Tag Archives: White Sox

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The 2017 Baseball Hall of Fame class: Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, Ivan Rodriguez

Due to a rule change several years ago, a player only has 10 years on the writers’ ballot to be voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame before having to wait to potentially get inducted by the veterans’ committee. Since this was LF Tim Raines’ final year on the ballot, it was a make-or-break election for him. With 86% of the 442 ballots cast — well over the 75% needed — Raines was finally elected in the Hall of Fame this year with 380 votes. Also voted in by the writers this week are 1B Jeff Bagwell — who led all candidates with 86.2% of the vote, with his 381 votes edging Raines by one — and C Ivan Rodriguez, who netted 76% (336 votes) in his first year of eligibility. P Trevor Hoffman and RF Vladimir Guerrero fell just short of election, with 74% and 71.7% respectively. With those numbers, both are virtual locks to be elected in 2018. For comparison, Bagwell garnered 71.6% of the vote last year before vaulting up nearly 15% this year and Raines had 69.8% in 2016.

Jeff Bagwell spent his entire 15-year MLB career with the Astros after being traded to Houston in 1990 (for veteran P Larry Andersen) as a minor-leaguer while he was in the Red Sox organization. He earned National League Rookie of the Year honors in 1991 with a .294 batting average, 15 home runs and 82 RBI in 156 games. That marked the lowest full-season home-run total of his career as his power numbers increased throughout his time in the league, peaking at a career-high 47 home runs in 2000. He was voted NL MVP in the strike-shortened 1994 season, when he hit a career-best .368 with 39 home runs and a career-high 116 RBI in 400 at-bats over 110 games. His 116 RBI and 104 runs scored both led the National League that season. He was named to the NL All-Star team in 1994, 1996, 1997 and 1999. Although he continued to put up decent home-run totals, his batting average started to decrease starting in 2001 as he started dealing with an arthritic right shoulder that eventually ended his career following the 2005 season.

Bagwell wasn’t just a power hitter — he could also steal bases, entering the 30-30 club in ’97, when he swiped a career-high 31 bases, and ’99. With 43 and 42 home runs, respectively, those years he actually was in even more rarified air in the 40-30 club. When his career ended, he had a .297 average and set Astros records with 449 home runs and 1,529 RBI in 2,150 regular-season games. He also had 202 steals and 1,401 walks by the time he called it a career. Before he hung up the cleats for good, though, he finally got to play in a World Series, playing in all four games of the Fall Classic when the White Sox swept the Astros.

Other honors Bagwell received during his career include a Gold Glove in ’94 and Silver Slugger awards in ’94, ’97 and ’99.

Tim Raines is most often associated with the Expos, with whom he spent the first 12 seasons of his career. He later spent five seasons with the White Sox, three with the Yankees and one in Oakland. After taking a year off in 2000, he returned in 2001, spending time with the Expos and Orioles (for four games) before joining the Marlins for his final season in 2002. He is known as a base-stealer, and for good reason; he is the most successful base-stealer — by percentage — in MLB history (min. 400 steals). He didn’t waste any time showing off his speed, notching 71 steals in his first full season of 1981, being caught just 11 times. He led the National League in steals for four straight seasons, from 1981-84, with a career-high 90 steals in 1983. He made the NL All-Star team in each of his first seven full seasons from 1981-87. His best offensive season came in 1986 when he led the NL with a .334 average and .413 OBP. The height of his power came the following year, when he swatted 18 home runs.

Raines earned a World Series ring in 1996, when he was part of the Yankees team that swept the Braves in the Fall Classic, the only time in his career that Raines made it to the World Series. He won a Silver Slugger award in 1986.

Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez is a rare catcher who excelled both at the plate and behind the plate. Rodriguez spent most of his 21-year career with the Rangers, also playing for the Marlins, Tigers, Yankees, Astros and Nationals for various lengths of time. Of the 2,543 games he played in his career, 2,427 were as a catcher — the most games behind the plate of any player in major-league history. His 14 all-star selections (1992-2001, 2004-07) and 13 Gold Gloves (1992-2001, 2004, 2006-07) also are the most all-time for the position.

