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Inside Baseball AL Notes | Yankees winning without key pieces

(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

News and notes from each of the 15 American League teams.

  Baltimore Orioles

  • Trey Mancini became the third player to hit seven home runs in his first 13 games in the bigs, joining Trevor Story last year and Dino Restelli of the 1949 Pirates. Mancini is so hot, teammates have started borrowing his bat. And it’s working. Manny Machado and Craig Gentry both broke out of slumps by using Mancini’s bat – a Louisville Slugger model C243 – and homered, Eduardo Encino of the Baltimore Sun reported.
  • Generally, they continued to pound teams.
  • The Zach Britton forearm injury is obviously a concern, if only because of the importance of the player. Britton’s stuff, while still remarkable, seemed down just a tad, though he had tied the AL record of Tom Gordon for consecutive saves at 54 … People around the team think he’ll be back after the 10 days, or shortly thereafter, that it’s nothing serious. He is said to be feeling better but will have a cautionary MRI now that they are home.The suspicion is his short spring may be the culprit, followed by a heavy-though-not-crazy workload (seven games in 10 days). Britton is said to have had a great rapport with pitching coaches Dave Wallace and Dom Chiti who both left the team in the winter, for what it’s worth.
  • The Orioles have been picking up rotation depth every couple days, as they understand that is their own weakness. It isn’t a weakness that should have caused anyone to pick them to win only 71 games, as one stat site did, however.
  • So far Alec Asher may be the best of the pickups. He has four pitches and plus command, and is someone the Orioles have had an eye on for a while. He was bought for what’s believed to be something close to the usual waiver wire price of $50,000. He could wind up as one of the better investments of the season.
  • Word is, J.J. Hardy’s injury history makes it less than likely the Orioles pick up his $14-million option after the year. They still might if Hardy has a relatively injury-free season. But assuming they don’t, and instead pay the $2 million buyout, the plan is to keep Machado at third base, as they do not want to remove someone who may be the best all-time at that position even to fill a possible shortstop need. Instead, the likelihood is, they shop for a shortstop.
  • Cedric Mullins is hitting .455 with an .818 slugging percentage for the Bowie Baysox.
  • Dariel Alvarez, who recently converted from pitcher to hitter, had “successful” Tommy John surgery this week.
  • Best wishes to courageous umpire Dale Scott, who suffered a concussion taking a foul tip off Mark Trumbo’s bat.

Boston Red Sox

  • Chris Sale has been everything advertised and more.
  • Hanley Ramirez has his offensive act back together, as ex-GM Ben Cherington’s moves look much then when he was demoted (and left the organization).
  • There are concerns over reigning Cy Young winner Rick Porcello, who’s practically eliminated himself from this year’s competition already, although he did look better his last time out.
  • Mitch Moreland had an astounding nine doubles in a 10-game period, as was mentioned on MLB Network.
  • Arland Sports, whose biggest client is Andrew Benintendi, was acquired by CSE, the Lonnie Cooper agency. Jason Wood from Arland was appointed president of the baseball division.
  • For all the kvetching about Craig Kimbrel he’s saved 25 straight. He also looked unhittable wrapping one up vs. the Rays on Patriots day.
  • Mookie Betts did not strike out in 128 plate appearances, longest streak for a BoSox player since 1975.

