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Inbox: Will front office pursue starting pitching?

Beat reporter T.R. Sullivan answers questions from fans
MLB.com

With the progression of some of the younger core players in the second half of the season, does that prompt the front office to be bigger players in the free-agent pitching and/or trade market this offseason? Or will it be the same approach as last year? 
-- Andrew A., Fort Worth, Texas

The top five starters on last offseason's free-agent market were Jake Arrieta, Yu Darvish, Alex Cobb, Lance Lynn and Jason Vargas. How did they all turn out?

With the progression of some of the younger core players in the second half of the season, does that prompt the front office to be bigger players in the free-agent pitching and/or trade market this offseason? Or will it be the same approach as last year? 
-- Andrew A., Fort Worth, Texas

The top five starters on last offseason's free-agent market were Jake Arrieta, Yu Darvish, Alex Cobb, Lance Lynn and Jason Vargas. How did they all turn out?

Submit your question to the Rangers Inbox

Not knowing what will happen with Clayton Kershaw, Cole Hamels and others with opt-out clauses or club options, the top five free-agent starters for next season appear to be J.A. Happ, Charlie Morton, Dallas Keuchel and Patrick Corbin ... or maybe Marco Estrada, Matt Harvey, or Nathan Eovaldi.

Kershaw is the best pitcher on the planet, but has been on the disabled list four times in the past three seasons. The point is, free-agent starting pitching is a crapshoot and it is perilous to presume that it is the solution for any team's pitching woes.

That said, the Rangers' dearth of ready-to-go starting pitching will require them to wade into the free-agent market this offseason. How deep they go will likely be determined by how they feel about their current inventory at the end of the season.

In all of Rangers history, they have not been able to develop their own pitchers that I can recall. What makes them think they can do it now? Have they made some significant change in the organization?
-- Alan J., Fort Worth 

The Rangers are quite aware of their history in developing their own pitching, and they are putting a lot of effort to try to correct the situation. But it comes down to identifying the talent, developing it properly and keeping it healthy.

Developing them properly means making sure pitchers are completely prepared before they are rushed to the big leagues prematurely. That includes having developed enough weapons to get big league hitters out, having enough experience to handle different situations including failure, having enough success to feel confident in themselves and being developed physically so they can stay healthy.

Who do you see on the team next year between Yovani Gallardo and Martin Perez? It seems Gallardo likes pitching here and has done OK of late. Perez is just too inconsistent year in and year out, what do you think?
-- Steven A., San Fernando, Calif.

The final six weeks could determine the Rangers' decisions on both. Perez may be the most vexing pitcher Texas has had in a long time. There is no doubt the Rangers hoped Perez would be much farther along in his career by now, but at the same time, there isn't much down below in the system ready to push him aside. Somebody has to start next season, and if Texas truly feels there is upside, then the club might as well roll the dice on Perez one more time.

What is the reason why Rule 5 Draft picks have to stay on the 25-man roster all season?
-- James Q., Athens, Texas

The basic premise of the Rule 5 Draft is to keep organizations from stockpiling Minor League talent that could be in the Major Leagues with other teams. Much of this goes back to before the beginning of expansion in 1961, when teams like the Yankees and Dodgers hoarded players who should have been in the big leagues. Other measures, like Minor League free agency, have since been implemented to keep that from happening as well.

Have the Rangers given any thought to using Jurickson Profar in center field? A middle infielder should be able to make the switch. It seems to be an obvious move, but they seem to be more likely to trade Profar than to try him in center.
-- Eddie T., Sherman, Texas

The Rangers' No. 1 mission with Profar this season has been to make sure he is ready to step in if either Adrian Beltre retires or Elvis Andrus opts out of his contract. There seems to be a better chance of Beltre retiring than Andrus opting out of his contract to enter into free agency. But Texas needs to be ready either way, hence the club's approach with Andrus.

What would you think of a rule that would require two infielders on each side of second base when the pitch is released?
-- Doug H., Orange, Texas

I'm not a big fan of legislating defensive strategy. It just seemed to make the NFL and NBA more complicated than necessary.

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.

Texas Rangers

Inbox: What does OF look like moving forward?

Beat reporter Adam Berry answers fans' questions
MLB.com

I like that we went for it with the Chris Archer trade, but it was tough to see Austin Meadows go. What's our outfield look like going forward now? Do we have to extend Corey Dickerson for next year?
-- Bill W., Pittsburgh

Archer did indeed come at a high cost -- Meadows, Tyler Glasnow and a significant prospect to be named later -- and the Pirates did not part easily with Meadows. The rookie was their first-round Draft pick five years ago, and we all saw his talent on display during his first few weeks as a big leaguer.

I like that we went for it with the Chris Archer trade, but it was tough to see Austin Meadows go. What's our outfield look like going forward now? Do we have to extend Corey Dickerson for next year?
-- Bill W., Pittsburgh

Archer did indeed come at a high cost -- Meadows, Tyler Glasnow and a significant prospect to be named later -- and the Pirates did not part easily with Meadows. The rookie was their first-round Draft pick five years ago, and we all saw his talent on display during his first few weeks as a big leaguer.

But the Pirates still have a strong outfield without him. Dickerson and Starling Marte are first and third on the team in Wins Above Replacement, according to Baseball-Reference.com, and Gregory Polanco is having the best offensive season of his young career.

:: Submit a question to the Pirates Inbox ::

Marte's contract is guaranteed through next season, and the deal includes club options for 2020 and '21. Polanco's extension runs through '21, with club options for '22 and '23. They're not going anywhere anytime soon. And it now seems more likely that Dickerson will come back next season as well.

Dickerson, earning $5.95 million this season, will be arbitration eligible for the last time next year. So the Pirates don't have to offer Dickerson a contract extension to bring him back next year, but they would have to do so if they wanted to keep him beyond 2019. Whether that happens probably depends on his interest in reaching free agency and the Pirates' belief in their internal options.

The last few seasons, the Pirates have lacked upper-level outfield depth in the Minors aside from Meadows, so it was hard to see their "outfield of the future" without him. That has changed over the past year, however.

Jordan Luplow has struggled in Pittsburgh, but his Minor League numbers are too good to ignore. Jason Martin, acquired in the Gerrit Cole trade, earned a midseason promotion to Triple-A after dominating in Double-A. Bryan Reynolds, acquired in the Andrew McCutchen trade, is hitting .288/.369/.424 in Double-A despite fracturing his hamate earlier this season.

The Pirates have a number of intriguing outfield prospects in the lower Minors as well, including first-round Draft pick Travis Swaggerty, Calvin Mitchell, Lolo Sanchez, Conner Uselton and Jared Oliva.

Please help me understand why the Pirates called up a rookie like Clay Holmes to start in the middle of a postseason race. Did the starters really need rest that bad?
-- Joe H., State College, Pa.

It was a surprising move, and obviously it didn't work out on Friday as Holmes gave up seven runs and didn't finish the third inning. I completely understand the backlash because it looked like the Pirates weren't putting their best foot forward when every game matters.

Their primary motive wasn't based on Holmes or Friday's game, though. They wanted to provide extra recovery time for the three starters who pitched at Coors Field last week: Joe Musgrove, Jameson Taillon and Archer. The decision seemed to be specifically about Musgrove and Taillon, as Archer already would have had an extra day to rest with Monday's off-day.

In an appearance on general manager Neal Huntington's weekly radio show, assistant GM Kevan Graves cited "biometric data" from the club's training staff and anecdotal evidence that indicated starting pitchers have a harder time recovering after pitching in the Mile High City's thin air. This wasn't a spur-of-the-moment thing, either, as they put the plan in place shortly after the All-Star break.

So while the decision backfired in a big way on Friday, they're taking the long view on how it will impact their rotation the rest of the season.

"Time will tell, certainly," Graves said Sunday on KDKA-FM. "A big part of it was putting these guys in a position to succeed coming out of their start in Coors Field as well as over the final six-plus weeks of the regular season. We'll get a feel for that over these next few starts."

Nice to see the Pirates with an outside shot at the playoffs this year, but I'm really excited about next year. Who will be the Pirates' fifth pitcher? Can they ditch Ivan Nova? And are Kevin Kramer and/or Kevin Newman ready to start next year, or will the Pirates be shopping for middle infielders?
-- Jason D., Richmond, Va.

There could be a bit of a logjam in the rotation next season. Taillon, Musgrove, Archer, Trevor Williams and Chad Kuhl will all return. Nova remains under contract. Nick Kingham will be out of Minor League options. Top prospect Mitch Keller will be knocking on the door in Triple-A.

So maybe it would make sense to deal from that depth and move Nova before his contract expires. Rotation depth can disappear in a hurry, however, and the Pirates clearly value Nova's experience and ability. Since coming back from the disabled list in early June, the veteran right-hander has a 3.88 ERA and the Pirates have won eight of his 11 starts.

