Monday, April 17, 2023

Soriano sparkles in losing effort for Marlins

It may get lost in the headline of Miami's 5-0 loss to Arizona, with ace Sandy Alcantara once more not finding the 2022 version of himself, but the second Marlin pitcher to take the mound certainly looked the part. Righthander George Soriano came on in the seventh and set the Diamondbacks down in order on seven pitches, getting two fly balls and a liner to keep the deficit at five.

The only hit he surrendered was a leadoff Geraldo Perdomo single in the eighth, and the Snakes second baseman was erased one batter later on a 4-6-3 double play off the bat of DH Pavin Smith.

Back on for the ninth, Soriano logged his first two strikeouts, getting Corbin Carroll to open the frame and Nick Ahmed to close it, both on sliders. In all, he needed just 25 pitches to retire nine men, a model of efficiency that would have surprised many, given his 4.7 BB/9 IP ratio in the minor leagues in 2022.

Thursday, April 13, 2023

Top prospect Bradley pushes Rays' streak to 12

With veteran Zack Eflin sidelined by back tightness, righthander Taj Bradley got the call from Triple-A Durham. Entrusted to keep the club's 11-game winning streak alive, the Rays' top pitching prospect had a few nerves to settle against Red Sox leadoff man Alex Verdugo, missing the zone with his first three pitches and eventually putting him aboard via free pass. But a strikeout of Rafael Devers and a double-play ground ball from Justin Turner got him out of the first after just three batters.

The Rays handed him a three-run lead in the home half of the inning, and Bradley rolled from there, setting Boston down in order in the second and third, striking out four along the way. Verdugo became the first Sox hitter to get the ball out of the infield when he doubled to lead off the fourth. A Turner single finally got the visitors on the board, though Tampa responded with three more runs to push the margin to 6-1.

Bradley, who had thrown just 55 and 51 pitches over his two Triple-A starts, ran out of steam in the fifth, surrendering three hits and a pair of runs. He was replaced by Jalen Beeks at the start of the sixth, leaving with an 8-3 lead, having allowed five hits and just the one walk in five innings while fanning eight. Tampa's pen made it interesting, but held on for a 9-7 victory, giving Bradley his first W as the winning streak hit an even dozen, the perfect gift for his mom, who was celebrating her birthday by tallying his strikeouts in the stands.

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Six days after callup, Moore finally debuts for Phils

Righthander McKinley Moore was called up on April 4, when he got as close as the bullpen mound during the eighth inning of Philadelphia's 4-1 win over the Yankees. After six days as a spectator, he finally advanced to the center ring Monday against the visiting Marlins with the Phillies comfortably up 9-0.

His first eight pitches to Luis Arraez were four-seam fastballs running from 96-98 mph. The Miami second baseman spoiled four of them to stay alive with the count full, eventually earning a free pass when Moore missed with a sweeper on his ninth try. It took just one pitch to wipe the bases clean, however, as Jorge Soler grounded his first offering to third baseman Alec Bohm who turned a 5-4-3 double play. A fly to left field by Bryan De La Cruz ended the inning.

A prolonged spell in the dugout as his side tacked on four more runs seemed to cost Moore his sharpness. Yuli Gurriel led off with a home run to left to finally get the Marlins on the board. Moore then missed on seven consecutive pitches while issuing back-to-back walks to Jean Segura and Jacob Stallings. After a force out from Jon Berti put runners at the corners with one down, Phillies skipper Rob Thomson went to the pen for lefthander Andrew Vasquez.

Both of Moore's runners came around to score, bringing his final line to three runs on a hit and three walks in 1.1 innings as the Phils cruised to a 15-3 win.

Saturday, April 8, 2023

Scholtens offers relief to Chicago's battered staff

Jose Ruiz's poor start cost him his job in the Sox bullpen, with Jesse Scholtens being summoned from Triple-A Charlotte to step in as a long reliever and help shore up a battered staff that had allowed 31 runs in three games against the Giants earlier this week. He caught up with the club in Pittsburgh Friday, the day after his 29th birthday, and celebrated by taking the mound against the Pirates nearly seven years after signing his first pro contract.

The circumstances weren't ideal, sure, with the White Sox in a 12-7 hole, but Scholtens did his best to restore order after coming on to open the bottom of the sixth. He retired the first two men he faced, making Jack Suwinski his first strikeout victim. A Connor Joe single amounted to nothing after Scholtens got Ji Hwan Bae to fly to right to end the inning.

Scholtens kept the scoreboard clean again in the seventh, working around a one-out free pass to Oneil Cruz, ending the frame in style by fanning veteran Andrew McCutchen. A leadoff walk to Carlos Santana in the eighth proved costlier after a Ke'Bryan Hayes single and a Joe double brought in the run. But Scholtens limited the damage with a pair of strikeouts.