Rodriguez was voted American League MVP in 1999, the best offensive season of his career when he hit .332 with 35 home runs, drove in 113 RBI and stole 25 bases. His 199 hits fell just shy of the 200-hit milestone. Defensively that season, he threw out 55% of potential base-stealers — that number topped the majors, one of nine seasons in which he led the majors in caught-stealing percentage. His best season in that category came in 2001, when he threw out 60% of runners who tried to steal a base against him. Back to the offense, he finished his career with 2,844 hits, which is the most in history for a major-leaguer who played at least 50% of his games as a catcher. HIs career batting average is .296, with 311 home runs and 1,332 RBI. He also stole 127 bases, which puts him near the top of the career list among catchers.

Rodriguez played in two World Series — winning it in 2003, his only season with the Marlins when they beat the Yankees in six games, and making it there again in 2006 with the Tigers, who lost to the Cardinals in five games. In addition to his MVP and 13 Gold Glove awards, Pudge won seven Silver Slugger awards (1994-99, 2004).

Also being inducted this year, who were voted in by the Today’s Game Era committee, are former team executive John Schuerholz and former commissioner and Brewers owner Bud Selig.

Percentages for other notable players on this year’s ballot include: DH Edgar Martinez, 58.6%; P Roger Clemens, 54.1%; LF Barry Bonds, 53.8%; P Mike Mussina, 51.8%; P Curt Schilling, 45.0%; OF Manny Ramirez, 23.8%

Players set to appear on the ballot for the first time in 2017 include P Chris Carpenter, OF Johnny Damon, P Livan Hernandez, CF Andruw Jones, 3B Chipper Jones, P Brad Lidge, OF Hideki Matsui, P Jamie Moyer, 3B Scott Rolen, P Johan Santana, 1B/DH Jim Thome and SS Omar Vizquel.

The 2017 National Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony is scheduled for July 30 in Cooperstown, N.Y.

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MLB Hot Stove Catch-Up: Sale gets traded, Fowler and Chapman get paid

It’s been more than a month since the Cubs  won their first World Series title in more than a century, and with the MLB Winter Meetings now in the books, there have been a number of trades and signings that have sent notable players to new teams. The White Sox, clearly in rebuilding mode, have gotten rid of a couple of their top players in exchange for prospects while the Cubs have lost a couple pieces of their championship team.

Perhaps the biggest move of the offseason this far has been the Red Sox acquiring SP Chris Sale, who has a career 3.00 ERA, from the White Sox in exchange for a package of prospects led by 2B Yoan Moncada, one of the top prospects in baseball, and SP Michael Kopech, who is still early in his development but has the potential to be a top-of-the-rotation guy as he gains experience in the pros. The other players going to Chicago in the deal are OF Luis Alexander Basabe and P Victor Diaz. For the Red Sox, Sale adds another top-of-the-line starter to a rotation that already includes reigning AL Cy Young winner Rick Porcello and former Cy Young winner David Price. If the Red Sox can get good performances out of the bottom of their rotation in 2017, they could be among the best teams in the American League.

A day after dealing Sale, the White Sox traded CF Adam Eaton to the Nationals in exchange for a trio of pitchers, led by SP Lucas Giolito, who made a few starts in the majors last season but has a 2.73 ERA in 369 innings in the minors. Giolito adds some depth to Chicago’s rotation while Eaton allows the Nationals to send Trea Turner, who played the outfield for much of 2016 after being brought up, back to his natural position of shortstop.

In another trade involving notable players, the Mariners dealt SS Ketel Marte and SP Taijuan Walker to the Diamondbacks in exchange for SS Jean Segura and two minor league players. In Segura, the Mariners get a young second baseman who took a big step forward in his offensive production in 2016, hitting career highs with a .319 batting average, 20 home runs and 64 RBI. He also has speed, stealing 33 bases last season. That gives the Mariners strong offense with their middle infielders in Segura and 2B Robinson Cano. Walker hasn’t achieved much success yet in his major league career, posting a 4.18 ERA with 322 strikeouts in 357 innings. Marte, who has played in 176 games in his major league career, is a .267 hitter without power, but he can steal some but he has some speed.