As for the "Seinfeld" infield duo, I think it'll be ready next year after spending this season in Triple-A. Both guys have played well for Indianapolis, and the Pirates have to put them on the 40-man roster this offseason to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft. I actually wouldn't be surprised if they're called up next month, but that could depend on where the Pirates stand in the Wild Card race.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Inbox: What's the latest on Nelson's recovery?

Beat reporter Adam McCalvy answers fans' questions
MLB.com

What is the real situation with Jimmy Nelson? There is an unusual silence about his progress. Is his career over with the Brewers?
-- Jim R., Milwaukee

There is no unusual silence, there's no obfuscation, there's no conspiracy. There is a tendency not to read anything other than the headlines, so let's start with Nelson and get ourselves a headline.

What is the real situation with Jimmy Nelson? There is an unusual silence about his progress. Is his career over with the Brewers?
-- Jim R., Milwaukee

There is no unusual silence, there's no obfuscation, there's no conspiracy. There is a tendency not to read anything other than the headlines, so let's start with Nelson and get ourselves a headline.

:: Submit a question to the Brewers Inbox ::

I equate what happened to Nelson over the winter to what happened to the Brewers' bullpen early in the season: To some degree, he was a victim of his own early success. Nelson had three different major repairs in his shoulder, and surgeries like that typically take a year. But the Brewers never shared a timeline with the public, and Nelson projected the idea that his injury was different since one of those repairs -- to the labrum -- was in the front of the joint instead of the back, where repetitive-use injuries occur. That gave him better odds of a complete recovery, Nelson said the doctors told him.

Then Nelson went home for the winter and rehabbed like crazy, changing his diet and spending hours a day in a hyperbaric chamber -- and got himself way ahead of schedule. That led to all kinds of optimism that he would stay way ahead of schedule and pitch for the Brewers sometime in the middle of the season.

Well, it didn't happen. The shoulder didn't cooperate, and here he is in mid-August, still (as far as we know) throwing his hybrid mound sessions. He's throwing from a mound, but he's not exactly pitching from a mound. Here's how it looked on July 31 at Dodger Stadium, when Nelson was cleared to throw breaking balls for the first time.

Tweet from @AdamMcCalvy: Here���s how Jimmy Nelson looked in the Dodger Stadium bullpen on Tuesday. First time throwing breaking balls since surgery. pic.twitter.com/ENKCG3p0xF

I was surprised by how much he was putting behind the baseball. Nelson was encouraged, too. But in terms of getting back into a Major League game, he remains where he has been since Spring Training: Until that shoulder is ready for full-blown bullpen sessions, the Brewers can't put a timeline on him.

So I'm convinced no one is hiding anything, and there's no "real story." It's just that he's ready to pitch when he's ready to pitch.

Tweet from @jrvater: Bold move, Cotton. Nelson to the pen if/when he returns?

I don't hate this idea. If it happens, it would be in September when rosters are expanded, so the Brewers would have total flexibility with when to use him. It could be a nice way to send him into the offseason feeling like he's back to being a baseball player.

But again, the shoulder has to be 100 percent first.

Tweet from @obersports41512: The Brewers currently need to go 23-18 over the final 41 games to get to 90 wins, which I believe will be enough to earn at least a WC spot. With 32 of those 41 games coming against NL Central opponents and given the struggles MIL has had against Central opp, is 23-18 realistic?

Ninety is on the high end if we're talking about simply getting into the National League Wild Card Game, but you're right that they will need to solve the NL Central to get where they want to go. The Brewers are 2-8 against the Pirates (nine games remaining), 3-8 against the Cubs (eight games remaining, including five on the road beginning Tuesday afternoon), 7-6 against the Cardinals (six games remaining) and 7-3 against the Reds (nine games remaining). The only other games are at Washington and at home against San Francisco and Detroit.

Is five over .500 possible? The "nays" will point to the fact that besides going 3-0 in March and 19-8 in May, the Brewers are 45-46 this season. But the "ayes" might get comfort in the fact that nine of those losses to the Cubs and Pirates came in two disastrous series on the road -- one in April at frigid Wrigley Field in which both teams struggled to score, and one just before the All-Star break at PNC Park in which the Brewers were out of gas at the end of 21 games in 20 days and played terribly. One could argue that those circumstances made those two series outliers.

We'll see.

Just for the record, since the Wild Card Game was introduced, here are the NL teams and their win totals:

2017: D-backs (93) vs. Rockies (87)
2016: Mets (87) vs. Giants (87)
2015: Pirates (98) vs. Cubs (97)
2014: Pirates (88) vs. Giants (88)
2013: Pirates (94) vs. Reds (90)
2012: Braves (94) vs. Cardinals (88)

Tweet from @GeezerInSC: What is the all time record for the Brewers number of different pitchers used in a season?

According to Baseball-Reference.com, the answer is 30, set last season. The Brewers have already used 28 this year, so they're within striking distance, but it doesn't look like they will get to the all-time mark shared by the 2014 Rangers and the '17 Mariners. Those clubs used 40 pitchers apiece.

When you look at those lists, the leaderboard is stocked with teams from the past decade or so. It's a reflection of the rise of the reliever in the game, and of active roster management. The Brewers are not the only team with a group of pitchers with options to shuttle back and forth between the Minors and Majors to provide the big club with fresh arms.

Tweet from @orangeskin: If Knebel loses the closer's job, is it Hader's or is it Jeffress's? Sure I got the possessive of Jeffress wrong but you get the idea.

I assume you were on a nice, relaxing cruise last weekend, because Corey Knebel already lost the closer's job. Manager Craig Counsell says he'll go with a committee approach, but if I were a fantasy baseballer, I'd put my money on Jeremy Jeffress getting the most opportunities. Counsell seems to favor a set closer, and Josh Hader does not seem like a good match for that spot because the Brewers have been so careful to properly rest him between outings. If they do manage to make it into the postseason, it's going to be critical that Hader is at the top of his game.

Tweet from @zman3328: Is there any chance that the brewers will get a consistent batting order? I have no probkem with platooning but I really think the order should be more stable

You can fight this battle until you are blue in the face, but you are going to lose it. There is no evidence that shuffling players around the batting order has anything to do with their performance. Try to get your best players the most at-bats, and where there are platoon advantages to seize upon, do it. That's how managers build lineups in 2018. Fight it all you want, but it's not changing.

Tweet from @matt_broker: When is Wade Miley going to get a haircut

Wade Miley has surrendered two or fewer runs in seven of his eight Brewers starts this season, and three runs in the other. Let the man have his shaggy hair.

Tweet from @LFNJSinner: What is taking the Brewers so long in retiring 17?

The standard for players is Hall of Fame or bust. So unless you can successfully petition the Veterans Committee to induct Jim Gantner, I don't think you'll see a No. 17 hanging in the rafters at Miller Park. But you also won't see anyone else wearing it, except Gantner himself when he comes out to the park for batting practice.

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

Milwaukee Brewers, Jimmy Nelson

Inbox: Will McMahon, Dahl play every day?

Beat reporter Thomas Harding answers fans' questions
MLB.com

DENVER -- Talk about new blood.

Rockies rookie infielder Ryan McMahon has hit .324 -- with memorable homers on Friday and Saturday in wins over the Dodgers -- in 15 games (eight starts) since being recalled from Triple-A Albuquerque.

DENVER -- Talk about new blood.

Rockies rookie infielder Ryan McMahon has hit .324 -- with memorable homers on Friday and Saturday in wins over the Dodgers -- in 15 games (eight starts) since being recalled from Triple-A Albuquerque.

Outfielder David Dahl has hit .261 with a .370 on-base percentage in eight games (six starts) since his latest recall from Albuquerque.

The first question in today's Edward Jones Beat Reporter's Inbox echoes what many fans wonder: Will we be seeing more of them?

Tweet from @orig_rockiefan: When do we switch to having Dahl/McMannon in everyday line ups with Desmond/Parra being key bench bats? #Rockies

A couple days ago, I asked manager Bud Black during his pregame news conference about Dahl, who has started at all three outfield positions since his return -- including three times in left, where Gerardo Parra also starts.

What I've noticed is Black doesn't make declarations about whether young players are considered starters, for good reason. At catcher, for example, Tom Murphy received several starts when he was hitting, but after he struggled, he was sent back to Albuquerque, and Chris Iannetta and Tony Wolters reassumed their rotation with no fuss.

:: Submit a question to the Rockies Inbox ::

Dahl's starts came while Parra was going 0-for-11. The goal is to make sure both can be used, not to anoint a long-awaited former top pick a starter.

"I don't think there's a need to do that," Black said. "That's just me. I don't think you have to give any hard absolutes on anything.

"With any young player, there is a learning curve that takes time to develop into really a true big leaguer. Some guys, it happens fast. But most players, it takes a while to really entrench yourself as a big leaguer."

With Dahl and Parra in the outfield and McMahon in the infield, they have power and run-production potential that Black will plan to use either in the lineup or off the bench. The pace of close games figures to continue, so there will be a balance of starts in hopes that all will be able to contribute, whether they start or come off the bench in a given game.

Tweet from @gdcooke: Can & will Jon Gray turn into a bona fide anchor for the rotation?

