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Inbox: Is Pirela destined for more time at 2B?

Padres beat reporter AJ Cassavell answers fans' questions
MLB.com

Any chance we see Jose Pirela at second base more often when Wil Myers and Manuel Margot are back?
-- Tommy, San Diego

This is an unequivocal yes. Manager Andy Green spent most of Spring Training waxing about having serious platoon options and competition for playing time. (The Padres haven't really had that since his tenure began.)

Any chance we see Jose Pirela at second base more often when Wil Myers and Manuel Margot are back?
-- Tommy, San Diego

This is an unequivocal yes. Manager Andy Green spent most of Spring Training waxing about having serious platoon options and competition for playing time. (The Padres haven't really had that since his tenure began.)

That said, Pirela is never going to be the everyday second baseman in San Diego. The Padres' rotation is far too ground-ball heavy to employ subpar infield defense.

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With a full host of healthy outfielders, Pirela should move to second base against tough left-handers, allowing Hunter Renfroe to play. But he's not a long-term solution. (If Carlos Asuaje and Cory Spangenberg continue to struggle, a callup for Padres No. 3 prospect Luis Urias could be on the horizon.)

It seems like the Padres will have a surplus when some guys get called up in the next one or two years. What's the long-term plan for Renfroe, Spangenberg, Asuaje and Franchy Cordero once the next wave arrives?
-- Ethan G.

The Padres are still in the process of figuring out that plan, and this season's results will go a long way toward determining it. Spangenberg and Asuaje could be running out of time to impress, with Urias hot on their heels. Renfroe and Cordero, meanwhile, could ultimately be pitted against each other in the fight for a place in the Padres' future.

At 23, Cordero is the rawest of the bunch, and he has the biggest margin for error if he struggles this year. As for Asuaje, Spangenberg and Renfroe, the Padres fielded calls on all three during the offseason, and the trade chatter could persist as the non-waiver Trade Deadline approaches.

That said, the Padres don't mind the idea of a surplus. Quite the opposite, in fact. They'd embrace it.

How long will the Padres let Bryan Mitchell stay in the rotation? What are the chances Eric Lauer replaces him?
-- Frank, Fallbrook, Calif.

It's not impossible for Lauer (the Padres' No. 12 prospect) and Mitchell to occupy places in the rotation at the same time. In fact, it might be imminent, given Luis Perdomo's struggles. Lauer -- off to an impressive start for Triple-A El Paso -- could be in the Padres' rotation as soon as Tuesday.

As for Mitchell's rotation place, I suspect the leash is relatively long -- despite the fact that he hasn't been much better than Perdomo. In Mitchell, the Padres saw a rotation project in the mold of Drew Pomeranz or Trevor Cahill when they acquired him in a December trade with the Yankees. The early results tell another story.

That said, there's a reason for the disconnect in the club's reaction to the small samples of Mitchell and Perdomo. Most importantly, Mitchell is out of options and couldn't be sent to Triple-A to work out any kinks. But Perdomo has been a Padres rotation experiment for two years. Mitchell, even if the early returns are ugly, has been that for only three weeks.

When Margot gets back, where does he hit in the lineup?
-- James M.

The Padres would love for Margot to establish himself as their leadoff hitter of the future. His .303 career on-base percentage doesn't support that end goal right now.

The speedy center fielder was off to a woeful start when he was plunked in Colorado last week and placed on the disabled list with bruised ribs. But he had shown signs of turning things around in his last couple of games before the injury.

Ultimately, Margot might return to leadoff when he finds his form. But it's a safer bet that the Padres let him continue to work out the kinks in the No. 6 or 7 spot in the lineup, especially against right-handed pitching.

What's your take on Freddy Galvis? I've seen local media say the Padres should sign him long term, since he's getting on base at a higher rate than usual. I'd like to see at least a few months' body of work before doing so. Thoughts?
-- Harrison M., North Auburn, Calif.

The Padres won't make any snap judgments with Galvis, and nobody expects him to continue reaching base at a .373 clip. There's a feeling in the organization that he could be a nice long-term piece to help nurture a young infield, but that possibility won't be formally explored for a while.

Before any talk of a Galvis extension, the Padres need to evaluate the rest of their internal options. They'll ask themselves whether top prospect Fernando Tatis Jr. is a shortstop or a third baseman in the long run. And they'll have to make a decision on the progress of fellow shortstop prospect Javy Guerra.

It's possible Galvis is back in San Diego beyond this season. I wouldn't say it's probable.

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.

San Diego Padres, Jose Pirela

Inbox: Is Ramirez's slow start cause for concern?

Beat reporter Jordan Bastian fields Indians fans' questions
MLB.com

The Indians are 9.9 percent of the way through their 162-game regular season schedule, so it's still too early to make any sweeping conclusions about any individuals in the lineup. I could sit here and detail all the reasons why Player X is struggling and then -- one week later -- a hot streak might make it look like he's enjoying a strong April all along.

Tweet from @fmjosh: I realize any player can get off to a slow start, but it's not something we usually see from Jose, right? Any concerns there? Him coming back to earth? (not that anyone thought he was necessarily playing above his head) #IndiansInbox

The Indians are 9.9 percent of the way through their 162-game regular season schedule, so it's still too early to make any sweeping conclusions about any individuals in the lineup. I could sit here and detail all the reasons why Player X is struggling and then -- one week later -- a hot streak might make it look like he's enjoying a strong April all along.

Jose Ramirez is a great example, too. Through his first nine games, including a handful in near-freezing temperatures in Cleveland, the All-Star third baseman was sporting a .061 batting average. Ramirez then hit .357 with three home runs, more walks (five) than strikeouts (two) and a 1.133 OPS over his next seven contests for the Tribe.

Ramirez is still digging his way out of that early April slump, and I'd expect him to keep seeing his slash line regress positively. As far as Ramirez's production at the start of seasons past, there may be a little bit of recency bias here. If it feels like Ramirez usually gets off to a hot start, that could be because he hit .330 with a .982 OPS in the first month a year ago.

Over the course of Ramirez's career, however, he has been roughly league average (99 weighted runs created plus) in the season's first month. He also has an 83 wRC+ in his career in May, indicating he's hit 17 percent below average in that particular month. Ramirez has shown that, as the weather heats up, so does his bat. In his career, Ramirez has been well above average in June (130 wRC+), July (116), August (112) and September (146).

Now, while it's too premature to do a deep dive into Ramire'z 2018 statistics, it's not too early to look for what has troubled him in the batter's box to date. Through Wednesday, for example, Ramirez had turned in a .303 slugging percentage on all varieties of fastballs, per Statcast™. Last season, when the third baseman ended third in American League MVP voting, he tortured fastballs to the tune of a .648 slugging percentage.

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Tweet from @nathan_carder: It���s very early in the season, but do you think the front office will be aggressive before the trade deadline this year? Reliever (or two) and a bat for the lineup? #IndiansInbox

The Edwin Encarnacion free-agent signing aside two winters ago, the Indians' modus operandi over the past few years has been to target specific needs ahead of both the non-waiver Trade Deadline (July 31) and waiver deadline (Aug. 31). In 2016, Cleveland added Andrew Miller and Brandon Guyer for a slew of prospects. Last year, the Tribe reeled in Jay Bruce and Joe Smith. I'd expect the Indians to take a similar approach later this summer, especially when needs for October may be more easily identified.

Indians chairman and CEO Paul Dolan addressed that topic during Spring Training.

"I would be shocked," Dolan said, "if a Bruce-like opportunity surfaced, where we had an obvious need and a high-quality player like Bruce was available, and we didn't have to surrender prospects to get him, I'd be very surprised if we didn't act on that. I have no idea whether or not we would consider a high-volume prospect [deal] -- an Andrew Miller-like deal."

