Closers are often called on to escape dicey situations, but Trevor Rosenthal created his own danger in Sunday's win over the Padres.
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Called on to protect a three-run lead against a largely punchless Padres offense, Rosenthal instead walked three of the four batters he faced -- and his strikeout of Rymer Liriano was somewhat generous as well -- before being removed from the game. His replacement, Seth Maness, allowed two of the inherited runners to score before slamming the door in the Cardinals' 7-6 victory.
After the game, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny preempted any questions about Rosenthal's role going forward.
"That's not happening," Matheny said. "He's our closer."
Matheny's unwavering faith in his closer is to be expected, but Sunday's outing was just the latest example in what's been a troubling trend for Rosenthal. Despite racking up 73 strikeouts, Rosenthal has walked 33 batters in 56 1/3 innings this season and owns a 1.44 WHIP on the year. Rarely has he had a clean or convincing outing, especially of late. Since a strong month of June in which he allowed just one run over 12 innings of work, Rosenthal has allowed at least one baserunner in 16 of his 20 appearances.
Despite his struggles, Rosenthal said he's not pitching through any sort of injury or ailment.
"Physically, everything feels real good," Rosenthal said. "Obviously, something is not clicking right, and I need to make an adjustment. I don't think it's anything major. I think just a little bit of an adjustment to get back in the zone and start getting ahead of hitters."
Compounding matters is the career resurgence of Pat Neshek. The 33-year-old has been the anti-Rosenthal this season, owning a 0.86 ERA, 0.57 WHIP and 57/6 K/BB ratio over 52 1/3 innings. Neshek was called on to earn the save in Friday's win, his fourth save of the season.
Matheny has leaned on Rosenthal to a fault over the past two seasons, so his resolution to stick with the 24-year-old likely isn't manager speak. Still, Rosenthal owners should invest in Neshek as insurance should his struggles continue while hoping the hard-throwing righty figures it out soon.
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Bucs 'Optimistic' On McCutchen
The Pirates were initially optimistic Andrew McCutchen would be able to avoid a trip to the disabled list, and even though he went on the DL eventually it appears that optimism was warranted.
McCutchen continues to show improvement from the rib fracture that forced him to the disabled list on August 11, taking batting practice and running the bases over the weekend. While a return from the DL on Tuesday when first eligible -- because he was held out of action while the Pirates evaluated his situation, the DL move was retroactive to August 4 -- appears out of the question, it shouldn't be too much longer if he continues to make strides.
“He's looking good,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “He wants to add some velocity and spin -- breaking balls, hard sliders -- off the (pitching) machine. We're very optimistic.”
It will be a welcome return for the Pirates, who have struggled to tread water in his absence. Since he hit the shelf on August 4, the Bucs are 5-8 and have lost five straight games. After Sunday's games, the team is 1.5 games out of the second Wild Card spot in the National League.
A-Rod Eyeing 2015 Return
Another guy eyeing a return, albeit in 2015, is Alex Rodriguez.
The maligned third baseman has been seen getting himself ready for next season in recent weeks, working out at the University of Miami and UCLA in California. Rodriguez has been seen hitting off a tee, taking ground balls and working out in the weight rooms of the universities' facilities. According to the report, A-Rod isn't yet facing live pitching in his program.
While he has become more spectacle than ballplayer in recent years, Rodriguez is still under contract for the next three years at $61 million, so if he's relatively healthy and ready to play it's likely that he'll be a Yankee in some fashion next season. Chase Headley was acquired earlier this season as a rental at the hot corner, but he'll be a free agent after the season and will likely ask more than the Yankees are comfortable paying for yet another corner infielder. Martin Prado, who lists third base among the positions he's played at the major league level, will be under contract, but he's also capable of playing a corner outfield spot.
Carlos Beltran's limited mobility may force Rodriguez to be the Yankees' starting third baseman on Opening Day. After his PED suspension and a year and a half away from live action it's questionable what the 39-year-old can provide, but it appears we haven't seen the last of A-Rod.
National League Quick Hits: Michael Cuddyer celebrated his activation from the disabled list by hitting for the cycle in Sunday's nightcap. Cuddyer finished the day 5-for-10 with a home run, three RBI and four runs scored in his first games since June 5 ... Charlie Morton hit the disabled list Sunday with right hip inflammation. The move came just two days after Morton gave up five runs over three innings in a loss to the Nationals ... It was a battle of blown saves in Washington, D.C., where Rafael Soriano allowed three runs in the top half of the ninth inning before Mark Melancon gave one back in the bottom half. The blown saves were the closers' sixth and fifth, respectively ... A day after seeing his hitting streak end, Starlin Castro started a new one in style. The shortstop hit a solo home run off Mets closer Jenrry Mejia in the ninth inning, leading the Cubs to a 2-1 victory ... Giancarlo Stanton hit his major league-leading 32nd home run in a win over the Diamondbacks. He needs five more to tie his career high, a mark he set in 2012 ... Making a spot start Saturday, newest Cubs starter Dan Straily allowed seven runs over 5 1/3 innings in a loss to the Mets. The right-hander was promptly returned to the minors on Sunday.
American League Quick Hits: Joe Mauer has hit the ground running since being activated from the disabled list. In six games, Mauer is 7-for-21 with two doubles, two homers, three RBI and three runs scored after homering and scoring twice in Sunday's game against the Royals ... Avisail Garcia, whose season was written off after suffering a torn labrum in his left shoulder in April, returned to action Saturday. Garcia went 3-for-7 with a double, an RBI and two runs scored in his first two games back ... Huston Street had been automatic since joining the Angels, but he went down in flames Sunday. The right-hander failed to record an out, surrendering four straight hits in the 3-2 loss to the Rangers ... The Yankees activated Brian McCann from the seven-day concussion disabled list on Sunday. He went 0-for-4 in his return to the lineup ... Kennys Vargas tried valiantly but could save the Twins from defeat Sunday. The first baseman went 3-for-4 with a home run and three RBI in the loss, and he's hitting .317/.364/.500 with three homers and 15 RBI since being promoted in early August ... It was a grand day for a couple American League hitters, as both Conor Gillaspie and Jose Altuve hit grand slams in their teams' wins. Gillaspie's slam helped the White Sox best the Blue Jays, while Altuve's blast powered the Astros past the Red Sox.