Since his July 14 return from Albuquerque, the Rockies have won all five of Jon Gray's starts. Just one of them -- four runs and eight hits in 5 2/3 innings on Friday -- was not a quality start. If you look back to last year, Gray didn't give up more than three runs in any of his final 13 starts.

The answer to the "can" part is yes. As for the "will," we'll find out through a fun rest of the year, won't we?

Tweet from @5280FANaddict: How realistic is it to think Matt Holiday will be able to help this team? How soon will we get to see him? 
Through nine games at Triple-A Albuquerque, Matt Holliday is hitting .242 (8-for-33) with three doubles, two home runs and 10 RBIs. He also has seven walks to six strikeouts. Numbers-wise, it's headed in the right direction for him to make it as mainly a right-handed bat off the bench.

But it's going to come down to what the numbers don't tell us. Are the legs strong? Are there elements of the swing that the combination of detailed scouting and Major League pitching ability can exploit? The Rockies need to be confident in the answers before calling upon him, which is why they haven't rushed him based on a few solid games in the Pacific Coast League. But the early results look promising.

Tweet from @TomFulton52: What's wrong with Wade Davis? Is it mental or something else? 

Wade Davis, coming off a solid ninth inning to earn the win Sunday, has struggled with delivery issues dating back to last season. They just have shown up more in the results this year. But this is where being a veteran helps. He can push aside all the unnecessary emotion and theories and work on the true delivery issues.

Tweet from @jacobklaus1: Minus two rough games, could Lambert be a September callup?

Ranked as the Rockies' No. 2 prospect, Peter Lambert, 21, is on the Major League radar, but it would likely take injuries to the rotation to make him a clear candidate to pitch in September. Activating him would also mean clearing a spot on the 40-man Major League roster (something that will have to happen to get Holliday in a Rockies uniform).

But even if he isn't called up, I could see the wisdom in carrying him with the big club and continuing his work. He could always be activated, if necessary, but even if that doesn't happen, there is value in doing his work with pitchers preparing for all-important games.

Tweet from @CraigersH2: Will the @rockies ever go back to having the white vests? Now with Holliday back it seems like it'd be perfect for #Roxtober and some #LoDoMagic 
Like your thinking here. This is what they wore the night Todd Helton hit the walk-off homer off the Dodgers' Takashi Saito that triggered the run that eventually lifted the 2007 Rockies into the World Series.

But that uniform is not listed among the uniforms in the team's style guide -- just four (white pinstripes, black vests, purple and road gray) are -- and it hasn't been for several years. I am not clear on what it would take to bring it back for a late-season run, or even if it is allowed.

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter and like his Facebook page.

Colorado Rockies

Inbox: What are Twins' plans moving forward?

Beat reporter Rhett Bollinger answers fans' questions
MLB.com

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins still have 45 games remaining this season, but they have an eye toward 2019 and beyond. It's been a rough year for Minnesota, which aimed to compete, only to fall short and trade away six veterans.

The development of young players will be key down the stretch, and a wave of exciting September callups should be coming in a few weeks. Here's a look at a few of the issues the Twins are facing in this week's Inbox.

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins still have 45 games remaining this season, but they have an eye toward 2019 and beyond. It's been a rough year for Minnesota, which aimed to compete, only to fall short and trade away six veterans.

The development of young players will be key down the stretch, and a wave of exciting September callups should be coming in a few weeks. Here's a look at a few of the issues the Twins are facing in this week's Inbox.

Tweet from @Logan1650: What is this front office's new timeline to compete. It never felt like they went all-in on this team, which was obviously reset at the deadline, but what is their plan/timeline going forward. They seemingly are going to be young/transitioning for the next 2 years at least.

Despite selling at the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, the Twins still plan to compete next season, as they focused on trading away players with expiring deals who weren't going to be a part of the future. Only reliever Ryan Pressly was under control through next year, but the Twins felt they sold high on him for two solid prospects from the Astros. Minnesota tried to put together a contending team this year with several one-year deals for veterans Lance Lynn, Zach Duke and Logan Morrison, but it just didn't work out.

The biggest thing for the Twins going forward is their financial flexibility, as they don't have any veterans under contract beyond next year. Catcher Jason Castro, right-hander Michael Pineda and reliever Addison Reed are the only players under contract for next season, for a combined $24.5 million. So Minnesota can supplement its young core via free agency, with this year's class considered to be one of the best ever. The Twins have to figure out their infield situation, as they traded away Brian Dozier and Eduardo Escobar, while Joe Mauer is an impending free agent.

:: Submit a question to the Twins Inbox ::

But the key to being competitive in the short-term will be the continued development of players such as Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano, Max Kepler, Eddie Rosario and Jose Berrios. It's been a lost year for Buxton and Sano, which is a major reason why the Twins are where they are this season. Buxton seemed to be plagued by bad luck more than anything with his injuries, but again, he has to prove he can hit Major League pitching. Sano has been playing better since his six-week stint in the Minors.

Tweet from @ThatRangerDude: Monthly Joe Mauer prediction request, what does he decide to do in 2019? Has he done enough for the Twins to bring him back at 1B or is he ready to be with his family full time?

The future of Mauer will certainly be a major storyline this offseason, but it's still a bit too early to predict what's going to happen with him. It's hard to imagine him playing anywhere else, so the Twins could look to bring him back on a one-year deal to play first, along with Tyler Austin, who was acquired from the Yankees for Lynn. Mauer, though, dealt with a concussion again this season, and he's batting .269/.349/.355 with three homers and 34 RBIs in 86 games, which is a step back from his resurgent 2017 season. So it's hard to know what the future holds for Mauer, but the best bet is he either sticks with Minnesota or retires.

Tweet from @Jason_C_Wilson: Which under-the-radar prospect (so not Lewis, Kiriloff, Gordon) should Twins fans be most excited about entering 2019?

Right-hander Brusdar Graterol has continued to shoot up the prospects lists, as he's shown impressive stuff since missing the 2016 season because of Tommy John surgery. Graterol -- the club's No. 4 prospect per MLB Pipeline behind Royce Lewis, Alex Kirilloff and Nick Gordon -- has posted a combined 3.08 ERA with 87 strikeouts in 79 innings between Class A Cedar Rapids and Class A Advanced Fort Myers. The 19-year-old is the closest thing to a future ace in the organization, and he has a fastball that can reach triple digits.

Tweet from @JGamble98: When can we expect to see Nick Gordon up and what should we expect from him?

With Dozier and Escobar gone, there's an opportunity for Gordon to take over as a regular, most likely at second base with Jorge Polanco entrenched at shortstop. But the issue is that Gordon has been slumping at Triple-A Rochester, hitting .214/.248/.294 with two homers, 12 doubles and 23 RBIs in 77 games. He could be a September callup, but it made sense to acquire Logan Forsythe in the short-term from the Dodgers to play second down the stretch. Forsythe has played well so far, but he isn't likely to be in the club's long-term plans given how close Gordon is to the Majors and with Lewis on the fast track.

Tweet from @Sportswithyaz: Rooker a September call up?

Brent Rooker, the club's No. 7-ranked prospect, is having a solid year at Double-A Chattanooga, hitting .271/.344/.506 with 21 homers, 30 doubles and 71 RBIs in 111 games. There's definitely a chance the outfielder will get his first taste of the Majors in September, as he has one of the more advanced bats in the system.

Tweet from @TwinPennies: Does 2019 starting rotation include Ervin Santana and/or Trevor May?

The Twins hold a $14 million club option on Ervin Santana for next year, but with his right finger surgery and decreased velocity this season, they're not going to pick it up. Santana still has plenty to prove down the stretch, and he hasn't pitched well enough to be an August trade candidate. There's a small chance he could return on a lesser deal, but he's not likely to remain with Minnesota.

As for Trevor May, he seems to have settled into his relief role after coming back from Tommy John surgery. He said he's focused on being a reliever now, so he's also not likely to be in the rotation next year.

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.

Minnesota Twins

Inbox: Can Red Sox add another reliever?

Beat reporter Ian Browne answers fans' questions
MLB.com

The Red Sox's bullpen scares me. Is there any chance they will be able to pick up an effective relief pitcher for the stretch run?
-- Jeff T., Delmar, N.Y.

President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has a little more than two weeks left to find another reliever who can slip through waivers. Given the record the Red Sox have, every other American League team can place a waiver claim before Boston has a chance. This makes it difficult, but not impossible. It is probably more realistic for the Red Sox to shore up the bullpen they have, and adding a starter or two to that mix come playoff time could help also.

The Red Sox's bullpen scares me. Is there any chance they will be able to pick up an effective relief pitcher for the stretch run?
-- Jeff T., Delmar, N.Y.

President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has a little more than two weeks left to find another reliever who can slip through waivers. Given the record the Red Sox have, every other American League team can place a waiver claim before Boston has a chance. This makes it difficult, but not impossible. It is probably more realistic for the Red Sox to shore up the bullpen they have, and adding a starter or two to that mix come playoff time could help also.

