You might not have noticed because he plays on a team with the worst record in the American League, but Jose Abreu is having an incredible season. Again.
Abreu went 4-for-5 with two RBI and a run scored in Monday’s 11-3 victory over the Royals. The first baseman narrowly missed out on his second cycle in three days, as he needed a home run in the ninth inning but settled for a walk.
Abreu’s four-hit game was his fourth since August 19. He’s hitting .370 with eight home runs and 17 RBI across 21 games over that stretch. Following a horrid 11-for-60 (.183) stretch with no dingers in his first 16 contests of the season, Abreu is batting .321 with 31 longballs and 86 RBI over 123 games since.
If Abreu is able to drive in eight runs over the White Sox’ final 19 games, he’ll have begun his major league career with four straight seasons of at least a .290 average, 25 home runs and 100 RBI. I mentioned it in Monday’s Hot Hitter Rundown, but it bears repeating: Abreu would be the only current player in the majors to have accomplished that feat.
The White Sox haven’t finished higher than fourth place since Abreu has been with them and are obviously in a full-on rebuild. Hopefully Abreu – who is under team control through 2019 – will be around long enough to see all the talent the Pale Hose have stockpiled start to blossom in the big leagues.
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Zimmer Out in Center; Kipnis to Replace Him?
Not much is going wrong with the Indians these days, but unfortunately they’re not immune to injuries.
Bradley Zimmer has been diagnosed with a fractured fourth metacarpal in his left hand, the result of a play from Sunday when he dove into first base and had the hand stepped on by the Orioles’ Chris Davis. The Indians are holding off on revealing a timetable for Zimmer until after he has surgery Tuesday, but the feeling is that he’s done for the season.
Zimmer had an up-and-down rookie season and had really been struggling since the beginning of August with a .143/.218/.198 batting line. However, he was batting .284/.346/.466 through the end of July and graded out very well defensively in center field.
So who will pick up the bulk of the at-bats in center field in Zimmer’s absence? Austin Jackson and Greg Allen look like the top candidates for the time being, and Tyler Naquin, Lonnie Chisenhall, Abraham Almonte and Brandon Guyer loom as options, as well. However, the most interesting candidate is… Jason Kipnis?
Manager Terry Francona indicated Monday that he plans to stick with Jose Ramirez at second base and Yandy Diaz at third base (with Giovanny Urshela as a late defensive replacement) going forward, saying they’ve “got a really good thing going there.” That means Kipnis, a two-time All-Star, will need to find another position when he returns (which is expected to be soon), and it could be at a spot in center field that he hasn’t played since Short-Season ball in 2009.
Currently sidelined with a strained right hamstring, Kipnis shagged flyballs in center field pre-game Monday, even making a nice sliding catch at one point. The veteran infielder did play a bunch of center field in college at Kentucky and Arizona State, but he hasn’t manned the position in eight years and is now 30 years of age. Still, Francona wants to give it a shot and Kipnis is game for trying.
"I talked to Kip today," Francona said. "We might play him out there a little bit just to see how he does. If he's able to handle it, all of a sudden you go from moving somebody out of the infield -- because we've got a really good thing going there -- to adding his bat in the lineup in center field. So again, it's not a lock. But the fact that he was willing to try it is really meaningful to us."
Kipnis has batted only .228/.285/.409 this season and has dealt with numerous injuries, but it’s still a tad jarring to hear that a player of his stature won’t have his old job waiting for him when he returns. It speaks to the level of comfort Tito has developed in Diaz, who entered play Monday batting .333/.493/.471 since being recalled last month (he went 2-for-5 with an RBI and two runs scored Monday). Diaz is still looking for his first homer and didn’t hit for much power or run in the minors, but he’s always had a great batting eye and should maintain AL-only league value.
As far as Kipnis goes, while it looks like he could have another avenue to playing time, it’s hard to count on mixed league value for the rest of the season. He’s never really looked healthy this year, and what little running he’s done in 2017 (just 5-for-7 in stolen base attempts) could be curtailed since he’s coming back from a hamstring ailment.
