March 22, 2017
My Toothpick for a Closer
Gregorius to begin season on DL
After straining his shoulder earlier this spring in an exhibition game for the Netherlands’ World Baseball Classic team, Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius has officially been shut down from all baseball activities for two weeks and will be put on the 10-day disabled list to start the season. Initial estimates from general manager Brian Cashman were that the shortstop could be out for up to six weeks, which isn’t great news for the Yankees.
They have Starlin Castro available to move from his current spot at second base back to his old stomping grounds of short, and the team has some other possible options in the forms of Ronald Torreyes, Ruben Tejada, and Tyler Wade. But don’t look for an appearance from top prospect Gleyber Torres—manager Joe Girardi made it clear that Gregorius’ injury would not be cause for advancing the schedule for the 20-year-old Arizona Fall League MVP.
It’s a rough start to the year for Gregorius, who’s trying to show that his power breakout last year might be something real and that the sharp dip in his defensive numbers was an anomaly rather than a new reality for a guy whose defense has long been his calling card. (Make what you will of single-season defensive metrics, of course, but a six-run drop in FRAA with similar dives in other stats isn’t a particularly attractive state.)
Questions remain for Nationals’ bullpen
After losing Mark Melancon to free agency, much of the early part of the Nationals’ offseason was spent chasing a closer. But trying and failing to nab Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen meant that it looked as if they’d be sticking with in-house option Shawn Kelley. However, the pitcher’s spring training use has raised questions for some. Kelley has made just four appearances this spring and recently went a full week without any game action, which manager Dusty Baker said was only meant to be a way of managing the workload for a reliever who has undergone Tommy John surgery twice.
Meanwhile, Koda Glover has seen most of the club’s ninth-inning action lately, and Baker told MLB.com’s Jamal Collier that the team is trying to decide if he’d be ready to take the closer’s spot after only receiving his first call-up to the big leagues last season. Though Baker has worked to quash the idea that Kelley is hurt or otherwise unable to work the ninth, the recent use of Glover and Baker’s willingness to discuss the possibility of him as closer is enough to instill some doubt.
The team is also trying to figure out their best choice for long relief action. Though they have multiple potential options on the roster—Vance Worley, Jeremy Guthrie, Matt Albers, Jacob Turner, A.J. Cole—none has done much to separate himself from the pack so far, and Baker has made his desire for a designated long reliever clear.
Harvey’s velocity picks back up
After low velocity in his initial spring training outings triggered a fresh round of “what’s wrong with Matt Harvey?” the pitcher has bounced back to something close to normal in his most recent performance. Bouncing back from last summer’s surgery to repair his thoracic outlet syndrome, he isn’t quite through with the recommended full recovery period yet—it isn’t uncommon for pitchers to take up to 10 months to return to full strength, which would be around June for Harvey. But the nuance of recovery time didn’t get much space in the reaction to the fact that his fastball sat in the low 90s during his first few appearances this year.
This week, Harvey’s been closer to his regular self, with his velocity sitting in the mid-90s and touching 96 in his outing on Monday. There are plenty of caveats well worth accounting for in that observation—it’s one game, velocity is far from everything, the team is still discussing keeping him in extended spring training to start the year—but it’s a good sign regardless after Harvey’s struggles to keep his velo last year.