Setback for Springer
George Springer was eagerly running the bases during a ramp-up workout on his return from a left oblique injury when he felt tightness in his right quad on Tuesday. The original plan was that Springer would be able to play in Thursday’s home opener as soon as his 10-day stint on the injured list stint was over, but that is not going to happen.
The 31-year-old, who signed a six-year $150 million contract during the offseason, underwent an MRI exam to see how much soft tissue damage was done, but the results are yet to be known.
“He did the live batting practice and everything was fine,” according to Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo. “Then it was time for him to run the bases, and when he was running the bases, he felt a tightness in the quad and stopped. As the day went on, he felt like, ‘OK, this is not just a cramp,’ and that’s when we got the MRI.”
Quad injuries, similar to obliques, require patience and care as they tend to linger and can be aggravated quickly. This is a fate Toronto and Springer will want to avoid. Fortunately for the team, the Jays are off to a strong start despite Springer's absence, winning two of three games from the Yankees in New York before splitting two games with the Rangers in Texas. Hopefully, this will prevent any aggressive measures like bringing their star free agent back too early.
In the meantime, look for Randal Grichuk to continue to see the bulk of the playing time in the Blue Jays outfield in Springer's absence, while Rowdy Tellez sees extra plate appearances as the designated hitter.
Not Like This, Ketel Marte Down
Diamondbacks center fielder Ketel Marte left Wednesday’s game against the Rockies in the sixth inning with an apparent right hamstring injury. The 27-year-old was running out a ground ball to first when he pulled up lame favoring his hamstring. Marte was then helped off the field by the training staff and manager Torey Lovullo. Through Arizona’s first six games, Marte is batting .462/.500/.846 with two homers and four doubles. Any significant absence would be devastating to Arizona and his fantasy shareholders.
Here Comes The Sun
Opening weekend, and Opening Day especially, saw many ace pitchers underperform and drop well below their average velocity in cold weather. Pitchers such as Luis Castillo, Jack Flaherty, and Shane Bieber did not get off to the start they and their fantasy shareholders were expecting. This led to the yearly tradition of early-season panic where everyone is concerned that one bad start will lead to a full season of misery.
Then the sun came out.
As the aces saw their second starts roll around, mother nature decided to provide the baseball world with a little warmth to aid in a quick turnaround. We saw high temperatures in the 70’s and 80’s in Cincinnati and Cleveland while Chicago warmed up into the 60’s, setting the stage for a day of fine performances.
Shane Bieber actually turned in his second strong start of the season, having struck out double-digit hitters with a quality start in his first outing despite a loss in velocity. The reigning Cy Young punched out 12 Royals Wednesday while allowing two runs on three hits in 6 1/3 innings. Bieber tossed his new slider 33 percent of the time, generating 15 whiffs on 20 swings. The right-hander's velocity was also right back up to 2020 levels. However, Bieber was unable to claim victory for the second time this season but did extend his streak of striking out at least eight hitters in a game to 14, tying Corey Kluber’s club record.
Luis Castillo was thrashed by the Cardinals on Opening Day amid slow flurries and mid-30’s temperatures. The changeup guru may have been impacted the most by the weather, seeing several ticks shaved off his fastball. Castillo had a track record of performing poorly in the cold and his agent even jumped into the conversation on social media to remind Reds fans that were panicking of that fact.
A turnaround came swiftly against the lowly Pirates on Wednesday who Castillo completely melted over seven shutout innings. The righty allowed just four hits and one walk while punching out five in an efficient 81 pitches. His velocity did not make it all the way back to his 2020 mark of a 97.5 average, but he did touch 97.8 in the game which is a great sign.
Oddly enough, Castillo did this with a two-pitch arsenal consisting of his four-seam fastball and a changeup. The odd part was the absence of his sinker, which he tossed 25.2 percent of the time last season but just nine percent this afternoon. The results speak for themselves, but it will be interesting to see how the game plan evolves going forward.
