The team’s golden goose Jacob deGrom, the National League’s reigning Cy Young winner, was scratched from his scheduled start on Saturday against the Cardinals in St. Louis. Manager Mickey Callaway then stated his ace would placed on the 10-day disabled list and undergo an MRI on his right elbow after it was reportedly “barking” after a Friday bullpen session.
However, the Mets have apparently backed down from DEFCON 1, as deGrom threw today in the outfield at New Busch Stadium and told the media afterwards that he felt okay.
“It’s just a little sore,” he said to ESPN. deGrom has been experiencing illness and recent weeks and went on to attribute that to the discomfort in his arm, stating he decided it was better to be safe than sorry.
“I had been sick since Atlanta and kinda had a whole-body soreness. For me when I don’t throw, it seems that things pop up and I wasn’t on a normal routine. I was trying to just get enough in to be able to make my start and I felt a little soreness in my elbow. I decided to say something and talked it over with Mickey and [Mets pitching coach] Dave [Eiland].
Fans across baseball knew exactly what the Mets were getting at when the news broke. When coupled together, “T” and “J” are the two most infamous letters in the game, and it looked like the notorious operation was stalking its most high-profile victim in years.
deGrom has already undergone Tommy John surgery in once before, but that was back in 2010 when he was in the rookie class Appalachian League. Nine years later he’s the best pitcher in baseball, and it would be a horrible shame to see his meteoric momentum halted so abruptly.
It remains to be seen if deGrom will miss a prolonged period of time, or if there is actual damage to his elbow, but Mets fans can let out a sigh of relief and breathe easy, at least for the time being.
April 2019’s Biggest MLB Stories
Holy smokes, the first season of the 2019 MLB season is already in the books, and stories were abundant in this one. From certain players tearing it up and others struggling to records being broken, April 2019 was certainly eventful in the baseball world. Here are the biggest stories, happenings and surprises from the first month of the 2019 campaign.
Albert the Great
At 39, Albert Pujols might not be the revered slugger that he was in his prime, but the Anaheim Angel is still getting it done and joined elite company in April. His two-run double off of Kansas City’s Homer Bailey on April 28 gave him career RBIs no. 1,996 and 1,997, putting him ahead of Barry Bonds and in sole possession of no. 3 on the all-time list. Only Alex Rodriguez (2,086) and Hank Aaron (2,297) remain ahead of him. Though it’s unlikely that he’ll ever catch the latter, Pujols could pass A-Rod with a healthy and productive 2019 and 2020.
C&C on a tear
Outfielders Cody Bellinger of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Christian Yelich of the Milwaukee Brewers spent April wreaking havoc on National League pitching. Bellinger appears to have regained his form after a sophomore slump in 2018 and was the first month’s best hitter. The 23-year-old currently has the NL Triple Crown with a .431 AVG, 14 HR and 37 RBI. Reigning MVP Yelich is picking up where he left off last year, and owns a share of the homer lead in addition to a .353 AVG and 34 RBI. It’s obviously still early and both of these guys will cool off at some point, but they are as good as it gets in the Senior Circuit right now.
K&K still on the sidelines
Two of this past winter’s most high-profile free agents still remain unsigned as the calendar turns to May. 2015 American League Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel and 2x Reliever of the Year Craig Kimbrel are still without homes and MLB.com Insider Ken Rosenthal reports that it may be as long as June before either star signs. Both men have different contract desires, as Rosenthal reports that Kimbrel does not want a one-year deal whilst Keuchel is aiming for the short-term. There are plenty of teams that would love the services of either, but it looks as if a signing won’t occur any time soon.
Medical costs soaring in the Bronx
The New York Yankees had enough injuries in the first month of the season to fill an entire hospital ward. Sophomore manager Aaron Boone has had the difficult task of holding his team together with more than half his starting lineup on the disabled list. Miguel Andujar, Dellin Betances, Greg Bird, Clint Frazier, Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge, Luis Severino and Giancarlo Stanton are all currently laid up. Considering half of the team’s minor league system has seemingly played in the past month, New York has done pretty well and Boone should be commended for his work. But fans in the Bronx will feel much better when all their superstars return.
Boston Red Sox ace Chris Sale is one of the MLB’s most dominant lefties and has been since he became a starter in 2012, but he’s been MIA for the first month of this year. Fans accustomed to the 7x All-Star dazzling batters with his slider would be shocked to see that he’s currently 0-5 with a 6.30 ERA. There’s still every chance that he can turn it around, but the Red Sox and their Nation have not enjoyed their ace struggling so mightily. Sale has taken full responsibility for his failures, but if his team wants to repeat as World Series champions, they’ll need him to regain his form.