Tweet from @RyanSito2274: Why isn���t Mejia up in the majors yet? Are they Trying to get him more exposure on other positions? We can use a hitter right now!!!!

Ryan, take a deep breath and dial back on the exclamation points. I get why Tribe fans are frustrated right now. The Indians have a 72 wRC+ as a team with a .214/.285/.381 slash line and have averaged 3.5 runs per game. It's been brutal and the offensive drought has been lineup-wide. All of that said, do not expect Cleveland to make any rash decisions after fewer than 20 games.

With so many players slumping, the better approach is to give this more time to allow the hitters -- guys with established track records of success over full seasons -- to get back on track. Then, when it's a little deeper into the schedule, it will be easier to take a step back and see which areas are truly in need of an upgrade.

Tweet from @wizard_of_izz: I like the excitement and think there should be more of it from players while rounding the bases. Lindor says he���s not showing anyone up and I believe him. What constitutes going over the line in your unwritten rule interpretation?

Jay, if I wrote here what was "over the line," then these wouldn't be unwritten rules anymore! Kidding aside, I absolutely loved the passion that Francisco Lindor showed around the bases following his home run on Tuesday night in Puerto Rico. He may never have the chance to experience a moment like that again in front of his true home crowd. The stadium was in a frenzy and the scene was spectacular. Maybe there are times when bat flips or on-field antics feel unnecessary -- during a lopsided game with no postseason-picture consequences, perhaps -- but Lindor's jubilant jaunt was not one of those moments.

Video: Lindor, Tribe cruise to a 6-1 win in Puerto Rico

Tweet from @i4tribe: @MLBastian Any update on Mike Napoli ? he went for the MRI .. nothing on local news here .

Indians manager Terry Francona did not have the specifics of Mike Napoli's right knee injury as of Wednesday, except to note that it was a "significant" setback for the veteran first baseman. Napoli injured his knee while playing for Triple-A Columbus on Tuesday and it was serious enough to warrant carting him off the field. If this is the end of the road for Napoli's playing career, Francona still feels the former All-Star can make an impact in the next phase of his career.

Tweet from @JMohler32: Tribe still subscribing to drafting college bats (Zimmer/Naquin) over high school?

The Indians have not shied away from high school players in recent MLB Drafts, especially in the early rounds. Dating back to 2011, when Lindor was Cleveland's top pick out of Montverde Academy in Florida, the Indians have taken a prep star with four of their seven picks. If you look at the club's top three picks in the past seven Drafts combined, 13 out of 21 players (62 percent) were picked out of high schools. One more, Brady Aiken (2015), was rehabbing a left elbow injury post-high school when he was drafted by the Tribe. Overall, the Indians seem to take a more balanced approach deeper into the Draft -- with a slight tilt toward collegiate athletes in the middle rounds.

Tweet from @ESTurner13: I know jerseys are pitcher���s choice but why do all of our pitcher (except Bauer) always choose the navy jerseys? Good luck? Just like them? I want to see the road grays! #IndiansInbox

There is not much to it other than the personal preference of the starting pitchers, as you mentioned. It is worth noting that the Indians wore the navy blue tops throughout their run to the World Series in 2016 and also during the 22-game winning streak last summer. Baseball players are creatures of routine, habit and superstition, so you will often see them stick with a jersey when things are going well.

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.

Cleveland Indians, Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez

Inbox: Evaluating Holland's early struggles

Reporter Joe Trezza responds to questions from Cardinals' fans
MLB.com

CHICAGO -- With the Cardinals and Cubs postponed for the second time in three days, now is as good a time as any to tackle your most pressing Cards questions.

In this edition of the Inbox, fans inquire about Greg Holland, Kolten Wong, Jack Flaherty and Luke Voit.

CHICAGO -- With the Cardinals and Cubs postponed for the second time in three days, now is as good a time as any to tackle your most pressing Cards questions.

In this edition of the Inbox, fans inquire about Greg Holland, Kolten Wong, Jack Flaherty and Luke Voit.

Tweet from @mikebloodworth: Can we chalk Holland���s ineffectiveness entirely up to missing all of ST or is there potentially something physically wrong?

It's a fair question, given how ineffective Holland has been since the minute he debuted last week against the Brewers. But the correct answer is probably the simplest: if Holland were injured, he wouldn't be pitching, and Cardinals manager Mike Matheny keeps rolling him out there in an attempt to get him right.

Holland's issues appear more mechanical at this point, and maybe even between the ears. More than anything else, he has had particular trouble getting ahead in counts and making pitches down and away to righties. As a fastball-slider right-hander, this is where Holland lives when his pitches are biting effectively. He's fallen behind half of the 16 hitters he's faced over four appearances, and five of the seven he's walked.

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Holland isn't the type of pitcher who is effective when he's wild. He's also not immune to control issues. When Holland has struggled -- notably as a younger pitcher, then in 2015 and for a short stretch last August -- it's been because he lost the strike zone.

Tweet from @Cardinalfreaks: How long of a leash does Kolten Wong have. Assuming a healthy roster, it���s hard to make a case that he fits in the top 8.

I assume you mean in the starting lineup, given Wong is in the third year of a five-year, $25 million contract and coming off a career year. The early results this year haven't been great, and he will be the first to tell you that. He'll still be given a chance to succeed, given his skillset, contract and pedigree.

But Wong's status as a full-time starter, at least in the short-term, is certainly complicated. Perhaps even tenuous. Coming out of Spring Training, Matheny planned to shuffle Wong, Jedd Gyorko and Jose Martinez around, hoping to get each of them five (of an assumed seven) starts per week. Martinez's hot start threw a wrench in all that, and Greg Garcia's nice few days earned him an extra start Tuesday.

Matheny is going to have to juggle, now that Martinez is entrenched at first. He's simply too valuable to remove from the lineup. Matt Carpenter has to play as well, essentially leaving one spot each day for Gyorko and Wong to split.

But as Gyorko's early-season injury proved, depth isn't a bad thing to have. Martinez and Carpenter are both playing through minor injuries, making Wong's status as a starter more or less fluid.

Tweet from @Gabe3Ruth: Flaherty is so good, but where do you foresee him fitting in with the big club?

Flaherty was electric at times in his only start, when he struck out nine over five innings against the Brewers. The Cardinals' front office sees him as the next man up, and has since spring.

What I don't understand completely is this widespread thirst to see Flaherty in the starting rotation, given the circumstances. At this juncture, Flaherty's presence would indicate something gone awry with the club's established set of starters, either due to injury or ineffectiveness. Flaherty may offer more upside than some members of the Cards' current rotation, but he's also unproven.

By the time the dust settles, I expect Flaherty to have made at least 10 starts this season. Big league teams in 2018 just need rotation depth. The Cardinals used nine starters last season, when teams, on average, used at least 10. That league-wide average was up from nine in 2016, which was up from 7.5 the year before that, which was up from more than six the year before that -- sense a pattern here?

Flaherty will be in St. Louis before long. That said, I don't see him up imminently, barring injury. The Cards' staff is well-rested thanks to this week's schedule issues, and will remain that way with three off-days over the next 13 days. Again, everything can change with one hamstring tweak, as we saw at the end of Spring Training.

Tweet from @BolomeyMichael: Why isn't Luke Voit playing at Memphis?

Voit was placed on the Minor League disabled list after one game due to an oblique injury.

Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz.

St. Louis Cardinals, Jack Flaherty, Greg Holland, Luke Voit, Kolten Wong

Inbox: Will Torres be called to Bronx soon?

