PLAYING TIME: Harrison exit adds to TEX pitching woes

AMERICAN LEAGUE

Harrison's early exit adds to TEX rotation questions

Matt Harrison (LHP, TEX) left his Sunday start after five scoreless innings and only 74 pitches with tightness in his lower back and soreness in his left hip.  Initial reports out of TEX say the move was precautionary and that Harrison will be good to go for his next start, but pitching issues continue to dog the Rangers.  With Derek Holland (LHP, TEX) now projected to be out until after the All-Star break following an extended minor league rehab, Scott Feldman banished to the pen for ineffectiveness—6 losses, 6.43 ERA in seven starts—and Alexi Ogando on the DL with a strained groin until at least mid-July, the Rangers can ill-afford to lose another starter.  Particularly Harrison, who has been their most reliable SP behind Colby Lewis and has parlayed a 52% GB% and 2.4 Cmd into a 3.24 ERA and 10 wins inspite of a 5.4 Dom.  Obviously Harrison owners should keep him active until further notice.

The short-term beneficiary here is Justin Grimm (RHP, TEX), who was profiled here last week and is now tentatively projected to draw three more more starts prior to the All-Star break.  Grimm's PQS-5 in his MLB debut and ability to throw strikes at AA-Frisco (67/14 K/BB over 77 IP) hinted at a reasonable short-term flyer for the next two weeks—at least before he was whacked early and often by DET on Monday night.  Regardless, Grimm is getting an opportunity now—and with more than half a season remaining, the TEX SP depth no longer looks as deep or impenetrable as it did back in April.

LAA #5 spot up for grabs?

After a successful bullpen session this weekend, Jerome Williams' (RHP, LAA) stint on the DL—due to what appears to have been an asthmatic panic attack—now projects to last until the minimum 15 days, or immediately following the All-Star break at the latest. Williams' 6 wins, 3.86 xERA and 56% GB% after 83 IP YTD speaks to his effectiveness as LAA's #5 starter, but he's suddenly facing a challenge from rookie Garrett Richards (RHP, LAA) for his rotation spot.

Richards tossed a six-inning PQS-4 vs. LA Sunday, an outing that left him with a 1.63 ERA after 4 starts (28 IP) in subbing first for the injured Jered Weaver, and now for Williams. His 4.22 xERA speaks to a 4.2 Ctl, and a GB% that isn't yet at 50%+ mark he established in the minors. But a 7.2 Dom speaks to terrific mid-90's stuff that has had staying power late into MLB games, and his long-term upside dwarfs that of Williams. Word out of Southern California this past weekend has the Angels considering a permanent move to the rotation for Richards instead of a return to AAA-Salt Lake City, a decision that would move Williams into the pen. Obviously both Richards and Williams owners will need to stay on this.

AL short takes

Craig Gentry (OF, TEX) hasn't made an appearance since exiting Saturday's contest after aggravating a mild ankle sprain.  No word yet on whether Gentry's injury might require a DL stint, but it is cracking open at least a short-term CF PT window for Leonys Martin (OF, TEX), who received his second consecutive start Monday night after a 2 hit / 3 RBI performance Sunday.  Even with half of the Rangers' CF AB being accounted for by Josh Hamilton, this development demands some attention, particularly given Martin's speed and the Ranger lineup / venue ...

Only four games after returning from the DL and a strained hamstring, Alex Avila (C, DET) was out of Monday's lineup due to knee soreness—a development DET manager Jim Leyland termed a "red flag."  Avila dealt with soreness in both of his knees down the stretch in 2011, and missed games this past May due to a sore left patella tendon.  We'll know more after he is examined on Tuesday, but he's beginning to look very iffy at the catching position for the remainder of the season.  As previously, Gerald Laird (C, DET) will get most of the AB that Avila may vacate, until further notice ...

Confirming the seemingly inevitable, MIN put closer Matt Capps (RHP, MIN) on the DL with a sore shoulder Monday.  Even though a Monday MRI revealed nothing beyond inflammation, Capps has had shoulder discomfort for several weeks now, and he'll get a cortisone shot on Tuesday.  Given no immediate timetable for Capps' return and their superior skills, L/R bookends Glen Perkins (LHP, MIN) and Jared Burton (RHP, MIN) now seem to have a real shot at seizing the closer role ...

NATIONAL LEAGUE  

NL short takes

Jose Altuve (2B, HOU) made an early Sunday exit with a hamstring strain, which the Astros described Monday as "mild."  Accordingly, we expect Altuve to miss a game or two—he wasn't in Monday's lineup—this week, and perhaps more, given the initial optimism that too often accompanies hamstring injuries.  His replacement for now is journeyman utility Brian Bixler (2B, HOU), the only other active player on the Astros roster with innings at 2B behind the yeoman-like Altuve.  While Bixler can occasionally steal a base and even put a charge into the ball at times, his historically poor ct% and GB% problems keep him from landing regular PT.  He's unlikely to be the Astros' 2B for an extended period of time should Altuve's injury linger ...

After taking Sunday's loss vs. MIN, Aroldis Chapman (LHP, CIN) has now been scored upon in five of his last seven outings, during which he has coughed up eight earned runs in 6.1 IP, 3 HR, 3 blown saves and 4 losses.  Chapman's velocity and dominance has remained intact during throughout these struggles—9/2 K/BB—amidst reports of lower back problems and inconsistency with anything other than his fastball.  Chapman's struggles should be monitored by saves-chasing fantasy owners, since a CIN team in contention isn't likely to let them fester for too long without making a change ...

As projected last week by Tom Kephart, CIN activated primary CF Drew Stubbs (OF, CIN) from the DL on Monday and immediately inserted him into the starting lineup vs. MIL.  Stubbs' return immediately impacts Chris Heisey (OF, CIN), who saw nearly all of the Reds' CF time in his absence.  But even though he's their best defensive CF option, Stubbs' .235/.300/.373 line (204 AB) and a sub .240 xBA over the past three seasons suggests that regular PT is hardly a slam dunk.  The convoluted CF/LF/3B mix —with Todd Frazier (3B/OF, CIN) now forced to scrounge for AB between 3B and LF—is volatile and likely to be decided by bottom line performance at any point in time ...


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