Tag Archives: Royals

MLB Weekly: Rangers on a roll, Freeman on the DL

Looking Back

The Rangers are making up ground in the AL West and an NL East team has lost its best player for at least two months in this week’s MLB Weekly.

Prior to Saturday’s loss to the Tigers, the Rangers had won a MLB-best 10 straight games, catapulting them from last place in the AL West into second place. Entering Sunday, though, they still find themselves 6.5 games behind the division-leading Astros, whose 29-14 record in the best in the majors.

During the 10-game winning streak, which was the Rangers’ longest since winning 12 in a row in 2011, the offense has picked up significantly. In April, the team’s .220 batting average was the third-lowest in the majors. In May through Saturday, which includes prior to the start of the winning streak, the team is closer to the middle of the pack at .251. Their 27 home runs are the seventh-most in MLB, and the team’s slugging percentage has risen from .392 to .427 since the calendar turned to May. The numbers over the last seven days are even more impressive, with the team hitting .300, third best in the majors, with a .449 slugging percentage. The pitching staff’s ERA has also improved, going from 3.89 in April to 3.75 so far this month.

One criticism people can point out about the team’s winning streak is that the bulk of it came against bad teams in the Padres, A’s and Phillies. They’ve split the first two games of this weekend’s series with the Tigers, and things won’t be as easy this week when the Rangers head to Fenway Park to take on the Red Sox. They then head to Toronto for a series with the struggling Blue Jays, with whom they’ve had bad blood in recent years.

The latest injury news involves two of the best hitters in the majors, with the more serious of the two being Braves 1B Freddie Freeman. He’s expected to miss eight to 10 weeks with a fractured wrist after being hit in the wrist by an Aaron Loup fastball during Wednesday’s game against the Blue Jays. At the time of the injury, his 14 home runs led the National League, and he was hitting .341 with a 1.209 OPS and a 2.5 WAR. The Braves traded for Cardinals 1B Matt Adams on Saturday, and he is expected to get the majority of the starts at the position while Freeman is out. While Freeman’s injury is a loss for the Braves, they likely be competitive for a playoff spot even without the injury, with an 18-22 record heading into Sunday.

Dodgers 3B Justin Turner was placed on the disabled list Saturday with a strained right hamstring. His .379 batting average is the best in the majors, putting a hole in the Dodgers’ lineup. Utilityman Chris Taylor should be the primary starter in Turner’s absence. Taylor is hitting .338, but he has been lucky in many of his 80 at-bats, as evidenced by his .423 BABIP. His career batting average is .256, and he should be expected to regress back toward that number as he gets more at-bats. The Dodgers are hopeful Turner won’t be out for long, though, with manager Dave Roberts putting out the possibility of him returning “in a couple of weeks.”

Other big names placed on the DL this week include Astros SP Dallas Keuchel, whose 1.84 ERA leads the majors. His injury doesn’t seem to be serious, and the team expects he will miss just one start with a pinched nerve in his neck. The DL move was retroactive to May 17, meaning he would be eligible to return to the team late in the week. The Mariners placed 2B Robinson Cano on the DL Tuesday with a right quad strain, with the move retroactive to the 13th. He is expected to come off the DL when eligible on Tuesday, missing the minimum amount of time.

Also on this week’s injury report: Giants OF Hunter Pence (hamstring), Blue Jays OFs Steve Pearce (calf) and Darrell Ceciliani (shoulder) and SP Aaron Sanchez (finger blister), Diamondbacks OF A.J. Pollock (groin), Indians OF Abraham Almonte (biceps), Mets SS Asdrubal Cabrera (thumb), Rangers OF Carlos Gomez (hamstring), Marlins RP Junichi Tazawa (ribs) and SP Tom Koehler (shoulder), Pirates OF Gregory Polanco (hamstring), Nationals RP Joe Blanton (shoulder), Padres SPs Trevor Cahill (shoulder) and Jered Weaver (hip), Rays 2B Brad Miller (abdominal strain) and Astros C Brian McCann (concussion).

The Week Ahead

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Taking a look at the schedule for the week, the Orioles host the Twins for a three-game series starting Monday, which is the same day the Tigers head to Houston for four with the Astros. The Reds and Indians have their annual intrastate series, with two games in Cincinnati Monday and Tuesday followed by a couple in Cleveland on Wednesday and Thursday. The Red Sox start a three-game series with the Rangers at home on Tuesday, with a Cardinals-Dodgers series also getting underway that day in Los Angeles. In the second half of the week, the Orioles visit the Astros starting Friday, with the Cubs heading to Los Angeles to battle the Dodgers that weekend in a rematch of last year’s National League Championship Series. In a matchup of National League contenders, the Rockies host the Cardinals starting Friday.