The Astros, who failed to live up to the high expectations set for them last year after making the playoffs in 2015, have made some moves to boost their lineup. In addition to signing free-agent OF Josh Reddick to a four-deal, they traded a couple of minor league pitchers to the Yankees in exchange for C Brian McCann, which allows them to use Evan Gattis as their full-time DH. The Astros also signed veteran OF Carlos Beltran, who played for them in the second half of the 2004 season, to a one-year contract. That gives the Astros an outfield of Reddick, Beltran and CF George Springer to go along with an infield that includes 2B Jose Altuve and SS Carlos Correa, who are among the best players in the league at their positions. In a lesser move, the Astros signed SP Charlie Morton, who will likely slot into the bottom of their rotation.

As mentioned, the Cubs lost two of their players to free agency. Closer Aroldis Chapman signed a five-year, $86-million contract with the Yankees, who traded him to the Cubs at the trade deadline. Also leaving Chicago is OF Dexter Fowler, who is staying in the NL Central after signing with the Cardinals. Fowler’s contract is worth $82.5 million over five years. Even though they lost Chapman, the Cubs won’t be without a top closer after trading for RP Wade Davis from the Royals. They traded OF Jorge Soler to get Davis.

In other deals:

  • OF Yoenis Cespedes, who opted out of his contract with the Mets after the season ended, re-signed with the team, inking a four-year deal reportedly worth $110 million.
  • The Braves added veteran pitching with the signings of SPs R.A. Dickey and Bartolo Colon, as well as trading for SP Jaime Garcia.
  • The Giants signed RP Mark Melancon to a four-year contract. He should slot in as their closer to start the year.
  • The Dodgers kept SP Rich Hill, who they traded for during the season, by signing him to a three-year contract. He should slot in as the team’s No. 2 starter behind SP Clayton Kershaw.
  • The Marlins signed SP Edinson Volquez to a two-year contract.
  • The Nationals traded 2B Danny Espinosa to the Angels for a couple of pitchers.

This likely isn’t the end of the transactions this offseason, with more than two months to go before spring training gets underway.

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MLB Weekly: Trades galore as the deadline approaches

In this week’s MLB Weekly, trades are dominating the news as the non-waiver deadline approaches on Monday.

Looking Back

Traditionally, the non-waiver trade deadline is on July 31, but with that date falling on a Sunday this year, Major League Baseball decided to push the deadline back a day to August 1, giving teams an extra day to complete deals. A number of contenders aren’t waiting until the 11th hour, though, and have made trades this week in hopes of improving their teams.

The Blue Jays are among the most-active contenders on the market this week. making two deals on Tuesday. In one, the current AL East leaders added offensive depth by acquiring OF Melvin Upton Jr. from the Padres for a minor leaguer. The other was a swap of relievers, with the Blue Jays sending RP Drew Storen to the Mariners in exchange for RP Joaquin Benoit.

The first deal made this week saw the NL Central-leading Cubs looking to boost their bullpen’s performance by acquiring RP Aroldis Chapman from the Yankees in exchange for a quartet of players, including P Adam Warren and three minor leaguers, led by former international free-agent signee SS Gleyber Torres, who was one of the Cubs’ top prospects in their farm system. Giving up the young talent for Chapman, who is in the final year of his contract and will likely command big bucks on the free-agent market as one of the game’s top closers, shows that the Cubs are in win-now mode and are willing to give up some talent for the future if it helps them get their first World Series title in more than 100 years this season.

In other notable trades this week, the Marlins — who are currently tied with the Cardinals for the second Wild Card in the National League — acquired veteran SPs Andrew Cashner and Colin Rea from the Padres and sent some prospects from San Diego, who made a number of moves aimed at dumping high salaries and getting young talent for a rebuilding effort. The NL West-leading Giants hope to hold their slim lead over the Dodgers after getting IF Eduardo Nunez from the Twins by trading minor league P Adalberto Mejia.

Elsewhere in MLB, with August starting tomorrow time is running out for teams to make up ground in the standings and get into the playoff picture. In the American League, the AL East is the closest division, with the Blue Jays at the top but the Orioles and Red Sox both within two games. The Indians currently hold a 4.5-game lead over the Tigers in the AL Central, and the Rangers’ lead in the AL West is currently at five games over the Astros, who have lost ground on Texas in the last week. The Orioles and Red Sox currently hold the two Wild Cards in the American League, with the Tigers and Astros both within 1.5 games and the Mariners and Yankees within striking distance.

