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Inbox: Will rotation be altered down stretch?

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

Some of our starters -- Robbie Ray, Zack Godley -- have hit a rough patch recently. Do you think there will be September callups that could help the starting rotation?
-- Bob, Oro Valley, Ariz.

Sunday, I wrote about how the team will likely tweak the rotation order this week with the two off-days in terms of setting up some matchups over the next 10 days. That being said, I don't think you will see any changes to the rotation even when we hit September. What I do think you'll see is that the D-backs will call up a handful of pitchers who will be used in the bullpen and will give manager Torey Lovullo even more flexibility to be aggressive in terms of getting starters out earlier in games if they are struggling on a particular day.

Some of our starters -- Robbie Ray, Zack Godley -- have hit a rough patch recently. Do you think there will be September callups that could help the starting rotation?
-- Bob, Oro Valley, Ariz.

Sunday, I wrote about how the team will likely tweak the rotation order this week with the two off-days in terms of setting up some matchups over the next 10 days. That being said, I don't think you will see any changes to the rotation even when we hit September. What I do think you'll see is that the D-backs will call up a handful of pitchers who will be used in the bullpen and will give manager Torey Lovullo even more flexibility to be aggressive in terms of getting starters out earlier in games if they are struggling on a particular day.

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

Aside from Chris Owings, who do you expect the September callups will be?
-- Ashley, Tucson, Ariz.

When a team is in the postseason chase like the D-backs are, there is a real balancing act when it comes to September callups. On the one hand, if there's a player who can help in even one particular area (ex: speed to pinch-run late in a tie game), you want to have that player available because every game is so critical. On the other hand, you don't want to have too many guys in the clubhouse for those last few weeks of games -- especially if they're not going to be used. I think that's the fine line the D-backs will need to walk.

Should Daniel Descalso be getting every start against a right-handed pitcher heading into the last month of the season with the playoffs on the line? And how will the outfield rotation play out going down the stretch when the team is trying to play its best eight every day?
-- Bryan, El Paso, Texas

Descalso has done a great job for the D-backs all year long. It seems like he's come up with some key hits at big moments for them. I think he will continue to get a decent number of at-bats down the stretch, but I don't think it will be every start against a right-handed pitcher. At Descalso's two main positions you have switch-hitters who have been productive, as well, in Ketel Marte and Eduardo Escobar.

As for the outfield, Lovullo has said that as it gets closer to the end of this month, his focus will be on having more of a set lineup rather than getting guys rest. Throughout the year, Lovullo has focused on getting guys a day off on a regular basis to keep them fresh in order for them to be able to handle more of a workload right now. My guess is that will cut into the playing of Jon Jay a little bit, but I still think he'll get some starts.

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

Arizona Diamondbacks

Inbox: What role best suits utility man Goodrum?

Beat reporter Jason Beck answers questions from fans
MLB.com

Cleaning out the Tigers Inbox for the first time since the Trade Deadline (apologies to those whose trade questions went unanswered):

Cleaning out the Tigers Inbox for the first time since the Trade Deadline (apologies to those whose trade questions went unanswered):

Tweet from @Nick_Fritsch: What do you see as Goodrum���s best role going into next season. Tv guys were saying outfield, but I think he���s taken to 2nd nicely. Do we have so many guys gunning for second that are more deserving?

If you go by the metrics, Niko Goodrum's best position is the outfield, where he's average to above. But I still subscribe to the idea that different positions have different offensive expectations, and Goodrum's .737 OPS looks better in the middle infield than in the outfield.

:: Submit a question to the Tigers Inbox ::

That said, I actually think Goodrum's most valuable role might be to not have a set position. With another rebuilding season ahead and position prospects just beginning to near the big leagues, it's not hard to envision him getting close to everyday playing time without necessarily having an everyday position. Players who can do that are incredibly valuable, and Goodrum has that ability.

Tweet from @tigersdebate011: Is there even a slim chance that the tigers bring up Stewart, Robson, Hall, or Houston? And how much September call ups are generally made?

Outfielder Christin Stewart (Tigers' No. 6 prospect) could get a look, as could left-hander Matt Hall (No. 21). Outfielder Jacob Robson (No. 16) and right-hander Zac Houston were both drafted in 2016, and I'd be a little surprised if Detroit would use 40-man roster spots on them so soon.

Hall impressing in Minors with 'spin rate'

Tweet from @Mike2830: Why are the Tigers so reluctant to bring up prospects like Robson and Hall who deserve a look? I realize they���re not on the 40 man roster but there are so many guys that could be removed to make room

It's not simply about clearing space on the 40-man roster. Once players go on the roster, Minor League options begin to come into play, putting teams potentially in a roster bind sooner than they want. Plus, those 40-man roster spots are occupied for the offseason, limiting the Tigers' flexibility when looking for free agents and trades. The only way to get those players off the 40-man roster would be to designate them for assignment and risk losing them on waivers.

