is likely to end the Seattle tenures of two free agents – first baseman Dae-ho Lee and outfielder Franklin Gutierrez – general manager Jerry Dipoto revealed Saturday (via Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune).
“There’s very little likelihood that both (Valencia and Lee) will fit on the same roster,” Dipoto said. “I (also) don’t think we have to go out and focus on getting a right-handed-hitting outfielder just to have one.”
Valencia expects his role with the Mariners will be “to play first base, probably some right field,” which would make both Lee and Gutierrez superfluous to the club. All three are right-handed hitters, and barring more moves, Valencia is a strong candidate to complement lefty-swingers Dan Vogelbach at first base (previously Lee’s role with now-free agent Adam Lind) and Seth Smith in the outfield (fomerly Gutierrez’s job). Valencia seems likely to see most of his action at first, as Dipoto said Saturday that August acquisition Ben Gamel is slated to start in one outfield corner and Nelson Cruz and Guillermo Heredia will join Valencia in platooning with Smith. However, given that it’s so early in the offseason, Dipoto unsurprisingly isn’t ruling out further acquisitions.
“If we see a good fit, or the ability to go acquire a player who makes us better, we’re not going to hesitate. Valencia’s flexibility allows that,” he commented.