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Two possible playoff contenders have lost their starting shortstops and leadoff hitters to hamstring injuries.
Trea Turner suffered a strained right hamstring while stealing a base on Saturday. While the Nationals initially held off placing him on the 10-day disabled list, they decided Monday it would be best to go ahead and make the move.
"Speed is a major part of his game," manager Dusty Baker said. "If we didn't nip it in the bud now, it might be bothering him all year long. You don't want this thing to re-occur, it's early in the season."
The Nats have indicated that Turner probably wouldn’t have gone on the DL if it was still the 15-day DL, so there would seem to be a good chance that he’ll be ready for activation when first eligible on April 19. Stephen Drew will handle the shortstop duties for Washington for the next week-plus and is worth a look for a middle infield spot if you’re digging deep. Drew went 3-for-4 with four RBI on Monday against the Cardinals.
Jean Segura missed out on much of the Mariners’ 6-0 win over the Astros on Monday because he exited after the third inning with a right hamstring strain. The good news, at least for the time being, is that the club believes it’s a “very mild” strain.
"We'll have a better idea tomorrow when he comes in, but it's very mild," manager Scott Servais said after the game. "Fingers crossed that he'll be OK either tomorrow or the next day."
Segura will be re-evaluated on Tuesday, so while the Mariners are optimistic it isn’t a disabled list-type injury, a lot will depend on how the infielder feels when he reports to the park. We need to look no further than the Nationals with Turner to see a club initially optimistic about a hamstring injury before reality sets in.
At the very least, Segura would figure to sit out a couple games. That likely would mean Taylor Motter at shortstop, with Seattle calling up someone to fill Motter’s utility role.
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Phillies Turn to Benoit
It was a bit of a surprise when Phillies manager Pete Mackanin handed the closer job to Jeanmar Gomez before spring training games even started given his struggles late in 2016. It’s not really a surprise that he’s taking the job away from him a week into the season.
Gomez gave up a home run while recording a shaky save on Opening Day, and on Sunday he served up a game-tying, three-run bomb to the Nationals’ Ryan Zimmerman to blow a save. That was evidently the final straw, as Mackanin booted Gomez from the closer role and inserted Hect… errr… Joaquin Benoit.
Why not Hector Neris?
"I don't want to put any pressure on Neris at this point in time," Mackanin said. "Most likely, in his career, that time will come [to close]."
Neris is undeniably the best reliever the Phillies have, but Philadelphia has financial incentives to keep him in a setup role as long as possible, as him racking up saves would push up his arbitration cost. A strong first half from Benoit could also make him an enticing trade piece, something that wasn’t lost on Mackanin.
"Without a doubt," said Mackanin. "He's healthy. You can't even tell how old he is by the way he pitches. This could be a blessing in disguise for us, depending on how it all works its way out."
Benoit will turn 40 just before the trade deadline, but he’s remained very effective. The veteran reliever got off to a slow start in Seattle last season but closed strong in Toronto, ending the year with a 2.81 ERA and 52 strikeouts over 48 innings. He’s struck out four across three scoreless frames to kick off 2017. Benoit is certainly good enough to keep the Phillies’ closer job, although it’s fair to worry about a midseason trade moving him into a setup role.
Cotton Not Soft on Royals
Jharel Cotton struggled in his season debut last week against the Angels. He did his best to make up for it in his second outing.
Cotton on Monday limited the Royals to just two singles and three walks while notching six strikeouts across seven shutout innings. The young right-hander’s plan of attack Monday was to mainly use his fastball early on before slowly working in his devastating changeup. Obviously, the gameplan worked.
“I saved my weapon for last, kept it in my pocket and when I really needed it, I used it,” Cotton said. “(Stephen) Vogt really called a good game, he put the right numbers down every single time.”
Acquired last August from the Dodgers in the Rich Hill/Josh Reddick deal, Cotton has made quite a favorable impression in his first seven starts in the big leagues. Over his first 40 2/3 innings, the right-hander has put up a 2.66 ERA, 0.96 WHIP and 33/9 K/BB ratio. He’ll try to keep it going this weekend against the Astros at O.co Coliseum.
Also noteworthy from the A’s/Royals game was Oakland’s continued musical chairs in the bullpen. After Santiago Casilla relieved Cotton in the eighth inning and struck out the side against the 8-9-1 hitters, it was Sean Doolittle who got the call in the ninth with two lefties due to. Doolittle allowed a hit and a walk but struck out the side himself to close out the 2-0 victory.
If you’re keeping track at home, the A’s have given save chances to Casilla, Doolittle and Ryan Dull so far, with Casilla and Doolittle converting their opportunities and Dull blowing his. We haven’t even discussed Ryan Madson, who most presumed was the favorite for saves and who has three scoreless appearances so far. Manager Bob Melvin has said the roles in his bullpen will be “fluid,” and that’s certainly been the case so far.
American League Quick Hits: Gary Sanchez has been diagnosed with a strain of his right brachialis, which is the muscle behind his right biceps. He’s expected to be sidelined for four weeks of action … James Paxton held the Astros scoreless over seven innings while striking out eight batters on Monday … Michael Pineda struck out 11 batters while tossing 7 2/3 frames of one-run ball against the Rays on Monday … Justin Verlander permitted just one unearned run over seven frames in Monday's victory over the Red Sox. He settled for a no-decision … Chris Sale struck out 10 batters but was saddled with a loss in allowing two runs over 7 2/3 innings versus the Tigers … David Price (elbow) threw approximately 25 pitches in a bullpen session Monday … Jackie Bradley will be placed on the 10-day disabled list on Tuesday with a right knee injury. His stay on the DL is expected to be a short one … Jordan Montgomery will make his major league debut on Wednesday versus the Rays … Chase Headley went 2-for-3 with a solo homer, a walk, and two runs scored Monday as the Yankees beat the Rays … Justin Upton was scratched from Monday's lineup against the Red Sox due to upper back tightness. He’s considered day-to-day … Sonny Gray (lat) will throw to hitters on Thursday … ESPN's Jerry Crasnick has reported that the Orioles are expected to re-sign Michael Bourn to a minor league contract … The Tigers called up top relief prospect Joe Jimenez on Monday, sending down Bruce Rondon …
National League Quick Hits: Wil Myers hit for the second cycle in Padres’ history in Monday’s win over the Rockies. He was 4-for-4 with two RBI and two runs scored in the contest … Buster Posey had to leave Monday’s game versus the Diamondbacks after being beaned by a Taijuan Walker fastball. Both Posey and Giants manager Bruce Bochy said after the game that the catcher was fine, but he’ll be re-evaluated on Tuesday … Jay Bruce launched a two-run homer and a solo blast on Monday against the Phillies … Matt Moore punched out five batters while spinning eight innings of one-run ball in Monday’s victory over the D’Backs … Bryce Harper finished 4-for-4 with two walks, two runs scored, and three RBI in Monday’s win over the Cardinals … DJ LeMahieu doubled and belted a solo home run in Monday’s loss to the Padres … Hunter Renfroe singled and ripped a two-run shot in Monday’s win over the Rockies … Eugenio Suarez homered and walked three times as the Reds beat the Pirates on Monday … Tyler Glasnow was yanked after giving up five runs and walking five in 1 2/3 innings against the Reds on Monday … David Wright (shoulder) resumed a throwing program last Friday … Franklin Gutierrez was lifted from Monday's game against the Cubs with a left hamstring injury … Zack Cozart was scratched from Monday's lineup with a sore wrist … Trevor Rosenthal was activated from the disabled list Monday and struck out the side against the Nationals in his season debut …