Tweet from @SifferMichael: Who is the shortstop and second base combo in 2019

Though No. 14 prospect Dawel Lugo's season numbers at Triple-A Toledo don't jump out, he has done well enough to warrant a look at second base next season. As for shortstop, that's anyone's guess. Jose Iglesias will be a free agent this coming offseason, but given the relatively modest trade interest, his potential free-agent market is tough to gauge. The only shortstop in Detroit's system who's arguably Major League ready, meanwhile, is Dixon Machado, who could get another look at his more natural position after losing the starting job at second base this summer.

Tweet from @bp200219: Who is most likely to play LF and CF (and OF bench) to start next season out of Jones, Stewart, Robson, Mahtook, Gerber + Reyes?

I'll go with JaCoby Jones, Stewart and Mike Gerber. Jacob Robson just got to Triple-A Toledo this summer. Victor Reyes needs more time to develop once his Rule 5 Draft requirements are met.

Tweet from @Mario200K: Do you think Paredes and Cameron get some top 100 discussion going info next year with how both have performed this year?

I prefer to leave those matters to Jim Callis, Jonathan Mayo and the fine folks at MLB Pipeline. I could see Daz Cameron (No. 8 prospect) getting consideration with a strong late-season push. Isaac Paredes (No. 12) would be tougher, since he's just outside the Tigers' top 10 prospect rankings at this point.

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: Ward ticketed for hot corner in 2019?

Beat reporter Maria Guardado answers questions from Angels fans
MLB.com

Who will be playing second base and third base next year?
-- @egaz11 via Twitter

If I had to guess, I think Zack Cozart will primarily be playing second base and Taylor Ward will be playing third. I also expect David Fletcher to be in the mix, though he could ultimately end up fitting in as more of a utility player. Ward and Fletcher are both getting extended looks in the infield right now, so I think the final six weeks of the season will be an audition of sorts for their potential roles with the Angels next season.

Who will be playing second base and third base next year?
-- @egaz11 via Twitter

If I had to guess, I think Zack Cozart will primarily be playing second base and Taylor Ward will be playing third. I also expect David Fletcher to be in the mix, though he could ultimately end up fitting in as more of a utility player. Ward and Fletcher are both getting extended looks in the infield right now, so I think the final six weeks of the season will be an audition of sorts for their potential roles with the Angels next season.

I also wouldn't rule out the possibility of the Halos exploring potential upgrades at either one of those spots during the offseason, so that could also change the dynamic.

:: Submit a question to the Angels Inbox ::

Tweet from @ChrisW1212: Which starting pitchers currently on the DL are expected to be healthy by spring training 2019?

Alex Meyer hasn't pitched this season after undergoing right shoulder surgery last September, but I think he is expected to be fully recovered by Spring Training. Parker Bridwell should also be back after undergoing surgery to remove a bone spur from his right elbow.

Matt Shoemaker made only one start for the Angels this year before going on the disabled list with a right forearm issue, but I think he'll be back before the end of the season and should be ready to go next year. Same goes for Tyler Skaggs and Nick Tropeano, who are both sidelined with less severe ailments.

Tweet from @TruthDrivenLife: In your professional opinion Maria, do you feel it is finally time for the Angels to trade Mike Trout to a true contender & rebuild? He deserves to be in the Playoffs. Thanks!

I don't think it would make sense for the Angels to trade Mike Trout while he's still under contract for two more seasons. He's arguably the best foundational piece a team could ask for, and I think it would be hard to get a return that would adequately match his value. While it's true that the Halos have yet to win a playoff game with Trout, it's not for a lack of effort. The Angels have tried to assemble competitive rosters over the past few years. They just haven't been able to stay healthy.

Tweet from @Halomich2: Which position player in the minors is the closest to being MLB ready?

I think middle infielder Luis Rengifo is close, and he could be among the Angels' September callups since he'll have to be added to the 40-man roster this offseason. Rengifo, whom the Halos acquired from the Rays in exchange for C.J. Cron in February, has progressed from Class A Advanced Inland Empire to Triple-A Salt Lake this season, batting .305 with an .862 OPS, six home runs, 58 RBIs and 41 stolen bases in 115 games across three Minor League levels. First baseman Matt Thaiss isn't far away, either.

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

Los Angeles Angels

Inbox: What is future of Phillies' defense?

Beat reporter Todd Zolecki answers questions from Philadelphia fans
MLB.com

Given the Phillies' defensive problems and the importance of not giving away outs in late-season games, do you believe the front office regrets trading Freddy Galvis?
-- Daryl C., Chicago

The Phillies are aware that their defense has been one of the worst in baseball. The traditional and non-traditional statistics tell that story. Now, would the Phils love a Gold Glove-caliber defender like Galvis on the field? Sure. But I'm not sure they regret trading Galvis. Remember, Philadelphia entered this season with modest expectations. It hoped to see improvement in the standings, but it really wanted to give its young players an opportunity to play. The organization wanted to play them because their performances this season would influence how it attacks the offseason.

