Orioles closer Zach Britton has turned in a season to remember, and it’s not all that surprising given his recent excellence. Still, it wasn’t long ago that such a showing seemed highly improbable, as Danny Knobler of Bleacher Report writes. Britton was no lock to make the O’s roster out of camp in 2014, but the refinement of his unbelievable power sinker that year has turned the southpaw into arguably the game’s most dominant reliever. Knobler takes an interesting look at Britton’s transformation as a pitcher, as well as his earlier path toward the majors.

Here are a few more stray notes from around the game:

  • Nationals star Bryce Harper suffered a thumb injury that caused some concern, but manager Dusty Baker said tonight that X-rays were negative, as Dan Kolko of MASNsports.com reports (Twitter links). Washington is suddenly facing a variety of significant health concerns as it readies for the NLDS, though at least in Harper’s case the prognosis seems promising. Catcher Wilson Ramos is a new concern after leaving tonight’s game following a play at the plate. He’s due for an MRI tomorrow, the results of which could have huge implications for both the team and his coming run through free agency.
  • Burgeoning Astros infielder Alex Bregman could be back sooner than expected after a “leap forward” in his recovery from a hamstring strain, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports. Indeed, he could appear as soon as this week. While the timetable isn’t quite as promising for righty Lance McCullers Jr., he might be ready to go for the postseason if Houston can sneak in. Meanwhile, there’s said to be little chance that outfielder Colby Rasmus will return to uniform before qualifying for free agency.
  • It’s possible that Red Sox deadline addition Fernando Abad won’t even crack the team’s postseason roster, as Evan Drellich of the Boston Herald reports. The veteran southpaw has largely been quite good against opposing lefties since coming to Boston, but he has still coughed nine earned runs with a dozen strikeouts and eight walks in his 12 2/3 innings of work. Though nothing has been decided, manager John Farrell did acknowledge that the club is assessing both Abad and rookie lefty Robby Scott for the postseason pen. Scott, 27, has just six MLB appearances on his ledger, though he has yet to allow a run.

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The Nationals are holding their collective breath after seeing Wilson Ramos land awkwardly on a play at the plate. The big catcher was helped off of the field with an apparent right leg injury.

It’s far too soon to know whether the injury is a serious one, but it comes at an awful time for player and team. Washington is preparing for a postseason run in early October, while Ramos is not only playing to help the team but also to set up his free agent market after the year.

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Diamondbacks righty Rubby De La Rosa will receive a stem cell injection tomorrow, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports on Twitter. The hope is that the treatment will allow him to stave off what would be a second Tommy John procedure.

De La Rosa’s rehab has been something of a rollercoaster: he was able to return briefly, then seemed destined to be shut down, and then seemed like he might be headed back to the major league mound by the end of the season. Now, the situation seems a fair bit more dire than had previously been suggested.

Stem cell and other alternatives to surgery have increasingly been utilized by pitchers hoping to reinforce, rather than replace, their ulnar collateral ligaments. The risk of a TJ procedure failing to produce the desired results is heightened significantly in the case of a second trip under the knife, so the stakes are high in De La Rosa’s case.

Given the timing, a TJ procedure in the near-term would clearly keep De La Rosa out for all of 2017. Second-time UCL replacement recipients tend to take longer to make it all the way back, though he’d at least be reasonably likely to make it back for ’18.

De La Rosa is due a raise — though it won’t be a large one — on his $2.35MM arbitration salary. He’s set for free agency before the start of the 2019 campaign, so the next two campaigns are the final ones of team control for Arizona.

All said, then, there’s a lot riding on De La Rosa’s ability to return. Over his 50 2/3 innings this year, he worked to a useful 4.26 ERA and also showed quite a bit of promise with a rising 9.6 K/9. That makes De La Rosa a critical part of the D-Backs’ rotation picture.

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Yankees Outright J.R. Graham

Posted: September 26, 2016 in Uncategorized
Tags: ,

The Yankees announced this afternoon that they’ve outrighted reliever J.R. Graham to Triple-A, thus removing the 26-year-old right-hander from the 40-man roster.

New York claimed Graham off waivers from the Twins earlier this year after Minnesota designated the 2014 Rule 5 Draft pick for assignment. Graham stuck in the Twins’ bullpen all throughout the 2015 campaign, with manager Paul Molitor typically reserving him for low-leverage situations. Graham wound up logging 63 2/3 innings of 4.95 ERA ball and averaged 7.5 K/9 against 3.0 BB/9 to go along with a 49 percent ground-ball rate. However, he was also quite homer-prone in his rookie campaign and struggled to strand runners. The former Braves top prospect tossed just 1 2/3 innings in the Majors this season and spent the majority of the year with the Yankees’ Double-A affiliate. All told, he logged a 3.27 ERA with 9.6 K/9 against 3.3 BB/9 in 44 innings across three minor league levels.