Beat reporter Bryan Hoch answers questions from fans
MLB.com

Do you think that Gleyber Torres is close to a callup? I've heard nothing but positive things from Triple-A about him.
-- John F., Brownsburg, Ind.

Indeed, the drumbeat for the Yankees to promote their top prospect is growing louder. Given Tyler Wade's early-season struggles, it has been suggested that the Yanks may consider bumping Torres to the big leagues sooner than they might have anticipated. Torres showed signs of rust in big league camp this spring, and that was probably to be expected, given his nine-month layoff following Tommy John surgery on his left (non-throwing) elbow.

Do you think that Gleyber Torres is close to a callup? I've heard nothing but positive things from Triple-A about him.
-- John F., Brownsburg, Ind.

Indeed, the drumbeat for the Yankees to promote their top prospect is growing louder. Given Tyler Wade's early-season struggles, it has been suggested that the Yanks may consider bumping Torres to the big leagues sooner than they might have anticipated. Torres showed signs of rust in big league camp this spring, and that was probably to be expected, given his nine-month layoff following Tommy John surgery on his left (non-throwing) elbow.

However, Torres -- baseball's No. 5 prospect per MLB Pipeline -- has picked up right where he left off down at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, again proving that his talent and potential are the real deal. The service time consideration is now a thing of the past, as Torres has spent the requisite 20 days in the Minors that will give the Yankees control of his 2024-25 season.

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I've believed all along that Torres would play a part in the Majors this season -- though to be honest, I didn't anticipate he would be promoted in April; May or June seemed more realistic, given his issues this spring. However, the Yanks have long subscribed to the theory that players tell you when they are ready.

General manager Brian Cashman has compared Torres' situation to that of Robinson Cano, whose performance forced the Yankees' hand in calling him up in 2005. If Torres continues to rake at Triple-A -- and the mid-back stiffness that forced him to exit Monday's game early at Gwinnett turns out to be nothing more than a minor concern -- he could follow that same path.

Do you think a manager with some experience and maybe more of a calming influence is needed to straighten the Yankees out? They look unprepared out there, possibly due to Aaron Boone being new and overwhelmed.
-- Ken. K, North Vancouver

Anyone who expects Boone to be replaced after 16 games -- or for that matter, after one season -- has not been paying attention.

This hiring was not something that the Yankees decided upon lightly. Boone blew away the other five candidates -- so much so that Hal Steinbrenner decided to call off the second round of the interview process and authorized Cashman to hire Boone without having him fly down to Tampa, Fla., and meet with the Steinbrenner family.

Boone would be the first to admit that the team has not played up to his expectations, but it's not possible to judge his capability to run the team on such a small sample size.

What concerns you more early in the season: inconsistent bullpen performance or Giancarlo Stanton's struggles at the plate?
-- Alex W., via Twitter

Given those choices, I'll pin that on the relief crew, which was supposed to be a dominant strength of this team and has not lived up to that in the early going. Their performance is crucial, considering the state of the starting rotation.

Boone has said that Stanton's track record is too good for this to continue all season, and on that note, I agree. We are talking about the reigning National League MVP Award winner, after all. The disparity between Stanton's home-road splits has been staggering, which is probably part of the reason he is hearing boos at Yankee Stadium -- they haven't seen what he is capable of, at least in person.

Stanton is 3-for-35 with 20 strikeouts as a Yankee in New York, while he has gone 10-for-31 while wearing road gray. Those numbers have to even out, and as Boone said on Tuesday, "Eventually the league will pay for some of his early struggles."

Dellin Betances has not been very productive all season. Has there been talk about sending him down to the Minors to work out his mechanical problems?
-- Bill P., Hopewell, N.Y.

A demotion to the Minors is not something that the Yankees are considering at this time, especially since with Tommy Kahnle's injury, they are going to need to lean on Betances for big outs in the near future.

On the positive side, pitching coach Larry Rothschild has said that Betances is commanding his four-seam fastball well and that his breaking ball is consistent. One area for concern, as detailed recently by the wonderful Katie Sharp, would be Betances' diminished spin rate.

Thus far in 2018, Betances' four-seam fastball has averaged 2,297 rpm and 96.7 mph. That's well below his 2017 averages of 2,430 rpm and 98.3 mph, and even below his April 2017 averages of 2,570 rpm and 97.6 mph.

What can be gleaned from this data? Generally speaking, high-spin fastballs lead to more strikeouts, while low-spin fastballs produce more ground balls. Betances is right around league average, which is not where you want to be as far as avoiding damaging contact.

What is the latest status for Clint Frazier? Do you think he gets called up if Jacoby Ellsbury is still on the shelf?
-- Jimmy R., via Twitter

Frazier is continuing to gain momentum as he recovers from the late February concussion that he sustained in the Yankees' second exhibition game of the spring, participating in extended spring camp action down in Florida.

The Yanks are proceeding cautiously, but as long as Frazier continues to hit his checkpoints without a setback, it is conceivable that he will be playing in Minor League games within weeks. You'll probably see him play for Class A Advanced Tampa and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre before Frazier would be considered for a big league promotion.

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.

New York Yankees

Inbox: When will Angels shift to 6-man rotation?

Beat reporter Maria Guardado answers questions from fans
MLB.com

When are the Angels going to go to a six-man rotation?
-- Chris U., Downey, Calif.

When are the Angels going to go to a six-man rotation?
-- Chris U., Downey, Calif.

Tweet from @SantaCruzDad: If Heaney and Tropeano are here to stay, who is likely to be that 6th starter? Bridwell or Barria?

The Angels are expected to transition to their flexible six-man rotation within the next week, as they'll need an extra starter by Sunday at the latest. If the Angels wait until Sunday to call up another pitcher, Jaime Barria would become an option to join the rotation, along with Parker Bridwell.

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It could be a bit of a toss-up between the two. The 21-year-old Barria impressed in his MLB debut against the Rangers last Wednesday, allowing one run over five innings and earning his first career win. Bridwell, who logged a 3.64 ERA over 121 innings in 2017, allowed six runs over 1 2/3 innings in his season debut against the A's on April 6, and he also struggled in his most recent start at Triple-A Salt Lake on Monday, giving up eight runs over 4 1/3 innings.

Video: LAA@TEX: Barria allows one hit in MLB debut

The sixth-starter situation could be quite fluid, with Barria and Bridwell both factoring into the Angels' rotation mix over the course of the season. The only starter who can't be optioned is Garrett Richards, so the rotation could have a lot of interchangeable parts, depending on matchups and who's pitching well at any given time.

Tweet from @mychingu: Any talks about the possibility of extending Mike Scioscia's contract?

Scioscia is in the final season of the 10-year, $50 million contract he signed in January 2009, but I wouldn't expect his situation to be resolved until the end of the year. Last fall, Scioscia and general manager Billy Eppler sat down and agreed to save those conversations for the end of the 2018 season, so I think both parties are content to just ride it out for now.

Seeing how the Angels have performed so far, is it more likely we try adding a bullpen piece or starter? By bullpen piece, I mean a [Zach] Britton, once healthy, or a Kelvin Herrera?
-- Calvin H., Anaheim, Calif.

I wouldn't expect any discussions to gain serious traction until the non-waiver Trade Deadline gets closer, and it's hard to predict what the Angels' biggest needs will be three months from now. That said, the early returns seem to suggest that if the Angels were to make a big move, it would probably be for an impact pitcher.

The Halos could certainly try to target an "established closer," like Britton or Herrera, who are both eligible for free agency at the end of the season. But the Angels' bullpen has been quite good so far, posting a 2.45 ERA over an American League-high 69 2/3 innings.