Given the Phillies' defensive problems and the importance of not giving away outs in late-season games, do you believe the front office regrets trading Freddy Galvis?
-- Daryl C., Chicago

The Phillies are aware that their defense has been one of the worst in baseball. The traditional and non-traditional statistics tell that story. Now, would the Phils love a Gold Glove-caliber defender like Galvis on the field? Sure. But I'm not sure they regret trading Galvis. Remember, Philadelphia entered this season with modest expectations. It hoped to see improvement in the standings, but it really wanted to give its young players an opportunity to play. The organization wanted to play them because their performances this season would influence how it attacks the offseason.

:: Submit a question to the Phillies Inbox ::

If the Phillies had kept Galvis, they would not have learned what they did about J.P. Crawford, Scott Kingery and even Maikel Franco. I think the Phils will be more comfortable throwing big money at Manny Machado this offseason as a result. Not that Philadelphia would not have pursued Machado had Galvis remained, but it does not seem like smart business to throw hundreds of millions of dollars at a player when it has two highly-regarded infielders in Crawford and Kingery in the system and has not given them an opportunity to prove themselves.

Roman Quinn has played well recently in center field and has speed on the bases. What is his future?
-- Ed G., Greensboro, N.C.

Quinn has deserved to play a little more recently, particularly because Odubel Herrera is struggling. Herrera has hit .223 with a .651 OPS since his 45-game on-base streak ended May 19. He has not played as well defensively, either. Herrera ranked ninth in baseball last season in Outs Above Average, a Statcast™ metric, but he is tied for 64th this season.

Here is the thing: it is tough to give up on Herrera, because when he is hot, he can be one of the best hitters in baseball. He can carry a team. Regardless, Quinn has a future with the Phillies, at the very least as a fourth or fifth outfielder. Perhaps he could be better than that. But first, Quinn must stay healthy. And second, he must outperform Herrera.

Video: PHI@ARI: Herrera opens scoring in 7th with RBI triple

What are the chances that Cesar Hernandez and Herrera are traded this offseason?
-- Thomas G., Williamstown, N.J.

This is going to be a fascinating offseason for the Phillies in many ways. We know they will try to land free agents like Machado and Bryce Harper. If they are lucky enough to land at least one of them, they will have to make trades to free up a spot on the 40-man roster.

Hernandez could be moved if the Phillies sign Machado and want to move Kingery back to second base. They could move Herrera to shake up the lineup and perhaps upgrade their defense in center field if they do not like what they have seen from him this season. Really, nothing would shock me this offseason, other than Rhys Hoskins or Aaron Nola being traded. They are not going anywhere.

At the start of the season, Kapler said the Phillies will be bold. Why are the Phillies not bunting? They are not playing bold.
-- Curtis K., Lebanon, Pa.

Bunting gives away outs, and the numbers prove that giving away outs hurts your chances to score. Unless there is a pitcher at the plate, it very rarely make sense to bunt. But in a sense, you are correct: bunting is bold. But not for the right reasons.

Video: SD@PHI: Valentin, Kingery turn a slick double play

Does Kingery really have the arm for shortstop? I thought others like Crawford had much stronger arms.
-- Melvin S., Ephrata, Pa.

Kingery has a strong enough arm for shortstop. His max-effort throws average 84.3 mph, according to Statcast™. Among shortstops with a minimum of 75 tracked throws this season, that ranks eighth best in baseball. Machado leads the pack at 85.7 mph. Notably, Galvis is third at 85.0 mph.

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

Philadelphia Phillies

Inbox: How will Marlins handle Urena?

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

With Jose Urena heading into arbitration in the offseason, how has his six-game suspension affected the Marlins' approach with him moving forward?
-- @BirdmanEnFuego

Urena gained widespread attention for the wrong reasons for hitting Braves rookie Ronald Acuna Jr. with a pitch on Wednesday night, resulting in a six-game suspension, which he is appealing. As unfortunate as the incident and the backlash were, the Marlins haven't lost sight of the 26-year-old's vast talent. We saw it on Sunday in his first career complete game against Washington in Miami's 12-1 win.

With Jose Urena heading into arbitration in the offseason, how has his six-game suspension affected the Marlins' approach with him moving forward?
-- @BirdmanEnFuego

Urena gained widespread attention for the wrong reasons for hitting Braves rookie Ronald Acuna Jr. with a pitch on Wednesday night, resulting in a six-game suspension, which he is appealing. As unfortunate as the incident and the backlash were, the Marlins haven't lost sight of the 26-year-old's vast talent. We saw it on Sunday in his first career complete game against Washington in Miami's 12-1 win.

