From Comcast SportsNetEDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) -- Playing in the season opener has been at the forefront of Adrian Peterson's mind almost since he went down with a torn left ACL in the second-to-last game of the 2011 season.How long it has taken other running backs to return from the injury doesn't concern Peterson. The Minnesota Vikings' star running back has always seen himself as different from everyone else, and he has made it abundantly clear that he expects to play against Jacksonville on Sunday.He has one more week to make his case to Vikings coach Leslie Frazier and his staff.Frazier said on Monday that the Vikings would not make a decision on Peterson's status until game day, and he cautioned that even if Peterson does return, he shouldn't expect the workload he carried before he was injured just yet."We recognize if he's able to get in this first ballgame, it'll be with limited exposure," Frazier said. "We'll talk about it as the week goes on and see how he's doing and if it's even a viable option to let him play."That means fewer carries than Peterson is used to getting as the workhorse and focal point of the Vikings' offense, and likely more work for backup Toby Gerhart.Perhaps the biggest obstacle the Vikings have in handling the situation is Peterson's state of mind. He has worked tirelessly to get himself prepared to help his team, throwing himself into the rehab process from the moment he came out of surgery. With his team coming off a disastrous 3-13 season, Peterson knows they need him in the backfield to have any chance, and the coaches know it, too."You really have to take the emotion out of it," Frazier said. "You have to really hone in on what's best for him, what's best for our team. Adrian is not just another guy on our team. He is in so many ways the face of what we try to do. We have to be able to see the big picture when it comes to him and that's the way we'll approach it."On a rebuilding team coming off of a last-place finish in one of the strongest divisions in the league, the Vikings may not need to rush him back. He felt like he was ready to play in the preseason, but coaches and the team's training staff preferred to take a more gradual approach."I'd love to have him out there, that goes without saying for our entire team," center John Sullivan said. "But at the same time it's out of our hands. I hope he is. But if not, we've got to go forward with the guys that are ready to go."Peterson wasn't available for comment Monday, but he did participate in practice. Coaches will be especially interested to see how he handles himself in Thursday's padded practice."We have to see him get through some things and see how he handles certain things from a mental and physical standpoint," Frazier said. "It's different when there is no endpoint, in his case he knew a few weeks ago he wasn't going to play in the preseason. Now the mindset changes a little bit and we have to see how he handles that."Gerhart emerged as a capable fill-in for Peterson after the injury, the kind of physical runner who gets better as the game goes on and the carries increase. Gerhart had just 24 carries in the first 10 games last season, but his work load increased over the final six games as the Vikings faded from contention.As the carries increased, Gerhart's production did as well. He rushed for 91 yards on 21 carries and caught eight passes for another 42 yards against Denver on Dec. 4, then picked up another 90 yards on 19 carries the following week against Detroit.Peterson went down two weeks later in Washington and Gerhart came through with 11 carries for 109 yards, the first time he's topped 100 yards in a game in his two NFL seasons, and showed that he is up to the task in the NFL."With Toby we can run our offense even if Adrian isn't in there," Frazier said. "We feel like we don't have to change any of our plays. We're very confident and comfortable with Toby being our lead back if that's the case. The same runs that Adrian would have would be the same runs that Toby would have."NOTES:CB Josh Robinson (concussion) and S Mistral Raymond (back) returned to practice after missing the preseason finale. Frazier said they should be ready to play on Sunday. The only player whose chances are questionable right now appears to be backup LB Marvin Mitchell, who has a high ankle sprain. ... The Vikings signed OL Kevin Murphy, DL Ernest Owusu, WR Tori Gurley and WR Chris Summers to the practice squad.
So, the Orioles made some headlines earlier this week. I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but minor league pitcher Asher Wojciechowski exercised his opt-out clause and is no longer with the organization. Please keep Orioles fans in your thoughts during this trying time.
