Braves To Start Dallas Keuchel On Friday

JUNE 20: Keuchel will start for the Braves on Friday, O’Brien tweets. The club has optioned righty Huascar Ynoa to Triple-A Gwinnett to clear a 25-man roster spot for Keuchel.

JUNE 17: The Braves plan for left-hander Dallas Keuchel to make his season debut Friday against the division-rival Nationals, according to manager Brian Snitker (via David O’Brien of The Athletic and Mark Bowman of MLB.com).

Keuchel has pitched two minor league tuneup games since he ended his protracted trip to free agency with a one-year, $13MM agreement on June 7. The first, in which Keuchel threw seven shutout, one-hit innings at the Single-A level, went swimmingly. Keuchel added another seven frames in a Double-A start Saturday, though he allowed 11 hits and three earned runs. However, the Braves are “encouraged” by the fact that Keuchel threw 101 pitches in that outing, Bowman writes.

Although the reigning NL East champion Braves lead their division by 2 1/2 games this year, they’ve gotten to this point with middling starting pitching. In need of a complement to superb rookie Mike Soroka, the club made a notable in-season commitment to the 31-year-old Keuchel, who often excelled in Houston over the previous half-decade and has a 2015 AL Cy Young Award on his resume.

Keuchel is now about to join a Braves rotation which, aside from Soroka, isn’t the most trustworthy group. Julio Teheran has enjoyed a major bounce-back year in terms of bottom-line results, but as always, his peripherals aren’t as encouraging as his ERA. Meantime, Max Fried has cooled off since a great start, Mike Foltynewicz has been surprisingly poor after what looked like a breakout 2018, and Kevin Gausman (now injured), Sean Newcomb, Kyle Wright, Touki Toussaint and Bryse Wilson haven’t offered solutions over a combined 22 starts.

Fortunately for Atlanta, Keuchel’s not the only reinforcement on the way. Injured center fielder Ender Inciarte – out since May 15 with a lumbar strain – has been cleared for baseball activities and could embark on a rehab assignment next week, per Bowman. However, as Bowman notes, Inciarte will not reclaim the starting job in center field when he returns to the majors.

The Braves can’t sit rookie standout left fielder Austin Riley, who will continue to line up alongside Inciarte’s center field replacement, Ronald Acuna Jr., and right fielder Nick Markakis. The defensively adept Inciarte had center on lockdown in Atlanta from 2016 until landing on the IL this year, but his injury and subpar start over the first month and a half of this season opened the door for the hot-hitting Riley.

from MLB Trade Rumors http://bit.ly/2x7t67G

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Latest On Jameson Taillon

A flexor strain in Pirates starter Jameson Taillon’s pitching elbow has kept the right-hander off a major league mound since May 1. Almost two months later, Taillon’s not recovering as hoped, Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic explains (subscription required). Surgery could emerge as a possibility for Taillon if he doesn’t begin progressing, Biertempfel notes.

Taillon first started feeling symptoms of his flexor strain in spring training, well before he landed on the injured list. He still hasn’t resumed throwing since going on the IL, though the Pirates are hopeful that will change in 10 to 14 days, director of sports medicine Todd Tomczyk told Biertempfel. However, Tomcyzk admitted “we might have to go in another direction” – possibly surgery – with Taillon if he shows ill effects after he returns to throwing. Regardless, it doesn’t appear he’s close to a return to the majors.

An elbow procedure would be the second for Taillon, who underwent Tommy John surgery as a prized prospect in 2014. Now, given the 27-year-old’s importance to the Bucs, another TJ procedure would be an enormous blow to Taillon and the team. Taillon entered 2019 off his best season in the majors, in which he threw 191 innings of 3.20 ERA/3.46 FIP ball with 8.43 K/9 and 2.17 BB/9, and performed well again this year before going on the IL. Even though he wasn’t at full strength, Taillon managed 37 1/3 frames of 4.10 ERA/3.76 FIP pitching with 7.23 K/9, 1.93 BB/9 and a 49.6 percent groundball rate.

Injuries to Taillon and other starters help explain the Pirates’ 33-40 record, which is the third-worst mark in the National League. The club just got back Trevor Williams, but he missed a little over a month with a side strain. Meanwhile, Jordan Lyles has been on the IL since June 10. Of starters who opened the season in Pittsburgh’s rotation, Taillon, Williams and Lyles have been its top performers so far. On the other hand, Joe Musgrove and Chris Archer haven’t prevented runs at palatable rates.

from MLB Trade Rumors http://bit.ly/2WTauCX

Trevor Story Suffers Thumb Injury

Rockies shortstop Trevor Story left the team’s win over the Diamondbacks on Wednesday with a right thumb injury. He’ll undergo an MRI on Thursday, Nick Groke of The Athletic was among those to report.

