Two weeks ago in this space we discussed how Adrian Beltre’s fantasy owners might not have a choice but to just sit tight with him and hope his left thumb gets better. Well, it appears that might be happening.
Beltre became the third player in the modern era and first since 1933 to record his third career cycle when he accomplished the feat in Monday’s victory over the Astros. The third baseman needed just five innings and four at-bats to do it, as he tripled in two runs in the first inning, doubled in the second, singled in the third and then finished things off with a solo homer in the fifth.
It’s an extremely small sample size, yes, but Beltre now has notched multiple hits in four out of his last six games and is batting an even .500 with a pair of longballs over that stretch. That’s after he went deep just once over his previous 35 contests.
Whether it’s the thumb feeling better or Beltre just learning how to play with it, things are trending in the right direction.
“I’m progressing,” Beltre said. “I’m searching for things, but the last two weeks it’s been working. Hopefully what I’ve done will keep me more consistent for the last two months of the season.”
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Double Debut Day
One of the fun parts about the stretch run of the baseball season is that out-of-contention teams want to get a look at their youngsters. On Tuesday, we get to see a couple top-50 prospects make their major league debuts.
The No. 3 overall pick in the 2013 Draft, Jon Gray will be summoned by the Rockies on Tuesday to take on the Mariners. The 23-year-old has posted mixed results in the minors, striking out 274 over 276 innings but also posting a 3.82 ERA. Gray’s ERA has gone up as he’s climbed the organizational ladder, as he held a 1.93 ERA in the lower minors, a 3.91 ERA at Double-A in 2014 and a 4.33 mark this season at Triple-A.
However, a couple things needs to be noted about his underwhelming 4.33 ERA this season. One is that Gray pitches in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League and at a launching pad at Triple-A Albuquerque. Another is that an awful April has clouded what has actually been a nice season for Gray. After putting up a 10.70 ERA in April, the righty holds a 3.17 mark since. In July, he posted a 2.70 ERA while striking out 43 over 30 innings. Fantasy owners would be wise not to expect more than a nice strikeout total from Gray in his first go-round in the league, but he remains an intriguing long-term arm even as he calls Coors Field his home.
Also making his first major league start Tuesday will be Red Sox hurler Henry Owens. You’ll find Gray and Owens ranked similarly on prospect lists, but they’re quite different as pitchers. The right-handed Gray will touch the upper-90s with his fastball, while the left-handed Owens sits more around 90 mph. The pedestrian velocity hasn’t kept Owens from racking up nice strikeout totals, though, as he’s whiffed 572 over 518 innings on the farm.
Owens has taken a step back this season, though, which is why Eduardo Rodriguez and arguably Brian Johnson have surpassed him among Boston pitching prospects. While the southpaw’s 3.16 ERA this season at Triple-A Pawtucket is nice, he’s seen his strikeout rate go down and walk rate go up with an unimpressive 103/56 K/BB ratio over 122 1/3 frames.
The good news with Owens is, like Gray, he’s gotten better as the season progressed. July was the lefty’s best month, as he held a 2.84 ERA and 34/8 K/BB ratio across 31 2/3 innings. The 23-year-old doesn’t throw enough strikes at this stage of his career, and that’s going to come back and bite him against big league offenses. He’s probably best off left on the waiver wire in most standard redrafts.
Sore Shoulder Sends Kipnis to DL
Jason Kipnis’ right shoulder has bothered him off and on during the 2015 campaign. On Monday, the ailment finally sent him to the disabled list.
"It's something that's lingered for a little while," Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said. "We just thought it made sense at this point to place him on the DL and give him the time he needs to get back at full strength. We're hopeful that he won't be out too long and he'll come back quickly and at full strength."
Kipnis did what he could to stay in the lineup, serving as the Tribe’s designated hitter for a couple games over the weekend. Ultimately, though, the club felt it was best to give the injury the necessary time to heal.
The good news with the All-Star second baseman is that an MRI ruled out any structural damage. He’ll be given a cortisone injection and it’s possible Kipnis will be ready to roll when his two weeks are up. Mike Aviles and Jose Ramirez will handle second base while Kipnis is on the shelf.
National League Quick Hits: Joe Panik was placed on the DL Monday and will undergo tests Tuesday on his ailing back ... Freddie Freeman strained his oblique in Monday’s win over the Giants ... A.J. Burnett is expected to be sidelined for four weeks after being diagnosed with a right flexor strain ... Brandon Crawford hit two home runs, but the Giants fell to the Braves Monday in extra innings ... Yangervis Solarte hit two home runs and drove in four runs in Monday’s win over the Brewers ... Justin Upton left Monday's game against the Brewers with a bruised right thumb but is considered day-to-day ... Carter Capps went on the DL with an elbow injury, but an MRI came back clean ... Andrelton Simmons is also day-to-day with a bruised thumb of his own ... Steven Matz (lat) threw on flat ground Monday ... A.J. Pierzynski went 4-for-6 with a game-tying two-run home run in the ninth inning Monday, while Adonis Garcia won the game over the Giants with a walk-off blast in the 12th ... Bartolo Colon continued his see-saw of a season with eight innings of one-run ball in a win over the Marlins ... Michael Conforto's first major league home run was a three-run shot versus the Marlins Monday, while Yoenis Cespedes doubled three times and drove in four runs in the same contest ... Zack Godley tossed six scoreless innings to beat the Nationals on Monday ... Nick Ahmed went 4-for-4 with a solo home run Monday ... Angel Pagan was scratched from Monday's lineup due to soreness in both knees ...
American League Quick Hits: The Astros will option Lance McCullers to the minors after he lasted just one-third of an innings in Monday's loss to the Rangers ... David Price struck out 11 while firing eight innings of one-run ball Monday in his Blue Jays’ debut ... Josh Donaldson went 2-for-4 with a home run Monday in the Blue Jays' victory over the Twins ... Garrett Richards struck out a season-high 11 batters over 7 1/3 innings in Monday’s victory over the Indians ... Caleb Joseph hit an RBI double and a two-run home run in four at-bats Monday versus the Athletics ... Kyle Seager went 3-for-4 with a double, a walk, a solo home run and three runs scored and Nelson Cruz went 3-for-4 with a walk and a solo home run on Monday as the Mariners beat the Rockies ... Jose Abreu went 2-for-3 with a double, a walk, and a two-run home run in Monday's loss to the Rays ... Jason Castro went 2-for-4 with a double and a grand slam in Monday's loss to the Rangers ... Chris Tillman (ankle) threw on flat ground from 90 feet Monday and is hoping to throw a bullpen session Wednesday ... Coco Crisp had two hits and scored a run in his first game back from the DL Monday ... The A’s claimed Danny Valencia off waivers from the Blue Jays ...