Mining The News (3/9/20) by Jeff Zimmerman March 9, 2020 I’ll be Mining the News until Thursday and then I’m off to New York for Tout Wars and an NFBC Main Event Draft. I’ll be back around Tuesday to start up again. American League Angels • Matt Andriese is trying to bring back his slider. Andriese is working on his slider this spring, as it’s a pitch he utilizes more when he starts than when he’s in relief. He hasn’t thrown it much over the last four seasons, but Andriese did throw a slider regularly as a rookie in 2015. This might be a huge improvement for him. While not a great pitch (12% SwStr%, 52% GB%), it’s significantly better than his curve (7% SwStr%, 56% GB%). His change (16% SwStr%, 62% GB%) is still his best non-fastball. Mariners • Tom Murphy will be limited to just over half of the catcher starts with Austin Nola getting the other half … While Tom Murphy figures to get the most playing time at catcher this year, Servais said backup Austin Nola will get plenty of time as well. … “I think it’s really going to be a balance,” Servais said. “Everybody says, ‘Oh, Murphy is the starting catcher.’ He’ll start Opening Night, probably. We’ll see. But those guys are going to be more of a 55-45 [percent split]. They’re both going to play a very similar amount. • … but both could DH if Dan Vogelbach continues to struggle against lefties. With rookie Evan White expected to draw most of the first-base duties, Vogelbach figures to be used primarily at designated hitter this year. Manager Scott Servais is also open to deploying catchers Tom Murphy and Austin Nola at DH when they’re not starting in the field. Both are right-handers who hit lefties well, so Vogelbach will sit against some southpaws. I’m going to keep my eyes on Nola in deeper formats. Orioles • Richie Martin has worked on a swing adjustment along with taking some balls as second base. Martin is tight-lipped about his various tweaks and personal goals for the spring, but Hyde made specific mention of the infielder’s swing adjustments and approach to fastballs. Hyde also mentioned that Martin will see time at second base as well this spring. If he’s done enough in this short stretch that the O’s are trying to create opportunities for him, Martin is more than happy. If there’s not a spot for him quite yet, however, he’s willing to work until there is. Red Sox • Alex Verdugo is not close to contributing. With trade acquisition Alex Verdugo still not swinging a bat as he recovers from a stress fracture in his back, the Red Sox aren’t sure whether they’ll carry a true fourth outfielder or fill that spot with a hodgepodge of guys who will also serve other roles, but can also play in the outfield. Royals • There is a chance Adalberto Mondesi may not be ready for the season’s start. How certain is Matheny that Mondesi will be ready for Opening Day? “I don’t know if you can say you are ever without doubt,” Matheny said. “Even with [Salvador Perez, who underwent Tommy John surgery], you’re talking about major procedures. You’re hopeful, but there’s always a chance for a setback.” White Sox • Reynaldo López is now throwing two distinct sliders. Chatting in English, López explained he has two sliders: a slower, straighter version that he was using to grab strikes early in the count. But what he used on Machado was a harder version, with a late burst of lateral sweep. “It really was (Yasmani) Grandal’s credit,” López said through team interpreter Billy Russo. “The first time he caught a bullpen of mine, he realized I have two different sliders, two different speeds for sliders. He basically developed the plan, let’s try to go ahead with the slower one and then we can show the faster one and we can try to mix it up and play with the heaters. That’s what we tried to do today and I think it went well.” Yankees • Gary Sánchez is already dealing with back issues. Being behind the plate on consecutive days left Gary Sánchez’s lower back barking, prompting precautionary visits to the trainers’ room at George M. Steinbrenner Field. But the Yankees catcher believes he will return to Spring Training action shortly. Sánchez was left off the batting-practice schedules on Saturday and Sunday due to the discomfort, which he said is in the lower-to-middle area of his back. The Yankees have not sent Sánchez for an MRI, but the 27-year-old is not listed on the travel roster for Monday’s Grapefruit League exhibition against the Phillies in Clearwater. A catcher with a bad back before the season starts. He’s going to have to come cheap for me to roster him. National League Braves • Félix Hernández and Sean Newcomb are the lead candidates for the last two rotation spots. As things currently stand, Hernández and Sean Newcomb are the most likely candidates to fill the two vacancies. Even though I believe Newcomb would be most valuable as a reliever, giving him a chance to prove himself in the rotation makes sense. If he pitches