Last year’s Major League Baseball Home Run Derby featured one of the most exciting performances baseball fans have seen in a while. New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge destroyed the competition, mashing his way to the title and solidifying his status as one of the best sluggers in the game.
The league would like Washington Nationals slugger Bryce Harper to participate in the event, but he has yet to respond, according to Heyman. The Home Run Derby will be held in Washington, D.C., and MLB often tries to put a hometown player in the event. As Heyman points out, the 2018 Derby is sponsored by T-Mobile, and Harper does commercials for them. That could impact his decision.
But maybe not. Harper had hinted at taking part in the Derby in D.C., but there’s a chance he’ll go back on that. While he’s displayed power and patience this season, Harper’s average has lagged behind. If his struggles continue, he could pull out of the event to give himself a few days to get right before the second half during his walk year.
Others may back out too
The reigning champ may not participate in 2018, and there’s a concern that Mookie Betts, Giancarlo Stanton and J.D. Martinez may also skip this season, according to Heyman. Those aren’t definitive. Heyman says he’s heard suggestions about those players.
Those whispers make sense. Stanton participated last year because the event was in Miami. He has no connection to D.C., so could opt out. Both Betts and Martinez have already said they don’t want to be in it. Betts told the Boston Globe, “Hell no.” While Martinez still is upset about being passed over in 2015.
Mike Trout has never participated in the Home Run Derby, and probably won’t start doing so now.
Who does that leave?
If all those players back out, MLB has other options. If MLB is looking for popular players, Manny Machado, Francisco Lindor, Nelson Cruz, Edwin Encarnacion and Freddie Freeman all have solid home run totals. The league could also opt for José Ramírez, who has more home runs than any of those players, but may not be as nationally known yet.
Other players declining could also mean fans finally get to see Joey Gallo get a shot in the event. That would be a scout’s dream. Gallo’s power routinely received an 80 — the highest scouting grade possible — in the minors. You could also see breakout candidates like Mitch Haniger or Eddie Rosario give it a try. Or maybe youngster Ozzie Albies will test his luck. And if Stanton and Judge are out and the league really wants a Yankee, Didi Gregorius could jump in.
That list doesn’t include names like Nolan Arenado, Charlie Blackmon, Jose Altuvé, George Springer or Carlos Correa, among others.
Not all of those players will say yes, meaning the league will likely have to dig deeper. There’s still a chance to build a solid group of eight for the event, but MLB will be hurt by so many stars bowing out.
Wilmer Font and four relievers combined on a seven-hitter as the Tampa Bay Rays snapped a nine-game road losing streak with a 3-1 victory over the New York Yankees on Sunday afternoon at Yankee Stadium.
The Rays used a reliever as their “opener” for the second straight game and 14th time in the last 28 games.
Font helped the Rays improve to 6-8 in those games by allowing one run and four hits in 4 2/3 innings. It was his third start, but official scoring rules prevented him from getting a win since he did not complete five innings.
Diego Castillo overcame his own throwing error on a pickoff play and retired Gary Sanchez to end a scoreless eighth. Sergio Romo pitched a scoreless ninth for his third save in six chances.
The Rays were held to three runs or less for the 10th straight road game, extending the team record and they scored all their runs in the second inning off CC Sabathia (4-2).
Carlos Gomez hit an RBI double and Matt Duffy delivered a two-strike, two-out two-run single for the Rays, who are 5-12 in their last 17.
Duffy had three hits and recorded his sixth game this season with three hits.
Tampa Bay also activated Adeiny Hechavarria from the disabled list after he missed a month with a strained right hamstring. The slick-fielding shortstop delivered three hits.
Those hits were enough to help Tampa Bay win for the first time in six meetings with the Yankees and avoid getting swept for the seventh time.
Aaron Hicks homered for the Yankees, who lost for only the fourth time in 17 games and were unable to complete a four-game sweep of the Rays for the seventh time and first time since Sept. 7-9, 2009.
Stanton struck out twice and heard more boos as he went 1-for-3 while the Yankees held out Brett Gardner due to a sore knee.
Sabathia allowed three runs on a season-high 10 hits in 7 2/3 innings. He struck out 10 for his 37th career double-digit strikeout game and first since Aug. 17, 2016 against the Toronto Blue Jays.
At 37 years, 331 days Sabathia became the oldest Yankee to get a double-digit strikeout game since Andy Pettitte (40 years, 313 days) on April 24, 2013 at Tampa Bay.
The Rays took a 1-0 lead when Gomez hit a ground ball by the dive of third baseman Miguel Andujar and it rolled down the left field line with none out in the second. The Rays took a 3-0 lead when Duffy lined a single to right field before getting thrown out trying to advance.
Yankees’ manager Aaron Boone talks about Luis Severino’s win over the Tampa Bay Rays. Abbey Mastracco, Staff Writer, @AbbeyMastracco
NEW YORK — Yankees’ ace Luis Severino is now the proud owner of the second-best ERA in the American League. Severino is among strong company with his 2.09 ERA, checking in just behind Jacob deGrom, Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer — two Cy Young Award-winners and one who may defy odds and win the award without any offensive help whatsoever.
He lowered his ERA by 18 points on Saturday in the Yankees’ 4-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium, throwing eight shutout innings. It’s the type of outing the Yankees have come to expect from their ace, as routine a pop fly. So when manager Aaron Boone heard that Severino’s numbers compare to those of deGrom, Verlander and Scherzer, he wasn’t at all surprised.