Taking a look at some of this week’s notable pitching performances and matchups, Astros P Brad Peacock gets the start Monday, filling in for Keuchel, as he opposes Tigers SP Michael Fulmer. Tuesday’s game in Baltimore sees a matchup of pitchers with sub-3.00 ERAs when Twins SP Ervin Santana duels with Orioles SP Dylan Bundy. Giants SP Johnny Cuero goes on Tuesday against Cubs SP Kyle Hendricks. Blue Jays SP Marcus Stroman takes the mound Wednesday against Brewers SP Matt Garza, who has pitched surprisingly well so far this season, with a 2.43 ERA. That same day, Red Sox SP Chris Sale tries to become the first pitcher since 1913 to record at least 10 strikeouts in nine straight games; he’ll be opposed by Rangers SP Martin Perez. Pirates SP Ivan Nova looks to continue his streak of lasting at least six innings — he’s done it in all nine starts this season — Thursday as he takes on the Braves and ageless SP Bartolo Colon. Yankees SP Masahiro Tanaka also returns to the mound Thursday, against the Royals, as he looks to bounce back from two poor starts in a row.

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MLB Weekly: Sale racks up the Ks, Harper racks up the $$$

Looking Back

A pitcher is approaching strikeout history — again — and a former MVP is getting paid in this week’s MLB Weekly.

The Red Sox traded for SP Chris Sale in December hoping he could be the team’s ace, and he has not only lived up to but exceeded any expectations the team had for him. Pitching against the Rays on Saturday, he struck out 12 batters, the seventh-straight game in which he has racked up at least 10 strikeouts. That puts him one shy of the record of eight-straight games of 10-plus strikeouts, set by SP Pedro Martinez in 1999 — and matched by Sale in 2015 when he was with the White Sox. Other than Martinez and Sale, only two other pitchers in Major League Baseball history have had seven games in a row of at least 10 strikeouts, SPs Randy Johnson and Nolan Ryan.

Overall for the season, Sale has a MLB-best 85 strikeouts in 58.2 innings over eight starts. His ERA stands at 2.15 and a 0.77 WHIP. Opponents are hitting just .177 against him. With those numbers, the Red Sox seem to be getting a good return on their investment, which sent four players to the White Sox, highlighted by 3B Yoan Moncada. Sale is next scheduled to pitch on Thursday at the A’s as he tries to tie the record currently held by Martinez and himself.

Nationals OF Bryce Harper, the 2015 National League MVP, is eligible to hit free agency after the 2018 season, at which time he is likely to get the biggest contract in MLB history. He had one year of arbitration left before then, following this season, but the Nationals apparently didn’t want to have to go through the arbitration process so the team locked Harper up for 2018 this week, inking him to a one-year deal worth $21.65 million, which will probably look like a bargain compared to what he gets on his free-agent contract. That contract is the largest one-year contract signed by an arbitration-eligible player in MLB history. And he can get another $1 million on top of that if he is named NL MVP next season.

After a down season last year in which he hit .243 with 24 home runs, Harper is hitting .368 this season with a 1.220 OPS and 11 home runs entering Sunday, putting him on pace to potentially set a new career high in home runs, which currently stands at 42 in 2015.

As has been the case pretty much every week so far this season, several more name players were placed on the disabled list this week. Perhaps the most significant of the group is Mets RP Jeurys Familia, who underwent surgery to remove an anterior blood clot in his right shoulder. While he’ll be out for a while, the timeline isn’t as bad as the team expected. The Mets were initially concerned that Familia would be out for the season, but the surgery wasn’t as extensive as originally expected and he could be able to throw in about six weeks. That means he may miss three to four months, which means — even though that’s a significant portion of the season — he could be back in August or September if the recovery process goes as expected.

Familia, who recorded 51 saves last season. was suspended for the team’s first 15 games this season for a domestic-violence issue and hasn’t pitched particularly well since being reinstated. He has a 3.86 ERA in 11 appearances in which he is 1-1 with 3 saves in 4 chances. He has 10 strikeouts and 8 walks in 9.1 innings. RP Addison Reed is expected to get the bulk of the save opportunities in Familia’s absence.

The injury report for the Mariners’ starting rotation got worse this week. With SPs James Paxton and Felix Hernandez already on the DL, SP Hisashi Iwakuma was also placed on the DL as he deals with inflammation in his right shoulder. He is expected to miss four to six weeks. And the news on Hernandez got worse this week as he suffered a setback in his rehab. He has been sidelined since April 25 with bursitis in his right shoulder and now is not expected to rejoin the Mariners after he felt just “so-so” after a throwing session on Friday. And SP Ryan Weber, who was called up from Triple-A to start Saturday’s game, had to leave the game after four innings with tightness in his right shoulder.

