Mining the News (6/18/21) by Jeff Zimmerman June 18, 2021 American League Athletics • Matt Chapman is finally getting comfortable with his new hip. What’s led to this sudden outburst from Chapman? Elvis Andrus said after Friday’s game that Chapman seemed more relaxed, and he agreed. But it also sounds like he’s finally trusting his surgically-repaired hip, which is something he knew heading into this season could take a while. “The biggest thing, we’re just trying to find ways to get my back hip to fire a little bit better into the zone,” Chapman said. “Coming off surgery, it always takes time to get that trust and that feel back. Everybody I’ve talked to that’s had that surgery has said that it just took a little bit of time for them to get back to feeling the way that they’re accustomed to feeling. Some guys said that they felt like they’re in somebody else’s body for the first year. I wouldn’t (say) that I feel like I’m in somebody else’s body, but I definitely feel like I’m still getting that strength back and that trust back. It’s only been eight months since I had surgery so I think I gotta keep that in perspective and just find ways to help the team.” Chapman’s OPS by month (.821 for his career) April: .694 May: .618 June: .873 Orioles • Anthony Santander is still dealing with ankle soreness. Right fielder Anthony Santander, who continues to battle lingering ankle soreness, entered Wednesday’s game against Cleveland as a pinch-hitter in the seventh. He struck out to strand two runners. Santander missed a month after spraining his left ankle on a pickoff play April 20 in Miami, playing since his May 21 return largely at less than 100 percent. Entering Wednesday, he had hit .286/.313/.473 with two home runs and a 23 to 3 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 23 games since. Rangers • Nick Solak might start trying to hit breaking balls. “I’ve done a lot of things the same way my entire career, which has allowed me to have a lot of success,” he said last week. “But I also need to start adjusting the way that I prepare. … I’ve always been really big on the fastball machine. It’s the last thing I do before the game every day — really fast, high-spin fastball, and I’ve had success with that. And I know other teams know I’ve had success with that. So I’ve had to — starting with the Tampa series, being back at home and having the machine, I started hitting breaking balls before the game. I’d still hit some fastballs, but now it becomes a mix.” In addition, when he’s taking batting practice or even having balls flipped to him in the cage, he has asked the coaches delivering the balls to alternate speeds to help him work on being able to adjust. After Tuesday night’s game against the Astros, Woodward said that although the problems aren’t solved yet, he sees progress. Solak’s career per-pitch swinging-strike rates. Pitch: SwStr% Splitter: 28% Slider: 15% Change: 14% Cutter: 12% Curve: 12% Four-seamer: 7% Sinker: 5% Tigers • The Tigers are going to take their time bringing Matthew Boyd and Spencer Turnbull back from the IL. More will be known once the exam takes place, though the team is already considering holding Boyd and Spencer Turnbull back until after the All-Star break. “Are we going to push these guys before the All-Star break versus utilizing the time (the four-day break) and targeting them back after the break? That’s the assessment that’s going to be done over the next couple of weeks on how we’re going to ramp these guys back up,” Hinch said. A forearm strain sent Turnbull to the IL on June 5, and while his injury wasn’t though to be overly serious, naturally the Tigers will be cautious with any forearm issue. Twins • More on Jorge Polanco’s struggles before he had ankle surgery. Watching Polanco hit from the left side in 2020 wasn’t easy to stomach. He constantly was in pain, his ankle still not healthy after an offseason surgery the year before. Though he could tolerate the pain enough to stay on the field, Polanco couldn’t get his front foot down with any consistency. Playing through that pain created a number of bad habits for Polanco, which resulted in a barrel full of popups behind third base or grounders rolled over to second. Even in the shorter season, the result became all too predictable. Once an all-world hitter from the left side, Polanco became ineffective. He dropped from producing .306/.378/.513 with 52 extra-base hits in 2019 to a .606 OPS in 2020. After the season, Polanco endured a second surgery, and this time the Twins believed the problem would be solved. Yankees • Injuries have messed with Luke Voit’s mechanics. Now he’s trying to fix them. Voit began the season on the injured list as he recovered from surgery to repair a torn left meniscus performed in late March. He traces the oblique injury in part to his second at-bat of the regular season on May 11, when he was hit on the right hand by the Rays’ Luis Patiño. “I think it changed my mechanics in my swing,” Voit said. “I think I started overdoing it with my right side to overcompensate. That’s the only thing I can point to because I’ve never had