:: Submit a question to the Marlins Inbox ::

To me, Urena has pitched better than his numbers would indicate this year, but he still hasn't consistently elevated his game as much as he could. Sunday was a reminder of what he can be. Now, let's see if Urena can string together several starts of pitching at a high level. He has always been wild, and his two-seam fastball has lots of run -- and that's the pitch that struck Acuna. If Urena could mix in more of a traditional curveball, I think he could become a legitimate top-of-the-rotation candidate.

As for the incident in Atlanta, Braves fans won't forget and Urena will deal with more scrutiny. Everyone will be paying attention to how he responds, and on Sunday, he responded in a positive way.

Who are the Marlins' top September callup candidates?
-- @BrendanKatz

The front office is in the process of discussing which players and how many will be called up in September -- and keep in mind that outfielder Lewis Brinson (right hip) and first baseman/outfielder Garrett Cooper (right wrist) are currently on rehab assignments. Both will be brought back at some point, likely around Sept. 1.

Video: NYM@MIA: Brinson belts his 10th homer of the season

Adding a third catcher is pretty standard, and Chad Wallach, who is at Triple-A New Orleans, is on the 40-man roster. New Orleans right-hander Jeff Brigham, who is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA, is also a strong possibility. Brigham has dealt with injuries, but when healthy, he has performed. He is not on the 40-man roster, so he would have to be added after the Minor League season, but the Marlins may opt to add him in September and give him a look in the final few weeks.

Do you think trading away experienced players like Brad Ziegler and Cameron Maybin -- moves which I agree with -- has caused the recent slump?
-- @RobNorwichUK

Manager Don Mattingly said something at the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline that stuck with me. He noted that at the Deadline, some players who remained with the club were happy and some who weren't dealt were not. Clearly, there are veterans who see what the Marlins are trying to build and want to be part of it, while others may have wanted to move to teams in the postseason race. Either way, I think it creates an environment where everyone is not on the same page.

Ziegler, to the bullpen, and Maybin, to position players, were respected veterans and team players before they were traded. Ziegler went to the D-backs, while Maybin was moved to the Mariners. Add in the trade of Justin Bour to Philadelphia, and Miami lost three players with track records.

Video: MIA@WSH: Riddle crushes a 2-run homer to right in 6th

I also feel that the schedule hasn't helped, either, with the Marlins facing many teams in postseason contention. Contenders are able to take advantage of facing a young team with players trying to figure things out in the big leagues. There were some encouraging signs in Washington, with rookies like Isaac Galloway and Austin Dean and shortstop JT Riddle responding at the plate. In times like these, having veterans help bring stability.

Which player in the Minor Leagues are you most excited about?
-- @IDontThrow85

The more I hear about Jose Devers, the more interested I am in following his development. Just 18 years old, the left-handed-hitting shortstop was recently promoted from Class A Greensboro to Class A Advanced Jupiter. In just two games with the Hammerheads, he showed promise before some tenderness in his throwing arm led to him being placed on the seven-day Minor League disabled list. The organization is being extremely careful with Devers, who may be its shortstop of the future. There is a chance Devers won't return to the Hammerheads before the season ends in a few weeks. If so, that's because the Marlins don't need to rush anything.

Ranked by MLB Pipeline as Miami's No. 12 prospect, I believe you will see Devers' stock continue to rise next year. Listed at 6 feet, 155 pounds, he will not be a power threat, but he has to ability to put the ball in play and has an advanced swing for his age. He could become a better-than-average hitter and a top-of-the-lineup player. Devers likely will open his 2019 season with Jupiter at age 19, and he could be at Double-A at some point as a teenager.

Will Braxton Garrett be back this season?
-- @BradSonneborn

The Marlins' first-round Draft pick in 2016, Garrett underwent Tommy John surgery in June 2017, and he has not pitched in any Minor League games this year. With the Minors seasons close to concluding, the 21-year-old left-hander is expected to participate in instructional league, which will start up in September.

MLB Pipeline ranks Garrett as the organization's No. 9 prospect, and he projects to be a top-of-the-rotation lefty. It's a matter of how he's recovered from surgery, the recovery period of which is normally around 14 months. We should get a better read on Garrett in September.

Another prospect coming back from Tommy John surgery is right-hander Jordan Holloway, who also will be in instructional league. Holloway is a hard thrower with plenty of upside.

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

Miami Marlins, Jose Urena

Inbox: How San Diego's 40-man roster shake out?

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

SAN DIEGO -- It's going to be an eventful offseason in San Diego. That much was made very clear by your questions in this week's Padres Inbox.

Decisions loom in the infield, in the outfield and on the 40-man roster as a whole. As the 2018 season enters the home stretch, the competition for those places has already come to the forefront.

SAN DIEGO -- It's going to be an eventful offseason in San Diego. That much was made very clear by your questions in this week's Padres Inbox.

Decisions loom in the infield, in the outfield and on the 40-man roster as a whole. As the 2018 season enters the home stretch, the competition for those places has already come to the forefront.

