April 9 News: Pedroia, Norris, and More

The Boston Red Sox welcomed their captain back on Tuesday, as Dustin Pedroia rejoined the active roster, taking the place of Tzu-Wei Lin. The 35-year-old second baseman has played just three games since the end of the 2017 season, as he has been sidelined by a knee injury. He went 1-for-4 in the Red Sox loss to the Toronto Blue Jays and hopes to help turn the Sox around after a putrid first two weeks that has seen them go 3-9.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the American League East standings, the first-place Tampa Bay Rays announced that reliever Hunter Wood replaced infielder Christian Arroyo on the active roster. Wood made it into Monday’s game pitching exceptionally well, going three scoreless with three strikeouts en route to his first save of the 2019 season. He’s coming off a season in which he posted a 3.73 ERA and a 3.70 FIP over 41.2 innings for the Rays.

As for Arroyo, he will head back down to the minors after going 3-for-9 over his brief stay in the majors. While that’s certainly not bad, he also struck out five times. The former top prospect should be back in the near future.

The Baltimore Orioles announced that Nate Karns was placed on the injured list with a forearm strain. While this may be the last thing a pitcher wants to hear, Karns has said that he hopes to be back once the 10 days are up. For the time being, Evan Phillips will join the O’s. I would imagine Phillips is back and forth all season.

The Cleveland Indians also announced that one of their starters is dealing with a minor injury, as Mike Clevinger was placed on the injured list with an upper back strain. Nick Wittgren was recalled to take his place on the active roster.

Ervin Santana‘s contract was officially purchased by the Chicago White Sox Tuesday morning, as he started against the Rays. Carson Fulmer was sent down in a corresponding move. Unfortunately, that $4.3 million minor-league deal didn’t look worth it, as Santana struggled, allowing seven runs before being taken out in the fourth inning. While he should retain a spot, he walked three guys while striking out just one, and allowed three homers.

The Kanas City Royals did a considerable amount of shuffling in their bullpen over the past few days, as they sent Kyle Zimmer, Tim Hill and Kevin McCarthy down in favor of Heath Fillmyer, Richard Lovelady and Glenn Sparkman. The-Omaha-bound trio has been responsible for 12 earned runs over 7.2 innings pitched thus far this season, therefore, it makes sense that the Royals are shuffling the deck a bit.

The call-ups all bring some level of intrigue. Fillmyer is my favorite of the three, as I believe that he has the potential to be a four. He brings a very nice mid-90’s fastball that sinks, a solid curveball, a changeup that works, and an easily repeatable delivery. He’s not going to absolutely blow anybody away, but he’s going to get the job done effectively. I, quite frankly, was surprised that the Oakland Athletics were willing to let him go in that Brandon Moss deal from last offseason.

Sparkman was once a Rule Five selection by the Blue Jays who didn’t remain on the active roster all season. Now 26, Sparkman brings with him a nice two-seamer that sits in the mid-90’s. His secondaries, however, are crazy, as he brings a 12-6 curve that sits at 78 mph, a 1:30-7:30 slider at 86, and a change that sits around 85 that lefties can’t hit. I would consider his ceiling to be that of a backend starter. His biggest issue is that his fastball has a tendency to be flat on occasion, resulting in him being hittable. I can’t see him being able to find a ton of success as a starter with a flat fastball. In relief, however, the wide arsenal of pitches would probably play up in shorter stints while keeping opposing hitters guessing. I think we could be looking at a guy who you can give the ball to in the seventh and eighth inning.

When you see a reliever among an organization’s top prospects, it usually reflects more on the lack of depth in a team’s system, but not in the case of Richard Lovelady. The 23-year-old lefty can touch 97 on his fastball while bringing a crazy slider and vastly improving control. His change isn’t great, but when coming out of the bullpen, having two great pitches, as opposed to three, isn’t the end of the world. My biggest concern is his delivery. While it can be argued that it is a major reason for his success, as it is the source of some legitimate deception, it’s complicated. I wouldn’t be surprised if he had trouble repeating it over time, possibly resulting in a high level of volatility. The ceiling here is a top-tier closer, and I would expect him to fall closely to it. I would bet on him becoming an above average set-up man or average closer who may have a few bad seasons, but ultimately is able to straighten himself out. Think Sam Dyson or Jim Johnson, in terms of reasonable comparisons.

The Royals also announced that righty Chris Ellis was officially returned to the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Los Angeles Angels sent down Justin Anderson to make room for infielder Taylor Ward on the active roster. Anderson’s performance really doesn’t have much to do with this move, however, as he’s simply falling victim to having minor league options remaining. Anderson was excellent through his first five games with the Angels this season, going 5.2 scoreless. He was called up last season, despite never being much of a prospect and performed well, pitching 55.1 innings of 4.07 ERA ball with a 3.83 FIP. I would expect him to return in the very near future.

