West Notes: Rockies, Rosario, Heaney, Tropeano

An overhaul of the Rockies pitching process could pay dividends, writes Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. The club brought in Steve Foster and Darren Holmes to serve as the pitching and bullpen coaches, and the new organizational hierarchy is expected to provide better leadership and creativity. Additionally, the club has moved Wilin Rosario to the third catcher role. The addition of Nick Hundley over the offseason should help the staff perform at a higher level. Rosenthal notes that Rosario is viewed as a poor defensive catcher who allowed too many passed balls, rarely caught base stealers, struggled with game calling, and worked too slowly behind the plate. Of course, these changes don’t solve the long standing issue of pitching in a massive, elevated stadium.  That’s up to the new front office.

  • Speaking of the Rockies front office, GM Jeff Bridich is excited about the new internal structure, writes Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post. Bridich hears the criticism that the new group is too tied to the old guard. He is quick to point out that this is a developing front office team. The decision to bring in Hundley was the opening gambit for Bridich. The move should help the entire pitching staff.
  • The Angels plan to open the season with four starting pitchers, writes Mike DiGiovanna of the LA Times. That means offseason acquisitions Nick Tropeano and Andrew Heaney will open the year in Triple-A. The Angels don’t need a fifth starter until April 14, so they’ll roster an additional reliever for Opening Day. Garrett Richards is working his way back from injury. He probably won’t be ready for the April 14 start, but he could be back before much longer.

East Notes: Herrera, Lough, Rays

Here’s the latest from the East coast:


Central Notes: Garcia, Marcum, Brewers, Ramirez

After visiting with a team physician, Cardinals pitcher Jaime Garcia has been diagnosed with arm fatigue, writes Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com. Garcia is still trying to work his way back from surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome. He was on track to earn the fifth slot in the rotation, but will now miss the opening week. As Langosch noted, former Cardinal Chris Carpenter failed in his return bid from the surgery, although he was older at the time. One of Carlos Martinez or Marco Gonzales will likely replace Garcia.

  • Indians pitcher Shaun Marcum will report to Triple-A to start the season, tweets Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. He’s currently still in big league camp and was informed last Tuesday that he would not make the Opening Day roster. He last appeared in the majors in 2013 with the Mets. He made 14 appearances and 12 starts with a 5.29 ERA.
  • Brewers GM Doug Melvin does not anticipate adding any players from outside of the organization for the Opening Day roster, tweets Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Rather, all roster decisions will pertain to players already in the system.
  • The Brewers and Aramis Ramirez will meet to discuss how he’ll be used this season, reports Todd Rosiak of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Leg injuries plagued Ramirez last year, so the thought is that frequent rest could improve his durability. The current plan is to sit him once a week with other off days built in as needed. Of course, no plan will be immutable. Ramirez and the Brewers will respond to how he feels and matchups.

 



Rangers Release Ryan Ludwick

The Rangers have released Ryan Ludwick from his minor league contract, tweets Rangers EVP of Communications John Blake. He was informed earlier this week that he would not make the Opening Day roster.

The 36-year-old outfielder scuffled over the last two seasons with the Reds. In 400 plate appearances, he hit .244/.308/.375 with nine home runs. Ludwick got a late start to his major league career, finally breaking out with the Cardinals in his age 29 season. His last successful season came in 2012, when he blasted 26 home runs with a .275/.346/.531 line. He hit just .200/.188/.300 in 30 plate appearances this spring.


MLBTR Originals

A look back at the original reporting and analysis found on MLBTR the last seven days:

 


Full Story | Comments | Categories: MLBTR Originals

Brewers Release Chris Perez

The Brewers have released reliever Chris Perez, tweets Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Perez was in camp on a minor league deal. He was granted his release rather than re-assigned so he can look for another big league opportunity (also Twitter).

Perez, 29, pitched 46 innings for the Dodgers in 2014. He posted a 4.27 ERA with 7.58 K/9 and 4.86 BB/9. The former Indians closer has locked down 133 career saves, but he began to struggle with command and control in 2013. His stuff has remained largely intact, including a 94 mph fastball. He pitched to a 2.70 ERA this spring with five strikeouts and three walks in 10 innings.


Nationals Notes: Uggla, Janssen, Injuries, Strasburg, Zimmermann

Second baseman Dan Uggla has done enough to make the Opening Day roster, but it’s unclear how he’ll be used, writes Mark Zuckerman of Nats Insider. After a couple dismal seasons, Uggla is in camp as a NRI. He’s hit a solid .278/.422/.500 after undergoing a new vision treatment over the offseason.