Adding a quality starter also wouldn't hurt, though it remains to be seen who will be made available and whether the Angels will be willing to potentially dip into their farm system to meet the asking prices.

Where is Kaleb Cowart? I do not see him on either the Angels or Bees rosters.
-- Scott M., Orem, Utah

Cowart is currently on the disabled list after sustaining a broken foot near the end of Spring Training.

Tweet from @calbears04: Did Chris carter take a ml assignment?

Carter, who signed a Minor League deal during Spring Training, is currently on the Triple-A Salt Lake roster. He is batting .250 with an .888 OPS and three homers over 11 games. The Angels don't have a spot for him right now, as Luis Valbuena, Albert Pujols and Jefry Marte remain ahead of him on the depth chart at first base.

Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Los Angeles Angels

Inbox: Any pitching prospects close to MLB?

Tigers reporter Jason Beck fields fans' questions
MLB.com

Taking your questions while waiting to see when spring will finally arrive in Michigan … 

Of the Tigers' starting pitching prospects currently in the Minors, who do you believe will be the first to make their MLB debut?
-- Jeff Fletcher (@Batting500)

Taking your questions while waiting to see when spring will finally arrive in Michigan … 

Of the Tigers' starting pitching prospects currently in the Minors, who do you believe will be the first to make their MLB debut?
-- Jeff Fletcher (@Batting500)

Beau Burrows seems to be on that path, either by the end of this season or sometime next year, given what he has done in about a half-season at Double-A Erie. Kyle Funkhouser could be in position to be pushed aggressively if he has success at Erie since he's a little older, having just turned 24.

:: Submit a question to the Tigers Inbox ::

This is a good opportunity to suggest checking out a game in Erie if you have the chance this year, especially once the weather warms. The SeaWolves have their best crop of prospects in a few years with Burrows, Funkhouser and catcher Jake Rogers among them, and they have more potentially on the way once Franklin Perez gets healthy and Alex Faedo pushes for a promotion from Class A Lakeland. And the folks in Erie put together a good ballpark experience.

Has Avila led on to what his timeline is to be competing for a division title again, if all goes as planned?
-- Jay Neitring (@jayneitring)

Tigers general manager Al Avila hasn't cited a specific year so much as he has noted a long time frame. The pitching prospects who are expected to form the backbone of the rebuild won't begin arriving until next year, longer in the case of Matt Manning. From there, Avila said, they'll likely face an adjustment period before they start to settle into the big leagues, likely a couple years. So by those expectations, you would be looking at 2021, assuming the Tigers can maintain or remake a productive lineup.

The thing is, these projects rarely go as planned. Some prospects get hurt and are delayed, as we've already seen with Bryan Garcia and Franklin Perez. Others have a more immediate impact, jump the learning curve and become big contributors ahead of schedule, as we saw with Michael Fulmer a couple years ago. That, plus parallel rebuilding projects going on with the White Sox and Royals, make it difficult to put a year on these things.

Will the Tigers ever play another game in 2018?
-- Peter K (@FrogTownTigers) 

The Weather Channel is down to the letter X in its alphabetical list of winter storm names (I will never look at the name Xanto the same again), so I think that means winter is almost over.

What's the temperature back in Lakeland, Fla.?
-- Muddles (@MitchMuddles)

Mid to upper-80s from Wednesday through the weekend.

Other than Johnny Barbato, the Tigers haven't used the top spot on the waiver wire to claim anyone. Why not? No one better than the worst guys on the 40-man? No good fits?
-- Dan Hogan (@DanHogan95)

Most of the players who go on the waiver wire are out of Minor League options. For them, it's not about being good enough for the 40-man roster, but the 25-man roster. Secondly, the Tigers made it clear that if they add a player, he either has to fit in the long-term picture or have the potential to carry trade value down the road and yield prospects in return. Still, I was admittedly a little surprised the Tigers didn't claim anybody at the end of Spring Training, given Avila's hints that it was a possibility. The relatively low number of waiver claims at the end of Spring Training suggests not many other teams valued who was out there, either.

What are you early thoughts on Alex Wilson? It seems like his Spring Training struggles have followed him north.
-- Matthew Dornbos (@matt_dornbos93)

Wilson talked about this Saturday morning before the rainout, and he said it doesn't feel like a continuation of Spring Training as much as a bout of bad luck after a decent first week. He threw three scoreless innings on Opening Day before giving up a three-run home run in his fourth inning of work. Still, if you're into early trends, it's worth noting he has relied less on his fastball and more on his cutter and changeup compared to years past, according to Statcast™ and Fangraphs. That could change as the weather warms.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.

Detroit Tigers

Inbox: When will reliever Smith return to Giants?

Beat reporter Chris Haft answers questions from fans
MLB.com

I haven't heard anything lately on Will Smith's progress. What is his latest timetable for rejoining the active roster?
-- Lou T., Santa Rosa, Calif.

Smith made his second Minor League injury rehabilitation appearance with Class A Advanced San Jose on Sunday. Facing the Stockton Ports, Smith struck out two batters while allowing a run and two hits in two-thirds of an inning (22 pitches). His recovery from Tommy John surgery has proceeded without any known setbacks. Thus, his return very well could be imminent.

I haven't heard anything lately on Will Smith's progress. What is his latest timetable for rejoining the active roster?
-- Lou T., Santa Rosa, Calif.

Smith made his second Minor League injury rehabilitation appearance with Class A Advanced San Jose on Sunday. Facing the Stockton Ports, Smith struck out two batters while allowing a run and two hits in two-thirds of an inning (22 pitches). His recovery from Tommy John surgery has proceeded without any known setbacks. Thus, his return very well could be imminent.

:: Submit a question to the Giants Inbox ::

I still want to know what was going through general manager Bobby Evans' head when he traded Christian Arroyo for Evan Longoria. Watching this year has only validated my concern over that poorly thought-out disaster of a trade. I am not satisfied with the answer I received before. I would still like to know who thought that was a good idea, and how they are currently employed. Don't get me wrong. I love the Giants, but my love for the team is why I am so upset over this terrible trade. Thank you.
-- Andy N., Reno, Nev.

It's impossible for me to tell you exactly who furthered the evolution of this trade. In deals of this magnitude -- featuring the face of a franchise (Longoria) being exchanged for one or more top prospects (Arroyo) -- more than just the usual consensus of baseball executives get involved. In other words, I'm sure that president and CEO Larry Baer was consulted and that director of baseball operations Brian Sabean and his top advisers had their say. Knowing the personalities involved, I imagine that some spirited debate must have occurred.

The Giants wanted a power-hitting position player who could contribute immediately. Remember, this organization is perpetually in "win-now" mode. The club's hierarchy believed that Longoria's potential short-term benefit, as a player who reached or exceeded 20 homers in nine of his 10 seasons with Tampa Bay, extended beyond what Arroyo could bring them. Adding a power bat while staying below the $197 million payroll tax threshold obviously was a concern for the Giants, who found it convenient to acquire a big bat with an established price tag -- albeit an expensive one. Longoria is signed through 2022 at approximately $16 million annually.

I fully understand your unhappiness with the trade. Under ideal circumstances, the Giants would have kept Arroyo and allowed him more of an opportunity to develop. That said, give Longoria more of a chance. He's still adjusting to his new environment, on and off the field. I believe that once he settles in a little more, he can be an asset.

Do the Giants see Julian Fernandez as their future closer?
-- Joaquin M., Clovis, Calif.

Quite possibly. Fernandez stuck around in Spring Training a lot longer than previous Rule 5 picks. Granted, that's not saying much, because the Giants rarely select anybody in the Rule 5 Draft. And that's just it: The effort the Giants devoted toward obtaining Fernandez and working with him during spring demonstrated his legitimacy as a prospect. When you consider closer candidates of the future, don't forget about Reyes Moronta, either.