In the National League, the NL West is the only division that seems to still be in play as we enter August this week, with the Dodgers two games behind the Giants. The Nationals currently hold a five-game lead over the Marlins in the NL East, and the Cubs’ lead in the Central stands at 6.5 games over the Cardinals. In the Wild Card, the Dodgers hold the first Wild Card, with the Marlins and Cardinals tied for the second. Of the teams on the outside looking in, the Mets, Pirates and Rockies are the only teams with a realistic shot at catching the Wild Card leaders, all no more than four games back.

The Week Ahead

The Mets and Yankees Subway Series.

The Mets and Yankees play a home-and-home in a four-game Subway Series this week.

As we take a look at this week’s schedule, there are a couple of key four-game series between American League playoff contenders getting underway Monday as the Red Sox visit the Mariners and the Astros host the Blue Jays. New Yorkers’ eyes will be on the Subway Series, though, as the Mets and Yankees play four games against each other, with the first two at Citi Field and the back pair at Yankee Stadium. The Astros play another important series later in the week, hosting the Rangers beginning Friday as they attempt to make up some ground on the division leaders. Both NL West contenders also have important series starting Friday, with the Giants heading to D.C. to take on the Nationals and the Dodgers hosting the Red Sox.

This week’s probable pitchers could be a little more subject to change than usual pending any more trades that are made by Monday’s deadline. Having said that, here’ a look at some of the pitching performances expected this week. Rangers SP Yu Darvish looks to continue his post-DL comeback when he takes the Camden Yards mound against the Orioles on Tuesday. White Sox SP James Shields hopes to continue his streak of six straight quality starts Tuesday at the Tigers. Citi Field could be home to a pitcher’s duel Tuesday when Yankees SP Masahiro Tanaka and Mets SP Jacob deGrom get the starts for their respective teams. White Sox SP Chris Sale, who has been surrounded by controversy in recent weeks, is scheduled to pitch Wednesday at the Tigers — if the White Sox don’t trade him before then.

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The latest MLB All-Star Game voting results: How are the fans doing?

The MLB All-Star Game is scheduled for two weeks from tomorrow in San Diego, which means voting is almost over, with the deadline being 11:59pm ET on Thursday. Earlier today, MLB released the latest results from the All-Star Game balloting. As usual, the fans who vote are choosing some players who frankly don’t deserve to be starting in the game. So which positions are the fans getting it right and which selections seem to be the result of popularity contests rather than stats?

Last year, Royals fans seemed to be stuffing the virtual ballot boxes in support of their players on the American League side, but this year it seems to be the Cubs fans trying to get as many of their team’s players on the National League as possible. Do the Cubs deserve five starters, as they currently have? Let’s take a look.

American League

1B The Royals’ Eric Hosmer leads the Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera by about 550,000 votes. I had Hosmer as my selection in the last ballot I published, and I’m sticking with him. I would, however, put the Orioles’ Chris Davis over Cabrera as the runner-up at the position.
2B Jose Altuve of the Astros is on pace to far surpass his single-season home run mark; he currently has 13 long balls and is hitting .347 to go with the power. He definitely deserves the nod here, and he has a significant 900,000 vote lead over the Mariners’ Robinson Cano in second place.
SS I previously had the Astros’ Carlos Correa as my selection here, but I’m jumping off that bandwagon. It’s hard to go against Xander Bogaerts, who is hitting .344 for the Red Sox with 9 home runs and 50 RBI. He’s currently in first, nearly doubling the vote total of the Royals’ Alcides Escobar, in second place. Surprisingly, Indians SS Francisco Lindor doesn’t even make the top five; he would’ve been my second selection behind Bogaerts.
3B The Orioles’ Manny Machado has been my selection all along at the hot corner, and I’m sticking with him. Todd Frazier, of the White Sox, has more home runs (21 vs. 18) but his .201 batting average isn’t in the same neighborhood as Machado’s .325 so Manny gets the nod from me — and the fans. Machado is in the lead, with about a 600,000-vote lead over the Blue Jays’ Josh Donaldson, who is in second (Frazier doesn’t make the top five).
C Royals backstop Salvador Perez is the leading vote-getter at any position in either league, with more than 3.7 million votes and a lead of about 2.7 million over the Orioles’ Matt Wieters. Perez is the top offensive catcher in the American League so far this year so it’s hard to argue with that selection.
DH There’s no competition here, with David Ortiz having a monster year for the Red Sox, and it is being reflected in the voting. He has the second-highest overall vote total, with more than 3.4 million. The Blue Jays’ Edwin Encarnacion is in a distant second, with about 1.1 million votes.
OF While the Angels’ Mike Trout has the most votes among AL outfielders, the Red Sox are well represented, with Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts in second and third, respectively, earning them starting nods if their totals hold. The Royals’ Lorenzo Cain and the Orioles’ Mark Trumbo are about 100,000 votes behind Betts. I think Trumbo should be in the top three, replacing Betts. The Astros’ George Springer is having a good season, as well, but I have to put him behind Trout, Bradley and Trumbo on my list. The fans aren’t voting for Springer, who isn’t even in the top 15.

