The month of July not only brings great action on the field, but plenty off the field in Major League Baseball as well.
We’re officially in July and while the trade market is yet to pick up, there is a lot going on in the baseball world, including some notable players returning from injury. Let’s check out what you might have missed over the past week.
The Giants have battled injuries to their starting rotation all season, but things are finally going their way in that department. Madison Bumgarner got back a month ago, Johnny Cueto made his return from a two-month absence on Friday, and Jeff Samardzija is due to start on Saturday. San Francisco has managed to tread water while those keys were out of commission, as they remain within striking distance in the NL West. Now that their rotation is intact, the Giants may be ready to make their move to the top of the division.
While the Giants got two key pitchers back this week, the Diamondbacks welcomed outfielders A.J. Pollock and Steve Souza Jr. back from the DL. Along with David Peralta, the Diamondbacks now have the outfield in place that they envisioned at the start of the season. Pollock was having a career year before his thumb injury while Souza struggled to get going early in the season. However, both have a chance to make a significant difference in Arizona’s lineup.
Two-way sensation Shohei Ohtani is back from the DL, but for the time being, he will be a one-way sensation. The Angels are giving Ohtani a few more weeks for his elbow to heal in hopes that he can continue to pitch without undergoing Tommy John surgery. In the meantime, he’s able to serve as a DH, so he may be able to give the Angels a lift, as they try to remain in the playoff race amidst an unfair amount of injuries.
Indians starter Danny Salazar is officially done for 2018 before he even got the chance to throw one pitch. Salazar was sidelined during spring training with tendinitis in his shoulder. The shoulder did not heal as expected, eventually forcing Salazar to undergo exploratory surgery. During the procedure, doctors cleaned up inflammation around his rotator cuff. Salazar will be unable to throw a ball for at least 12 weeks, leaving him no chance to return this season. Fortunately for the Indians, the trio of Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, and Mike Clevinger are all in the midst of strong campaigns, with Carlos Carrasco in the mix as well following an elbow issue.
Speaking of pitchers who won’t be back anytime soon, Yu Darvish is no closer to returning to the Cubs than he was when he went on the DL in late May with triceps tendinitis. Darvish is struggling to regain strength and the team is unwilling to put a timeline on his return. The Cubs are unlikely to go after a frontline starter on the trade market this summer, but with the uncertainty surrounding Darvish, they may look to add some rotation depth.
Friday, the Mariners announced that they have signed GM Jerry Dipoto to an extension. Dipoto took over in September 2015 and has proceeded to make a ridiculous amount of trades. Many have worked out while other trades have flopped. Nevertheless, he has turned the Mariners into one of the biggest surprises in baseball this season, putting Seattle in a good position to break their playoff drought, which is the longest in baseball at 17 years.
The biggest ongoing story in baseball is simply how tight the division races are at the midway point in the season. Other than the AL Central, there are 2.5 games or fewer between the top two teams in each division. A couple of days ago, it was 1.5 games or less. The Yankees and Red Sox are obvious, but the Mariners are keeping close to the Astros in the AL West, the Cubs are keeping pace with the Brewers in the NL Central, and the Dodgers have finally caught up to the Diamondbacks in the NL West. The Phillies and Braves are also tied atop the NL West, five games clear of the disappointing Nationals.
We’ll close with the oddest story of the week. On Friday, Mets pitcher Jenrry Mejia had his lifetime ban for PED use reversed on appeal. Mejia hasn’t pitched since July 2015 because of three separate PED suspensions. He’s the first player in MLB history to receive three suspensions under the drug policy. After the all-star break, he will be able to workout at the team’s facility and he will be able to play in minor league games later this year. However, he won’t be eligible to play in the big leagues until spring training next year. Of course, what kind of shape the once elite prospect is in remains to be seen.