USA TODAY Sports Weekly - - INSIDE - News and notes by Mau­reen Mullen

Bal­ti­more Ori­oles

Cen­ter fielder Cedric Mullins con­tin­ues to give Bal­ti­more hope for the future. Af­ter miss­ing two games be­cause of a sore left hip, he re­turned on Aug. 31 and hit his first ca­reer lead­off homer, then showed off his de­fen­sive skills.

“That game would have been out of hand if he hadn’t made some of the plays he made,” man­ager Buck Showal­ter said. “He was a real bright spot.”

An­drew Cash­ner took the loss in that game, but the righthander also saw Mullins as a rea­son for op­ti­mism.

“It’s nice get­ting a look at that guy,” Cash­ner said. “You hear a lot about these guys com­ing up but don’t re­ally get to see them play. I didn’t get to see Ced that much in the spring, but any­time you can add spring to your team, it changes things.”

❚ An­other rea­son for at least a lit­tle bit of op­ti­mism: In the sec­ond half through Sept. 2, a span of 40 games, Bal­ti­more was first in the Amer­i­can League and third in the ma­jors with a .268 bat­ting av­er­age, first in the AL in hits and fifth in the AL with 57 homers and a .437 slug­ging per­cent­age.

Bos­ton Red Sox

The Red Sox didn’t have a No. 1 catcher even af­ter Chris­tian Vazquez, the open­ing-day starter, was ac­ti­vated al­most two months since be­ing side­lined by a bro­ken fin­ger.

In his ab­sence, Sandy Leon, a ter­rific de­fender, had been the pri­mary catcher but was hit­ting only .111 in the sec­ond half as the week be­gan. Blake Swi­hart was hit­ting .138 when his agent re­quested a trade in May, but he fin­ished July with a .412 bat­ting av­er­age af­ter Vazquez was hurt early in the month. Swi­hart cooled off in Au­gust, how­ever.

Is the job up for grabs? “I think it’s fair, yeah,” man­ager Alex Cora said.

It’s not an ideal time to have a ques­tion mark at such an im­por­tant po­si­tion, but the Red Sox have dealt with this be­fore. Backup David Ross re­placed starter Jar­rod Sal­ta­la­mac­chia dur­ing the 2013 play­offs and helped the Red Sox win the World Se­ries.

❚ Red Sox pitch­ers com­bined to strike out 18 Chicago White Sox bat­ters on Sept. 1, the third time they had struck out 18 or more bat­ters in a nine-in­ning game this sea­son. The other 29 ma­jor league teams had done so four times com­bined.

New York Yan­kees

Aaron Judge said his wrist felt “great” when he swung a bat Sept. 3, but the Yan­kees had no idea how soon he’d be back when they ac­quired An­drew McCutchen from the San Francisco Giants last week to shore up the out­field.

Gen­eral man­ager Brian Cash­man had been in touch with San Francisco for about a week be­fore the trade was done. Giants ex­ec­u­tives wanted to give their club ev­ery chance to get back into con­tention.

“It was a long week, but I’m glad it re­solved the way it did,” Cash­man said.

McCutchen’s only con­cern was how his 9-month-old son, Steel, would re­act to Dad be­ing shorn of his beard, per the Yan­kees’ ban on fa­cial hair. So he held his son as he shaved.

“He stared at me for about five min­utes and touched all over my face,” McCutchen said.

❚ There’s no guar­an­tee closer Aroldis Chap­man (knee) will re­turn be­fore the end of the sea­son. “I don’t know. I can’t tell you I have a level of con­fi­dence or not,” Cash­man said.

Tampa Bay Rays

Some­times a change of scenery is all that’s needed. Maybe it’s also a change of role.

In 34 ap­pear­ances, all in re­lief, with Pitts­burgh this sea­son, right-han­der Tyler Glas­now had a 4.34 ERA. The Rays made him a starter when they ac­quired him at the trade dead­line, and he had a 3.23 ERA in his first six out­ings.

Glas­now said his big-league ex­pe­ri­ence, in­clud­ing his fail­ures, has helped him, but he feels “more ath­letic” work­ing as a start­ing pitcher again.

“I def­i­nitely feel dif­fer­ent than I did in Pitts­burgh, for sure,” he said. “I feel more free out here, and I’m able to be re­laxed and per­form. I think I’ve learned a lot since I’ve been here.”

❚ The Rays went 17-10 in Au­gust, the first time they were more than two games above or be­low .500 for a month since May 2017. It was the sixth-best win­ning per­cent­age in the ma­jors for Au­gust and the third best in team his­tory for that month.

Toronto Blue Jays

Among the rea­sons for Toronto’s dis­mal sea­son has been its pitch­ing, among the worst in the ma­jors in many cat­e­gories. On Sept. 1, Toronto tied a fran­chise record by us­ing its 34th pitcher of the sea­son, and righthander Marco Estrada got roughed up in a loss to the Mar­lins at Miami.

“Our start­ing pitch­ing has been get­ting hit around pretty good the last week to 10 days, putting us be­hind the 8-ball,” man­ager John Gib­bons said. “It’s hard to come back each night.”

Be­sides the prob­lems of Estrada, who is el­i­gi­ble for free agency at the end of the sea­son and is deal­ing with a lin­ger­ing back is­sue, Aaron Sanchez has had what Gib­bons calls “two lost years” be­cause of in­jury and Mar­cus Stro­man is on the dis­abled list be­cause of a blis­ter.

❚ Josh Don­ald­son likely was gone as a free agent af­ter the sea­son, so his trade to Cleve­land on Aug. 31 didn’t have a ma­jor im­pact on Toronto’s future plans for third base. Top prospect Vladimir Guer­rero Jr. is ex­pected to take over next year.

“Our re­cent vis­i­tor has been es­corted out of the ball­park, un­harmed. Though we may bring her back if the score doesn’t change soon.”

Ori­oles’ Twit­ter feed Dur­ing the Aug. 29 game against Toronto re­gard­ing the crit­ter dubbed “The Rally Rac­coon,” which was seen through­out Cam­den Yards dur­ing the team’s home­s­tand. The Ori­oles ral­lied in that game to beat the Blue Jays.


Ori­oles cen­ter fielder Cedric Mullins is con­grat­u­lated in the dugout af­ter hit­ting his first ca­reer lead­off home run Aug. 31.

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