April 2014

Javier Vazquez Named MLBPA International Special Assistant

The Major League Baseball Players Association has issued a press release to announce the hiring of former big leaguer Javier Vazquez, who will be a special assistant to executive director Tony Clark, specializing in the rights of international players.

The release indicates that Vazquez’s new role will include the support of international players in the Union as well as working with Major League Baseball International to help grow the game on a global scale. Vazquez will also represent the MLBPA in winter leagues, tournaments, showcases and other international events. Clark issued the following statement:

“Javy’s experience and accomplishments as an active player, as well as the commitment he made as an integral part of our Union leadership while in uniform, make him an ideal addition to our staff. His expertise and desire to impact our International players will be instrumental in accomplishing our goals in the short term and long term.”

Vazquez was involved with the Union while he was a player, serving as a player rep beginning in 2002. He worked that year and in 2006 on establishing the collective bargaining agreements, pushing hard for the rights of foreign-born players in that time. Said Vazquez of his new role: I’m eager and committed to helping all players navigate their way through the various stages of their careers, and to helping spread the global popularity of the game and the players.”


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AL Notes: Rays, Cano, Johnson

Tonight, the Rays play their 1,000th game since changing their name from the Devil Rays, MLB.com’s Bill Chastain notes. Their name change was not, obviously, the cause of their change in fortunes, but the name switch came just as they emerged as an AL East powerhouse. They played ten seasons as the Devil Rays, never winning more than 70 games in a season. Their first season as the Rays was 2008, which was also their first winning season, playoff appearance and World Series appearance. Since then, they’ve had five more winning seasons in a row, also going to the playoffs in 2010, 2011 and 2013. Here are more notes from the American League.

  • Upon his return to New York, Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano expressed contentment about his choice to leave the Yankees for Seattle, Tyler Kepner of the New York Times writes. “Being in Seattle, I can’t tell you that much about Seattle. We’ve had two homestands there,” Cano says. “I could tell you, through the year, what’s different, but right now, I can tell you one thing: I’m happy there, the way they’ve embraced me — the fans, the organization and my teammates.” Cano is off to a .301/.353/.387 start in the first year of a ten-year deal with his new team.
  • Kris Johnson will be the 26th man and start the second game of the Twins‘ Thursday doubleheader against the Dodgers, the Twins have announced. The start will mark Johnson’s regular-season debut with the Twins. Johnson was a first-round pick of the Red Sox in 2006, but they released him 2011 after he struggled in Triple-A. The Pirates signed him for the 2012 season, and he emerged as a very good minor-league starter who’s reasonably well suited to spot-starting in the big leagues. The Twins, after struggling through 2013 with a very weak rotation, acquired Johnson in a minor deal for reliever Duke Welker, and now Johnson is in position to help out, if only for a day.

NL Notes: Byrd, Towers, Ramirez

Marlon Byrd is glad the Mets gave him a chance last season, ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin reports. The Mets signed Byrd to a minor-league deal, and he had an improbable age-35 breakout season that resulted in a trade to the Pirates, followed by a two-year, $16MM deal with the Phillies. “They let me go out there and play my game. They gave me a chance to make a team,” says Byrd. “Hopefully I helped them out a little bit, me and Bucky bringing Vic Black back [in the trade] — a strong arm, a closer for the future. Hopefully we helped each other out.” Here are more notes from the National League.

  • GM Kevin Towers is hopeful that the Diamondbacks will continue to back him despite the team’s poor start, Jack Magruder of FOX Sports Arizona reports (Twitter links). “I feel we have their support but I would imagine that they’re evaluating things as we’re evaluating things,” Towers says. “Hopefully we have their continued support and they are patient enough with this club to where … we turn it around.” There has been plenty of speculation about the futures of both Towers and manager Kirk Gibson. Whatever the team itself might be thinking about, though, it seems somewhat unlikely it would fire Towers just weeks before the June draft.
  • The Dodgers have announced that they’ve promoted reliever Paco Rodriguez to the big leagues and optioned infielder Carlos Triunfel to Triple-A Albuquerque. As Kevin Baxter of the Los Angeles Times points out, the Triunfel move signals that the Dodgers are comfortable that infielder Hanley Ramirez is ready to play regularly. Ramirez had been suffering from a thumb injury.


