Mining the News (10/8/21) by Jeff Zimmerman October 8, 2021 American League Blue Jays • Nate Pearson pitched with a hernia this year and he’s still being considered as a starting pitching option. Former No. 1 prospect Nate Pearson is meeting with a doctor today to assess whether he’ll need a procedure to address a sports hernia he pitched through in 2021, though Atkins said the big right-hander felt strong physically as the season ended. Atkins also said that he envisioned an “extended outing, closer to a starter look” for Pearson in ’22. “We have to factor in workload, factor in development and doing what’s best for him,” Atkins said. “It’s just too hard to say exactly what it will look like, but on the spectrum of things, I hope it looks a lot more like a starter than a reliever, but we’ll be open to all roles and all ways to have him help us win.” Guardians (maybe) • Amed Rosario will start the season as the shortstop. Bobby Bradley will be the starting first baseman. The team told Amed Rosario he’ll enter the offseason “at the front of the line” for the everyday shortstop gig. But they added that they’ll let him know if certain roster shuffling alters that plan, which would require him to learn some other positions. Second base seems primed to host a competition in the spring. Antonetti indicated Bobby Bradley will enter next season as the starting first baseman, but Josh Naylor and Nolan Jones, each recovering from lower leg surgery, could eventually factor into that equation. Tigers • Riley Greene will soon be in the outfield mix. “At some point, you can count on Riley Greene being in our outfield,” Avila said. “I’m not gonna say when or when we think. But at some point in the not-too-distant future.” • Gregory Soto has already been named the closer with some stipulations. But wouldn’t another power lefty or a rock-solid veteran reliever look nice as the Tigers try to build a true lockdown bullpen? Tuesday, Avila entertained the idea but also didn’t talk like bullpen upgrades were a sure thing. (If you haven’t gathered by now, Avila rarely speaks in absolutes.) … There was one more notable development in the bullpen, too. Despite refusing to name a closer all year, it seems like Hinch is finally ready to start using the word in 2022 — as long as the term can still come with some flexibility. “Gregory Soto is our closer,” Hinch said. “But he might pitch the seventh, the eighth or the ninth. Or sometimes the sixth. So there, I said it.” • Jeimer Candelario struggled at the plate after his Grandma’s death. He did not play from June 6 to June 15. From June 18 to 26, he went through one of his roughest stretches in an otherwise rock-solid year, going 4-for-24 with eight strikeouts. “It was a tough couple of days when I came back to Detroit,” Candelario said. “I just tried to put myself in a good position and told myself to play for her. Do the best you can for her and for God and let’s see what happens.” Up until he went on bereavement leave, he was hitting a .727 OPS. For the two weeks after return (the rest of June), it was a .658 OPS. From July 1st on, it was a .878 OPS. National League Braves • Austin Riley made an improvement in his plate discipline. While Riley hit .239 with a .716 OPS in 2020, his strikeout rate dropped to 23.8 percent and he was far less susceptible to sliders and other pitches outside the zone. He swung and missed at a 20.5 percent clip in 2019, while doing so at just a 13.1 percent rate this year. Riley swung at 41.3 percent of pitches thrown outside the strike zone in 2019, as opposed to chasing just 34.6 percent this year. The change was noted in an earlier Mining the News with the improvements sticking. Cubs • The team may go with more flexible lineups (i.e. platoons) going forward. After years of watching a largely static group of hitters, Ross is on board with the idea of tailoring more lineups to the opponent that night and developing extra roster flexibility. I’m less apt to roster some of the borderline talents (e.g. Nico Hoerner) knowing they could immediately be in a platoon. Diamondbacks • It’s going to be tough to guess any starters with the team planning on several position battles. In terms of the Major League roster, jj and that “I envision going into Spring Training with a lot of competition” at various positions, including third base. • Daulton Varsho will play, but the team doesn’t want to wear him down at two demanding positions. Varsho is one of few Diamondbacks hitters who exits 2021 all but assured of everyday plate appearances for 2022. Now the question is not about whether he fits in but how to keep him in there as much as possible. Playing outfield is a physically demanding position. So is catching, even if a ball is never put in play. (As McKay put it, “You’re doing 180 squats every day and every ball that’s thrown to you you’ve got to throw back to the pitcher.”) Varsho’s ability to do both — really, to play four positions between catcher and the three outfield spots — makes him a skeleton key for the lineup, able to fit in anywhere. But now the Diamondbacks have to worry about grinding him into a nub. Avoiding that temptation to overtax him will be difficult. “I don’t know the right answer,” Sawdaye said. “I want to see him play every day at every position. I wish I could see him play five days in center field and five days behind the plate. I know that’s impossible. (But) he can be a 70 defender at every one of those positions.” If the designated hitter comes to the National League next year, that will help to an extent, giving manager Torey Lovullo the chance to keep Varsho’s bat in the lineup while taking the young dynamo off his feet. But Varsho also will have to learn how to juggle. He’s essentially being asked to work two jobs, and it’s impossible to give all of himself to both. I’m thinking maybe plan on 130 games max workload next season. Marlins • The team is looking to upgrade at catcher. The Marlins continue to be in the market for a catching upgrade, reports the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson. Skipper Don Mattingly more or less confirmed that’ll be a priority this winter, responding to questions about the team’s incumbent catching situation, noting that “It’s an area we’re looking at. It’s fairly safe to say it was some kind of message when we grabbed two catchers at the trade deadline.” Sounds like Jorge Alfaro will be looking elsewhere for a job. Phillies • Didi Gregorius will not be guaranteed a job going into 2022. “It very well could be him,” Dombrowski said of Gregorius. “But he knows, we’ve had a discussion with him that he needs to be better. We’re in a position where we also are going to be open minded to what’s going to take place at shortstop next year. It could be internal. It could be him if he comes back. … He’s not guaranteed that he’s been told that he’s for sure the shortstop. It doesn’t mean that he can’t play other positions for us, too. And maybe we’ll have a DH that’ll be part of our club too next year.” I read this as: the team wants to add one of the big name shortstop free agents, so everyone should be prepared if/when it happens. One option might be for Alec Bohm and Gregorius to battle for the third base job. Another option is a platoon of the pair. Bohm has a career .811 OPS vs LHP (.677 OPS vs RHP) and for Gregorius it is a .763 OPS vs RHP (.667 vs LHP).