Mining the News (7/9/20) by Jeff Zimmerman July 9, 2020 General Notes • I’m not going to publish any COVID reports or speculation. It’s not that they aren’t important, it’s just that I’m trying to dig a little deeper for information. And the news seems to change every hour. • I’m continuing to collect Summer Training fastball velocity reports and hopefully, I can clean up the information later today. • To maintain the COVID protocols, teams will have limited access to video rooms. With the Brewers and other clubs adopting what manager Craig Counsell called an “outside is better than inside” approach to avoid the spread of COVID-19, players’ access to the tight quarters of the video room will be closely controlled or outright prohibited this season, Haines expects. That will require an adjustment for those who jog the 30 yards or so from the dugout to the video room to watch an at-bat that may have just concluded moments ago. “We’ve talked a lot about how that will challenge them in a good way — more discussion with teammates, more time watching from the dugout, just being more engaged,” Haines said. “I don’t know if they’re going to be in the dugout. They may be in the stands. I don’t know. … We’re just going to have to do it differently. Putting aside all the Astros jokes, I wonder if certain players will be affected more than others by not being able to immediately review their swings. American League Astros • Josh Reddick will be the Astros starting right fielder. Baker has yet to name the starter in right field, but it should be no surprise he’s giving the leg up to veteran Josh Reddick over up-and-comer Kyle Tucker. Baker insinuated Tucker is going to have to win the job from Reddick, who’s in the fourth year of his four-year contract with Houston. Athletics • Chris Bassitt is only throwing a couple of innings right now. Bassitt admits he’s a bit behind some others in terms of stamina. He wasn’t able to throw to hitters or simulate games during the layoff between spring training and now, as a result of baseball hitting pause due to the coronavirus pandemic. He didn’t have the facilities or workout partners required to get that done where he lives. … “I threw two innings yesterday,” Bassitt said. “I literally could not throw six innings. There’s no way. I’m a step or two behind others in that aspect of it but could easily get built up to like five innings or maybe six. I think Montas could throw five right now if he wanted to.” Bassitt going to need a follower if he has to step up and start. Mariners • Marco Gonzales will be the Opening Day starter. Servais also confirmed that Gonzales will be the Mariners’ Opening Day starter against the Astros at Minute Maid Park, as expected. Rangers • Willie Calhoun is not fully recovered from his broken jaw. Calhoun suffered a broken jaw in Spring Training and underwent surgery after he was hit with a pitch thrown by Dodgers left-hander Julio Urías. Calhoun is just about recovered, but he’s still working his way back to feeling comfortable in the batter’s box. Being able to hang tough on inside pitches, especially against left-handers, could be a test for Calhoun. He went up against Lynn on Tuesday and was hitless in three at-bats. “I do need to see that, especially from a lefty,” Calhoun said. “I need to see inside pitches. They have been coming inside a little bit on me. I think I definitely need that, just because during the season, everybody is not going to stay away from me. People are going to come inside on me.” Calhoun said that he still has some numbness in his cheek and down into his chin. The doctor told him that was to be expected and it could take up to six months for that to go away. As much as I like Calhoun, two of the comments got me thinking twice about rostering him. First, he says he’s having problems with inside pitches, but over his career, he’s dominated the inside pitch. If he can’t hit for some power, what good is he? Second, the injury will bother all the way to the season’s end. None of that is encouraging. Rays • Chaz Roe reworked his slider and cutter to get out righties and lefties. “I came into the spring and I acquired a couple of new pitches, and it seemed to work out a lot to my benefit,” Roe said. “After this whole thing shut down, I went home and kept working on it and tried to perfect it even more.” The cutter isn’t a new pitch for Roe, as he threw it 6.2 percent of the time last season, according to Baseball Savant, but it’s a pitch that he’ll lean on moving forward. The frisbee slider will be Roe’s go-to pitch, but the cutter could be a pitch that he throws more against lefties. Of the 57 times Roe threw the cutter last season, 29 came against righties and 28 against lefties. • Blake Snell only threw 23 pitches. Snell struck out three in 1 2/3 innings, throwing 14 of his 23 pitches for strikes. It was Snell’s first time facing live hitters since early March and only the second time since receiving a cortisone shot in his left elbow in late February. He’s never going