May 29, 2009
We're going to lead with a couple of Baltimore players because starting Friday night, it's going to be all Wieters, all the time. Last chance for pub, guys.
• Luke Scott(notes) has always been known as a streak hitter (his 2008 monthly splits tell the story), and his ringing return from the DL this week has enhanced that reputation. Scott's first game back on Wednesday was a smash (single, homer, two walks), and he kept it going with a pair of long balls in Thursday's win over Detroit. No one expects Scott to keep his surprising .318 average, but we have seen more line drives and better strike-zone judgment from him thus far in 2009, so perhaps there's still a level to climb for this late bloomer. And even if you don't buy that deep into the story, at least give him some run this weekend against the Tigers and see if the good swings continue.
George Sherrill(notes) was going to enter a save situation against Detroit but it was counterfeited by Scott's second homer of the night, a three-run blast in the bottom of the eighth. Sherrill hasn't allowed a run since May 2 (10 IP, 3 H, 4 BB, 12 K, 6 SV), and the leash appears to be extending every day, especially with the struggling Chris Ray(notes) getting demoted to Triple-A.
• What do we make of this Randy Wells(notes) fellow in Chicago? He's now made four starts for the Cubs and they've all been effective ones – the latest in the series was Thursday's tough-luck loss to Los Angeles (7 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 7 K). Wells barely gets into the 90s with his fastball, but that hasn't stopped him from piling up 23 strikeouts over 25 innings, and he's also been very effective keeping the ball on the ground (1.68 GO/AO, 0 HR allowed). The Cubs will have an interesting decision to make between Wells and Sean Marshall(notes) when Rich Harden(notes) eventually comes back.
• We're all about celebrating the Ben Zobrist(notes) story in Tampa these days, but if you're digging even deeper you might want to consider running mate Willy Aybar(notes) as a Swiss Army Knife for your bench. Aybar qualifies at three infield positions (1B, 2B, 3B), and he's quietly swung a productive bat over the last four weeks (.344, 15 runs, 3 HR, 11 RBIs). And while it's doubtful that Aybar will keep producing at this high a level, his May average is supported by his walk/strikeout ratio (14:16) and line-drive rate (22.5). Joe Maddon is an Aybar believer, no doubt about that; he usually slots him fifth in the deep Tampa Bay lineup.
• Brett Myers(notes) had an MRI on his troublesome right hip Thursday and according to Jim Salisbury of the Philadelphia Inquirer, it doesn't look good for the veteran right-hander. Myers has fraying to the labrum, surgery looks likely, and it's possible he won't pitch again this year. Myers will get a second opinion before anything is decided for sure.
• Another collar with two strikeouts for Jordan Schafer(notes), who's down to .205. Those Polaroids must be something. His teammate Jeff Francouer also took the collar and fanned a couple of times; he's down to .247 for the year, with a puny .346 slugging percentage and five walks against 26 whiffs. Looks like we won't be calling him "The Natural" again anytime soon.
Handshakes: It doesn't seem fair that Jonathan Papelbon(notes) (13) gets a save for retiring the bottom of the Minnesota lineup in the ninth, while Hideki Okajima(notes) had to deal with the heavy assignment – Justin Morneau(notes) and Joe Mauer(notes) in the previous inning. In any event, both pitchers got the job done, securing the win for Josh Beckett(notes) (five consecutive quality starts). … Chad Qualls(notes) (12) has been knocked around a bit of late, but he didn't have any problems against Atlanta, putting the Braves down in order. … Ramon Troncoso(notes) (3) had his best Houdini act working at Wrigley Field, working two scoreless innings despite a whopping five baserunners. Troncoso was called on to close because Ronald Belisario(notes) (two innings) and Jonathan Broxton(notes) (48 pitches) were taxed at Coors Field on Wednesday. … Kerry Wood(notes) picked up save No. 8, working just his third 1-2-3 inning of the month.
Injury Blog: Alfonso Soriano's(notes) right knee has been sore for most of May, which explains why he's put the brakes on his running game (one stolen-base attempt this month). … As expected, Jorge Posada(notes) (hamstring) will come off the DL Friday. … Tim Hudson(notes) (elbow) threw a pair of bullpen sessions this week and hopes he might be able to join the Braves in August. … Jake Peavy's(notes) win on Wednesday came despite some ankle tendinitis that he suffered while running the bases. See how running gets you in trouble. … Travis Hafner(notes) (shoulder) is aiming at a Monday return. … Ryan Doumit(notes) (wrist) will get his cast off in a few days and is making good progress; a June return seems likely. He's been cleared to resume baseball-related activities in his rehab immediately. … Derrek Lee(notes) is back from the flu and had two hits Thursday. … The timetable for Melky Cabrera(notes) (shoulder) remains 5-to-7 days.
Speed Round: Carlos Zambrano(notes) took his six-game suspension like a man and won't appeal, a refreshing difference to the deny-and-decide approach that most players take when the penalties fall. … Three more knocks for Justin Upton(notes), who's been one of the NL's best players during his monstrous May (.402/.466./.765, 7 HR, 21 RBIs, 5 SB). At what point do we start the keeper-league debate – would you rather have Justin or B.J.? Speaking of Bossman Junior, he continues to run at just about every opportunity – despite his .192 average, he's already collected 15 stolen bases, the most recent coming Thursday at Cleveland. … I still don't trust Jason Varitek(notes) as a long-term prospect, but now that he's got 10 homers (two Thursday) and a not-horrendous average (.248, but consider the position), I guess you can add him to the list of considerable options in a deeper group. I'll keep going double-or-nothing against, though. … Curtis Granderson(notes) is finally getting his sea legs on the bases, stealing his third bag in four days at Baltimore. Will he continue his derring-do against Kid Wieters Friday night? Check back in 16 hours and we'll figure it out together.