NL West Roundup: All About Sunshine

Dodgers' day off, Giants' unlikely hero and a Tatis update.

When you think of the West Coast, what is the first thing you think of? Sunshine and surf for me — and I live in California, about an hour north of San Diego.

June basically kicks off summer, which means it is all about happy vibes. With that in mind, this version of the NL West Roundup will focus on the good things happening with each team in the division. Now, this doesn’t count as fitting in with the theme of this roundup, the biggest change from last time is that, as expected, the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies have fallen below .500.

Still, the West race should be fun to follow the rest of the way, including this weekend’s showdown between the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers.

 

NL West Standings

 

Diamondbacks

 

The Diamondbacks are a year or two from considering themselves contenders (pending the right roster moves, of course). So this year, in addition to giving the young players more time to prove themselves in the majors, Arizona is going to have to take some chances. Two recent moves exemplify making it through this season and also looking toward the future.

On Monday, the D’backs reportedly signed 2015 Cy Young Award-winning left-hander Dallas Keuchel, who had been released by the Chicago White Sox. Arizona gets Keuchel at a prorated amount of the major-league minimum contract as the White Sox are on the hook for the rest of the $18 million owed this season and the $1.5 million buyout for next season. Keuchel, who is reunited with his former Houston Astros pitching coach Brent Strom, will head to the minors for a few tune-up starts before joining the major-league rotation, where he can provide at least an innings-eater arm. In eight games for the White Sox this season, Keuchel has posted a 7.88 ERA and 2.16 WHIP while walking 20 and striking out 20 in 32 innings.

The other move was claiming Cole Tucker off waivers from the Pittsburgh Pirates. Tucker became a lost soul in Pittsburgh, slashing .175/.175/.222 in 63 at-bats with Pittsburgh, which demoted him to Triple-A before designating him for assignment last week. The switch-hitter is versatile, being able to play both middle infield spots as well as all three outfield positions. The Phoenix native is 27 and could be a piece of what the D’backs are building.

Injuries: Shortstop Nick Ahmed is back on the 10-day injured list with right shoulder soreness, the same injury that sidelined him to begin the season. He was expected to see a specialist, with a timetable for a return unknown. Catcher Carson Kelly (left oblique strain) is on a rehab assignment, so will be ready once he gets enough AB. Kelly caught seven innings Sunday, which was encouraging. The extent of right-hander Humberto Castellanos right elbow strain has not yet been announced. Right-hander Luke Weaver (right elbow inflammation) pitched two innings Thursday to begin a rehab assignment and is slated to go four innings (60 pitches) today. He could return in a swing role. Right-hander J.B. Bukauskas (strained teres major) threw a bullpen Thursday, but a second session was delayed due to hamstring tightness.

 

Dodgers

 

The good news here is that Monday was a day off for the Dodgers, who are still in first place despite some recent struggles. After 31 games in 30 days, it was very welcome (there are three more days off in the next two weeks). Of course, the team spent part of the day on a plane headed for Chicago and a three-game series with the White Sox. Still no game and a chance to regroup after a rough week that included being swept at home by the Pittsburgh Pirates.

But enough of the bad stuff. Sunshine, remember? The starting rotation will be getting one key piece back and could be close to having a second return. Left-hander Clayton Kershaw, on the IL since May 13 due to a sacroiliac joint injury (back), completed his rehab assignment Sunday and is scheduled to start this weekend against the Giants. Fellow lefty Andrew Heaney (left shoulder discomfort) pitched three innings Saturday during a rehab assignment and will go four in his next outing.

The Dodgers were expected to have a potent offense after the offseason signing of first baseman Freddie Freeman and while it hasn’t been as explosive as thought, you can’t blame it on Mookie Betts. The Dodgers’ right fielder shook off his .230/.352/.378 April slash line and has gone on a rampage, slashing .343/.401/.518 with 13 of his 16 homers and 33 of his 39 RBIs.

Injuries: Aside from Kershaw and Heaney, outfielder Edwin Rio (hamstring) went on the IL on Friday and will miss several weeks. Infielder Max Muncy (left elbow inflammation) took batting practice and is set to go on a rehab assignment. Outfielder Kevin Pillar’s season is done after fracturing his left elbow. Right-hander Blake Treinen (right shoulder inflammation) has begun throwing again. Right-hander Tommy Kahnle, who missed almost two years due to Tommy John surgery and appeared in a game on May 1, was recently moved to the 60-day IL after he told the team he wasn’t recovering from an outing as usual. The latest injury has been diagnosed as a right elbow bone bruise. Lefty Victory Gonzalez (left elbow inflammation), righty Dustin May (Tommy John surgery), and lefty Danny Duffy (left elbow) are continuing their progress with hopes of joining the team late this season, with Duffy possibly returning earlier.

 

Giants

 

The magic for the Giants has seemed to be picking guys off other teams’ scrap heaps and turning them into something of a vital piece. Count Donovan Walton as the latest addition to come through for last year’s surprising division champs. The infielder has gone 9-for-40 since being acquired May 11 from the Seattle Mariners for minor-league pitcher Prelander Berroa, with eight of those hits coming since May 25, including seven for extra bases. On Sunday, he crushed a grand slam against the Miami Marlins to break open a scoreless game in a 5-1 win to complete a 10-game road trip 5-5. It was his first career homer.

