Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
The Official Site of the Pittsburgh Pirates

news

Beat Reporter's Inbox

Inbox: How will Williamson's return affect OF?

Fans ask about roster shuffle, Whiteside's role, Bumgarner
MLB.com

If Mac Williamson comes back and starts hitting great again, but Hunter Pence is also hitting well, what would the outfield look like? Would it be possible to put Andrew McCutchen in center field, shift Williamson to right field and keep Pence in left field?
-- Joaquin M., Clovis, Calif.

Trying to project how the composition of the outfield will develop is virtually impossible. So many "ifs" are involved, such as health and performance. This is an oversimplification, but it's the safest thing that can be said right now: Manager Bruce Bochy probably will employ the outfield that makes the most sense at that particular time. That is, I don't think Williamson will automatically regain a starting role, despite the promise he showed in the handful of games he played before being sidelined, and I doubt that Pence will automatically regain an everyday role just because of his veteran status.

If Mac Williamson comes back and starts hitting great again, but Hunter Pence is also hitting well, what would the outfield look like? Would it be possible to put Andrew McCutchen in center field, shift Williamson to right field and keep Pence in left field?
-- Joaquin M., Clovis, Calif.

Trying to project how the composition of the outfield will develop is virtually impossible. So many "ifs" are involved, such as health and performance. This is an oversimplification, but it's the safest thing that can be said right now: Manager Bruce Bochy probably will employ the outfield that makes the most sense at that particular time. That is, I don't think Williamson will automatically regain a starting role, despite the promise he showed in the handful of games he played before being sidelined, and I doubt that Pence will automatically regain an everyday role just because of his veteran status.

:: Submit a question to the Giants Inbox ::

When the time comes for Bochy to make a decision regarding the outfield, the solution probably will appear obvious. But right now there are so many players involved -- what will happen to Gregor Blanco, Gorkys Hernandez and Austin Jackson? -- that it's impossible to predict what might unfold.

What is Eli Whiteside's role with the Giants this year?
-- John R., Ottawa, Canada

Whiteside is not the bullpen catcher; that title belongs to Taira Uematsu. Whiteside does provide help during batting practice, when an extra coach might be needed to take throws or shag flies. And he still catches pitchers who need somebody to throw to or play catch with when Uematsu is unavailable or occupied. In short, Whiteside remains extremely handy to have around.

I've heard so many different timetables for Madison Bumgarner's return. I was wondering if he'll be back before the All-Star break.
-- Blaine F., Sacramento, Calif.

At this point, he more than likely will be back in the rotation before July. Here's the definitive word, which has been widely publicized lately: Bumgarner will pitch batting practice to Giants hitters in Houston on Tuesday. Assuming he feels good physically after doing that, he'll begin a Minor League rehab assignment and will start for Triple-A Sacramento on Saturday.

Video: CIN@SF: Bumgarner tosses a solid bullpen session

Bochy recently said that Bumgarner probably will make at least three starts in the Minors before rejoining the Giants. So he could be back in a San Francisco uniform by mid-June or earlier.

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, Madison Bumgarner, Mac Williamson

Inbox: Would Astros consider trading a starter?

Beat reporter Brian McTaggart answers fans' questions
MLB.com

The Astros are atop the American League West as we head toward the end of May, but, based on the tenor of the questions received this week, many believe the sky is falling. I guess winning spoils you. Anyway, let's open the Inbox and address some fans' concerns.

Should the Astros trade Dallas Keuchel, and if so, what for?
-- Birdy, Houston

The Astros are atop the American League West as we head toward the end of May, but, based on the tenor of the questions received this week, many believe the sky is falling. I guess winning spoils you. Anyway, let's open the Inbox and address some fans' concerns.

Should the Astros trade Dallas Keuchel, and if so, what for?
-- Birdy, Houston

I'm so glad someone asked this. I don't know why there are so many people who want to trade Keuchel, so here's why it shouldn't and won't happen.

There is no way a team in contention would trade away one of its starting pitchers, especially a quality left-hander with a track record of success. Keuchel has a 3.43 ERA, which isn't bad, and a 1.14 WHIP that's nearly identical to Lance McCullers Jr.'s and a tick higher than the WHIP Keuchel finished with last year. Keuchel has also worked at least seven innings in five of his last seven starts. Starting pitching is this team's strength, and trading Keuchel only weakens it. And who are you going to trade him to?

:: Submit a question to the Astros Inbox ::

Because Keuchel is a free agent at the end of the year, you're going to be able to trade him to a contender only. Why would the Astros bolster another team's chances of winning it all by giving them a quality starting pitcher? Plus, the Astros can give Keuchel a qualifying offer at the end of the regular season and possibly get a Draft pick in return if he signs elsewhere.

Can we please put this topic to bed once and for all?

Video: HOU@OAK: Stassi launches a solo jack to tie the game

Is Max Stassi looked upon as the future catcher? Personally, I like what I see, but I'm curious about his role in the future with [Brian] McCann unlikely to meet vesting options. Will McCann consider a one-year contract? A smaller role?
-- Justin T., Port Arthur, Texas

I'd be surprised if McCann comes back, but the Astros don't have much catching depth at the upper levels of the Minor Leagues. Stassi has a future with this club, but I'm not sure he's going to be the starter going forward. The Astros might have to trade for a catcher or try to sign one in free agency this offseason to pair with Stassi if they're sure McCann isn't coming back.

Video: MIL@HOU: Tucker slugs a grand slam to right field

Since left field is a rotation of mediocrity, when are we going to see [Kyle] Tucker called up or a trade initiated?
-- Michael B., Baytown, Texas

I think it's clear Tucker will be up at some point this year. Tucker -- the Astros' top position-player prospect and the game's 16th-best prospect, according to MLB Pipeline -- has made a nice transition to Triple-A Fresno this year, hitting .292/.361/.447 with four homers and 31 RBIs through 39 games. The Astros are in no rush to call Tucker up, considering they'll have to wait until later in June to postpone his service-time clock and ensure he won't be a Super Two player, costing the club an extra year in arbitration and potentially millions of dollars down the road.

If [Tony] Kemp plays like he is now, will [manager AJ] Hinch keep him in left? [Jake] Marisnick and [Derek] Fisher strike out half the time and neither is hitting over .200. Time to give Kemp a chance?
-- Susie Y., Houston

As long as Kemp hits, he'll get a chance to play every day. Marisnick brings speed as well as defense that Kemp doesn't have, and Fisher brings speed and power better than Kemp's. That's why the Astros have given Marisnick and Fisher every opportunity to see if they can get it together at the plate. Kemp doesn't have much power and plays defense well enough, but as long as he can put the bat on the ball, he'll play.

Just to minimize chances of DL stints or getting tired late in the playoff run, shouldn't AJ start cutting back some innings pitched for the starting pitching staff?
-- Rob S., Princeton, N.J.

It wouldn't surprise me if we see some of that later in the season, but the extra off-days that are built into the schedule this year mean the starters are routinely pitching every six days instead of every five. A couple of weeks ago, the Astros flip-flopped Justin Verlander and Keuchel to ensure that Verlander stayed on four days of rest because that's what he prefers. Even so, the extra days off are helping to keep these guys fresh.