If Nathan Eovaldi continue to show power stuff like Josh Beckett did in 2007, don't you think he should be a starter in the postseason? As we know, everyone concentrates on each at-bat, so starters need to have power stuff to overcome that in the postseason.
-- Kwang Soon P., Seoul, South Korea

Let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. Beckett had a Cy Young-caliber season in 2007. Eovaldi has definitely shown flashes of brilliance, but I don't think you can compare his body of work this season to what Beckett did in '07. I do think it will be fascinating to see how manager Alex Cora divides the rotation and the bullpen in the playoffs. Much of that will be based on performance over the next month.

:: Submit a question to the Red Sox Inbox ::

After Eovaldi's first start, I thought that Dombrowski should think about signing him to an extension. Do you think moving on Eovaldi early is smart? Do you think signing him to an extension like Rick Porcello (four years, or maybe even five or six) is too risky?
-- Shane A., Hartford, Conn.

I think the Red Sox are still evaluating what they have in Eovaldi, and the right-hander is still gaining comfort in Boston. He is going to be a free agent for the first time in his career, and he most likely will want to see what kind of offers are out there.

Why does Sandy Leon call for so many curveballs from Craig Kimbrel? Yes, the curve is breaking too early, but his rising heat got him to be among the game's top five closers.
-- Stan T., Springfield, Mass.

Kimbrel would be the first to admit he isn't commanding either pitch as well as he needs to lately. If Leon is calling for a lot of curveballs, it is probably because Kimbrel doesn't have the bite or location on his fastball he is looking for. Leon is generally regarded as one of the best game-callers in baseball. Kimbrel has plenty of time to get himself back in peak form before the postseason starts.

What is the status on Dustin Pedroia? Do you think he will get the starting nod over Ian Kinsler?
-- Trevor H., Kennewick, Wash.

Pedroia is working hard with his rehab in Arizona. Given where we're at on the calendar, I don't think it's realistic for Pedroia to play a major role on the team this season. I think Kinsler -- once he gets back from the disabled list from a left hamstring strain -- will be the starting second baseman the rest of the way. If Pedroia can get back at some point in September and prove to himself that he's healthy going into next season, I think that would be a victory right there.

If the Yankees and Red Sox were to end the regular season with identical records, similar to 1978, would there be a one-game tiebreaker to determine the AL East winner before the AL Wild Card Game? That would be very difficult for the loser of Game 163.
-- Wade, Fort Wayne, Ind.

Yes, the situation would play out exactly as you said. The Red Sox and Yankees would have a one-game tiebreaker to determine the AL East; the loser would likely play in the AL Wild Card Game. Up by 9 1/2 games with 42 games to go, Boston is hoping it never comes to that. If it does, something will have to go very wrong.

What's the latest on Steven Wright?
-- Dan A., Sister Bay, Wis.

Much like with Pedroia, Wright has had a lot of ups and downs in his attempted recovery from the cartilage restoration procedure on his left knee. It sounds like there have been more ups than downs lately. Wright could be a real nice piece to have in the bullpen in October. The past two years, Wright wasn't healthy enough to be on the postseason roster. He would definitely give the team a different look. The way hitters are geared up to hit fastballs in October, Wright could surely throw some hitters off.

I heard on "Inside Pitch" on SiriusXM the other day from host Tyler Kepner that there is an annual home-and-away game between the New York and Boston media. Kepner, who pitches, mentioned that he owned you for years, but over the past six to seven years, he can't get you out. What's the difference?
-- Mark V., Syracuse, N.Y.

Yes, playing in the annual media games is one of the great perks of a great job. Tyler is very kind. He did have a lot of success against me from about 2004-11. I've come on strong the past few years. Honestly, the biggest difference is when I started coaching my own kids and taking them to hitting lessons. When I was a kid, nobody ever really taught me how to hit. I kind of just saw the ball and hit it. I've learned some simple but effective techniques while coaching my own kids. Also, my wife, Amy, happens to be a great hitting coach. I wish I could go back and play Little League and Babe Ruth again knowing what I know now.

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.

Boston Red Sox

Inbox: Will the Phillies hit down the stretch?

Beat reporter Todd Zolecki answers questions from fans
MLB.com

What's the Phillies' biggest concern heading into the final stretch of the season?
-- Tom S., Newtown Square, Pa.

It's the offense, although the defense has remained a season-long issue. As much hand-wringing as there has been at times from fans regarding the rotation, the Phillies have one of the strongest starting staffs in baseball. It ranks seventh with a 3.70 ERA and sixth with a 3.76 xFIP. The Phils' bullpen has a 2.73 ERA since July 1, too. It is the best mark in baseball in that span.

What's the Phillies' biggest concern heading into the final stretch of the season?
-- Tom S., Newtown Square, Pa.

It's the offense, although the defense has remained a season-long issue. As much hand-wringing as there has been at times from fans regarding the rotation, the Phillies have one of the strongest starting staffs in baseball. It ranks seventh with a 3.70 ERA and sixth with a 3.76 xFIP. The Phils' bullpen has a 2.73 ERA since July 1, too. It is the best mark in baseball in that span.

:: Submit a question to the Phillies Inbox ::

There is no reason to think the Phillies will not pitch well enough down the stretch. But will they hit?

Philadelphia hit .184 with a .543 OPS on its 2-4 road trip through Arizona and San Diego. The Phils have hit .216 with a .627 OPS during a 7-8 stretch since July 26. Numbers like that are exactly why they acquired Asdrubal Cabrera, Wilson Ramos and Justin Bour.

Ramos' eventual return should help. He hit .297 with 14 home runs, 53 RBIs and an .834 OPS before he injured his left hamstring last month. When Ramos is activated from the DL, he will immediately become the Phillies' second-most productive hitter behind Rhys Hoskins. Ramos spent most of the season hitting fourth for Tampa Bay. He probably should hit there for Philadelphia, too. After Carlos Santana reached a season-high .804 OPS on June 23, he has hit .192 with a .650 OPS since. Manager Gabe Kapler has been reluctant to move Santana out of the cleanup spot, in part because he said Santana is comfortable hitting there. Kapler reiterated that point Sunday, when he told reporters in San Diego that, "We certainly don't think he's out of place in the four-hole in our lineup."

But the numbers suggest otherwise, and the sample size is no longer small enough to dismiss. Now, moving Santana out of the cleanup spot will not magically cure the Phils' offensive woes. But there could be a game in the final few weeks of the season when Ramos or somebody else hitting cleanup steps to the plate in a high-leverage situation and comes through with a big hit, much like having an extra bench player on the 25-man roster this week could help them win a game.

The Phillies optioned Zach Eflin to Triple-A over the weekend (he will not miss a start because he will be the team's 26th man in a doubleheader Thursday against the Mets) because they considered it a way to find value at the margins.

Dropping Santana from fourth to fifth (or even lower) in the Phils' lineup could be another example of finding value at the margins, too.

How concerned should we be about Seranthony Dominguez's ineffectiveness pitching on no rest?
-- Ed E., Philadelphia

It isn't exactly a four-alarm fire, but it is worth watching. Dominguez has a 9.92 ERA in nine appearances on no rest, allowing nine hits and eight walks and striking 11 in 7 1/3 innings. He has a 0.84 ERA in 28 appearances with at least one day of rest, allowing 14 hits and five walks and striking out 43 in 34 innings.

The Phillies play the Braves seven times in their final 11 games. If Philadelphia and Atlanta remain neck and neck entering those final 11 games, there certainly could be multiple situations when the Phils would love to have Dominguez pitch back-to-back games. Perhaps they can find a way to keep him fresher or get his body more acclimated to the workload before then. If not, they will have no choice then to lean on other relievers in the 'pen. Fortunately for them, there are enough pitchers throwing well right now to help them manage it.

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Philadelphia Phillies

Inbox: Are Astros feeling the pressure?

Beat reporter Brian McTaggart answers fans' questions
MLB.com

HOUSTON -- When I reached out on Twitter on Sunday and asked readers to submit some questions for this week's Astros Inbox, I fully expected this kind of strong response. Getting swept at home in four games by the Mariners will do that.

More than 100 questions filled up my Inbox this week, and most were filled with angst. That's somewhat to be understood, considering the Astros' lead in the American League West is only 2 1/2 games over the A's, but the sky is not falling. So let's calmly open the Inbox and answer some of the more reasoned questions.

HOUSTON -- When I reached out on Twitter on Sunday and asked readers to submit some questions for this week's Astros Inbox, I fully expected this kind of strong response. Getting swept at home in four games by the Mariners will do that.

More than 100 questions filled up my Inbox this week, and most were filled with angst. That's somewhat to be understood, considering the Astros' lead in the American League West is only 2 1/2 games over the A's, but the sky is not falling. So let's calmly open the Inbox and answer some of the more reasoned questions.

