Mining the News (2/17/23)

Allan Henry-USA TODAY Sports

American League


• Max Stassi worked on simplifying his swing.

Max Stassi said he spent the offseason “simplifying things” after he struggled offensively in 2022. Specifically, he said he wanted his swing to stay on a consistent plane. He generally felt that his underlying batted balls numbers were good but that he needs to make more contact. Regarding the competition to win the starting job, Stassi said: “I just go out there and try to handle my business. … Whatever they think is the best team out there to win games, that’s what I care about.”


• Luis Garcia will need to rework his pre-pitch routine to prevent balking.

In particular, one of the game’s most unique deliveries technically runs afoul of the rule. Astros right-hander Luis Garcia famously “rocks the baby,” swinging his arms and taking steps forward and backward before raising his leg and moving down the mound, mechanics he favors (and that he developed on his own) purely for their repeatability. Now, he will have to adjust or face being frequently called for an automatic ball.

Martín Maldonado had surgery to fix his hernia and had no surgery for his broken hand.

Maldonado said he stayed away from soda and treats as he tried to get in better shape coming off a season in which he battled a hernia injury and a broken right hand. He wound up having surgery to repair his hernia shortly after the Astros beat the Phillies in the World Series (the hand healed on its own) and then, he proceeded to get in shape. Maybe not the best shape of his life, but certainly fitter and trimmer.


• Shintaro Fujinami throws six pitches with his splitter being “nasty”.

Fujinami, 28, drew rave reviews as he threw all six of his offerings — four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, cutter, slider, splitter and curveball — in a bullpen session of approximately 40 pitches.

Most impressive to catcher Shea Langeliers, who was catching Fujinami for the first time, was the splitter, which seemed to develop into a real putaway pitch last year in Japan.

“The big splitter was nasty,” Langeliers said. “It’s going to take some catching to get used to that one. It’s really good. It dives down.”

Blue Jays

• Kevin Gausman might have issues adjusting to the new balk rules because of his rocking motion …

With the new pitch timer, pitchers will need to come to a “full body stop” prior to their delivery. Once their delivery starts, the pitch timer stops. Gausman, however, has long had a physical tick in his delivery where he rocks back and forth, tapping his front foot on the mound’s dirt over and over. This happens three, five or 10 times, then he finally lifts his leg to deliver the pitch.

…and being singled out as an example

“It just sucks when you’re one of the guys that’s on the list, right? They’ll definitely be watching me a little bit closer than maybe the normal.”

…and he hasn’t even started working on fixing the issue.

The Blue Jays were made aware of increased enforcement of the rule in the offseason. On Wednesday, pitching coach Pete Walker spoke to Gausman about it. When the 32-year-old threw his side on Thursday, he said he was just pitching as he normally would. “I didn’t want the first day to just try to change everything all of a sudden.”


• Paul Sewald is fully recovered from his offseason surgeries.

This offseason, Sewald had a minimally invasive procedure called Tenex on both of his heels. He also had some loose bodies removed from his right (throwing) elbow. He’s healthy, happy and ready to contribute again to what figures to be one of baseball’s top bullpens.


• Brady Singer is working on his changeup.

Once again, Singer’s changeup is a major focus for the 26-year-old. Last year, Singer rejoined the Royals’ rotation in May armed with an improved changeup and the willingness to use it more in his outings. It transformed the way he pitched the rest of the year, finishing with a 3.11 ERA in 24 starts from May 17 to the end of the year.

“They’ve really stressed working on the changeup,” manager Matt Quatraro said. “With most pitchers in the game, there’s usually disparity between what they do to the same side hitters and opposite side hitters. As teams look to use their rosters more, they’ll stack it with lefties against him. He’s going to have to continue to evolve to get lefties out.”

While Singer threw the changeup at a 14% clip in May, he never threw it over 9% from then on. The results on the pitch were garbage, but its characteristics point to it being better.

The issue is that he’s burying the change in the dirt.


• Casey Mize’s Tommy John recovery may take longer than expected since he also had back surgery.

Tigers right-hander Casey Mize underwent Tommy John surgery in June of last year and was already set to miss at least part of the upcoming season. However, there’s an extra layer of complication to his recovery, as the team informed reporters today that he also underwent back surgery around the same time, listing his two issues as a right elbow sprain and a lumbar strain.

“I’ve been dealing with the issue for a long time,” Mize told reporters, including Jason Beck of “I would say years. It’s just something that’s gradually gotten worse over time.” He then goes on to detail that, since he was going to be out for an extended stretch with the Tommy John anyway, the idea was to get both issues dealt with at the same time. It seems the back issue delayed his rehab process slightly, but Evan Petzold of the Detroit Free Press reports that the rehab is now primarily focused on his arm. He’ll start playing catch this week.


