The Daily Bender: April 24 Cover Image
The Daily Bender: April 24
Howard Bender
Steve Pimental
Stack the Deck: April 24 Cover Image
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Gerald McCoy Headshot

McCoy is determined to take his fourth-quarter production up a notch in 2017 following conversations with several fellow Pro Bowlers last January, Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times reports. "It hit home to the point where I re-evaluated myself, my whole career, up to this point,'' McCoy said. "The gist of what it is, is I haven't done enough to lead this team. Simple as that. If this team goes to the next level, as much as you need a franchise quarterback and those things are great, this organization, this team to win a Super Bowl was built on defense. That guy in the middle is what makes everything roll."

McCoy described his conversations with the unnamed players as a "reality check" as to what his impact, or lack thereof, had been in crunch time over the last few seasons. The multi-time Pro Bowler came to the conclusion that despite the well-deserved accolades he's received throughout his first eight campaigns, not enough of his sacks have come in the fourth quarter. In fact, only 31 percent of his 42.5 career quarterback takedowns have come in the final 15 minutes of contests, and a majority of those have occurred with the outcome of the game already decided. Last season, McCoy managed just two sacks in the final quarter of games overall, and he failed to notch any QB traps in the last four games altogether, a key stretch when the Bucs were in the midst of a playoff push that ultimately fell short. Motivated by the realization that he has plenty of room for improvement in key moments, the 29-year-old has already vowed to make the 2017 campaign a turning point in that regard. "My approach to everything will be different. The media. My workouts. Practice. The meeting room. Games. Something has to change...I was just always taught when more than one person is saying the same thing, there's got to be some truth to it.''
7:56 am (EST)
Steven Souza Jr. Headshot

Souza won the American League Player of the Week award Monday, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports.

The slugger enjoyed a momentous stretch between April 17 and 23 when he posted a quartet of multi-hit games, two doubles, a triple, two home runs, nine RBI and six runs. Souza has taken his game up a notch across the board thus far this season, slashing .333/.416/.590 over his first 90 plate appearances.
7:36 am (EST)
Adam Jones Headshot

Jones went 3-for-3 with a two-run blast and one walk in Tuesday's come-from-behind victory over the Rays.

The outfielder's two-run shot, his fourth of the year, in the seventh inning off Chris Archer capped the comeback and put the O's ahead for good. Jones, who entered the contest just 4-for-32 with no extra-base hits against Archer, also doubled off the Rays' ace in the fourth inning as part of his perfect night at the plate. Though the 31-year-old's batting average sits at .250, Jones has been a constant producer early in the 2017 campaign. He's hit safely in 16 of 18 games this year -- currently riding a seven-game streak -- and has scored a run in five straight contests.
7:34 am (EST)
Russell Martin Headshot

Martin went 2-for-3 with a solo home run and a walk in Tuesday's loss to the Angels.

Overshadowed by the Jays surprisingly awful start to the year, Martin has quietly began putting up helpful numbers. He's crossed the plate in five straight games and now leads all MLB catchers with nine runs scored. After beginning the campaign 1-for-24, the catcher has slashed .316/.435/.632 over his last five games with a pair of homers.
7:23 am (EST)
Matt Strahm Headshot

Strahm allowed a hit and struck out one in an inning of work Monday against the White Sox.

Since returning from an early-season demotion, the Royals' top prospect has produced better results. Before being sent down, Strahm gave up seven runs on four hits and six walks with no strikeouts over 1.1 innings. Through the same amount of work in round two, the left-hander's surrendered no runs on just one hit and zero walks while notching his first strikeout of the year. The team would prefer Strahm get MLB experience rather than push him back down to the minors, but the 25-year-old will need to continue providing quality appearances in relief in order to stick around.
7:14 am (EST)
Jorge Alfaro Headshot

Alfaro is hitting .357/.379/.554 with two home runs and a stolen base in 56 at-bats for Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

Alfaro's on-base percentage is being fueled by all the hits that are falling for him as he has just one walk thus far. He is also striking out at a slightly higher rate than at Double-A Reading last season, so expect his early BABIP-fueled average to fall in the coming months. The Phillies are expected to keep Alfaro at Triple-A for most, if not all, of this season. He will be out of options after this year, so he will need to be ready for at least a backup role in the majors next season.
6:23 am (EST)
Aaron Nola Headshot

GM Matt Klentak said Nola (back) will likely miss only one or two starts, Corey Seidman of CSN Philadelphia reports.

Nola experienced lower back soreness during his start Thursday against the Mets. He received treatment, but felt tightness in side session Sunday. He is eligible to return from the disabled list May 1. Nick Pivetta is expected to take Nola's spot in the rotation while he is sidelined.
5:45 am (EST)
Fernando Rodney Headshot

Rodney pitched a perfect ninth inning while striking out a batter to earn his sixth save in as many tries in Monday's 7-6 win over San Diego.

It hasn't been all roses for Rodney; he has a 6.48 ERA and has given up six earned runs in 8.1 innings pitched. The good news, though, is that he's yet to blow a save for Arizona when it matters. The five walks he's allowed show that he often pitches with runners on base and is prone to a blowup outing often. The 40-year-old has a perfect slate for saves now, but it's unlikely to last as a low-end fantasy closer.
1:58 am (EST)
Zack Greinke Headshot

Greinke (2-2) allowed one run on six hits while walking none and striking out 11 over six innings in Monday's 7-6 win over the Padres.

Greinke threw 97 pitches in the outing and lowered his ERA on the year to 2.93 in his fifth start. Not surprisingly, the right-hander has allowed just two runs in 14 innings to the Padres in his two starts against them in 2017. In 30.2 innings so far this year, Greinke has struck out 31 and walked just six. Another good sign that he'll bounce back in 2017 is the fact he's allowed just two long balls.
1:53 am (EST)
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