Vidal Nuno could step up for Yankees

The Yankees' victory Friday was costly, as Jorge Arangure writes, because they lost catcher Francisco Cervelli and starting pitcher Ivan Nova. Austin Romine will be called up from the minors to replace Cervelli, and it's possible that the Yankees could use David Phelps for their rotation, or maybe Chien-Ming Wang.

But every season, there are players who seem to come out of nowhere to play important roles. Think about Lew Ford with the Orioles last year, who opened the year in independent baseball and wound up in the American League playoffs. Think about Dan Johnson, who has bounced around baseball as a part-time player and yet has twice served as a crossroads in history, with home runs for the Rays in crucial moments.

With that in mind, we present Vidal Nuno. He is 5-foot-not very much, weighs 100-and-not very much, and his fastball velocity is 80 mph plus not very much. He was a 48th-round draft pick of the Cleveland Indians in 2009, and was released after failing to advance past Class A. He signed with the Yankees and was assigned to Class A ball, because he isn't very big and doesn't throw very hard.

But it turns out there are two things that Vidal Nuno does very well. First, he has a tremendous changeup, which one evaluator compared to that of longtime big leaguer Chris Hammond. Second, he throws strikes. Like a machine.

In 2011, he pitched 106 1/3 innings, striking out 100 and walking just 17. In 2012, when he reached Triple-A for the first time, he walked 33 in 138 1/3 innings, with 126 strikeouts. When the Yankees pitched him in spring training this year, he threw strikes.

Nuno has been dominant in the minors so far this season, throwing strikes, and could be on the cusp of a promotion to the big leagues despite his unusual path. In 23 1/3 innings in Triple-A this season, he has allowed just 13 hits, two walks and has 26 strikeouts, with a 1.54 ERA. Even before Nova got hurt, the Yankees had talked about calling him up and giving him a shot, because while he doesn't have Nova's talent, he seems to have a lot that Nova doesn't always have: The consistent ability to pitch to the edges of the strike zone, and confidence.

Matt Harvey is the talk of the early baseball season, because he's got great stuff, he's big, he throws hard, and he looks as though he'll be around for awhile. Anibal Sanchez totally dominated Braves hitters Friday night, with great stuff. Justin Verlander is the best pitcher on the planet, and the best known, because he can throw up to 100 mph.

But not every pitcher is a highly touted prospect, and not every game is won with blue-chippers. Every season is built with smaller bricks, and it could be in this slice of time, Vidal Nuno could be one those guys, which is part of the reason why we love baseball. You just never know.


• Sanchez was really, really special in dominating the Braves on Friday night, setting a record along the way. One of his teammates was wowed, as Tom Gage writes.

At least 17 K in 8 or fewer innings pitched, modern era (Since 1900)

2013 -- Anibal Sanchez, Tigers

2007 -- Johan Santana, Twins

1999 -- Randy Johnson, Diamondbacks

1992 -- Randy Johnson, Mariners

--Source: Elias Sports Bureau

17+ K, 1 BB or fewer and 0 runs allowed, AL pitcher in live ball era

2013 -- Anibal Sanchez, Detroit

2007 -- Johan Santana, Minnesota

1998 -- Roger Clemens, Toronto

1996 -- Roger Clemens, Boston

1971 -- Vida Blue, Oakland

1968 -- Luis Tiant, Cleveland

Most swings-and-misses, single game since 2009

2012 -- Francisco Liriano, Twins, 30 vs. Athletics

2013 -- Anibal Sanchez, Tigers, 27 vs. Braves

2013 -- Yu Darvish, Rangers, 27 vs. Astros

2012 -- CC Sabathia, Yankees, 27 vs. Rays

Sanchez's 17 strikeouts

Fastball -- 6

Curveball -- 1

Slider -- 4

Changeup -- 6

Swinging -- 14

Looking -- 3

Chasing pitches outside strike zone -- 10

Dan Uggla was given a shot in the No. 2 spot in the Atlanta lineup, and it didn't work out: He struck out four times.

Not that Fredi Gonzalez needs my advice, but when Jason Heyward comes back from his appendectomy, this is the lineup I'd use:

RF Heyward

LF Justin Upton

1B Freddie Freeman

3B Chris Johnson

C Brian McCann

CF B.J. Upton

2B Dan Uggla

SS Andrelton Simmons

Heyward is a high on-base percentage guy, and by putting Heyward and Justin Upton at the top of the lineup, you increase the likelihood that each of them would get an extra plate appearance. Hey, there's no point in trying to put someone else in the No. 1 spot if the options are imperfect: Simmons is inexperienced and needs more growth as a hitter, B.J. Upton has never been a leadoff-type hitter because he doesn't have a great on-base percentage, and Uggla is more of a No. 6-7 type hitter at a time when he's not swinging well.