The Giants have a few outfield prospects who appear to be on the verge of cracking the everyday lineup. I'm thinking of Mac Williamson, Chris Shaw, Steven Duggar and Austin Slater. Where do these four rank in the collective thinking of the Giants' decision-makers?
-- Gerald L., Columbus, Ind.

They rank highly enough to the extent that we might see all four of them perform in a San Francisco uniform before the end of the season. Having sustained his Spring Training excellence into the regular season with Triple-A Sacramento, Williamson probably would be the first farmhand promoted if an injury sidelined one of the starting corner outfielders. Slater, ranked No. 5 among Giants prospects, offers versatility and thus could be another leading option for a callup. Shaw (No. 2), the organization's top power-hitting prospect, and Duggar (No. 3), envisioned as the leadoff hitter of the future, probably won't land in San Francisco until the organization is sure that they can reach the big leagues to stay.

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.

San Francisco Giants

Inbox: Who will fill in for Walker?

Beat reporter Steve Gilbert answers questions from D-backs fans
MLB.com

Who replaces Taijuan Walker in the rotation?
-- Jordan C., Phoenix

This will become clearer as we get closer to Friday when that starter is needed, but I would think it would be either Matt Koch or Braden Shipley. Here's something else to keep in mind. Whoever starts in Walker's place Friday against the Padres may not stick around after that game or be the one who makes the next Walker start.

Who replaces Taijuan Walker in the rotation?
-- Jordan C., Phoenix

This will become clearer as we get closer to Friday when that starter is needed, but I would think it would be either Matt Koch or Braden Shipley. Here's something else to keep in mind. Whoever starts in Walker's place Friday against the Padres may not stick around after that game or be the one who makes the next Walker start.

When Shelby Miller went down last year, both Shipley and Zack Godley made starts in Miller's place before the team decided to stick with Godley. Following Friday's start, the D-backs could send down whoever it is who starts the game and bring up an extra arm for the bullpen until Walker's turn comes around again.

Also, it's important to keep in mind that we don't know yet how serious Walker's injury is. If it's just a little forearm tightness, he could be back after 10 days. We should know more when we hear the MRI results on Tuesday.

:: Submit a question to the D-backs Inbox ::

I've been glancing over and trying to dig deep to find any new, relevant information about Miller, but have come up empty or unenthused by the news I receive. My concern with Miller is the value the team will get for him, in regard to how much it gave up to get him. But even if he's marginal this year and possibly in the future, where do you see him fitting in -- rotation, bullpen or Minors? 
-- Garvey B., Phoenix

I talked to Miller before we left on this last road trip, and he was throwing his bullpen sessions and doing well. They had been looking at a late June or July return for him, but we'll have to see how he continues to progress. It's tough to project that far in advance and say what his role is going to be when he comes back.

If you had asked me two days ago, I would have said there are no open spaces in the rotation. Then Walker has tightness in his forearm, and suddenly, they need a starter. Walker's injury may not be serious and he may be back long before Miller is ready to return, or there may be another hole in the rotation or 'pen at that point. Miller looked very good last spring and at times before being hurt last year, and I think there's a lot of confidence in the organization that when he returns he will be far better than he was in 2016.

Big fan of your articles. My question is sort of a two-parter. After seeing where the team is at so far this season, do you see any prospects in particular who could make a significant impact later this season (kind of like Paul Goldschmidt did in 2011)? Maybe it's too early in their careers, but maybe if they continue to stay hot, catching prospects Daulton Varsho or Andy Yerzy could be an upgrade over Alex Avila?
-- Stephen P., Charleston, S.C.

Thanks for the compliment, Stephen. As for the prospects, given the way the big league roster looks right now, I would think if you're looking for significant impact prospects they would probably come from the pitching side. Whether that's a Taylor Clarke, Shipley, Jon Duplantier, etc. or someone in the bullpen that would be my guess. Reliever Yoan Lopez has been electric early this year for Double-A Jackson, and he has really come a long way over the past two seasons. Varsho is off to a great start in the California League and the organization really likes him, but it would be a stretch to project him up here this year.

Steve Gilbert has covered the D-backs for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Inbox: Will Marlins send down Brinson?

Beat reporter Joe Frisaro answers questions from Marlins fans
MLB.com

Do you think Lewis Brinson will get sent down to the Minors? -- @Ant7016

Hitless in his last 25 at-bats entering Friday, Brinson's batting average has dipped to .140. The organization is paying close attention to how he is handling the slump. On Wednesday, manager Don Mattingly made it clear that the club is sticking with its top prospect per MLB Pipeline. Brinson has a strong work ethic, and after Tuesday's game, he was in the batting cage with hitting coach Mike Pagliarulo working on his swing. Part of this season is about development, and that is continuing -- to some degree -- in the big leagues. Brinson has already been a standout at Triple-A, last year hitting .331. So as long as he's working hard and adjusting, and not showing signs of losing confidence, he likely will stay. Clearly, off-speed pitches are giving him trouble. Teams are constantly testing him with breaking balls. According to Statcast™, 46.67 percent of the pitches Brinson has seen have been off-speed, the second-highest percentage among any player on the club.

Do you think Lewis Brinson will get sent down to the Minors? -- @Ant7016

Hitless in his last 25 at-bats entering Friday, Brinson's batting average has dipped to .140. The organization is paying close attention to how he is handling the slump. On Wednesday, manager Don Mattingly made it clear that the club is sticking with its top prospect per MLB Pipeline. Brinson has a strong work ethic, and after Tuesday's game, he was in the batting cage with hitting coach Mike Pagliarulo working on his swing. Part of this season is about development, and that is continuing -- to some degree -- in the big leagues. Brinson has already been a standout at Triple-A, last year hitting .331. So as long as he's working hard and adjusting, and not showing signs of losing confidence, he likely will stay. Clearly, off-speed pitches are giving him trouble. Teams are constantly testing him with breaking balls. According to Statcast™, 46.67 percent of the pitches Brinson has seen have been off-speed, the second-highest percentage among any player on the club.

:: Submit a question to the Marlins Inbox ::

Who has impressed you the most up to now from the new young Marlins players? -- _ @rla1999

No surprise here, because rookie third baseman Brian Anderson thus far is arguably the team's most productive hitter. Ranked as Miami's No. 9 prospect, Anderson has a slash line of .295/.436/.455 with a home run, four doubles and nine RBIs. He's off to the kind of start that will get him some early mention as a National League Rookie of the Year Award candidate. Something to watch with Anderson is where he plays when Martin Prado returns, which could be in a couple of weeks. Prado has been on the disabled list with a left hamstring strain. There is a chance Prado and Anderson split time at third, or Anderson plays some left field, with Derek Dietrich going to right. Or Prado could play some first or second base.

Video: NYM@MIA: Anderson rips an RBI double to left field

When Elieser Hernandez comes back from the disabled list, is he going to be in the rotation or the bullpen? -- @danzyl66

The hope has been to get the 22-year-old right-hander into the rotation, but he keeps having bizarre injury setbacks. Hernandez missed almost all of Spring Training due to a tooth infection, and he opened the season on the 10-day DL. Recently, in a rehab assignment game with Class A Advanced Jupiter, Hernandez split a fingernail on his third finger, so he will miss even more time.

