Mining the News (3/7/23)

American League

Athletics

• Paul Blackburn is expanding the usage of his changeup.

The changeup was always a pitch that Blackburn felt he didn’t use enough. In ’22, he threw just 43 changeups to right-handed batters. While last season was a breakout year, upping the usage of his changeup is something Blackburn thinks can help him reach a higher level as a pitcher.

“It gives me another weapon,” Blackburn said. “If I’m able to throw sinkers and changeups in, that’s going to open up everything for me. It’s another weapon that I can use. Going forward, being able to throw more changeups to righties will open up a cutter and curveball for me. It’s not just, as soon as I get two strikes, here comes the curveball.”

Blue Jays

• Kevin Gausman, who had to get a new windup, is still not comfortable with the new pitch clock.

The good news is, he made it through his five-out spring debut Friday without being called for a single balk. The bad news is, he said he felt as if he was rushing his delivery at times throughout a messy 30-pitch first inning. And that’s something his team is watching, because if this creeps into Gausman’s head, getting it out of there could be a lot more challenging than writing up any rule change.

“I think like anyone, you don’t want to be the guy that’s the poster boy for it,” said Blue Jays manager John Schneider, “where it’s like, ‘Oh, why are they attacking me? Why are they singling me out?’ But he’s been good (about it).”

Orioles

• The Orioles rotation currently consists of Kyle Gibson, Cole Irvin, Kyle Bradish, Dean Kremer, and Grayson Rodriguez.

Locks: Kyle Gibson, Cole Irvin

Gibson realizes his place in the starting five is assured, “barring a Spring Training meltdown.” Irvin didn’t make that type of proclamation earlier this week, when the 29-year-old left-hander said he feels his 81 games of big league experience isn’t enough to just be handed a spot.

The O’s are paying the 35-year-old Gibson $10 million this year and gave up talented shortstop prospect Darell Hernaiz to acquire Irvin from the A’s. They’re both in the Opening Day rotation.

In (as of now): Kyle Bradish, Dean Kremer, Grayson Rodriguez

These three right-handers came to camp as apparent front-runners, and they’ve each shown why. Bradish and Rodriguez (MLB Pipeline’s No. 7 overall prospect) each pitched two hitless innings in their Grapefruit debuts. Kremer allowed one run in five innings over his two outings before his imminent departure to go pitch for Israel in the World Baseball Classic.

Rangers

• Cole Ragans’s fastball is up about 3 mph.

Ragans averaged 92.1 mph last year on his four-seamer, hitting 94 mph or above only 15 times in the big leagues. Now, he’s sitting around 94-96 mph — and even topped out at 99 a couple times — in Cactus League play, raising more than a few eyebrows in Rangers camp.

To say the Rangers staff is injury prone would be an understatement, so Ragans will see some starts this year.

• With Leody Taveras likely to miss a few starts, Bubba Thompson will likely start the season as the team’s centerfielder.

The most likely solution is to have Thompson seize control of the position, and simply plug the second-year outfielder into Taveras’ spot in the lineup. Before Taveras’ injury, Thompson was expected to either serve as the fourth outfielder on the big league squad, due to his speed and defensive capabilities, or get every day at-bats back with Triple-A Round Rock.

Twins

• Last year, Sonny Gray was not ready for last season’s start leading to his injuries.

But his plans drastically changed two days later. Gray was en route to Reds camp in Arizona when he was traded to the Twins on March 10.

“I was extremely behind,” Gray said. “I was kind of under the impression the whole time we were going to get like two weeks because that’s kind of what we were told. I was under the impression, like, ‘OK, I’ll be OK.’ But then the lockout ended on Thursday and we had to report on Monday. I was like, ‘F—.’ I hadn’t thrown.”

The Twins knew Gray was behind. Everybody would be because of the lockout. But Gray never asked the Twins if he could miss the start of the season.

He made his regular-season debut in the Twins’ second game on April 9. During his second start a week later, Gray exited with a right hamstring strain after only 1 2/3 innings and was later placed on the injured list, one of three IL stints he’d endure in 2022.

White Sox

• Oscar Colas might be looking to steal more bases.

He showed the ability to hit the other way, which Colas worked on during the offseason, but also picked up a stolen base, which might be a new addition to his 2023 repertoire.

“I feel comfortable stealing,” Colas said. “The past couple of years, I didn’t have the chance to do it often. But ever since I came here, the manager told me, ‘You have good legs. Good speed. We want you to run.’ They’ve been giving me the chance and I’ve been taking advantage of it.”