Boone said he had long envisioned Severino being great, seeing the potential while still an analyst with ESPN. But a few years ago, when the homegrown Severino first came on the scene with the rest of the baby bombers, there were still questions surrounding the right-hander.
Now, Boone says, those questions have been answered.
“I remember pretty clearly when he first came up and burst on to the scene, there was a lot of talk about him,” Boone said. “The stuff leaps off the screen right away. He had some struggles and ultimately gets moved to the bullpen so it’s a question of, is this guy going to survive as a starter? Does he have a third pitch that’s necessary to be an elite starter?”
But there’s more to it than just ERA and a three-pitch mix. Severino has the mental makeup that allows him to shake off his mistakes, correct them and move on to the next batter without letting it eat at him.
“Adversity, experience — it goes a long way when you can persevere,” Boone said. “And he, in a lot of ways, has persevered through a lot of stuff for a young man early in his career. I think all of that has only made him a better pitcher. Now we’re seeing in a lot of ways what a kind of elite pitcher in the league looks like. He’s a special one.”
Who’s ball is it anyway?
Severino decided to do it all on Saturday, even robbing his own catcher of an easy pop-up.
In the fifth inning with Carlos Gomez at the plate and the sun shining high overhead, a ball was popped up behind catcher Gary Sanchez and into foul territory. Sanchez tracked it but maybe didn’t quite do a good enough job of calling it off because Severino leaped him and caught it himself.
“When I jumped I heard, ‘I got it!’” Severino said. “But I was already in the air.”
The questions about Sanchez’s glove and his defensive abilities will always linger and though Boone said this was no indictment against Sanchez, ultimately it does little to quash that chatter. But even Severino himself said he and Sanchez found it amusing and bantered back-and-forth about it in the dugout.
“He said, ‘You’re too good for my glove,” Severino said.
Boone would like his pitchers to let the catchers do the heavy lifting, but in this instance he was fine with Severino making an instinctual play.
“I’d like our pitchers, for the most part, to stay out of the pop-up game, but things come up,” he said. “If you sense something is happening there where he’s losing the ball and he’s looking for help, I have no issue with our guy going up and being aggressive and playing.”
If Brian Cashman ever reconsiders listening to trade offers for Gleyber Torres, the prized rookie would likely pop the general manager’s second thought the second it surfaced.
Less than 24 hours after Cashman scoffed at the notion of trading the Yankees’ latest sensation, Torres kickstarted the offense once again, delivering a run-scoring double to give the Yankees an early lead in their 4-1 win over the Rays Saturday at a sold-out Yankee Stadium.
Despite making his major league debut on April 22, the 21-year-old still hasn’t experienced anything resembling a slump since joining the Yankees, and has never gone more than two games without recording a hit.
“You can trick him once, sometimes, or get him out a certain way, but he’s usually very good at making adjustments, and there’s not necessarily one way to get him out because he’s got some versatility in his swing that allows him to handle some different things,” manager Aaron Boone said. “I feel like he goes up there on the hunt really well, and the mechanics of his swing allow him to be uber-aggressive when he’s on the attack, and the ability to shut down late on pitches out of the zone that a pitcher wants him to chase.
“I think he wants to be really good at this. I think that’s part of it. I think he has his baseball IQ, and his intelligence, allow him to make adjustments and that’s what he’s shown a real knack for being able to do.”
After going hitless Friday night, Torres stepped into a big spot for his first at-bat Saturday. With two on, and two outs, Torres ripped a 2-2 changeup from Ryan Yarbrough down the third-base line and off the glove of a diving Matt Duffy to bring in Greg Bird with the game’s first run.
This season, the rookie second baseman is hitting .311 with runners in scoring position, while posting a phenomenal .739 slugging percentage. Entering Saturday, major league players had combined for a .245 batting average with runners in scoring position and a .399 slugging percentage.
“I just try to take good at-bats, and learn from bad pitches,” said Torres, who went 1-for-3 and is now batting .290. “I’m working every day. I just try to do my job, and focus. I try to be relaxed, and try to do my routine. If I get an opportunity, I try to help my team.”
Didi Gregorius is putting his brutal May behind him.
The shortstop, who had homered in three straight games entering Saturday, added another hit in the Yankees’ 4-1 win over the Rays. He’s now 19-for-58 with 10 runs, three homers and four walks since May 28.
And he has seemingly added another element to his game. After moving to second on his third-inning single, he swiped third base.
It was his sixth stolen base in Gregorius’ last 15 games. Prior to that stretch, it took Gregorius 198 games to steal six bases.
With another save on Saturday, Aroldis Chapman now has 20 on the season. He joined Boston’s Craig Kimbrel as the only closers to earn 20-or-more saves in each of the last seven seasons. The bullpen as a whole continues to impress. Even after Chasen Shreve allowed a run in the ninth, Yankees relievers have given up just two runs in their past 34 ²/₃ innings.
Luis Cessa (left oblique strain) had his rehab assignment moved from Single-A Tampa to Double-A Trenton. The emergence of Loaisiga and Domingo German has lessened the importance of Cessa’ absence, but the Yankees still could turn to the right-hander at some point for rotation depth.
The Yankees acquired infielder Wendell Rijo from the Brewers on Saturday as the player to be named later in the May 25 trade that sent catcher Erik Kratz to Milwaukee.
Rijo will be assigned to Single-A Tampa. The 22-year-old was with Double-A Biloxi, where he had a .679 OPS. In seven games with the Brewers, Kratz has three homers.