The Baby Cakes have a pitcher, Ben Meyer, who was drafted in 2015 and had a good year at Class A in 2017. He started at Triple-A on Sunday and did pretty well. Have you heard anything on this kid?
-- @drguava

Glad to see someone is paying attention to an under-the-radar-type of player. Yes, I'm aware of Meyer, who definitely is catching people's attention. Listed at 6-foot-5, the 25-year-old right-hander is a presence on the mound, and he opened eyes in Spring Training. If he makes it, he will be a good story. The Marlins selected him in the 29th round out of the University of Minnesota in '15, and he made big strides in '17 -- starting off at Class A Greensboro and striking out 40 in 29 1/3 innings before being promoted to Jupiter, where he fanned 94 in 82 innings. Meyer allowed one run in five innings with five strikeouts in his first start in the Triple-A rotation.

Any chance we'll see Sandy Alcantara and Monte Harrison get called up this summer?
-- @DanielShikhman

Harrison and Alcantara are the organization's Nos. 2 and 3 prospects, respectively. Alcantara, already on the 40-man roster, is the closest to being ready. His day may come in May. Right now, he's at Triple-A New Orleans, and he saw limited time in the big leagues last September with the Cardinals. The 22-year-old right-hander gave up four runs on four hits and five walks with four strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings for the Baby Cakes on Thursday at Colorado Springs. The Marlins also are closely monitoring his innings. He threw a combined 125 1/3 in the Minors, 8 1/3 with the Cardinals, 15 in the Arizona Fall League and 1 2/3 in the Dominican Winter League. He could get to around 150 this year. Harrison, who is not on the 40-man roster, is currently playing outfield at Double-A Jacksonville. In the second half, if he shows he is ready, he could be an option for a callup, perhaps in September. Otherwise, I think Harrison's likely time of arrival is 2019.

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.

Miami Marlins

Inbox: Is Crew getting the most out of Hader?

Beat reporter Adam McCalvy answers questions from fans
MLB.com

Thoughts on getting Josh Hader stretched out and transitioned into a starter? If Craig Counsell isn't keen on that idea, would he be willing to let him work the eighth and ninth to close out games?
-- @jaredlinden on Twitter

Here's one way to think about Hader: In the role he's in now -- this ultra-flexible, use-by-choice sort of role in which it is equally possible he pitches two or three innings in the middle of a game as he is called upon against Anthony Rizzo or Joey Votto to start the ninth, Counsell and the Brewers essentially get to pick who Hader pitches against. They have control.

Thoughts on getting Josh Hader stretched out and transitioned into a starter? If Craig Counsell isn't keen on that idea, would he be willing to let him work the eighth and ninth to close out games?
-- @jaredlinden on Twitter

Here's one way to think about Hader: In the role he's in now -- this ultra-flexible, use-by-choice sort of role in which it is equally possible he pitches two or three innings in the middle of a game as he is called upon against Anthony Rizzo or Joey Votto to start the ninth, Counsell and the Brewers essentially get to pick who Hader pitches against. They have control.

If you start Hader, you lose control over who he faces. The other team chooses. If you make him the closer, you lose control, because now the game itself helps dictate when he pitches, and which portion of the opponents' lineup he draws.

:: Submit a question to the Brewers Inbox ::

Could Hader succeed as a starter or a closer? Sure, if he can harness that changeup. But at this stage of his development, Milwaukee wants control of when and against whom it uses Hader. After an entire offseason of a room full of analysts crunching this question, the Brewers have decided that is the way to squeeze maximum value, for now, out of an electric arm.

Tweet from @Jon_Stocks_IT: Theory of ���High Leverage Relievers��� is foolish. If Hader is your best reliable P why is he not SP or C? Dodgers don���t use Kershaw or Jansen in that fashion. Why do the Brewers continue to sell us this role? Give me 190-200IP of Hader vs 80-100. Kluber > Miller.

You are assuming Hader equals Corey Kluber as a starter. That's a heck of a leap. The way they're looking at it now is two-pitch Hader impacting 60-70 games is better than two-pitch Hader making 25-30 starts. If he becomes three-pitch Hader, now we're talking.

So maybe Hader will move back to a starting role at some point. But if the Brewers were going to do that now, they would have already done it.

Tweet from @Sthoms105: It seems that the team has been using a short leash with players and therefore they aren���t afraid of sending guys down or cutting them. Do you expect that to keep happening until things start clicking?

I think it might happen after things start clicking. If we've learned anything about the Brewers of David Stearns and Counsell, it's that they place tremendous value on flexibility. That means both positional flexibility and roster flexibility.

There's a group of pitchers with options -- Brent Suter, Junior Guerra, Brandon Woodruff, Taylor Williams, Adrian Houser, Jorge Lopez, Corbin Burnes, Freddy Peralta, Aaron Wilkerson when he gets healthy, maybe even guys like Jacob Barnes and Zach Davies if performance and need dictate -- who can be freely moved back and forth between the Majors and Minors. Because Milwaukee is among the analytically minded clubs who make liberal use of its bullpen once a starting pitcher has completed his second turn through a lineup, shuttling players back and forth is one way to keep a fresh 'pen.

For those players, it can be a real physical and mental challenge. But if you can get players to buy into it the way Suter did early last season, it can be a useful strategy.

Tweet from @IgnitorKid: Should I be worried about Ryan Braun?

I asked our MLB.com statistical guru Mike Petriello to take a look at Ryan Braun's numbers so far, and he had the same first reaction I did: Small sample alert!

So with the vital understanding that 46 plate appearance is way too small a sample to draw any conclusions, here's some of what Petriello found:

• The most notable thing is lack of contact. Braun has struck out in 28 percent of his plate appearances so far after 18 percent last year and 18 percent in his career. He's doing a better job of not chasing (31 percent chase rate is down from 38 percent in each of the last two years), but he's also swinging at fewer strikes (zone swing rate down from 70 percent to 64 percent) and making contact with slightly fewer pitches in the zone (84 percent down from 88 percent).

• When Braun does make contact, his hard-hit rate of 33 percent is down from 44 percent in 2017. And he hasn't had many high-value hits robbed; Braun had one lineout that carried a 73 percent hit probability, but that's the only out above 55 percent.

• Braun's pull rate is 48 percent, up from 38 percent last year, 36 percent the year before and 31 percent in 2015. Maybe that's a sign of a player aging into his 30s. Maybe it means nothing because we are 13 games into the season.

Give Braun a chance to get to 100 at-bats before you get worried.

Tweet from @mattdawson84: Keston Hiura injury update?

From the desk of Brewers farm director Tom Flanagan: "Keston Hiura was hit by a pitch on his left shoulder in the doubleheader on Sunday, and it tightened up on him and had some residual soreness. Now that it has resolved he should be back in there DH'ing for the Mudcats [Thursday] night."

Hiura has been limited to DH duty in the early going, because he came down with some elbow soreness late in Spring Training after playing catch-up at second base. Remember, he didn't play the field in the Minors until the fall instructional league because of a pre-existing elbow injury they worried might need surgery. Hiura avoided going under the knife, and it sounds like the Brewers believe he will pull through this latest period of soreness with some more time off from throwing.

Tweet from @I3rAziL: Will you ever consider changing your twitter picture?

Never. Ever.

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.

Milwaukee Brewers, Josh Hader

Inbox: Clubs with best prospect rotations

MLB.com

If you like prospects -- which is probably a given considering that you're checking out MLB Pipeline content -- then you should love our upgraded prospects stats hub. Daren Willman has imported a lot of the cool content he had at his mlbfarm.com site.

For any team, you can check out how all of their Top 30 Prospects have performed today, yesterday, the past 10 days, the past 30 days or for the entire season. You can do the same for MLB Pipeline's overall Top 100 Prospects list or for yearly Draft classes (for all of baseball or individual clubs). You can see all of the box scores from the big leagues throughout the Minors for any organization on any given day, check out probable starting pitchers for every level of professional baseball and customize your own prospect tracker.