With a quarter of the season in, how concerned is the staff with the performance of the offense overall? Are there any players who are underperforming that raise concerns? Could there be thoughts of trades/acquisitions needed to solidify the squad in preparation for another deep run into the playoffs?
-- Roel A., Corpus Christi, Texas

Almost every Astros player has underperformed across the board offensively (compared to 2017), even Jose Altuve, who is hitting .316 with two homers. The Astros' only everyday players with an OPS higher than .800 are Carlos Correa (.858) and George Springer (.846). Perhaps that's a good thing for the Astros, who led the Majors in nearly every offensive category last year.

Why's that good? Yuli Gurriel, Alex Bregman, Josh Reddick, Marwin Gonzalez and Evan Gattis -- all of whom were key contributors to the offense's success last year -- have room for improvement. If a couple of them get hot, the Astros could take off, considering the starting pitching they're getting.

If the Astros are going to add anyone to their offense later in the year, I think it will be Tucker.

Video: How Whitley's suspension affects Astros' future plans

What is Forrest Whitley's situation? When will he be back? What team will he be on?
-- Carl E., Pasadena, Texas

Whitley suspension ends before the end of the month, and he's been getting stretched out by pitching games in extended spring training in West Palm Beach, Fla. When the Astros deem him ready for game action, he'll likely start the season in the rotation at Double-A Corpus Christi.

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: Changes coming to the Bucs' bullpen?

Beat reporter Adam Berry answers questions from Pirates fans
MLB.com

Are the Pirates going to make some changes to the bullpen, like trading players or calling players up?
-- Josiah S., Pittsburgh

I'm not sure why they would. Their weakness for about two weeks to start the season has since emerged as a strength.

Are the Pirates going to make some changes to the bullpen, like trading players or calling players up?
-- Josiah S., Pittsburgh

I'm not sure why they would. Their weakness for about two weeks to start the season has since emerged as a strength.

The Bucs have a 2.82 bullpen ERA since April 13, the third-best mark in the Majors. If that date seems random, it's not. That afternoon, they swapped out Josh Smoker and Clay Holmes for Kyle Crick and Richard Rodriguez. Later in the month, they promoted Nick Kingham and bumped Steven Brault back into the bullpen.

Crick has been excellent, posting a 2.19 ERA with 16 strikeouts in 12 1/3 innings. Rodriguez has been even better -- and one of the biggest surprises of the season, in my opinion -- as he's recorded a 1.53 ERA with 30 strikeouts and two walks (both intentional) in 17 2/3 innings. And Brault has been outstanding in the bullpen, where his stuff has played up as he's put together a 1.69 ERA.

The Pirates have also plugged a couple of big arms -- Michael Feliz and Edgar Santana -- into bigger spots in front of closer Felipe Vazquez following George Kontos' early struggles. Feliz (2.70 ERA, 1.15 WHIP) and Santana (2.79 ERA, 0.98 WHIP) have both been lights-out.

I wouldn't be surprised if they add another veteran arm to deepen the group in the second half of the season, if they're contending, but they're set for now.

Submit a question to the Pirates Inbox

Who is most likely to move to the bullpen if Joe Musgrove is healthy and Kingham continues his strong start? Or does Ivan Nova become trade bait given his recent struggles?
-- Stephen A., Gill, Mass.

Whether Pittsburgh tries to move Nova probably depends on where it stands at the non-waiver Trade Deadline, but he's not going anywhere yet. Nobody's going to the bullpen yet, either. The Pirates will finally see their intended rotation of Jameson Taillon, Trevor Williams, Chad Kuhl, Nova and Musgrove this week, with Kingham the next man up.

Video: SD@PIT: Kingham strikes out Hosmer swinging 

"It's nice to have the comfort of Nick, knowing he can come up and keep us in a game and give us a legitimate chance to win," General manager Neal Huntington said. "The best organizations have those guys in Triple-A, and the hard part for Nick is he's that guy."

What are the chances that Jung Ho Kang plays at the Major League level this year?
-- Nathan S., Pittsburgh

What moves would the team need to make room for Kang? Third base seems wrapped up. Would he play shortstop?
-- Jay P, Frankfort, Ky.

We'll group these together. The Pirates are giving Kang every chance, but they aren't setting any sort of firm timeline for his return or offering any assurances about where/when he'll play.

If Kang shows that he can return to his 2015-16 form after more than a year away following a DUI charge in South Korea, he'll make it back. We won't have a sense of how likely that is until he starts facing higher-level competition. Even that could be a while, as he's just beginning the Spring Training-esque game progression at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla. He still needs at-bats.

Huntington offered an encouraging report on Sunday, saying Kang is working hard and doing "everything that he can do to get back to being the best player that he's going to be." Still, Huntington said, there are times when Kang's extended absence from the field is evident.

So the Pirates probably won't have to answer your question for a while, Jay, but there have been hints that he's being prepped for a utility/bench role. He is playing games at third base but doing pregame work at shortstop. If he's comfortable there, the Pirates will consider adding second base to his repertoire.

If Austin Meadows hits like he is projected to, would you not consider trading Gregory Polanco?
-- Frank G., Miami

Meadows is probably going back to Triple-A when Starling Marte returns, if everyone else is healthy. Huntington said Meadows still has room to develop and needs to play every day, which felt a little like laying the groundwork for that move. Remember Josh Bell's incredible first call-up, when he hit the grand slam against the Cubs? They sent him down, too.

Video: SD@PIT: Meadows launches his 1st career home run

I know Polanco's inconsistent play frustrates fans. (And if I didn't, I would've been reminded when he was booed Sunday at PNC Park.) But I think his overall struggles have been exaggerated. He's hitting .273 with an .888 OPS this month. He still leads the team in home runs and walks (and, yes, strikeouts), and his 115 wRC+ is 12th among qualified right fielders in the Majors -- just ahead of Andrew McCutchen.

Polanco's also under contract through 2021 with club options for '22 and '23. He is a big part of their future, just like Marte and Meadows. The reality is that Corey Dickerson is less than two years away from free agency, and both Marte and Polanco (and Meadows, for that matter) have dealt with injuries in the past.

These situations typically have a way of working themselves out. Having four capable outfielders in the meantime is not a bad thing. So no, I wouldn't look to trade him.

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

Pittsburgh Pirates

Inbox: Who's going to help Blue Jays' rotation?

Beat reporter Gregor Chisholm answers questions from fans
MLB.com

With the Blue Jays' starting rotation in a funk, will we see Jordan Romano, Ryan Borucki, T.J. Zeuch, and others get the call to help out? Will Sam Gaviglio be a permanent piece?
-- @BrookeNaismith_

Of the three prospects you mentioned, Borucki has the best chance of being called up, but I don't think it will happen until the second half of the season. For now, the Blue Jays are attempting to piece together the back end of their rotation and provide some of their top prospects with a little bit more time in the Minor Leagues.

With the Blue Jays' starting rotation in a funk, will we see Jordan Romano, Ryan Borucki, T.J. Zeuch, and others get the call to help out? Will Sam Gaviglio be a permanent piece?
-- @BrookeNaismith_

Of the three prospects you mentioned, Borucki has the best chance of being called up, but I don't think it will happen until the second half of the season. For now, the Blue Jays are attempting to piece together the back end of their rotation and provide some of their top prospects with a little bit more time in the Minor Leagues.