well, he can remain in that role. If he struggles, there still could be value there for the Braves if his presence allows Kyle Wright — the Braves’ No. 4 prospect and No. 52 overall, according to MLB Pipeline — the extra seasoning he needs to be truly ready for the Majors. Cardinals • Kwang-Hyun Kim is the leading candidate for the 5th rotation spot. New Cardinals pitcher Kwang-Hyun Kim has had a strong spring training. He has yet to allow a run in five Grapefruit League innings, in which he has struck out seven batters and allowed only four baserunners. He appears to be a leading candidate to nail down a spot in the Cardinals’ rotation. • Kolten Wong could leadoff. Wong has hit leadoff a few times this spring, in part because it gives him more at-bats, but also because manager Mike Shildt is considering a few options for leadoff this year, and Wong is one of the candidates, along with Carpenter, Dexter Fowler and Tommy Edman. Cubs • Alec Mills has added a curveball. The curve, specifically, has helped Mills add another layer to a repertoire that centers around command and keeping batters guessing. His four-seam and two-seam fastballs each clock in around 90 mph on average, and Mills balances that with a changeup (80.7 mph average in 2019, per Statcast) and slider (78.2 mph). While with Triple-A Iowa last season, Mills began toying around with a curve that would be in a different velocity range than his slider. The righty tested out a grip that included keeping his index finger off the ball (similar to Adam Wainwright’s curveball), and he liked the feel of the slower pitch in bullpen sessions. Diamondbacks • Robbie Ray is going with a new windup delivery. Ray plans to pitch with an over-the-top motion out of the windup this season — a Max Scherzer, Jack Flaherty-esque movement that he hopes will help him create better timing and a more direct finish to the plate. The genesis of the change began in part with a recent consultation with former D-backs ace Zack Greinke. Maybe it’ll help him throw strikes. Giants • Andrew Suarez is ditching his two-seamer for a four-seamer. Giants left-hander Andrew Suárez has thrown a two-seam fastball his entire life, but at the behest of the club’s new pitching coaches, he’s opted to abandon the pitch this spring. Suárez is now leaning on a four-seam fastball and mixing in more of his offspeed pitches, adjustments he hopes will help make him more effective against right-handed batters, who hit .333 with a 1.118 OPS and seven home runs over 88 plate appearances against him last season. Mets • Jacob deGrom is trying to add a useful curve to his arsenal. It was on a curveball deGrom threw to Davis, who connected for a homer, that the two-time reigning National League Cy Young Award winner expressed his displeasure. He is hoping it can be an additional weapon in his repertoire. “I’ve been trying to work on the curveball a little bit in between,” said deGrom, who threw the pitch 2.9 percent of the time in 2019, according to Statcast. “It’s been good in the ‘pen, but for some reason in the game it seems to pop up. I’m trying to have it come out of my hand like a fastball and try to throw one on the plate. That one I just hung.” Nationals • Joe Ross still has the inside path for the fifth starting spot. Martinez chose to stay here, in large part because he wanted to watch Ross’ third start of the spring firsthand. If you needed another tea leaf to read about the Nationals’ intentions for the final spot in their opening day rotation, this might well have done the trick. Ross certainly appeared to have a leg up on Voth for that job before both right-handers took the mound simultaneously 45 miles apart from each other. And though the latter pitched better than the former Saturday, it probably wasn’t enough to convince club officials to dramatically change their minds right now. One key to this battle is that Ross and Austin Voth are both out of options. Whoever loses the battle is headed to the bullpen. • Patrick Corbin is working on a third pitch, a curve. On Thursday, Corbin allowed four hits, three runs — including a home run — and a walk while striking out five over three innings. He increased his pitches from the high 80s to the low-90 mph range, and worked on his curveball. If this curve works, his value jumps a ton since it gives him an out pitch. Padres • With Jose Lucchesi struggling this spring, there is an opening for Cal Quantrill to join the rotation. Lucchesi was roughed up by the D-backs on Saturday afternoon, allowing four runs in just two-thirds of an inning. Most troubling were the four walks Lucchesi issued to the eight batters he faced. As things stand, Lucchesi and right-hander Cal Quantrill are battling for the last available place in the Padres’ rotation. Quantrill had missed a week with the flu, but he returned on Thursday with two scoreless frames and has allowed just one run in four innings while striking out six.