If you like prospects -- which is probably a given considering that you're checking out MLB Pipeline content -- then you should love our upgraded prospects stats hub. Daren Willman has imported a lot of the cool content he had at his mlbfarm.com site.

For any team, you can check out how all of their Top 30 Prospects have performed today, yesterday, the past 10 days, the past 30 days or for the entire season. You can do the same for MLB Pipeline's overall Top 100 Prospects list or for yearly Draft classes (for all of baseball or individual clubs). You can see all of the box scores from the big leagues throughout the Minors for any organization on any given day, check out probable starting pitchers for every level of professional baseball and customize your own prospect tracker.

Pretty cool stuff.

:: Submit a question to the Pipeline Inbox ::

Tweet from @Sarah83211: If you had to make a 5 man rotation from (fully developed versions of) players in any teams farm system, which team(s) would have the best rotation?

I rank the top four prospect rotations in the video at the top of this column.

Tweet from @neptunetm: what is seuly matias ceiling?

A Royals outfielder signed for $2.25 million out of the Dominican Republic as one of the toolsiest players on the 2015-16 international market, Matias is off to a fantastic start in his full-season debut. After his first week at Class A Lexington, he was tied for the Minor League lead with four home runs.

Matias has intrigued me since I stumbled upon him taking batting practice on the back fields at the Royals' training complex in the spring of 2016. The sound the ball made coming off his bat drew me to his BP, and he crushed ball after ball over the left-field fence. Matias was just 17 at the time and the raw power was impressive.

Matias has the highest ceiling of any prospect in Kansas City's system. He's not as polished as outfielder Khalil Lee or first baseman Nick Pratto, but he has the best power potential and the strongest arm (a cannon) among Royals farmhands. Matias runs well for his size too, though he'll have to make more consistent contact to realize his immense potential.

Tweet from @Greg603: The #Astros minor league system seems really top heavy. Who are a few under the radar prospects who should blossom this year?

Despite a slew of graduations and trades that paid off with a World Series championship, the Astros still have plenty of talent in their farm system. While right-hander Forrest Whitley and outfielder Kyle Tucker do cast a huge shadow over the rest of the Minor Leaguers, they do have a number of more anonymous prospects worth watching. I'll give you my picks to click from each tier of MLB Pipeline's Astros Top 30 list:

Shortstop Freudis Nova (No. 5 on the Top 30) will make his U.S. debut this summer and has all-around tools that prompt comparisons to Hanley Ramirez and Edgar Renteria. Right-hander Jairo Solis (No. 13) made his U.S. debut last year at age 17 and showed a 93-96 mph fastball with late life, flashes of a plus slider and feel for a changeup. Outfielder J.J. Matijevic (No. 25) had a rough pro debut last summer, but the supplemental second-rounder was one of the best college bats available in the 2017 Draft.

Tweet from @aahuston: Should the Braves have let Wentz and Muller DH to get some hitting in, and develop them as 2 way players?

The Braves invested heavily in the two high school left-handers in the 2016 Draft, paying Joey Wentz $3.05 million as a supplemental first-rounder and Kyle Muller $2.5 million as a second-rounder. Both were accomplished two-way players as amateurs, with Wentz smashing a 543-foot homer (with a souped-up bat) at the Junior Home Run Derby at the 2016 All-Star Game while Muller finished second among the nation's prepsters with 15 homers as a senior.

Nevertheless, I agree with Atlanta's decision to make Wentz and Muller full-time pitchers as pros. They were regarded as clearly better prospects on the mound than at the plate as amateurs, and it's extremely difficult to succeed as just a pitcher or just a hitter alone and much more challenging to try to do both. They're potentially big league starting pitchers -- Wentz has more upside than Muller -- and splitting their time trying to make them into hitters as well would detract from their chances of reaching their ceiling.

Shohei Ohtani is getting that opportunity with the Angels because he wouldn't have come over from Japan otherwise. While the fan in me wants to see him try to become the first regular pitcher and hitter since Babe Ruth in 1919, and I'm equally curious as to how Brendan McKay fares as the Rays try to develop him both ways, I think in the long run Ohtani and McKay would provide the most value if they focused on one endeavor.

Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

Inbox: Have O's set a pitch limit for Cobb?

Beat reporter Brittany Ghiroli answers questions from fans
MLB.com

Will Alex Cobb be on a pitch count for his first start on Saturday? If so, what is it expected to be?
-- Lorne, Tokyo, Japan

Cobb won't be on so much of an exact pitch count, though manager Buck Showalter said earlier this week they probably wouldn't take him past seven innings. Cobb has thrown 100 pitches, so it's more about the "ups" each inning and also the added stress of pitching in the Major Leagues. He has been pitching in extended spring camp, where you can't simulate the intensity of Fenway Park. You also can't stop an inning after 15 pitches. In a perfect world, I think the Orioles will be OK with anything six innings or longer, especially against a Red Sox team playing really well.

Will Alex Cobb be on a pitch count for his first start on Saturday? If so, what is it expected to be?
-- Lorne, Tokyo, Japan

Cobb won't be on so much of an exact pitch count, though manager Buck Showalter said earlier this week they probably wouldn't take him past seven innings. Cobb has thrown 100 pitches, so it's more about the "ups" each inning and also the added stress of pitching in the Major Leagues. He has been pitching in extended spring camp, where you can't simulate the intensity of Fenway Park. You also can't stop an inning after 15 pitches. In a perfect world, I think the Orioles will be OK with anything six innings or longer, especially against a Red Sox team playing really well.

:: Submit a question to the Orioles Inbox ::

Why did they bring up Hunter Harvey and not have him pitch? Seemed like a good chance to at least let him debut.
-- Michael L., Columbia, Md.

The plan was never to showcase Harvey. It was about the O's having a need to add some right-handed length against Toronto, and Harvey being on the 40-man roster already and down the road at Double-A Bowie. They were hoping he wouldn't get into a big league game, because that would mean that they didn't get a short start.

Harvey has yet to make his season debut in the Minors, and he's had a two-week layoff. He'll start on Saturday and get on a consistent schedule. Harvey will be back later this season, I imagine, and he'll make his debut then.

What's the latest on Zach Britton? When do you think he'll be back?
-- Kim S., Norfolk, Va.

Britton, on the 60-day disabled list after offseason Achilles surgery, could return as early as May 28. He's been able to run, do some tossing and is working toward getting on a mound again. He'll push to be back, and he seems to be ahead of schedule for now. If that remains the case, I don't see any reason why he's not on the Orioles' roster by early June.

What are the Orioles going to do about Chris Davis?
-- Tony A., Baltimore, Md.

Play him. I don't see any other options two weeks into the season. Davis isn't the only Orioles player who is struggling. Also, he had a couple of hits on Wednesday, and he has always been a streaky hitter. You have to allow Davis, and others, a chance to work out of it and try to find their stride.

I understand the frustration with Davis. He's making a lot of money and he's a big-strikeout guy. But the O's knew what they were getting into when they committed to Davis long-term. They know he's going to go through bad stretches, and for now, they have to ride it out and see if he can get going. We've all seen how Davis is capable of carrying the team when hot. This is a guy who has two home run titles in the past five years. Let's give it a little more time. And let's hope we aren't still having this conversation in mid-June.

Brittany Ghiroli has covered the Orioles for MLB.com since 2010. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast.

Baltimore Orioles

Inbox: How will Rays' 4-man rotation play out?