What is the feeling/mood in the clubhouse after all the injuries and getting swept by the Mariners? Are they panicking a little, or in general, are they confident about their chances to repeat? It feels to me like they are playing tight, but maybe that's because our expectations are so high this year.
-- Jay L., Los Angeles

Sure, the players are disappointed in the recent results, but there's no need to panic. The players still have faith in the team and its chances. The Astros are still in the driver's seat in the AL West and should win the division. You have to remember they have four players on the disabled list who have been on All-Star teams, including the reigning AL MVP Award winner in Jose Altuve and the World Series MVP in George Springer. The Astros went through a rough patch last August and came out of it. That being said, the AL West is much better this year, and objects in Houston's rearview mirror may be closer than they appear. 

:: Submit a question to the Astros Inbox ::

As good as the Astros' offense has been statistically over the past two years, the team has scored fewer runs on a per-game basis at home. This is now Year 2 with the new batter's eye. Has there been any talk within the organization about what it could do to change that setup, whether it's changing the color or something else?
-- Aaron M., Houston

Not that I know of, but it wouldn't surprise me if the batter's eye was addressed. It's no secret the players don't like it, and there have been a few subtle changes to it. But you also have to remember, other teams have to hit at Minute Maid Park as well, and the Astros did score 13 runs against the Dodgers in Game 5 of the World Series last year. I think the batter's eye is an issue, but not the only issue.

I see where Seattle closer Edwin Diaz practically demanded that manager Scott Servais insert him for the fourth straight game to get the save against the Astros on Sunday. It's apparent that Diaz, Servais and the rest of the Mariners realized the importance and urgency of the game. Astros manager AJ Hinch, on the other hand, doesn't appear to be the least bit concerned. It seems the players are following the lead of their manager. Perhaps Hinch should shake up the batting order to try to manufacture some runs and light a fire under his guys.
-- David L., Huntsville, Ala.

I wouldn't put too much stock in Hinch's demeanor in the three-minute postgame interviews you see on TV. Trust me, losing bothers him way more than it bothers the fans. What good would throwing a microphone or pushing over a table do? Nothing. Hinch has a psychology degree from Stanford and knows how to handle a room full of alpha males. We don't know what he does behind the scenes, but it's worked. He has a ring, while Servais' teams have underperformed. Plus, I don't know how you expect Hinch to shake up a batting order that doesn't include Altuve and Springer. Like do what, exactly? He only has 12 position players. I'd love to know what "shake up" the batting order means. Hit Alex Bregman ninth? When they get healthy, the Astros' offense will return to form.

If I'm a fan, I'd rather have the manager be a calm presence who says, "We'll be fine," than one who sits at the microphone and pouts.

Why are the Astros being so sketchy about Altuve's knee? What is the injury, other than "discomfort?" Altuve couldn't even say if he'd had an MRI.
-- Malissa W., Houston

I hear you, Malissa. The Astros are very secretive with injuries, so I get the fans' frustration. The reporters share it, too. Maybe it's worse than they're letting on? Maybe they thought it wasn't too bad and it's not healing as quickly as they had hoped? Whatever the case, the longer Altuve is out, the more there is a cause for concern going forward.

Do you believe there is room for either Jake Marisnick or Tyler White on a potential playoff roster? And if so, which pitchers would they leave off the roster to make room (if everyone is healthy)?
-- Logan K., Valley Mills, Texas

Considering the Astros wouldn't need as many pitchers in the postseason, there's room for perhaps two extra position players. Marisnick, I believe, is a lock when he's healthy, considering the defense he brings. We've seen him make a pair of amazing plays the past couple of weeks. Marisnick would have been on the playoff roster last year had he been healthy. White's got a shot because of his bat. Last year, Houston carried 11 pitchers, three catchers, six infielders and five outfielders in the AL Division Series. It's hard to say at this point which relievers get pushed out.

There's some frustration among many fans with how the Astros' young guys and callups are doing. Some of these players have very few games played or at-bats. How long before we have a good idea what type of Major League player a guy is going to be?
-- Phil J., Corpus Christi, Texas

That's a tough question. I do know it's not fair to judge a player, especially a 21-year-old like Kyle Tucker on his first 100 plate appearances. I'd like to give him a half season of plate appearances (around 300) to get a better idea of where he's at. Even then, it's an inexact science. J.D. Martinez had nearly 1,000 plate appearances with the Astros before he was cut, and he blossomed into a star with the Tigers, D-backs and now the Red Sox.

One of the greatest things about the Astros is the positive and brother-like culture in the clubhouse. Bringing in Roberto Osuna, do you think the situation will affect the clubhouse culture and ultimately affect the team on the field?
-- Ryan D., Greenville, Texas

That's a fair question and not one that can be answered just yet. The players have been very diplomatic in their responses. Chemistry is key, but I find it hard to believe any players who aren't in favor of the Osuna acquisition are letting their feelings affect their play. We might not know the answer to this until much later. The Astros are struggling while Altuve, Springer, Lance McCullers Jr. and Chris Devenski are on the DL. That's the biggest issue right now.

Considering the offensive struggles the team has had, do you see Houston making a late trade for a bat? Maybe a guy like Josh Donaldson to be the designated hitter? The Justin Verlander trade helped spark the team last year, and maybe a late move could do it again.
-- Nick G., San Diego

We've seen some big trades made in August over the years, and the Astros pulled on off last year by landing Verlander, like you said. Trades are harder to make in August because any players who are traded first to have pass through waivers, but Donaldson is a good name to keep an eye on. So is Andrew McCutchen of the Giants. My guess is, if Altuve is out for an extended period of time, Houston may try to add a bat.

Do you think the Astros will ever retire J.R. Richard's No. 50?
-- Jeremiah F., Syracuse, N.Y.

No, I think they've retired too many numbers as it is.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.

Houston Astros

Inbox: O's have high expectations for Mullins?

Beat reporter Brittany Ghiroli answers questions from Baltimore fans
MLB.com

Do you see any more big moves before the end of the year?
-- Ryan S., Norfolk, Va.


Probably not. The promotion of Cedric Mullins, the Orioles' ninth-ranked prospect, was probably the last bit of "bigger" news this year, though I do the club will end up calling up more guys (even if it's only for September's roster expansion). We know big changes are coming this offseason. It's not overstating things to call this an organization in flux, as both manager Buck Showalter and executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette have contracts that run out this season. At this point in the year, with a month and a half to go, it's almost a certainty that ownership will wait for this season to play out and then make a decision about which way to go.

I know it's early, but what do you think of Mullins? And what are the chances we sign Adam Jones to hold down right field?
-- Martin G., Columbia, Md.

Do you see any more big moves before the end of the year?
-- Ryan S., Norfolk, Va.


Probably not. The promotion of Cedric Mullins, the Orioles' ninth-ranked prospect, was probably the last bit of "bigger" news this year, though I do the club will end up calling up more guys (even if it's only for September's roster expansion). We know big changes are coming this offseason. It's not overstating things to call this an organization in flux, as both manager Buck Showalter and executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette have contracts that run out this season. At this point in the year, with a month and a half to go, it's almost a certainty that ownership will wait for this season to play out and then make a decision about which way to go.

I know it's early, but what do you think of Mullins? And what are the chances we sign Adam Jones to hold down right field?
-- Martin G., Columbia, Md.

Mullins obviously had an impressive debut, becoming the first Oriole to collect three hits in his first game. So his offense has clearly been as advertised. But the little things -- the ability to bunt, his respect for veterans, speed -- are also there. There's a lot of expectations with this 23-year-old, as the O's hope Mullins can man center field for years to come. It's started off well, but really you need to give it this season (and beyond) before you can really draw a conclusion one way or another. We've seen countless guys come up and perform well in short stints before big league pitchers figure them out. I'm not saying that will happen here, I'm just saying it's impossible to say what Mullins will do after a few days.

:: Submit a question to the Orioles Inbox ::

Clearly, Jones would like to stay. But there are some mixed messages right now as the organization starts a rebuild, and Duquette has referenced wanting to see younger players. Ultimately, it's going to come down to what kind of offer the Orioles make to keep Jones. Yes, he has ties in the area and has made a serious impact in the community. But it still has to fit into Baltimore's on-field plans and a reduced payroll for next season.

What are the club's realistic expectations for Chris Davis? And what can be done about that contract?
-- Tim R., Astoria, N.Y.

There's not a whole lot of leverage involved with Davis' contract, which is how the Orioles got into this mess. Ownership thought they were buying a big bat who could stabilize the lineup for years to come, but obviously that hasn't worked out at all. They tried benching him and letting him work stuff out on the side. That worked briefly, but nothing seems to do the trick long term. The O's are likely going to have to eat that record contract. So there aren't many other options for Baltimore -- the club has to play Davis and acknowledge that his pricey contract will very much factor into this rebuild.

When will Mark Trumbo return to the starting lineup? I know games don't really matter, but he's been our hottest hitter.
-- Michael F., Richmond, Va.

Trumbo did pinch-hit in the ninth inning of Sunday's game, but I know what you mean. The plan was for him to get an injection into that cranky right knee, with the hope that he could return for the Mets series this week. No one is 100 percent this time of year, but the Orioles are hoping they can get Trumbo back to where he's OK playing on that knee. This is something that's hampered him before and just needs to be managed.