to go 5 IP and get a Win. I’ll have to roster someone else. Red Sox • Jose Peraza has been working on improving his swing. “[Peraza’s] swings are unbelievable how good they are,” said Roenicke. “I thought the changes that he made in the three months that we were off really are benefiting him so far. We’ll see how it works once we start these games, but in batting practice, his load is completely different. “I asked him if he was working with somebody. I know [hitting coach] Tim [Hyers] was staying in touch with him and [assistant hitting coach] Pete [Fatse], but he’s doing some things with his load now to really help him. So, with him, every day I go watch him and I’m so impressed with what he’s doing compared to what I saw when we were in Florida.” Twins • All the Twins starters should be able to throw 90-100 pitches by Opening Day. Even considering the shortened ramp-up to the season necessitated by the three-week Summer Camp period, Johnson believes that the Twins’ starters should be capable of throwing 90-100 pitches by Opening Day due to the advanced playing condition of most of those pitchers when they arrived in the Twin Cities for organized activity. He also doesn’t anticipate that the Twins would noticeably change the usage or rest of their pitchers due to the shortened 60-game season. White Sox • Gio González is up to only 2 IP. González threw the equivalent of two innings on Tuesday morning at Guaranteed Rate Field. He never hurled a Cactus League inning in March, as he was rehabbing a shoulder issue that popped up before Spring Training even began. Yankees • Luke Voit has lost some weight. Noticeably trimmer from when the Yankees scattered after Spring Training was shut down March 12, Voit said that he has shed 13 pounds from his listed weight of 255 pounds, attributing the change to “eating clean.” … Voit said that he adhered to a schedule at his Wildwood, Mo., home, aiming to perform two days of cardiovascular exercise per week and beginning each of his weightlifting sessions with a one- to 1 1/2-mile run. • It is likely that Masahiro Tanaka will not be ready by Opening Day and Jonathan Loaisiga or Clarke Schmidt will take his rotation spot. Masahiro Tanaka continues to show progress after being hit in the head by a Giancarlo Stanton line drive Saturday, but manager Aaron Boone said that it is uncertain if the right-hander will be ready to pitch when regular-season games begin on July 23. … The Yankees’ rotation figures to include Gerrit Cole, James Paxton, J.A. Happ and Jordan Montgomery, but if Tanaka is not available for the start of the regular season, it could open a spot for other hopefuls. Jonathan Loaisiga was in heavy consideration for a roster spot this spring, with pitching coach Matt Blake having said that the right-hander could have been used in a variety of roles. Clarke Schmidt, the Yanks’ No. 2 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, is among the talented young arms vying to make their presences felt. • Michael King could be a multi-inning reliever. Boone said that he believes right-hander Michael King, who pitched two scoreless innings with three strikeouts in Tuesday’s intrasquad game, could provide multi-inning work out of the bullpen or add depth to the rotation this season. • Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton have each declared himself healthy. Judge said that he has completely recovered from the fractured right rib and collapsed lung that were diagnosed during Spring Training, and that he was swinging without discomfort when he left the Yankees’ complex in Tampa, Fla. The slugger said that his focus will be on logging as many trips to home plate as possible over the next two-and-a-half weeks. … Stanton said that his right calf is feeling “100 percent,” having recovered from a Grade 1 strain sustained in late February. The Yankees’ plan is to prepare Stanton as a designated hitter during Summer Camp, though he expects to see some time in the outfield this season. Right…… National League Braves • The Braves are sticking with the piggybacking starter plan. With the piggyback approach, the Braves would allow their starting pitcher to work three to four innings and then be followed by a reliever, who would be slated to throw two to three more innings. Teams would not be able to do this as easily once the active rosters are reduced from 30 players to 28 players 15 days into the regular season. But it would certainly be feasible to do this for the first two of what might end up being a total of 12 starts for a pitcher over the 60-game regular season. Snitker has indicated the primary reason to take this approach is to avoid the ailments that might be incurred if a pitcher overexerts himself after going through this three-week Summer Camp without feeling the adrenaline level associated with an actual game. Cardinals • Brett Cecil is now throwing sidearm. In his first live batting practice of camp on Tuesday, the left-hander debuted a sidearm delivery that he worked on over the break. “I feel like it makes me a little more competitive from down there,” Cecil said after throwing an inning of live batting practice. “It feels a lot better on my arm, not that before it hurt, but I feel a lot more free down there.” Here’s the new sidearm Brett Cecil. #stlcards pic.twitter.com/bN8MveAKOR — Jeff Jones (@jmjones) July 8, 2020 Dodgers • Clayton Kershaw will be the Opening Day starter. Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts announced to reporters in a video conference call that left-hander Clayton Kershaw will make his ninth Opening Day start when L.A. hosts the San Francisco Giants on July 23 to kick off a 60-game campaign delayed and shortened because of the COVID-19 pandemic. • The batter’s eye has changed at Dodgers Stadium and the hitters don’t like it. On top of constant attention to their health, Dodgers hitters must make another adjustment. As part of the $100 million renovations to Dodger Stadium over the offseason, the batter’s eye in center field has changed. It’s interfering with hitters’ ability to detect oncoming pitches. During Sunday’s intrasquad game, an errant pitch Muncy never saw through the batter’s eye bruised him in the left ring finger. He has not swung a bat since, and opening day is two weeks from Thursday. A consistent batter’s eye might be one of the factors in the home-field advantage since not having fans in the stands seems to matter. I added “the effects of a team’s new backdrop” to my offseason to-do list. Giants • Brandon Belt is wearing a walking boot. First baseman Brandon Belt was spotted wearing a walking boot on Wednesday and did not participate in modified live batting practice at Oracle Park. Manager Gabe Kapler said Belt is dealing with right heel pain and will be re-evaluated in five to seven days. The Giants’ skipper believes it’s too early to know whether the ailment will affect Belt’s availability for the club’s season opener against the Dodgers on July 23. If he can’t play, it might mean guaranteed playing time for Wilmer Flores and Mauricio Dubón. Marlins • Jonathan Villar will play all over the field to fill in for when an everyday position player is the DH. But now with the season shortened to 60 games and Villar not fully developed to play the outfield on a regular basis, the Marlins intend to use him in the infield more. “We do see him a little more infield now,” Mattingly said. “With the DH, he can go a little bit back and forth — with center field, second base, shortstop and DH — to be able to keep him fresh.” Villar still projects to lead off. Positional flexibility is good. Mets • Steven Matz is working on his curve. [Matz’s] goals during those sessions were two-fold: to keep his arm in shape, but also to work on throwing his curveball with different shapes and speeds. Matz threw his curveball just 14.9 percent of the time last season, the lowest rate of his career. “I really was just able to tinker with a lot of different grips,” said Matz, the lone left-hander in New York’s rotation. “All that just gave me a better feel for what I was doing out there, and I think that’s the biggest thing is having that comfortable feel on the mound.” Pirates • The Pirates may use Steven Brault and Chad Kuhl in a piggyback situation. Shelton acknowledged that the Pirates have discussed having left-hander Steven Brault and right-hander Chad Kuhl function as piggyback starters to begin the season. While nothing is set in stone, the piggyback plan is clearly on the short list of Pittsburgh’s options with the rescheduled Opening Day about 2 1/2 weeks away. • Chad Kuhl worked on shortening his mechanics. Before his injury, Kuhl tried to draw all the energy he could by sitting low and using a long arm action. Now, he’s a bit more upright and has a shorter, more direct arm path. He’s worked a lot on his curveball and likes how it plays off his fastball. As for that fastball … “What the velo will look like, I really can’t say right now,” Kuhl said. “But before, I got out of whack pretty easy, so counts got longer, innings got longer, at-bats got longer. I can’t be like that anymore. My mechanics will be a little bit different, but my mentality will be the same. I’m pain-free. • Mitch Keller has been tinkering with his fastball spin and his change’s effectiveness. While baseball was shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, Keller assigned himself two pitching projects. He wanted to improve his fastball’s spin direction and spin efficiency, and he set out to find an effective changeup. Armed with his own Rapsodo inside an empty facility near his home in Iowa, Keller went to work. Reds • The Reds have set their rotation with Sonny Gray getting the Opening Day nod. Bell announced on Wednesday that Sonny Gray will be the club’s Opening Day starter vs. the Tigers on July 24 at Great American Ball Park. … Luis Castillo, Trevor Bauer, Wade Miley and Anthony DeSclafani form the rest of the rotation order. Gray previously made two Opening Day starts during his time with the A’s.