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The Brewers announced today that they have claimed left-hander Michael Kirkman off waivers from the Padres. San Diego had designated Kirkman for assignment earlier in the week after just one appearance. Kirkman, 29, allowed four runs in just an inning and a third in his lone appearance as a Padre. He’d allowed three runs on three hits and no walks with six strikeouts in six innings for San Diego’s Triple-A affiliate this season.

Milwaukee is no stranger to Kirkman, as the left-hander spent a good portion of the 2015 campaign pitching with the Brewers’ Triple-A affiliate in Colorado Springs. Last year, Kirkman posted a 2.81 ERA across 32 innings in that hitter-friendly environment. However, despite an impressive 34 strikeouts in that time, he also issued 28 walks, continuing control problems that have followed him for much of his professional career. Indeed, Kirkman has averaged 5.1 walks per nine innings pitched in his 374 innings at the Triple-A level. His control has been slightly better in an admittedly limited sample at the Major League level, where he has a lifetime 5.25 ERA with 8.6 K/9 against 4.6 BB/9 in 108 innings. The entirety of his Major League experience, aside from this year’s brief cameo in a Padres uniform, has come with the Rangers, who selected him in the fifth round of the 2008 draft.

Tom Haudicourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel tweets that GM David Stearns tells him Kirkman is out of options and will thus join Chris Capuano as a left-handed option in the Brewers’ big league bullpen. A corresponding move has yet to be announced. (Apologies to our readers for previously and incorrectly writing that Kirkman had a minor league option remaining.)

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The Mariners will be without right-hander Tony Zych for four to six weeks due to the rotator cuff tendinitis that landed him on the disabled list earlier this week, reports Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune. When the Mariners originally announced his injury, Zych had yet to have a followup examination back in Seattle. Those tests have now taken place and produced the timeline for which Seattle will be without its quietly excellent setup man. In 30 1/3 innings since being promoted to the Majors last season, Zych has posted a 2.67 ERA, 12.8 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 with a 51.5 percent ground-ball rate. He’s also averaged 95.7 mph on his fastball and has the 14th-best K-BB% among MLB pitchers with a minimum of 30 innings thrown dating back to last season.

  • Athletics designated hitter Billy Butler says he’s been left in the dark somewhat as to his lack of playing time, as Jane Lee of MLB.com writes. Butler was careful not to complain about his diminished role, but he did tell Lee that he’s in unfamiliar territory as a part-time player. “I’ve played every day of my life from when I was 7 years old, so this is something new,” he said. “I don’t even know how to exactly prepare for what I’m supposed to do because I’ve never had to do it, so I just try to treat it like I’ve treated everything else, like I’m a starter.” Butler, though, acknowledged the constant change and roster fluctuation that comes with any 162-game season and said he anticipates eventually being able to get another chance to prove he can still be an everyday bat. While he was initially told he wouldn’t be in a straight platoon, that’s how it’s played out for the most part thus far, resulting in just 38 plate appearances for the former Royals star. Butler is earning $10MM this year and has another $10MM coming his way in 2017 as part of a three-year, $30MM deal signed with Oakland.
  • The Rangers are flush with possibilities when it comes to their outfield alignment, writes Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports in his latest notes column. Texas officials, according to Rosenthal, have discussed the possibility of shifting Ian Desmond to center field (where he’s already seen a bit of time) upon Shin-Soo Choo’s return from the disabled list, which would keep a spot open for impressive rookie Nomar Mazara. That could give the struggling Delino DeShields some time to work in the minors. Looking longer-term than 2016, though, Rosenthal notes that the Rangers have a plethora of outfield options, most notably including Lewis Brinson, as well as a pair of infield prospects in Joey Gallo and Jurickson Profar, that may not have clear-cut places to be placed on the roster. The Rangers, he concludes, are exceptionally well-positioned to make a major play at this summer’s trade deadline if need be.
  • Not that the Angels need any more injuries in their rotation, but there appears to be some form of issue with ace Garrett Richards, as the Orange County Register’s Jeff Fletcher writes in his latest column. Richards left his most recent outing after four innings due to dehydration, and he’s skipped his regularly scheduled bullpen sessions between starts. According to Fletcher, Richards said that he isn’t hurt but also acknowledged that something is a bit off. “I’m still a little fatigued,” said the Halos’ Opening Day starter. “The body is still tired. I’m still trying to bounce back. Everything doesn’t feel as crisp right now.” The Angels are already without C.J. Wilson and Andrew Heaney, and left-hander Tyler Skaggs has also seen his rehab from Tommy John surgery slowed by some biceps tendinitis. Richards, now, is questionable for his scheduled Friday outing.