Though the Sox notched two runs in the top of the ninth, it wasn't enough to turn the game as they fell 13-9. Over three innings, Scholtens allowed one run on three hits and a pair of walks while striking out four.

Friday, April 7, 2023

Debut pace down significantly from 2022

Over the first seven days of this season, we saw 27 players make their big-league debuts. The biggest wave came on Opening Day, when 12 guys took the field for the first time. Since Sunday the flow has slowed to a trickle, with just one a day on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, which was the seventh day of the schedule.

Over the first week last year, there were 43 players to debut, led by Julio Rodriguez, Bobby Witt Jr., Spencer Torkelson, Jeremy Pena, Steven Kwan, and Hunter Greene. Of course, last year there were a number of unique circumstances that led to a record number of players breaking in. Due to the rushed spring training caused by the lockout, teams were allowed to carry two extra players over the first month of the schedule. This was a big reason we saw 73 debuts before April ended.

Compare that to the 66 we had in April 2021, when the season started six days earlier. Here's the breakdown over the past three seasons:

First Month Debuts
YearFirst 7 DaysApril

I'm projecting the total this year will be much closer to 2021's 265 than the 303 we saw last season. I'll guess it will fall somewhere around 275, which means we're already roughly 10 percent of the way there. 

Thursday, April 6, 2023

Rodriguez shakes off slow start to give O's five strong innings

After Grayson Rodriguez didn't make the Opening Day cut, the Orioles were accused of manipulating service time for their top pitching prospect. But when Kyle Bradish took a liner off the foot, Rodriguez got the call just days into the season. The righthander made his debut in his home state, taking the hill in the finale of Baltimore's three-game set at Texas.

Rodriguez struggled to find the zone against Marcus Semien, losing the Rangers leadoff man on a 98-mph heater up out of the zone. Though Semien was erased one batter later on a forceout, the free pass stung when Corey Seager came around to score on a two-out double by Adolis Garcia. A Josh Jung single doubled the damage, putting Rodriguez and the O's in a 2-0 hole.

He found the reset button in the second, retiring the Rangers on a pair of ground balls and his first strikeout, putting Ezequiel Duran away on three pitches to finish the inning. Semien led off the third with an excuse-me bunt single, advancing to second on an errant throw from third baseman Gunnar Henderson. But Rodriguez kept him at bay with a strikeout and a pair of grounders. He cruised through the next two innings, leaving with the game knotted at 2-2 thanks to a pair of Oriole runs in the top of the fifth.

The Rangers broke through against Baltimore's bullpen, taking a 5-2 win. Rodriguez didn't factor in the decision, allowing just the two runs on four hits and a walk in five innings while fanning five.

Wednesday, April 5, 2023

Dodd lives up to spring billing in debut

After being paired with fellow lefty and camp surprise Jared Shuster for the better part of a month, Dylan Dodd separated himself when his turn in the rotation finally came up. Taking the mound in St. Louis, just a couple of hours from his old college campus, he had a contingent of supporters cheering for him behind enemy lines.

It didn't begin like a storybook tale, with Cardinals leadoff man Tommy Edman ripping Dodd's second pitch 102.6 mph into left field for a single. Next up, Dylan Carlson made crisp contact with a slider, smoking a tricky line drive to right that was caught by Ronald Acuna Jr. Paul Goldschmidt's grounder up the middle was the hardest hit ball of the inning. But with second baseman Ozzie Albies perfectly stationed, it was converted into a 4-6-3 double play, allowing Dodd to breathe easy in the dugout.

He opened the second with his first strikeout, getting Nolan Arenado to chase a 1-2 slider that broke away and under his bat. Dodd finished it with the same pitch, and the same result, to Tyler O'Neill. Following another 1-2-3 inning in the third, he ran into trouble in the fourth when Carlson and Goldschmidt singled back to back. Acuna dove for a two-out flare off the bat of Willson Contreras but could only trap the ball. The damage was limited to one run, however, as Acuna got to his feet in time to gun a greedy Contreras out at second.

The Cards got two aboard again in the fifth, but Dodd retired Edman on a high pop to right to end the threat. Veteran Jesse Chavez replaced him in the sixth and the Braves pen preserved the 4-1 victory. Dodd was credited with the win, holding St. Louis to one run on six hits while striking out three and walking none.

Soriano sparkles in losing effort for Marlins

It may get lost in the headline of Miami's 5-0 loss to Arizona, with ace Sandy Alcantara once more not finding the 2022 version of himse...