Garrett Whitlock threw 79 pitches in a Triple-A rehab start today, and Red Sox manager Alex Cora told reporters (including The Athletic’s Jen McCaffrey) that Whitlock will be activated from the 15-day IL in time to start Saturday’s game against the Diamondbacks. Whitlock’s return won’t push anyone out of the rotation for now, as Cora said that Boston will use six starters over their six games this week, sandwiched around Thursday’s off-day. The team will re-assess the pitching situation after this full turn through a six-man rotation, Cora said, taking advantage of another off-day on May 29 to reset the staff as necessary.
Between injuries and inconsistency, Boston has had one of the weaker rotations in baseball, though Chris Sale, James Paxton, and Brayan Bello have all been sharp lately. Cora has said in the past that the Sox plan to keep Whitlock as a starter, leaving Tanner Houck and Corey Kluber as the potential odd men out if the club does adopt a traditional five-man pitching staff. Houck’s secondary numbers are at least better than his 5.48 ERA would indicate, but it has been a rough season all-around for Kluber, whose ERA has ballooned to 6.26 over 41 2/3 innings after he was hit hard in tonight’s start against the Padres. Kluber signed a one-year (plus a 2024 club option) contract worth a guaranteed $10MM in the offseason, but that deal is already looking like a misfire given the veteran’s struggles.
More from the American League…
The Astros believe Lance McCullers Jr. can return “probably somewhere closer to the All-Star break, or after,” GM Dana Brown said in a radio interview on SportsTalk 790 AM (hat tip to MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart). There’s still some fluidity “depending on whether we can get him built up to start,” Brown noted. While not the clearest of timelines, it does represent some kind of target for McCullers, who hasn’t pitched this season after suffering a forearm strain early in Spring Training. Jose Urquidy is also tentatively expected to return from the injured list around the All-Star break, which could give the Astros a badly needed one-two boost to their depleted rotation.
The Guardians called up Bo Naylor as the 27th man for their double-header with the Mets today, with Naylor going hitless in two plate appearances in the first game. This was Naylor’s first call-up of the 2023 season, after the catching prospect made his MLB debut with five games in 2022. Despite some mediocre numbers at throwing out baserunners at Triple-A this season, Naylor told Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer and other reporters that “I feel I’m progressing well. I had a lot of work at [Triple-A] Columbus on some transfer stuff. It continues to progress every day. As of late it’s shown pretty well.” It remains to be seen when Naylor might get a longer look at the big league level, yet given how badly Cleveland’s offense has struggled, an argument can definitely be made that Naylor is already the best catching option in the organization. Naylor is hitting .257/.391/.507 over 184 PA at Triple-A, while the Guards’ catching quartet of Mike Zunino, Cam Gallagher, Meibrys Viloria, and David Fry are all badly struggling at the plate.
Now that the Yankees have designated Aaron Hicks for assignment, speculation has begun that Josh Donaldson could potentially join Hicks on the waiver wire when Donaldson is activated from the 10-day IL. The Athletic’s Chris Kirschner looks at some of the reasons why it may be time for the Yankees to part ways with the former AL MVP, most simply the fact that DJ LeMahieu looks like a more productive third base option than Donaldson right now, and LeMahieu won’t have a regular place to play once Donaldson and Giancarlo Stanton are healthy. Even though the Yankees would have to eat the roughly $23.16MM in remaining salary owed to Donaldson, Kirschner writes that “for a team that makes as much money as the Yankees, it’s a rather minuscule amount that will make the roster fit more seamlessly if they decide it’s time to cut him loose.”