The 27-year-old Gaviglio will hang onto a starting job for as long as his performance justifies it. Jaime Garcia might be able to return soon; there is still no timetable for Marcus Stroman. Gaviglio has the inside track for that spot, but if Stroman's absence becomes long term, then eventually the club might take a look at Borucki. The other two are likely looking at a September callup, at the earliest.

:: Submit a question to the Blue Jays Inbox ::

Will a poor May and dropping out of contention make the cries for Vladimir Guerrero Jr. louder but the probability his callup in 2018 lower?
-- @birdingvicar

The public outcry is only getting louder by the day. But internally, I think there will be less pressure on the Blue Jays to promote Guerrero if they are not contending. If the front office determined that Guerrero would be the difference between making or missing the postseason, then it's a move they pretty much have to make, regardless of long-term development or service time.

The reality of the current situation is that Guerrero can't solve a lot of the Blue Jays' issues. Toronto is without its closer and one of its top starting pitchers for an indefinite period of time, and the rotation has been among the worst in the Majors. If J.A. Happ, Aaron Sanchez, Marco Estrada and others can turn things around and put the Blue Jays in the conversation for an American League Wild Card spot, then the pressure to promote Guerrero will increase. If they don't, a strong argument can be made for remaining patient, focusing on his defense and off-the-field training while he's still impressionable, and controlling the service time for another year.

Eight-game hitting streak for Devon Travis in Buffalo. Time to call him up?
-- Kristine C., Dartmouth, Nova Scotia

The eight-game hitting streak is something Travis will try to build on, but the number is a little deceiving. Travis didn't have any multihit games during that stretch, with a .229 (8-for-35) average. The Blue Jays maintain the quality of contact has been better than the numbers, but even so, Travis surely was hoping for more positive results.

But Travis should still be considered for a promotion. This isn't an unproven rookie who needs more time to develop. Travis has shown in the past that he possesses a plus bat, and the Blue Jays need to determine whether he's still a part of their long-term plans. Toronto has an opening after Richard Urena was optioned on Sunday, and if the club is comfortable going with Gio Urshela and Yangervis Solarte at shortstop, it could be Travis getting the call. If not, it'll likely be the return of Gift Ngoepe.

When are the Blue Jays going to realize Joe Biagini as a starter won't happen?
-- @D_Caruso

That time might be coming soon. The Blue Jays seem optimistic that Garcia will return from the disabled list by the end of the month, which leaves Stroman's spot as the only one that needs to be filled. Biagini currently is behind Gaviglio on the depth chart, so in all likelihood he has -- at most -- one start remaining.

In all fairness, Biagini deserved a better fate in his last outing. There were arguably three misplays by Josh Donaldson, and a better effort by the defense could have resulted in five scoreless innings. But instead, Biagini allowed four runs over four-plus frames. Even so, Biagini has a career 3.44 ERA as a reliever vs. 6.08 as a starter, so it's probably time to alter course. With Gaviglio, Deck McGuire and Borucki as starting options, there's enough depth to justify it.

Is there a situation sooner rather than later that Russell Martin loses the starting catching position?
-- Ryan D., Toronto

Not one that I see. Martin is going to be the Blue Jays' starting catcher this season no matter what. There is a possibility that Luke Maile will get more playing time and this could turn into a timeshare, but Martin is not going to become a backup.

That stance could change next season, when Martin enters the final year of his contract. Prospect Dan Jansen is knocking on the door, hitting .306/.415/.459 at Buffalo, including 10 extra-base hits and 16 RBIs in 98 at-bats. If Martin gets hurt, Jansen becomes a big league option. But otherwise his real opportunity will come next spring. That's when easing Jansen in alongside Martin could have some real benefits.

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

Toronto Blue Jays

Inbox: Can Paxton be a legitimate ace?

Beat reporter Greg Johns answers questions from Mariners fans
MLB.com

James Paxton clearly has taken his game to a different level. Do you think he can keep this up and be a legitimate -- and much-needed -- ace for the Mariners?
-- Billy L., Oak Harbor, Wash.

Paxton indeed is on a dominant run. But, frankly, he's done this before. People seem to forget he started out last season going 4-0 with a 1.46 ERA and 46 strikeouts in 37 innings in six starts before straining his forearm. And when he got back in a groove after coming off the disabled list, he put together an overpowering July when he was 6-0 with a 1.37 ERA and 46 strikeouts in 39 1/3 innings before straining his pec muscle in August.

James Paxton clearly has taken his game to a different level. Do you think he can keep this up and be a legitimate -- and much-needed -- ace for the Mariners?
-- Billy L., Oak Harbor, Wash.

Paxton indeed is on a dominant run. But, frankly, he's done this before. People seem to forget he started out last season going 4-0 with a 1.46 ERA and 46 strikeouts in 37 innings in six starts before straining his forearm. And when he got back in a groove after coming off the disabled list, he put together an overpowering July when he was 6-0 with a 1.37 ERA and 46 strikeouts in 39 1/3 innings before straining his pec muscle in August.

So while Paxton's current stretch of five games (2-0, 1.70 ERA with 45 strikeouts in 37 innings) includes a career-high 16 strikeout game and a no-hitter, it's not wildly out of line with what he was able to do last year. The key clearly is staying healthy, and Paxton has been good there so far this year. He has also become more efficient with his pitches and able to go deeper, thus his first two career complete games.

Video: Paxton tosses sixth no-hitter in Mariners history

But this is how good Paxton can be when he's locked in. He already was knocking on ace-level stature when healthy, and there's no reason to think he can't carry that out for a full season if the pieces stay together.

Since moving Dee Gordon back to second base, do you think we have a chance to see Ichiro Suzuki playing again this season?
-- Jesus O., Maracaibo, Venezuela

Ichiro will not be playing again with the Mariners this season. Per MLB rules and the agreement he and the Mariners made, he's not eligible to return to Seattle's roster in 2018. He could sign with another club this year, but Ichiro has indicated to the Mariners he does not want to do that.

With the Mariners being in contention a quarter of the way through the season, who do you see them going after to fill the void left by Robinson Cano?
-- Nathan D, Melbourne Australia

This seems to be the $12 million question, which is the amount of money the Mariners are saving from Cano's suspension without pay. General manager Jerry Dipoto is already inquiring with other teams about potential deals, and I have no doubt he'll bolster the roster for a playoff push, likely by adding both an outfielder and some pitching help.

With Gordon moving to second and Cano due back in mid-August, there's no need for infield help. But the outfield depth is thin now and I could see Dipoto acquiring a solid veteran like the Royals' Jon Jay, who is a guy they were interested in last winter before trading for Gordon and wouldn't cost a ton.

That would leave money to pursue pitching as well, which to me is a bigger need. The injury to setup man David Phelps has hurt the bullpen, and even with Paxton's success, the starting rotation's 4.55 ERA is 10th out of 15 teams in the AL.

Submit a question to the Mariners Inbox

What role does Cano pose for the team in the playoffs?
-- Harlan G., Seattle, Wash.

Even though he can return from his suspension on Aug. 14, Cano won't be eligible to participate in the postseason this year. So that indeed raises a difficult situation. Gordon can move back to the outfield when Cano returns for the final six weeks, but he'd have to shift back to second in the playoffs.

What has the message to the team been concerning the news of Cano's suspension? It appears to have been the right one.
-- Mark C., Cavalier, N.D.

