Hello baseball friends and welcome to The Sunday Brief! In this feature, we’ll take you through important news you may have missed from the past week as well as what to look out for in the coming week. The regular season is well underway and that means time to panic and overreact to as much as you possibly can. I missed that. It was a fun first full week of baseball, though. We even got a no-hitter! Let’s get into it:
Bauer’s Sticky Situation
Listen I’m not proud of that headline either but let’s just look past it, ok? To the surprise of virtually no one, Trevor Bauer has already become the center of MLB’s new directive of policing foreign substances used by pitchers. Bauer got the start in Wednesday’s game against Oakland, and the following day umpires removed 2 baseballs that are suspected of being tampered with. While it is at this time unknown just exactly what was done to the baseballs or who even did it, but it’s worth noting that the balls were visibly marked and had a sticky texture.
Bauer’s name immediately came to mind as he not only pitched in the game, but has been very outspoken about the use of foreign substances on baseballs. He basically admitted to using these himself, and his drastic jump in spin rate can attest to it. While Bauer’s reputation isn’t helping him out in any way here, I do find it a bit tough for the league to pin this on him, given that they don’t really have evidence that he in fact doctored the balls. Still, this is league’s first brush with this matter since they announced the crackdown a month ago. They may want to stand tall on the issue as not to appear lax or to set a precedent of letting players off easy. If the league does step up and go after Bauer, it will be a tough fight as the players union will certainly be behind him should any disciplinary action be handed down.
Fernando Tatís Jr. Injury Haze
Where is Fernando Tatís Jr.? Is he safe? Is he alright?
The 22-year old rising star had a rather gruesome injury earlier this week – basically swinging his arm out of its socket. Immediately the panic set in as it seemed Tatís Jr. would be out of action for a long, long time. The eventual diagnosis was a slight tear in his left labrum, and while that sounds like something that would require surgery, apparently Tatís Jr. has already been improving and is already doing some field work. Manager Jayce Tingler even said the possibility of him coming off the IL when he is first eligible on April 16 is a possibility. Shockingly, I am not a doctor. But this sounds crazy to me. The Padres invested $340 million in their young star, and I imagine they’d want to be extra careful with his health – especially with an injury of this magnitude.
Still, the Padres and their medical staff seem somewhat confident that Tatís Jr .will be able to return to action sooner than later. We’ll look to see if the team ramps up his work this week for a possible activation from the IL on Friday.
A Tough Break for Big Maple
I was really rooting for James Paxton. Out in the real world I am a Yankees fan, so I know first hand just how rough of a road Paxton has had to travel down for the last few seasons. Injuries have been mounting for Paxton as his body continues to be uncooperative. The latest, a forearm strain, has landed Big Maple on the Injured List and Tommy John surgery is recommended. Even worse, Paxton only managed to throw 1 1/3 innings in his reunion stint with the Seattle Mariners before succumbing to the injury. It was quite a cruel twist of fate that just when things might be turning around for Paxton, he gets hit with another setback.
But Paxton himself is in no rush to go under the knife. As of yesterday, Mariners Manager Scott Servais mentioned that Paxton has not decided on the surgery yet, and is seeking a second opinion. This is not uncommon in baseball, but it is even more uncommon for the second opinion to not recommend the same route. Looking at it through Paxton’s eyes, he may see a regimen of rest and rehab as his quickest way of getting back on a mound – the very thing he’s been fighting for over the last few years. Tommy John will keep him out of action until the Summer of 2022, by which time Paxton will be 33. It will be a tough decision for the left hander, one he will most likely make in the coming days.
Rays Rotation Shuffle
On Saturday, long time Tampa Bay Ray Chris Archer was back on the mound for the defending AL Champs after spending the last 2+ seasons in Pittsburgh. A one time stalwart of the rotation, Archer’s production noticeably dipped in Pittsburgh where he carried a 4.92 ERA across 172 IP. This was also after the Rays received a package of Tyler Glasnow, Austin Meadows, and Shane Baz for him at the 2018 trade deadline – a package that now looks terribly lopsided. Archer also spent the entirety of 2020 on the IL while recovering from thoracic outlet surgery, both a procedure and condition that can have lasting effects on a pitcher. Archer hit free agency this past offseason and decided to reunite with the Rays and his old haunt of Tropicana Field.
Unfortunately Archer’s start was cut short when in the third inning Archer was in visible discomfort, and was lifted from the game after being visited on the mound by trainers and manager Kevin Cash. There’s still a bit of uncertainty as to how severe this injury is, but it is being called lateral forearm tightness and the team has already placed him on the IL. Whether or not Archer will be back in the minimum amount of time is still unknown, but it’s who will be taking his place in the meantime that has me intrigued.
Longtime prospect Brent Honeywell has been called up to fill in for the injured Archer. Honeywell has yet to crack the majors since being drafted in the 2nd round back in 2014 as multiple injuries have hampered his development. Despite that, Honeywell’s prospect status is still promising despite him no longer being in the upper echelon of minor leaguers for Tampa. The right hander sports a five pitch mix that most notably includes a screwball on top of his four-seam/cutter/curve/splitter arsenal. While he may only get a turn or two in the rotation should Archer’s health prevail, it will definitely be worth watching the 25 year old complete his long journey to the majors. The Rays bullpen has also been beset with multiple injuries, so Honeywell may even find himself of use in relief as well. He should get the ball today against the Yankees and by the time you read this, his first major league start will be in the books.
With Justin Verlander still on the IL, the Astros have been very short of starting pitching options. The trio of Zack Greinke, Lance McCullers Jr., and Cristian Javier have performed quite well in their 6 combined starts, but José Urquidy has yet to find his groove – a 6.0 IP, 4 run start against Oakland and a 4.1 IP, 2 run day also at the hands of the A’s.
With the late Spring signing of Jake Odorizzi, the team managed to secure another reliable arm for the middle of their rotation that could help take the pressure off of Greinke and McCullers. During Spring Training the rust was very apparent for Odorizzi, and he was optioned to the alternate site in order for him to get stretched out and nail down his mechanics. It appears that Odorizzi will get the start on Tuesday against Detroit and it’s worth keeping an eye on the Astros’ latest addition, particularly if his velocity is back up to snuff after a very short Spring audition.
Another pitcher I’m keeping tabs on this week is Framber Valdez. Back in early March, Valdez suffered a broken left ring finger while trying to field a sharp bouncer from Francisco Lindor. The initial prognosis was that Valdez would most likely miss the season, but after “significant healing” was said to occur, it seems Valdez won’t require surgery and could even return this season. This past Thursday Valdez even resumed throwing off of flat ground, an encouraging sign for his recovery. Both an effective Odorizzi and a healthy Valdez would make a marked improvement to the rotation of an Astros team that is very much in the conversation for contention yet again. Tune in to Odorizzi’s Tuesday start if you can, and see if the team can offer up any more news on Valdez.
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)