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.
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
Not that Fredi Gonzalez needs my advice, but when Jason Heyward comes back from his appendectomy, this is the lineup I'd use:
LF Justin Upton
CF B.J. Upton
2B Dan Uggla
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.
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.
Dings and dents
4. A couple of White Sox players are hurt, as Phil Rogers writes.
6. Mariners prospect Danny Hultzen has a shoulder problem.
Moves, deals and decisions
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.
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.
9. The Diamondbacks continue to play great defense.
• 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.
• Nick Piecoro writes about the development of Archie Bradley.
• The Rangers' rookies continue to shine.
• The Astros racked up a lot of strikeouts, again.
• Andre Dawson has some feelings about the Cubs' payroll.
And today will be better than yesterday.