Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Dates to circle for 2014
By Buster Olney
The tentative schedule for 2014 was released Tuesday, and you can already look forward to some interesting dates for next year, beyond those first two games played in Australia between the Diamondbacks and Dodgers on March 22-23.
1. April 4: The Dodgers unveil their latest acquisition at home
OK, so we don’t know who exactly it will be. Maybe it’ll be a manager, if Don Mattingly isn’t retained. Maybe it’ll be a new infielder. But the Dodgers are like the Lakers now, in that they are always looking for new and better, and That Guy will play his first home game for the Dodgers on this date, against the Giants.
2. March 31: The Return of Matt Harvey?
That’s when the Mets are scheduled to play their season opener, and Harvey continues to say he’s optimistic he can avoid surgery. Another interesting thing? His opponent that day could be Stephen Strasburg, if he gets the Opening Day nod for the Nationals.
3. April 1: The Return of Ryan Braun
The Brewers will open their season at home against the Braves, and everybody will be watching and listening to see what the reaction will be to the All-Star left fielder, who will be playing his first game since serving a 65-game suspension this year. Rest assured: It will be mixed, with a lot of Brewers fans cheering him.
4. March 31: The meatgrinder begins for the Cardinals
There’s no sense in delaying the inevitable, and St. Louis is opening its season with three consecutive series against the Reds, Pirates and, again, the Reds.
5. July 15: The All-Star Game at Target Field
Joe Mauer will be like David Wright was in 2013 -- the unofficial host of the event, even if he isn’t picked for the team.
6. Two milestone days for Cabrera
In all likelihood, Miguel Cabrera will reach two significant marks in 2014 -- career hit No. 2,000, and career home run No. 400.
7. The Texas Rangers’ sweet September
It’s hard to imagine there are other teams that will have a better finishing schedule than the Rangers -- 17 of their final 23 games are at home.
8. Sept. 25: Perhaps the final home game for Derek Jeter?
We don’t know how much longer the Yankees shortstop will play, but the team’s final home game of the 2014 season is scheduled for that day against the Orioles.
9. Sept. 26-28: The Yankees finish the season with a three-game series against the Red Sox.
Jim Leyland is happy the Tigers aren’t playing those games in Australia, writes Tom Gage.
Around the league
• After the Indians finish their season, they are headed into a winter that could see something of a rotation makeover. Justin Masterson will be just a year from free agency, and in the past, with CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee, the Indians made their best trade possible before seeing those All-Stars walk away.
But Masterson does have a good relationship with Terry Francona, and it may be that the Indians will put an offer with a big, crooked number in front of the right-hander. If he says no, then the Indians could trade him this winter or next summer.
Ubaldo Jimenez has had a strong finish to his season, and some teammates expect that he will opt out of his contract for 2014 and test the market this fall, rather than return to Cleveland.
Scott Kazmir has had a good bounce-back season for the Indians, with 131 strikeouts in 136 innings, and is eligible for free agency. It would make sense for him to test the market, to see if a team such as the Giants -- who need to fill either two or three spots in their rotation -- will make a play for the veteran, whose velocity has spiked this year, from 86.5 mph in 2011 to 92.5 mph in 2013.
The Indians expect that Danny Salazar will be part of their solution next year. But the composition of other parts of the 2014 rotation will be a little fuzzy until the Indians dig into their offseason business.
• Some contenders continue to get hammered by injuries. On the other hand, the Red Sox witnessed a really encouraging sign Tuesday, when Clay Buchholz made his first start in months and shut down the Rays.
From the Elias Sports Bureau: Buchholz improved his record to 10-0 and his ERA to 1.61 with six stellar innings Tuesday night. The last starting pitcher to start a season 10-0 with an ERA that low was Ron Guidry for the Yankees in 1978 (10-0, 1.57 ERA).
He was special, writes John Tomase. From his story:
"It’s not like we’re getting a young prospect with huge potential," teammate Jake Peavy, the former NL Cy Young Award winner who knows a thing or two about dominant pitching, said. "Clay’s 29 years old with a lot of experience. I think that gets lost sometimes. Maybe it’s because he’s skinny. But this kid’s been around. He gets it. Clay Buchholz, when he’s on the mound, is a No. 1 starter. He’s a No. 1 with No. 1 stuff and he can certainly take over a ballgame."
Buchholz was not supposed to be this good this fast. He limited the Rays to three hits during five shutout innings, walking one and striking six. He threw 44-of-74 pitches for strikes.
The Red Sox do have a lingering concern with Jacoby Ellsbury.
• The Yankees asked repeatedly in the past about a possible Brendan Ryan deal but could never get any traction. But now that he is about to become a free agent, and at a time when New York is desperate for infield help with both Jeter and Alex Rodriguez injured, they worked out a deal for Ryan -- who will become the eighth shortstop to get an at-bat for the Yankees this season.
With their comeback win Tuesday night, the Yankees are part of the five-team pack that is within three games of each other in the race for the second AL wild card.
• Even with David Price pitching, the Rays lost -- opening the door, again, for other teams to gain ground. Desmond Jennings has been in a defensive slump -- but there is this, too: Jesse Crain is close to returning, as Marc Topkin writes.
