Mining the News (3/14/23)

American League


Griffin Canning is back to his old self and in the battle for the team’s sixth rotation spot.

But that’s behind him — at least for now — and Canning’s fastball velocity is up from what he’s shown in the past. His fastball averaged 93.5 mph in 2021, and over his first two Cactus League starts this spring (in which he’s given up one run over five innings), it’s been consistently hitting 95 mph.

Canning’s secondary stuff — a slider, a changeup and a curveball — has been playing well in his return, too. One of his sliders in the second inning Sunday led to Chicago’s Seby Zavala lunging at the pitch while the bat flew out of his hands toward third base, capping the second of three strikeouts Canning had on the afternoon.

While Canning has looked good so far this spring, he does face some headwinds in his quest to fill the role — he has Minor League options remaining, whereas others in the group competing for the same job are out of them. That group includes left-hander Tucker Davidson and right-hander Chase Silseth.


Cody Morris might transition to the bullpen to fill a need and to help keep him healthy.

But the Guardians have some questions in their bullpen. Even before Sam Hentges started dealing with left shoulder inflammation, there was still an empty spot to fill. If this remains a need for Cleveland as the regular season gets underway, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Morris shift into that role.

“You don’t want to be — I don’t know if it’s close-minded. I’m not sure if that’s the right way to say it,” Francona said. “But we talked to him about, one, as he’s getting healthy, we need to kind of see where we are. But at the same point, like even if we look great in April, we’ve all seen where you could be a couple weeks later and you’re short a couple pitchers. So, that’ll be an ongoing conversation. I think the biggest thing is how he’s doing. That will probably dictate more than anything what we do with him.”


• The Athletic’s Dan Connolly believes Jorge Mateo has two months to prove himself before getting replaced.

Because Mateo, 27, is so dynamic defensively (2022 Fielding Bible Award) and on the basepaths (led the AL in steals with 35), the Orioles likely will give him at least two months to show he can be at least competent at the plate (.250 BA, .300 OBP).

If that doesn’t happen, and Ortiz, Norby or Jordan Westburg are thriving at Triple-A Norfolk, one may then get the call to the majors to be a primary starter.


• The fifth rotation spot is a battle between Josh Fleming, Yonny Chirinos, and Luis Patiño.

The battle for the Rays’ No. 5 starter job continued this weekend on Florida’s East Coast, as Josh Fleming, Yonny Chirinos and Luis Patiño each took the mound with a chance to make another impression to fill a rotation hole for the injured Tyler Glasnow.

Fleming and Patiño both pitched well, while Chirinos was knocked around in his one inning against the Marlins. Despite Chirinos’ rough outing, manager Kevin Cash maintained that he won’t rush to any judgments based on a single start, instead gathering all the information he can before setting up the rotation for the first week of the season.

Josh Fleming is adding a breaking ball.

Fleming threw 35 innings last season, making three starts among his 10 appearances. He had great success against lefties (.643 OPS) but struggled against righties (1.091 OPS), so he spent the offseason working on a new breaking ball to complement his changeup and sinker, giving him something different to show right-handed hitters.

A new pitch isn’t standing out. In the few available tracked games, he’s thrown a curve about 25% of the time with below-average results (10% SwStr%). He only threw a curve 10% of the time last season, so maybe it is a new curve.


Kerry Carpenter needs to be a serviceable outfielder to get regular at-bats.

Designated hitter at-bats are a possibility, but the Tigers have not yet experimented with Carpenter’s playing first base. He needs to show he can stick in the outfield to get in the lineup.

“We’ve emphasized we’re going to pay close attention to his outfield defense for him to make a roster,” Hinch said. “At this point in his career he can’t be a DH only. As he gets more comfortable where he plays depthwise, I’ve noticed him getting a little more comfortable going back and going side to side. When he came up last year he tended to play really deep so everything was in front of him.”


• The team is now considering a six-man rotation.

But with three weeks to go until Opening Day, president of baseball operations Derek Falvey noted on Saturday that the Twins have grown more open to the possibility of breaking camp with a six-man rotation.

“That wasn’t our plan as we entered camp,” Falvey said. “It still, I wouldn’t say, is our plan, but there’s at least a conversation we’ve been having internally about how that could work and what it would mean for the bullpen, how would we navigate that. Some of it will be health-dependent, but we’re open to the conversation maybe more now than I was a month ago.”

Byron Buxton and Jorge Polanco are currently on track to make the Opening Day lineup. Alex Kirilloff is not.

Among the trio of projected regulars who haven’t yet seen action in Spring Training play, Byron Buxton and Jorge Polanco remain on track to be with the team for Opening Day, while Alex Kirilloff is tracking “a little bit behind schedule” in his live hitting, according to president of baseball operations Derek Falvey.

White Sox

Dylan Cease is now ready to ramp up the intensity.

Whether it’s 80 percent in the bullpen or 90 percent, we’ve got to be able to execute the things and be able to do the things that we want to take into the game.”

Both in a later start to his offseason throwing program and in his arrival at spring, Cease entered this season under the impression that there was less to work on, no overhaul to undergo. He remains healthy and confident that his velocity will continue to climb from the 95 mph he topped out at last Wednesday. But he did not enjoy what he experienced and is not interested in going through it again.

“That reaffirmed it: It’s time to get going,” Cease said. “I’m going full intensity for the rest of spring with everything I’m doing pitching-wise. I would definitely say it’s compete mode and no longer practice mode.”


Anthony Rizzo’s back is acting up.

National League


• Catcher-qualified Blake Sabol will start getting outfield reps.

The Giants brought Sabol into camp to compete for one of two catching spots, but Kapler said the left-handed hitter could get some looks in the outfield now that Haniger and Slater are dealing with injuries. Sabol, 25, was drafted by the Pirates as an outfielder before taking up catching in the Minors two years ago.


Scott Kingery is a thing again.

He’s batting .471 (10-for-21) with a home run and a 1.161 OPS in nine games, including a 2-for-3 effort Saturday against the Yankees.

“Scotty has flattened his stroke,” Thomson said. “He did a lot of work with [hitting coach Kevin Long] in the offseason. We’re seeing the guy he was a couple years ago. That guy is kind of special because he can play anywhere. He’s athletic. He can run. He can steal bases. He can do a lot of things. He’s very dynamic.”


Nick Senzel is still not running.

OF Nick Senzel took live at-bats in a minor-league game on Saturday, but did not run.

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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7 days ago

Jeff, usually in the Spring one of the staff would keep a velocity spreadsheet on pitchers. Is that being done this year and if so, where is it available. Fangraphs Auction Calculator was my “go-to” for an NFBC 12 team NL-Only auction this past Sunday and the results were super! Thank you.