What other players may fans expect to come up soon?
-- John B., Washington

Ryan Mountcastle and D.J. Stewart are two names that have circulated a lot, though the team may wait until September callups. Mullins was the big name, but when you look at the Orioles' current roster, there are already a ton of unproven guys. Still, I know people in the organization would like a look at Moutcastle and Stewart, and I'd be surprised if we don't see them at some point before this season ends.

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 is the Rays' trade haul looking?

Beat reporter Bill Chastain answers questions from fans
MLB.com

Can you believe the haul the Rays got for Chris Archer? Tyler Glasnow looks like he can be a No. 1 starter, and I'm looking forward to seeing Austin Meadows when they bring him to Tropicana Field. The Rays should be so lucky in all of their deals.
-- Brad C., Tampa, Fla.

I'll tell you what, Glasnow has been impressive. In three starts, the right-hander has allowed three runs on six hits and three walks while striking out 20 in 12 innings. And I'm looking forward to seeing Meadows play, too. But I think it's too early to judge this trade just yet. I do think it will be good for Archer to get a fresh start with Pittsburgh. And again, Glasnow looks really, really good.

Can you believe the haul the Rays got for Chris Archer? Tyler Glasnow looks like he can be a No. 1 starter, and I'm looking forward to seeing Austin Meadows when they bring him to Tropicana Field. The Rays should be so lucky in all of their deals.
-- Brad C., Tampa, Fla.

I'll tell you what, Glasnow has been impressive. In three starts, the right-hander has allowed three runs on six hits and three walks while striking out 20 in 12 innings. And I'm looking forward to seeing Meadows play, too. But I think it's too early to judge this trade just yet. I do think it will be good for Archer to get a fresh start with Pittsburgh. And again, Glasnow looks really, really good.

:: Submit a question to the Rays Inbox ::

Why did the Rays trade Wilson Ramos away for a song? He's the best catcher in franchise history. We've gone years without having a solid backstop, and Ramos was an All-Star. He's a free agent after the season. Do you think there's a chance they'll sign him?
-- Bob D., St. Petersburg

First, I totally get the trade. Ramos was in the back end of a two-year deal. And the fact he was on the disabled list further diminished his trade value. Given what the Rays seem to be doing, which is cashing in their older assets to go with younger players, I don't see them re-signing Ramos.

OK, I get it -- the Rays love Willy Adames, and they want to see if he can play a little bit. And since they gave him the shortstop job, he's played better. What I don't get is why they gave up on Adeiny Hechavarria. He might be the best fielding shortstop the Rays have had, and he's just 29. Doesn't that qualify him, age-wise, for what they're trying to do? I would rather have seen the team slide Adames over to second and keep Hechavarria.
-- Barry A., Clearwater, Fla.

While I'll agree with you that Hechavarria could field the position rather well -- see the six errors total that he made in 492 chances with the Rays -- the club believes it has an all-around shortstop in Adames. All of the scouts I've talked to agree with that viewpoint.

The Rays have had good fortune using their "openers" and having bullpen days this season. Do you think going forward they will use openers and bullpen days?
-- Ken C., Tampa, Fla.

Based on the effectiveness of their innovative pitching methods, I do believe they will continue to use both, but in a modified form. I can see them having two or three traditional starters, then using relievers for the other two or three days. It should be fun to watch and see what they do.

As a longtime fan going back to Devil Rays days, I'm discouraged at the gap in the standings between the Rays and the first-place Red Sox. Is there any hope of closing that gap?
-- Ben L., Tampa, Fla.

Boston is on track for one of the best seasons in Major League history, and that happens sometimes. As for the Rays, I've marveled at what they've done this season. They've turned over the team and continued to play well throughout. Going forward, I believe this core group of players will lead the team to some exciting times to where they will be challenging the Red Sox and Yankees for the American League East title.

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

Tampa Bay Rays

Inbox: When will top prospects arrive?

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

It looks like the Padres have turned their focus toward the future. Which prospects are expected to debut this season?
-- Peter

Tyson Ross and Jordan Lyles are off to the National League Central as waiver claims. There's never been a clearer message that the Padres are turning toward the future and ready to give some of the talent in the their top-ranked farm system a chance.

It looks like the Padres have turned their focus toward the future. Which prospects are expected to debut this season?
-- Peter

Tyson Ross and Jordan Lyles are off to the National League Central as waiver claims. There's never been a clearer message that the Padres are turning toward the future and ready to give some of the talent in the their top-ranked farm system a chance.

For now, that means Brett Kennedy and Trey Wingenter get their callups. It also portends further moves in the not-so-distant future. Barring injury, Luis Urias and Francisco Mejia will almost certainly join the Padres over the next two months. (It's technically not a big league debut for Mejia, who had 18 plate appearances with Cleveland).

After Mejia and Urias (ranked third and fourth in the Padres system, respectively), Jacob Nix could earn the call as well. He'll need to be placed on the 40-man roster ahead of December anyway, or risk being exposed to the Rule 5 Draft. For that same reason, the Padres might be hesitant to promote right-hander Cal Quantrill or left-hander Logan Allen. With sparse room available on the 40-man, neither needs to be added until after next season.

:: Submit a question to the Padres Inbox ::

How would Austin Hedges and Mejia coexist on a Major League roster? Who would get the most playing time?
-- Terry, Costa Mesa, Calif.

All along, the Padres insisted the Mejia trade wasn't a knock on Hedges' talent. They merely had the chance to land the game's top catching prospect, and they weren't about to pass up that opportunity.

Now, it leaves them with something of a long-term conundrum behind the plate. The Indians toyed with moving Mejia to the outfield. The Padres have no such plans in the immediate future. But ultimately, don't be surprised if Mejia gets some work in the outfield next spring.

If Hedges and Mejia are the team's two catchers next season, it's a safe bet Hedges' playing time will decrease. The Padres aren't going to put Mejia into a strict backup role. But Hedges will remain their No. 1 catcher, playing at a pace of something like 110 games. In theory, Mejia could catch the rest, while playing some outfield as well.

Who is the odd man out in the outfield going forward?
-- Justin, San Diego

That's what the rest of the season -- and possibly next season -- is for. The Padres are almost certainly going to add to their rotation, their bullpen and probably their infield. But it's hard to envision them signing an outfielder, given the logjam we're already seeing there.

Wil Myers is the left fielder (though it's possible he adds third base to his repertoire). Manuel Margot is the center fielder. After that, it's going to be a battle for playing time, and the Padres are fine with that. Hunter Renfroe, Travis Jankowski, Franmil Reyes and Franchy Cordero (who should return from a bone spur in his elbow for the start of next season) are all candidates.

The Padres have no problem moving forward with multiple options for one spot -- especially given the left-right platoon splits of all four hitters. It's probably better that they don't need to rely on one guy. But over the next couple months, I'd guess we see Renfroe playing regularly. It's his early chance to stake a claim for the starting job in right field next season.

Will Cory Spangenberg play shortstop this year? What is the plan for him?
-- Mike, San Diego

The Padres aren't going to make Spangenberg their shortstop of the future. Put simply: He isn't a shortstop. But there's inherent value if Spangenberg can play the position adequately as a backup. The Padres don't have a true backup shortstop on their roster. And it's unlikely they attack next season the same way they attacked this one -- with one player (Freddy Galvis) starting every game.

Spangenberg has been taking grounders at shortstop regularly during batting practice. There aren't any imminent plans to move him there, but here's why it makes sense to give him a shot either late this season or next spring: Utility pieces are much more valuable when they have "shortstop" on their resume.

Spangenberg has already proven he can play the outfield, along with his regular time at third and second base. He brings speed off the bench and a decent bat against right-handed pitching. If Spangenberg can add shortstop, that makes him immensely more appealing as a long-term roster option. I suspect we'll find out whether he can handle that position in the very near future.

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

San Diego Padres, Austin Hedges, Francisco Mejia, Cory Spangenberg

Inbox: Will Braves revisit Deadline negotiations?

Beat reporter Mark Bowman answers fans' questions
MLB.com

Do you have any details on trade offers that were being circulated that we have not heard about?
-- @adamj2281

Braves executive vice president Alex Anthopoulos kept tabs on Chris Archer to see if the Rays' cost ever dropped to Atlanta's comfort zone. But the star player Anthopoulos pursued was Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto, who remains coveted by a number of teams, including the Nationals.

Do you have any details on trade offers that were being circulated that we have not heard about?
-- @adamj2281

Braves executive vice president Alex Anthopoulos kept tabs on Chris Archer to see if the Rays' cost ever dropped to Atlanta's comfort zone. But the star player Anthopoulos pursued was Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto, who remains coveted by a number of teams, including the Nationals.

The Braves expressed interest in Realmuto last offseason and again as recently as the hours leading up to last week's non-waiver Trade Deadline. Though the two parties have not been able to strike a deal, expect the Marlins backstop to be at the top of Atlanta's wish list in the coming offseason.