“Colas can be an opportunistic basestealer,” White Sox manager Pedro Grifol said. “He’s got a lot of work to do on the bases.

National League

Cardinals

• Andre Pallante is not being stretched out as a starter.

A few items of particular note include that righty Drew VerHagen and lefty Zack Thompson, both of whom have been rotation options in the past, have been brought along on reliever schedules this spring. Sophomore righty Andre Pallante started 10 games for the Cards in 2022, but it seems the team is monitoring his workload even as he preps to pitch for Team Italy in the World Baseball Classic; the Cards have asked that Team Italy not push him beyond 45 pitches in any outing. Pallante is likely ticketed for a relief role in 2023, given the presence of Wainwright, Miles Mikolas, Steven Matz, Jordan Montgomery and Jack Flaherty in the rotation (with Matthew Liberatore, Dakota Hudson, Jake Woodford and top prospect Gordon Graceffo all on hand as depth options).

Cubs

• Nico Hoerner will bat leadoff.

Hoerner has batted leadoff in all four games he has played this spring, the result of a plan manager David Ross had coming into camp.

“I think when I look at Nico, it’s about setting a tone for our group to start a game,” Ross said. “He’s as ready to go as anybody I’ve ever been around. Something about the way he plays, I think, sets a great tone for our team. So I like him starting things off.”

Ross informed Hoerner of his idea prior to Spring Training. While the manager isn’t ready to anoint the second baseman as his everyday No. 1 hitter for the regular season, it seems as though it’s Hoerner’s job to lose.

Dodgers

• David Peralta will start in left field against righties with Jason Heyward getting some time in center.

Peralta will pretty much be the everyday left fielder against right-handers, and it seems Jason Heyward has all but locked up a spot for himself as a left-handed bat who can play center field.

• The team will have a closer by committee until they don’t.

This season, Evan Phillips is the team’s best reliever, but the Dodgers are in no rush to take him out of the “fireman” role they value even more than a closer. Yency Almonte, Daniel Hudson, Brusdar Graterol and Alex Vesia could all close out games, but the team is in no rush to name a closer.

“I don’t think it’s a necessity,” Friedman said. “I think the most important question to answer is whether you think our bullpen is going to be really good, and we do. Then it’s about the mindset of each one of those guys, keeping them in the best headspace to go out and have a lot of success.”

Marlins

• Jordan Groshans is getting some reps at first base.

The Marlins are giving youngster Jordan Groshans time at first base this spring, as Jordan McPherson of the Miami Herald reports. Groshans typically handled the other infield spots coming up through the minors, and spent just 40 previous innings at first. Groshans is on the fringes of cracking Miami’s opening day roster, but if he can show he can handle first adequately it would certainly provide a boost to his chances.

Mets

• The rotation is ailing with José Quintana and David Peterson hurt …

Two days before he was set to leave spring training for the WBC, José Quintana announced Sunday that he wouldn’t be suiting up for Colombia — the fallout of left side tightness that cut Quintana’s outing short Sunday. Quintana’s post on Instagram mentioned that he had experienced the tightness before Sunday and had hoped to pitch through it. He added that he is “trying to be ready for the start of the 2023 MLB season.”

After being hit in the left foot by a comebacker Saturday, David Peterson is day-to-day with a contusion.

… and Carlos Carrasco and Tylor Megill seeing reduced fastball velocity.

Phillies

• Contrary to previous reports, Brandon Marsh will not be in a platoon with Edmundo Sosa.

Edmundo Sosa: His center field experiment is more an insurance policy than a potential platoon scenario. The Phillies want to be sure they are covered if Brandon Marsh needs a day off, or if there is a particularly tough lefty on the mound. Sosa’s value is on the infield — especially if Alec Bohm or Rhys Hoskins is the DH on a given day.

• Trea Turner will bat leadoff with Kyle Schwarber hitting second.

Though Schwarber performed well in the leadoff spot last season, Thomson plans to use Turner at No. 1 and Schwarber at No. 2 to begin the season. As for Hoskins, Thomson isn’t yet set on him at the regular No. 3 spot — or on how the rest of the lineup will unfold in the absence of Bryce Harper, for that matter.

• Taijuan Walker is adding a splitter.

Phillies newcomer Taijuan Walker said at his introductory press conference in December that he was excited to showcase his splitter more in 2023 and to work with J.T. Realmuto, whom Walker called the “best catcher in the game.”





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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TheBabbo
11 months ago

Doesn’t sound like Peterson is hurting too much: https://twitter.com/AnthonyDiComo/status/1633172008270807040