X-rays on Story’s thumb were negative Wednesday, but as Groke notes, that doesn’t guarantee he’s out of the woods. Despite a negative X-ray on a left thumb injury in August 2016, Story still had to undergo season-ending surgery on account of a torn UCL in the digit. The Rockies weren’t serious contenders at that point, though, whereas they’re in the hunt for their third straight playoff berth this season. After Wednesday’s win, the club sits 39-34 and tied with the Phillies for the National League’s second wild-card spot.

The Rockies’ success in recent years has come thanks in no small part to Story, who exploded on the scene as a big-hitting defensive standout in 2015. The 26-year-old is off to a .294/.360/.547 start this season with a 120 wRC+, 17 home runs, 12 stolen bases and 2.9 fWAR in 328 plate appearances. Story has also appeared in 72 of Colorado’s 73 games in 2019.

The Rockies replaced Story on Wednesday with Pat Valaika. However, the team could recall Brendan Rodgers or Garrett Hampson from Triple-A Albuquerque if it has to put Story on the injured list.

from MLB Trade Rumors http://bit.ly/2WRUdxN

Dodgers To Place Rich Hill On Injured List

Dodgers starter Rich Hill lasted just one inning Wednesday before exiting with what the team called left forearm discomfort. While the southpaw will undergo an MRI on Thursday to determine the severity of the injury, a 10-day IL stint is a certainty, Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register reports.

A forearm injury is ominous for a pitcher because it sometimes serves as a precursor to Tommy John surgery. Hill has already undergone the procedure once, in 2011, though he’s “pretty confident” he won’t require it this time. The 39-year-old revealed that a “very preliminary ultrasound” showed his elbow ligament’s still intact.

Even if Hill has avoided a possible career-ending scenario with this injury, it will still represent the latest IL stint during his recent rebirth. A series of injuries have prevented the journeyman from throwing more than 135 2/3 innings in a season since he unexpectedly emerged as a quality starter late in 2015 with the Red Sox.

The Dodgers acquired Hill from the Athletics during the summer of 2016 and then prevented him from leaving in free agency the ensuing winter with a three-year, $48MM contract. Now in the last season of his deal, the still-effective Hill has pitched to a 2.55 ERA/4.11 FIP with 10.36 K/9, 2.04 BB/9 and a 48.9 percent groundball rate over 10 starts and 53 innings.

After Hill departed Wednesday, the Dodgers’ bullpen worked eight solid innings to help the first-place club cruise to a 9-2 win over the Giants. The Hill-less Dodgers will turn to fellow lefty Julio Urias to start Thursday, with righty Ross Stripling backing him up, Ken Gurnick of MLB.com tweets. With Urias and Stripling among fallbacks behind Clayton Kershaw, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Walker Buehler and Kenta Maeda, the Dodgers’ rotation should continue to perform like one of the majors’ best as it awaits Hill’s return.

from MLB Trade Rumors http://bit.ly/2XZNsLW

MLB Draft Signings: 6/19/19

Here’s a look at the latest noteworthy draft signings, with the newest moves at the top of the post.  Click here for the full list of slot values and draft pool bonuses, and you can find prospect rankings and scouting reports from Baseball America’s Top 500Fangraphs’ Top 200MLB.com’s Top 200, and the Top 50 of ESPN.com’s Keith Law….

  • The Red Sox announced the signing of second-round pick Matthew Lugo on Tuesday. The high school shortstop from Puerto Rico will receive $1.1MM, a fair amount more than the $929,800 slot value accompanying the 69th pick, Jim Callis of MLB.com tweets. FanGraphs’ Kiley McDaniel and Eric Longenhagen ranked the 18-year-old Lugo as the 26th-best player available entering the draft, writing he has “50 or 55 tools across the board.”
  • The Marlins have agreed to sign fifth-round right-hander Evan Fitterer to a deal worth far more than slot value, Jon Heyman of MLB Network reports. Fitterer will earn $1.5MM, even though his pick (No. 141) called for a bonus in the $390K range. Callis and Jonathan Mayo write that the 18-year-old high schooler from California “reminds some of a young Kyle Hendricks, perhaps with a bigger fastball, but with a similar feel to pitch.”

