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Baseball Daily Dose

Soria Soaring In Closer's Role

by Bill Baer
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

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Joakim Soria nailed down the Tigers’ 1-0 win against the Pirates on Wednesday with a 1-2-3 ninth inning. He’s 4-for-4 in save chances thus far after being thrust into the closer’s role following Joe Nathan’s elbow injury, which put him on the disabled list on April 7. Soria hasn’t been perfect, allowing a run in a non-save situation last Saturday against the Indians, but has four strikeouts and no walks in 4 2/3 innings to start the season.

 

Nathan played catch on Wednesday, the first throwing of any kind he had done since being diagnosed with a flexor strain in his right elbow. That reportedly puts him ahead of schedule. He’ll throw off a mound next and the Tigers will decide if he’s ready for a rehab start. Nathan is eligible to come off of the disabled list on April 22.

 

Mlive.com’s Chris Iott reports that manager Brad Ausmus plans to put Nathan back in the closer’s role, which would bump Soria back to the set-up role. “That’s the plan,” Ausmus said. He continued, adding, “We’ll see what happens, but that’s the plan. The most important thing is to get him back. Our bullpen is stronger with Joe in it.”

 

Soria has at least a week to continue to make a case for himself in the ninth inning. As Iott suggests, Ausmus could also ease Nathan back into the closer’s role, which could add another week or two to Soria’s “audition”. Savvy fantasy owners who drafted Soria late – or were fortunate enough to pick him up from the scrap heap – are not the only ones hoping Soria gets to keep the job. Tigers fans hope so too, as Nathan struggled immensely as the team’s closer last year, finishing with a 4.81 ERA and seven blown saves in 42 chances last season. The right-hander, now 40 years old, saw his velocity drop to below 92 MPH for the first time in 14 seasons. His strikeout rate fell by more than eight percent from 2013 to ’14 and his walk rate increased by a couple of percentage points as well. All the signs point to a decline.

 

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Cruz on Cruise Control

 

Nelson Cruz homered again on Wednesday night against the Dodgers, giving him six on the season. Cruz has homered in five consecutive games, including a two-homer performance on Monday.

 

Cruz’s hot start isn’t surprising, of course, as the slugger led the majors in home runs last season with 40 and had hit 27 per season on average between 2009 and ‘13. The Mariners signed Cruz to a four-year, $57 million deal in December knowing his power would be reliable despite his injury history (mostly relating to his hamstring and quad on his left side) and his past involvement with Biogenesis.

 

Cruz’s performance arguably even surpasses that of Adrian Gonzalez – the subject of the Daily Dose I wrote last week – who started off the season with five home runs in his first three games. Unlike Gonzalez, however, fantasy owners were a bit skeptical about Cruz, taking him 68th on average in Yahoo fantasy leagues, between outfielders Matt Holliday and Jason Heyward. Cruz is starting to show that fantasy players may have been too conservative in passing on him earlier in drafts. Needless to say, however, that Cruz won’t stay on his current pace of 108 home runs over an entire season.

 

 

Yasmany Tomas Called Up

 

The Diamondbacks continued to befuddle everyone following baseball by promoting $68.5 million Cuban prospect Yasmany Tomas from Triple-A to the majors. Why, you ask? To serve as a bench bat, as MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert reported.

Tomas struggled in spring training, particularly defensively at third base, which prompted the Diamondbacks to consider using him partially at third base and partially in the outfield. In Cactus League play, Tomas hit .257 with two home runs in 70 at-bats. Ultimately, the D-Backs decided, it would be best for him to get regular at-bats with Triple-A Reno than to give new manager Chip Hale an even tougher time trying to assign playing time with a crowded infield and outfield, which likely would have led to irregular playing time for Tomas.

In 23 plate appearances with Reno, Tomas hit .190 with one home run. He played right field exclusively, seeming to indicate that the D-Backs had moved on from the idea of using him at third base. What benefit Tomas could get from getting one pinch-hit appearance per night remains an unanswered question, but one that will presumably be answered in the coming weeks.

 

 

Mets Move Wright to the D.L.

 

Mets third baseman David Wright suffered a pulled right hamstring on Tuesday against the Phillies. He underwent an MRI on Wednesday and was subsequently placed on the 15-day disabled list. The Mets described the diagnosis as a "mild" strain, which is some good news at least. Wright was hitting .333 with 10 singles, a home run and four RBI in 33 at-bats prior to his departure.

