Much of the anticipation of Noah Syndergaard’s outing against the Royals on Tuesday revolved around whether there would be any retaliation for the hurler’s high-and-tight pitch and then verbal challenge to Kansas City during last year’s World Series. There was nothing of the sort, but the Royals probably still don’t really care for the young right-hander after what he did to them Tuesday.
Syndergaard was electric Tuesday afternoon, holding the Royals to just three hits and one walk over six shutout innings. Thor struck out nine on the day, with six of them coming on his slider. The big right-hander is known for his upper-90s heat and hammer curveball, and there was plenty of each of those pitches Tuesday. However, he barely threw his slider last season. Just 11 of his 166 strikeouts last season came on the offering. Against the Royals, it was arguably his best pitch.
"I kind of shocked myself with how good my slider was," Syndergaard admitted.
Royals skipper Ned Yost also came away impressed, to say the least.
"He threw Kendrys (Morales) 95-, 93-, 93-mph sliders," Yost said. "There's not a man on this Earth who could hit those. I even asked George [Brett], 'Do you think you could even foul one of those off?' He said, 'No way.'"
If Thor has found another weapon with which to demolish his opponents, well, that’s just not fair. The 23-year-old was selected after rotation mates Jacob deGrom and Matt Harvey in fantasy drafts this spring, but it certainly wouldn’t be a surprise if he winds up being the best of the bunch.
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Sanchez Shines in Season Debut
Aaron Sanchez earned his spot in the Blue Jays’ rotation with a fantastic Grapefruit League showing, and the young right-hander carried over that performance in his first regular season outing on Tuesday.
Sanchez recorded a career-high eight strikeouts while tossing seven innings of one-run ball against the Rays. He allowed just five hits on the night and didn’t issue a single free pass. It was arguably the best of Sanchez’s 12 major league starts to date.
The 23-year-old had major issues with left-handed batters in his first two big league seasons. They managed a .363 on-base percentage and .801 OPS against Sanchez, whereas righties were held to a microscopic .222 OBP and .397 OPS. All 10 of the home runs Sanchez gave up were hit by left-handed batters. On Tuesday, Sanchez incorporated his changeup more often as a means to keep left-handed hitters off balance. While the lefty-swinging Corey Dickerson did take him deep, it was one of only two hits he allowed in 13 plate appearances to left-handed batters.
Improvement against lefty batters is obviously imperative in insuring Sanchez sticks in the rotation and would make him a much more appealing fantasy asset. Tuesday’s showing was a nice step in the right direction.
Garza out 4-6 Weeks with Lat Strain
When Matt Garza departed his final spring training start with what was called shoulder tightness, the Brewers initially expressed confidence that he would be ready to go for his next outing. However, as is often the case, that proved to be overly optimistic.
Garza was placed on the disabled list Tuesday after being diagnosed with a strained right lat. He’s expected to be on the shelf for 4-6 weeks.
"It was more like positive hope," said Garza. "For a while it was deflating, disappointing. But I just had to take time and go look and evaluate where I'm at and just put a positive mind-set to it and come back stronger. I'm not afraid of work. It just wasn't what I was looking forward to the beginning of April."
The Brewers will move Taylor Jungmann up to Garza’s slot on Wednesday and could go with four starters until April 17 if they want, given their plethora of off days. All signs point to Zach Davies assuming Garza’s vacated rotation spot.
Davies might be an upgrade over Garza at this point. Acquired from the Orioles at the trade deadline last season in the Gerardo Parra deal, Davies held a 3.71 ERA and 24/15 K/BB ratio over 34 innings across six September starts for the Brew Crew. The 23-year-old is far from overpowering, as he tops out around 90 mph and has a middling 7.8 K/9 rate in the minors. However, he boasts a terrific changeup and gets lots of groundballs. The righty is worth a shot in deeper NL-only formats.
A much more interesting guy who could possibly get a shot if Garza’s absence drags on longer than expected is Jorge Lopez. The 23-year-old had a breakout 2015 campaign, skipping over Triple-A last season to make his debut with the Brew Crew and striking out 10 over 10 innings in a cup of coffee. Lopez could wind up being a No. 2 starter if everything breaks right.
National League Quick Hits: A.J. Pollock had successful surgery Tuesday to place a plate in his right elbow. The Diamondbacks did not provide a timetable for his return ... Paul Goldschmidt went 2-for-4 with a solo home run and a three-run triple in Tuesday's win over the Rockies ... Trevor Story hit another homer – a solo shot – on Tuesday versus the D’Backs ... Scott Kazmir yielded just one hit while striking out five over six scoreless frames in a win over the Padres on Tuesday ... Johnny Cueto spun seven innings of one-run ball in his Giants debut Tuesday ... Shelby Miller allowed three homers and six runs over six innings to the Rockies in his Diamondbacks debut on Tuesday ... Jon Lester hurled seven innings of one-run ball versus the Angels on Tuesday, striking out four batters in the process ... Anthony Rizzo launched a two-run home run in Tuesday's win over the Angels ... Giancarlo Stanton smacked a two-run homer in Tuesday's loss to the Tigers ... Gerrit Cole (rib cage) is scheduled to make his season debut on Saturday against the Reds ... The Pirates officially announced Gregory Polanco’s five-year, $35 million contract extension on Tuesday ... The Brewers acquired Sam Freeman from the Rangers for cash and designated Ariel Pena for assignment ... Brayan Pena underwent surgery Tuesday to remove loose cartilage from his left knee ... Hyun-Jin Ryu (shoulder) will throw two simulated innings Thursday in Arizona ... Neil Walker gave the Mets the only runs they needed with a two-run homer in Tuesday’s win over the Royals ...
American League Quick Hits: Ian Kinsler went 3-for-6 with a home run and four RBI in Tuesday's win over the Marlins ... Jake Odorizzi whiffed 10 Blue Jays batters while allowing two runs -- one earned -- over 5 2/3 innings in Tuesday's win ... Logan Forsythe went 3-for-4 with a go-ahead, two-run homer in Tuesday's win over the Blue Jays ... Todd Frazier singled and ripped a three-run home run in Tuesday’s victory over the A’s ... Jimmy Rollins had a go-ahead, solo bomb in the ninth inning of that same game to put the White Sox over the top ... Carlos Correa hit a home run, had two RBI, two stolen bases and two runs scored Tuesday against the Yankees ... David Ortiz slugged the 504th home run of his career Tuesday in a win over the Indians ... David Price struck out 10 batters over six innings of two-run ball Tuesday versus the Tribe ... Kevin Gausman (shoulder) is expected to make a minor league rehab start Saturday with Double-A Bowie ... Eduardo Rodriguez (knee) is tentatively scheduled to throw a simulated game on Sunday and could begin a rehab assignment after that ... Bryan Mitchell will miss at least four months after undergoing surgery for a fracture left big toe on Tuesday ... Jose Quintana struck out seven while allowing two runs across 5 2/3 frames versus the A’s on Tuesday ...