On the same day that we learned the Astros asked for Dylan Bundy or Kevin Gausman in exchange for Bud Norris at last year's trade deadline, it was another once-highly regarded Orioles pitching prospect who stole the show.
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Jake Arrieta, who was traded by the Orioles along with Pedro Strop in exchange for Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger at last year's deadline, took a no-hit bid into the eighth inning and exited after 7 2/3 scoreless innings in the Cubs' 2-0 win over the Red Sox on Monday. Arrieta struck out 10 in the outing. His 120th pitch, which Stephen Drew stroked for a two-out single in the eighth inning, was his last pitch of the evening.
Monday's start got the most attention for its potentially historic implications, but it was just the latest in what's been a tremendous rebound season for the 28-year-old. Arrieta didn't make his season debut until May 3 due to shoulder inflammation, but through 11 starts the right-hander is 5-1 with a 1.81 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and 74/16 K/BB ratio in 64 2/3 innings of work. And he's been especially effective in his last five starts -- since June 8, Arrieta has allowed only three earned runs while striking out 46 batters over 34 2/3 innings. In short, he's been one of the best pitchers in baseball in the month of June.
His success doesn't come without a pedigree, either. Despite never posting an ERA below 4.66 and being sold off for spare parts at the deadline, Arrieta was once a top prospect in the Orioles system. Arrieta was rated as the No. 52 prospect in baseball by Baseball Prospectus prior to the 2009 season; that same year, Baseball America rated him as the No. 67 prospect in the league. He appeared on both lists, albeit at a lower ranking, the following year as well.
The biggest key to his success this season has been a pitch that's somewhere between a slider and a cutter. Arrieta throws the pitch at 89 mph, per Fangraphs' PITCHf/x, and this year his slider ranks as the seventh-most effective slider in terms of runs above average among pitchers with at least 50 innings pitched.
Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio said Arrieta has come into his own this year.
"He's found his routine, he trusts his stuff, he's matured as a pitcher," Bosio said. "He's had opportunity. Coming into Spring Training, he had some physical issues going on with his arm, and we backed him off and started over again. He's an intelligent pitcher with great stuff, works his [butt] off.
"He's very deserving of how he's been pitching."
Injuries will continue to be a concern until he can consistently prove he's healthy, but while he's pitching like this Arrieta needs to be owned in any mixed leagues where he's still available.
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Gattis Hits Shelf With Bulging Disk
Evan Gattis finally succumbed to his back injury Monday.
The more appropriate term may be that the Braves succumbed to Gattis' back injury, as the team placed the catcher on the 15-day disabled list with a bulging thoracic disk in his back. The move came after Gattis missed the past four games with back troubles.
He'll receive an epidural in the back on Tuesday to try to aid in the healing process, and doctors have told him there's only a slim chance that the ailment won't resolve itself in time.
Gattis said he doesn't think the injury will be "too long term," but as of now there's no timetable for his return.
"I'm getting the epidural and after that, I'm not sure," Gattis said. "I know I'm not doing too much activity for the next three to five days for sure and then after that, I guess we'll just play it by ear, but I don't really know yet."
Gerald Laird and Christian Bethancourt will hold down the fort until Gattis returns, and neither is worth a look outside of NL-only leagues.
CarGo (Finger) Hits Off Tee
Tentacle-free, Carlos Gonzalez moved one step closer to a return to the baseball field on Monday.
Gonzalez hit off a tee Monday, the first time he's hit since having a benign tumor -- better known as a "fatty mass with tentacles" -- removed from his left index finger on June 10. The tumor made life so miserable for Gonzalez that at times he couldn't fit his batting glove on over his swollen finger.
Rockies head athletic trainer Keith Dugger said that CarGo's recovery will speed up with Monday's developments.
“Now that he can swing a bat, his rehab will go rather quickly," Dugger said.
What that means, exactly, is still unclear. When Gonzalez had the surgery he was given a five-week recovery period. With three weeks in the books, he may be slightly ahead of schedule, but he's still got some hurdles to clear before he's activated. Somewhere around the All-Star break or slightly before still seems like a safe projection for the 28-year-old.
National League Quick Hits: David Wright won't play until Friday at the earliest, but the Mets continue to say he won't require a trip to the disabled list. He'll rest and receive treatment on his bruised right rotator cuff until then ... Hanley Ramirez is not expected to need a stint on the disabled list, per Dodgers manager Don Mattingly, despite a calf injury that's kept him out of the past two games. The Dodgers are still calling the shortstop day-to-day ... Andrew Cashner (shoulder) may be cleared to resume playing catch on Tuesday. Cashner had a session of catch canceled last week, but the team was just being cautious with their young ace. Cashner still has a shot to return before the All-Star break ... The Yankees have been scouting Chase Headley "regularly" in recent weeks, according to FOX Sports' Jon Morosi and Ken Rosenthal. Headley is batting a lowly .204/.293/.327 this year, and it will be interesting to see what he might fetch in a trade prior to being a free agent this winter ... Not to be outdone by Arrieta, Dan Haren also limited his opponent, the Indians, to one hit over seven shutout innings. Haren fanned five for his eighth win of the year.
American League Quick Hits: Yoenis Cespedes, amidst a rebound 2014 campaign, left Monday's game with a left hamstring injury. The Athletics suspect it's merely a cramp, and assuming he's given a day off Tuesday there's hope Cespedes could be back in the lineup by Wednesday's game ... Victor Martinez was scratched from the lineup Monday with soreness in his side/rib cage. Getting a start as a result of the lineup reshuffling, Rajai Davis hit a walk-off grand slam in Monday's win ... After a few false starts, Tyler Skaggs will officially rejoin the Angels' rotation on Wednesday. Skaggs had a 4.34 ERA and 1.24 WHIP in 76 2/3 innings before injuring his right hamstring, and it will be worth watching whether he can regain the form that made him relatively successful through the season's first month ... The Astros designated Jerome Williams for assignment. The right-hander had a 6.04 ERA this season for the club before the move ... In a separate move, the Astros optioned speedy-but-struggling Jonathan Villar to Triple-A Oklahoma City. Villar is hitting just .200/.255/.342 for the year, and Marwin Gonzalez should see the lion's share of playing time at shortstop with Villar out of the picture for now. To celebrate his promotion to the starting lineup, Gonzalez homered in Monday's game.