from MLB Trade Rumors http://bit.ly/2IVXibl

Minor MLB Transactions: 6/19/19

The latest minor moves from around baseball…

  • The Rangers have re-signed right-hander Nick Gardewine to a minor league contract, the team announced. Gardewine’s back with the Rangers shortly on the heels of his release last Thursday, five days after they designated him for assignment June 8. A seventh-round pick of the Rangers in 2013, Gardewine reached the majors for the first time in 2017 and then pitched to a 4.85 ERA with 4.85 K/9 and 4.85 BB/9 (that’s a lot of 4.85s) in 13 innings through 2018. The 25-year-old has missed substantial time over the past couple seasons because of injuries, though he has pitched 323 innings of 3.71 ERA ball with 8.8 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 during his minor league career.

from MLB Trade Rumors http://bit.ly/2WX3lBC

Phillies Likely To Place Pat Neshek On Injured List

Phillies reliever Pat Neshek suffered a left hamstring strain in the team’s loss to the Nationals on Wednesday night. He’s likely heading to the 10-day injured list as a result, manager Gabe Kapler said (via Scott Lauber of Philly.com).

This will be the second IL placement of 2019 for Neshek, who went down May 25 with rotator cuff inflammation and just returned June 16. The 38-year-old hasn’t been available enough to the Phillies’ liking since they reunited with him on a two-year, $16.25MM pact entering 2018, nor has he been as effective as the team hoped.

Shoulder and forearm problems shelved Neshek until last July after he signed his deal. Dating back to then, the soft-tossing Neshek has posted a 3.46 ERA/4.32 FIP with 5.18 K/9 and 1.3 BB/9 in 41 2/3 innings. Neshek was coming off a 62 1/3 inning-season of 1.59 ERA/1.86 FIP ball with 9.96 K/9 against .87 BB/9 divided between Philly and Colorado when the Phillies re-signed him.

The Phillies already have key relievers in David Robertson, Seranthony Dominguez, Adam Morgan and Tommy Hunter on the IL. Like Neshek, Robertson and Hunter recently joined the Phillies as pricey free-agent signings, though they also haven’t quite worked out for the club yet.

from MLB Trade Rumors http://bit.ly/2MWvybO

Royals Release Drew Storen

The Royals have released right-handed reliever Drew Storen, according to Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com. Storen had been with the organization since it signed him to a minor league deal in February.

The Royals assigned Storen to the Double-A level in May, which was a sizable step forward in his rehab process from the Tommy John surgery he underwent as a Red in September 2017. However, the 31-year-old Storen then gave up nine earned runs on 15 hits and five walks (with 12 strikeouts) in 10 1/3 innings, which caused the Royals to get rid of him.

Storen, best known for his stint as a Nationals reliever from 2010-15, will now seek another big league organization. Also a former Mariner and Blue Jay, Storen has pitched to a 3.45 ERA/3.44 FIP with 8.52 K/9, 2.7 BB/9 and a 46.1 percent groundball rate in 440 1/3 innings at baseball’s highest level. Storen has also converted 99 of 123 save chances, though his days as a closer appear long gone.

from MLB Trade Rumors http://bit.ly/2RpobYS

Cody Allen Drawing Interest

Free-agent reliever Cody Allen, whom the Angels released Tuesday, is drawing substantial interest. At least 11 teams have inquired about Allen, Jon Heyman of MLB Network reports.

The Angels signed the 30-year-old Allen to an $8.5MM guarantee in the offseason, but the union provided disastrous for the club. Allen registered an awful 6.26 ERA/8.34 FIP with 11.35 K/9, 7.83 BB/9 and a paltry 19.7 percent groundball rate in 23 innings before the Angels cut the cord on him. The right-hander posted his lowest swinging-strike rate since 2012, his first season, and the worst contact percentage of his career in the process. He also logged his lowest velocity since entering the bigs and yielded more fly balls than ever. All told, the Angels’ version Allen managed the game’s 10th-worst weighted on-base average against (.419) and its fifth-highest xwOBA (.412), according to Statcast.

Even though Allen looks done at this point, the fact that he’s not far removed from a successful stint in Cleveland gives teams hope for a revival on a low-risk deal. Allen fell flat in 2018, which forced him to settle for a one-year pact last winter, though he was mostly terrific with the Indians. As a member of the Tribe’s bullpen from 2012-18, Allen put up a 2.98 ERA/3.17 FIP with 11.52 K/9 against 3.53 BB/9, and converted 149 of 172 save opportunities.

from MLB Trade Rumors http://bit.ly/2L46TiP