Other notable players hitting the DL this week include Blue Jays C Russell Martin (shoulder) and SP Francisco Liriano (shoulder), Dodgers SP Kenta Maeda (hamstring) and OF Andrew Toles (ACL), Giants RP Mark Melancon (elbow), Phillies RP Jeanmar Gomez (elbow), White Sox C Geovany Soto (elbow), Marlins SS Adeiny Hechavarria (oblique), Rockies SS Trevor Story (shoulder), Brewers OF Ryan Braun (calf) and Yankees RP Aroldis Chapman (shoulder).

The Week Ahead

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Some series to look forward to this week include the Dodgers and Giants starting a three-game series in San Francisco on Monday. A day later, the Orioles head to Detroit for three games with the Tigers and the Cardinals host the Red Sox for the first of two games. Division leaders battle with the AL Central-leading Twins hosting the NL West-topping Rockies Tuesday through Thursday. The Indians head to Houston for a series with the Astros starting Friday, and the Brewers-Cubs series gets underway at Wrigley Field that day. Friday also sees the Reds start a series at home against the Rockies.

The week opens with a matchup of aces in Cleveland on Monday with SP Chris Archer going for the Rays and SP Carlos Carrasco taking the mound for the Indians. Dodgers SP Brandon McCarthy is scheduled for his first start since April 29 on Monday when he opposes Giants SP Matt Cain in a battle of veterans. Red Sox SP Eduardo Rodriguez and Cardinals SP Lance Lynn, who are both pitching well with sub-3.00 ERAs this season, face off in St. Louis on Tuesday. Dodgers SP Clayton Kershaw takes the mound in San Francisco on Wednesday against Giants SP Johnny Cueto, and Twins SP Jose Berrios — one of the team’s top prospects — gets his second start of 2017 on Thursday at home against the Rockies and SP Tyler Chatwood. Sale gets a shot to tie the aforementioned record on Thursday, when he is scheduled to face the A’s in Oakland.

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MLB Weekly: Nationals continue to roll, more pitchers head to the DL

Looking Back

The Nationals continue to roll with the best record in the majors while the Rangers and Indians put big-name starters on the DL in this week’s MLB Weekly.

The Nationals got bad news last week, with OF Adam Eaton suffering a season-ending injury, but that hasn’t put an end to their winning ways. Entering Sunday they have the best record in Major League Baseball at 21-9; they’re 7-3 in their last 10, and their four-game win streak is tied for the longest active streak in the majors. They’ve opened up a 6.5-game lead in the NL East.

They’re winning despite having one of the worst bullpens in the majors, with their 5.32 bullpen ERA ranking as the fifth-worst in the majors and opponents hitting at a .266 clip against their relievers. The Nationals’ 4 blown saves put them near the middle of the league. The bullpen’s 10 saves have been split between five pitchers, which isn’t a good sign. RPs Blake Treinen and Shawn Kelley are tied for the team lead with 3 saves apiece despite holding a 9.00 ERA and a 5.40 ERA, respectively (Kelley was placed on the 10-day disabled list this week).

On the other side of the spectrum, the hitting has been fantastic. The Nats’ offense ranks first in the majors in batting average, OPS, hits, doubles and RBI, while their 48 home runs place them second, behind the Brewers. Individually, 1B Ryan Zimmerman is leading the team with a .435 average and MLB-leading 13 home runs, and OF Bryce Harper — who has sat out the last couple of games with a groin problem — is hitting .376 with 9 home runs. Even their worst-hitting regular, OF Jayson Werth, is at a .264 average with 3 home runs in his first 26 games of the season.

The starting pitching is doing all right, with a 3.63 ERA and 15-5 record through 30 games. Their 172 strikeouts are the sixth-most in the majors, and opponents are hitting .235 against the starters, the best mark in the National League and third-best in the majors. It is SP Gio Gonzalez leading the rotation, with a 1.64 ERA through six starts. SP Max Scherzer leads with the team with 51 strikeouts in 40.2 innings, and his 2.66 ERA ties him with SP Stephen Strasburg for the second-best ERA in the team’s rotation.

Elsewhere in MLB, the injuries keep piling up with this week’s injury report highlighted by a couple of big-name pitchers being placed on the DL by teams who had high hopes of making the playoffs before the season started. The longer-term of the two looks to be Rangers SP Cole Hamels, who is expected to miss at least eight weeks with a strained right oblique muscle. That timeframe means he is likely to be out until after the all-star break in mid-July. That is not a good sign for a team that is trying to win the AL West for the third straight year. Even before Hamels’ injury, the Rangers were not performing to the expectations people had for them. After Saturday’s action, they’re five games under .500 and seven games behind the Astros in the division.

