July 04, 2009
• I had Chris Volstad(notes) on my possible breakthrough list for 2009 but it doesn't look like it's going to happen this summer. Volstad's had trouble commanding his sinker (pitching coach Mark Wiley said as much in mid-June) and the NL isn't missing; a rising fly ball rate and a persistent gopher problem (17 on the year) are what you get when you can't pound the bottom of the zone. The Pirates knocked him around for two homers and four runs Friday, and Fredi Gonzalez didn't wait long with the hook – Volstad was gone before the fourth inning. It's going to take multiple starts in the right direction before I consider the struggling young righty (5-8, 4.85 ERA) in any kind of mixed league, even the deeper pools.
Charlie Morton(notes) didn't knock anyone's socks off on the other side Friday, but it's hard to quibble with his bottom line (6 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 4 BB, 4 K). That's his third straight useful start (albeit the prior two turns were just five innings) and it at least makes me curious to see what he does in Houston next week.
• Alfonso Soriano(notes) was rested but not productive when he returned to action Friday – he went 0-for-5 in Chicago's extra-inning victory over Milwaukee. Soriano is now in a .173 funk over his last 36 games, and according to the Chicago Tribune it looks like Sam Fuld(notes) will be in the leadoff spot Saturday with Soriano getting dropped in the order. Lou Piniella is long overdue with this move – a leadoff man's first job is getting on base, and that's something Soriano hasn't been doing all year (.291 OBP). Fuld collected four hits and two walks as the temporary leadoff man earlier in the week, albeit his Triple-A resume from earlier in the year (.286/.358/.399) didn't make anyone forget Rickey Henderson.
• The Manny Ramirez(notes) return at San Diego almost had a soccer game feel to it, with a boisterous crowd and a rare Petco sellout (thanks to the LA fans). Chad Gaudin(notes) did everything he could in the first inning to make the Dodgers feel at home, falling behind just about every batter and trashing all the goodwill he earned in his previous three starts. When the smoke cleared Los Angeles had five runs and the game was effectively over; Hiroki Kuroda(notes) was passable into the sixth and the Padres didn't get a hit off the Dodgers bullpen. Manny finished the night 0-for-3 with a walk. Closing Time favorite Scott Hairston(notes) hit a solo homer for San Diego, while CT scapegoat Rafael Furcal(notes) had one of his better nights of the year (four hits, stolen base).
• I can't get past the feeling that Phil Hughes(notes) is going to have a very significant role with the Yankees at some point this year, be it in the rotation or as a late-inning bridge to Mariano Rivera(notes). Hughes cleaned up the eighth inning in Friday's win, and has quietly worked 9.2 scoreless innings over his last seven appearances (four hits, one walk, ten strikeouts). Keep him on your radar.
Coincidence or not, Alex Rodriguez(notes) has picked it up since his siesta down in Florida two weeks back; he's at .324 over his last 11 games, with five homers (one Friday) and 12 walks. Robinson Cano(notes) also homered for the Yanks, and A.J. Burnett(notes) was strong in his second start against his former Toronto mates (7 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 7 K).
• Nate McLouth(notes) (hamstring) finally got back in action Friday, posting a 1-for-6 night out of the leadoff spot. The Braves offense picked up the slack, collecting 14 hits and nine runs and holding off the pesky Nats. Martin Prado(notes) (6-3-3-0) continues to rake and it looks like we won't be seeing Kelly Johnson(notes) play for a while. Mike Gonzalez(notes) cruised in the eighth for Atlanta (three whiffs), while Rafael Soriano(notes) struggled through a rocky save in the ninth (two runs), albeit Soriano faced the meat of the Washington lineup.
• The train kept a rollin' for Shin-Soo Choo(notes) in Cleveland, as his monster night single-handedly dispatched of Oakland Friday (4-5, 2 HR, 7 RBIs, SB). Tip your cap to Choo for his versatile skill set; he's got a great eye at the dish (48 walks), he's a frozen-rope machine (23.7 percent line drives) and he's heady on the bases (13-for-13 on steals). It's amazing that the Indians have managed the worst record in the American League despite the third-best offense in the majors (420 runs). The sell-by date on Eric Wedge probably passed a while ago.