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While Padres ace Tyson Ross has moved onto the next phase of his rehab from shoulder inflammation and is doing stabilization exercises (with strengthening exercises around the corner), there’s still no timetable for his return, writes MLB.com’s A.J. Cassavell. Ross has yet to resume throwing, and manager Andy Green tells Cassavell that not only is there no timetable for a return to the Majors, there’s not even a timetable for when Ross will pick up a ball. Green somewhat vaguely says that Ross has reported feeling good, but the lack of definitive updates on his return continues to represent an ominous scenario for the Padres.

More from the NL West…

  • The D-backs’ lineup at the big league level is fairly crowded, especially when it comes to positions that could theoretically be manned by prospect Peter O’Brien, but manager Chip Hale said recently in an appearance on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (Twitter link), “If you can swing it as well as Peter has, we’ll find a place for him, if he continues to do this — force our hand.” O’Brien is indeed off to another monstrous start at the Triple-A level, hitting .340 with eight homers through his first 97 plate appearances. Of course, O’Brien has also drawn just one walk against 26 strikeouts, and the matter of where on the diamond he plays is an ongoing conundrum. Formerly a catching prospect, Arizona moved O’Brien from behind the plate early last year due to defensive questions (most notably, he developed a case of the yips even throwing the ball back to the pitcher). He’s seen time at first base and in the outfield corners, but the D-backs have Paul Goldschmidt at first base with David Peralta, Yasmany Tomas and Brandon Drury all serving as corner options. Defense and a lack of walks will continue to be a question for O’Brien, but he’s a .293/.333/.570 hitter with 34 homers in 154 Triple-A games, so the Snakes are understandably intrigued by his bat.
  • D-backs GM Stewart also appeared on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM this week with Jim Bowden and Jim Duquette (audio link) to discuss Shelby Miller’s early struggles. Said Stewart: “Shelby Miller, I think, it’s more really just he’s feeling some pressure of the trade: the players that we traded for him, trying to fit in, I think the whole ordeal has just been different for him leaving St. Louis going to Atlanta. … I think he’s feeling some of the pressure of [Arizona’s expectations to win].” Stewart says he had a conversation with Miller explaining that “there is no pressure here, on him,” instead conveying that Miller need only go out and throw as he has in the past with the Cardinals and Braves. It’s somewhat of a tough sell, in my mind, to cite the players that surrendered for Miller as a source of pressure, considering he was recently flipped for Jason Heyward. And, coming up through a competitive Cardinals organization, expectations of winning aren’t a new phenomenon for Miller, either. The 25-year-old has struggled to an 8.49 ERA with as many walks (19) as strikeouts through 23 1/3 innings this year.
  • Early struggles from Matt Cain and Jake Peavy (who tied a career-worst by allowing four homers in his most recent start) have many Giants fans wondering about Tim Lincecum, but manager Bruce Bochy has continued to stand behind his struggling starters, writes Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News. Bochy reiterated on Wednesday what GM Bobby Evans said earlier in the week: the club has interest in Lincecum in a relief role — more specifically, a long relief role, per Bochy. Lincecum seems intent on attempting to break back into a rotation, though, making a reunion with the Giants difficult to envision. And, as Baggarly notes, Lincecum wouldn’t even be ready to join the rotation immediately, so he doesn’t represent a short-term fix for San Francisco’s ills. Moreover, it remains to be seen if Lincecum is even capable of performing as a quality big league starter on the heels of September hip surgery. While it wouldn’t take much to outperform Peavy (9.00 ERA, 4.96 FIP, 4.72 xFIP in 29 innings) or Cain (7.00 ERA, 4.66 FIP, 4.79 xFIP in 27 innings), I’d imagine that the Giants would want a more definitive upgrade were they to unseat one of their current starters with an external option.

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The Braves have gotten off to the worst start in baseball (7-20 record with a -54 run differential), and the club’s dismal performance has led Atlanta officials to discuss the possibility of dismissing manager Fredi Gonzalez, reports MLB.com’s Mark Bowman. Were Gonzalez to be fired, the Braves would likely turn to bullpen coach Eddie Perez, at least on an interim basis, Bowman adds.