The other notable starting pitcher who went on the 10-day disabled list this week was Indians SP Corey Kluber, who is dealing with a stiff lower back. His injury isn’t as serious as Hamels’, and the Indians will test him before Monday’s game with the Blue Jays before determining a timeline for his return. He’ll be eligible to return to the squad next weekend, although he may need more time than that to fully recover and come off the DL.

Updating previous injury news, Mets SP Noah Syndergaard won’t throw for at least six weeks as he recovers a from a partially torn lat muscle. Although the Mets haven’t given a timetable for how long he is expected to be out, a typical recovery for this type of injury lasts about three to six months, so he won’t take the mound for a while, and possibly not again this season. He’ll be placed on the 60-day DL soon.

Other players placed on the DL this week include Orioles RP Zach Britton (left forearm strain), who was activated off the DL earlier in the week, Marlins SPs Wei-Yin Chen (left arm fatigue) and Edinson Volquez (right thumb blister), Dodgers 1B Adrian Gonzalez (right elbow soreness), Mariners SP James Paxton (left forearm strain), Mets C Travis d’Arnaud (bruised right wrist), White Sox RP Nate Jones (right elbow inflammation), A’s RP Sean Doolittle (left shoulder strain) and Yankees 1B Greg Bird (right ankle bruise).

The Week Ahead

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The featured series for the first half of the week is actually a couple of two-game series back-to-back as the Nationals take on the Orioles in a battle of the Beltway. The teams begin in Baltimore on Monday and Tuesday before heading to D.C. to complete the four-game set on Wednesday and Thursday. The Cubs head to Denver for three games against the Rockies starting Monday in a battle of division leaders. The White Sox and Twins look to keep pace in the competitive AL Central with their three-game series in Chicago starting Tuesday. Heading into next weekend, the top two teams in the American League meet in the Bronx when the AL East-leading Yankees host the Astros for a Thursday-Sunday series, with Sunday’s game featuring the jersey retirement of former Yankees SS Derek Jeter. The Angels host the Tigers for four beginning on Thursday, and the Rockies host the Dodgers in a four-game set as two of the NL West’s best do battle. The Indians host the Twins starting Friday in another key AL Central series, and in the NL Central longtime rivals meet in St. Louis when the Cubs come to town to play the Cardinals starting Friday.

The pitching performances to look for in the first half of the week include Orioles SP Kevin Gausman, who was controversially ejected in the second inning of his last start against the Red Sox, taking the mound Monday in the series opener with the Nationals, and Yankees SP Masahiro Tanaka goes for his fifth straight win against Reds SP Rookie Davis. Yankees SP CC Sabathia looks to return to how he was pitching in his first three starts of the season, not the last three, when he throws Tuesday against Reds SP Tim Adleman. Giants SP Jeff Samardzija opposes Mets SP Zack Wheeler at Citi Field that day, and a couple veterans meet in interleague play in Houston when SP Bartolo Colon leads the Braves against the Astros and SP Charlie Morton, who has pitched surprisingly well so far this season. Wednesday, Rays SP Chris Archer follows up  the 11-strikeout performance from his last start when he pitches against Royals SP Jason Hammel

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My 2nd annual way-too-early MLB All-Star Game ballot

We’re barely a month into the 2017 Major League Baseball season and the league, as it has done in recent years, has already released the ballot for July’s All-Star Game, allowing people to vote up to 35 times per day per email address, all so the league can boast about how many ballots are cast by the time voting ends in the summer. As I said last year, I’m not a fan of allowing this excessive voting, but it is what it is. At least MLB has fixed the other major issue I had with the game: the All-Star Game no longer determines which league gets home-field advantage in the World Series. Per the new collective bargaining agreement, which was agreed to in the offseason, home-field advantage will now go to the World Series participant that has the better regular-season record — as it should be.

Even though I feel it’s too early to vote on all-stars in early May, since MLB is allowing people to do it already, I’ll make my preliminary choices for both the all-stars in both the American and National leagues, with updated ballots in the coming weeks — as the all-star picture becomes clearer — as we get closer to the game July 11 in Miami. And as MLB begins releasing the balloting results, I’ll critique how the fans are doing in making their choices.