Pull together, keep playing hard and don't try to do too much individually to overcompensate for Cano's absence.

Can we please stop making such a big fuss about Paxton being from Canada? I get the maple leaf tattoo. But he was born and raised in Ladner, near Vancouver, in British Columbia. It's barely a two-hour drive from Safeco Field.
-- Ian D., Corvallis, Ore.

Sure, Paxton grew up close to Seattle. But it doesn't matter how close you are to a border, you still are a citizen of the country where you're born. He grew up in Canada and played for Team Canada as a junior player. I was in Toronto when Paxton threw his no-hitter, and his pride in being Canadian and accomplishing that feat in his home country was readily apparent. It was a cool deal for him. Not sure why that wouldn't be noteworthy, just as players from other countries take pride in their roots.

Which team does Tom Wilhelmsen play for this season?
-- Gordon P., Glasgow, Scotland

Wilhelmsen remains one of the most fascinating personalities I've ever covered and his unique path continues. The Bartender was released by the Padres during Spring Training and is now pitching independent league ball for the St. Paul Saints, making $1,800 a month, and seeing where life takes him at age 34.

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.

Seattle Mariners, Dee Gordon, James Paxton, Ichiro Suzuki

Inbox: Will Riggleman remain as manager?

Beat reporter Mark Sheldon answers fans' questions
MLB.com

What are the chances of Jim Riggleman staying as manager next year?
-- @BrianHaitz, via Twitter

It certainly doesn't hurt Riggleman's chances that the team has played better under his watch. The Reds are 13-17 since he took over after a 3-15 start under Bryan Price. Riggleman deserves some credit -- he's managed aggressively like there's nothing to lose, handled the bullpen well amid quick hooks for starters and has an attention to detail. Getting Scott Schebler and Eugenio Suarez back from injuries also helped.

What are the chances of Jim Riggleman staying as manager next year?
-- @BrianHaitz, via Twitter

It certainly doesn't hurt Riggleman's chances that the team has played better under his watch. The Reds are 13-17 since he took over after a 3-15 start under Bryan Price. Riggleman deserves some credit -- he's managed aggressively like there's nothing to lose, handled the bullpen well amid quick hooks for starters and has an attention to detail. Getting Scott Schebler and Eugenio Suarez back from injuries also helped.

But president of baseball of operations Dick Williams and general manager Nick Krall might want the chance to hire their own guy. There are also several former skippers already out there looking to get back in the dugout. One of them -- John Farrell -- is already in the organization. This likely won't be decided until after the season, leaving Riggleman a lot of time to bolster his chances.

Video: 30 Clubs in 30 Days: DeSclafani on staying healthy

When Anthony DeSclafani comes off DL, who will he replace in the rotation?
Jim D., via Facebook

DeSclafani is two starts into his rehab assignment, and it's expected that he'll get at least two more to make extra sure his strained left oblique issue doesn't resurface. A lot can happen between now and then in the current rotation. Homer Bailey has struggled over his past five starts. However, he's making $21 million this season and $23 million next year, and that will be part of the consideration. Sal Romano hasn't pitched well in his last two games, and Tyler Mahle has endured inconsistency while being prone to giving up home runs.

:: Submit a question to the Reds Inbox ::

What are the chances Brandon Finnegan ends up in the bullpen?
-- Luke D., via Facebook

I was talking to a scout last week, and he felt Finnegan fits best as a late-inning reliever. I would agree. I think he could bring more value to the Reds as a reliever capable of going two-plus solid innings rather than a starter who throws 90-100 pitches in five mediocre, inconsistent innings. Maybe he'd be able to command two pitches as a reliever and have better focus than if he had three or four pitches and needed face batters multiple times in a game as a starter.

Video: CIN@STL: Finnegan strikes out DeJong looking

How great of an effect did the change in pitching coaches have on the staff? Does Danny Darwin have a vastly different approach than Mack Jenkins?
-- @Tonniesjr, via Twitter

It's hard to say specifically, but Darwin was the one who spotted the flaw in Luis Castillo's arm angle and in his delivery, in which Castillo's hand wasn't getting on top of the ball. That's what left the right-hander's pitches flat in the strike zone.

One benefit Darwin has is familiarity. Several of the Reds' youngest pitchers, including Castillo, Mahle, Romano and Amir Garrett, had him as their pitching coach at Double-A Pensacola, where Darwin commanded a lot respect and had success.

Do you think the Reds will be busy at the Trade Deadline?
-- Tyler Brackett, via Facebook

I would be surprised if a few moves aren't made before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. Scooter Gennett, Raisel Iglesias, Adam Duvall, Billy Hamilton and others should be potential trade chips. Of course, there has to be a match, and the Reds would have to like the value they'd get in return.

Any word on celebration of the Reds' 150th anniversary next year? New uniforms?
-- Ian Hennessey, via Facebook

There have been no announcements, but I would be surprised if, at minimum, there wasn't a new alternate uniform. This season's batting-practice caps feature the Old English letter "C" that the original Red Stockings used in 1869. It could be a harbinger of things to come in 2019.

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Cincinnati Reds

Inbox: Should Tomlin stay in 'pen permanently?

Beat reporter Jordan Bastian answers questions from Indians fans
MLB.com

Has there been any thought of moving Josh Tomlin to the bullpen permanently? If he could throw his best stuff for one inning and mix in more curves, could he have some value in that role? Right-hander Adam Plutko looks ready to take over the fifth spot in the rotation.
-- Shaun K., Fairlawn, Ohio

The Indians might have reached that point this week.

Has there been any thought of moving Josh Tomlin to the bullpen permanently? If he could throw his best stuff for one inning and mix in more curves, could he have some value in that role? Right-hander Adam Plutko looks ready to take over the fifth spot in the rotation.
-- Shaun K., Fairlawn, Ohio

The Indians might have reached that point this week.

As things currently stand, Plutko is set to come up from Triple-A Columbus to start against the Cubs on Wednesday in Wrigley Field. Tomlin will move to the bullpen in the meantime, with Mike Clevinger (Thursday), Corey Kluber (Friday), Carlos Carrasco (Saturday) and Trevor Bauer (Sunday) handling the next series against the Astros. Once we know the probable starter for May 28, we'll know if the decision to go with Plutko over Tomlin was temporary.

Video: TOR@CLE: Plutko K's 6, gets the win in his 1st start

There is some risk to putting a player of Tomlin's attributes in a bullpen. The right-hander does not feature high velocity and he is prone to giving up home runs. Through 31 innings this year, Tomlin has allowed 15 homers. That's a rate of 4.4 home runs per nine innings in 2018, boosting his career rate to 1.6 over his nine seasons.

In 17 career relief outings, Tomlin has a 7.76 ERA and .981 opponents' OPS. Given the size of that sample, perhaps it's more fair to look at some career marks for Tomlin (starting and relieving combined).

Opponents' OPS by pitch count
Pitches 1-25: .745
Pitches 26-50: .764
Pitches 51-75: .830

Opponents' OPS by times faced
First PA vs. batter: .731
Second PA vs. batter: .781
Third PA vs. batter: .849

So, in theory, Tomlin might be better if he is limited to facing a handful of batters once as a multi-inning reliever. The righty excelled in that role during the American League Division Series against the Yankees last October, logging three no-hit innings with four strikeouts and no walks.

