Spring Training News and Notes from Monday
Throughout the day Monday, there were several happenings for a handful of teams around the league. As such, here is a full recap of everything that was announced.
Blake Snell Throws a Bullpen Session
Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Blake Snell stepped on a pitching mound for the first time since last month today. The southpaw made a return after receiving a cortisone shot due to elbow soreness. That news was originally announced during the later part of February.
Marc Topkin of The Tampa Bay Times recapped Snell’s outing via the tweet below on Twitter.
4 walks in 5 batters for #Rays Snell – 22 pitches (6 strikes)
— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) March 9, 2020
According to Topkin, Snell threw his pitches at a high velocity, but didn’t have the best command. The good news is that it’s still only one outing and Snell has two more weeks to prepare for the coming season. Regardless, the Tampa Bay Rays need Snell to perform at a high level this season, if they want to win the American League East.
However, Snell was on the 10-day injured list twice last season. Snell missed time towards the start of the season as he dealt with a fractured right toe. Once July rolled around, Snell went back on the injured list with loose fragments in his throwing elbow. Therefore, the Rays could still survive without Snell, but their pitching staff would be much stronger with him inserted in their starting rotation.
Justin Verlander Shutdown
Houston Astros starting pitcher Justin Verlander has not had a very good spring so far. During his first start of the spring, Verlander was scratched with hamstring tightness. As Spring Training has progressed, Verlander has been unable to get back to his healthy self.
According to Chandler Rome, who covers the Astros for the Houston Chronicle, the news took a turn for the worse today.
Justin Verlander has a “mild lat strain,” general manager James Click said. He has been shut down.
— Chandler Rome (@Chandler_Rome) March 9, 2020
Following that news, Justin Verlander spoke to Rome and other reporters following up with this quote regarding his current health status.
Justin Verlander: “I would say it would probably take a miracle for me to be back by Opening Day.”
— Chandler Rome (@Chandler_Rome) March 9, 2020
Hearing that quote come from Verlander directly is likely not what the Houston Astros wanted to hear. After all, Verlander is a key cog of the team’s starting rotation. When paired with Zack Greinke at the top, it gave the Astros a nice 1-2 punch. Without Verlander healthy, the Astros already questionable starting rotation, becomes even more questionable.
Even with Verlander inserted at the top with Greinke, the rest of the Houston Astros starting rotation didn’t look as strong. After Verlander and Greinke, the Astros remaining starters were right-handers: Lance McCullers Jr., Jose Urquidy, and Austin Pruitt. Without Gerrit Cole in the mix, who signed with the New York Yankees as a free agent this past offseason, the starting rotation looks much different.
As such, a Houston Astros team that was already going to deal with the consequences of their cheating scandal, could be in further danger. Further danger in regards to potentially not winning the American League West. If Houston doesn’t have a healthy Justin Verlander, then the scales tip in favor of the Oakland Athletics even more.
Clayton Kershaw Named the Dodgers Opening Day Starter
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) March 9, 2020
The news does not come as a surprise as Kershaw is the workhorse of the Dodgers starting rotation. Given this news, it will now give Kershaw his ninth consecutive Opening Day start with the franchise. That is easily the franchise record for the most consecutive starts to open a season.
Over the span of the previous eight Opening Day starts, Kershaw has been very good. The left-hander has posted a 1.05 ERA over those eight outings with 59 strikeouts. Despite dealing with back and shoulder problems over the last handful of seasons, Kershaw is still a very effective starting pitcher.
The southpaw concluded last season with a 3.03 ERA over 178.1 innings of work or 28 starts. In that span, Kershaw held opponents to a .222 batting average against and recorded a 9.54 K/9 rate.
Update Regarding the Status of A.J. Puk
Oakland Athletics left-handed starting pitcher A.J. Puk received concerning news last week. It was announced that the team had elected to temporarily shut down the southpaw. However, after further medical testing and diagnosis, a decision was made to allow Puk to return to a normal progression in his throwing program.
Earlier today, Martin Gallegos, who covers the Athletics on MLB.com, via Twitter.
A.J. Puk is expected to begin playing catch again tomorrow. Bob Melvin said it’s unlikely he’ll be stretched out to start the regular season in the rotation, but pitching out of the bullpen is a possibility.
— Martín Gallegos (@MartinJGallegos) March 9, 2020
For both Puk and the Oakland Athletics, that is very welcome news. Heading into this season, Puk is viewed as a pivotal piece of the Athletics starting rotation. Coming up through the Athletics system, Puk was the organization’s top pitching prospect with a lot of promise.
However, some of that promise went away at the start of the 2018 regular season. That’s when it was announced that Puk would have to have Tommy John surgery. The left-hander underwent successful surgery and pitched in the minor leagues last year.
Besides Puk, the Athletics starting rotation consists of right-handers Mike Fiers and Frankie Montas along with left-handers Sean Manaea and Jesus Luzardo. With the talent potential of that group, it would not be a surprise to see the Oakland Athletics potentially win the American League West. However, they need A.J. Puk to be fully healthy for that to happen.
As is the case during Spring Training, there are always various news bits that come out. Every team is preparing for the season and getting their players in tip-top shape. The updates above are today’s and involve several impact players for their respective teams. With the season starting in just over two weeks there are sure to be more Spring Training news to report.
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