Joc Pederson, who left the Dodgers as a free agent after the 2020 season and split last year between the Chicago Cubs and World Series champion Atlanta Braves before becoming a free agent again, is enjoying being back home. Pederson grew up just south of San Francisco in Palo Alto and is hitting a career-best .271 with 13 homers, tops on the team, and 30 RBIs, second to Wilmer Flores‘ 31. He is also striking out at a 19.1 percent clip, his lowest number since a 19.4 mark in 2018.

If you haven’t heard of Thairo Estrada, you need to pay closer attention. The second baseman leads the Giants with 49 hits and is slashing .275/.323/.393 with three homers and 22 RBIs. He also leads the Giants with 31 runs scored and is the key reason the team hasn’t missed too much production with Tommy La Stella missing time early.

Injuries: Right-hander Alex Cobb missed his start Friday due to lower back tightness and is considered day-to-day. First baseman Brandon Belt (right knee inflammation) has just started a running program and might need a brief rehab assignment. Outfielder LaMonte Wade Jr. (left knee inflammation) has been hitting, running, and throwing. Right-hander Anthony DeSclafani (right knee inflammation) threw a bullpen Friday and isn’t eligible to come off the 60-day IL until June 21. Outfielder Steven Duggar (left oblique strain) is on a rehab assignment. Left-hander Matthew Boyd (left flexor tendon surgery) is targeting late this month for a return.

 

Padres

 

The ultimate ray of sunshine will know more about his status this week. Shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. will have a CT scan on his surgically repaired left wrist this week that could allow him to start swinging the bat again. While that would be a big boost, Tatis would still need a rehab assignment before returning to the lineup, so sometime in early July would be the best guess.

Even without Tatis, the Padres are in second place in the West, coming off winning three out of four in Milwaukee before dropping the series opener at home to the New York Mets on Monday 11-5. Second baseman Jake Cronenworth was a big bat against the Brewers, hitting the go-ahead homer in the 10th inning of Sunday’s 6-4 win. He drove in four of the six runs in the finale, a day after having another pair of hits, a homer, and three RBIs in a 4-0 win.

And it wouldn’t be the Sunshine Edition without the guy who has the nickname “Sunshine.” Right-hander Mike Clevinger (right triceps strain) came off the IL and threw 60 pitches Sunday, going three innings and allowing just Kolten Wong’s homer on the second pitch of the game while walking two and striking out five. Combined with Joe Musgrove’s no-hit bid the night before and the rotation is more than holding its own.

Injuries: Right-handers Michael Baez and Adrian Morejon, both coming back from Tommy John surgery, were activated off the IL on Monday and sent to the minors and now need to earn a spot back in the majors. Right fielder Wil Myers (right knee inflammation) received a silicone injection last week, but had a setback and is being shut down for a few days. An IL stint is very possible. Outfielder Matt Beaty (right shoulder impingement) had his rehab assignment shut down and was sent to the team facility in Arizona. Left-hander Drew Pomeranz (left flexor tendon surgery) has been throwing bullpens, but not yet at 100 percent effort. Right-hander Pierce Johnson (right elbow tendinitis) has yet to resume throwing.

 

Rockies

 

Has Brendan Rodgers arrived? Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, but the last month has been encouraging to say the least. The Colorado second baseman, who hit a paltry .078 in April with just four hits and one RBI, on Monday was named NL Player of the Week. Included in last week’s outburst was a three-homer game in the second game of Wednesday’s doubleheader, the final blast being a walk-off to beat the Marlins 13-12.

His three-homer game came a day after a terrific month of May ended. Rodgers, the third overall pick of the 2015 draft out of Lake Mary (Fla.) High School, slashed .347/.380/.484 with two homers and 18 RBIs. Overall last week, the 25-year-old hit .345 with four homers and seven RBIs. That hot stretch has boosted his season numbers to .266/.316/.428 entering Tuesday’s series opener in San Francisco.

After a slow start, Charlie Blackmon is starting to produce. Splitting time between right field and DH, Blackmon is hitting .286 with four homers and 16 RBIs to go along with nine walks in his last 15 games. The modest surge has pushed his season slash line to .244/.308/.415 with eight homers and 26 RBIs.

Injuries: Left fielder Kris Bryant (lower back strain), the Rockies’ major offseason signing, has yet to begin swinging the back and his status is up in the air. Two key prospects, top pitcher Ryan Rolison and third baseman Colton Welker, each likely saw their season come to an end due to shoulder surgery. Both were at Triple-A, with a chance to impact the major-league team this season.

 

Note: Injury updates from MLB.com.

 

Photo by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)

Steve Drumwright

Steve Drumwright is a lifelong baseball fan who retired as a player before he had the chance to be cut from the freshman team in high school. He recovered to become a sportswriter and have a successful journalism career at newspapers in Wisconsin and California. Follow him on Twitter @DrummerWrites.

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