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Inbox: Will Rockies recall prospect for boost?

Beat reporter Thomas Harding answers fans' questions
MLB.com

DENVER -- Rockies fans fear that their first-place team will end up nowhere fast if they don't improve the offense.

Three sub-.200 hitters are frequently starting, former National League batting champion DJ LeMahieu is injured, Charlie Blackmon (.195 batting average in the last 11 games) is in a slump and Nolan Arenado (1-for-10 in three games in Los Angeles) is in a mini-slump.

DENVER -- Rockies fans fear that their first-place team will end up nowhere fast if they don't improve the offense.

Three sub-.200 hitters are frequently starting, former National League batting champion DJ LeMahieu is injured, Charlie Blackmon (.195 batting average in the last 11 games) is in a slump and Nolan Arenado (1-for-10 in three games in Los Angeles) is in a mini-slump.

:: Submit a question to the Rockies Inbox ::

That is what people want to know about most in today's Inbox.

Tweet from @caseymurphy11: With DJ out and everyone who replaces him hitting below the Mendoza line, will Brendan Rodgers be brought up sooner-ish?

Right question, possibly about the wrong guy.

The Rockies promoted infielder Garrett Hampson (the team's No. 7 prospect per MLB Pipeline) from Double-A Hartford to Triple-A Albuquerque recently. After going 1-for-4 with a sacrifice fly and three RBIs in Thursday's 16-11 loss to Salt Lake City, Hampson is hitting .233 with a .368 on-base percentage and three stolen bases. He hit .304 with a .391 OBP and 19 steals in 38 games at Double-A.

LeMahieu's absence leaves a hole toward the top of the order, and Hampson has hit leadoff. Another factor in looking at the 23-year-old: he was a three-year collegiate player at Long Beach State (selected in the third round of the 2016 Draft) who displayed a high comfort and maturity level in Spring Training.

Video: Top Prospects: Garrett Hampson, 2B, Rockies

Rodgers (the club's No. 1 prospect) looks to be a strong player. He's hitting .291 with a .355 on-base percentage, 10 home runs and a .545 slugging percentage. But Rodgers is 21 years old, and Hampson is a better fit for the upper part of the order and already in Triple-A, so I suspect Hampson is at the front of the line.

A lot depends on how much time LeMahieu will miss. He hasn't played since May 13, and although he has started fielding drills, he has yet to swing a bat. It's not clear if he'll need a Minor League rehab assignment.

Tweet from @Grant56260261: Will the Rockies do anything to improve their offense which was been inconsistent since June of last year

To me, this is a test for general manager Jeff Bridich. Last year, he made moves at the non-waiver Trade Deadline to improve the bullpen, but he and the organization must determine what moves to make and when.

What's being exposed is a lack of offensive depth, which is a product of counting on young players for the bench, and some of those reserves have had to start more because of injuries and other absences.

This early, I am not hearing that they are in search of trades, but I'm told that could change. The Rockies guard information closely and actively try to keep themselves out of the trade-rumor mill.

Tweet from @wisdom_studios: Why is Ryan McMahon in the minors

MLB.com's Matthew Leach recently discussed the possibility of bringing McMahon up. McMahon made the Opening Day roster, but he was sent down quickly to get regular at-bats and to adjust some swing weaknesses that were being taken advantage of in the big leagues.

On Thursday, McMahon went 3-for-5 with a double, triple and an RBI for Triple-A Albuquerque, and he is 8-for-19 with two doubles and a triple in his last five games. What I don't know in his case, or with the aforementioned Hampson and Rodgers, is the quality of at-bats and exactly what type of pitching he is seeing.

Tweet from @WynHere: Is Freeland the #1 SP on this team?

Chad Bettis is the best on the staff at making in-game adjustments, and I lean that way. However, Kyle Freeland is on a roll with six straight quality starts, and his 1.40 home ERA offers a good argument.

A key will be consistency out of the staff during the upcoming nine-game homestand, which starts with Jon Gray facing the Reds on Friday night. Major League observers like the talent of the staff and point to extenuating circumstances -- such as an MLB-low 18 home games and multiple games in bitter weather -- but they have a 5.65 home ERA.