• If everyone is healthy, the team will use a five-man rotation with Bailey Ober in the minors.

Though they began with one last season, Falvey can’t see the Twins starting the season with a six-man rotation again in 2023. If all went well, the Twins could see Ober starting the season at Triple-A St. Paul, which is ideal for them but not necessarily their pitcher.

• Tyler Mahle feels great and worked on a new slider at Driveline.

“[Tyler Mahle] feels fantastic,” president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said. “I think [head athletic trainer Nick Paparesta] feels good about where his training is, feels good about what his arm care routines are.”

If anything were still abnormal, Mahle would have been able to tell during his offseason work at Driveline, the data-driven baseball performance facility, where he went at the recommendation of his agent to work on a more effective slider.

Even he threw his slider just 7% of the time last year but it had a 14% SwStr% and 32% GB%. It might have been his best pitch but he ditched it in mid-June.

White Sox

• Dylan Cease wants to improve his command and his changeup.

Cease has grown as a pitcher with each of his four Major League seasons, posting a 2.20 ERA over 32 starts in ‘22 with a career-high 227 strikeouts over a career-high 184 innings. He also had a career-high 78 walks, placing fastball command at the top of his work list along with offseason focus on the changeup.

After leading the league in walks, improved command should be his first focus.

He barely threw his change last year (2% of the time) and here are the comps.

It’s not horrible and could give him another weapon.

• Yoán Moncada admits to coming back too soon from his oblique injury.

A right oblique strain suffered in the final week of Spring Training derailed Moncada last season, as he debuted on May 9 and was hitting .132 as late as June 12. Moncada admitted to coming back too soon from the oblique issue, but he quickly added that problem is in the past and his focus is on the present.

He seemed to finally get healthy in September. Here are his monthly OPS values.

Month: OPS
May: .425
June: .634
July: .663
Aug: .567
Sep/Oct: .753


• The manager expects Gleyber Torres to be the starting second baseman with DJ LeMahieu bouncing around the infield.

With Anthony Rizzo and Josh Donaldson set to start at the infield corners, Boone said that he envisions Torres as his starting second baseman, with DJ LeMahieu likely bouncing between first base, second base and third base. Torres has been working on his hitting this offseason and believes he has unlocked tweaks that could restore his earlier production.

National League


• Ronald Acuña Jr. and the team reported that he’s 100% healthy (knee). Additionally, Acuna wants to steal as many bags as possible.

The Braves wanted to make sure that Acuña had no problems with his surgically repaired knee this winter before giving him the OK to play. Once they discussed the situation with him and were satisfied that he was healthy and had no lingering soreness or concerns with the knee, they said yes.

“No limitations, and I’m really happy to say that,” he said. “I’m really happy to say that I feel 100 percent, and obviously since 2021 when I was injured, I couldn’t say that. Now, there’s no more excuses.”

“First and foremost, my main goal is to just stay as healthy as possible,” he said. “My goal is to play every single game. With that said, I want to steal as many bases as possible.”


• According to the GM, the team will not have a set closer to start the season.

Chicago will likely enter this year without a true closer, but rather a ninth-by-committee approach for manager David Ross.

“That’ll be Rossy’s decision,” Hoyer said of the closer role. “I think we have a number of guys that are capable of doing it. Last year towards the end of the year, I thought he did a fantastic job with a bullpen when we didn’t have a set closer after we traded [David] Robertson. He mixed and matched really well with with different guys based on the game situation. And in a way, I think that was educational for him.”


• Mark Melancon wants to close and tweaked his delivery this offseason.

Fresh off an offseason that saw him retool his mechanics, right-hander Mark Melancon is determined to once again be the D-backs’ closer when the regular season opens.

“I want to be the closer,” Melancon said.

“I probably learned more in this offseason than I’ve ever learned,” Melancon said. “Just changed a lot of my delivery, and I’m still tweaking it. So it’s been it’s been a lot of fun, one of the most fun offseasons from that perspective. Every day just learning and getting after it.”

This is the first time since 2011 that Melancon has made mechanical changes to this degree.


• Joc Pederson has been playing some first base.

• Joey Bart is not guaranteed a spot on the major league team, especially if he doesn’t put the ball in play more.

“For any prospects that come to the big leagues, the organization wants to give them a chance to perform and succeed, and at a certain point, a player just has less of that runway,” Kapler said. “He’s just competing like others are in a major-league camp. And that’s where we are with Joey.