Realmuto has established himself as perhaps the game's best asset at a premium position, so the cost will be understandably steep. Think along the lines of at least one top pitching prospect (Mike Soroka, Kyle Wright or Ian Anderson) plus a top position-player prospect (Austin Riley or Cristian Pache) and one other prospect who would likely rank among the top 15 prospects in Atlanta's talent-rich system.

:: Submit a question to the Braves Inbox ::

The Braves have the depth and resources within their system to remain one of the top candidates for Realmuto. At the same time, they have the motivation created by an obvious need. There's a chance Kurt Suzuki or Tyler Flowers will return next season, but both of the 30-somethings will not be back. And the only legit catching prospect within Atlanta's system is William Contreras, a 20-year-old who was recently promoted to the Class A Advanced level.

As you might remember, this past winter, I said that if given a choice between getting either Christian Yelich or Realmuto from the Marlins, I'd choose the latter, simply because of the value he brings to a premium position. Well, even now that Yelich has established himself as a National League MVP candidate with the Brewers, I stand by that take.

Along with providing power and consistency as a hitter, Realmuto possesses one of the game's best arms behind the plate and an advanced ability to handle a pitching staff. His $2.9 million salary stands as a bargain, and he has two arbitration-eligible seasons remaining.

If the Braves do not strike a deal for Realmuto this offseason, they may opt to earmark a sizeable portion of their available funds to pursue Yasmani Grandal. This would limit their flexibility to address other needs.

So I think it's safe to say you'll once again hear the Braves linked to Realmuto this offseason.

Who will be the next Braves prospect to make his debut?
-- @Braves4829

Had the Braves needed Max Fried to make a long-relief appearance during last weekend's series against the Mets, Touki Toussaint would have likely started the first game of Tuesday's doubleheader against the Nationals. Now, we'll have to wait to see whether Toussaint is brought up to aid the bullpen or become one of the pieces that allows for the creative construction of the six-man rotation currently being utilized.

Since a relatively slow first six weeks, Toussaint has established himself as one of Atlanta's most intriguing prospects. He has posted a 2.10 ERA, limited opponents to a .206 batting average and recorded 83 strikeouts while issuing 28 walks over the 73 innings spanning his past 12 starts for Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett.

With Soroka expected to miss the remainder of the season and uncertainty surrounding Luiz Gohara, who has at least created some recent encouragement, the Braves needed the quick rise experienced by Toussaint, who appears on track to make his big league debut within the next couple of weeks.

While Gohara might have once seemed like a strong candidate to serve as a multi-inning reliever, Toussaint may end up benefiting from time in Atlanta's suddenly deep bullpen.

When will Austin Riley be promoted, and what will his presence mean for Johan Camargo and Dansby Swanson?
-- @iblameshaw

Riley, ranked by MLB Pipeline as Atlanta's No. 4 prospect, has hit .265 with nine doubles, one homer, 24 strikeouts and 15 walks in 118 plate appearances since he missed a month with a sprained right posterior cruciate ligament. His time on the disabled list combined with his recent production indicates he likely won't be promoted before September.

The Braves were looking for a right-handed-hitting third baseman whose presence would give them the option to sit Swanson and use Camargo as the shortstop in games against a left-handed starting pitcher. But when facing a southpaw or a tough right-handed pitcher over the past week, manager Brian Snitker has instead simply opted to utilize Charlie Culberson as his shortstop.

Swanson's glove remains an asset, and he will likely continue to be a late-inning defensive replacement on those days he is out of the lineup. But Swanson has struggled at the plate, hitting .217 with a .266 on-base percentage and .325 slugging percentage over his past 46 games (dating to June 6). He has gone 8-for-41 with 12 strikeouts and three walks against left-handers in that span.

Do you think Arodys Vizcaino will return this season?
-- @atleer

Vizcaino remains at least a week away from being cleared to resume throwing exercises, so the Braves remain hopeful to at least have him available come September. Expanded rosters would help meet the necessity of regulating the workload of the veteran reliever, who has dealt with right shoulder inflammation this season. But while Vizcaino might be able to help with a couple of late-inning appearances per week, I wouldn't expect to see him used routinely again this season.

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.

Atlanta Braves

Inbox: How will Eovaldi be used in playoffs?

Beat reporter Ian Browne answers questions from Red Sox fans
MLB.com

Who do you think would be more valuable to the Sox out of the bullpen in October -- Nathan Eovaldi or Eduardo Rodriguez?
-- @SamDrusch

Eovaldi has explosive power stuff, so I think he is a great fit for the bullpen once the playoffs start. I like E-Rod as a starter, especially if he pitches like he did before going on the disabled list.

Who do you think would be more valuable to the Sox out of the bullpen in October -- Nathan Eovaldi or Eduardo Rodriguez?
-- @SamDrusch

Eovaldi has explosive power stuff, so I think he is a great fit for the bullpen once the playoffs start. I like E-Rod as a starter, especially if he pitches like he did before going on the disabled list.

What is the postseason rotation for the Sox?
-- @abromson

I think the best setup for the postseason is Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello and Rodriguez, with Eovaldi giving you a serious multi-inning weapon out of the 'pen. Obviously, if they play the Yankees in the American League Division Series, you want Price to pitch at Fenway instead of Yankee Stadium, where he has had a lot of trouble.

:: Submit a question to the Red Sox Inbox ::

How do the Red Sox justify keeping Drew Pomeranz in rotation, while potentially putting Eovaldi in the bullpen? Eovaldi has been more effective and I would think would be a more reliable option down the stretch.
-- @GHarkins1979

No decision has been made on that. Both Pomeranz and Eovaldi are starting for now. Pomeranz is going to have to start improving his performance if he wants to remain in the rotation. I don't see Eovaldi going to the bullpen much before the postseason. He has been dominant in his first two starts, so there's no reason to move him out of a starting role at this point.

How do the Sox handle Sale to keep him fresh for the rest of the year/postseason and change the narrative of, "He's a great first-half pitcher"?
-- @boblesiw 

The first thing they've got to do with Sale is get him healthy, as he has some left shoulder inflammation that forced him to miss his last start. All year, manager Alex Cora has done everything in his power to have Sale fresh when it counts most. There have been numerous times he's held his ace right around the 100-pitch mark, or even a little below. Also, every time the team has had an off-day, Cora has kept five pitchers in the rotation, which has enabled Sale to often get five days of rest instead of four. If Sale can knock out his inflammation, I think he's set up for a strong finish.

Is there concern that Sale is missing a second start, or is this just a byproduct of a 9 1/2-game lead and the rest is a luxury?
-- @ Acummings40

I do think the way the Red Sox opened up the lead in the standings this week has at least a little to do with Sale not pitching in Toronto. Why rush him? You need this guy healthy for the games that count the most. It looks like Sale will pitch at some point this weekend in Baltimore, which is a sign he's feeling better.

Will the season mean a thing if the Red Sox somehow exit in the ALDS? 
-- @MikeB_923

In a vacuum, this season deserves to be remembered. The Red Sox are going to shatter their previous record for wins in a season. However, the fact that the team has lost in the ALDS the past two years would make this a very bitter ending if they again went out that early. At a minimum, the Sox need to make the AL Championship Series this season. It would be tough to stomach three straight division titles and no postseason series victories.

What is your projected playoff infield? How do Ian Kinsler, Eduardo Nunez, Rafael Devers and Brock Holt all get playing time when healthy?
-- @steve_blundell

The "A" infield is Mitch Moreland at first, Kinsler at second, Xander Bogaerts at short and Devers at third. Look for Steve Pearce and Nunez to play first and third against most lefties. Holt will get some starts against tough righties to give either Kinsler or Bogaerts a day off. I think they have a nice complement of players and a chance to keep all of them fresh.

Blake Swihart was swinging a pretty hot bat when went on the DL. But how does he fare defensively and especially managing pitchers? Do pitchers like working with him? Considering this, what role can we expect of him when he returns and when will that be?
-- @losmediasrojas

Swihart has made big improvements this year on defense, and I think Jason Varitek has made a very positive impact him with his instruction. As far as managing pitchers, I think Swihart does an adequate job. The problem in that regard is that Sandy Leon sets the bar so high that I think it's hard for even Christian Vazquez to live up to that, let alone Swihart. When Swihart returns, he should go back to the role of backup catcher while filling in at other positions in the case of emergency. Still no word on when Vazquez will be back, but I doubt it will be much before September.

Who will win the AL MVP Award? I'd say Mookie Betts thanks to superior defense and running, but J.D. Martinez has completely changed this team offensively.
-- @abromson

Mookie and Mike Trout are having nearly identical seasons at the plate. I give Mookie a slight edge because he is a better defender, though Trout has been much improved in center this year. When you have two guys who are basically having the same season, I'd go with the guy who is playing in bigger games, which is Mookie. J.D. has been great, but Mookie simply does more things. If the season ended right now, Betts would get my MVP vote.