The latest selections on my AL all-star ballot

The latest selections on my American League all-star ballot

National League

1B Anthony Rizzo is the first of five Cubs leading the voting at their position. He has a sizable lead over the Giants’ Brandon Belt. I think it’s a toss-up between Rizzo and the Diamondbacks’ Paul Goldschmidt, who currently sits in third in the voting. I had Rizzo on my previous ballot, so I’ll stick with him, although I couldn’t argue with people who prefer Goldschmidt. Belt is also having a good season, but I’d put him behind Rizzo and Goldschmidt.
2B The Cubs’ Ben Zobrist leads the Nationals’ Daniel Murphy by about 300,000 votes, but the fan voting is getting this one wrong. Murphy is having a better season in just about every notable offensive category. Zobrist is having a good year, but Murphy is having a better season. Let’s see if Murphy can pass Zobrist in the final days of voting.
SS This may be the position in either league that I disagree with the most. The Cubs’ Addison Russell is in the lead despite hitting .241 with 7 home runs and 40 RBI. Compare those numbers to the Rockies’ Trevor Story, who is hitting.271/19/50, and there’s no question that Russell doesn’t deserve to get the start. Story needs more than 300,000 votes to surpass Russell. It’ll be tough to do in just a few days, but Story definitely deserves to be the National League’s starting shortstop with the rookie season he is having.
3B Once again, a Cub is atop the vote — this time at third base. This time, it’s Kris Bryant. His 18 home runs and 51 RBI are good, but he’s hitting .263, which prevents me from picking him when the Rockies’ Nolan Arenado has stats of .296/21/63. There’s no comparison there; Arenado deserves the start, but he needs to make up about 350,000 votes to get it.
C This is the tightest race is either league, with the Cardinals’ Yadier Molina leading the Giants’ Buster Posey by a mere 5,130 votes. Unfortunately, neither of them deserves to be the starter, with Nationals C Wilson Ramos — who’s currently third in the voting, nearly 300,000 votes out of first — hitting .342 with 12 home runs and 41 RBI.
DH With no DH in the National League, fans don’t get to vote for one.
OF The Cubs’ Dexter Fowler, the Nationals’ Bryce Harper and Yoenis Cespedes of the Mets are the top three in voting among outfielders. There’s a significant margin separating that threesome with the Cubs’ Jason Heyward and the Brewers’ Ryan Braun, who round out the top five. Of the top three, only Cespedes would be on my ballot. In addition to him, I’d go with the Marlins’ Marcell Ozuna and the Rockies’ Carlos Gonzalez. Braun is having a good year but not as good overall as the three I selected.

The latest selections on my NL all-star ballot

The latest selections on my National League all-star ballot

Starting pitchers are not on the ballot and are chosen by the all-star managers, but if I were to choose, I’d go with White Sox SP Chris Sale in the American League and the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw in the National League.

The all-star teams and candidates for the Final Vote ballots will be announced next Tuesday, July 5.

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Mets 3B David Wright on the disabled list.

MLB Weekly: Wright goes to DL, White Sox acquire Shields

In this week’s MLB Weekly, the Mets lose their third baseman to a neck injury and the slumping White Sox trade for a struggling pitcher.

