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MLB Week 8: A Look Ahead at Key Storylines and Matchups

Jurickson Profar
Jurickson Profar

Mar 11, 2013; Surprise, AZ, USA; Texas Rangers shortstop Jurickson Profar (13) at bat during the fifth inning against the San Francisco Giants at Surprise Stadium. Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

As Sunday turns into Monday, a new Major League Baseball week gets underway. This one includes the calling up of the game’s top prospect, the comebacks of two of top NL starting pitchers, some important divisional series, and a manager’s return to the place where he spent a very successful near-decade.

Profar Promotion – Highly-regarded infield prospect Jurickson Profar will be up with the Texas Rangers this week. Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler was placed on the DL on Sunday with a strain in his ribs and Profar will fill in for him. The 20-year-old was the subject of many trade rumors in the offseason, but the Rangers had no intentions of trading their top prospect. This season in AAA, Profar is hitting .278 with foue home runs, 19 RBI, and six steals. He also made it into seven games with Texas last season, managing three hits in 17 at bats, with one of those a home run. Even if he doesn’t perform extremely well during this stint, he is still the future of the Texas infield, so get used to seeing him there.

Star Pitchers Return – Two of the best pitchers in the NL Central will make returns to their rotations this week after missing time due to injury. The Reds’ Johnny Cueto and Cubs’ Matt Garza are both set to start early this week. Cueto has been out since April 15th with a strained muscle in his right arm. In his first three starts, he was 1-0 with a 2.60 ERA and had a 1.12 ERA in 8 innings during his two recent rehab appearances in Single-A. He’ll start on Monday against the Mets. Cueto’s return also means star rookie Tony Cingrani will head back down to AAA to make room for him on the roster.

Garza, meanwhile, hasn’t pitched in the majors since last July. He was placed on the 60-day DL last season with a stress reaction in his right elbow. Then, during spring training, he strained his left lat. But, now, he’s shown he’s ready to return. In two Triple-A rehab starts, he pitched 9.1 innings, gave up just one run, and had nine strikeouts. He’ll head out to the mound in Pittsburgh on Tuesday.

Intra-Division Series – There are several interesting matchups of divisional rivals across baseball this week, but the most intriguing one comes from the AL Central. In a break from the recent norm, it’s the Indians who are looking down at everyone else. They’ll host the second-place Tigers for a brief two-game series. On Tuesday, Corey Kluber (3-2, 5.40) will face off against Max Scherzer (5-0, 3.98) and, on Wednesday, it will be Ubaldo Jimenez (3-2, 5.31) taking on Justin Verlander (4-4, 3.17). With a sweep, the Tigers could put themselves back atop the Central. In other series between contending division rivals, Arizona visits Colorado for 3, Oakland goes to Texas for 3, the Yankees host the Orioles for 3, and the Rockies head to San Francisco for 3.

Francona Returns to Fenway – For the first time since parting ways with the Red Sox following the 2011 season, Terry Francona will manage at Fenway Park again. This time, it will be for his Cleveland Indians when they visit Boston from Thursday through Sunday. It won’t mark Francona’s first return to Yawkey Way since leaving the Red Sox as he did some work there for ESPN during the 2012 season and also participated in Fenway Park’s 100th anniversary ceremony. But this will be the first time he’ll be in the third base dugout in the stadium where he’s had his best managerial success.

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