As everyone reading this is undoubtedly already aware, the Orioles *also* made a trade yesterday, sending 26-year old superstar Manny Machado to the Los Angeles Dodgers. In return for their once-in-a-lifetime talent, the Orioles received a whopping five prospects from the Dodgers’ minor league system.
Yusniel Diaz, OF, 21
It’s fitting that this trade is being compared to the Erik Bedard trade, which was also a five-for-one, because Diaz could be a poor man’s Adam Jones. He’s not the prospect Jones was, but he could end up being a really nice player.
Talent evaluators are split on his ultimate ceiling. Some describe him as a bona fide stud, and others leave him off their top 100 lists. I’ve seen him ranked as high as 31st overall (by Baseball Prospectus), which, if accurate, is a terrific main piece in a package for a star rental.
Most consider Diaz’s main flaw as a prospect to be his in-game power, though anyone watching the 2018 MLB Futures Game would be confused by that, as he became the second player ever to hit multiple home runs in the game. It’s possible that more power develops as he matures, and he certainly wouldn’t be the first player to hit for more power once reaching the Majors, but for now, it’s not a strength. I wouldn’t expect him to top 20 home runs in most seasons.
His bat-to-ball ability is his clearest strength, as he projects to consistently hit for a high average. His batting eye, while formerly a weakness, has become a strength in 2018, as he’s actually walked more times than he’s struck out (a rarity in this day and age). That will play well with O’s fans who are tired of seeing their players challenge strikeout records.
Dean Kremer, RHP, 22
Kremer isn’t a major name, which is a disappointment for O’s fans and one of the reasons their haul felt so uninspiring. Compared to more highly-touted prospects like Dustin May, Kremer looks like the team settled.
That said, he’s currently sporting the best K/9 ratio in the minors, and could end up being a diamond in the rough. He’s come a long way since being a 14th-round pick two years ago, and you have to wonder if the Orioles’ much-maligned pitching development can pick up where the much more successful Dodgers instructors left off.
Kremer is also notable for being the first Israeli-born player ever drafted in Major League Baseball.
Rylan Bannon, IF, 22
Bannon was an 8th-rounder last year and is having somewhat of a breakout this season. He’s leading the league in home runs, though playing in a notorious band box of a home park is skewing those numbers.
Bannon is undersized, but has a reputation of a good, if not elite, fielder. He’s a third baseman, but will likely spend some time at second as well. If the power breakout is real, he could end up a solid starter for the Orioles down the road. Again, that’s about all you can hope for in trades of this nature.
Zach Pop, RHP, 21
Pop has been described as potentially a future “right-handed Zach Britton,” which every O’s fan would take in a heartbeat. Of course, he’s not ranked like a future All-Star, as even in the weaker Orioles farm system he’s likely no better than around 25th.
Still, the filler players in big trades like this are just lottery tickets, and considering his lack of pedigree, Pop seems like a relatively “safe” pitcher with projectability. He strikes out a lot of batters and gets a lot of ground balls, and at the very least can likely become a decent middle reliever.
Breyvic Valera, IF, 26
In a best-case scenario, Valera becomes the Orioles’ Ryan Flaherty replacement. If you squint, you can see somewhat decent upside in each of the other returning players, even despite their modest prospect rankings, but Valera is a clear utility player.
He gets on base and hits for contact well enough to stick around and has proven capable of defending multiple positions, so there actually might be a spot for him at the end of the Orioles bench.
This trade has been described as anywhere from adequate and somewhat deflating to a great haul O’s fans should be excited about. Four of the five players have decent ceilings, though the chance of all four (or even just two of them) reaching those ceilings is highly unlikely. It’s just the nature of baseball.
Ultimately, this trade will be judged on the success or failure of Yusniel Diaz, who is the clear centerpiece of the package. Whether or not he succeeds will be partially up to him, and partially up to the front office and player development team.
