Nathan Grimm

Baseball Daily Dose

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Daily Dose: Cruz Control

Tuesday, July 08, 2014


Baltimore was the setting for The Wire, but the Orioles appear closer to True Detective these days.

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There's no Yellow King to be found here, but like the popular television show rumored to be fielding an entirely new cast for its second season the Orioles have been successful at finding new cast members to play out familiar storylines in recent years as well.

In 2013, it was Chris Davis. The first baseman with prodigious power had yet to put together a full season of production before embarking on a 53-homer, 138-RBI year last year. Davis' year was marked primarily by a first half in which he blasted 37 home runs, drove in 93 runs and batted a ridiculous .315/.392/.717.

After his torrid start, Davis cooled in the second half and has struggled to reproduce his success again this year. Enter Nelson Cruz. Cruz, who had to settle for a one-year, $8 million contract this past offseason for lack of suitors willing to give up a draft pick to sign him, has enjoyed a Davis-esque first half of 2014 en route to garnering a starting spot in the American League lineup for next week's All-Star Game.

And like Davis, Cruz hasn't let off the accelerator in the days leading up to the break. The 34-year-old went 3-for-5 with a two-run home run and two RBI in Monday's win over the Nationals, part of a three-game stretch in which he's 11-for-16 with two home runs, five RBI and five runs scored.

It all adds up for a line that reads like most players might hope for over the course of an entire season -- through 88 games, Cruz is batting .294/.359/.591 with 28 home runs and 73 RBI. With less than a week to go before the break, Cruz leads the AL in both home runs and RBI and is among the league leaders in runs scored, slugging percentage and OPS as well.

But if Cruz is simply playing a part, the season's second half could be where he deviates from the script. Unlike Davis, whose second half fall was predictable to an extent, Cruz' numbers don't scream for regression. His batted ball profile is similar to his career numbers. He's not doing anything he hasn't done before. Whereas Davis was the poker player who accumulates the chip lead on the first day of the World Series of Poker before ultimately going broke, Cruz may just be Phil Ivey.

If he could keep the production up for another three months, it would be a heck of a story -- the kind of thing you'd only see on television.

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Shuffling The Cards

The Cardinals' organizational pitching depth was lauded before the season began, and it's been put to the test in a big way in recent weeks.

The club demoted 2013 first-round pick Marco Gonzales on Monday after three subpar starts. The move came just two days after the team lost Jaime Garcia to yet another season-ending surgery.

It also came on the same day that the organization announced their young pitcher Michael Wacha is still not ready to resume throwing. The Cardinals said Monday that Wacha will continue to rest for two more weeks before again being re-evaluated.

"Obviously, the best news would have been that he had been cleared to throw," Mozeliak said. "He's not there yet, and I think, just taking a very proactive stance on this, this is best for him and his career. I'm sure he's frustrated and would like to be a little bit ahead of this, but I think this is just in the best interest of him. Hopefully, by the next time we do another MRI, he'll be clear."

One bit of good news on the horizon is the anticipated return of Joe Kelly. The right-hander hasn't pitched since April 16, but he's been making rehab starts at Triple-A Memphis and appears on track to start for the Cardinals on Friday. Kelly had a 0.59 ERA through three starts to begin the year before injuring his hamstring in a loss to the Brewers.

Arroyo Done For The Season

When the Diamondbacks signed Bronson Arroyo to a two-year contract in February, the team harped on his durability as one of the selling points for the deal.

It's no surprise, then, that Arroyo has dealt with serious injury problems for the first time in his career this year. The 37-year-old recently went on the disabled list for the first time, and it was announced Monday that he would need season-ending Tommy John surgery. As they say, you can't predict ball.

Despite his age and the fact that rehab from the elbow surgery takes roughly a full year, Arroyo isn't calling it quits in the face of the news. He said Monday that he intends to return from the injury to pitch in 2015, with a stated goal of pitching into his 40s.

Already without Patrick Corbin and Daniel Hudson, the Diamondbacks rotation gets even thinner with the loss of Arroyo. The team recently dealt Brandon McCarthy to the Yankees in the first of what could be many moves prior to the July 31 trade deadline, leaving them with a rotation of Wade Miley, Vidal Nuno, Josh Collmenter, Chase Anderson and Mike Bolsinger going forward. It may not be the Diamondbacks' year.

National League Quick Hits: On a better note for the Diamondbacks, manager Kirk Gibson said Monday that the team is hoping to have Mark Trumbo back after the All-Star break. Trumbo is currently on a rehab assignment and has three home runs in five games thus far ... Cliff Lee (elbow) is scheduled to make his next rehab start Wednesday with High-A Clearwater. Lee felt good after throwing two innings in a rain-shortened start on Sunday, and as long as he continues to progress he should be ready to go for the season's second half ... Matt Adams broke a scoreless tie in the bottom of the ninth with a two-run, walk-off homer against the Pirates. Adams has seven home runs since June 13 after hitting just three through the season's first two months ... The Pirates traded Chris Dickerson to the Indians in a minor deal. Dickerson will help offset the loss of Michael Bourn.

American League Quick Hits: Speaking of Bourn, it came out Monday that his injured left hamstring will likely force him to miss three-to-four weeks. It's not the first time the hamstring has given Bourn trouble ... Jered Weaver left Monday's start against the Blue Jays after two innings due to lower back tightness. The injury doesn't sound too serious, so he may still be on track to make his next start ... Michael Pineda (shoulder) will be ready to throw off a mound later this week. Pineda has been out since early May, with the Yanks hoping a mid-August return is feasible ... With his rotation spot secured for now, Jesse Chavez turned in a strong performance on Monday. The right-hander struck out nine over six shutout innings in a win over the Giants ... Hisashi Iwakuma dazzled against the Twins, tossing seven scoreless while striking out 10. He's 5-0 in five starts against the Twins in his career ... Manny Machado enjoyed a five-hit day in a win over the Nationals, launching his eighth home run in the process. Machado is 9-for-17 since returning from suspension and finally appears to be coming around after a rough start at the plate ... Dexter Fowler's intercostal strain is progressing to the point that he could be activated from the disabled list when first eligible. That day would be Saturday ... Ricky Nolasco will undergo an MRI on his right elbow after experiencing some soreness. Lingering discomfort would help to explain his dreadful 5.90 ERA and 1.62 WHIP this season.



Nathan Grimm is a baseball writer for Rotoworld. He can also be found on Twitter (@Nate_Grimm).
Email :Nathan Grimm



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