In those ALDS appearances, Tomlin featured his curveball 30.3 percent of the time vs. 24.1 percent of the time in the 2017 regular season. His cutter usage also rose (51.5 percent vs. 35.1 percent) and his fastball use dropped (18.2 percent vs. 36.7 percent). Tomlin focused on his best pitches in a limited-exposure relief role and had success. Maybe it can work this time around, too.

Submit a question to the Indians Inbox

Tweet from @awful_person: #IndiansInbox is Perez's lack of playing time mainly due to his ice-cold start at the plate? Does that change the dynamics for Mejia?

I think this has been more of a case of Yan Gomes playing his way into regular innings. Offensively, Gomes has posted a 111 weighted Runs Created Plus (indicating that he's hit 11 percent above league average to this point) and his slash line (.257/.328/.460) has been above his career mark (.244/.293/.421). His 0.7 WAR (per Fangraphs) ranks 12th among MLB catchers.

Video: CLE@HOU: Gomes smashes a solo home run to left

Looking at his defense via Baseball Prospectus, Gomes has logged 3.3 Fielding Runs Above Average, ranking him sixth overall in the Majors. He was tied for fifth with 3.0 Framing Runs Above Average. Per Statcast™, Gomes has had a slight edge on Roberto Perez in average pop time, arm strength and exchange speed. Both were below league average so far with a 14 percent caught-stealing rate apiece.

I don't see the situation impacting Francisco Mejia's timline to the big leagues right now. The Indians want their top prospect getting regular playing time, and he wouldn't be getting that in Cleveland with Gomes doing the bulk of the catching.

Tweet from @DreamingBasebll: Do you think there is a chance we might see Shane Bieber brought up to pitch in relief in the next month? Clevinger provided some effective relief innings in 2016, wondering if the Tribe thinks Bieber could do the same #IndiansInbox

The rotation depth is thin at the moment, so I don't see this happening. With Plutko in the Majors now and Tomlin moved to the bullpen (temporary or otherwise), Shane Bieber suddenly looks a phone call away from The Show. If something were to happen to one of Cleveland's big league starters, there is little depth behind the group at the moment. Keeping Bieber, who is ranked the club's No. 8 prospect, in a starting role provides an important layer of depth. It's unclear how much longer it will be before Ryan Merritt and Cody Anderson -- both on the 60-day disabled list -- are realistic depth options again.

Tweet from @AndyLReid: Are they actually going to wait until the deadline to start making moves?

This comes down to the old adage: It takes two to tango. Even if the Indians wanted to be aggressive in acquiring help via trade now, this is not the time of year in which the market has developed. The options right now are limited, which is why Cleveland made a minor move to reel in Oliver Drake from the Brewers. Those are the kinds of trades that typically happen in this part of the season. As the Indians get closer to the non-waiver Trade Deadline on July 31, there will be a clearer sense of what is available and that is when the Tribe can more realistically make a strong push.

Tweet from @Pynchump216: Is Salazar still throwing bullpens in the desert?

Yes, Danny Salazar is ramping up his throwing program again after receiving a PRP injection for his problematic right shoulder earlier this month. The bigger question is whether Salazar will be an option for the rotation or bullpen, if and when he returns in the second half. Here's what Chris Antonetti, the Indians' president of baseball operations had to say on that topic last week:

"Right now, we're looking at how we get Danny healthy. Let's get him healthy. Let's get him throwing regular bullpen [sessions]. Let's get his intensity up to the point that he's at a spot, competitively, where he can pitch at the Major League level. Once we start clearing some of those hurdles, we can assess if that's going to be more likely in the rotation or more likely in the bullpen. Some of that's going to be dependent upon what's happening with the Major League team."

Tweet from @jeffkopache: Lonnie status?

Lonnie Chisenhall is just beginning a Minor League rehab assignment in his comeback from a right calf strain. The outfielder will play on an every-other-day basis at first, as he builds up his strength and endurance. The Indians have not announced how many games Chisenhall is expected to log before potentially rejoining the Major League outfield.

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

Inbox: Should J.D. move up to three-hole?

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

What will the Red Sox do with Jackie Bradley Jr. and why not move J.D. Martinez up in the order to the third spot?
-- @dvaughny

At this point, manager Alex Cora is trying to give Bradley enough playing time so he can right himself at the plate. Without question, that would be the best-case scenario. If it doesn't happen soon, here are the different options: They could turn him into a backup, and have Mitch Moreland play first base every day, with Hanley Ramirez moving to designated hitter and Martinez moving to the outfield. They could option Bradley to Triple-A Pawtucket and let him work out his struggles in a less pressurized environment. Or they could trade him at a time his value is low.

What will the Red Sox do with Jackie Bradley Jr. and why not move J.D. Martinez up in the order to the third spot?
-- @dvaughny

At this point, manager Alex Cora is trying to give Bradley enough playing time so he can right himself at the plate. Without question, that would be the best-case scenario. If it doesn't happen soon, here are the different options: They could turn him into a backup, and have Mitch Moreland play first base every day, with Hanley Ramirez moving to designated hitter and Martinez moving to the outfield. They could option Bradley to Triple-A Pawtucket and let him work out his struggles in a less pressurized environment. Or they could trade him at a time his value is low.

Per your suggestion about moving Martinez up in the lineup, the way he is hitting right now, I would keep him right where he is. Ramirez had a strong April in the No. 3 spot but a tough May. I think it's too soon to give up on him batting third.

Could we see Rusney Castillo soon? Bradley just simply cannot hit at the professional level, and if the bottom third of the lineup could get things going, this team would be unstoppable
-- @MikeLavML

The luxury tax implications are significant by putting Castillo on the 25-man roster, which is why I believe he will stay at Triple-A regardless of what happens with Bradley. If the team decides to stop giving Bradley playing time, it can simply make Moreland an everyday player.

How do the Red Sox rate the catchers regarding pitch calling? What are the catchers' reps in this area?
-- @jpc19671

I'm not sure you can have a metric for this, because a lot of times, the catchers are deferring to the pitcher and what they want to throw in a certain spot. And what if a catcher puts down the right sign, and the pitcher mislocates the pitch? The main thing is the scouting meetings before every series when they go over all the hitters on the opposing teams and the best way to attack them. Sandy Leon has a reputation of being excellent at calling pitches. Christian Vazquez is still evolving in this area. The Red Sox have an invaluable resource in Jason Varitek to work with the catchers on this. Varitek was one of the best at calling a game.

Video: BOS@TEX: Leon launches a 3-run jack to right-center

Looking at the Red Sox's lineup, you'd have to think the one position that needs an upgrade is at catcher. So with this in mind, do you foresee president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski trading either Vasquez and/or Blake Swihart in the hope a of adding a more proven bat? I would obviously love to see J.T. Realmuto in a Boston uniform. Could someone like Jonathan Lucroy be a possibility?
-- John B., Houston

If offense is that big of a concern for the Red Sox at catcher, they should probably give Swihart a shot. The team is much more consumed with defense behind the plate, and Cora likes the duo he currently has, and he has expressed confidence several times they will start to hit at an adequate level. Leon has had some good at-bats lately. The hope is that Vazquez will start hitting.