His lack of defensive versatility makes him difficult to roster. The club intends to use Yunel Escobar  at second base with Danny Espinosa as a utility infielder. Uggla has an opt out, so he’s unlikely to remain with the organization if he’s assigned to the minors. Per Uggla, he wouldn’t feel comfortable in a reserve role. Once Anthony Rendon returns from injury, it’s hard to imagine the Nationals finding a place to keep Uggla.

  • Reliever Casey Janssen will undergo a MRI on his sore pitching shoulder, reports James Wagner of the Washington Post. Manager Matt Williams described the injury as “generally it’s in his lat…it’s not something that’s normal soreness for him.” That’s worrisome because he missed time with a lat injury late last season. He’s also dealt with other shoulder injuries in the past. Janssen signed a one-year, $3.5MM over the winter and is expected to serve as the eighth inning reliever for the Nationals.
  • GM Mike Rizzo won’t be tinkering with the roster much in the coming days. When asked if he could add players before the opener, he told reporters, including Mark Zuckerman of Nats Insider (on Twitter), “We’re satisfied.  We like the team we have.” The injury bug has bitten multiple Nats player, including Denard Span and Rendon.
  • The Nationals may allow star pitchers Jordan Zimmermann and Stephen Strasburg to walk via free agency, writes Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post. The reason has nothing to do with their performance. Both pitchers received Tommy John surgery in the past. Per Boswell, the “life expectancy” for the reconstructed elbow is eight years. Jeff Zimmerman of FanGraphs estimates that risk of re-injury increases sharply after just 400 to 600 innings. In either event, the injury history may partially explain the club’s willingness to add Max Scherzer over the offseason.

Minor Moves: Burton, Garner, Toles

Here are Sunday’s minor moves from around MLB:

  • Three days after releasing him, the Yankees have signed right-hander Jared Burton to a minor league deal, reports Bryan Hoch of MLB.com. Burton was an Article XX(B) free agent, so the release/re-signing allows the Yankees to avoid paying the reliever a $100K retention bonus to remain in the organization.
  • The Phillies have released their 2010 second-round pick right-hander Perci Garner, tweets CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury. Garner never advanced beyond Double-A and compiled a mark of 4.50 ERA, 6.9 K/9, 5.1 BB/9 during 87 appearances (73 starts) in his five seasons in the Philadelphia organization.
  • The Rays have released outfielder Andrew Toles, tweets Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Toles, the Rays’ 2013 minor league player of the year, posted a line of .261/.302/.337 in 218 plate appearances last year at Class A-Advanced Charlotte despite missing two months for personal reasons. The 22-year-old was a third-round selection of the Rays in the 2012 draft.

Twins Outright Stephen Pryor

The Twins have outrighted right-hander Stephen Pryor to Triple-A Rochester, tweets Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The Twins’ 40-man roster now stands at 38, which, Miller notes, will allow the team to add a pair of non-roster invitees, presumably reliever Blaine Boyer and outfielder Shane Robinson.

The Twins acquired the 25-year-old from the Mariners last July in exchange for Kendrys Morales. Pryor, who underwent surgery to repair his latissimus dorsi muscle in 2013, excelled at Triple-A for the Twins after the trade recording a 0.89 ERA and 9.7 K/9 in 14 relief appearances covering 20 1/3 innings, but demonstrated a lack of command as evidenced by his 7.1 BB/9 rate.


Mike Pelfrey Walks Back Trade Comments

SUNDAY: Pelfrey told reporters, including Berardino (Twitter link), “My emotions probably got the best of me…I’ll be a professional and go to the pen and…we’ll figure this thing out. It’s going to work.”

SATURDAY: After losing out on the Twins’ fifth starter spot, veteran Mike Pelfrey says he is open to a trade, Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press writes. Pelfrey is not demanding a trade, Berardino reports, but he says would not mind one.

Obviously if some team realizes I’m healthy for the first time in years, and this is probably the best I’ve felt and thinks I can help them, let’s do it,” Pelfrey says. “I think I showed them that I could start. If it happens, great. Let’s go.”

Pelfrey says he believed, heading into Spring Training, that he would be in competition for a rotation job. He also thinks he did enough this month to earn one, allowing only four runs, two earned, while striking out seven and walking two in 13 2/3 innings. Berardino also notes that Pelfrey has regularly hit 94MPH this spring. Last year, his average fastball was below 91MPH as he made only five starts in an injury-shortened season. Tommy Milone, who won the last starting spot, posted somewhat worse numbers than Pelfrey this month.