I know that it's very unlikely that Dustin Pedroia will return this year, although Cora keeps saying he's not ruling it out. But if he were to be able to recover quick and come back, say late September, do you think it's better to just hold off so he's fully healed for next season?
-- @icarlycrouse

If Pedroia is able to get fully healthy by September, I don't think it would hurt to play him a game or two down the stretch just so he could test the knee before the offseason. That said, I agree that it doesn't make sense to give him any kind of regular role this season. The more time you can give his knee to recover and respond to all the rehab, the better.

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.

Boston Red Sox

Inbox: Will Trumbo be next O's player dealt?

Beat reporter Brittany Ghiroli answers questions from Baltimore fans
MLB.com

The Orioles, who won on Sunday in Texas to avoid a sweep, are enjoying a day off in Florida before beginning a three-game set with the Rays to cap a three-city road trip. It's a perfect time to take a look at some of your most pressing O's questions.

Do you see the Orioles being able to shed more money this offseason? Mark Trumbo?
-- Jeff D.

The Orioles, who won on Sunday in Texas to avoid a sweep, are enjoying a day off in Florida before beginning a three-game set with the Rays to cap a three-city road trip. It's a perfect time to take a look at some of your most pressing O's questions.

Do you see the Orioles being able to shed more money this offseason? Mark Trumbo?
-- Jeff D.

I absolutely think they'll look to shed salary this offseason as the plan is to lower the Major League payroll over the next few years and re-allocate that money to scouting, analytics and international prospects. Don't forget there's also the potential for August trades, which the Orioles will almost certainly be involved in as they continue to try to kick-start their rebuild.

Trumbo is certainly a guy they could explore dealing to shed salary this offseason as they look to keep players they envision as part of the plan three years down the road.

Submit your questions to the Orioles inbox

Have not heard from the club why outfield prospect Cedric Mullins is not here. Is it a thing where they don't want his clock to start? Or is it as simple as they just don't think he's ready?
-- D.J., Baltimore

I don't think it's either, honestly. Mullins is knocking on the door, and there's people in the organization who think he should already be up with the big league club now that the Orioles are in full rebuild mode. Still, it seems they're content to let the smoke settle following a whirlwind of July trades that saw the O's overhaul their Major League roster.

Mullins will be in Baltimore this season -- it will be a major upset if he isn't -- and I wouldn't be surprised at all if he's with the Orioles before the month is over. It's time to see what Baltimore has with these young guys.

Does the team plan on competing next year? Or do they see themselves still in "rebuild" phase? If not competing, what's a rough estimate?
-- Steve G.

Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette mentioned a three-year plan when approaching this rebuild, so safe to say they are not going to be in it to win it in 2019. That said, we've seen rebuilds go more quickly than expected -- like the Yankees' youth movement -- and the O's have also endured long stretches of rebuilds that didn't pan out.

By 2021, you'd have to start seeing some positive signs -- whether it's a solid second half or a group of young players to be excited about. Until then, Orioles fans just have to hope this rebuilding effort goes smoothly.

Early impressions of the trades for Jonathan Schoop and Kevin Gausman?
-- Tim R., Columbus, Ohio

Gausman, to me, looks like a prime Jake Arrieta case. Maybe he would have figured it out with Baltimore, but maybe not. But I've got a feeling that Gausman's best years are going to be with Atlanta. So I wasn't a huge fan of that deal as it seemed more about cutting salary -- the Braves also took on Darren O'Day's contract -- than getting a solid return. However, if the Orioles invest that $2.5 million in international funds wisely and hit it big, it could end up being not quite as lopsided as it looks.

The haul for Schoop from the Brewers looks better, on paper at least, although to really assess a trade like this, you have to wait a couple years.

Do you have an update on pitcher Gabriel Ynoa? Will he pitch this season?
-- Doug B., Baltimore

Ynoa is unlikely to see the mound the season. He has dealt with rotator cuff inflammation and multiple bouts of shin splints that have hampered him since Spring Training. He had a brief rehab assignment in June that re-aggravated his shin so he's looking at another couple weeks before resuming baseball activities.

I'm curious what the last two weeks of July were like for you?
-- B.J., Baltimore

Chaotic. Really the entire month of July was, when you factor in Manny Machado's trade and how that was front and center during all of the All-Star festivities. This is my ninth season with the Orioles, and last month had to be one of the craziest. It was certainly one of the most stressful.

A lot of really good players (and people) that I saw every day in the clubhouse aren't wearing O's uniforms anymore. The pair of trades in New York last week (Schoop, Gausman and O'Day) marked the end of an era for Orioles baseball. Ultimately, those trades had to happen, but dismantling a group that was essentially together for six years makes for a wild ride for a beat reporter. Now to start to learn all of the new players.

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, Mark Trumbo, Gabriel Ynoa

Inbox: Room in infield to re-sign Machado?

Beat reporter Ken Gurnick answers Dodgers fans' questions
MLB.com

I know that the Dodgers' front office said that they were not interested in signing Manny Machado, but do you think that there is a chance for him to be here long term?
-- Glenn Munoz via Twitter (@GlennMunoz6)

I haven't heard anybody from the Dodgers say the club isn't interested in re-signing Machado, but the hurdles are obvious. First, money. Second, Corey Seager. Third, money. Fourth, performance. This front office prefers to watch other clubs sign players to nine-figure windfalls. Nonetheless, if any player would tempt an exception, it would be somebody young like the 26-year-old Machado, who can impact games at the plate and in the field, at multiple positions.

I know that the Dodgers' front office said that they were not interested in signing Manny Machado, but do you think that there is a chance for him to be here long term?
-- Glenn Munoz via Twitter (@GlennMunoz6)

I haven't heard anybody from the Dodgers say the club isn't interested in re-signing Machado, but the hurdles are obvious. First, money. Second, Corey Seager. Third, money. Fourth, performance. This front office prefers to watch other clubs sign players to nine-figure windfalls. Nonetheless, if any player would tempt an exception, it would be somebody young like the 26-year-old Machado, who can impact games at the plate and in the field, at multiple positions.

:: Submit a question to the Dodgers Inbox ::

Still, it's hard to imagine there being room in this infield for Machado, Seager and Justin Turner, especially with Machado wanting to play shortstop, unless Turner moves to first base, Seager moves to third base and Cody Bellinger becomes a full-time outfielder. Then there's Machado's performance. So far, in a small sample, Machado has been productive, but he hasn't duplicated his Baltimore numbers or approached the impact the other Manny (Ramirez) made when he turned a Deadline trade into a new Dodgers contract under a different ownership.

How intense is a simulated game? Who calls the pitches? Is there a radar gun? How aggressive are the batters? Who is watching and evaluating?
-- James H. Lyall

There are variations, but basically, a simulated game is designed to be more intense than a bullpen session and better orchestrated than a real game. That means an inning is cut off at 15 pitches, whether there are three outs or not. Can't do that in a real game. The "up and down" -- ending an inning, sitting down for 10 minutes, then warming up again and throwing another 15 pitches -- is what pitching coach Rick Honeycutt is really looking to simulate. The pitcher calls the pitches as he would in a real game. There usually is a radar gun, especially if a pitcher is coming off an injury. Usually, the manager, pitching coach, trainers and one or more front-office reps are present. That will vary depending on whether the team is home or on the road.

Chris Taylor made the last out of a recent game and questioned a call with the ump, and manager Dave Roberts pushed him away as the game was over. Why did Roberts do that? He could not get kicked out of a game that was over. Why not question the umpire's strike zone?
-- Dale Johnson

Even if a game is over, a player can always be disciplined for disrespecting an umpire by receiving a fine or suspension. As a rule, nobody can question balls and strikes; otherwise, there would be arguments over every pitch.

How hard is it to teach position players to bunt for base hits against the shift?
-- Michael Kaiser via Twitter (@mnormankaiser)

Basically, impossible. I'm with you -- that's the game I learned to love. But it's not the one that's played today. It's a slugger's world. It's what the players get paid for and devote their training to excel. It's what analytics have convinced front offices is the best way to win. That makes it a vicious cycle not easily disrupted, barring rule changes or a dramatic philosophical renaissance. So don't hold your breath.

Why hasn't Enrique Hernandez been playing more?
-- LaPatsFan via Twitter (@BaseballEct101)

More than whom? Hernandez is fifth on the club in games played. Roberts just said he should be considered one of the Dodgers' most valuable players. Hernandez is an ideal National League utility man on a club that values utility greatly. In some ways, he's a victim of his versatility. Interestingly, although he's been known to be a killer of left-handed pitching in the past, Hernandez has had more success against right-handed pitching this season.

Crunchy or smooth peanut butter?
-- @bellayantsis

Management keeps a tight lid on such proprietary information, fearing that leaks provide opponents a competitive edge. However, clubhouse sources not authorized to discuss the situation have revealed that smooth peanut butter flies off the shelf when players are in the food room, while the coaching and support staffs definitely prefer the more sophisticated crunchy. Sources absolutely refused to discuss jelly preferences, but they confirmed that the Dodgers overwhelmingly consume steak over chicken.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.

Los Angeles Dodgers