Of course, as Bowman notes, it’s more than fair to wonder whether any manager could have navigated this roster to a respectable performance. The Braves never fancied themselves contenders in the NL East heading into the 2016 season, but the front office stressed over the winter that it felt the team would improve upon the club’s 67 wins in 2015. Instead, the Braves have seen astonishingly poor performances from a number of players, including infielders Erick Aybar, Jace Peterson (who was recently demoted to Triple-A) and Adonis Garcia. Catcher A.J. Pierzynski has also been among the league’s least-productive hitters, and veteran relievers Jim Johnson, Eric O’Flaherty and Jason Grilli are each sporting ERAs of 5.40 or worse. Gonzalez, of course, can’t be faulted for the fact that Ender Inciarte has played just three games this season, while Daniel Winkler will miss the year following an elbow fracture. Hector Olivera, whom the front office had been counting on to take a step forward, is currently in limbo as the league investigates him in connection with some truly troubling domestic violence allegations.

Then again, a team’s manager is often the first to take the fall when a club underperforms. Such was the case around this time last year when the Brewers fired Ron Roenicke and the Marlins parted ways with Mike Redmond. There’s been some recent buzz about future managerial candidates in Atlanta, with FOX’s Ken Rosenthal writing last week that it was “difficult to imagine” Gonzalez surviving this eight-game road trip, and USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweeting just yesterday that Bud Black was a strong candidate to manage the team in 2017. That type of talk from well-reputed reporters isn’t often pulled out of thin air, so the discussions among the Atlanta brass have likely been ongoing for a fair amount of time.

Bowman writes that “all indications” point to Gonzalez entering this weekend’s upcoming series in Arizona as the club’s skipper, and recent wins over the Cubs, Red Sox and Mets have helped his case to some extent. Atlanta’s best player, first baseman Freddie Freeman, voiced support for Gonzalez when speaking to Bowman and said that the blame should be placed on the players, not the manager. “We’re the 25 guys [who have to] go out there and play every day,” said Freeman. “We’re obviously not playing to our capabilities. To say that’s Fredi’s fault is unfair in my opinion.” As Bowman notes, there’s an argument to be made that with the Braves’ rotation only just now coming together — Julio Teheran, Jhoulys Chacin, Aaron Blair and Matt Wisler have all delivered fairly encouraging results recently — and Inciarte just now returning, Gonzalez should be given a lengthier look.

The 52-year-old Gonzalez has served as Atlanta’s manager since 2011, and the team is a combined 432-405 during that time even in spite of the woeful results from 2015-16. Gonzalez’s Braves posted winning records for his first three seasons as skipper and won the NL East in 2014, but there’s been a growing number of Atlanta fans calling for change since a late collapse in 2014. That year, the Braves got off to a 52-43 start before limping to a 27-40 record following the All-Star break. Overall, the team is just 101-155 dating back to the second half of that 2014 campaign.

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A few notes from MLB’s Central divisions as the majority of tonight’s games come to a close…

  • Cardinals right-hander Carlos Martinez will not be investigated by the league in connection to the civil lawsuit that has reportedly been filed against him by a Florida woman, reports ESPN’s Mark Saxon. Per Saxon’s source, Martinez’s case falls outside of the domestic violence policy’s jurisdiction, and beyond that, no police report was ever filed in connection with the matter. Martinez tells Saxon that he doesn’t consider the issue to be a distraction, noting that it’ll be handled by his agent and his lawyer.
  • On the heels of a recent Ken Rosenthal report pertaining to Ryan Braun’s potential trade candidacy, Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron speculates on a handful of clubs that could make sense as a trade partner for the Brewers. The Red Sox, White Sox and Nationals, Cameron opines, are the three best fits for Braun, though there are reasons that each club would struggle to fit Braun into the books and onto the roster. Cameron makes a reasonable case for each team, noting that Braun would deepen Boston’s bench by pushing Brock Holt to a super-utility role, and he’d be an upgrade in Chicago as well, where Avisail Garcia is effectively a replacement-level placeholder on a win-now club. Cameron concedes that the Nationals are somewhat of a stretch, but it’s hard to argue with Braun serving as an upgrade over Jayson Werth and/or Ryan Zimmerman, and pairing him with Bryce Harper in the middle of the lineup would give the Nats an imposing middle of the order duo.
  • The Pirates announced earlier this week that top catching prospect Elias Diaz would undergo surgery on his right elbow, but there were no further details and no timeline provided by the club. MLB.com’s Adam Berry adds some context to the report, tweeting that Diaz underwent a debridement of his throwing elbow and is currently expected to miss seven to nine weeks while recovering from the injury. While that’s still bad news for the organization, it’s fortuitous that Diaz’s ulnar collateral ligament remained intact and that he seemingly has a strong chance of returning before the 2016 season comes to a close.
  • The Twins got a first-hand look at Luke Gregerson as he closed out an Astros win over them last night, but Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports that Minnesota wasn’t far off from seeing quite a bit more of Gregerson. The right-hander tells Berardino that the Twins pursued him heavily as a free agent in the 2014-15 offseason prior to his signing with Houston. Gregerson, of course, wouldn’t comment on the specifics of Minnesota’s offer, but he did tell Berardino that the Twins came “pretty close” to Houston’s offer of $18.5MM over a three-year term. The tipping point for Gregerson, it would seem, may have been Houston’s willingness to let him serve as the team’s closer, which he said made their offer “hard to pass up.” Said Gregerson: “I think if the situation was a little different, I think it would have definitely been able to work out. I’m happy where I ended up.”