How short of a leash is Drew Pomeranz on? Jalen Beeks, who is ranked the club's No. 15 prospect, might deserve a spot start.
-- @Parsons_RedSox

Submit a question to the Red Sox Inbox

Pomeranz needs to figure this out soon, and the Red Sox need to figure out if he is truly healthy. There have been too many starts where Pomeranz hasn't given the team enough innings. One thing they can look at is that the lefty had a similar start last year. The difference is that Pomeranz's velocity wasn't down a year ago, even when he was struggling. Beeks definitely deserves to be the "next man" up the way he has thrown at Pawtucket. The Red Sox are currently mulling when Pomeranz's next start will be. With Monday's off-day, they have the flexibility to pitch him on Thursday, Friday or Saturday this week. Stay tuned.

Video: BAL@BOS: Pomeranz freezes Schoop in the 4th inning

Are the A's looking to potentially shop Blake Treinen, and the White Sox with Nate Jones? The Red Sox need bullpen help.
-- @getjoesoxon

This market never becomes clear until June at the earliest, and in most cases, July. The Athletics are hanging tough right now in the American League West and AL Wild Card race, so they will evaluate where they are before deciding to off-load relievers who could help them down the stretch. The White Sox will likely be sellers by the non-waiver Trade Deadline, so Jones is definitely someone to keep an eye on.

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

Boston Red Sox, Jackie Bradley Jr., Sandy Leon, J.D. Martinez, Drew Pomeranz, Christian Vazquez

Inbox: Why are Rays holding off on prospects?

Beat reporter Bill Chastain answers questions from fans
MLB.com

You hear a lot about the guys like Willy Adames and Jake Bauers who are doing so well in Triple-A. Why haven't the Rays called some of those players up?
-- Donald H., Zephyrhills, Fla.

A part of that is the business of baseball. By not summoning a player to the big league club until later in the season, teams are delaying the start of the player's Major League clock, thereby pushing back the beginning of that player's arbitration eligibility. All teams do this. It's accepted practice. In addition, the Rays adhere to the thinking that once they bring up the prospects they truly covet, they don't want to have to send them back down. Adames, Bauers (the Nos. 2 and 5 prospects in the organization as ranked by MLB Pipeline) and others will be at Tropicana Field in the near future, I would think, and if you're a Rays fan, you hope they're ready to produce when they arrive.

You hear a lot about the guys like Willy Adames and Jake Bauers who are doing so well in Triple-A. Why haven't the Rays called some of those players up?
-- Donald H., Zephyrhills, Fla.

A part of that is the business of baseball. By not summoning a player to the big league club until later in the season, teams are delaying the start of the player's Major League clock, thereby pushing back the beginning of that player's arbitration eligibility. All teams do this. It's accepted practice. In addition, the Rays adhere to the thinking that once they bring up the prospects they truly covet, they don't want to have to send them back down. Adames, Bauers (the Nos. 2 and 5 prospects in the organization as ranked by MLB Pipeline) and others will be at Tropicana Field in the near future, I would think, and if you're a Rays fan, you hope they're ready to produce when they arrive.

I really enjoy the Rays' approach to hitting this year. I've long thought that the problem with declining interest in baseball is not the length of the game but the lack of action within a game. Emphasizing home runs resulted in bunches of strikeouts and few runners on base. The Rays' approach this year seems to be making contact and putting the ball in play. Do you think the Rays' management likes the results? Will they stick with it?
-- Larry A., Seminole, Fla.

The Rays do have a different offense this season -- one that relies more on making contact to drive home runners. The past two seasons they relied heavily on the long ball, and I would agree with you, I like putting the ball in play a lot more than long ball-strikeout. Timely hitting is the key for the Rays, and during this recent hot streak they had plenty of hits at the right time. We'll just have to see if that continues.

:: Submit a question to the Rays Inbox ::

When it is clear that a pitcher, particularly in relief, has thrown a minimal number of pitches and is effective, why doesn't Rays manager Kevin Cash stay with him instead of following the book? Once a pitcher is warmed up and throwing well you have used him, so another 15 pitches makes no difference.
-- Blane C., Orange Park, Fla.

First, Cash is trying to win games. He also wants to put his pitchers in situations where they can succeed. The Rays' front office puts a premium on analytics, so Cash is loaded with information for optimizing a situation with a certain pitcher vs. a certain hitter, how effective that pitcher is after a certain number of pitches, etc. Instincts are still involved, but the Rays would rather have a decision based on what the data tells them.

Of all the trades the Rays made prior to the season, I disapproved of the Steven Souza Jr. trade the most. The guy had 30 home runs last year and seems to have a big upside. I'm not exactly sure whether we got anything decent for him.
-- Ben B., St. Petersburg

I share your opinion about Souza's upside. He began the season injured, but I think he'll get things going in Arizona. Having said that, I believe the Rays got some talent in return for Souza, beginning with left-hander Anthony Banda. He's smooth looking out on the mound, and I don't see any reason why he can't be a big contributor to the team's future success.

Do you think that totally overhauling the team is the reason for this start?
-- Ron C., Beverly Hills, Fla.

Based on what I've gathered from comments made by the Rays' front office, they felt like somewhat of an overhaul -- without totally tanking -- was needed. The thought was they were stuck in mediocrity on the path they were headed. I'd have to agree with that. I've heard a lot of criticism about the Rays breaking up the team they had last season, but seriously, breaking up an 80-82 team is hardly breaking up the '27 Yankees.

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

Tampa Bay Rays

Inbox: What's the cause of Didi's slump?

Beat reporter Bryan Hoch answers questions from Yankees fans
MLB.com

Didi Gregorius has been in a bad slump in the month of May. Is there anything contributing to this? Do you think giving him an extra day or two off, or moving him down in the lineup would help?
-- Bill P., New York

Days off aren't an issue now, thanks to the poor weather that had the Yankees playing just 5 1/2 innings over a four-day span this week, but there was some regression to be expected after Gregorius played like an MVP Award candidate in April. Manager Aaron Boone had mentioned several times that Gregorius was playing "banged up" that month, but he now says there are no physical issues affecting his shortstop.

Didi Gregorius has been in a bad slump in the month of May. Is there anything contributing to this? Do you think giving him an extra day or two off, or moving him down in the lineup would help?
-- Bill P., New York

Days off aren't an issue now, thanks to the poor weather that had the Yankees playing just 5 1/2 innings over a four-day span this week, but there was some regression to be expected after Gregorius played like an MVP Award candidate in April. Manager Aaron Boone had mentioned several times that Gregorius was playing "banged up" that month, but he now says there are no physical issues affecting his shortstop.

The 1-for-38 skid that Gregorius will carry into Friday's game against the Royals represents a shocking reversal of fortune for the reigning American League Player of the Month. Gregorius isn't happy with the results, of course, but he said that he hasn't picked up on pitchers attacking him any differently than they did last month.

:: Submit a question to the Yankees Inbox ::

"Not at all, basically," Gregorius said. "It's the same thing. If you look at the pitches I hit and the pitches I didn't hit, the solid contact and not-solid contact has probably been the same. I'm just not getting hits."

I asked MLB.com's David Adler to dive into the Statcast™ vault, and he reported that Gregorius' read is accurate: Gregorius' hard-hit rate in March/April was 36.0 percent, compared with 33.3 percent in May. The main problem is that Gregorius is hitting more grounders; 46.7 percent of his hard-hit balls have been on the ground, compared with 22.6 percent in March/April. Gregorius' average launch angle has dropped from 20.7 degrees to 15.8 degrees.