After allowing six earned runs on Opening Day, Jack Flaherty held the Marlins to just one hit Wednesday. The right-hander did allow four walks, two coming in the first inning, but with six strikeouts and no earned runs, it’s somewhat difficult to care. More importantly, Flaherty’s velocity jumped up to 93.4 mph, just shy of his 2020 average of 94 miles per hour, while touching 96. The 25-year-old joined the league-wide trend of leaning on the four-seam fastball early in the year by throwing 59 of them, which was 58% of his arsenal this afternoon (compared to 44.2% last season).
Pitchers with an EDGE
Brandon Woodruff vs CHC - 7 IP, 0 ER, 1 H, 0 BB, 8 K
Woodruff carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning before allowing a single to Cubs outfielder Ian Happ. The right-hander mopped up the rest of the inning, having allowed no runs and zero walks on 74 pitches. That is where his afternoon would end.
This would be easy to scrutinize if not for Woodruff himself stating that he “emptied the tank” in the seventh and was beginning to lose control. The Brewers ace did not fail to each at least 85 pitches in all 13 of his starts last season, so this could alarm some, but think nothing of it. It was a fantastic performance early in the season. The entire arsenal was working which resulted in a 32% whiff rate and 34% CSW (called strikes plus whiffs).
Kyle Gibson vs. TOR - 6.0 IP, 0 ER, 6 H, 1 BB, 8 K
Gibson is a pitcher that no one is going to want to believe in, especially after getting knocked around on Opening Day for five runs in ⅓ of an inning versus the Royals. However, the 33-year-old bounced back in a strong way Wednesday but shutting down the Blue Jays six innings and striking out eight.
Gibson introduced a new slider that accounted for 24% of his pitches this afternoon, which generated six whiffs on 10 swings. Other notable changes included a bump in both four-seam (7% to 14%) and cutter (7.8% to 7%) usage while dropping his changeup from 17.8% last season to just six percent today.
Stephen Strasburg vs ATL - 6 IP, 0 ER, 1H, 2 BB, 8 K
Finally, we have to discuss Stephen Strasburg. After offseason carpal tunnel surgery and a spring training injury that resulted in losing a tendon that he “did not need,” there was plenty of skepticism around the right-hander. Maybe not after Wednesday. A 63% whiff rate on his changeup and 38% CSW on the curveball led Strasburg to six shutout innings against the Braves.
It’s still difficult to imagine the 32-year-old will make it through the rest of the season without incident, but he was more than impressive this afternoon. Strasburg will get the Cardinal next time out.
Hitters with an EDGE
Rhys Hoskins vs. NYM - 3-for-5, HR, 2 2B, RBI, 2 R
Hoskins collected his first home run of the season Wednesday and is now 10-for-24 (.417) with four RBI and six runs scored. The 28-year-old is also off to a strange 6-0 strikeout to walk ratio for someone with a reputation for taking a free base frequently. Hoskins has already registered a career-high max EV, albeit in a season where the new ball seems to be causing that effect league-wide.
Jose Ramirez vs KC - 2-for-4, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 2 R
Ramirez drove in all of the Indians' runs Wednesday, a two-run home run that gave them a 2-1 lead in the sixth inning and another two-run blast that broke a tie in the eighth. The runner-up for last season’s American League MVP award is off to a fast start, batting .350 with a 5.9% strikeout rate early on.
Lorenzo Cain vs CHC - 2-for-5, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 2R
Cain and Jackie Bradley Jr. seem to be in a platoon of staying fresh if that is a thing. The 34-year-old had been nursing a minor oblique injury but made it back into the Brewers lineup Wednesday to make history. Cain became the first Milwaukee hitters to smash two go-ahead home runs in the eighth inning or later. That is pretty clutch. This performance may have been special, but the outfield logjam in Milwaukee still makes starting Cain a slight headache in weekly leagues.
Randal Grichuk (Available in 56 percent of Yahoo fantasy leagues)
This recommendation should not come as a surprise following the news that George Springer may be sidelined for even longer with his latest quad issue. The 29-year-old has a clear track record of providing consistent power if given opportunity and he has that right now. The opportunity may not last forever, but for now, Grichuk needs to be rostered in all formats as a member of the everyday lineup in Toronto.