As for Ward, the 25-year-old former first-round pick mashed in the minors last season, slashing .349/.446/.531 over 446 plate appearances, and no, that isn’t a typo. He managed to steal 18 bases and hit 14 homers in that span as well. He struggled over a very short major-league stint and now returns with the hopes of sticking this time around.

Right now, the Angels have room to improve at both first base and designated hitter. I would imagine Ward becomes the Angels everyday first baseman in the very near future, eventually moving to another position to make room for Matt Thaiss. Once that time comes, I would imagine that Zack Cozart moves to second base, opening up third for Ward.

The division-rival Seattle Mariners announced a pretty significant call-up too, as Erik Swanson replaced Chasen Bradford on the active roster. Bradford went down to some shoulder inflammation after struggling in consecutive appearances. This is what I had to say about Swanson upon the Mariners’ acquisition of him last November:

The 25-year old right-handed pitcher Erik Swanson was excellent last season posting a 2.66 ERA while walking just 29 (2.15 BB/9). He can hit about 97 with his fastball, but typically sits in the 92-94 range. He also brings with him a solid change and slider. Swanson has been considered to be a long-term reliever by most scouts, but I vehemently disagree.

As a player with the ability to control a fastball, slider and change-up, I think he’s a mid-to-back of the rotation starter with the ceiling of a three and the more likely result of a four. The Mariners will need to add him to the 40-man roster tomorrow to protect him from the Rule V draft, and I would imagine he makes it to the major leagues by seasons’ end. With the Mariners in rebuild mode, he could replace Wade LeBlancor Mike Leakein the rotation following a potential mid-season trade. For now, he should be expected to begin the season in Triple-A pitching in a rotation that also includes Max PovseCasey Lawrenceand Anthony Misiewicz.”

As it currently stands, Swanson will pitch in long relief, but while the Mariners have seen success out of their starters in the early going, it could be something of a house of cards situation, as Wade LeBlanc has been inconsistent throughout his career, and Felix Hernandez hasn’t been King Felix for a while now. Furthermore, Yusei Kikuchi struggled his last time out as well. I’m very excited to see what Swanson can do in the major leagues and will be monitoring his situation closely.

The Washington Nationals announced that Bud Norris is currently at their spring training facility to be checked out. If everything goes well, then a minor-league contract will be completed, and Norris could be an option for the Nationals pen sooner rather than later. Seeing as how nothing is official, there are no terms being thrown around. That said, Norris would certainly provide a boost to the Nationals bullpen, which has struggled pretty badly through the first two weeks of the season. Over 57.2 innings of relief last season in St. Louis, Norris posted a 3.59 ERA with a 3.99 FIP. He was recently released by the Blue Jays, despite signing a contract with the intention of allowing him to rehab with their system. This could be a sneaky good signing for the Nationals.

In other Nationals news, Michael Taylor was activated from the disabled list after missing the first two weeks due to a sprained left knee and strained hip. He looked great in camp slashing .360/.407/.600 and should be a very welcomed addition to the Nationals bench. Andrew Stevenson wasn’t bad over six plate appearances slashing .250/.500/.250 and should be back soon.

Someone who won’t be back soon, however, is Trea Turner, who is expected to miss four-to-six weeks with a broken finger. For the time being, Wilmer Difo should see the majority of innings at short, but Drew Jackson could be a reasonable fit with some upside.

The Colorado Rockies lost David Dahl to a core injury, but it isn’t expected to keep him out any longer than two weeks. Dahl, himself, said that he expects to be ready once the 10-day minimum is up. For the time being, however, outfielder Yonathan Daza will join the Rockies. Daza is a bit older for a prospect at 25, but brings excellent speed and a very solid glove in center field with a plus arm. He has enough power to mash a few doubles, but don’t expect much in terms of homers. He looks to me like a fourth outfield type based on a lack of plate discipline.

Finally, the Los Angeles Dodgers lost Hyun-Jin Ryu to a groin injury, and he was replaced on the active roster with fireballing reliever J.T. Chargois. The good news, however, is that he’s expected to be back by the end of the month. Chargios should ride the taxi squad for the majority of the season. He was an excellent buy-low for the Dodgers, who claimed him off waivers from the Minnesota Twins just before 2018 started. Over 32.1 innings, he posted a 3.34 ERA with a 3.87 FIP. While he struggles with control, he strikes enough guys out to atone for that fact.

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