- Buster Olney, Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
It's as if somebody is sticking pins into the class of would-be free-agent pitchers:
Matt Garza: Is still working his way toward his first pitch in a big league game in 2013, after getting hurt on the first day of spring training.
Chris Carpenter: His days as a big league starting pitcher may be over, although he has been working to come back this year in a bullpen role.
What this could mean, of course, is more contractual opportunity for other starting pitchers.
Paul Maholm continues to set himself up well for free agency in the fall, although it's always possible that he could work out some sort of an extension with the Braves -- to date, there haven't been talks over a new deal -- to stay in a park that suits him.
Another name to keep in mind for free agency, and for the days leading up to the trade deadline: Scott Feldman, who has been throwing the ball well after a rough spring. Feldman shut out the Rangers for seven innings Monday, and now has allowed only five earned runs in his past 27 2/3 innings. The batting average on balls put in play against him is .206, suggesting that he's pitching with some good fortune. But keep in mind that Feldman has shown the ability to go on major streaks in the past; a burst of strong starts this season could not be timed better for him.
After Feldman cut through the Padres May 1, Dale Sveum talked about the new-and-improved Feldman:
"From what I am seeing, there is more arm speed and more velocity on the cutter," Sveum said. "That will always make things a little more crisp. When you add a couple more [miles per hour] things change a little bit. Location and not walking guys is always the formula for pitching [well]. He had a game plan to pitch those lefties in with the cutter and did it all night long."
And the Padres had similar observations. From Carrie Muskat's story:
"That's pitching like Chris Carpenter or Roy Halladay, that type of stuff -- bringing it back from inside and cutting it on the outside," [Chase] Headley said. "When guys do that, sometimes you just have to tip your cap."
Padres manager Bud Black said Feldman mixed his pitches well.
"We just couldn't solve the movement," Black said. "He was hitting corners, but I think the thing that really got him to throw a complete game was the movement on the fastball, keeping us off-guard both in and away, and the timing with the slower breaking ball. We just couldn't muster any good swings against him."
Feldman was outstanding Monday, as Fred Mitchell writes.
• Carlos Santana is hitting .367 in a year in which the Indians have been careful not to put too much responsibility on him. Manager Terry Francona has mostly been hitting him sixth in the Cleveland lineup, especially on the days he catches, because the Indians' staff has been stressing the importance of running a game to Santana. In the past, some rival evaluators have believed that Santana has had trouble separating his work at the plate and behind the plate, so that if he was struggling on offense, he tended to struggle in his work at catcher.
The Indians have stopped losing, and along the way Monday, Mark Reynolds hit one of the longest home runs you will see, as some revenge. Ubaldo Jimenez is showing some signs of life, writes Bill Livingston. We'll have Francona on the podcast today.
• I watched a lot of the White Sox's win over the Royals Monday, when Chris Sale threw 57 pitches in the first two innings -- but was so efficient thereafter that he was still around to get an out in the eighth inning. Jordan Danks was The Man, after a baserunning mistake in the ninth inning, as Mark Gonzales writes.
• Andrew Cashner gave the Padres what they have been envisioning since they acquired him for Anthony Rizzo: He dominated the Marlins, drawing San Diego to within four games of .500, as AJ Cassavell writes.
• Jeremy Bonderman has been throwing effectively in Triple-A, with a 3.57 ERA in six starts -- including eight scoreless innings in his last outing -- and so it figures that at some point, the Mariners will either fish or cut bait with him. Bonderman has an out clause in his contract, so Seattle can decide whether to promote him or pursue other opportunities.
Bonderman could be a nice (cheap) fit for the Milwaukee Brewers, who are trying to sort through their early-season issues, as Michael Hunt writes. The Brewers currently rank 24th in starters' ERA. Another team that could be a match: The San Francisco Giants, who don't have a lot of starting pitching depth in their organization and have had a great track record of making use of veteran pitchers like Bonderman.
1. The Giants' win streak ended, as Henry Schulman writes.
Dings and dents
Moves, deals and decisions
1. The Giants have a roster situation developing.
• Richard Griffin writes that Alex Anthopoulos could change managers without firing John Gibbons.
From ESPN Stats & Information:
1. He's hitting .430 (40-for-93) during the streak. He's actually hitting over .500 when he makes contact (40-for-77), with six home runs.
2. During this streak, Ortiz is hitting .484 versus right-handed pitching,
.491 at home and
.343 with two strikes.
3. Ortiz's 26-game hitting streak is the third longest by a player as a designated hitter. Paul Molitor had a 39-gamer in 1987. Juan Gonzalez had a 30-gamer spanning the 1998 and 1999 seasons.
• This was a brutal way for the Rays to open a homestand, writes Martin Fennelly.
• There have been a lot of seasons recently in which the Rays play way above expectations, but in watching them this year, it feels like they should be better.
• The Tigers will be drafting often this year.
• The Twins gave away a lead.
• Two days out of five, the Mariners can match up with anybody, writes Larry Stone.
• The Marlins ... yeesh.
• But the Marlins say they are drawing motivation from a headline.
• Nice piece by James Wagner on a pitching coach's mound visits.
• The Mets still like Ike, writes Kristie Ackert.
• Jed Hoyer says the Cubs' bullpen and so-so offense has been a problem, as Toni Ginnetti writes. But Anthony Rizzo has warmed.
From ESPN Stats & Information: After hitting .173 with 26 strikeouts in 81 at-bats in his first 21 games, there was talk of Rizzo potentially being demoted to Triple-A. But that talk is no more after Rizzo's past 11 games, including a 3-for-4 with a homer and four RBIs in the win over the Texas Rangers. In that span, Rizzo has 18 hits, including 10 for extra bases, and is hitting .439. He has three times as many hits as strikeouts (six). From a technical standpoint, the big difference in performance for Rizzo is in his performance against pitches on the outer half of the plate, off the outside corner. Early in the season, if he wasn't homering against that pitch, he was popping it up to left field or grounding it to the right side. Now he's hitting line drives against it. Through April 26, he was 8-for-59 against outer-half pitches, with a .088 BABIP due to a low line-drive rate of 0.13. Since, he's 12-for-20 on those pitches with a line drive rate of 0.31.
Rizzo had a single and double against outer-half pitches Monday.
• The Cardinals' young arms make the St. Louis bullpen fun to watch, writes Bryan Burwell.
• Zack Wheeler has turned the corner, dominating another start. At this point, there really isn't a good reason for the Mets not to promote Wheeler. Look, they're not the Tampa Bay Rays and shouldn't hold him down in the minors to avoid a year of arbitration; rather, they should get him in the big leagues to help him learn as much as he can this year.
• Our man Cris Carter was honored at Great American Ballpark.
• The dimensions of Fenway Park can get into the heads of players, writes La Velle Neal.
• There is sad news about former Braves outfielder Otis Nixon.
And today will be better than yesterday.
Buster Olney takes a look at the would-be free-agent market for starting pitchers and realizes he's essentially sifting through the infirmary. Everyone who could be a free agent is hurt. So who takes their place?