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Will Smith struggled a bit in game one of Wednesday’s doubleheader versus the Nationals, but still picked up the save despite allowing a run, hit, and two walks. Sean Newcomb then popped in to claim a save in the latter half in a more dominant fashion, One perfect frame with three strikeouts. Nothing to see here, probably, but with the injury to Chris Martin and Will Smith struggling it's worth keeping your eyes open to all possibilities.
Nick Wittgren picked up his save for the Indians this season with a perfect but boring frame in the ninth. Unfortunately, this does nothing clear up the hierarchy in Cleveland, but with James Karinchak allowing a run to score in the sixth, it can only help Wittgren’s case for future opportunities.
Alex Colome worked a two-inning save in the Twins' 3-2 win over the Tigers and seems to be the primary end-game option in Minnesota.
Ian Kennedy struck out the side en route to the save on Wednesday, allowing a single hit. Matt Bush worked the eighth inning in which he surrendered two hits including a home run to Marcus Semien. It may not be pretty, but Ian Kennedy seems to be the horse to ride in Texas.
Kenley Jansen blew the save in a 3-2 loss to the Athletics Wednesday. It was slow and painful with two walks, a single, and a sacrifice fly, but it all counts the same as a blown save. Considering the way Jansen has been handled by the Dodgers, including last postseason, it is always a good idea to keep tabs on other members of the Los Angeles bullpen like Blake Treinen and Corey Knebel.
Wandy Peralta grabbed a save for the Giants in the tenth inning after closer Jake McGee pitched the ninth inning. I doubt his fantasy shareholders will complain though considering he picked up the win.
Amir Garrett came into work in an 11-0 blowout and proceeded to allow a grand slam in the ninth inning. I am sure his fantasy shareholders appreciated that.
Thursday's Matchup of the Day
Corbin Burnes was deadlocked in dueling perfect games against Jose Berrios in his last outing and is turning into a must-see pitcher. During the contest, the right-hander saw an increase in cutter usage, which could be excellent considering its ability to tunnel with Burnes’ sinker. He will be facing off against veteran Adam Wainwright. The Cardinals right-hander did not fare well his last time out against the Reds but was cruising before giving up multiple singles in a six-run third inning. Wainwright will look to bounce back in this one against a formidable opponent.
American League Quick Hits: Twins placed Brent Rooker on the 10-day IL with a cervical strain … Red Sox optioned Tanner Houck to the teams' alternate site despite being one of the best pitchers on the roster … Tim Anderson was placed the 10-day IL retroactive to April 5 with a left hamstring strain … James Paxton suffered a left forearm strain Tuesday night and has been placed on the 10-day IL by the Mariners … Trevor Rosenthal may need surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome … Kyle Lewis may be activated by the Mariners for their next homestand … Aaron Judge was out with general soreness in his side which is both cryptic and worrisome … Akil Baddoo started for the fourth straight day, tripling in a run … Jakob Junis tossed five shutout innings versus the Indians but got a no-decision … DJ Stewart (hamstring) is close to returning to game action and may be back by this weekend … Evan White left Wednesday's game with left quad tightness … White Sox outfielder Billy Hamilton was forced out of his contest against the Mariners with left hamstring tightness after stealing third base.
National League Quick Hits: Max Fried was torched by the Nationals for five runs on eight hits over two innings in a no-decision… J.D. Davis underwent a second round of X-rays on his hand that came back negative, the Mets third baseman is day-to-day with bruising and swelling … Trent Grisham is expected to be back in the Padres lineup this weekend after missing time with a hamstring injury … Mike Soroka felt right shoulder discomfort in his rehab for a torn Achilles and has been shut down … Diamondbacks moved Caleb Smith to the bullpen clearing the way for Taylor Widener to remain in the rotation … Cody Bellinger will not play in Friday’s home opener versus the Nationals.