Looking Back

The Mets are in a battle to win the NL East, currently sitting a game back of the division-leading Nationals entering Sunday’s games. The road to first place for the team in Queens is about to get more difficult, with veteran 3B David Wright being placed on the 15-day disabled list with a herniated disk in his neck. He will not participate in any baseball activity for six to eight weeks, likely putting his return in August at the earliest. Although the 33-year-old hasn’t been particularly productive at the plate this season — he’s hitting just .226 with 7 home runs and 55 strikeouts in 137 at-bats — the Mets’ internal replacements at third base aren’t great options for an extended period. Utilityman Wilmer Flores is getting the first chance at filling in for Wright, but he’s hitting .224 in 67 at-bats this season — and that includes him going 5-for-7 in his first two games starting at third, he was hitting below .200 before that. If Flores can’t produce offensively, the Mets may need to look to trade for someone who can handle third-base duties.

Speaking of trades, the White Sox are looking to shake things up after going 12-18 since May 1 to drop from first place in the AL Central to third place. They now sit just two games above .500 and are two games back of the division lead. Outside of SPs Chris Sale and Jose Quintana, the starting rotation has been disappointing so they made a trade this week to acquire SP James Shields from the Padres, but he hasn’t been having a great season himself, particularly in his last start when he gave up 10 earned runs in 2.2 innings at the Mariners. Overall for the year, Shields has a 4.28 ERA and 57 strikeouts in 67.1 innings. He has a 2-7 record in 11 starts so far. The White Sox hope a change of scenery could mean a change in performance for the better for the veteran pitcher, who hasn’t finished a season with a sub-3.00 ERA since 2011, when he was with the Rays. To get Shields, the White Sox sent SP Erik Johnson and minor league 3B Fernando Tatis Jr. to San Diego.

Elsewhere in MLB, the standings atop the six divisions look similar to what they were a week ago, with the Indians sitting in first place of the AL Central the only first-place team that wasn’t at the top of its division last weekend. The Cubs, who have gone 9-1 in their last 10 games, continue to have the best record in the majors with a 39-15 mark entering Sunday’s game with the Diamondbacks. Looking further down in the standings, the Phillies continue their drop, now sitting in fourth place in the NL East, at 27-29, after getting off to a surprisingly strong start to the season. The Blue Jays, who were my preseason pick to win the World Series, have gone 8-2 in the last 10 games to get closer to the AL East lead, now sitting in third place, 3.5 games behind the Red Sox. The Astros have also gone 8-2 in the last week-and-half to get to within three games of .500. In the AL West, though, they still sit seven games back of the division lead.

The Week Ahead

The Giants host the Dodgers this week.

The Dodgers visit the Giants for a key AL West series this week.

Some series to watch out for this week include a battle of second-place teams looking to move up in their divisions when the Orioles host the Royals Monday through Wednesday. The AL Central-leading Indians travel to Seattle for a four-game series with the Mariners, who sit in second place in the AL West. The AL West-leading Rangers take on their in-state rival Astros at home for four games starting Monday, giving the streaking Astros a chance to get closer to the top of the division. Later in the week, a key four-game series in the AL East gets underway Thursday, with the second- and third-place teams in the division playing each other when Blue Jays host the Orioles. The top two teams in the AL West beginning a series Friday when the Mariners host the Rangers, and it’ll be a similar situation in the NL West when the division-leading Giants host the second-place Dodgers starting Friday.

Some pitching performances of note for the coming week include Indians SP Carlos Carrasco making his second start since coming off the disabled list when he opposes Mariners SP Wade Miley. On Wednesday, Rangers SP Yu Darvish makes his third start since Tommy John surgery and looks to continue the success he’s had in his limited work so far this season; he’ll go against SP Doug Fister, who takes the mound for the Astros and is 1-0 with a 1.53 ERA in his last five starts. Red Sox SP David Price, who has thrown quality starts in his last five outings after a slow start to the season, is scheduled to take the mound in San Francisco on Wednesday against Giants SP Madison Bumgarner, who has posted a 1.91 ERA for the season and a 0.42 ERA in his last three starts.