German Marquez (0-3, 10.34 ERA), Bettis (0-0, 6.89) and Gray (2-3, 6.04) have all struggled at home, with Tyler Anderson (1-1, 4.24) also battling playing in a pitchers' park.

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: Where will Gohara fit in upon return?

Braves beat reporter Mark Bowman answers fans' questions
MLB.com

Will the Braves go to a six-man rotation when Luiz Gohara returns from bereavement leave?
-- @matthew_woody22

Braves manager Brian Snitker said he does not want to use a six-man rotation. While routinely getting an extra day of rest has seemingly benefited Sean Newcomb, if you look at the results for Brandon McCarthy and Mike Foltynewicz, you can argue they benefit from routinely taking the mound with regular rest.

Will the Braves go to a six-man rotation when Luiz Gohara returns from bereavement leave?
-- @matthew_woody22

Braves manager Brian Snitker said he does not want to use a six-man rotation. While routinely getting an extra day of rest has seemingly benefited Sean Newcomb, if you look at the results for Brandon McCarthy and Mike Foltynewicz, you can argue they benefit from routinely taking the mound with regular rest.

However you look at it, pitchers (like most of us) are creatures of habit. An increase in off-days has already seemingly created more opportunities to naturally provide starters an extra day of rest on a regular basis. Braves starting pitchers have been on regular rest for just 13 of the season's first 48 games. Adding another starter and setting up the possibility that some pitchers may routinely start taking the mound with at least two days of rest would seemingly be counterproductive for the rotation as a whole.

:: Submit a question to the Braves Inbox ::

When Gohara returns from spending time with his mother in Brazil, he will likely need to spend a little time with Triple-A Gwinnett. A start or two would allow him to regain a feel for things and prepare to return to Atlanta's staff as either a starter or a reliever.

Video: ATL@PHI: Gohara freezes Hernandez in the 1st

Gohara made his first Major League start of the season Wednesday night in Philadelphia. His fastball touched 96.2 mph, and he induced a swing and miss with nearly a quarter (six of 22) of his sliders. The 96.5-mph average fastball velocity he produced while making his first five career starts last September ranked first among all left-handed starting pitchers who threw at least 100 heaters last year.

Gohara has the potential to be a legitimate frontline starter. The assumption is he'll be viewed as a definite upgrade to one of the starters at some point within the next couple weeks -- or months. But if we reach a point where there is not a clear spot for him in the rotation, it wouldn't hurt to utilize him as a multi-inning bullpen weapon who would be used in high-leverage situations, much like Milwaukee's Josh Hader.

Who is the Braves' third baseman on July 31? Mike Moustakas, Austin Riley or Johan Camargo?
-- @GA_Dawg19

My suggestion is to erase any thoughts of the Braves acquiring Moustakas, Manny Machado or Josh Donaldson before this year's non-waiver Trade Deadline. Despite Ozzie Albies hitting .407 with a 1.226 OPS through his first 56 plate appearances from the right side of the plate, Braves right-handed hitters rank seventh in the National League with a .234 batting average and fifth with a .383 slugging percentage.

It would be nice to add a proven right-handed bopper to the middle of Atlanta's lineup. But I don't see why they would do so at the cost they would have to pay when they might already possess their best long-term option in Riley, whom an American League scout recently described as "maybe the best third-base prospect I've seen in more than 20 years."

Riley, the Braves' No. 8 prospect and No. 77 in the Majors per MLB Pipeline, batted .303 with three homers and an .835 OPS through his first 17 games for Triple-A Gwinnett. But he's totaled just 386 plate appearances and 92 games above the Class A Advanced level. The 21-year-old third baseman is rising quickly, but he's likely at least two months away from being deemed Major League ready.

Video: Top Prospects: Austin Riley, 3B, Braves

From a long-range perspective, it certainly wouldn't hurt Riley to endure a rough stretch as some of the veteran Triple-A pitchers start to get a better feel for his strengths and weaknesses. But if he proves capable of quickly making adjustments and extends his current production rate, there's certainly a possibility he'll be Atlanta's third baseman by July 31.

