NL Central Links: Maldonado, Volquez, Walker, Cubs

The Pirates and the Brewers found themselves in the midst of controversy over the weekend as the result of a benches-clearing brawl started by a verbal exchange between Gerrit Cole and Carlos Gomez. However, Martin Maldonado was also involved in the scuffle, landing a punch on Travis Snider, and ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that Maldonado will be suspended for five games and fined $2,500 (Twitter links). Maldonado, who is earning $502K this season, will end up losing a little more than $16K as a result of the suspension and fine, which translates to roughly three percent of his salary. The official announcement of all suspensions resulting from the brawl is expected today, tweets Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Here’s more from the NL Central…

  • MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince examines Edinson Volquez‘s strong start with the Pirates and wonders if he is the next successful reclamation project for pitching coach Ray Searage and special assistant to the GM Jim Benedict. Castrovince runs down many of the techniques that Searage and the Pirates have gone through with Volquez to improve his command and mechanics. He also writes that Francisco Liriano played a large role in Volquez signing with Pittsburgh, as Liriano heavily recruited his fellow Dominican to join the Bucs, telling him it was a perfect place to rebuild his career. (In addition to Liriano, both A.J. Burnett and Mark Melancon have experienced tremendous turnarounds upon arrival in Pittsburgh.)
  • Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review breaks down Neil Walker‘s continually improving approach at the plate, noting his increased contact rates and decreased chase rates over the past few years. Sawchik wonders if Walker’s approach has him on the cusp of emerging as a star-caliber second baseman.
  • Former Cubs coach Dave McKay spoke with Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times and said that both he and former manager Dale Sveum were surprised by their dismissals after two years, as president Theo Epstein had said from the beginning that the coaching staff wouldn’t be evaluated based on performance. Still, McKay praised the organization and Epstein’s rebuild, stating that he had no hard feelings toward the club and praising them for retaining pitching coach Chris Bosio and catching coach Mike Borzello. McKay, a Phoenix-area resident, caught on as a coach with the Diamondbacks this offseason.

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