Slow start for Harper in Philly
The most high-profile free agent acquisition in recent MLB history hasn’t gotten off to the start that his new team was expecting. 26-year-old Bryce Harper is having a rougher time acclimating to the Philadelphia Phillies than anyone would have thought. Through the first month of what is to be a very long tenure in the City of Brotherly Love, Harper is batting .231 with 6 HR and 20 RBI. He’s far too talented to struggle like this long-term, but considering what the Phillies are paying him, they can’t be too happy.
Vlad Jr. makes long awaited debut
The baseball world had been chomping at the bit for some time to see no.1 prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. at the big league level. However, the Toronto Blue Jays waited patiently with the young phenom and allowed him to spend the end of 2018 and the beginning of this season with Triple-A Buffalo. Fans finally got their wish when the Jays made the call last week and brought Guerrero up for his MLB debut on April 26 vs. Oakland. A proud Vlad Sr. looked on as his son ripped a double in the bottom of the ninth for his first career knock. There will surely be many more to come.
Mets endure deGrom TJ scare
Jacob deGrom is currently the best pitcher baseball has to offer and he hasn’t slowed on the heels of his masterful 2018 campaign. However, the Mets and their fans had to endure a brief panic when it looked as if the superstar righty had been claimed by the curse of Tommy John. It turned out to be nothing more than a scare and deGrom only missed one start, but baseball fans in Queens surely thought the sky was falling at the time.
Ichiro retires in grand fashion
Though it happened in March actually and most fans may have forgotten about it by now, it’s still one of best stories to come from baseball in some time. The Seattle Mariners opened the 2019 season vs. the Athletics at Tokyo Dome in Japan’s capital. It was undoubtedly an amazing experience for all players involved, but it stood out for one player especially. 45-year-old Ichiro Suzuki played the series with the Mariners and called it a career after the second game. Not many foreign players in Major League Baseball can say that they played their last game in front of their native country and it’s an honor Ichiro more than earned throughout his 28-year professional career in Japan and North America. An undoubted future Hall of Famer and one of the best hitters of all time, Ichiro walked off an MLB field for the last time to a thunderous ovation from his countrymen. Thanks for the memories, no.51.
Red Sox Call Up Top Prospect Chavis
With two infielders being placed on the DL and desperate for any kind of spark they can get, the Boston Red Sox called up their top prospect Michael Chavis (MLB no. 75) from Triple-A Pawtucket on Friday.
Dustin Pedroia and Eduardo Nunez were both placed on the disabled list this week with knee and back injuries, respectively. And with super utility man Brock Holt out as well with an eye injury, Boston’s infield has become quite depleted in a hurry. Infielder Tzu-Wei Lin was recalled as well as the stumbling Red Sox open up a three game set in Tampa with a Good Friday matchup.
Boston hasn’t yet announced if Chavis will be in the lineup tonight, but the team is evidently hoping that the presence of the 23-year-old can provide some kind of a spark. Boston has struggled considerably so far in the young season and is coming off consecutive embarrassing losses to arch-rival New York. At 6-13, the defending World Series champs are dead last in the AL East.
Chavis, on the other hand, has risen through Boston’s minor league system quickly despite a setback last season. A PED suspension cost him half of 2018 after he was busted for Turinabol, an anabolic-androgenic steroid. He denied knowingly taking any banned substance but played well enough after his return to be promoted from Double-A to Triple-A.
Can Chavis provide a boost for the struggling Sox and help them shake off their World Series hangover?
Mediocre Bullpen May Cost Boston in 2019
The 2018 Boston Red Sox won a franchise record 108 games and iced the season with the franchise’s ninth World Championship, all in spite of a lousy bullpen. Closer Craig Kimbrel was the team’s only truly reliable option throughout the year and even he struggled badly at points. In 2019 the prognosis looks even worse for the staff. Boston lost two big bullpen assets this winter and hasn’t made any big moves to fill the void.
Kimbrel became a free agent after the season ended and has been reported as seeking a six-year, $100 million+ contract that would be a record for a reliever. The Red Sox and every other MLB team have made it evident that this won’t happen and Kimbrel is still available with Opening Day less than a week away. Fellow gas-thrower Joe Kelly also moved on and signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers, ironically who Boston defeated in the Fall Classic. Kelly was converted into a reliever in 2015 and it proved to be a good choice, as he was consistent and served as a capable bridge to the late innings
Kelly and Kimbrel’s absences leave a big hole in the Red Sox roster. It’s understandable why Red Sox President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski wouldn’t want to give such a massive deal to a closer on the wrong side of 30 like Kimbrel, but not resigning the fireballer at all may prove to be a mistake for Boston, especially since Knuckleballer Steven Wright was suspended for PED usage and will miss 80 games. Wright was expected to be a big part of the bullpen since he can both eat innings and get strikeouts. Instead the Sox lost another big name, albeit not permanently.