Kapler offered a timelier answer: what they told Bart on Wednesday that he’ll need to demonstrate this spring.

“We asked him to put the ball in play more,” Kapler said. “Very simple, very, very direct. When Joey went down to the minor leagues (in June) and we asked him to make that swing change, he came up and in some ways was a more productive hitter, which was awesome. However, the swing-and-miss was still there throughout. August was his best month, but September was a real challenge as it relates to putting the ball in play.”

• The team is considering Rule-5 pick Blake Sabol as the backup catcher who could play some outfield.

Sabol, a Rule 5 pick whom the Giants acquired via trade, would make his major-league debut if the Giants are able to roster him. Kapler and his coaches have been proactive with sending Sabol video and putting him in touch with Giants pitchers so he could work on forming relationships before this camp began. They wanted Sabol to be as prepared as possible to compete for a roster spot.

Over two minor league levels (AA and AAA) last season, he hit .284/.363/.497 with 19 HR and 10 SB while playing 66 games at catcher, 21 in the outfield, and 34 as the DH. He could be an interesting catcher option in deeper formats.

• Michael Conforto is not 100% healthy and could start the season as the DH.

The Giants also provided a medical update on outfielder Michael Conforto, who underwent shoulder surgery and didn’t play last season. Conforto is throwing to 165 feet but will start spring games as the designated hitter as he completes his throwing progression. Conforto and Zaidi painted a more optimistic picture, however. Conforto said he viewed a throwing session Friday as a final step before he would begin to think of himself as “a normal guy” this spring. Zaidi also noted that all of the data the Giants have collected from Conforto’s throwing progression has been positive.

• The Athletic’s Grant Brisbee thinks Thairo Estrada will have the second base job all to himself.

Estrada is the starter at second, though. Against righties, against lefties. He’ll also spend time at shortstop against lefties when Brandon Crawford needs a day off. It’s not completely unthinkable that middle infielders Isan Díaz or Brett Wisely could sneak onto the roster, but even if they did, it would never be in a straight platoon with Estrada.


• MacKenzie Gore is pounding the strike zone.

Gore’s bullpen session on Wednesday.

“It’s more his mechanics,” Martinez said. “He cleaned up some stuff that we wanted him to. It’s all about pounding the strike zone with him. When he does that, he’s really, really, really effective. He’s got three, maybe four, plus-plus pitches.”

After posting a 4.8 BB/9 in 70 major league innings, hopefully, he can throw more strikes this season.


• Ke’Bryan Hayes bulked up while changing his training routine.

Hayes, who trimmed his blowout taper fade in favor of a buzz cut, became the first Pirate to uphold a Spring Training tradition, saying that he’s added about 10 to 15 pounds. His goal was to get back into the 210-pound range, which is where he was during his time in the Minor Leagues.

Along with the bulk, Hayes is once again healthy. Hayes revealed after Pittsburgh’s penultimate game last season that he had been dealing with a back issue for the entire year. He still managed to play a career-high 136 games, but felt the effects of the injury throughout the course of the season. To ensure he remains healthy, Hayes has learned more about the minutiae of lifting, eschewing heavier weights in favor of better form and constantly communicating with trainer Rafael Freitas.


• Alexis Díaz is the team’s closer.

Alexis Díaz emerged from Spring Training surprise to Reds closer as a rookie in 2022. This year, there is no mystery to Díaz’s role. He will be Cincinnati’s closer once again, expected to lock down games from the beginning of 2023.

“He’s going into the season as our closer, [but] there are times where if it’s an important game and he’s fully available, we might use him earlier than that,” Bell said. “He’s been that good. [We’re] just keeping in mind that he’s still learning, he’s still improving. … We just know there’s ways that he can get even better.”

• The team plans on starting Tyler Stephenson in 140 to 150 games this year.

The goal is to have Stephenson in Cincinnati’s lineup for 140-150 games this season. But to keep him fresh and hopefully healthy, the plan is for the 26-year-old to catch 65 games. There will be some back-to-back games behind the plate, but not many.

“It made the most sense. I believe it was four out of 10 [catching so] he could play 140 or 150 games,” Bell said. “It was about three at DH, two at first out of 10, and then one off-day.”

Jeff, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won four FSWA Awards including on for his Mining the News series. He's won Tout Wars three times, LABR twice, and got his first NFBC Main Event win in 2021. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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1 year ago

Who is going to be the first to report to Spring Training “in the best shape of their life”?

1 year ago
Reply to  TwinPeaks

 Yankees manager Aaron Boone said Saturday that Severino is already in “elite shape” at the start of camp.