Injury Notes: Profar, Figueroa, Pineda, Nova

Rangers second baseman Jurickson Profar has cleared a hurdle as he attempts to return from a torn muscle in his shoulder, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports. He can now begin swinging a bat, and may be able to begin throwing within ten days. Profar is currently on the 60-day DL, and the Rangers have indicated he might return in early June. Profar’s return would provide a nice boost for the Rangers, who so far have gone with Josh Wilson and Donnie Murphy at second base — one key component of Texas’ big offseason move of trading Ian Kinsler for Prince Fielder and cash was opening a starting spot for Profar in what had been a crowded infield. Here are more quick notes on injuries.

  • The list of pitchers requiring Tommy John surgery continues to grow. Next up is Pedro Figueroa of the Rangers, who will have Tommy John on Wednesday, according to Anthony Andro of FOX Sports Southwest (via Twitter). Last week, it was reported that doctors had diagnosed Figueroa with a torn ulnar collateral ligament. The Rangers claimed Figueroa from the Rays in February.
  • Speaking of injured pitchers, Yankees hurler Michael Pineda will have an MRI after leaving a simulated game with a sore lat muscle, Newsday’s David Lennon tweets. Pineda’s suspension for pine tar is due to end Monday, but the Yankees might be without him longer than that. If Pineda needs to miss additional time, David Phelps will continue to make starts in his place. (Pineda has a Grade 1 tear of his teres major, MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch tweeted after this post was initially published. The teres major is a muscle in the back, near the shoulder. As Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan points out in a tweet, Pineda has had significant shoulder issues in the past. Pineda will reportedly miss three to four weeks.)
  • Meanwhile, another Yankees pitcher, Ivan Nova, had Tommy John surgery on Tuesday, MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch writes. Nova’s elbow troubles will keep him out until 2015. Nova had an 8.27 ERA in 20 2/3 innings before being shut down.

NL Central Notes: Grichuk, Hellweg, Chapman

Randal Grichuk will make his first career start tonight for the Cardinals, MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch tweets. Grichuk will start in center field, a position usually occupied by Peter Bourjos. The Cardinals acquired both players this offseason, dealing David Freese and Fernando Salas to the Angels in a bid to upgrade their defense. The Cardinals have gotten little from Bourjos and from right fielder Allen Craig so far this season, while Grichuk and the Cardinals’ other Triple-A outfielders have excelled, so the Cardinals promoted Grichuk on Sunday. Here are more notes from around the NL Central.

  • Brewers prospect Johnny Hellweg had Tommy John surgery today, the Journal Sentinel’s Tom Haudricourt tweets. Baseball America’s Prospect Handbook 2014 ranked Hellweg the No. 4 prospect in a weak Brewers system. The 6-foot-9 righty walked 6.8 batters per nine in 126 Triple-A innings in 2013, and struggled badly with his control in 31 big-league innings. When healthy, however, he has an outstanding fastball, and gets plenty of outs on the ground.
  • Reds closer Aroldis Chapman could make a rehab appearance in Dayton on Thursday, C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer tweets. Chapman has been out since being hit in the face with a line drive in an ugly injury suffered in spring training.

Orioles Re-Sign Steve Pearce

The Orioles have re-signed IF/OF Steve Pearce, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun tweets. The Orioles have announced that it’s a big-league deal. The O’s had previously designated Pearce for assignment. The Blue Jays claimed Pearce on release waivers, but he elected to become a free agent rather than accepting the claim.