• Huston Street(notes) was called on for the final out of Colorado's win, for some reason. The Rockies held a 5-0 lead and no one was on base, but nonetheless Jim Tracy made the call. Ian Stewart(notes) homered and stole a base for the winners; let's see if that keeps him in the lineup through the weekend. It's hard to figure Jorge De La Rosa(notes) at times, but he was superb Friday (8 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 4 BB, 6 K) and has won five of his last six turns.
• There are 1,000 little stories from Detroit's marathon victory at Minnesota Friday, a quirky 11-9 victory that took 16 innings, but if you only have time for one, consider what Joel Zumaya(notes) was able to do in his stint (2.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 4 K). Ignore the two walks, they were both intentional. Zumaya didn't necessarily make up any ground in the bullpen's pecking order – Fernando Rodney(notes) retired all six men he faced but just keep this guy's name stashed in the back of your mind for now.
Injury Blog: The Mariners decided to keep David Aardsma(notes) out of Friday's game, citing a sore back (he also threw 29 pitches Thursday). "I could have gone out there, but they wanted to give me a day to get past it," Aardsma explained to The Olympian. Mark Lowe(notes) grabbed the rogue save at Fenway, allowing one run to the Red Sox in the bottom of the 11th. … Scott Downs(notes) (toe) did some bullpen throwing Friday and might be in the mix to be activated at some point this weekend. Esteemed Toronto bureau chief Andy Behrens is standing by and will track this story hour-by-hour through the holiday. … Kevin Slowey's(notes) wrist strain is serious enough that the Twins slapped him right on the disabled list. Anthony Swarzak(notes) is up from Triple-A to fill in; he posted a 3.90 ERA in five major-league starts earlier in the year. … Nelson Cruz(notes) got some treatment on his back before Friday's game, then went 1-for-4 against Tampa Bay. … Edinson Volquez(notes) (elbow) did a little throwing Friday but he's a long way from being back with the Reds. … Erik Bedard(notes) (shoulder) worked a simulated game Friday and should be able to pitch Tuesday against Baltimore. … A cold kept Bengie Molina(notes) out of San Francisco's 13-run party Friday, and Randy Winn(notes) left with a sore foot, albeit it didn't look like a major injury. … Mark DeRosa(notes) (wrist) is available for pinch-running but probably won't start again until Tuesday. Teammate Kyle Lohse(notes) (forearm) is looking at one more rehab start before joining the Cardinals for a turn on July 12.
Speed Round: Nyjer Morgan(notes) headed a reshuffled Washington lineup, going 0-for-4 with a walk and a steal. Cristian Guzman(notes) dropped to the No. 6 slot and posted a 4-0-2-3 line . . . Jimmy Rollins(notes) collected two more hits and is now 4-for-9 since rejoining the lineup. Philly went for seven early runs against Livan Hernandez(notes), making a winner out of retread Rodrigo Lopez(notes) (6.1 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 4 K). … You have to pitch to Albert Pujols(notes) when the bases are loaded, and he did the predictable thing against Cincinnati's David Weathers(notes). … After allowing just three homers over eight starts, Tim Wakefield(notes) gave up two taters (en route to five runs and ten hits) in eight innings against the Mariners. Be very careful with Wakefield; he's had a nice run of late, but the knuckleball can be a cruel and fickle pitch, warmer weather is coming, and the AL East (not to mention Fenway Park) will eventually take its tax. … Frank Francisco(notes) had one of his smoother outings of late, retiring the Rays in order on just 13 pitches (11 strikes) in the ninth. C.J. Wilson(notes) took the eighth, putting away three of the four men he faced. … Another gem from John Danks(notes) (7.1 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 5 K), and all of a sudden the White Sox are playing inspired baseball. … The Padres aren't afraid to be aggressive with speedster Everth Cabrera(notes). He swiped a base while the Friars were down 6-0 Friday, and it came while the pitcher was squared around to bunt. Generally it's a death sentence for any NL hitter batting eighth, especially a speedster, but it's encouraging that the club is turning Cabrera loose. … Hank Blalock(notes) is basically powerless against lefties these days, but he continues to hammer away at right-handed pitching. Fourteen of his 17 homers have come against the northpaws, along with a tasty .594 slugging percentage. … If you're trying to figure out Johan Santana's(notes) slump, Mike Salfino's latest piece is mandatory reading.
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