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As baseball mourns the untimely loss of one of its brightest lights, 24-year-old pitcher Jose Fernandez, the Marlins will retire the number 16 in his honor, owner Jeffrey Loria told reporters including Craig Davis of the Sun-Sentinel (Twitter link).

Sep 29, 2015; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez (16) smiles in the dugout against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

That’s certainly just one of the many tributes that will continue to be unveiled over the coming days and long into the future. The Marlins cancelled yesterday’s scheduled game, and all the team’s players will wear Fernandez’s #16 in tonight’s ballgame at Marlins Park.

Most anyone with even a passing interest in baseball is familiar with Fernandez’s pitching greatness, personal vivacity, and remarkable path to the United States and Major League Baseball. It remains difficult to accept that he is gone.

In trying to come to terms with Fernandez’s death, we would do well to remember how he lived. His joy seemed to outweigh his talent, and that is truly saying something. Many wise and good words have already been written on this somber matter, but I would recommend in particular this touching piece from Dave Cameron of Fangraphs, which well explains why Fernandez’s tragic passing represents such a singular loss.

RIP, Jose.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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With many needs to address, the White Sox added players Todd Frazier, Brett Lawrie, and others during the 2015-16 offseason.  However, the Sox again failed to reach a .500 record, which they last achieved in 2012.  They’re the next non-contending club up in MLBTR’s Three Needs series.

 1.  Put loyalty aside and install the best possible front office and manager.  Kenny Williams has been a part of Chicago’s front office since current shortstop Tim Anderson was a toddler, and Rick Hahn joined the organization more than 15 years ago.  The current arrangement, with Williams serving as Executive Vice President and Hahn as Senior Vice President/General Manager, has been in place for four years.  None of those four Sox teams won more games than they lost.  Even if we give the front office a pass for doing tempered rebuilds for a couple of years, they still had two failed winters of making win-now pushes.  The team’s short- and long-term prospects don’t seem much different than they were four years ago.  It’s time for White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf to put aside his loyalty to the Williams/Hahn tandem, and determine whether the White Sox would benefit from fresh voices in the front office.  If Reinsdorf does decide to dismiss or reassign one or both of Williams and Hahn, he’d do well to more clearly define the balance of power and autonomy of his executives.  In August, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reported that Hahn was more in favor of a trade deadline sale than was Reinsdorf, with Hahn later denying any discord.

Manager Robin Ventura has held his position even longer than Hahn, with his fifth season as manager (and his contract) coming to an end.  Even if the front office remains unaltered, Ventura may be allowed to leave.  First baseman Jose Abreu recently suggested the White Sox lacked the same desire to win as the Royals, which could be the final nail in the coffin for Ventura.

Read more

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The Pirates announced that they have acquired infielder Chris Bostick from the Nationals in exchange for minor league catcher Taylor Gushue and cash. Bostick, who was designated for assignment by the Nats earlier this month, has been added to Pittsburgh’s 40-man roster but won’t join the team for the final few games of the season. He’ll take Josh Harrison’s spot on the 40-man, with Harrison being transferred to the 60-day disabled list.

Bostick, 23, split his season between Double-A and Triple-A with the Nats, hitting a combined .250/.313/.386 with eight homers and 11 steals while playing second base, third base and left field. He was ranked as the organization’s No. 25 prospect by Baseball America last offseason, with BA noting that he’s an above-average runner who stands out for a line-drive approach to all fields but may lack a true defensive home. He’s consistently displayed the pop necessary to reach double-digit home run totals and also averaged 27 steals per season from 2013-15.

The 22-year-old Gushue was Pittsburgh’s fourth-rounder back in 2014 and spent the 2016 campaign with their Class-A Advanced affiliate in Bradenton, where he batted .226/.282/.357. At the time Gushue was drafted, BA wrote that he was a good receiver with an average or even above-average arm behind the dish despite difficulties he’d had throwing out runners in college. Their report called him a below-average overall hitter but did note that he has average raw power. Gushue did hit a career-high eight homers in 90 games this season, though his 25 percent caught-stealing rate still leaves something to be desired.

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