Chicago White Sox

  • David Robertson, a guy who always looked to be in perfect condition, reportedly ate salads to lose five pounds. Five! And it certainly hasn’t hurt. He has been near perfect through five innings, with 10 K’s, one hit and no walk. More important: His trade value has to be moving up, too. (The Nats have to have noticed, too).
  • Dylan Covey, a Rule 5 pick, is a wonderful story. He got his first win last week (a 2-1 win over the Twins), six years after he decided not to sign as a first round pick of the Brewers after the Brewers found a couple major health concerns during his physical, concerns such that he went immediately to the hospital. Covey instead went to UC San Diego where he was Kris Bryant’s roommate. And now he has his MLB career. Awesome.
  • Jose Quintana has hurt his trade value a trifle. But assuming he rallies and pitches close to his norm, this poor start will likely be mostly forgotten.
  • James Shields could even become a trade candidate if he keeps pitching like this.
  • The trades made so far moved the ChiSox up, from No. 23 to No. 5, for farm systems, according to Baseball America.
  • The ChiSox got some notoriety when they started an outfield of all Garcia’s becoming the first ever to start a trio with the same sir name. “I guess we’ll take whatever positive we can get,” manager Rick Renteria said, humorously.
  • Avisail may finally be paying dividends for the faith the ChiSox have shown in him. He reportedly lost 18 pounds, and he seems quite a bit quicker (he beat out a routine grounder to shortstop on Monday at Yankee Stadium).
  • You wonder whether Tim Anderson is putting undue pressure on himself after signing that big deal. He’s certainly much better than this.
  • Jacob May ( 0 for 24) has looked overmatched.
  • Pitching prospect Dane Dunning, acquired in the Adam Eaton deal, looks sharp, with 26 K’s and only one walk so far.
  • Matt Davidson gave a revealing interview to Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun-Times, telling him, “You really don’t know how long you’ll be here.”
  • The fast friendship between Quintana and Jimmy Fallon is cool.
CLEVELAND, OH - APRIL 15: Cleveland Indians Second base Jose Ramirez (42) rounds the bases after hitting a 3-run home run during the eighth inning of the Major League Baseball game on Jackie Robinson Day between the Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Indians on April 15, 2017, at Progressive Field in Cleveland, OH. The Indians defeated the Tigers 13-6. (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire)

(Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire)

Cleveland Indians

  • Jose Ramirez is an under-the-radar star. Tigers manager Brad Ausmus understands though, saying “We in the AL Central know about him.” Very nice.
  • The matchup of Corey Kluber and Justin  Verlander didn’t turn out like planned, and the 15 runs they allowed combined is the most for a pair of former Cy Young winners opposing each other.
  • The demotion of Tyler Naquin, who hit that memorable inside the park home run last year, was a surprise. Brody Chernoff never said anything about that. (Word is, Naquin is actually Brody’s favorite player).
  • Triston McKenzie, the 19-year-old right-handed pitching prospect, is impressing folks in the minors.

Detroit Tigers

  • The Tigers say they will be extra cautious with J.D. Martinez. They are cognizant he’s a free agent after the year, and don’t want to spoil that for him. And that’s not just lip service. GM Al Avila, who picked him up after the Astros cut him a few springs ago, is a longtime friend of the family. He would not appear to be a candidate to be re-signed by the Tigers, however. As they intend to pare that payroll by next season.
  • Miguel Cabrera got revenge of Indians starter Trevor Bauer, who’s hit several Tigers over the last couple of years and brushed back Cabrera, by homering off him. Cabrera may still not be at full strength but you won’t hear a word from him. He once played for a month on a broken ankle.
  • Andrew Romine has become an important piece for the Tigers. It was a big week for both him and his brother Austin. Father Kevin Romine was a backup player with the Red Sox in the ‘80s and his two sons are showing themselves to be useful backups.
  • Recommended Twitter follow: @JustinVerlander, who’s forthright and funny. For whatever reason pitchers seem to be good at this. Dan Haren was the best, and Brandon McCarthy is right there, with Phil Hughes and Ervin Santana (smell baseball!) up there, as well.

Houston Astros

  • Outfield prospect Derek Fisher could be a big star. “A more athletic Paul O’Neill,” one scout calls him.
  • Alex Bregman, who had three HBP in two games, could be following in the footsteps of Hall of Famer Craig Biggio, who was known for the HBP, among other even better things.
  • Jose Altuve was on base 10 straight times at one point. That can’t be a shocker now.
  • Chris Devenski had 20 strikeouts among his 34 batters faced.
  • Of course Carlos Correa would listen if the Astros finally engaged him in long-term talks (as of last week, there’d been no talk like that lately). But as suggested in this space last week, the likelihood of him signing a long deal early is practically nil. For one, he has so much faith in himself he isn’t inclined to do a long early deal. For another, he had a $4.8-million signing bonus and makes millions more in endorsements (Adidas, etc.). For yet another, the Astros may not have helped matters by renewing him the last two years, this year at the MLB minimum of $535,000. How far apart were they? Sources suggest he was hoping for something at least closer to the range of what Mookie Betts got ($950,000), who’s another third-year star also represented by The Legacy Agency. And while a case could be made Betts should get a bit more off his big year (we had him as the AL MVP), who’d you rather have going forward?