American League

1B Miguel Cabrera, Tigers: He’s not leading the league in batting average or home runs, but he’s having one of the best all-around seasons at the plate among AL first basemen, so I’ll give Miggy the nod here.
2B Jonathan Schoop, Orioles: Schoop is hitting near .300 and is near the top of the league in home runs and RBI at the position and he’s on a team that has one of the best records in the majors.
SS Francisco Lindor, Indians: LIndor is performing well offensively at a position that lacks offensive output. He leads AL shortstops in homers and RBI, and he’s hitting above .300. Lindor is an easy choice here.
3B Miguel Sano, Twins: He’s finally hitting for average to go along with the power he has shown throughout his career. This was a toss-up between Sano and the Indians’ Jose Ramirez, but Sano has slightly better numbers so he gets my vote.
C Salvador Perez, Royals: Perez is having the best overall season at a position that isn’t traditionally strong offensively. He earns my vote behind the plate.
DH Nelson Cruz, Mariners: He’s having a great season offensively and none of the other options at DH really come close to his stats thus far in the season. An easy selection for me.
OF Khris Davis, A’s; Aaron Judge, Yankees; Mike Trout, Angels: Davis and Judge are two of the only players in the majors who has already reached the 10-homer plateau on the season. Davis’ average isn’t great but the home runs are enough to give him my vote, while Judge is hovering around the .300 mark as he is making a case to win the AL Rookie of the Year award. Trout, meanwhile, doesn’t have quite as many home runs as the other guys, but he’s hitting well over .300 and is having a typical Mike Trout season, which is usually good enough for an all-star selection.

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My first American League all-star ballot of 2017

National League

1B Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals: The veteran first baseman is among the league leaders in many offensive categories. Brewers 1B Eric Thames has obviously hit a lot of home runs thus far, as well, but I need to see more from him before completely buying into it. Zimmerman is the choice here.
2B Daniel Murphy, Nationals: Zimmerman’s teammate is continuing the strong offensive attack he’s been on since the 2015 postseason, when he was with the Mets. He gets my vote for NL second baseman.
SS Corey Seager, Dodgers: There is no real standout at the position, but Seager is the best of the bunch as he continues with another good season to follow-up his strong rookie campaign of a season ago.
3B Jake Lamb, Diamondbacks: The usual suspects, like Cubs 3B Kris Bryant and Rockies 3B Nolan Arenado, aren’t having their typical seasons, opening up this spot for someone else to take. I’ll go with Lamb here because he’s having the best overall season at the plate of the third basemen.
C Jett Bandy, Brewers: I suspect this pick may change as we get closer to the All-Star Game, but Bandy is hitting for average and has a few home runs so he’ll get my pick at the position not known for its offense.
DH With no DH in the National League, fans don’t get to vote for one.
OF Charlie Blackmon, Rockies; Bryce Harper, Nationals; Matt Kemp, Braves: Harper is having one of the best seasons of all major leaguers, harkening back to his MVP season of 2015. He’s the obvious choice here, with Blackmon the second option for me. I didn’t see any clear choices for the third spot, so I gave it to Kemp, who’s doing surprisingly well so far in 2017. Like with Bandy, Kemp may fall off my ballot as time goes on, but I’ll give it to him for now.

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My first National League all-star ballot of 2017

Starting pitchers are not on the ballot and are chosen by the all-star managers, but I’ll go with a make my choices, with Dallas Keuchel of the Astros in the AL and the Nationals’ Gio Gonzalez in the NL.

I’ll be updating the ballot as the season continues so keep checking back in for updates.

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MLB Weekly: Judge powering the Yankees, Nats lose Eaton for the year

Looking Back

Young players have helped the Yankees to the best record in Major League Baseball while the Nationals’ biggest offseason acquisition is out for the season in this week’s MLB Weekly.

After finishing in fourth place in the AL East last season and missing the playoffs, the Yankees have the best record in the majors as we head into May. And they’re doing it differently than they did things when they were at the height of their dynasty in the late ’90s and early ’00s. Back then, they signed big-name free agents like Jason Giambi, Roger Clemens and, of course, Alex Rodriguez. Now, they’re doing it with home-grown talent from their minor-league system.

Leading the way is OF Aaron Judge, who wasn’t even guaranteed to have a job on the big-league roster until late in spring training. In 21 games, he’s hitting .301 with 10 home runs, which is tied for the most in the American League entering Sunday. Those 10 home runs, which include a two-homer game on Friday, also tie the rookie record for the month of April, matching the mark set by White Sox 1B Jose Abreu in 2014 and Rockies SS Trevor Story last year. At 6’7″ and close to 300 pounds, Judge obviously has power, as he has shown to date this season, but he is also hitting for average, which is somewhat surprising, after putting up a .278 average in his minor-league career.

Also performing well in the Yankees youth movement is SS Ronald Torreyes, who had been filling in for injured SS Didi Gregorius before he came off the DL this week, Torreyes is hitting .318 in 66 at-bats entering Sunday, but his six strikeouts without a walk shows a lack of patience at the plate that could be concerning.