an injury there before. It’s my right side, too; most [right-handed hitters] hurt their left sides when they hurt their obliques.” National League Cardinals • Edmundo Sosa and Matt Carpenter are likely to end up in a second base platoon. Sosa turned heads with his play as a starter then, batting .286/.360/.390 over that stretch with flashes of brilliant defense and several career firsts set along the way. So with Tommy Edman seeming more entrenched in right field as Harrison Bader remains on the injured list, could a Sosa-Matt Carpenter platoon at second base be in the immediate Cards? “There’s a combination of things,” Shildt said, referencing ground-ball pitcher Adam Wainwright being on the mound as a factor in Sosa’s favor. “… Sosa has more than earned an opportunity, and there’s a lefty on the mound [for Miami].” Cubs • Javier Báez is trying to make more contact. In April, Javier Báez (back in the lineup Friday after missing three games with a right hand issue) had a 56.4 percent contact rate. The shortstop had had a 63.4 percent contact rate going back to May 1 (69.3 percent in May and 61.4 percent so far in June). I’m trying to see the ball right now,” Báez said. “I’m not worried about the strikeouts or the home runs. I know it’s going to be a long season. Obviously, I want to hit homers, but I want to hit more for average and make more contact right now.” Marlins • It might take a bit for Miguel Rojas to adjust to hitting once off the IL. Rojas has been able to perform range of motion drills as the swelling continues to heal. Upon his return, he will make adjustments at the plate, like utilizing lizard skin on the bat to restrict the vibration and taping his finger for protection. “If I can tolerate the pain and get back on the field, that’s going to be my goal,” Rojas said. “I’m not going to put myself in a bad situation. I don’t want to put the team in a bad situation, but I think if I can tolerate the pain, and I’m moving well, hitting, catching, throwing, I’m going to make my best effort to get back out there as soon as possible.” Phillies • Spencer Howard is having issues maintaining his velocity and mechanics as a game goes on. The 24-year-old rookie righty wasn’t wrong. This season is a constant readjustment of expectations for the organization’s top pitching prospect, but part of that was self-induced when the Phillies wavered at the beginning of the season about whether Howard should be a starter or reliever. Howard is fighting something with his mechanics. And more on the subject. Spencer Howard starts Monday in Los Angeles. He has a 2.89 ERA in three starts, but he has walked nine in 9 1/3 innings and has seen a significant drop in velocity after the second inning each time. His four-seam fastball averages 94.6 mph in his first two innings. It averages 93.0 mph after that. Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski recently shared his thoughts on Howard’s velocity. “If he throws 93-94 mph, that’s plenty hard enough,” Dombrowski said. “I’ve seen other guys start off throwing hard and lose it, but his other pitches have to be more consistent, which he’s working on. The other thing is, when you start looking at his history, he’s never thrown a lot of pitches in games. I saw somewhere, he topped off at like 85 pitches. So when you start doing that you’re not building up your arm strength at that point to maybe go forward. • Bryce Harper may have chronic back issues. This, the third year of Harper’s 13-year contract with the Phillies, is defined so far by injury dread that hangs over the right fielder. He might not miss more than a game or two this time, but the lower back pain that bothered him for the final two months of last season and forced him to adopt a new offseason maintenance plan is a problem. The injury reemerged in April. It won’t disappear. • Joe Giardi wants Luke Williams to continue to get at-bats. “I want to keep [Luke Williams] at-bats going, move him around a lot,” Girardi said. “He’s obviously had a great year so far, both in Triple-A and Team USA. I don’t want him to sit for long periods of time. We’re going to use him to pinch-hit, double-switch and play different positions. He needs to get at-bats.” It sounds like Williams could fill the role that the Phillies once envisioned for Scott Kingery. The Phillies outrighted Kingery to Triple-A on Monday. “With him being able to play any outfield position or any infield position,” Girardi said about Williams, “it gives us a ton of flexibility.” Williams has started two straight or four of seven. Rockies • Yonathan Daza added strength but just wants to make contact. Daza reported for camp this year physically stronger, but he made the prudent decision not to seek home runs. “For three or four years, he’s been a hit collector,” said Rockies coach Tim Doherty, who served as hitting coach at some of Daza’s Minor League stops. “He has to always remember who he is and what he does. That’s hit the ball middle-away, opposite field, get your base hits, get your doubles when they present themselves. And every once in a while, he’s going to clip one for a home run.