Assuming the Braves will be buyers in July, what will they be looking to purchase?
-- @huguley_thad

An AL scout I respect as much as anybody in the game recently said something like, "When you have a chance, you have to go for it because you don't know what the team will do the next year." This makes sense, but if you're the Braves and looking at the possibility of being one of the National League's elite teams for at least the next five years, I think you have to also stay true to the process.

This doesn't mean the Braves shouldn't at least look at the possibility of adding a legit frontline starter, as long as they can control that pitcher beyond this season. They have the pieces and future financial flexibility necessary to make a significant Trade Deadline deal. But before doing so, they would have to weigh whether it would make more sense to make a big splash during the winter, when the showroom might have more attractive pieces available to purchase.

As things currently stand, I'd say the Braves will look to add bullpen depth and possibly a bench piece. Boring, right? But as good as the 'pen has been recently, you have to guard against the attrition and fatigue that seemingly annually leads contenders to seek at least one reliever before the Trade Deadline.

Any chance the Braves end up with Joey Bart in this year's MLB Draft?
-- @pastorfranks

If you'd have asked two weeks before last year's Draft, I don't think you'd have found too many people, internally or externally, who would have thought the Braves would get Kyle Wright with the No. 5 overall selection. But I wouldn't expect a similar turn of events as Atlanta chooses eighth this year. Expect Bart, Georgia Tech's highly-touted catcher, to go to the Giants as the No. 2 overall pick.

Once you remove Bart and Auburn's Casey Mize from your realistic wish list, the Braves could end up with any of the elite prospects available this year. Ole Miss left-hander Ryan Rolison has enhanced his stock value over the past few weeks. South Florida's Shane McClanahan is another intriguing collegiate pitcher. But a few high-school pitchers -- Kumar Rocker, Cole Winn and Ryan Weathers -- could also be deemed the best option.

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

Atlanta Braves, Luiz Gohara

Inbox: What's the call on Judge's K's?

Beat reporter Bryan Hoch answers questions from fans
MLB.com

It seems like Aaron Judge and the Yankees are consistently rung up on called strikes out of the zone, more than other teams. Do my eyes deceive me?
-- Jerry S., Paramus, N.J.

Thanks to the magic of Statcast™, we can quantify that. You're on the money. So far in 2018, the Yankees have seen 242 pitches that were called strikes but judged to be in quadrants outside the strike zone by the system. That ties the Giants for the most in the Majors. I asked manager Aaron Boone about that on Wednesday, and he confirmed that he has seen the same numbers.

It seems like Aaron Judge and the Yankees are consistently rung up on called strikes out of the zone, more than other teams. Do my eyes deceive me?
-- Jerry S., Paramus, N.J.

Thanks to the magic of Statcast™, we can quantify that. You're on the money. So far in 2018, the Yankees have seen 242 pitches that were called strikes but judged to be in quadrants outside the strike zone by the system. That ties the Giants for the most in the Majors. I asked manager Aaron Boone about that on Wednesday, and he confirmed that he has seen the same numbers.

"Part of that is the way we preach patience and the way our guys really control the strike zone," Boone said. "That's going to be a result of that, frankly. More free-swinging teams are chasing or protecting the plate. We're not a really big protect-the-plate, two-strike go off the plate [team]. If it's a ball, we take it. That's what we want."

:: Submit a question to the Yankees Inbox ::

Judge in particular has been victimized, seeing 47 called strikes in those zones, the most in the Majors. During the Yanks' series in Texas, Judge winced at a called third strike and gestured as though he was going to toss his bat away for ball four, which is probably about as demonstrative a protest as you're going to see from him.

"He is 6-foot-7. Those knees can be really high on Judge, so sometimes it feels like there are some lows ones on there," Boone said. "But I think it's patience. When you're a patient team, when you're a patient hitter, you're going to tend to get rung up on close calls, because a lesser hitter is going to chase that."

Brett Gardner (34) also has legitimate strike-zone gripes this year, ranking among the top five in the league. Boone said that he frequently watches games where announcers will say that a two-strike pitch was "too close to take," and he disputes the logic of that statement.

"What does that mean?" Boone said. "If it's a ball and I've got two strikes on me, what are my chances of getting on base with two strikes? Probably not great. If I take that pitch that's a ball out of the zone and I swing at it, what are my chances of getting a hit on that? Probably not very good.

