PLAYING TIME: Garcia to return; SEA shuffles OF

NATIONAL LEAGUE

Cards shift rotation with Garcia's return

Jaime Garcia (LHP, STL), rehabbing from a left shoulder injury, completed his rehabilitation assignment earlier this week and is scheduled to return to the STL rotation on Sunday. Before being shut down in early June, Garcia put up BPIs consistent with his previous seasons, as his disappointing results (4.48 ERA, 1.46 WHIP) were primarily due to H%/S% outliers (36%/67%). In 17.2 IP in his rehab, he registered 20 K and issued just 3 walks.

Joe Kelly (RHP, STL), who filled in for 12 starts for Garcia, will move to the bullpen. Kelly logged a 3.41 ERA, but his base skills were more pedestrian—3.0 Ctl, 5.9 Dom, 4.09 xERA, 54 BPV. Kelly was signed as a college reliever, and though that may be his role in the end, he showed a good aptitude for getting outs in his rotation deubt, including a 51% GB%.

Another Cardinals pitcher to keep an eye on down the stretch is Lance Lynn (RHP, STL). After a fantastic first four months, Lynn has struggled mightily in his three August starts—his Cmd has taken a dive and he's allowed 10 ER in 17 IP. Though his first exposure to MLB was as a reliever in 2011, he logged a starter's workload in both 2010 and 2009—so it would seem that his current IP count (138) is not excessive.

But with Lynn's August H%, S% and hr/f ratios all with a normal range, fatigue and his increased hittability (.284 oppBA in August) will be something to monitor. For now, the Cards say Lynn will remain the rotation.

Walker injures hand

Neil Walker (2B, PIT) suffered a dislocated finger on a double-play attempt on Wednesday and missed Thursday's contest. It looks like he'll be able to avoid the DL after seeing a hand specialist on Thursday, though he could sit out several games.

Walker has again made the most out of his regular AB, with his statistics and many metrics a near-copy of his 2010 breakout season (.290 BA, 14 HR, .809 OPS to date). He remains an important cog in the Pirates' surprising run at the playoffs.

Josh Harrison (SS, PIT) would get any playing time Walker would relinquish. In his second season, Harrison's PX and Spd skills have both improved, though a 25% h%, 4% bb% and limited opportunities (162 AB) temper any excessive enthusiasm. He's a shot-in-the-dark type if Walker needs to miss much time.

NL short take

Jonathan Broxton (RHP, CIN), who has not pitched in almost a week, was deemed unavailable Wednesday due to right shoulder soreness. Broxton's line since joining the Reds at the deadline—4 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 1 K—indicates that he's not been of much help, if he's had his health or not. As merely bullpen depth in CIN, Broxton has little value ...

 

AMERICAN LEAGUE

Robinson takes a bite out of Wells PT in SEA

Given the Mariners lineups over the past two-plus weeks, the team is giving recent call-up Trayvon Robinson (OF, SEA) every chance to claim a full-time role in left field. Robinson has started 12 of the team's 17 games over that span.

But while the results have been better than his 143-AB trial in 2011 (.210 BA, 0.13 Eye and .587 OPS), he's still not exactly lit it up in about one-third of those AB in 2012: .227 BA, 0.31 Eye, .610 OPS. The good news is that his bb%/ct% of 8/70 are big improvements over his 5/57 marks in 2011, and he's showing more speed and willingness to run (4 SB, 106 Spd this season). But Robinson has yet to reward SEA for the extended chance they've given him.

Casper Wells (OF, SEA) is feeling the brunt of this move. Before Robinson was called up, he had locked down the LF job since the beginning of July—but as with other opportunities so far in his career, he's failed to deliver. He's repeated his AB total from 2011, and many of his metrics, too: a poor xBA (.224), like Robinson, lots of swing-and-miss (70% ct%) which leads to a poor Eye (0.26). Wells has shown some power, and has hit 7 HR with double-digit hr/f, but at 27 with multiple chances to win a full-time spot, time is running out.

Wells has been spotted some time in both CF and RF some since Robinson's promotion, but it seems that SEA is looking at its younger outfielders—including 25-year-olds Eric Thames (OF, SEA) and Michael Saunders (OF, SEA)—as it re-configures itself for the post-Ichiro era.

Gonzalez registers another win

Miguel Gonzalez (RHP, BAL) logged win number five on Wednesday, all coming since his insertion into the BAL rotation on July 6. He's provided some stability to a group that lost a leader when veteran Jason Hammel (RHP, BAL) went down in mid-July. With youngsters like Tillman, Arrieta, Matusz and Britton all struggling for consistency, Gonzalez has helped keep the Birds in the wild-card discussion, at least for now.

Long-term, though, Gonzalez looks like a risky play. He's 28 years old, has a wide ERA/xERA gap (3.38/4.41) and only middling base skills (2.1 Cmd, 49 BPV). So far he's been a fly-ball pitcher in Camden Yards (47% FB%) surviving on the laurels of good fortune (25% H%, 80% S%). While he's probably earned a rotation slot the rest of the way, the first look says he's not a shoo-in for future fanalytic relevance.

AL short takes

The Orioles placed Wilson Betemit (3B, BAL) on the DL Thursday with a wrist injury, and recalled Joe Mahoney (1B, BAL), who was up for three AB in early July (see his Call-Ups report from then under his PlayerLink News tab). Mahoney is unlikely to get much playing time, as Betemit's place has been taken by rookie Manny Machado (3B, BAL), who is off to a hot start (7-for-23 with 3 HR through Wednesday). The team hopes that Betemit will be able to return before the end of the season ...


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