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Yu Darvish

MLB Weekly: Darvish returns, Royals lose Moustakas

In this week’s MLB Weekly, the Rangers get a starting pitcher back from the disabled list while the Royals lose an infielder to a torn ACL.

Looking Back

The Rangers are in a fight for the AL West, currently in second place just behind the Mariners. On Saturday, they got SP Yu Darvish back from the disabled list, as he made his first major league start since Aug. 9, 2014. After that start, he experienced elbow inflammation that caused him to miss the rest of that season, then he had to undergo Tommy John surgery during spring training in 2015. In his first start in more than 20 months on Saturday, Darvish pitched well en route to leading the Rangers to a 5-2 victory over the Pirates. Unsurprisingly, he didn’t go deep into the game — throwing just 5 innings — but he made the most of the time he did pitch. He allowed just 3 hits — all singles — along with a walk and an earned run while notching 7 strikeouts. He needed 81 pitches to get through his 5 innings of work. Darvish is expected to make his next start Friday.

While the Rangers got one of their stars back after a lengthy absence on Saturday, the defending World Series champion Royals lost one of their stars for the season this week. 3B Mike Moustakas collided with OF Alex Gordon last Sunday against the White Sox while going for a foul ball. Gordon broke a bone in his right hand that will keep him out for about a month. The news on Moustakas is much worse; it was announced a few days after the collision that he tore his ACL and will miss the remainder of the 2016 season. Moustakas already had 7 home runs on the season, putting him on pace to set a new career high, surpassing the 22 he hit last season. Without Moustakas, the Royals are going to rely on rookies Cheslor Cuthbert and Whit Merrifield to man the hot corner as the team looks to stay in the midst of a competitive AL Central.

Elsewhere in MLB, as June begins in a couple days, we’re getting a clearer picture of which teams are playoff contenders and which aren’t. The Red Sox have overtaken the Orioles for the AL East lead, holding a one-game advantage entering Sunday. The Indians have taken over first place in the AL Central, a half-game ahead of both the Royals and White Sox, who have gone 3-7 in their last 10 games after having the best record in the American League for much of the first few weeks of the season. Don’t be surprised to see the White Sox fall out of contention in the coming weeks. In the AL West, the Mariners are still hanging on to first place, a game better than the Rangers. Over in the National League, the Mets and Nationals are tied for first in the NL East as the Phillies, like the White Sox, have begun their expected regression; they now sit 2.5 games out of the division lead. At 33-14 the Cubs still have the best record in the majors and hold a 5.5-game lead over the Pirates in the NL Central. In the NL West, the Giants maintain their hold on first place, with a 4.5-game lead over the Dodgers after going a MLB-best 8-2 in their last 10 games.

The Week Ahead

Dodgers-Cubs at Wrigley Field

The Cubs host the Dodgers for a four-game series at Wrigley Field this week.

The week gets started with a key four-game series between the top two teams in the AL East when the Red Sox travel to Baltimore to take on the Orioles. Two of the best teams in the National League also begin their weeks with four games at Wrigley Field, when the Cubs host the Dodgers. Later in the week, top AL Central teams do battle in Cleveland as the Indians host the Royals for four games starting Thursday. And first place in the AL West will likely be on the line with the Rangers visiting the Mariners beginning Friday.

Those are some series of note, but what about pitching performances to look out for? Struggling Mets SP Matt Harvey looks to get back on track when he takes the mound Monday against White Sox SP Jose Quintana while Giants SP Jeff Samardzija tries to continue his strong start to the season against the Braves and SP Mike Foltynewicz. Tuesday should feature a good pitching matchup in Miami, with Pirates SP Gerrit Cole taking on Marlins SP Jose Fernandez. Cubs SP Jake Arrieta hopes to make his record 10-0 when he gets the start at home against the Dodgers, who are expected to throw SP Scott Kazmir out on the mound. As mentioned, Darvish is expected to make his second start on Friday in an important game against the Mariners.

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One month later: My updated MLB All-Star Game ballot

It’s been a month since Major League Baseball first released the All-Star Game ballot and accepting votes. At the time, just three weeks into the season, was too early to start picking all-stars, but I decided to play along has make my way-too-early All-Star Game selections. It’s a month later now, and we’re closing in on two months since the season began so there’s a better idea of what players deserve all-star recognition. So a month after my initial ballot, here are my latest MLB All-Star Game picks for the game, which will be played in San Diego on July 12.