The Indians, by the way, defeated the White Sox 11-0 on Monday to win their 19th straight game. They’ll try on Tuesday to tie the American League record of 20 straight victories that the A’s set in 2002, sending Corey Kluber to the hill versus Matt Boyd. No word yet on whether they plan to sign Scott Hatteberg (or Chris Pratt) to a one-day contract.
Fulmer Headed for Elbow Surgery
The Tigers on Monday learned the fate of one of the star players still left on their roster.
After visiting with Dr. James Andrews in Florida, Michael Fulmer has elected to undergo ulnar nerve transposition surgery on his right elbow Tuesday. The rehab is expected to take 3-4 months, so the young right-hander should be ready to go for spring training if all goes well.
Fulmer first began feeling some numbness and tingling in his right hand last season, and it’s plagued him for a good chunk of this season. It had gotten progressively worse, first putting him on the disabled list in early August and then sidelining him again what turned out to be for good in early September.
"Considering it kept rearing its head … the doctor recommended that he have this done to alleviate the issue, hopefully on a permanent basis," manager Brad Ausmus said.
The good news is that, as far as elbow surgeries go, this one is relatively minor. There is no repair involved, rather the operation consists of the repositioning of the ulnar nerve so that it creates less friction. The Mets’ Jacob deGrom had the same surgery last September, made it back for spring training and has put together an excellent season while making all of his starts.
While Fulmer does seem like a good bet to come back strong next year following the surgery, one might wonder if it lessens the chances that the Tigers will trade him this offseason. It might never have been a great bet to begin with, but they did have talks with other teams about the righty prior to the July 31 deadline. Fulmer is under team control through 2022 and not even arbitration-eligible until after 2018, so there’s certainly no rush to deal him. However, he’s the kind of marquee trade chip that could bring a boatload in return and hasten Detroit’s rebuilding efforts.
American League Quick Hits: Carlos Carrasco struck out nine batters over six shutout innings Monday in the Indians' 11-0 win over the Tigers … Mitch Haniger went 3-for-4 with a two-run homer and a double against the Rangers on Monday … The Rangers will promote prospect Willie Calhoun on Tuesday, according to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News … Alex Meyer will undergo labrum surgery on his right shoulder on Tuesday and will be sidelined until 2019 … Danny Duffy (elbow) threw a three-inning simulated game Monday and is on track to rejoin the Royals’ rotation this weekend … Welington Castillo was taken to the hospital for additional testing after leaving Monday's game when he took a foul tip to the groin … Roberto Osuna was not with the Blue Jays on Monday and will be unavailable for a few days after going home to his native Mexico for the birth of his child … Jose Ramirez was pulled from Monday's game versus the White Sox as a precaution due to a bruised left forearm … An MRI has revealed an impingement in Andrew Heaney's left shoulder and he’s questionable to make his next start … Greg Bird was scratched from the Yankees' lineup Monday due to lower back tightness … Russell Martin (oblique) took batting practice Monday and could be activated within the next few days … Jarrod Dyson will have season-ending sports hernia surgery … Ian Kennedy (shoulder) will not make his scheduled start Wednesday against the White Sox … Aaron Sanchez has been diagnosed with a finger ligament strain …
National League Quick Hits: Nolan Arenado launched a home run and drove in four runs Monday against the Diamondbacks … Steven Brault allowed just one hit over six shutout innings Monday in the Pirates' win over the Brewers … Kyle Freeland has been diagnosed with a left shoulder contusion following his removal from Monday's start in Arizona after he was struck by a line drive … The Pirates are considering skipping Chad Kuhl's next start as they keep an eye on his workload … Jedd Gyorko still felt some tenderness in his right hamstring Saturday while running for the first time since the injury … J.D. Martinez went 3-for-4 with an RBI and two runs scored on Monday against the Rockies … Andrew McCutchen blasted a two-run home run in Monday’s victory over the Brewers … According to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, the Phillies will call up Henderson Alvarez …