Do you think next year we will see significant roster changes? Or should we expect more of the same with Jose Pirela, Carlos Asuaje, Christian Villanueva and Cory Spangenberg?
-- Miguel E.

I'd expect change -- and nowhere more so than in the infield. Top prospects Fernando Tatis Jr. and Luis Urias factor squarely into the Padres' roster plans this offseason. They're a critical part of the club's future, and the long-term infield is built around them. That leaves the current group to fight for their jobs.

The four cases mentioned above are all very different. A player of Spangenberg's ilk can be a useful piece on a big league roster (especially if he adds backup shortstop to his resume). Spangenberg is a lefty bat who can play multiple positions, and he's a great speed option.

:: Submit a question to the Padres Inbox ::

Villanueva can play a few positions, too, though none particularly well. He remains an unproven commodity. His power makes him intriguing, but his low OBP and high chase rate raise red flags. Asuaje and Pirela, meanwhile, look to be fringe options at best.

San Diego would need to trim its roster in November if it wants to add prospects before the Rule 5 Draft at the Winter Meetings in December. I suspect one of those four names will be left off. The other three will need to be much better in order to get regular playing time in 2019.

Who do you think will be the highest-ranked prospect left unprotected in the Rule 5 Draft?
-- Arman K., Chicago

No doubt, there are tricky decisions to be made ahead of the deadline for 40-man rosters to be set. The Padres have already promoted three Rule 5-eligible players in recent weeks: Jacob Nix, Brett Kennedy and Trey Wingenter. Among their Top 30 Prospects, they still need to add second baseman Luis Urias (No. 4), right-hander Chris Paddack (No. 5), right-hander Anderson Espinoza (No. 11), catcher Austin Allen (No. 25), outfielder Edward Olivares (No. 28) and right-hander Pedro Avila.

It's a roster crunch, sure. But it's not an unsolvable puzzle. San Diego is nearly 30 games under .500. On a subpar big league club, there are pieces that won't be back next season. I suspect there will be plenty of room for general manager A.J. Preller to add as many top prospects as he'd like.

All six of the names mentioned above are likely to be added. (Olivares and Avila are the only two cases where that's even still a question.) The most intriguing name might be former Top 30 Prospect Michael Gettys, who owns a .238/.296/.418 slash line for Double-A San Antonio. Gettys isn't close to being big league-ready at the plate. But as a speed-and-defense type, there might be a spot for him somewhere as a backup outfielder. I'd guess the Padres take that chance and leave him unprotected.

With the great glove from Freddy Galvis and his young age, do you see the Padres signing him for a longer period this offseason, moving Fernando Tatis Jr. to third base?
-- Manuel H., Mexicali, Mexico

I can assure you, the Padres will have interest in bringing Galvis back. But they also have leverage. If Galvis' asking price is too high, they're content to move on, given that both Tatis and Urias can play short. Heck, they might give Javy Guerra a look.

Tatis' value is clearly highest when he's playing shortstop, and the organization feels he's perfectly capable defensively. He's also never played above Double-A, and it's doubtful he'll make the big league roster out of camp next spring.

That means Preller will probably sign a shortstop in the offseason, whether it's Galvis or another stopgap. I'd still expect Tatis to take over the position eventually. If Galvis re-signs, maybe Tatis will see time at both spots when he's called up, before eventually taking over at short.

Where is Franchy Cordero playing when he gets healthy?
-- Colby R., Lincoln, Neb.

We've already given the Padres' 2019 infield a thorough assessment. Let's tackle the outfield, too. Cordero is out for the season after surgery to remove bone spurs from his right elbow. But he'll almost certainly play winter ball and be ready for the start of the '19 season.

Given his tools -- and his left-handed bat -- there's an obvious place for Cordero on San Diego's roster. If he returns to his April form, it's a safe bet he'd be a regular starter against right-handed pitching. Chances are, Cordero would rotate between left field and center.

Manuel Margot is the Padres' projected starter in center. Wil Myers might split time between third base and left. Cordero, Travis Jankowski and Hunter Renfroe are the likeliest outfield options to fill out the roster, with Franmil Reyes bringing some depth. In that mix, there are plenty of at-bats to go around for a power-hitting lefty like Cordero.

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

San Diego Padres

Inbox: Do Cubs have too many starters?

Beat reporter Carrie Muskat answers questions from Chicago fans
MLB.com

Pitching is the hot topic in this week's Cubs Inbox.

I know you say you can never have too much starting pitching, but look at the Cubs in 2019: Jon Lester, Jose Quintana, Kyle Hendricks, Yu Darvish, Tyler Chatwood, Drew Smyly (coming off Tommy John surgery), Mike Montgomery and an option on Cole Hamels, plus any Triple-A Iowa Cubs or free agents. Did they overdo it? Outside of Montgomery, there are a lot of big contracts (for example, Chatwood) to be a middle reliever, assuming he loses out to Smyly or Hamels. 
-- Tim O., Cedar Falls, Iowa

Pitching is the hot topic in this week's Cubs Inbox.

