From ESPN’s Buster Olney comes word that the Yankees have agreed to a one-year, $15 million contract with right-handed starter Hiroki Kuroda. The deal also includes some performance-based incentives, but they’re worth less than $1 million. Kuroda was courted this offseason by the Dodgers and Angels, and was said to be considering simply heading back…
Ten games over .500 and in first place in the NL East, there's not a lot for the Nationals to complain about at the moment. They are charging foward with one of the league's best records and their pitching staff has been particularly impressive.
Manager Dusty Baker likes where the Nats currently stand and this week highlighted two areas he feels extra good about as the Nationals continue their homestand against the Cardinals.
"Probably our defense," Baker said to start. "The fact that we don't usually give away outs and beat ourselves. You don't have to make the spectacular, but you have to concentrate enough to make the everyday regular play and then hope you do make a couple spectaculars along the way. Most teams that lose are teams that play poor defense."
"And secondly, how this team is very resilient and unaffected by tough losses or even consecutive losses," he continued. "Because after the game, you could hear a church mouse run across the floor in the clubhouse. Then the next day you wouldn't know anything every happened. That's a sign of some pros."
As far as their defense goes, the Nationals rank favorably in Major League Baseball in several categories. They have made just 19 errors, the second-fewest of any team. Their .989 fielding percentage as a team is third. They are also third in the NL in defensive efficiency at .719.
"It's a special group. We've got a lot of guys with Gold Glove-caliber abilities," first baseman Clint Robinson said.
Second baseman Daniel Murphy leads the team in errors with five, but he's only on pace to make about 17 of them this season. That number wouldn't rank anywhere near the top of the league in most years.
The Nationals have the second-best team ERA at 2.82 and the second-best rotation ERA at 2.96. They would like to be higher than 13th in runs scored, but that still puts them in the top half of the league.
The Nationals are at the very least above average pretty much across the board, but Baker and his players still see room for improvement.
"We're in first place but we're kind of treading water. We haven't caught our stride yet," Baker said. "To have that 'put your foot on their throat' attitude when we get the lead, I'm hoping that we get more of that here. I have a pretty nice team. I'd like to see them be a little meaner."
"There's still a lot of guys that are still finding their stroke right now," shortstop Danny Espinosa said. "Our pitching staff has done a good job and defensively we've done good. We have guys on base. We're getting guys on base, we're just not hitting quite the way we can be hitting. We know that."
"There's always room for improvement. It's a tough league," Robinson said. "The division has turned out to be a lot tougher than I think a lot of people expected. Once we get our lineup firing, I think that's when you'll see a lot of special things."
Baker has referred all year to the idea of a killer instinct and how the Nationals could use more 'dog' in them.
"I'm gonna give them some gunpowder," he joked on Friday.
CLEVELAND—J.J. Hardy has been in Sarasota, Fla. working on the rehabilitation of his fractured left foot for a week. It’s not known how long he’ll be there.
Manager Buck Showalter said that when the Orioles left for their road trip, it was his hope that Hardy would return from Sarasota to meet the team on Monday when they begin a nine-day homestand.
“I think this weekend will tell whether he’s going to stay there longer or come on back,” Showalter said.
“I spoke to him yesterday, and he hopes that it will happen soon.”
Hardy was in a boot after he fractured the bone in his foot on May 1.
“When you start walking around it some, you get some soreness there. Those muscles, the ligaments and tendons have to start firing again. The first time, he was a little sore about three or four days ago,” Showalter said. “I think this weekend he’s probably going to try walking around and see if that has changed.”
If he has no pain or soreness, he’ll be able to begin baseball activities, and those can be done with the Orioles rather than Sarasota.
“We miss him. He’s great to have around. I know he wants to reconnect with our team,” Showalter said.
The Orioles are 13-9 when Hardy starts at shortstop and 13-9 when Machado does. Paul Janish started one game, which the Orioles lost.
CLEVELAND—Buck Showalter said he had four options with Adam Jones. He could have kept him in the heart of the order, moved him down, given him a day off or put the slumping center fielder in the leadoff spot.
That’s what Showalter did.
“I talked to him a little bit,” Showalter said.
He wanted to break up Jones, Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo up since each was scuffling.
“It’s the first time it’s really happened with all three of them,” Showalter said. “Right now, everybody’s having those challenges.”
Showalter joked about the move.
“I don’t want to get too predictable. Like my sister used to say, it’s great to be organized and prepared, but every once in a while, you have to be a little spontaneous. Of course, she lives a little different lifestyle than I do.”
NOTES: Yovani Gallardo, who has been on the disabled list with right shoulder tendinitis, will throw a simulated game late Saturday morning. Showalter isn’t sure how long he’ll throw or if there’s going to be another simulated game or if Gallardo will go next to a rehab start. … T.J. McFarland, who is on the minor league disabled list with a left knee, threw a two inning simulated game at Norfolk.