Some of my selections have changed in the last month, and for those positions I have noted in parentheses who I picked at that position last month. Now, here are my picks for the American League and National League all-star teams.

American League

1B Eric Hosmer, Royals (Chris Davis): I switched from the Orioles’ Davis to Hosmer despite Davis having a couple more home runs, but Hosmer has been the better overall hitter, with his .311 trumping Davis’ .237 to get the nod.
2B Jose Altuve, Astros: Altuve hit a career-high 15 home runs last season, and he’s already up to 9 this season. Even with the added power, he’s still running — he has 15 steals — and hitting for average, at .328.
SS Carlos Correa, Astros: Correa had a strong start to the season but has slowed down since then. He’s still having a good season and without a breakout player at shortstop this season in the American League, he’s still my pick to make it to San Diego in July.
3B Manny Machado, Orioles: Machado’s 13 home runs are second at the position, behind White Sox 3B Todd Frazier, but Frazier is hitting just .238 so Machado’s .308 average helps him keep this selection in his favor.
C Matt Wieters, Orioles (Brian McCann): This was a close call, but switching from the Yankees’ McCann to Wieters was again because the latter is having a better overall season at the plate, with his .283/4/16 winning out over McCann’s .258/5/17 for me.
DH David Ortiz, Red Sox: Ortiz continues to hit in what he says is his last season before retiring. I can’t leave him off the ballot while he’s hitting .329/11/37.
OF Jackie Bradley Jr., Red Sox; Mike Trout, Angels;  Mark Trumbo, Orioles (Colby Rasmus): There was some movement here, with the Astros’ Rasmus replaced with Bradley, who  is on a 27-game hit streak and hitting .342 on the season with 8 home runs. Trout and Trumbo remain, hitting .321/10/31 and .293/13/31, respectively.

American League all-star ballot

My second ballot for the American League all-star team

National League

1B Anthony Rizzo, Cubs (Adrian Gonzalez): Rizzo has been slumping of late, but he still has 11 home runs on the season, giving him the edge over the Dodgers’ Gonzalez, who I removed from the ballot as he has only 4 home runs so far. I’d like to see Rizzo raise his average some, but I think he’s having a season worthy of an all-star selection.
2B Daniel Murphy, Nationals (Neil Walker): I replaced the Mets’ Walker with former Met Murphy at second base. He is hitting .387, which is bound to come down some as the season progresses, with 6 home runs and 28 RBI.
SS Trevor Story, Rockies: Many people expected Story to regress after his quick start to the season, but he’s still hitting. He’s up to 12 home runs and continues to hit for a decent average, at .278.
3B Nolan Arenado, Rockies: Arenado is up to 14 home runs on the season with an average just below .300 as he continues to have a good follow-up to his 42-home run season from a year ago.
C Welington Castillo, Diamondbacks: The Diamondbacks backstop keeps providing offense at a position where we don’t see much of it. He’s hitting .288/7/20. Defensively, he is also above the league average in terms of throwing out potential base-stealers.
DH With no DH in the National League, fans don’t get to vote for one.
OF Yoenis Cespedes, Mets; Bryce Harper, Nationals; Marcell Ozuna, Marlins (Dexter FowlerCarlos Gonzalez): Cespedes and Ozuna replace the Cubs’ Fowler and the Rockies’ CarGo in the outfield. Harper remains from my initial ballot. His .260 average isn’t great, but he’s making up for it with 11 home runs, 30 RBI and 7 steals. At .303/15/36, Cespedes is showing the performance he had in the second half of 2015 was not a fluke. And Ozuna is having a good year, hitting .311 with 8 home runs.

My National League all-star ballow

My second ballot for the National League all-star team

Starting pitchers are not on the ballot and are chosen by the all-star managers, but I’m sticking with a pair of Chicago aces to start the All-Star Game, Chris Sale of the White Sox in the AL and the Cubs’ Jake Arrieta in the NL.

Stay tuned for more ballot updates as the season progresses.

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