Aaron Gleeman

Baseball Daily Dose

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K-Ankle

Tuesday, April 08, 2008


Francisco Rodriguez's ongoing ankle problems may have finally boiled over Monday night, as he blew a save against the Indians and then exited the game. Last week Rodriguez admitted that he's been pitching through an injured left ankle since late last season and has had to alter his delivery. That mechanical adjustment seemingly helps explain the drop in velocity that he's experienced this year, as Rodriguez has lost about two miles per hour on his average fastball.

To make matters worse, manager Mike Scioscia revealed Sunday that Rodriguez now also has soreness in his right ankle, saying that "he tweaked it a couple days ago" and the Angels planned to "look at it closely." Despite the bad wheels and decreased velocity Rodriguez began the season with three scoreless innings, but he struggled to throw strikes even while converting three straight saves and it finally caught up to him Monday.

As of this writing there's no word on whether the Angels may place Rodriguez on the disabled list, but either way his situation is obviously concerning. Normally the team might be inclined to give him some time off and hand ninth-inning duties over to long-time setup man Scot Shields, but he just came off the DL himself after dealing with a forearm injury and was a mess down the stretch last season. In fact, if Rodriguez is sidelined, Justin Speier could get the nod as the fill-in closer.

While Torii Hunter temporarily takes the heat off Rodriguez with a walk-off grand slam, here are some other notes from around baseball …

* Joe Torre received praise last week in this space for smartly choosing Andre Ethier to start over Juan Pierre in the Dodgers' outfield, but apparently that was speaking too soon. Ethier has indeed been playing regularly, but Torre has still managed to get Pierre into the lineup by inexplicably benching the team's best outfielder, Matt Kemp. Kemp batted .342 with an .894 OPS in 98 games with the Dodgers last season, which was extremely impressive for a 22-year-old.

It never even crossed my mind that Kemp might be benched for Pierre, because that seemed so obviously misguided, yet that's exactly what's happened. Pierre started over Kemp for a third straight game Monday and has forced him to the bench four times in seven games this season. Kemp will likely play Tuesday against left-hander Doug Davis and Pierre's 1-for-15 (.067) start may help Torre come to his senses, but his decision-making is in serious question.

* Derek Jeter left Monday's game after two innings because of a strained left quadriceps, but the early word from the Yankees is that the injury isn't expected to require a stint on the disabled list. However, Jeter has already been scratched from Tuesday's game and the Yankees will likely show their hand regarding how long they expect him to be sidelined depending on whether or not they call up shortstop prospect Alberto Gonzalez from Triple-A.

If Jeter looks likely to be back within a few days, the Yankees could simply turn to Wilson Betemit to replace him at shortstop. Betemit started at first base Monday, but moved to shortstop once Jeter exited. He's stretched at the position defensively, but the Yankees don't currently have a true backup middle infielder on the roster and his bat is an asset compared to Gonzalez, who hit just .266 with a .698 OPS in 134 games between Double-A and Triple-A last season.

* A strained left calf sent Jack Wilson to the 15-day disabled list Sunday for the first time in his eight-year career and the Pirates called up Brian Bixler from Triple-A to take his place on the roster. Despite manager John Russell saying that "we're not bringing him up to sit him" Luis Rivas started at shortstop Monday, but Bixler figures to get most of the playing time there for at least the next two weeks.

Bixler is a decent enough all-around prospect and at 25 years old he's probably as close to being MLB-ready as he's going to get, but other than some speed he's not much of a fantasy option. Bixler hit .274 with a nice .368 on-base percentage in 129 games at Triple-A last season, but managed just five homers and slugged .396 while striking out 131 times. He did swipe 28 bases at an 88-percen clip and has averaged 27 steals per 600 plate appearances during his career.

* Tom Gorzelanny turned in the worst start of his young career Monday, as the Cubs got to him for seven runs in 2.1 innings. Gorzelanny had a solid first start this season, but his ugly second outing is especially concerning given that he struggled down the stretch last year while dealing with shoulder problems. Dating back to last August, Gorzelanny has a 6.33 ERA, 40-to-31 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and 1.94 WHIP in his last 59.2 innings spread over 11 starts.

AL Quick Hits: Victor Martinez (hamstring) started at catcher Monday for the first time since Opening Day … Manager Mike Scioscia said Sunday that Kelvim Escobar (shoulder) is still several weeks from throwing again and no timetable has been established for his return … After batting cleanup in every game last season despite hitting just .205 with a .694 OPS, Richie Sexson was dropped to sixth in the Mariners' lineup Monday … Howie Kendrick left Monday's game with a thumb injury and Erick Aybar replaced him at second base … Rich Harden was scratched from his scheduled start Tuesday, but it's not much of a concern given that he's now slated to start Saturday … After Ivan Rodriguez was removed for a pinch-hitter Sunday, Brandon Inge saw his first action behind the plate since 2004 … Mike Mussina held the Rays to one run over six innings Monday, giving up just a solo homer to Jonny Gomes, but faces the Red Sox in his next outing … Facing his former team Monday, George Sherrill tossed a perfect ninth inning against the Mariners to close out a one-run lead for his MLB-leading fourth save.

NL Quick Hits: Lance Berkman returned to the lineup Monday after missing two games with back spasms and smacked a solo homer … Tim Redding was knocked around Monday, but his ERA rose to just 0.82 thanks to six unearned runs … Cristian Guzman made the error behind Redding's unearned runs, but also went 3-for-4 with two triples and three RBIs … With the Cubs wanting to avoid using Kerry Wood on three straight days, Carlos Marmol pitched Monday for the fifth time in seven games and tossed a scoreless 12th inning to notch his first save … Chris Duncan (hamstring) returned to the lineup Monday after missing five straight starts … Greg Maddux became the latest pitcher to breeze through the Giants' lineup, tossing seven innings of one-run ball Monday … After blowing a save Monday by coughing up three runs, Jose Valverde has been scored on in each of his three outings this season … Bronson Arroyo served up a career-high four homers Monday against the Phillies … Todd Wellemeyer continues to impress as a starter, striking out seven while allowing two runs over seven innings Monday.


Aaron Gleeman is Rotoworld's senior baseball editor and contributes to NBCSports.com's Hardball Talk blog. Also find him at AaronGleeman.com and on Twitter.
Email :Aaron Gleeman



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