The Yankees are winning despite being without C Gary Sanchez, who has been on the disabled list since April 8. He is expected to begin a rehab assignment soon and should rejoin the Yankees within the next couple of weeks, barring any setbacks. C Austin Romine has putting up decent numbers while filling in for Sanchez, hitting .300 with two home runs in 16 games on the season. But Sanchez will provide the team with an even bigger offensive boost when he returns, if he maintains close to the power he showed after coming up late in 2016, when he hit 20 home runs in 201 at-bats.

The Nationals have the best record in the National League entering Sunday, at 16-8, but the injury news isn’t looking as good for them as it is for the Yankees. OF Adam Eaton injured himself in Friday’s loss to the Mets while trying to beat out an infield single in the ninth inning. The injury didn’t look good as he had to be helped off the field, but the Nats’ worst fears were realized on Saturday with reports that Eaton suffered a torn ACL that will end his first season with the team, who traded for him in the offseason. The loss of Eaton will not only leave a hole in the lineup — he’s hitting .297 with two home runs and 13 RBI — but also in center field, where he is known for his strong defense. OFs Michael Taylor and Chris Heisey, whose offensive numbers pale in comparison to Eaton’s, will see increased playing time with Eaton done for the year, unless the Nationals make a trade to acquire another outfielder.

Eaton isn’t the only player to suffer a season-ending surgery this week. Diamondbacks SP Shelby Miller, who has been a disappointment since the team traded for him prior to the 2016 season, left his start last Sunday with tightness in his right forearm. He has since been diagnosed with a partially torn UCL and has chosen to undergo Tommy John surgery. With a typical recovery time of 12-18 months, he likely won’t be ready to return to action until at least the middle of the 2018 season.

Other notable players to be placed on the disabled list this week include Dodgers OF Joc Pederson, Red Sox 3B Pablo Sandoval, Mariners SP Felix Hernandez and OF Mitch Haniger, Nationals RP Koda Glover, Astros OF Teoscar Hernandez, Mets OF Yoenis Cespedes, and Angels SP Tyler Skaggs and 1B C.J. Cron.

The Week Ahead

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May begins with a series between the Orioles and Red Sox at Fenway starting Monday as they try not to fall too far behind the Yankees in the AL East. The Astros get their first series of the year with the Rangers, against whom they struggled last year, at home beginning Monday. The Blue Jays, who are in last place in the AL East, get a chance to make up some ground in the division as they visit the Yankees Monday through Wednesday. The Dodgers and Giants renew their rivalry Monday with three games in Los Angeles, and the Nationals host the Diamondbacks starting Tuesday as they continue their season without Eaton. In the latter half of the week, the Angels host the Astros in a series between the top two teams in the AL West. The Yankees make one of their rare trips to Wrigley Field for an interleague series with the Cubs starting Friday, and the Rockies start a home series with the Diamondbacks that day in what should be a series to determine first place in the NL West.

Some scheduled pitching performances to look forward to include Orioles SP Dylan Bundy, who’s been having a good season, taking on the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner, Red Sox SP Rick Porcello to start the week on Monday. Also Monday, struggling Giants SP Johnny Cueto is slated to duel with Dodgers SP Clayton Kershaw, who is putting up typical Kershaw-esque numbers. After the complete game gem Yankees SP Masahiro Tanaka threw last week against the Red Sox, he’ll take the mound Tuesday against Blue Jays SP Mat Latos. It’ll be a battle of underperforming aces in Detroit on Tuesday with Indians SP Corey Kluber opposing Tigers SP Justin Verlander. A’s SP Sonny Gray is slated to make his season debut on Tuesday, taking on the Twins and SP Ervin Santana. Blue Jays SP Marcus Stroman battles Yankees SP CC Sabathia on Wednesday, along with a matchup of former teammates in Atlanta with SP Jacob deGrom going for the Mets and SP Bartolo Colon pitching for the Braves. Coming off two straight strong starts, Rangers SP Yu Darvish is scheduled to pitch on Thursday, going against SP Joe Musgrove in the series finale against the Astros.

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MLB Weekly: Marte suspension, more injuries

Looking Back

The big story of the week in Major League Baseball was the surprising 80-game PED suspension to a Pirates star and an ace pitcher hitting the disabled list for the first time in his career.

The Pirates announced on Tuesday that OF Starling Marte received an 80-game suspension for violating MLB’s performance-enhancing drugs policy. Marte, who was named to the National League All-Star team in 2016, reportedly failed the drug test for the use of anabolic steroid nandrolone. He is currently eligible to return to the team on July 18, although that date could be pushed back if the Pirates have any postponed games before then.