Kansas City Royals

  • Wow, are they ever having hitting trouble. At least some of their hitters are struggling mightily. Brandon Moss, who ended 2016 in a funk, started 2 for 28.
  • Joakim Soria is back. He has a 0.00 ERA.
  • The Royals’ rotation had a 2.31 ERA over 12 games, according to Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star.
  • Mike Moustakas is off to a big start in his walk year. The Angels still make sense to me for this L.A. Valley product.

Los Angeles Angels

  • Very interesting, detailed story by Pedro Moura of the Los Angeles Times about the quirkiness of the draft, and how Angels non-roster players Dustin Ackley and Tony Sanchez were picked No. 2 and 4 in the same draft Mike Trout went No. 25. Of course we learned last week that Trout’s own agent was picked higher than him – Craig Landis, a shortstop from Vintage H.S. in Napa Valley, Calif. Went No. 10 overall in the 1977 draft.
  • Closer Cam Bedrosian has a 0.97 ERA over his last 50 games. Good thing with Huston Street now on the 60-day DL.
  • The Angels led the majors in batting average and hits, then didn’t score 21 straight innings.
  • The strategy seems to be to fall behind by five runs early, and see if they can catch up. They did it more than you’d think.

Minnnesota Twins

  • Ervin Santana (3-0, 0.41) could become a monster trade chip if he keeps pitching like this.
  • Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who’s expected to be a top pick in the NFL draft, credited LaTroy Hawkins as his biggest influence. Mahomes’ dad Pat Mahomes, a great athlete himself and former Twins pitcher, presumably was a pretty good influence, too.
  • The Twins’ new hierarchy did a smart thing bringing back Hawkins, Torii Hunter and Michael Cuddyer, three terrific personalities who also had terrific careers.
  • There were some concerns about Miguel Sano in spring training. But so far he’s been a monster. Moving back to third base seems to agree with him.
  • Jason Castro looks like a nice pickup. He’s been good on both sides of the ball.
New York Yankees' Greg Bird hits a two-run home run against the St. Louis Cardinals during the second inning of a baseball game Sunday, April 16, 2017 at Yankee Stadium in New York. (AP Photo/Rich Schultz)

(AP Photo/Rich Schultz)

New York Yankees

  • The Yankees have pulled off this great hot streak with Didi Gregorius and Gary Sanchez out, and Greg Bird unproductive until Easter Sunday. They won eight in a row, nine of their last 10 overall, and started 7-0 at Yankee Stadium (even if it doesn’t have the ambiance of older Yankee Stadium or oldest Yankee Stadium; I’ve been to both, and yes, I’m not as young as I used to be).
  • Quite possibly, never has a player who had such a spectacular spring gotten off to such a horrendous start, as Bird. He hit .451 with eight home runs in spring, then couldn’t hit the ball when the season started (he’s “up” to .121 now). The guy is too good to hit like that, however.
  • Since the beginning of last year, three of the top six hitters in terms of hard-hit average are Yankees – Matt Holliday, Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez, according to ESPN.
  • After having zero trade value Chase Headley had an early lead in offensive WAR and was the first player up to 1.0 in that category. The strangest thing was seeing Jacoby Ellsbury installed as the cleanup hitter after he supposedly had been demoted from No. 2 to No. 5 as a free agent who hasn’t lived up to his contract. Anyway, with all the Yankees injuries, he looks like a pretty important piece.
  • After two starts Michael Pineda had 23 K’s and one walk, yet a pretty average 3.44 ERA. That sums him up.
  • Aroldis Chapman has allowed no runs in 30 outings vs. the Cardinals. Crazy.
  • Their bullpen has been fantastic.
  • Aaron Hicks looks like a player suddenly. Last year there was concern he had regrets about not becoming a professional golfer, his first love. He has too good an arm, and too much speed, to be wasted on the links.
  • We can say it now. The CC Sabathia transition has been a success.
  • While the Yankees briefly explored a two-year deal for Dellin Betances before going to arbitration with the star reliever, they never offered a deal for longer than that. Betances is one of the best relievers in the game, but he’s under control for another three years, and at 28 he’s a little older than some others in that circumstance. Great pitcher, but business call.
  • Adam Warren hadn’t allowed a baserunner in his first seven innings this year.
  • The Yankees may have scored big with draftee Jordan Montgomery, who could become a rotation mainstay, Joel Sherman of MLB Network and the New York Post reported.

