Game 106, Mariners at Red Sox
Joe Saunders vs. Brandon Workman, 4:10pm
The M’s head east for three against the Red Sox and three in Baltimore before returning home next Monday. The Sox were just passed by the streaking Rays for first place in the AL East, and the M’s have Michael Morse back from injury, meaning it’s likely you might hear this series (mis)described as “pivotal.” The Red Sox are looking at upgrades in the rotation, as today’s rumor about Cliff Lee attests. At the moment, rookie Brandon Workman occupies the #5 spot in the rotation, and while he’s been fairly effective so far, I don’t think anyone sees him as a great option down the stretch or in the playoffs. Workman throws a four-seam fastball, a curve, a cutter and a change. Like many of his Red Sox teammates (Felix Doubront, for example), Workman doesn’t exhibit a markedly different pitch mix to righties and lefties. That is, he’ll throw his change and to righties and lefties alike. His fastball has relatively little horizontal movement, but above-average vertical movement so it’s not a big surprise to see that he’s a real fly-baller. He posted GB rates in the mid-high 30s in the minors and will likely settle in that range in the majors as well.
Given his lack of a big slider or sinker, it’s also not much of a surprise that he never posted much in the way of platoon splits in the minors. His MLB “career” has lasted all of about 1 hour, so there’s not much to go on there, but his change-up’s not the kind of pitch that can really trouble the M’s lefty-heavy line-up. He’s posted 13 strikeouts in 12 innings in his MLB career, a number boosted by his two-inning relief appearance in Seattle (his MLB debut). In that game, he struck out notable sluggers like Henry Blanco, Brendan Ryan and Jason Bay, so while he posted solid K rates in the minors, I’m not convinced he’s going to be a real swing-and-miss pitcher if he stays in the rotation. I’ll always remember that game back on July 10th for one of the more improbably “first MLB at-bats” I’ve seen: Brendan Ryan welcomed Workman to the bigs with a home run. The M’s also hit three doubles in that inning, so we’ve seen that they’re capable of dealing with Workman’s 92mph heat. The Red Sox were able to move some starters around in the past week, meaning that Workman hasn’t pitched since the 22nd; we’ll see if the long rest helps his velocity or stamina.
Michael Morse is back with the team, and he’ll get the start tonight in RF for the M’s. That’s pushed Dustin Ackley out of the line-up for a day; as Matthew mentioned, Ackley and Saunders will presumably split time for as long as Morse stays healthy.
1: Miller, SS
2: Franklin, 2B
3: Seager, 3B
4: Morales, DH
5: Ibanez, LF
6: Morse, RF
7: Smoak, 1B
8: Saunders, CF
9: Blanco, C
SP: Joe Saunders
The trade deadline looms, but there’s been surprisingly little action thus far. A few relievers moving hither and thither, but outside of Matt Garza, there haven’t been any big moves. The Angels moved Scott Downs, which means they could look to sell at the deadline in an attempt to get cost-controlled prospects as their commitments to Hamilton/Pujols/Wilson rise over the next few years. Teams are looking at Howie Kendrick and Erick Aybar. Long-term extensions have already altered free agency, and they (and the new CBA, to be fair) may be doing the same to the trade deadline. There are fewer 2-3 month rentals and a few more 1.5, 2.5 year players on the block, which amplifies both the potential risk and the potential return.
The M’s actually have 2-3 month rentals to trade, but the season’s conspired to make those moves less attractive. Morse has been hurt half the year, and has been mired in a slump since April. Kendrys Morales has been very solid, but injury issues and a perceived inability to play 1B daily compromises his value to NL teams. Raul Ibanez is 41, and while I never would’ve imagined him having much trade value this season, he may be the most likely to go, though that’s not saying much. It’s looking increasingly likely that all three will be in M’s uniforms in August.
Taijuan Walker heads the list of today’s minor league pitching probables. He and Tacoma welcome Omaha to Cheney Stadium tonight at 7 (you should probably go). Anthony Fernandez starts for Jackson; the lefty was injured in Spring Training and got knocked around when he returned to the Generals rotation in April/May, but he’s been pretty good recently. Lars Huijer takes the hill for Everett as they play the Hops in Hillsboro for those of you in the Portland area.