 

To take Wright's spot on the roster, the Mets recalled Eric Campbell from Triple-A Las Vegas. Campbell hit .263/.322/.358 with three home runs and 16 RBI in 211 plate appearances as a rookie last season. He was off to a terrific start with Las Vegas, notching 11 hits -- including two doubles, a triple and a home run -- in 20 at-bats. Campbell should see playing time at third base, though the Mets could also try moving David Murphy over to the hot corner and putting Ruben Tejada at second base.

 

The Mets have certainly made some strides in other areas, but their infield without Wright is ugly. Neither Tejada nor shortstop Wilmer Flores offer much offensively up the middle and Campbell should be expected to put up below-average numbers in Wright's place. Duda has hit well to start the season, batting .353 with four doubles and a home run, but Murphy is only hitting .138 after an 0-for-4 night on Wednesday.

 

 

National League Quick Hits: The Braves released outfielder Carlos Quentin, acquired from the Padres in the Craig Kimbrel trade, on Wednesday … Lucas Duda hit his first home run of the season Wednesday against the Phillies and is now batting .353 … Cody Asche went 3-for-3 against the Mets on Wednesday, bringing his average up to .500 but 11 of his 12 hits are singles … Marlins shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria celebrated his 26th birthday on Wednesday by going 3-for-3 with a home run and three RBI versus the Braves … Denard Span (abdomen) could be activated from the disabled list after a rehab game at Low-A Hagerstown on Thursday … Brandon Phillips singled twice again on Wednesday against the Cubs, giving him nine hits in his last 17 at-bats … Cubs reliever Neil Ramirez left Wednesday’s game against the Reds with discomfort in his right shoulder … Cardinals lefty Jaime Garcia (shoulder) could throw live batting practice on Friday … Pirates closer Mark Melancon’s velocity is averaging below 89 MPH, down from 92 MPH last season, something manager Clint Hurdle said he will keep an eye on … Carlos Gomez left Wednesday’s game against the Cardinals with a right hamstring injury suffered when he beat out a double play in the ninth inning … Rockies manager told Adam Ottavino before Tuesday’s appearance that he would be the team’s closer going forward … Kenley Jansen (foot) will throw off of a mound on Saturday … Ian Kennedy threw a bullpen session on Wednesday and will likely head out on a rehab assignment, likely indicating he won’t miss much more than the minimum amount of time on the disabled list … Diamondbacks outfield prospect Todd Glaesmann hit for the cycle on Tuesday versus Advanced-A San Jose … Casey McGehee (knee) was available to pinch hit Wednesday night against the Rockies.

 

 

American League Quick Hits: Hanley Ramirez hit his fourth home run of the season in Wednesday’s loss to the Nationals … Rays lefty Drew Smyly (shoulder) is on track to make his season debut on April 29 in New York against the Yankees … Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy (shoulder) took a full round of batting practice on Wednesday … Blue Jays rookie Devon Travis hit his second home run of the season on Wednesday versus the Rays … Alex Rodriguez hit his 656th career home run in Wednesday’s loss to the Orioles, leaving him four shy of tying Willie Mays in fourth place on the all-time leaderboard … The Royals called up outfielder Terrance Gore from Double-A Northwest Arkansas to take the place of the injured Alex Rios (hand) … Tigers right-hander Alfredo Simon dominated the Pirates with eight shutout innings on Wednesday. … White Sox manager Robin Ventura said he hasn’t ruled out using first baseman Jose Abreu at third base during interleague games on the road … Trevor Bauer struck out eight batters to help the Indians beat the White Sox on Wednesday … Twins starter Ricky Nolasco played long toss without issue on Wednesday … Jarrod Parker (elbow) will throw 45 pitches in an extended spring training game on Saturday … Rangers starter Lisalverto Bonilla had Tommy John surgery on his right elbow on Wednesday … Collin McHugh struck out 11 batters as the Astros beat the Angels on Wednesday … Garrett Richards (knee) will make his season debut on Sunday against the Astros … Felix Hernandez (quad) will make his start on Saturday against the Rangers as scheduled.

Bill Baer
Bill Baer writes for HardballTalk and Rotoworld and covers the Phillies at his site Crashburn Alley. You can follow him on Twitter @Baer_Bill.