• Alfonso Soriano put on a show Tuesday night with two homers, but during the course of the game, A-Rod, Ivan Nova and catcher Austin Romine all departed with injuries. Mariano Rivera was called on for four outs.
Soriano hit two home runs Tuesday and has seven multihomer games this season, the most in the majors. It's the most multihomer games in a single season in the past three seasons.
From Elias: Soriano is the second player in major league history to have at least three multihomer games for two teams in the same season. Mark McGwire did it in 1997 with the A’s (three multihomer games) and Cardinals (four).
Mark Simon writes here about the value of Soriano and Brendan Ryan.
• The Orioles’ bullpen -- so good in 2012 -- blew another lead. Kevin Gausman talked about the rally against him.
Along the way: Chris Davis tied Frank Robinson for the second-most home runs in a single season in Orioles history (49). Brady Anderson (50) holds the club record ... for now.
• The Royals rebounded from a tough loss to beat the Indians.
From Elias: Salvador Perez knocked in a run in the Royals' win over the Indians. Perez has driven in 20 runs over his past 17 games dating to Aug. 23. That’s the most RBIs for any player in the major leagues since that date.
• Jose Fernandez makes the final start of his spectacular rookie season today.
NL Central race
• The Pirates have drawn a line in the sand in Texas, winning back-to-back games -- the latest with a boost from Andrew McCutchen. The Reds lost ground, again, while playing the Cubs.
• The Cardinals -- who don’t have to play the Reds and Pirates -- won again, behind Shelby Miller.
From ESPN Stats & Information: How Miller won
A. He relied on off-speed stuff: Hitters went 2-for-12 against Miller's offspeed pitches. He threw them 39 percent of the time after entering the start throwing offspeed 27 percent of the time.
B. He dominated the first two batters: Norichika Aoki and Jean Segura combined to go 0-for-6 with two strikeouts against Miller Tuesday. Entering the start Miller had allowed opposing hitters in the top 2 spots of the batting order to hit .294.
Trevor Rosenthal set a record.
• Sean Marshall made progress in his rehab, but Tony Cingrani was hurt, as Mark Sheldon writes.
AL West race
• The Rangers squandered opportunities, and remain two games behind the Athletics. The Rangers are losing their edge, writes Gil LeBreton.
• Josh Donaldson returned to the lineup, and Josh Reddick was activated. Bob Melvin doesn’t think John Jaso will play the rest of this year, writes Susan Slusser.
Dings and dents
1. Don Mattingly expects Matt Kemp to be back this year.
2. Ben Revere is looking forward to his injury rehab.
3. Colby Rasmus says he’ll be back.
4. Justin Upton is dealing with a bruised knee.
Moves, deals and decisions
1. There are limits on what the Yankees will spend on Robinson Cano, says their team president. As I’ve written here before: The number of teams in position to bid on Cano appears to be very limited -- but really, all it takes is one serious bidder to push the Yankees, at a time when Cano’s side might be looking for an A-Rod type of deal. A playoff berth could help the Yankees keep Cano, writes Bob Klapisch.
2. The Mets’ shortstop job is Ruben Tejada’s to lose. The Mets like his talent; they want to see more in his work ethic.
3. Jhonny Peralta will start to work out with the Tigers today. It’s unclear what he will do for Detroit if he’s activated, except for this: He won’t be the shortstop. From George Sipple’s story:
"No decision has been made if he will be activated or not, beyond that," Dombrowski said. "I will say he has been told and we have cleared it up -- he is not coming back as our shortstop. We have our shortstop at this point."
However, Dombrowski said Peralta will work out at shortstop and third and possibly at second.
Peralta could have worked out with the team when his suspension began. Instead, he has been working out in the Dominican Republic, according to Dombrowski.
So why are they bringing him back now?
"There was nothing to be gained by having him in earlier than this," Dombrowski said. "Now at this time, to probably get him ready for the end of the season, if we do decide to activate him, this is about the right time frame."
1. The Nationals are surging. The team is selling playoff tickets, writes Adam Kilgore. Which reminds us of this moment.
2. Mark Trumbo and Josh Hamilton put up some big numbers.
3. The Mariners got pummeled by Houston. The win was No. 49 for the Astros.
• Mark Buehrle was hit hard.
• Rick Porcello finished what he started.
• The Twins made the decision to hang onto Josh Willingham at the trade deadline rather than selling low -- and Tuesday, he showed why that could pay off.
• Ervin Santana is deflecting conversation about his free agency.
• Carlos Santana is dealing with not being a regular catcher, writes Dennis Manoloff.
• Don Cooper thinks Chris Sale is having a Cy Young season.
• The Astros enjoyed a laugher.
• John Axford understands why he was traded.
• Scott Baker will get two more starts for the Cubs.
• Scott Van Slyke had a great moment. Edinson Volquez is making a case for an important role.
• Chase Headley continues to have a good finish to his season.
• A.J. Pollock has room to grow at the plate.
• Nolan Arenado has free rein to be aggressive on defense.
• Hunter Pence reached a milestone.
• The Yankees are moving to WFAN, which has been the radio home of the Mets since 1987.
• A Pirates fan regrets his decision to run onto the field.
• There was a record-tying home run hit in Japan.
And today will be better than yesterday.