• The Nationals continue to get great starting pitching -- this time, from Jordan Zimmermann.

From Elias: This was the the fifth time since 1900 that a pitcher has thrown a one-hit shutout and another pitcher has struck out 17 in the same day. It's only the third time it has happened since 1909.

The last such instance was on July 9, 1971, when eventual MVP Vida Blue of the Athletics struck out 17 against the Tigers and Steve Renko (a 15-year MLB vet in his third season) pitched a one-hit shutout for the Expos against the Giants.

Consecutive games with one hit or fewer, live ball era (since 1920)

2013 -- Reds (active streak)

2008 -- Astros

1996 -- Tigers

1965 -- Mets

• Brian McCann clubbed a pair of two-run homers in his first rehab game.

Josh Johnson, who has so much on the line this year, was scratched because of an injury. He's OK with his start being skipped, writes Ken Fidlin.

Carlos Ruiz is itching to come back, and he's only a day away.

Dings and dents

1. Matt Adams landed on the disabled list, as Tom Timmerman writes.

2. Sean Marshall was activated.

3. Matt LaPorta is making progress.

4. A couple of White Sox players are hurt, as Phil Rogers writes.

5. Luke Scott got hurt in a rehab game.

6. Mariners prospect Danny Hultzen has a shoulder problem.

7. Mark Ellis left Friday's game.

8. Hanley Ramirez is going to start his rehab assignment today.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. Davey Johnson explained why Anthony Rendon isn't playing.

2. The Mets aren't going to think about sending Ike Davis to the minors any time soon.

3. Jason Bay hit leadoff.

Friday's games

1. Kyle Kendrick was in complete control, as Matt Gelb writes.

2. Carlos Beltran continues to climb the list of all-time home run leaders.

3. Ryan Dempster was The Man for the Red Sox, as John Tomase writes.

From Elias: Ryan Dempster struck out 10 Astros batters in Boston's win Friday, giving him 43 Ks in his first five games for the Red Sox. The only pitcher in team history with more strikeouts than Dempster in his first five games was Pedro Martinez, who had 51 through five games in 1998. It's also Dempster's highest strikeout total over any five-game stretch in his major league career.

4. Wei-Yin Chen shut down Oakland.

5. Anthony Rizzo turned on the power, as Paul Sullivan writes.

From his story:

The Fort Lauderdale native is staying at home this weekend and had between 75 and 100 relatives and friends at Marlins Park. On Thursday, Rizzo went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. He looked at some video Friday, and the small changes seemed to work.

"After (Thursday) it means a lot," Rizzo said. "I had a lot of people here, a lot of friends and family, a lot of people you know are supporting you. It feels good. Last night was a little embarrassing."

6. The Marlins were pummeled again.

7. The losses keep mounting for the Mariners, and this time, Aaron Harang was pulled early.

8. Tim Lincecum threw well, but lost.

9. The Diamondbacks continue to play great defense.

10. Adrian Gonzalez came up big for the Dodgers.

NL East

• Sandy Alderson is not worried about Zack Wheeler, writes John Harper.

• It was reported a few days ago that the front office had dictated the Marlins' rotation alignment in a doubleheader in Colorado, and Jeffrey Loria says it wasn't his call.

• The Braves racked up a whole bunch of strikeouts.

NL Central

• The Pirates had a small horde ejected during Friday's game, as Michael Sanserino writes. Despite what happened, Jonathan Sanchez won't change his style on the mound.

John Axford is willing to wait to get back into the closer's role, writes Tom Haudricourt.

NL West

Troy Tulowitzki is playing a starring role for the Rockies.

Juan Nicasio discovered some velocity, as mentioned within this Troy Renck piece.

Nick Piecoro writes about the development of Archie Bradley.

Tyson Ross might have to adjust his swing.

AL East

Jake Arrieta threw great in Triple-A.

David Ross stepped up.

Dustin Pedroia knows his power will come, writes Peter Abraham.

Edwin Encarnacion hit two more homers, but for the Jays, the losing continues.

AL Central

Luke Hochevar is adapting to his new role, writes Bob Dutton.

• A rookie reliever shook off Joe Mauer and regrets it, writes Mike Berardino. The Twins made some mistakes.

AL West

• The Rangers' rookies continue to shine.

Nelson Cruz is on a hot streak.

• The Astros racked up a lot of strikeouts, again.

• Oakland was shut down again, even after Bob Melvin tweaked the lineup.

Mark Trumbo could get a boost from the new look in the AL West, writes Alden Gonzalez.

Other stuff

• Andre Dawson has some feelings about the Cubs' payroll.

And today will be better than yesterday.