Casual Friday rules are in play, which means we'll go right to the bullets. But the wall-to-wall coverage of Cincinnati's rookie left-hander continues. Score like a champion today, gamer.
• Tony Cingrani returns to the mound Saturday for his fourth start with the Reds. He's quickly becoming appointment television after three electric turns (1.50 ERA, 28 K, 4 BB), including last week's six-inning domination of the Nationals (2 H, 0 R, 11 K). The Cubs will be well-armed as well, sending Jeff Samardzija to the mound. Opening pitch is 1:05 pm ET.
Cingrani owners can't just worry about their man, of course. There are peripheral elements in play; Cingrani's 2013 role with the club is by no means solidified. The teammates that shape the story were both in the news Friday.
Mike Leake had a solid if unspectacular start in the matinee at Wrigley Field, working 5.2 credible innings (9 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 3 K). The Reds supported him with six runs and held off a late Chicago rally (closer Aroldis Chapman didn't have it in the ninth, for once; J.J. Hoover bailed him out).
Leake is now 2-1 on the year, with a pedestrian 4.15 ERA and 1.53 WHIP, 11 walks and 22 strikeouts. You'd like to think that profile wouldn't guarantee him anything forward with a contending ballclub, but the Reds (Dusty Baker specifically) have always had a soft spot in their collective hearts for Leake. Maybe it's the Bad News Bears connection. Maybe it's not something tangible.
The Reds have some extra time to sort out their rotation because Johnny Cueto's rehab has hit a snag. Cueto's minor-league start Friday was wiped out due to the right-hander's oblique injury; this is a separate ailment from what originally pushed him to the DL (lat strain). Let's check in with Reds beat writer Mark Sheldon (Les Nessman is currently on assignment):
The Reds got some bad news during the off day that ace Johnny Cueto had a setback discovered during his checkup in Cincinnati. His rehab assignment start today at Double-A Pensacola has been scratched.What’s particularly troubling is the injury. Cueto, who is on the DL for a strained right lat, felt soreness in his oblique muscle.
“He had a good bullpen [Monday] and he didn’t experience anything in his arm but he experienced soreness in that oblique that he hurt last year in the playoffs,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “So, we’ll wait and see.”
You may recall that Cueto had to exit Game 1 of the NLDS at San Francisco after only eight pitches because of a strained right oblique.
Cueto will be examined again on Monday and a potential rehab schedule will be updated then. That means any future roster move and figuring out what to do with Tony Cingrani has been tabled.
So there's your Cincinnati story, gamers. Cingrani's going to be around for a while. Let's have some fun with him Saturday, and also pencil him in for a home start next weekend against Milwaukee.
• So much for the glorious Hanley Ramirez return to the lineup. Ramirez suffered a strained hamstring in Friday's loss to the Giants and appears to be DL-bound (here's Tim Brown with the info on that). The Dodgers are considering a Dee Gordon recall, which is of use to anyone in need of a steals jolt. Gordon't can't do much else for fake baseballers, as we saw last year.
If you're looking for a third baseman to replace Hanley on your active roster, here are some names to consider: surging Josh Donaldson (51 percent owned in Yahoo), Chris Johnson (50), buzzy prospect Nolan Arenado (44), versatile Jordan Pacheco (14) and former Wiggy Mike Aviles (three percent). Obviously one size never fits all for this sort of exercise.
If a shortstop is more your speed, perhaps Gordon can do something for you (pending his actual recall). Other names of interest: Andrelton Simmons (41, much better potential than what current stats suggest), Jhonny Peralta (39), Aviles again, or maybe a stab at Stephen Drew (better swings the past week; widely available).
• Sunday success on the mound is a critical part of head-to-head roto, so let's give you a few streaming names to consider.
Jason Hammel (48 percent) has won all of his road starts this year and there's nothing intimidating about the Angels right now. Dial him up. Jose Quintana (23) is an intriguing lefty to be aware of, if the weather gods will stop picking on Kansas City for a moment. I'd want Daniel Straily (11) in my long-term plans, not that I'm eager to use him in Yankee Stadium. Kevin Slowey (10 percent) passed the eye test in his first six turns and finally might be ready to cash in on the potential we all saw back in the late 2000s. If only his teammates would score some runs for him (2.15 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, zero victories).
• Anyone feel like kicking the tires on Padres first baseman Yonder Alonso? He's off to a solid .292/.350/.462 start, with four homers in 106 at-bats (his clout Friday sparked a San Diego win). The pop is encouraging to see, given that he didn't have a huge power profile in the minors and he slugged just nine round-trippers in 155 games last year.
The new fences at Petco Park obviously help the cause, and Alonso has a zesty 1.020 OPS in front of the home fans thus far. He's waiting for your call in 85 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
• Although Arizona starter Wade Miley took the loss at Petco, the Snakes bullpen didn't cover itself in glory (Josh Collmenter allowed three hits and two runs, and Brad Ziegler was ineffective in the eighth). The only consistent arm getting outs for Arizona is left-hander Matt Reynolds; he struck out the side in the Thursday game against the Giants and had another smooth inning Friday (no baserunners, one punchout). He's now posted 15 bagels on the season, with silly side numbers (6 H, 1 BB, 12 K)
Kirk Gibson is sticking with J.J. Putz as his closer (for now) and Reynolds has to fight against left-handed bias (and a handful of other options), but if you're in a deeper league and need relief help or longshot save speculation, there might be something to this story. A pitcher freed from the the shackles of Coors Field is a beautiful thing.
Speed Round: Chris Davis is dealing with a sore knee and will have an MRI Saturday. First base generally isn't a difficult fill for any club, but a Davis sitdown wouldn't open the door for anyone special. … Vinny Pestano has been pitching through a sore elbow. He's been solid through eight innings, but not at his best (2.25 ERA, four walks, eight strikeouts). … The hits keep coming for the Oakland offense: Chris Young (quad) landed on the 15-day DL. Michael Taylor, a buzzy prospect not long ago, is up from the minors (where he was slashing .329/.380/.616 with five homers) to replace Young. … Aramis Ramirez (knee) came back to Milwaukee and stroked a couple of singles. Ramirez must be feeling rather hale because he didn't take a rehab assignment. Yuniesky Betancourt went 1-for-3 as Milwaukee's first baseman (and also made an error on the first play of the game). … The Jason Motte story is done for the year: he's headed for Tommy John surgery. The Edward Mujica experience has been just fine in the ninth, thanks (2.25 ERA, 13 strikeouts, one walk). … Austin Jackson is battling sore hamstrings and took the day off Friday. It's not considered serious. … Nick Swisher (shoulder) didn't start Friday but he's settled in as Saturday's DH.