Oakland Athletics

  • Susan Slusser’s feature on long-time equipment manager Steve Vucinich is a wonderful feature about a wonderful guy. Vucinich has been with the A’s 50 years, more than anyone else except Connie Mack, who was with the A’s forever, which is tough to top.
  • The injury bug is once again biting the poor A’s, with Marcus Semien undergoing wrist surgery and Kendall Graveman joining him on the DL, both on Monday.
  • The A’s had a franchise-record 27 DL stays last year, and John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group points out they already have eight.
  • Jaff Dacker’s ascension gives them another home run threat. He is a reminder that Wily Peralta is thriving, Mat Latos is expected up soon, and Mat Gamel isn’t on the radar, among the unusually spelled.
  • Sonny Gray threw a painless 47-pitch outing in extended spring.
  • Andrew Triggs set the A’s record for innings without an earned run to start a season by a starter, at 17 2/3 innings, Jane Lee of MLB.com reported.
  • Khris Davis has homered once every 6.85 at-bats vs. the Rangers, the most vs. an opponent with at least 30 at-bats, reports T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com.

Seattle Mariners

  • The Ken Griffey Jr. statue looks like a great one.
  • It’s surprising Dan Vogelbach is in the minors after he was acquired in one of 34 trades. But one scout says if Seattle thinks he’s a first baseman, they may be disappointed He’s a 30 defender, the scout remarked, using the 20-to-80 scale. That scout likes him, though – as a hitter.
  • They’ve blown a league-high five saves.
  • Power-hitting rookie Mitch Haniger, who is leading rookies in most offensive categories, got a major break when he was traded from the Diamondbacks. His career had stalled there. He always had potential (he led the Arizona Fall League in RBI after Kevin Towers had acquired him for Arizona from the Brewers), but according to people familiar with the situation, it got to the point where he was catching bullpens in Double-A Mobile, Ala. Since he was barely playing, anyway. The Mariners took advantage.
  • After hitting a bomb, Taylor Motter did not a bat flip but a hair flip. Love it!

Tampa Bay Rays

  • Apologies to the Rays. Last week’s list of 50 players to be admired should have included at least one of Chris Archer, Evan Longoria and Kevin Kiermaier. All are worthy.
  • Steven Souza looked like the short end of the three-headed stick in the deal that involved Wil Myers and Trea Turner. But Souza is hitting much better this year.
  • Corey Dickerson has been on a tear, as well.
  • Plus, LoMo is back raking. That’ll be good for everyone. Let’s hope he starts tweeting again soon. He was very good at it.
  • The bullpen has been the issue Rays execs feared (0-4 with 7.91 ERA over a rough six game stretch, as Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times noted), beyond star closer Alex Colome, that is.
  • They miss Brad Boxberger, who’ll be on the DL until at least June 2, dearly.

Texas Rangers

  • The Rangers needed to do something about closer Dyson, as Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News suggested. “He just looks like he lacks confidence,” one scout said. Not sure if the WBC will take the blame for this, but he was placed in the DL with a hand contusion from a comebacker, so probably not.
  • Keone Kela was recalled to replace Dyson. Keone wasn’t sent down this spring due to any question about his performance but rather it regarded his ability to get along with some other teammates. Some veterans didn’t like Kela’s complaint about pitching in “B” games, and word is, he had a run-in with one that got “heated.” The organization obviously sided with the veterans.
  • Jeremy Jeffress seemed like a logical one to close next, but they went to Matt Bush.
  • Beltre is said to be his slow-healing calf injury.
  • Carlos Gomez (.161) is starting slow again.
  • A.J. Griffin has a big start against his old A’s team.

Toronto Blue Jays

  • Angel Pagan would have made sense for the Jays, but Yamara Muniz reported that Pagan will take the season off to spend time with his family. Pagan received two MLB offers, but the offers were deemed not high enough to accept, obviously.
  • They continue to have a left field concern.
  • Aaron Sanchez may take a bit longer than the 10 days to return after a problem with his nail.
  • The J.A. Happ elbow situation is a major concern for a team that doesn’t need issues.
  • Donaldson looks like he’ll miss at least a month after re-injuring his calf.
  • Bautista was great in spring training, and greater in the WBC, but he is back to struggling now. At the rate he’s going, he doesn’t get the qualifying offer that hurt him so much last winter (before he got bailed out with a surprising deal from his old team, which seemed to have moved on before re-signing him).
  • Mat Latos is expected to get a start over the weekend, Joel Sherman reported.

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