If this trade is the beginning of the core for the next competitive Orioles team, then it’ll have to be considered a success. If these players each bust out of the league, then it was still the correct decision to trade Machado instead of settling for draft pick compensation, but it will still sting all the more for O’s fans seeing Manny soar to new heights elsewhere.
Baseball fans love the long ball. They love the flashy plays. They love the no-hit bids and the rare perfect game. All of these things dominate headlines and capture our attention.
The often overlooked bullpen of a club, however, almost always serves as the glue holding everything together. Relief pitching is derived of unsung heroes who are asked to perform on short notice and in sticky, high-pressure situations.
Head skipper of the Washington Nationals, Dave Martinez, is being criticized for his handling of the bullpen during the first half of the season.
By now it's well-documented that the Nats played their first 96 games at .500 leaving the club in third place in a division the team has dominated much of the last two years.
Sure, one can chalk it up to injuries, lack of roster changes or an inexperienced first-year manager working through kinks. But, there's a reason this team expects to compete for a pennant year in and year out: depth. The buzz around Martinez's decision-making continues to point toward his inability to dish out relief pitching assignments to the player's liking.
Brandon Kintzler, Ryan Madson, Sean Doolittle, Sammy Solis and Matt Grace once made up the team's relief staff in May. Between disabled-list periods for Kintzler and Madson, and Sammy Solis being sent down to Class AAA Syracuse, the staff took a beating in the month of June.
Nats relievers aren't necessarily upset about overuse, but more so because of a lack of communication between player and manager.
“A lot of times when Davey asks, you just tell him, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’m good,’ ” Madson said. “He’s got a lot of stuff to worry about. It’s typical for bullpen guys not to be as honest with the manager. That’s just the dynamic there.”
But there did reach a point where relievers -- Kintzler, Madson and Solis in particular -- felt overworked and that their wishes were not being acknowledged nor granted by Martinez.
Sean Doolittle was quick to point out that the addition of Kelvin Herrera, who joined the team on June 18, sparked a change in Martinez's approach.
“Over the last maybe month or so, maybe since we got Herrera, he’s gone around to the relievers and been a lot more proactive with that communication,” Doolittle said. “I think that’s helped.”
On a more complicated note, trust has also been targeted as an area needing improvement.
When a starter gets in a jam or doesn't seem like he is 100%, Martinez often calls on reinforcements to begin the warming up process. Guys have noticed a pattern in which relief pitchers who initially warm up are often not the ones who start the following inning.
From a relief pitcher's perspective, this is a sign of Martinez's distrust. Dramatic or not, there was a glaring disconnect throughout the first half of play.
“With a veteran group, I think we all expect to come into a team and say we’ve all been there; we just want things to go boom, boom, boom and be a piece of cake. But we also all know it’s not like that,” Shawn Kelley said. “ . . . It’s funny: I think you could probably go anywhere and complain about the manager
as a reliever. I don’t know if any manager has ever had seven relievers say, ‘He was perfect.’ ”
Handling his veteran rotation in the second half of the season should become easier for Martinez as Stephen Strasburg is expected to start Friday. The right-hander was placed on the disabled list June 10 with right shoulder inflammation.
Strasburg pitched 5 2/3 innings in a rehab start for Class A Potomac on Sunday, allowing three runs while striking out seven and walking one. It was his second rehab start since going on the DL. He allowed one run in 3 1/3 innings for Potomac on July 11. Strasburg is 6-6 with a 3.46 ERA this season, striking out
95 in 80 2/3 innings.
One thing that hasn't been criticized is Martinez's positive attitude. Players often rave about him as a person and how he brings a source of energy in the clubhouse.
This was on full display during Monday night's Home Run Derby at Nationals Park.
Moments after Bryce Harper won the Derby, Martinez was among the first to congratulate his All-Star slugger as he hoisted him in the air.
As the second half of the season gets underway Friday, expect to see a manager who brings forth an openminded approach to his club while in pursuit of a deep October run.