"But if I take a ball, there's a good chance that it gets called a ball and I'm going to first base. So I don't really buy into protecting the plate, especially with our guys."

What are the chances, realistically, that the Yankees will get Madison Bumgarner at the non-waiver Trade Deadline?
-- Joey P., via e-mail

This was one of many pitching-related inquiries we received this week, especially after Domingo German and CC Sabathia turned in poor outings in the series against Texas. We've already discussed the scenario involving Cole Hamels and the Rangers at length, so Bumgarner provides a fresh way to look at the Yankees' ongoing search for starting pitching.

Short answer: it's unlikely, but not impossible. The Yanks would need a substantial package of controllable talent to pry Bumgarner loose, but they'd be adding a pitcher whose competitiveness is off the charts and a true postseason difference-maker. Bumgarner's contract has a team option for 2019 worth $12 million that would be a no-brainer to pick up.

If the Giants are scuffling into July, they'll likely listen to offers for Bumgarner, who should be completely back from his broken left hand by then. Again, San Francisco would need to get a huge return for its biggest arm since Juan Marichal -- think three or four prospects out of the Yankees' Top 30 -- but in this case, it could be worth it.

Gleyber Torres has been playing really well, but he is staying at the bottom of the order. Is there any chance Boone is going to move him up?
-- Nehru M., New York

The way Torres has been swinging the bat, a promotion in the lineup seems to be inevitable -- though for the moment, Boone seems to content to keep his hot-hitting rookie in the No. 9 spot. Boone views Torres as a second leadoff hitter of sorts, adding traffic on the basepaths for the second and third times through the batting order.

"I'm good in that position," Torres said. "The manager has control of that. Any opportunity I have to help my team, I do my job and I just think about that. I don't think about the position."

The youngest Yankee to homer in three consecutive games, Torres' eight home runs out of the No. 9 spot are already approaching another club record. Alfonso Soriano holds that mark, having hit 11 homers as the Bombers' No. 9 hitter in 2001. Other notables: Scott Brosius (nine, 2000), Bucky Dent (eight, 1977), Nick Johnson (eight, 2002) and Russell Martin (eight, 2012).

With Jordan Montgomery out for a substantial amount of time, would there be a possibility of Adam Warren coming back off the disabled list as a starter instead of long relief?
-- Dechaine M., Thomaston, Maine

I don't see that happening, simply because by the time they built Warren up from a stamina standpoint, Montgomery might be back. Warren has been pitching in simulated games in Tampa, Fla., and is about to begin a Minor League rehab assignment, with an eye toward rejoining the bullpen by the end of the month. Montgomery's timetable is somewhere from mid-June to early July. He's set to resume playing catch shortly.

What can you tell me about Erik Swanson? His numbers this season are incredible.
-- Randy S., East Islip, N.Y.

Indeed, Swanson has pitched his way onto the Yankees' radar, and he is someone that fans should be aware of. The 24-year-old righty was recently promoted to Triple-A after going 5-0 with an 0.44 ERA over 40 2/3 innings for Double-A Trenton, where he struck out 52 against 12 walks and held opponents to a .152 average.

Swanson was acquired from the Rangers as part of the Carlos Beltran trade prior to the 2016 Deadline. His breakout has been due in part to the improvement of his curveball, which gives him a third pitch to attack with, along with his fastball and changeup.

Didi Gregorius' slump started the day after he was kicked in the head on a play at second. Have the Yankees tested him for a concussion? Seems like a pretty obvious cause and effect, no?
-- Max C., Philadelphia

To refresh, it was May 4 at Yankee Stadium, and Gregorius was kicked in the back of his head by the Indians' Francisco Lindor, covering second base to record a force out. Gregorius lay on the ground for several moments in what appeared to be a scary scene, but he lightened the mood when someone asked if he knew what day it was.

"May the fourth be with you," Gregorius replied.

I checked with Gregorius this week, and he confirmed that the Yankees did put him through concussion protocol tests that night, all of which came back clean. In his mind and in the opinion of the medical staff, there is no connection between that play and the offensive struggles that followed.

"To be honest, I was hitting the ball hard. They were just not falling [for hits]," Gregorius said.

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

New York Yankees

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.

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: What's next for Paxton to accomplish?

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