Josh Johnson's start against the Red Sox last night is a sign that he has recovered from his shoulder woes.
The Monday Takeaway
As the ESPN crew signed off from its Monday Night Baseball broadcast of the series opener between the Red Sox and Marlins, color man Rick Sutcliffe summed up the 4-1 Miami victory in four words: “Josh Johnson is back.”
Though Ozzie Guillen’s team won six consecutive Johnson starts between May 4 and May 30, the big right-hander struggled for two months to regain his dominant form of years past. His fastball velocity went in and out, and his command eluded him at times—such as the 2 2/3-inning, six-run clunker at Petco Park that, ironically, served as the springboard for the aforementioned winning streak.
The Reds might have finally found their solution in the leadoff spot.
The Thursday Takeaway
Entering yesterday’s game against the Braves, Reds leadoff men had combined for a .164/.202/.270 triple slash—and that was after rookie shortstop Zack Cozart homered in each of the first two games of the series and went 2-for-4 on Wednesday. Twenty-eight teams’ number-eight hitters had logged a better OPS than the Reds’ number-one batters’ 472 mark. And though the overall stat line of their leadoff men is still awful, after completing a four-game sweep of the Braves, the Reds appear to have both hit their stride and solved their once-fatal flaw.
The 6-3 win over the Braves on Thursday gave the 25-19 Reds their first division lead of the season, as they pushed past the Cardinals, who lost a 10-9 nail-biter to the Phillies. Perhaps more significantly, though, the hole at the top of manager Dusty Baker’s batting order is that much closer to being plugged.
Fans were treated to weird baseball in Boston when the O's and Sox resorted to using position players as pitchers.
The Weekend Takeaway
Everyone loves a good dose of weird baseball, and that’s precisely what fans at Fenway Park were treated to on Sunday afternoon. The Orioles capped off their first sweep of the Red Sox in Boston since 1994, but that does not even begin to describe what transpired on Yawkey Way.
In one of the most bizarre goat-to-hero stories you will ever see, designated hitter Chris Davis hit like a pitcher… and then pitched like one, too. Davis began the afternoon by collecting a platinum sombrero, added a double-play ball in his sixth at-bat, and wound up 0-for-8 by the time the 17-inning marathon was over. But with the media preparing to make Davis the butt of many a Monday joke, Davis put the joke on the hometown nine, hurling two shutout innings to earn the win.
The Marlins might do well to give Heath Bell a break from closing duties.
The Thursday Takeaway
As part of the Marlins’ spending spree this past winter, President of Baseball Operations Larry Beinfest doled out a three-year, $27 million deal to Heath Bell in an effort to shore up the team’s bullpen. The man formerly known as Leo Nunez did a solid job in the closer role last season, converting 36 of 42 chances, but with the team in win-now mode, it made sense to bolster the relief corps. And the uncertainty surrounding Juan Carlos Oviedo’s availability provided additional impetus for a move.
Yet, the Bell signing was almost immediately panned. Pricey, multi-year deals for relievers have backfired early and often in recent years, and the husky right-hander was coming off a 2011 campaign littered with red flags. Bell slammed the door in 43 of 48 tries, but his K/PA rate plummeted from 30.0 percent in 2010 to 19.9 percent in 2011, and his FIP consequently rose from 2.08 to 3.20. The Marlins rushed to get a deal done with Bell on December 5, and they may have paid a premium to lock him down early after the Phillies swiped Jonathan Papelbon on November 14.
Michael Pineda's labrum tear doesn't bode well for his future, but it's not the death sentence it used to be.
On Wednesday, the Yankees revealed that Michael Pineda had suffered a torn labrum, a devastating turn of events both for the 23-year-old righty and for the team that acquired him from the Mariners for top prospect Jesus Montero back in January. Pineda will miss the entire season and part of 2013, thinning the Yankees' surplus of starting pitching—and underscoring the fact that you can never have too much—while raising the question of whether they will ever get much value out of him.
Johan Santana and Josh Johnson turned back the clock in a vintage pitcher's duel on Tuesday.
The Tuesday Takeaway Josh Johnson missed most of the 2011 season because of inflammation in his right shoulder. Johan Santana was shelved for much of it while rehabbing from a torn capsule in his left one. But on Tuesday night in Queens, they decided to party like it was 2009.
The Marlins and Mets aces matched each other out for out, hit for hit, and run for run on a night that was supposed to be highlighted by Jose Reyes’ return to Citi Field. Instead, Reyes went an inauspicious 0-for-4, while Johnson and Santana stole the show.
The tater trots for April 18: Hanley Ramirez continues his assault on la máquina jonrón and Kevin Youkilis proves how his head isn't in the game.
I was at the Brewers/Dodgers game last night, watching from above as Don Mattingly brought in a fifth infielder to try and prevent a second consecutive walk-off win for Milwaukee. Sure, Nyjer Morgan really should have been called out at the plate (a terrible slide and a terrible tag add up to some umpire confusion, I suppose), but it was an incredibly exciting game. I was glad to be there.
The Marlins have an ace in the hole that could help them scoop the NL East title
When Josh Johnson takes the mound tonight and throws the first stateside pitch of the 2012 regular season, he will be making his third consecutive appearance as the Marlins’ Opening Day starter. The difference is that, for the first time in those three seasons, Johnson’s team projects to be a contender.
The 28-year-old Johnson had his 2011 campaign cut short by a shoulder injury after just nine starts and watched the Marlins sink to a last-place finish in the NL East at 72-90—five games behind the fourth-place Mets and 30 games behind the division-champion Phillies. But the tide has turned, and PECOTA sees a level playing field likely to result in a three-horse race between the Phillies, Marlins, and Braves for the top spot.
Spring training is nearly over, but each team still has some nagging questions to answer.
In five weeks of bouncing around the country while watching spring training—or at least the news of it—I've compartmentalized the sore shoulder-driven roster dramas and other mundanities to the point that I'm left with one nagging question for each team, one loose thread that I can't resist tugging upon as the season nears. Showing my blatant East Coast bias, today I'll run down those loose threads from the near coast, working my way westward next week.
Joba clears up the confusion about his injury, while Logan Morrison continues to be plagued by knee troubles.
It’s mostly Flesh Wounds today, but there are a few important things to discuss.
Sam Fuld, Tampa Bay Rays (Right Wrist Inflammation)
Fuld’s wrists have not had a good spring. First, Fuld missed about a week near the start of spring training games with right wrist inflammation, but his current wrist soreness appears to be much worse. One of the tendon sheaths in his right wrist is irritated because it’s popping in and out of place. When there is tendon instability, it loses the mechanical efficiency and strength. It’s quite painful when it subluxes.