Boone moved Gregorius down from the No. 3 spot in the lineup to the No. 5 spot for Tuesday's game at Washington, but he said that was more about having to assemble a lineup under National League rules. Boone said that he is encouraged by Gregorius' recent at-bats and how he has handled the mental side of the slump.

"In fact, if you look back at a lot of our games of late, there's been two or three times in a game where he's hit some balls the other way pretty deep out there," Boone said. "He's lined into some trouble. He's going through a tough stretch, but I don't think it's as bad as not getting hits."

Was the Andrew Miller trade really a good one? Miller may have pushed the Yankees to the World Series last year. The trade is often mentioned as part of the rebuild, but hasn't shown to be that yet.
-- Jason S., Washington

Generally speaking, baseball people will tell you that it takes five or 10 years to properly evaluate a trade. Sometimes you can get a read sooner than that -- for example, the July 2016 Aroldis Chapman trade to the Cubs already appears to be a slam-dunk for the Yankees, considering it fitted Gleyber Torres for pinstripes. It also worked out for the other side; even if Torres becomes a perennial All-Star, hey, the Cubs got their parade.

But it's an interesting question. I hadn't considered the impact Miller might have had on the 2017 Yankees, but clearly he would have made a strong bullpen even more lethal. Do they get to the World Series (or at least make up the two-game deficit on the Red Sox in the AL East) with him on board? Perhaps. Then again, who would Greg Bird have homered off in the AL Division Series?

I would give the group that the Yankees acquired -- Clint Frazier, Justus Sheffield, Ben Heller and J.P. Feyereisen -- more time to make their names. Frazier is 23 and has already had some big league success, while Sheffield is 22 and ranks as the Yankees' top pitching prospect by MLB Pipeline. And remember, Miller is a free agent after this year -- maybe there's another chapter in pinstripes for him, too.

Do you think the Yankees will move on from Brett Gardner at the end of the season and have Frazier take over?
-- Ralph H., via Twitter

The Yankees haven't discussed their plans with their longest-tenured player, though Gardner has expressed hope that he will be able to remain with New York. His contract is affordable, with a $12.5 million option for 2019 and a $2 million buyout. On that alone, I think it's possible that the Yankees will keep him for at least another season. Gardner's batting average and slugging percentage will probably improve by season's end, and his .351 on-base percentage is on par with career norms.

That said, Frazier continues to be an exciting talent whom the Yankees believe is part of their long-term plan. You heard that this week, when Boone and general manager Brian Cashman said that they don't want to have him in the big leagues riding the pine. That's not because they don't think he's capable of playing at the highest level; it's more about not stunting his development.

Frazier understands that it's already a crowd with Gardner, Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. Oh, and by the way -- the Yankees could, in the offseason, add someone like Bryce Harper, too. Much depends on how the rest of this season and the early part of the offseason plays out, so I'm going to say it's too early to call this one.

Is Stanton here for the long run, or will he be traded to the Dodgers, freeing up money for Harper or Clayton Kershaw?
-- Jerry D., Long Island, N.Y.

That thought hadn't even crossed my mind; I don't think you make a blockbuster addition like Stanton just to talk about flipping him to another team seven or eight weeks into the season. The Marlins tried to woo the Dodgers to trade for Stanton this past offseason, but they were told that they couldn't make it work financially. You know the rest of that story.

A better question might be Stanton's place on the Yankees' roster after 2020, when he can opt out of the remaining seven years and $218 million on his deal. Both Stanton and his agent, Joel Wolfe, are already on record as saying that they have no intention of using it.

Since Stanton would have to believe he could score a bigger deal on the open market to even consider such a scenario, I would say the most likely outcome is that Stanton truly is in New York for the long haul -- assuming no opt-out, he's under contract at least through 2027, when he'll be 37. And despite the slow start and the boos he heard at home, Stanton seems to be loving the chance to play in games that matter.

Wouldn't it be great to add a proven postseason starter at the Trade Deadline to have that presence in the locker room? Perhaps Cole Hamels?
-- Mike B., via Twitter

That's one idea that seems to be in play, considering Hamels is a free agent after this season and pitching for a non-contending Rangers team. Hamels might not be the ace that he was back in the Phillies' World Series days, but he's a solid piece for whom teams shouldn't have to break the prospect bank.

MLB.com's Jon Morosi has reported that Hamels included the Yankees among 21 teams to whom he can block a trade, though that isn't necessarily a deal-breaker. There are some luxury tax implications to work through, but the short answer is that the Yankees could acquire Hamels and still come in under $197 million for 2018. Stay tuned on that one.

Is management going to choose a new captain? It is high time they did. Didi would make a good captain.
-- Khaire S., Singapore

Would you settle for "captain of the infield," the term Boone used to describe Gregorius this spring? I don't sense any urgency on the Yankees' part to fill Derek Jeter's old role; it's largely a ceremonial title, but also one that you don't want to throw around lightly.

Even without a specifically named captain, leadership flows from several areas on the roster -- Gregorius heads the infield, Gardner in the outfield and CC Sabathia on the pitching staff. That's similar to how it was even back in Jeter's day, when the relievers would congregate around Mariano Rivera. In a good clubhouse, the players know how to police themselves.

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

New York Yankees

Inbox: When will Rox call on McMahon?

Beat reporter Thomas Harding answers questions from fans
MLB.com

DENVER -- Before jumping into the latest questions from fans, let's take time to congratulate righty pitcher Chad Bettis. Today he is one year cancer-free.

DENVER -- Before jumping into the latest questions from fans, let's take time to congratulate righty pitcher Chad Bettis. Today he is one year cancer-free.

Tweet from @roxfan07: @harding_at_mlb what will it take for guys like Patterson, Tapia, McMahon to get a shot where some veterans are underperforming?

I'll start with Ryan McMahon. This is what happened Tuesday night:

Tweet from @MiLB: #Rockies No. 2 prospect Ryan McMahon homers twice using a bat he borrowed from @ABQTopes teammate Mike Tauchman. https://t.co/stkDTAg4Xf pic.twitter.com/WM2EW8Fnqd

But there is more to the story than the two home runs.

On Sunday, the day Rockies second baseman DJ LeMahieu suffered a left thumb injury that has him on the 10-day disabled list and seeking opinions on the severity of the injury, McMahon played first base and second base at Albuquerque. He played second in the two games since.

The Rockies called up Pat Valaika on Monday to fill LeMahieu's roster spot, and Daniel Castro was called up earlier. But the hope for Valaika is the brief time in Triple-A helped him make adjustments that would make him an effective bench player, the way he was last year. Castro is hitting .148 in nine games, including seven starts. He has been dazzling as a defender, but it's a tough fit on a good defensive infield.

:: Submit a question to the Rockies Inbox ::

So while fans are clamoring for McMahon to take over at first base for Ian Desmond, it may make more sense to reinsert him at second -- if he is ready for the pinpoint control of Major League pitching. He wasn't quite there during his .180 start before he was optioned May 1. But if that happens, McMahon could have ample chance to hit and force playing-time decisions when LeMahieu returns.