I know what I was told in December. I don’t know what happened,” says Pelfrey. “I know one thing that didn’t happen is I didn’t get outpitched.”

The Twins have Pelfrey pitch in long relief, a role Pelfrey sounded more open to when he spoke with reporters, including MLBTR’s Zach Links, earlier this week. Pelfrey has one more year and $5.5MM remaining on the deal he signed with the Twins prior to the 2014 season.


AL Notes: Wright, Vazquez, Russell, Pelfrey

Evan Grant of The Dallas Morning News writes Spring Training is broken. Grant suggests reversing the current reporting schedule of players with minor leaguers and non-roster invitees reporting at the beginning of camp and the 40-man roster showing up ten days later. Grant also proposes expanding the roster to 28 for the month of April with 25 designated as active for games. This would allow teams, Grant reasons, to carry more pitching in April, as the hurlers continue to build their durability.

In today’s news and notes from the American League:

  • In a separate article, Grant reports the Rangers have informed Jamey Wright he will not make the team, but the right-hander has decided to remain in camp. “If they change their minds, I’m still here,” said Wright, who is an Article XX(B) free agent. “But, if not, I’m showcasing for all the other teams.” As an Article XX(B) free agent, the Rangers must pay Wright a $100K retention bonus, if they decide to keep him in their organization.
  • Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez has an appointment with Dr. James Andrews on Wednesday increasing speculation his recent MRI results could lead to Tommy John surgery and the end to his season before it begins, according to Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal.
  • Despite the uncertain status of Vazquez, the Red Sox have not engaged the Blue Jays about Dioner Navarro, tweets CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman. With Vazquez’s injury, Heyman notes the Red Sox will give prized catching propsect Blake Swihart an extended look during the final week of Spring Training.
  • James Schmehl of MLive.com tweets he wouldn’t be surprised if the Tigers take a flyer on James Russell, even though the left-hander has had a terrible spring. The 29-year-old was released by the Braves Sunday morning.
  • The Tigers will only go as far as their veteran stars take them, but there is some important young talent on the roster and their performance could prove pivotal as the franchise bids for its fifth straight AL Central title, opines MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince.
  • Twins GM Terry Ryan did not address whether Mike Pelfrey has requested a trade in the wake of the right-hander’s comments yesterday after losing the battle for a rotation spot, tweets Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Pelfrey threw one inning of perfect relief against the Orioles today needing just eight pitches in lowering his spring ERA to 1.23.
  • Ryan Madson, in camp with the Royals on a minor league contract, calls his comeback from elbow injuries “a challenge” and knows he can pitch again at the MLB level, writes MLB.com’s Barry Bloom. “If it doesn’t happen here, I will see if there’s any other interest and will go from there,” said Madson, who has a May 1st opt-out. “I mean, I came in not knowing whether I could pitch on consecutive days or three times a week, and now I’m past that. I know what I can do and I want to pitch again in the Major Leagues.

Why I Chose My Agency: Cody Asche

Over the years, third baseman Cody Asche has drawn comparisons to Chase Utley from wishful Phillies fans.  However, even though they’re both infielders that bat left-handed, Asche is a different type of player and is still working towards making that major step forward at the big league level.  This spring, Asche has given the Phillies plenty of reason to believe that 2015 could be his year to break out.  Last week against the Twins, Asche took Mike Pelfrey deep for his third homer in just five games.  Prior to his next outing against the Astros on Wednesday, Asche spoke with MLBTR in the team’s Clearwater clubhouse about his representatives at Arland Sports.

On how he first came in contact with his primary agent, Jason Wood:

He was close to one of my summer coaches in high school and he represents one of my good friends, Jake Odorizzi (Odorizzi spoke with MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes back in 2013 about Arland Sports).  We kept in contact a little bit and when it came time in college to find someone, me and my family just felt really comfortable with him.  We didn’t really interview anyone else, we just knew that he was a good guy with the same kind of morals as us so we went with him.

On whether there’s an advantage to being with a smaller agency like Arland Sports:

I think for sure there’s an advantage, just because you get to know him on such a personal level.  I wouldn’t even consider him my agent first, I would consider him my friend first before calling him my agent.  But, being that he’s a smaller agent, only having a couple guys in the big leagues, we get a lot more attention than someone might get at a bigger agency.

