AL East Beat: May 15th Update
A mid-May update on the American League East, where both New York and Boston are on-pace for 110+ wins.
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David Hess had the quite the debut last Saturday. Now the question is whether that should earn the right-hander more opportunities with the major league club?
The Orioles recalled Hess from Class AAA Norfolk to serve as the 26th man for their doubleheader against the Tampa Bay Rays at Oriole Park at Camden Yards and he got credit for the win in a 6-3 victory.
The 24-year-old allowed a three-run home run to Matt Duffy in the first inning and that turned out to be it. In addition to the three runs, he gave up just three hits in six innings while striking out three and walking none.
“I can’t really even put it into words. It’s an experience you literally dream about since you were a kid,” Hess told reporters. “It definitely has been everything and more than I hoped it would be.”
Despite the Orioles’ starting pitching problems, Hess was optioned back to Norfolk immediately after the game. He must remain in the minor leagues at least 10 days before he can be recalled, which means May 23 is the earliest he could be promoted, unless someone on the major league roster is placed on the disabled list to open a roster spot.
Orioles manger Buck Showalter was noncommittal about Hess’ future following his debut.
“David presented himself well,” Showalter said. “We’ll see what best serves us.”
Hess was the Orioles’ fifth-round pick in the 2014 amateur draft from Tennessee Tech. He has a 30-28 career record in the minor leagues in 96 games, including 90 starts, over five seasons.
This year at Norfolk, he is 2-0 with a 2.12 ERA in five games with 20 hits allowed, 29 strikeouts and 12 walks in 29 2/3 innings.
One scout who has watched Hess extensively throughout his professional career is not sure that he will be a long-term starter in the major leagues.
“He’s a max-effort guy and that is the kind of pitcher that usually winds up pitching in the bullpen,” the scout said. “He has a good fastball and his changeup is decent, but he doesn’t have that solid third pitch you need to be a starter. He’s definitely pitched well this season but I’m still skeptical about his ability to be a successful member of a big-league rotation.”
Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox are hoping that left-hander David Price is back on track now that the source of the tingling and numbness in his pitching hand has been determined to be caused by carpal tunnel syndrome.
Price returned to action Saturday and notched a win over the Blue Jays at Toronto after having missed his scheduled start three days earlier against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium because of numbness. Price gave up two runs on five hits in 5 1/3 innings with six strikeouts and two walks.
Price had lost his previous three starts and the 2012 American League Cy Young Award winner is just 3-4 with a 4.89 ERA in eight outings this season. However, the Red Sox were encouraged by the way he pitched last weekend.
“It was good to get back out there,” Price told reporters. “The more I threw, the better I felt. To me, that’s always a good sign.”
Said manager Alex Cora: “Changing speeds, using the breaking ball, elevating fastballs, that was good to see. He competed. That’s all we want from him.”
There has been speculation that the swelling in Price’s left thumb, index finger and middle finger is the result of him being a video game enthusiast. He and some of his teammates have become nearly obsessed with Fortnite and often play into the early morning following night games.
However, Price scoffed at that idea.
“This is just something that happened over time. This didn’t stem from any one thing,” he said. “I’m born in 1985, so that’s the video games generation. Being a Red Sox is the least amount of video games I’ve ever played being in Major League Baseball.”
New York Yankees
The power numbers put up by the Yankees through the first quarter of the season have been impressive, to say the least.
When designated hitter Giancarlo Stanton launched his 10th home run of the season Sunday in a victory over the Oakland Athletics at Yankee Stadium, he became the fourth Yankees player to reach double digits already this season.
That gave Yankees, for the first time in franchise history, four players with at least 10 home runs just 40 games into the season. Stanton joined right fielder Aaron Judge (11), shortstop Didi Gregorius (10) and catcher Gary Sanchez (10).
In fact, the Yankees had never had more than two players with as many as 10 homers at the 40-game mark.
The last major team to accomplish the feat was the 2003 Texas Rangers with Carl Everett, Juan Gonzalez, Rafael Palmeiro and Alex Rodriguez.
“Up and down the lineup, we can hurt you a lot of different ways,” left fielder Brett Gardner said told reporters. “It seems like a different guy every day.”
Stanton had three hits Sunday, leaving him with 999 in his nine-year career, including 499 for extra bases. He will try to reach a pair of milestones Tuesday night when the Yankees open a two-game series with the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park.
“I didn’t know that. I’ll have to get that ball,” Stanton said. “Hopefully in Washington.”
Tampa Bay Rays
No player has logged more time with the Rays’ franchise that current San Francisco Giants third baseman Evan Longoria.
Longoria made his major league debut with the Rays in 2008, two years after they selected him third overall in the amateur draft from Long Beach State. He then played in 1,435 games over 10 seasons before being traded last December.
So, his comments about the franchise’s future to the Tampa Bay Times last week carry a significant amount of weight. Longoria believes the Rays must move from Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., to boost attendance.
“Honestly, and this is maybe not something I should say, but my gut tells me that the best decision might be to move the team,” Longoria said. “I say that only because I look at the example of the Miami Marlins, and (a new stadium) didn’t really solve their attendance issues. So, from purely an attendance standpoint, somewhere else might be better.”
Right-hander Chris Archer has spent his entire major league career with the Rays, debuting in 2012. When asked by reporters about Longoria comments, Archer also said he felt the franchise should move, if not completely out of the Tampa/St. Pete market then at least to a better location than South St. Petersburg.
“The track record says it’s tough for us to draw fans,” Archer said. “I don’t know where the move should be, but I think maybe a change is necessary.”
Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays have been able to stay at least within hailing distance of the Red Sox and Yankees in the AL East despite a dismal start by the ace of their pitching staff. They are hoping so time off can get right-hander Marcus Stroman on track.
The Blue Jays placed Stroman on the 10-day disabled list with a sore shoulder last weekend. The balky shoulder also caused Stroman to get a late start to spring training and he is 0-5 with a 7.71 ERA in seven starts.
“I haven’t been myself out there at all,” Stroman told reporters. “It just got to a point where it became very frustrating, physically and mentally. Just at a point where I felt like I had to work at 115-120 percent when I would normally be working at 80-85 percent to do what I do out there.
“Just a collective decision between me and the staff, to take a step back, do what I need to do for my shoulder, get my emotions and everything in sync, to get back to myself.”
The 27-year-old Stroman was a combined 22-19 with a 3.73 ERA in 65 starts in 2016 and 2017, pitching at least 200 innings both seasons.
If Stroman is on the DL for the minimum amount of time, he could return Thursday. However, general manager Ross Atkins all but ruled that out.
“That would be ideal, but I’d say there’s certainly strong potential it’s longer than that,” Atkins said.
Right-hander Joe Biagini was recalled from Class AAA Buffalo to take Stroman’s turn in the rotation Sunday and lost to the Red Sox, surrendering four runs in 4 2/3 innings.
John Perrotto has been a professional sports writer since 1982 and has covered a multitude of sports, including MLB, NFL and college football and basketball. He has been a member of the Baseball Writers' Association since 1988, a Hall of Fame voter since 1997 and has covered 21 World Series and two Super Bowls. He is a graduate of Geneva College, the birthplace of college basketball, and lives in Beaver Falls, Pa., the hometown of Joe Willie Namath.
He also writes The Perrotto Report (theperrottoreport.com), newsletters that concentrate on Major League Baseball and the Pittsburgh Pirates.