Beat reporter Bill Chastain answers questions from fans
MLB.com

I'm miffed by this whole four-man rotation -- that turned into a three-man rotation after Nathan Eovaldi's injury -- supported by bullpen days. Why can't the Rays just go with a traditional approach? Insert either Yonny Chirinos, Ryan Yarbrough, Matt Andriese, Austin Pruitt or Andrew Kittredge into the rotation.
-- Tim H., Tampa, Fla.

I don't believe you're the only one wondering what the Rays are doing. I'm not necessarily down on the move; rather, I'm interested in how it's going to play out. You see this type of thing work out in the postseason, but there are 162 regular-season games. And the way Chirinos has pitched, I do believe we'll see him slip into the rotation soon.

I'm miffed by this whole four-man rotation -- that turned into a three-man rotation after Nathan Eovaldi's injury -- supported by bullpen days. Why can't the Rays just go with a traditional approach? Insert either Yonny Chirinos, Ryan Yarbrough, Matt Andriese, Austin Pruitt or Andrew Kittredge into the rotation.
-- Tim H., Tampa, Fla.

I don't believe you're the only one wondering what the Rays are doing. I'm not necessarily down on the move; rather, I'm interested in how it's going to play out. You see this type of thing work out in the postseason, but there are 162 regular-season games. And the way Chirinos has pitched, I do believe we'll see him slip into the rotation soon.

:: Submit a question to the Rays Inbox ::

I observed how quickly Blake Snell breezed through the Rays' farm system, and I wondered if Tampa Bay didn't move him up a little too fast. I didn't like what I saw from Snell for the most part last season, then he finished the season strong. I read about him during Spring Training, and from all reports, he had started to look like the guy who breezed through the Minor Leagues. I couldn't really believe it until I saw him start Tampa Bay's second game of the season. Now I'm all in. I think Snell is going to have a big year. What do you think?
-- Jerry R., Orlando, Fla.

Snell indeed finished strong at the end of the 2017 season, and he did have a nice spring. And save for his start in New York, he's looked great this season. So I'm going to hop aboard the bandwagon with you. I think Snell could have a nice season.

Video: BOS@TB: Snell allows just three hits in 5 2/3 innings

I like what I've seen from our pitching thus far, even the bullpen days. What's got me more concerned is this year's team's inability to score runs. I know that last year we struck out a lot. But we always had the chance to erase a lead with a few homers. I hope I'm not just being a worrier. What do you think about our offense?
-- Bill D., Tampa, Fla.

While it's true that the Rays don't have the home run hitters they had in 2017, I think they have an group that makes better contact and has more speed. Let's give the offense a few more weeks before we push the panic button.

I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw Daniel Robertson on Opening Day. I had not seen him play since last year and he looks like he weighs a lot less. He did lose weight, right? And if he did, did he consciously decide to do so?
-- Paul R., Tampa, Fla.

You are correct, Paul. Robertson has lost weight, to the tune of about 15 or 20 pounds. He's happy about the weight he lost and says he feels better at the lighter weight. Rays manager Kevin Cash told us early in the spring that they had wanted Robertson to get some winter ball at-bats following the 2017 season. But Robertson asked if he could concentrate on getting his body where he wanted to. Tampa Bay gave him the green light, and both parties were happy with the results.

Chris Archer always seems to pitch just well enough to lose. If the Rays' offense isn't working, he holds the other team to two or three runs. If Tampa Bay's offense is scoring, he lets the other team outscore them. I just don't get the whole "face of the team" or the contention he is an elite pitcher. Elite pitchers win ballgames. Am I being too tough on Archer?
-- Douglas C., Clearwater, Fla.

Maybe a little bit hard. But you're not the first to write me and express the fact you'd like to see Archer win more games than he loses. He was asked a question similar to what you asked prior to the first game and wasn't that pleased with the question. I think he needs to win more games than he loses to end the narrative. I'll say this about Archer, though. He works hard and does everything he can to be competitive. I don't know if having more losses than wins is more Archer's fault or the team's for not backing him.

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005.

Tampa Bay Rays

Inbox: Why hasn't Fowler been called up?

Beat reporter Jane Lee fields questions from fans
MLB.com

Why wasn't Dustin Fowler called up this week? I seriously don't understand these moves.
-- Chris H., Richmond, Calif.

It's easy to understand why fans are itching to see Fowler, and why it would have made sense to replace an injured center fielder (Boog Powell) with a healthy one (Fowler). But the A's are staying the course with Fowler, their No. 5 prospect per MLB Pipeline, and want to see him get a good chunk of at-bats at Triple-A before bringing him up for good. This is why they started him there to begin the season, and scrapping that plan now would defeat its purpose. Fowler's time will come, and in the meantime, the A's have two other capable players to help Jake Smolinski in center field: Trayce Thompson and Mark Canha.

Why wasn't Dustin Fowler called up this week? I seriously don't understand these moves.
-- Chris H., Richmond, Calif.

It's easy to understand why fans are itching to see Fowler, and why it would have made sense to replace an injured center fielder (Boog Powell) with a healthy one (Fowler). But the A's are staying the course with Fowler, their No. 5 prospect per MLB Pipeline, and want to see him get a good chunk of at-bats at Triple-A before bringing him up for good. This is why they started him there to begin the season, and scrapping that plan now would defeat its purpose. Fowler's time will come, and in the meantime, the A's have two other capable players to help Jake Smolinski in center field: Trayce Thompson and Mark Canha.

:: Submit a question to the A's Inbox ::

Please explain why we're carrying an eight-man bullpen and a three-man bench. The team's late-inning troubles with runners in scoring position are terrible. Do right by these guys and get an extra bat on the roster.
-- Sean M., Winchester, N.Y.

Well, on the flip side, consider what this bullpen has been asked to shoulder in the early going of the season. The A's, so far susceptible to short outings from their starters, have already been bailed out by the relievers on multiple occasions. An eight-man bullpen has been a must for this club, and I don't see that changing anytime soon. The A's are, however, carrying only four starters this week thanks to a pair of off-days, which will temporarily allow them to have that extra bat in tow.

Who is the backup to Matt Olson when Canha is not on the roster? They should have never released Brandon Moss. What a waste of a trade.
-- Tony T., San Jose, Calif.

Moss, remember, was included in the trade with Ryan Buchter largely because the Royals were seeking to shave salary, and the A's were willing to take on that money ($5 million) if it meant they got four years of Buchter. Revamping their bullpen was a priority, and Buchter was a big part of those efforts. Moss, on the other hand, was never expected to stick around. That his second tour with the A's ended so abruptly was perhaps surprising, but that day was going to come eventually.

Canha, of course, can back up Olson while he remains on the roster. Should he return to Triple-A at any point, however, the A's would rely on Chad Pinder to give Olson a rest if need be.

What happened to Renato Nunez? Is he still in the organization?
-- Brent M., Chicago

Nunez is completing his rehab assignment for a left hamstring strain, but the A's will soon have to make a tough decision on the corner infielder/outfielder, who is out of options. If Pinder is still on the disabled list by the time Nunez's rehab stint concludes, the A's could swap out Canha for Nunez -- both play many of the same positions -- and see how Nunez responds to a part-time opportunity. If they elect to stick with Canha, though, they would have to designate Nunez for assignment and attempt to sneak him through waivers.

I noticed Chris Bassitt isn't even in Nashville's rotation that you tweeted out. Is there even a plan for him? He's better than some other guys that have big league jobs right now.
-- James R., Vacaville, Calif.

Bassitt was not built up to start when he exited Spring Training, which explains why he wasn't included in Nashville's season-opening rotation. He did, however, throw 65 pitches across four innings out of the bullpen in his first appearance, suggesting that he will continue to be stretched out and become a starting option soon.

Jane Lee has covered the A's for MLB.com since 2010.

Oakland Athletics, Dustin Fowler