Although Marte should be back sometime in July, the suspension could hurt the Pirates in October if they make it to the postseason because players who are suspended during the season for a PED violation are ineligible to play in that year’s postseason. That means one of the Pirates’ best offensive players — Marte hit .311 and stole 47 bases last season — would have to sit on the bench if the team makes it to the playoffs.

Losing Marte for half the year will make Pittsburgh’s path to the postseason even tougher. Joining OFs Andrew McCutchen and Gregory Polanco in the outfield during Marte’s absence are expected to be the likes of OFs John Jaso, Adam Frazier and Josh Harrison — who can’t match the offensive production of Marte. The team already sits in last place in the NL Central, giving them a big hill to climb to make it to the playoffs.

Under MLB’s PED policy, a second positive test would result in a 162-game suspension while a third violation leads to a lifetime ban.

Marte tweeted on Wednesday this statement regarding his suspension

Elsewhere in MLB, the injuries keep piling up for teams around the majors. We told you during the week about SP Madison Bumgarner’s dirt-bike accident that could keep him out of action for a couple of months, though more recent news reports say he is not expected to need shoulder surgery, which is good news for the Giants, who currently sit in last place in the NL West.

The hits keep on coming for the Blue Jays, who hold the worst record in the majors. With 3B Josh Donaldson and SPs J.A. Happ and Aaron Sanchez already on the DL, the team can add SS Troy Tulowitzki to the list of injured starters. The five-time all-star went on the 10-day DL on Saturday, a day after leaving Friday’s game early with a right hamstring strain. He shouldn’t miss much more than the minimum time, given that Blue Jays manager John Gibbons acknowledged that the new 10-day DL was “definitely a factor” in making the move.

Also hitting the DL this week were Angels closer Cam Bedrosian (right groin strain), Tigers 1B Miguel Cabrera (right groin strain), Mets 1B Lucas Duda (hyperextended left elbow) and IF Wilmer Flores (right knee infection), Red Sox OF Brock Holt (vertigo) and Dodgers 2B Logan Forsythe (fractured toe).

Taking a look at the standings, the Twins’ hot start didn’t last long, as they’re already below .500 with a 8-10 record and just 3-7 in their last 10 games. The Diamondbacks, on the other hand, are continuing their quick start to the season, competing with the Rockies for the top spot in the NL West. After struggling somewhat out of the gate, the Cubs have risen to first place in the NL Central with a 10-8 record. Will they hold that spot for the rest of the season? The Nationals remain in first place in the NL East. Division leaders in the American League include the Orioles in the AL East, Indians and Tigers tied for first in the AL Central, and the Astros in the AL West — the first team in the majors to 13 wins this season.

The Week Ahead

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In series to look for, the Yankees and Red Sox face each other for the first time in 2017 this week, when the teams start a three-game series Tuesday at Fenway Park. American League playoff contenders have a three-game set when the Astros visit the Indians starting Tuesday. It’ll be a battle of division leaders in Denver when the Rockies host the Nationals Monday through Thursday. And a West Coast rivalry gets underway Monday with the Dodgers and Giants playing four games in San Francisco. The Red Sox get a highly anticipated interleague series starting Friday when the defending World Series champion Cubs come to town for three. The two teams that currently sit atop the NL West begin a series on Friday when the Diamondbacks host the Rockies, while NL East rivals do battle in the nation’s capital when the Mets take on the Nationals.

How about pitching performances of note coming up in the coming week? Reds SP Amir Garrett tries to continue his surprisingly strong start to the season on Monday when he opposes the Brewers and veteran SP Matt Garza. Nationals SP Joe Ross gets his second start of the year Monday in the high elevation of Denver against Rockies SP Tyler Anderson. Astros SP Dallas Keuchel takes the mound in Cleveland Tuesday when he hopes to continue his bounceback season, as he is 3-0 with a 0.96 ERA entering the game. Dodgers SP Clayton Kershaw gets the ball in San Francisco Tuesday night, opposing Giants SP Ty Blach, who takes Bumgarner’s spot in the rotation. White Sox SP Jose Quintana, who was expected to take over as the team’s ace following the offseason trade of Chris Sale, looks for a good performance against the Royals on Wednesday as he tries to get on track after starting the season 0-4 with a 6.17 ERA; SP Nathan Karns goes for Kansas City. Cubs SP Jon Lester looks to nail down his first win of the season Wednesday against Pirates SP Tyler Glasnow, while Orioles SP Dylan Bundy goes for his fourth win of the 2017 campaign at home against Rays SP Alex Cobb. Coming off his best start of the year, Yankees SP Masahiro Tanaka duels with Sale on Wednesday as well. Braves SP Bartolo Colon is slated to face his former team on Thursday when he goes against the Mets and SP Matt Harvey.

