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Just a month ago, Jeff Locke was sporting a 2.15 ERA. However, smart fantasy owners should have seen his downfall coming.
With 74 walks this season, Locke is leading the National League and tied for the major league lead in free passes. When you don’t have dynamic stuff (and Locke doesn’t), you simply can’t get away with walking so many batters. The left-hander managed to sustain an ungodly strand rate for nearly four full months, but he’s come crashing down to earth of late. Over his last six outings, Locke holds an 8.10 ERA and 2.33 WHIP.
Will Locke be booted from the Pirates’ rotation? Probably not yet. With Wandy Rodriguez (forearm) out indefinitely and Jameson Taillon unlikely to be rushed to the majors, the team’s best options to replace Locke are probably Jeanmar Gomez and Brandon Cumpton. Locke should get a chance to right the ship, but that doesn’t mean fantasy owners should trust him anymore.
Rays, Royals Make Rotation Changes
Jeremy Hellickson has gone through his fair share of ups and downs this season. His latest downturn has cost him his rotation spot, at least for now.
Following a 2 2/3-innings outing Monday that saw him give up five runs on seven hits and two walks in a blowout loss to the Royals, Hellickson was optioned to Triple-A Durham Tuesday. Over his last six starts, the right-hander has put up a 9.00 ERA and 2.12 WHIP.
"He's well, physically, but we just thought that giving him a break would be really important right now," Rays manager Joe Maddon told MLB.com. "Obviously, the more recent performances have not been great. And the fact that he is not injured, we thought the next-best thing to do would be to give him a break. And so we did that. ... He'll be ready to come back the first part of September."
Maddon didn’t say whether Hellickson would re-enter the rotation when he returned, but with Matt Moore (elbow) slated to come off the DL next week, the Rays have options. Roberto Hernandez hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire, either, as his outing Tuesday was the first time in August that he made it through six innings. Jake Odorizzi will come up to start for Tampa on Thursday, pushing David Price back a day. Odorizzi struck out 11 over eight scoreless frames in his last start for Durham.
Another club that made a rotation change was the Royals, as they were no longer able to convince themselves that Wade Davis and his 5.67 ERA had what it took to make it as a starter. They demoted Davis to the bullpen, where he’s had success and where he belongs.
Taking Davis’ spot in the rotation will be Danny Duffy. Duffy made it through just 3 2/3 innings in his first start with the Royals earlier this month, but he gave up just one hit over six scoreless frames in a tough matchup in Detroit last week. The hard-throwing left-hander has posted a 4.04 ERA, 1.39 WHIP and 87/30 K/BB ratio in 69 innings this year in the minors in his first season back from Tommy John surgery.
Duffy’s velocity isn’t quite back to where it was before the operation, and walks can often be a problem for him. He’s still touching the mid-90s, though, and certainly offers more upside than Davis. It’s possible that he could carve out some value in deeper fantasy leagues.
Byrd in the ‘Burgh
The Pirates’ right fielders came into action Tuesday batting a paltry .245/.307/.368 for the season. The club has made a move that they hope rectifies the situation.
In a trade with the Mets, the Pirates acquired Marlon Byrd and John Buck in exchange for second base prospect Dilson Herrera and a player to be named later. Herrera is an intriguing 19-year-old that the Bucs surely hated to give up, and the player to be named later is also expected to be of significance. But the Pirates’ lack of production from right field and Starling Marte’s hand injury convinced them to sell some of their future for a better shot at the postseason.
Byrd’s 2013 campaign has been one of the bigger surprises of the season. A nondescript minor league signing just before spring training, Byrd was coming off a season where he batted only .210/.243/.245 at the major league level while also serving a 50-game suspension for testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug. All the soon-to-be 36-year-old has done this year is bat .285/.330/.518 with a career-high 21 home runs and 71 RBI in 117 games.
At the very least, Byrd figures to give the Pirates a boost against left-handed pitching, as he’s pounded southpaws this year to the tune of a .345/.383/.597 batting line with seven homers and 10 doubles over 154 plate appearances. The Pirates also, according to CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman, "have their eyes on" the Twins' Justin Morneau. Eight of Morneau’s 15 homers have come over the last 30 games, while the guy he would assumedly replace, Garrett Jones, is in the midst of a 1-for-34 slump.
National League Quick Hits: Matt Kemp (ankle) could begin a rehab assignment as soon as Thursday ... Dan Uggla (LASIK surgery) will return from the disabled list Wednesday ... Chase Headley left Tuesday's game with back stiffness ... Starling Marte (hand) won't swing a bat for another two weeks ... Aramis Ramirez went 4-for-5 with a home run and four RBI in Tuesday's win over the Pirates ... Jon Niese tossed a three-hit shutout against the Phillies Tuesday and has allowed just two runs over his last three starts ... Robbie Erlin will be recalled to start on Wednesday at Arizona ... Nationals manager Davey Johnson said he's not ruling out using Tyler Clippard at closer down the stretch, but he used Rafael Soriano again to close out Tuesday’s win ... Carlos Gonzalez took batting practice Tuesday and seems likely to be activated on Sunday ... Andres Torres will be sidelined for six months after surgery to remove bone spurs from his left Achilles ... The Diamondbacks designated Jason Kubel for assignment ... Brandon Beachy (elbow) will be shut down for 10 days ...
American League Quick Hits: Dane De La Rosa recorded his second save of the season on Tuesday ... Shane Victorino stayed hot Tuesday, going 3-for-3 with two home runs and seven RBI against the Orioles ... Andy Pettitte spun seven shutout frames Tuesday and has allowed just one earned run over his last three starts ... Alfonso Soriano blasted a three-run homer and a solo shot in Tuesday's win over the Blue Jays, giving him 400 dingers for his career ... Robinson Cano had to leave Tuesday’s game after being hit on the left hand by a pitch, but X-rays came back negative ... Alexi Ogando (shoulder) will throw a bullpen session this weekend and the Rangers plan to have him return as a starter ... Luke Scott (back) will begin a rehab assignment with on Wednesday ... The Royals signed Carlos Pena to a minor league contract ... Alex Avila was hitless in two at-bats in his return from the DL Tuesday ...