In the midst of July, ballparks across the nation are usually filled with baseball lovers sweating through the summer heat to watch the excitement between the base paths. Unfortunately, the only fans you'll see in the stands this season will be made out of cardboard.
But this week, Major League Baseball will make its long-awaited return. With the season being reduced from 162 to 60 games, teams that might not otherwise have a chance could make a run at success in a shortened campaign.
While many organizations are filled with Tar Heels, only a select few will be able to make a large impact in the coming months. Here is a look at how some former members of the North Carolina baseball team could help their teams in the weeks to come.
By now, the formula should be easy for executives to identify — if their team wants to make the postseason, acquiring Andrew Miller is a good place to start.
Since 2014, Miller’s teams have been to the playoffs every year, partially attributed to Miller’s contributions as a bullpen stalwart.
When the lights are the brightest, Miller elevates his game to another level. Throughout his postseason career, Miller’s ERA sits at a dominant 0.95, posting 54 strikeouts in 38 innings. Despite having some struggles in the 2019 regular season, Miller was still dependable in the playoffs, giving up only one hit in five innings with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Later this week, Miller and the Cardinals will begin their attempt to get back to the National League Championship Series and repeat as NL Central division champions, the latter being a feat the team is favored to accomplish.
Since making his Major League debut in 2011, Kyle Seager has been a constant presence for the Seattle Mariners.
Following a seven-year stretch in which he played in no fewer than 150 games per year, Seager had an injury-riddled 2019 season, but still turned in an impressive 23 home runs in 106 games. Over the course of his career, he has shown a solid amount of pop in his bat, posting multiple years with 25-plus home runs and 80-plus RBIs.
Now fully healthy, he will look to mentor a young Mariners team that has not reached the postseason since 2001. Although the odds are not in their favor, his role in helping his teammates develop will be invaluable to the franchise moving forward.
After being a member of the Houston Astros’ 40-man roster when they won the 2017 World Series, Colin Moran was sent to Pittsburgh in a trade package that landed the Astros ace pitcher Gerrit Cole. On the Pirates, the former sixth overall pick in 2013 has developed into a solid major league player.
Since becoming a full-time starter in 2018, Moran has been a steady piece in the Pirates’ lineup, posting a .277 batting average in each of the last two seasons. Last year, Moran drove in 80 runs, ranking third on the team.
Although the Pirates aren’t expected to be in contention, the shortened schedule has given the team some hope for a surprising season. With a loaded division including the Milwaukee Brewers, Chicago Cubs and the Cardinals, Moran in the Pirates will have their work cut out for them, even in with the 60-game schedule.
Ten years ago, it looked like Daniel Bard was headed for stardom.
Appearing in 143 games as a relief pitcher for the Boston Red Sox throughout 2010 and 2011, Bard became one of the better relievers in baseball, posting a 1.93 ERA in 2010 and followed it up posting an impressive 0.959 WHIP in 2011.
His career began to unravel once manager Bobby Valentine pegged him as a starting pitcher early in the 2012 campaign. In his new role, Bard developed the yips — a psychological performance issue that can make it difficult to even play catch — and struggled to throw strikes and control his mechanics. Just two relief appearances into 2013, the Red Sox parted ways with Bard, and he hasn’t been in the majors since. After bouncing around with a number of minor league teams, Bard retired in 2018.
In February, Bard got the itch to play again, and he signed a minor league deal with the Colorado Rockies. After impressing the team in its summer camp, Bard was rewarded with an Opening Day roster spot.
Now 35 years old, Bard will have the chance to rewrite his legacy in the Mile High City. The Rockies are not favored to make the postseason, but with Nolan Arenado — one of the game’s best players — on the roster, Bard and the Rockies could muster up some magic at Coors Field.