Sophomore Manager Alex Cora announced today what the Red Sox bullpen will look like at least for the start of the 2019 season, and you wouldn’t be wrong if the first thought in your head was “average”. According to Boston’s MLB.com reporter Ian Browne, Cora’s ‘pen to start 2019 will be Matt Barnes, Heath Hembree, Brandon Workman, Ryan Brasier, Brian Johnson, Hector Velazquez, Tyler Thornburg and Colten Brewer. While that is by no means the worst group of relief pitchers a team could throw together (pun not intended), it isn’t exactly a stellar one either, due to the massive amount of question marks surrounding it.
The first and biggest problem is that none of those players seem capable of stepping up and taking the closer’s role. Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier seem to be the most viable guys if the team wants a set closer. Barnes has been with Boston since 2016 and spent most of that time as one of Kimbrel’s set-up men. He has battled consistency issues, though and has posted an ERA above three in each of the past two seasons, which isn’t exactly a selling point.
Brasier, on the other hand, was a very pleasant surprise for Boston when he was brought up from Triple-A on July 8 and proved to be very consistent. He posted a 1.64 ERA on the year and was given very important innings by season’s end and the playoffs. The only question with Brasier is if he can continue that success into the new season or prove to be a one-season wonder. After spending 2017 in the NPB, Brasier was a low-risk signing that has paid off on Boston’s part to this point. It all hinges on how he follows up.
Tyler Thornburg has shown in the past that he has the tools to be a dominant reliever, but he’s been all but non-existent since coming to Massachusetts. The 30-year-old was Boston’s return in the December 2016 deal that sent Travis Shaw to Milwaukee and Boston is still waiting for that return. Due to thoracic outlet syndrome, Thornburg missed all of 2017 and didn’t make his Red Sox debut until July 6, 2018, 17 months after he was acquired. He pitched to a 5.63 ERA in 24 innings and was not included on the playoff roster. 2019 will be Thornburg’s first full season with the Red Sox and the team is still waiting to see whether or not that December 2016 trade was a steal on the Brewers’ part. If he pitches well, Cora will put him in the big role that he was expected to fill. If he doesn’t, a designation for assignment may come a-calling.
A member of the 2013 World Championship team, Brandon Workman is one of the longest-tenured Red Sox at this point. The righty’s fast rise was derailed in 2015 when he was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery that caused him to miss all of the next two seasons. He finally returned in 2017 but has had to fight for a roster spot ever since. Workman has shown that the surgery didn’t slow him and his stuff is still very effective. However, he hasn’t played a full season since 2014 and will have to prove that he is capable of handling the weight after all he’s been through. Cora is giving him the chance, the ball is in Workman’s court.
Similar to Barnes, Heath Hembree’s problem over the past few seasons has been consistency. Hembree excels at strikeouts and handles the middle innings well, but he doesn’t do well in pressure situations, which was why he wasn’t on the postseason roster last year until Steven Wright went down. In 2018 he struck out a career-high 76 batters but posted a 4.10 ERA. Since Wright will miss half of this season, Boston will count on Hembree even more to eat the middle innings. He will have to find a way to give up less runs, even if it means cutting down on his K total.
The problem with Hector Velazquez and Brian Johnson is that both are starters converted to the way of the bullpen. Both have been effective in this role over the last two seasons and can eat multiple innings when the rest of the ‘pen is spent, but neither possess dominant, overpowering stuff. You won’t see either come into the game in the eighth with the scored tied and the bases loaded. You can’t hold this against either Velazquez or Johnson, but it’s tough to deny that this bullpen lacks guys like that. Both pitchers are often called on as spot starters and this will continue, especially early this season. Boston opens 2019 on the West Coast with 11 games in as many nights.
All I can say about Colten Brewer is that I know nothing about him other than Boston acquired him from San Diego last November.
All of these guys are talented, but none of them are considered truly dominant. That’s not good enough for a Red Sox team that will compete for the AL East with a New York Yankees squad that spent the whole winter bolstering its relief core. Brian Cashman brought in a couple of big names and it would be very tough to say that the Bomber bullpen isn’t pretty darn stacked. Fellow sophomore Manager Aaron Boone will have Dellin Betances, Aroldis Chapman, Chad Green, Zach Britton and Adam Ottavino at his disposal. That’s a scary quintet especially considering all five of those guys can close. Boston won the East last season and beat its storied rival in the ALDS relatively easily, but the Yankees just might have the edge in 2019. Boston’s bullpen can be called mediocre at best, New York’s can be called an embarrassment of riches.
Will Boston end up resigning Kimbrel after all? It will be very intriguing to see how the team performs in the early going. No matter how well a starter does, every team has to turn to its relievers eventually. That may be a frightening experience for Red Sox Nation in 2019.
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