I know you say you can never have too much starting pitching, but look at the Cubs in 2019: Jon Lester, Jose Quintana, Kyle Hendricks, Yu Darvish, Tyler Chatwood, Drew Smyly (coming off Tommy John surgery), Mike Montgomery and an option on Cole Hamels, plus any Triple-A Iowa Cubs or free agents. Did they overdo it? Outside of Montgomery, there are a lot of big contracts (for example, Chatwood) to be a middle reliever, assuming he loses out to Smyly or Hamels. 
-- Tim O., Cedar Falls, Iowa

:: Submit a question to the Cubs Inbox ::

The Cubs acquired more pitching because you can never have enough -- and that has become evident in the past few days. They were counting on Darvish in September. On Sunday, he cut short his rehab start and requested another MRI on his right arm. Montgomery has a 3.08 ERA as a starter, but he is now on the disabled list because of inflammation in his left shoulder. Smyly has yet to make a Minor League rehab start. Chatwood's contract, by the way, has nothing to do with whether he starts or relieves. He had a good relief outing against the Nationals, but unfortunately, he struggled against the Pirates on Saturday.

Have the Cubs considered reaching out to John Lackey as a potential starter? I bet he's tan, rested and ready and will give the team that "edge" they've been missing since they won it all in 2016.
-- Rich B., Suwanee, Ga.

Lackey is tan and rested, but being ready to pitch is something else. I believe he's ridden off into the sunset.

Video: CHC@KC: Montgomery K's Bonifacio to end the 6th

I've been following the Cubs all my life, and I remember the starting pitching being heavy on right-handers. Now, with Lester, Hamels, Montgomery and Quintana, they have four lefties. Has there been a time when the Cubs had four or more lefties in the rotation?
-- Mike P., Buckeye, Ariz.

This is the first time the Cubs have started four lefties since Sept. 21-23, 1966, when Ken Holtzman, Dave Dowling, Curt Simmons and Dick Ellsworth did so.

Has there been any thought about promoting Dakota Mekkes from Iowa? He has had a meteoric rise through the Minors. Seems to me we might have the answer to our bullpen needs in-house.
-- Steve P., Effingham, Ill.

Mekkes is not on the 40-man roster, and I haven't heard his name mentioned yet. He is on the fast track. For those who don't know, the right-hander compiled a 0.81 ERA in 16 games at Double-A Tennessee, striking out 30 over 22 1/3 innings. So far with Iowa, Mekkes has a 1.65 ERA in 21 games, with 32 strikeouts over 27 1/3 innings. He was a 10th-round Draft pick in 2016 out of Michigan State.

I know 15 or so of the Cubs' top prospects in the Minors are pitchers. Are any of them ready to come up and help this year? Or in the next two years?
-- Michael H., Las Vegas, Nev.

Of the Cubs' top 12 prospects on MLB Pipeline's list, only two were at Iowa -- Duane Underwood Jr. and Adbert Alzolay. Alzolay is out for the season with an injury. Be patient with the kids. The Cubs like the young pitching talent, and they are looking ahead to 2019 and '20.

Video: COL@CHC: Rizzo leads off with an opposite-field smash

It's been well documented that Anthony Rizzo is putting up big numbers at leadoff. What's the Cubs' record with each of the leadoff guys we've had this year?
-- Brock B., Mesa, Ariz.

Here are the players, number of games and the team's record:

Albert Almora Jr.: 40 games (25-15)
Rizzo: 28 games (16-12)
Ben Zobrist: 27 games (16-11)
Ian Happ: 13 games (7-6)
Kris Bryant: 7 games (4-3)
Javier Baez: 4 games (3-1)
Tommy La Stella: 3 games (0-3)
Willson Contreras: 1 game (0-1)

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.

Chicago Cubs

Inbox: Where's the recognition for Moronta?

Beat reporter Chris Haft answers questions from fans
MLB.com

I am so pleased with the results of Dereck Rodriguez, but why hasn't Reyes Moronta been given more recognition? He's a beast!
-- John S., Crystal Lake, Ill.

I'll readily acknowledge that I should have seized an opportunity to write something more extensive about Moronta. I'll try my best to do so before the season ends. He seems to have an absolutely fearless attitude. You could even make a case for Moronta to be the team's most valuable player. Sure, guys like Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford are probably more talented. But with the possible exception of Rodriguez, who is performing his respective role this season better than Moronta has?

I am so pleased with the results of Dereck Rodriguez, but why hasn't Reyes Moronta been given more recognition? He's a beast!
-- John S., Crystal Lake, Ill.

I'll readily acknowledge that I should have seized an opportunity to write something more extensive about Moronta. I'll try my best to do so before the season ends. He seems to have an absolutely fearless attitude. You could even make a case for Moronta to be the team's most valuable player. Sure, guys like Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford are probably more talented. But with the possible exception of Rodriguez, who is performing his respective role this season better than Moronta has?