On the things his agency does for him outside of baseball:

Anything, you name it.  He’ll help me with restaurant reservations, tickets to games, lots of stuff like that.  A lot of the time I’ll just reach out to him so that I can go to dinner with him.  Obviously, he also helps me line up things like apparel deals.  Also, my wife Angie is a dietician and he’s helped a lot with her startup business, Eleat Sports Nutrition, and getting that off the ground.  Overall, I try not to ask Jason for too much though and I’m not the most demanding guy, so there’s not a ton of stuff I really want.

On whether he’s tried to recruit other players to the agency:

I haven’t done that a lot, I’ve had it more the other way actually.  I’ve had a lot of guys say to me, “If you ever want to talk to [my agent] about making a change you can,” but I think everyone knows that I’m rock solid with Jason and all of Jason’s guys are rock solid and a lot of people in the business know that. Myself, Jake Odorizzi, and David Phelps are the three main guys we have in the big leagues right now, all three of us know what he’s about, we’re loyal, and I couldn’t foresee a situation where any of us would ever want to leave.


Blue Jays Claim Andy Wilkins

The Blue Jays have announced they have claimed first baseman Andy Wilkins off waivers from the White Sox. Toronto immediately optioned the 26-year-old to Triple-A Buffalo where he will serve as organizational depth at first base.

Wilkins made his MLB debut last year with the White Sox appearing in 17 games slashing .140/.178/.186 in 45 plate appearances. Wilkins spent the majority of 2014 at Triple-A, his first full season at that level, and batted .293/.338/.558 with 30 home runs in 529 trips to the plate.


Cafardo On Porcello, Chacin, Kimbrel

In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe checked in with Max Scherzer, who is missing former teammate Rick Porcello.  Scherzer, of course, left the Tigers in free agency to sign with the Nationals in January.  Porcello, meanwhile, was shipped from the Tigers to the Red Sox in December.  Scherzer still texts a lot with Porcello, and they have had conversations about free agency.

He understands the business of the game really well and what teams are trying to accomplish,” said Scherzer. “As most players, he’s motivated by money as well. What works is going out there and having one motivation and that’s winning. And those things will take care of themselves.”

Cafardo has talked with a few baseball executives who believe Porcello will walk from the Red Sox and do exactly what Scherzer did – go to the highest bidder.  Here’s more from today’s column..

  • The Rockies tried to trade Jhoulys Chacin but couldn’t find a buyer, so they released him last week.  The 27-year-old was a victim of Coors Field, where his ERA was 4.21 as opposed to a much more palatable 3.24 on the road.  Cafardo writes that the Red Sox, Dodgers, Rays, and Blue Jays have been looking for a veteran starter and may be considering him.
  • Braves people insist that they will not entertain a deal for closer Craig Kimbrel, but a few executives expect that Atlanta will be thinking differently if they are out of contention at the trade deadline.  The Braves are eyeing 2017 as their relaunch, so Cafardo doesn’t see the need for them to hang on to a top closer like Kimbrel in the interim.
  • Dan Uggla has an April 1st opt-out on his minor league deal with the Nationals and his play this spring is giving GM Mike Rizzo something to think about, but roster space is an issue.  If Uggla doesn’t make the cut in Washington, Cafardo suggests that the Angels, Braves, Orioles, Cardinals, Blue Jays, Padres, and Rays could all justify bringing him aboard.

Joe Blanton Nearing Opt Out Date

As Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com first reported back in February, Joe Blanton has an April 1st opt out clause in his contract with the Royals.  The pitcher, who is a non-roster invitee with KC, is still in big league camp and throwing well.  Blanton, 34, signed a minor-league deal with Kansas City in February after sitting out the 2014 season.  He has spent almost his entire ten-year big-league career as a starter, but the Royals have been intent on using him exclusively as a reliever.

Blanton took a year off from the game to spend more time with his wife and three children, but over the winter he told Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com that he felt he owed it to himself to take one more shot at the game.

“It was nice being home with my family,” Blanton explained. “But the window is small. I’ve done this my whole life. I’ve put a lot into it, so why not see what’s left? I felt like it was almost an injustice to myself to just step away like that.”  

At the time of the interview with Crasnick, Blanton indicated that he was open to pitching at Triple-A.  As Blanton continues to impress, it’s conceivable that there could be a big league opportunity for him elsewhere if there’s not a spot for him on KC’s varsity squad.

Blanton has long posted strong strikeout-to-walk numbers and continued that trend even in his difficult 2013 season with the Angels (7.3 K/9, 2.3 BB/9).  All told, Blanton has a lifetime 4.51 ERA with 6.2 K/9, 2.4 BB/9 and a 44.2 percent ground-ball rate in 1567 1/3 Major League innings.