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MLB Network’s Jon Heyman (Facebook link) and Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports each interviewed Tim Lincecum in advance of his upcoming showcase on Friday. Heyman writes that once the date for Lincecum’s showcase was announced earlier this week, executives from 23 Major League clubs reached out to Lincecum’s representatives to get details on the event. Heyman spoke to both Lincecum and his father, Chris, and inquired about the lengthy delay from the original target date of late January to early May. “I wanted to feel right and feel confident in it,” said Lincecum to Heyman. “And that’s where I’m at right now.”

The two-time NL Cy Young winner explained to Passan that the uncertainty surrounding his hip prior to undergoing surgery was unfamiliar territory after he felt “invincible” on the mound earlier in his career. “Now I kind of have an idea of the tools I get to work with and how to stay within myself and at the same time be dynamic,” said Lincecum to Passan. “I want to be explosive with certain parts of the body and not be apprehensive. It has taken time to get there.” Passan outlines Lincecum’s current workout regime, and Lincecum makes it clear to the Yahoo scribe that he is set on joining a rotation at this time. Heyman, meanwhile,  lists an extensive number of clubs that will attend the workout, including the Giants, Dodgers, A’s, Rangers, Cubs, White Sox, Padres, Orioles, Nationals and Marlins. Additionally, the Pirates will have talent evaluators in attendance for Lincecum’s showcase on Friday, Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review tweets. And, notably, Heyman adds that the Yankees aren’t expected to be in attendance.

A few more notes on the free agent market…

  • Left-hander Joe Beimel will audition for clubs this week as well after changing representation and hiring Frye McCann Sports, reports ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick (via Twitter). Though he just turned 39 years of age, the well-traveled southpaw has been a quality contributor to the Mariners in each of the past two seasons, turning in 92 1/3 innings of 3.12 ERA, although his 47-to-30 K/BB ratio and 4.84 FIP in that time paint a less favorable picture. That said, Beimel has held opposing lefties to a rather feeble .226/.281/.381 batting line in those two seasons, so clubs in need of some left-handed relief depth could consider him to be worth a look.
  • Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets that 29-year-old Cuban infielder Ramon Lunar has been declared a free agent by Major League Baseball. Lunar, who has played primarily first base since 2011 but also was originally a third baseman and has some limited experience in left field, is currently playing with Los Tigres de Quintana Roo in the Mexican League. He’s a career .313/.414/.489 hitter in parts of seven seasons in Cuba’s Serie Nacional, and he’s collected 10 plate appearances in Mexico thus far in 2016. Lunar has been absent from rankings of the top Cuban free agents on lists published by the likes of Baseball America and MLB.com, though as a player in his prime years that has shown a bit of pop, he could certainly garner some interest from big league clubs. Lunar is exempt from international bonus pools.
  • The Twins have had top international scout Fred Guerrero watching Cuban free agent Jose Miguel Fernandez in the past two days, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN. Fernandez, a second baseman/third baseman known for minimal strikeout rates and strong on-base skills, is considered one of the top Cuban players on the market and is believed capable of stepping into a big league lineup in the very near future. It’s not clear how he’d fit with the Twins, so perhaps Minnesota is merely performing due diligence. It should be noted, too, that Fernandez hosted a showcase for clubs from May 2-3, and Wolfson notes that there were “many” scouts in attendance for the 28-year-old’s audition. Fernandez, like Lunar, is exempt from international bonus pools due to his age and the extent of his pro experience in Cuba.

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