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When are we going to see Chris Shaw? Do you think he will be much of a contributor for the Giants in the coming years? I get the impression that he is an Adam Duvall type of player, in that he won't do much at AT&T Park, but perhaps would thrive in a place like Cincinnati. Does this mean that Shaw might be worth more to trade now than to lose value as his power disappears in San Francisco, like it does for so many players -- such as Jarrett Parker or Mac Williamson?
-- Will P., Idaho Falls, Idaho

With 132 strikeouts in 361 at-bats with Triple-A Sacramento entering Thursday, it's fair to say that Shaw is undergoing some adjustments with his hitting. If he's struggling to hit, including him among the September callups could do him more harm than good, though his total of 22 home runs reflects his considerable potential.

I think it's wrong to speculate about Shaw's future. Give him a chance to show what he can become. Don't automatically assume that Shaw is destined to develop into yet another hitter whose skills, psyche or both are broken by AT&T Park's challenging dimensions. Right now, he apparently needs to gain consistency at the plate. I've had relatively few encounters with Shaw, but I believe that he possesses enough mental toughness to handle whatever's thrown at him. We'll find out soon enough whether the skeptics or believers are correct.

Where do you see Joey Bart playing next season? Do you think he could be playing in Sacramento next year?
-- Al N., Rancho Cordova

Bart very well could finish the season in Triple-A. But rare is the Giants prospect who doesn't spend at least a few months with Class A Advanced San Jose. The California League has long been a superb training ground for players. Look for Bart to begin the season with San Jose. But if he continues to be as good as he apparently is, he won't stay there for long.

I fear that the Giants will wait too long to move Posey to a less demanding position to prolong his career. Trading Brandon Belt and installing Posey at first base could be a solution. If that is not feasible, could Posey make the transition to third base?
-- Gerald L., Columbus, Ind.

Finding a taker for Belt is crucial to your scenario. And despite Belt's .800-plus career OPS, other teams probably would avoid dealing for him due to his injury history and $16 million annual salary through 2021. So unless a club that wants to acquire Belt is willing to assume a significant portion of his salary, I don't envision the Giants trading him to clear first base for Posey.

As for Posey moving to third, precedents exist for this sort of thing. Suffice it to say that this kind of switch doesn't always work. In 1982, the Reds thought that moving future Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench to third base would be a great idea. That season, he accumulated 19 errors in 107 games and finished with a minus-15 rating in total fielding runs. Bench's '83 numbers improved to six errors and a minus-3 rating. That's because he appeared in only 42 games at third.

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, Reyes Moronta

Inbox: How can Tribe keep Yandy in Majors?

Beat reporter Jordan Bastian answers fans' questions
MLB.com

What's it going to take for the Indians to keep Yandy Diaz up in the Majors? I think the bottom third of the order could really use his bat. Any chance at all that the Indians would stick him at third, shift Jose Ramirez to second and bump Jason Kipnis to the outfield?
-- Patrick H., Youngstown, Ohio

I get it. There is a lot to like about Diaz, whose numbers are bulging just about as much as his biceps right now. In fact, let's have a little fun with his statistics before we get into the meat of your question.

What's it going to take for the Indians to keep Yandy Diaz up in the Majors? I think the bottom third of the order could really use his bat. Any chance at all that the Indians would stick him at third, shift Jose Ramirez to second and bump Jason Kipnis to the outfield?
-- Patrick H., Youngstown, Ohio

I get it. There is a lot to like about Diaz, whose numbers are bulging just about as much as his biceps right now. In fact, let's have a little fun with his statistics before we get into the meat of your question.

Diaz is sporting a .524/.524/.667 slash line in his seven games (21 plate appearances) with the Indians this season. If you set the cut-off at a minimum of 21 PAs, Diaz has the highest batting average in a single season in franchise history! His 1.190 OPS would be third on that all-time list behind Indians legends Sam Horn (1.321 OPS in 36 PAs in 1993) and Walt Bond (1.226 OPS in 54 PAs in '62).

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All kidding aside, it's easy to dream on Diaz, especially when he can unleash an 109.3-mph laser off the left-field wall like he did on Monday night in Cincinnati. Over the 2017-18 seasons combined, Diaz has an average exit velocity of 92.2 mph in the Majors. Among batters with at least 100 results in that span, Diaz ranks ninth in MLB in exit velocity, per Statcast™. Here are the first eight: Aaron Judge, Nelson Cruz, Joey Gallo, Giancarlo Stanton, Matt Olson, Khris Davis, Shohei Ohtani and J.D. Martinez.

And, really, Diaz has nothing left to prove in the Minor Leagues. He boasts a .311/.413/.414 slash line in his career in the Minors and has been even better (.319/.415/.432) in his 1,000-plus at-bats at Triple-A Columbus. This year, Diaz has posted a .293/.403/.388 slash line in his games with the Clippers.

