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Royals outfielder Jorge Soler will miss at least six weeks after breaking a bone in his left foot while leaving the batter’s box in Kansas City’s series opener against Houston.

Soler had provided some much-needed punch to a struggling Kansas City offense Jessie Bates III Color Rush Jersey , batting .265 with nine homers and 28 RBIs. He has been especially crucial while fellow outfielder Jorge Bonifacio finishes off his 80-game suspension for testing positive for a banned substance.

The Royals’ Triple-A affiliate in Omaha is on a West Coast trip, making it impossible to get anybody to the ballpark in time for Saturday afternoon’s game against the Astros. The Royals will place Soler on the disabled list and make a corresponding roster move before Sunday’s series finale.

”It’s very tough. He was very disappointed, very upset last night,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. ”He knew something was wrong. He was putting together a really, really good, solid year where he’s getting a chance to play every day and was doing some nice things.”

Soler’s injury occurred in the seventh inning of the Royals’ 7-3 loss on Friday night. He stumbled out of the batters’ box and crumpled to the ground before limping to the dugout, and an X-ray revealed a fracture in the first metatarsal on his left foot, just behind the big toe.

Yost said a CT scan showed the break isn’t big enough to warrant surgery at this time, but Soler will be evaluated again in about 10 days to determine the next course of treatment.

Also Saturday, Yost said Lucas Duda will begin his rehab assignment Sunday with Omaha. The first baseman has been out since May 14 with plantar fasciitis in his right foot.

Bonifacio could be ready to rejoin the club on July 1.

Over five seasons as ace of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Gerrit Cole threw one of the game’s hardest, heaviest fastballs, and he threw it often. The pitch helped him make millions of dollars. It put him in contention for major awards. Hitters swung through it again and again Mike White Color Rush Jersey , and Cole seemed content not to mess with a good thing.

But when Cole was traded to the Houston Astros this offseason, a funny thing happened. He became more frugal with his fastball and ended up more overpowering than ever.

Cole has joined some of the game’s best pitchers – including Cleveland’s Corey Kluber and the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw – in benefiting from a puzzling baseball paradox: In an era when pitchers are throwing harder than ever, they’re maximizing success by using fewer fastballs.

Pitchers – even ones with blazing fastballs like Luis Severino and Chris Archer – are using more offspeed than ever recorded, and while many aces think the downturn is a trend, some believe baseball could be entering a new age dominated not by 100 mph heaters, but by a steady stream of breaking balls and changeups.

So why is the hardest-throwing generation of pitchers ever going the way of the junk-baller?

Depends who you ask, but one culprit stands out to Cole, Kluber and Kershaw: baseball’s swing-changing batters.

”You can call it launch angle, or you can call it the upper cuts,” Cole said. ”There are a lot of swings that are dictating breaking balls.”

Cole’s move away from a fastball-first approach is striking given the reputation of his hardest pitch. He topped out at 99 mph as an ace at UCLA, and his fastball was the headliner on a resume that earned him an $8 million signing bonus as the first overall draft pick in 2011 by Pittsburgh. Under the guidance of Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage, Cole pounded the bottom of the strike zone with that heater, and for years Leighton Vander Esch Color Rush Jersey , it worked. He was an All-Star and finished fourth in NL Cy Young Award voting in 2015, and was considered among the game’s most overpowering starting pitchers.

Then baseball’s flyball revolution took flight – a movement of hitters using upper-cut swings designed to crush exactly the kinds of sinking fastballs Cole was delivering. After never allowing more than 11 home runs in a season, Cole was tagged for 31 last year.

So it was time to change things up.

From 2013-17, Cole threw his fastball 65 percent of the time – well above the league average. But this year, he’s cut that fastball rate by about 10 points, replacing those heaters with sliders and curveballs. The new look is working. Cole is 8-1 with a 2.59 ERA through 15 starts and leads the American League with 138 strikeouts.

”I think you’re just continually trying to mess timing up, especially when guys are trying to slug,” Cole said. ”When they’re trying to hit it out of the park every time, you have an easier time changing speeds.”

Kluber and Kershaw have made similar adjustments in the past couple years. Both Cy Young winners rank among the league leaders in fewest fastballs thrown this season.

”Guys are geared up to swing for a fastball,” Kluber said. ”I guess it’s almost rare now to see somebody actually, like, go the other way with the breaking ball.”

Kluber has set a career low with a fastball rate of 41.8 percent this season. Same for Kershaw, who has dropped from a 72-percent fastball clip in 2010 all the way to 42.8 percent in an injury-hampered 2018.

”The hitters tell you what you need to do Royce Freeman Color Rush Jersey ,” Kershaw said. ”And for me, I guess it’s been throwing a lot more breaking balls.”

Cole, Kluber and Kershaw suspect the tide will turn back, perhaps soon, once hitters recalibrate to the number of four-seam fastballs pitchers are throwing up in the strike zone.

But Trevor Bauer, Kluber’s analytically-minded teammate in Cleveland, thinks the offspeed uptick is only going to spread.

Two years ago, Bauer and Indians closer Cody Allen watched as 6-foot-8 Yankees fireballer Dellin Betances carved up Cleveland’s hitters with a fastball that averaged 98 mph. Allen – no slouch himself with a fastball around 94 mph – told Bauer that if he could throw hard like Betances, he wouldn’t even bother with a breaking ball.

”No,” Bauer recalled telling Allen. ”He should never throw a fastball.”

Bauer’s theory is that the threat of a 100 mph fastball might be more dangerous to hitters than the fastballs themselves.

”As guys throw harder, guys have less and less time to hit that offering,” Bauer said. ”So they have to speed up in order to catch up to it, which J'Mon Moore Color Rush Jersey , that makes the breaking ball more effective.”

Hitters are left picking between two nasty poisons – risk being behind on triple-digit fastballs, or jeopardize taking ugly swings on breaking pitches as they dart out of the strike zone.

Veteran slugger Todd Frazier was with the Yankees last year when New York’s hard-throwing bullpen led by Betances, Aroldis Chapman and Chad Green overpowered hitters while also posting the lowest fastball rate in the majors.

”I have to set my feet for 98 mph, and understand I might get 84-88 mph slider,” said Frazier, now with the New York Mets. ”It makes it tougher on you.”

And yet, Frazier and his fellow hitters aren’t close to jumping off their fastball-first approach.

”The baseline of hitting is the fastball,” Mets teammate Jay Bruce said. ”You have to stay on the fastball. For me personally, that’s what my timing of th

 

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