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MLB Weekly: Struggling Blue Jays lose Donaldson to the DL

Looking Back

As the second week of the 2017 Major League Baseball season wraps up, this edition of our MLB Weekly column takes a look at a former MVP hitting the DL and teams that continue to surprise — positively or negatively.

The Blue Jays, who are coming off of two straight ALCS appearances, are already struggling this season with a 2-10 record after losing to the Orioles 11-4 on Sunday. Things got worse for the team this week when 3B Josh Donaldson, who won the 2015 American League MVP, was placed on the 10-day disabled list with a sore right calf. There is no timetable for his return, but the team is hoping he won’t miss much more than the minimum time. While he’s out, light-hitting infielders Darwin Barney and Ryan Goins are expected to get the bulk of the time at third base, and OF Chris Coghlan was brought up from Triple-A Buffalo to take Donaldson’s roster spot.

In other injury news north of the border, the team placed SP Aaron Sanchez, who led the AL in ERA last season, on the 10-day DL with a blister, and SP J.A. Happ left Sunday’s start with left elbow soreness. Anytime a pitcher’s injury involves an elbow, you can be sure it’s likely to result in a DL stint.

Other notable players who were placed on the DL across the majors this week include Orioles closer Zach Britton, A’s SS Marcus Semien, Reds SP Brandon Finnegan, Rockies SP Jon Gray, Nationals SS Trea Turner (who could return to the team this week), Mariners SS Jean Segura and Red Sox OF Jackie Bradley Jr.

Taking a look at how teams are doing early in the season, the Rockies lead the majors with nine wins on the season. Four teams currently have eight wins, including the Reds, who finished in last place in the NL Central last season with a 68-94 record. The Astros and Tigers both lead their divisions with 8-4 records, while the Orioles are atop the AL East at 8-3. There’s a tight race going on in the NL East early in the season, with the Marlins and Nationals tied at 7-5 and the Mets right behind them at 7-6.

The Cubs are among the teams who are so far not doing as well as people expected them to do; they are 6-6 and tied with the Pirates for third place in the NL Central. The team they beat in the World Series last year, the Indians, currently sit in the basement of the AL Central with a 5-7 record. The Rangers and Mariners — who finished first and second, respectively, in the AL West last season — each have just four wins so far and sit in fourth and fifth place, respectively. And the Blue Jays’ aforementioned 2-10 record is the worst in the majors, putting them in an early hole as they try to make the playoffs for a third straight season.

The Week Ahead

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The week gets off to an early start on Monday when the Red Sox host the Rays in the final game of their series for Boston’s annual 11am start on Patriots Day. The Indians look to get into the thick of the AL Central race when they start a four-game series at the Twins on Monday. The second-place Brewers get a chance to increase their lead on the Cubs when they start a three-game set at Wrigley that same day. The Dodgers host the Rockies for a quick two-game series Tuesday and Wednesday that could decide the early leader in the NL West. The Rangers visit the Royals for four games starting Thursday in a series involving teams struggling to meet the expectations people had for them in the preseason. The Indians have another divisional battle on the schedule next weekend when they visit the White Sox, while the Tigers and Twins start a series at Target Field on Friday. In other series involving divisional rivals that get underway Friday, the Reds host the Cubs, the Rockies host the Giants, the Diamondbacks host the Dodgers, and the Mets host the Nationals.

Looking ahead to some scheduled pitching performances of note, Blue Jays SP Marcus Stroman looks to continue his strong start to the season when he opposes Red Sox SP Eduardo Rodriguez on Tuesday. Also that day, Mets SP Zack Wheeler looks to right the ship of what hasn’t been a good season so far when he takes on the Phillies for the second straight start, this time at Citi Field. Nationals SP Max Scherzer heads to Atlanta Tuesday to take on the Braves and SP Mike Foltynewicz. On Wednesday, Cubs SP Kyle Hendricks, who had a 2.13 ERA in 2016, gets a chance to improve upon his 5.73 ERA from his first two starts when he takes on the Brewers at Wrigley. Two struggling starters do battle in Toronto on Wednesday with Red Sox SP Rick Porcello, coming off his AL Cy Young-winning season, and Blue Jays SP Francisco Liriano taking the mound. Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw is scheduled to get his next start Wednesday, opposing Rockies SP Tyler Anderson, while Red Sox SP Chris Sale and Blue Jays SP Marco Estrada, who are both coming off strong starts, are slated to face each other on Thursday.

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