Video: CLE@CWS: Diaz pads the lead with a single to right

"He's a guy that, at some point, is probably going to hit in the middle of our lineup," Indians manager Terry Francona said earlier this week. "It might not be this year, but he's a polished hitter and he's going to get better."

Diaz is up with the Tribe right now while Edwin Encarnacion recovers from right hand and biceps issues on the disabled list. If Encarnacion's issue lingers, then Diaz will stick around. If Cleveland's regular designated hitter is back early next week, then Diaz will likely be the odd man out again. The Indians have no plans of trying him in the outfield (that experiment went poorly last year), and he's blocked at third (Ramirez), first (Yonder Alonso) and DH (Encarnacion).

So as Patrick points out here, the only real scenario in which Diaz fits into the positional picture would be if he handled third, Ramirez went to second and Kipnis moved to the outfield. We saw the Indians do that exact alignment down the stretch last season. Last month, Kipnis expressed a willingness to move if it helped the team's search for reinforcements via trade.

Cleveland acquired center fielder Leonys Martin on July 31, but he is now on the disabled list with a lot of unknowns surrounding his situation. Martin is at the Cleveland Clinic recovering from a serious bacterial infection. Francona was asked Wednesday if the Kipnis-to-center scenario might be back in play in light of the development with Martin.

"We talked about it," Francona said. "But I just think that, no, we're just going to keep him right where he is. I mean last year was so different. He was coming back off of an injury. We had our infield set. We didn't have an outfielder. So it's different circumstances."

Tweet from @BrettStineman: How do you see Cody being used in September and into the playoffs? Still the 9th inning guy or do you see Hand taking over that role? #IndiansInbox

It is time for Indians fans to come to terms with this fact: Cleveland does not have a closer. It doesn't do fantasy teams any favors, but what the Indians have are three late-inning options that will be leveraged based on situations and matchups. Cody Allen, Brad Hand and Andrew Miller will be mixed and matched, and any of them could wind up with the save. The latest example came on Wednesday in Cincinnati, where Allen logged two innings leading up to Hand covering the ninth. If it makes more sense to use Hand as the bridge, Francona won't hesitate to summon him in the seventh or eighth. The same goes with Miller, who is still sorting through his mechanics and trying to get on a roll.

Tweet from @wahoowarrior22: Any chance of a Bryce Harper waiver trade to the Indians? #IndiansInbox

Acquiring Bryce Harper from the Nationals before the non-waiver July 31 Trade Deadline seemed farfetched, but the Indians at least gave it a shot. Now? It's much more complicated and extremely unlikely. Harper would have to go unclaimed via waivers by every National League team and then the American League teams with records worse than Cleveland in order to fall to the Tribe. I don't see that happening.

Tweet from @rjc1223: What���s your best guess on how Indians improve their OF situation?#IndiansInbox

The Indians will keep monitoring the waiver wire for possibilities -- they added Coco Crisp (2016) and Jay Bruce ('17) that way in recent years -- but what you see might be what you get this season. There is a chance that Lonnie Chisenhall is able to come off the disabled list in September. Tyler Naquin also has an outside shot at an '18 return, but he is behind Chisenhall, who is throwing, hitting and doing light running in his comeback from calf issues.

Tweet from @JackSabbath2D: Do you think that they have considered Yandy at 3B and Ramirez in the RF? He has some experience in the OF from when Brantley was out a few years back #IndiansInbox

Heading into Thursday, Ramirez ranked second among qualified MLB third basemen in UZR/150 (10.4) and third in Defensive Runs Saved (plus-seven). Only the outstanding play of Oakland's Matt Chapman (14.8 UZR/150 and 24 DRS) is likely to get in the way of Ramirez taking home a Gold Glove Award. His defense is far too valuable in the infield to even consider that kind of switch. If Ramirez moves, it'd be to second (his natural position).

• Ultimate Zone Rating explained

Video: PIT@CLE: Ramirez charges in for a barehanded play

Tweet from @JoshCotton13: What the word on Brady Aiken? Will he pitch at all this year? This almost seems like a redshirt year. That a fair statement? #IndiansInbox

I guess that's one way to look at it, but the goal of the Indians' approach with Brady Aiken this season is based on rebuilding arm strength. In 132 innings for Class A Lake County last year, the lefty had 101 walks and displayed diminished velocity. When Cleveland took Aiken in the first round of the 2014 MLB Draft, it knew he'd be a project given that he was returning from Tommy John surgery on his left elbow.

The word from within the Indians' front office is that there has not been a specific injury keeping Aiken out of Minor League games this year. Due to the extent of his struggles last year, the team felt it was best to give him as much time as he required to go through strength training at its complex in Arizona. Aiken, 22, has thrown off a mound, but the team has held him out of games to this point.

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, Yandy Diaz, Jose Ramirez

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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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