In 13 Triple-A games, McMahon is hitting .255. But since a 1-for-14 start in his first three games, he is hitting .333 with three doubles, the two homers and 10 RBIs, with nine strikeouts against three walks. He has a .925 OPS.

Tuesday's homers came off Las Vegas righty Vance Worley, who has thrown 163 Major League games as a starter and a reliever, so it's a reasonable competition level. Is it time?

Tweet from @TylerRay78: What would the Rockies do with the Desmond situation

The common criticism is the Rockies are playing Desmond strictly because of the $22 million due this year and a five-year, $70 million contract that's in its second year.

Certainly the money has something to do with it, but consider that the Rockies are paying Carlos Gonzalez and Gerardo Parra way more than David Dahl. And the pattern of starting Dahl mostly against right-handers but not removing him for Noel Cuevas when a lefty reliever comes in tells me the Rockies are taking steps toward making Dahl (.298/.355/.509) a regular. When it all shakes out, Gonzalez and Parra will either be part of a rotation, or one of them will be a starter and one will be a left-handed late-game bat.

Back to Desmond. In 2016 with the Rangers, his slash line was .322/.375/.524 in the first half, .237/.283/.347 in the second. The previous year with the Nationals, it was .276/.321/.454 the first half, .195/.261/.320 the second. While this year the problem is at the start, there at least is evidence that he is as capable of being as hot for a period as he is cold now.

You can argue that a big contract for a streaky player is risky, and have your point.

If McMahon shows he can hit big league pitching, then there is a playing-time argument. The criticism is McMahon didn't play enough when he was up the first time. But Valaika last year and Cuevas so far this year have shown that a young player with limited time can contribute.

Look at pitcher Jon Gray. The Rockies could have called him up in reaction to rotation issues in the middle of 2016, but they didn't make the call until August, when he had learned what he needed in the Minors. They may have miscalculated that McMahon was ready to start the season, but he could be ready at the next opportunity.

An intriguing suggestion: trade with the rebuilding White Sox for Jose Abreu. The Rockies last year addressed bullpen and catching needs at the non-waiver Trade Deadline, so there isn't a reluctance to fix a weakness.

But there are hurdles, namely the White Sox have never liked the Rockies' trade offers in previous talks, and they've succeeded in cleaning up with prospects in other deals.

Tweet from @STGeorgeUte: with Tom and Raimel raking in AAA, who do you think will get the call up first? and when!?

Both are an injury away. I'd say Tom Murphy is closer, because all that's necessary is a foul tip gone awry, and he'll share duties with the remaining catcher. It looks like the Rockies are preparing Raimel Tapia to start -- much the way they looked at Dahl.

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 happens with outfield logjam?

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

The Padres have too many outfielders and not enough spots when they're all healthy. Something's got to give, right?
-- Nick R., Santee, Calif.

Something's going to give, and it's going to happen soon. Hunter Renfroe is slated to begin his rehab assignment with Triple-A El Paso on Thursday. Already this season, Renfroe, Manuel Margot, Wil Myers, Franchy Cordero, Travis Jankowski, Matt Szczur, Franmil Reyes and Jose Pirela have seen time in the outfield. Myers and Renfroe are currently on the disabled list, and it's still a crowded group.

The Padres have too many outfielders and not enough spots when they're all healthy. Something's got to give, right?
-- Nick R., Santee, Calif.

Something's going to give, and it's going to happen soon. Hunter Renfroe is slated to begin his rehab assignment with Triple-A El Paso on Thursday. Already this season, Renfroe, Manuel Margot, Wil Myers, Franchy Cordero, Travis Jankowski, Matt Szczur, Franmil Reyes and Jose Pirela have seen time in the outfield. Myers and Renfroe are currently on the disabled list, and it's still a crowded group.

I don't think the Padres know what's going to give just yet. They have ideas. Myers is going nowhere. Margot and Cordero are 23, and they're not trade bait (though if they slump, they're candidates to be optioned to Triple-A). Jankowski, Renfroe and Pirela have been the subject of trade chatter before, and their names will almost certainly pop up at the non-waiver Trade Deadline.

Submit your question to the Padres Inbox

Right now, it's probably a competition among Margot, Jankowski, Cordero and the newly recalled Reyes to avoid a demotion when Renfroe is recalled. (The Padres want to make sure all of them get regular at-bats, meaning they'd be content to leave Szczur as their fifth outfielder.) Then, when Myers returns -- likely sometime in June -- they'll have a better idea of what they have in their outfield. That's when the trade speculation will almost certainly heat up.

Does Pirela have any trade value at this point in the season? What are the Padres' plans for him once Luis Urias comes up?
-- Colton, Los Angeles

No doubt, Pirela's trade value has plummeted since the start of the year, given his .664 OPS. That doesn't mean it's down to nothing. Pirela's versatility could be valued by a contending club. And if he can boost his power numbers a bit, Pirela could be a useful right-handed bench bat to face left-handed pitching.

That being said, a Pirela trade certainly isn't imminent. Urias' arrival might be (though he's probably looking at a short wait). When Urias arrives, there would seem to be little room for Pirela.

That makes this stretch a pivotal one for Pirela. If he finds a way out of his funk, he's a useful piece to move between second and left (while Urias plays second and some short). That also makes Pirela trade bait. If he continues to slump, he'll find himself buried on the bench.

Kazuhisa Makita seems very hittable, especially after a team has seen him more than once. How much longer will he be around before the Padres cut their losses on him?
-- David L., San Diego

It's hard to envision the Padres giving up on Makita, given their two-year investment in him, and the fact that he has options and can be sent to the Minors. That said, the Makita experiment has not gone well. In 15 appearances this season, the sidearming right-hander owns a 7.94 ERA.

There was belief that his quirky submarine-style delivery might play well. Unlike most sidearmers, Makita attacks the top of the strike zone, and the Padres hoped the plane of his fastball would be tricky on opposing swing planes, given the recent trend toward uppercuts.

It's still possible that theory is true for certain hitters. But it's clearly not as widespread as the club had hoped. Moving forward, the Padres might need to better identify the right matchups for Makita and perhaps refine him to those situations. The rest of the league seems to be squaring him up at will.

Who will we see in a Padres uniform first -- Fernando Tatis Jr. or Cal Quantrill?
-- Eddie D.

Ranked as the Padres' No. 1 and No. 4 prospects, respectively, Tatis and Quantrill arrived in San Diego within 10 days of each other in June 2016 -- Tatis via trade, and Quantrill via the Draft. Together, they're a testament to San Diego's complete overhaul of its farm system in '16 -- a system that's now rated as baseball's best by MLB Pipeline.

So, who will be playing in San Diego first? It's close, but I'll take Tatis. He's starting to turn things around at Double-A San Antonio. Barring an injury or a complete flop, Tatis should warrant a September callup, if only for his first taste of the bigs.

I'm less confident the same thing will happen for Quantrill. He's been lumped in with Joey Lucchesi and Eric Lauer as college pitchers from that 2016 Draft class. That's an unfair comparison, given Quantrill's Tommy John surgery during college. He's thrown far fewer professional innings than either Lucchesi or Lauer. If Quantrill earns his way into the big league rotation with his performance, the Padres wouldn't say no. If he doesn't, he won't receive a courtesy callup. It's more likely he'll get shut down in September in preparation for 2019.

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

San Diego Padres