Connolly explains the processes that led the Orioles to re-sign Pearce. The Orioles did not replace Chris Davis on their active roster after Davis went on the disabled list last weekend, which meant they were not restricted by a league rule that would have prevented them from adding Pearce to the active roster so soon after releasing him. With Davis out, having Pearce back allows the Orioles to have an extra first baseman.

Pearce, 31, hit .261/.362/.420 in 138 plate appearances for the Orioles last season, playing mostly DH and left field. He has also played for the Pirates, Astros and Yankees.


AL Central Notes: Baker, Twins, Abreu

With Rangers right-hander Scott Baker‘s May 1 opt-out date fast approaching, MLB Daily Dish’s Chris Cotillo hears that both the Indians and White Sox could have some interest in the former Twins and Cubs right-hander (Twitter link). Baker’s career has stalled since 2012 Tommy John surgery, and Cotillo reported yesterday that he’d only opt out if he were to receive a big league opportunity elsewhere. Baker’s strong performance in Triple-A — a 2.81 ERA with 7.3 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 in his first 32 innings — could be enticing to teams with rotation issues. Elsewhere in the AL Central…

  • Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN has a couple of draft-related items for Twins fans (Twitter links), as he reports that Minnesota “loves” Texas prep right-hander Tyler Kolek, though the team is fairly certain he’ll be taken prior to their No. 5 overall selection (MLB.com has Kolek ranked third among draft prospects, while ESPN’s Keith Law ranked him second last month). Also, Wolfson reports that the Twins and Blue Jays are both interested in Minnesota prep left-hander/first baseman Sam Hentges.
  • Wolfson’s colleague Phil Mackey takes on the MLB All-Star nomination system, blasting it for its failure to keep up with technology. Mackey uses Chris Colabello, who is not on the ballot, as a prime example of the system’s failures. He asks why MLB can’t adjust on the fly after projected starters are submitted early in Spring Training, concluding: Presumably because they already printed out millions of hanging-chad paper ballots to be distributed throughout ballparks in an era where two out of every three adults owns a smartphone in this country.”

Orioles Release Steve Pearce

TUESDAY: The Orioles have announced that Pearce was claimed on release waivers (although it’s unclear which team claimed him), but that Pearce elected to become a free agent rather than accepting the claim. MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko tweets that the Orioles are interested in re-signing Pearce.

SUNDAY: The Orioles announced that they have released infielder/outfielder Steve Pearce. Baltimore designated the 31-year-old for assignment on Tuesday afternoon.

Pearce agreed with the O’s on a $850K deal to avoid arbitration this winter. The veteran made only seven plate appearances in the early portion of the 2014 season but he slashed .261/.362/.420 in 138 trips to the dish at the major league level in 2013.  Because the O’s have previously outrighted Pearce, he reserved the right to reject a minor league assignment.  However, it hasn’t come to that and the Orioles have instead cut him loose.

Over parts of eight big league seasons with the Pirates, Astros, Yankees, and Orioles, Pearce owns a career .237/.316/.376 slash line.  Across six Triple-A seasons, Pearce has slashed .287/.364/.497.


Prospect Notes: Draft, Astros, Stroman

In the midst of a season in which he hasn’t been as dominant as many draft-watchers projected, NC State pitcher Carlos Rodon is no longer a clear favorite to be the Astros‘ selection with the No. 1 pick in the June draft, MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo writes. East Carolina pitcher Jeff Hoffman hasn’t cemented his place at the top of the draft, either, clearing the way for California high school pitcher Brady Aiken and Texas high school pitcher Tyler Kolek to enter the picture for the top overall pick. “I think it’s Kolek, being a hometown guy,” says one scout, referring to who the Astros ought to pick. “Rodon has Scott Boras [as an advisor]; you’re not going to get a discount there. If it comes down to Kolek and Aiken, it has to come to the guy in your backyard, especially if he’s throwing 100 MPH.” Here are more notes on the draft and the minors.

  • Pitchers will dominate the first round of this year’s draft, writes MLB.com’s Jim Callis. “There could be eight or nine pitchers taken in the top 10,” says an AL scouting director. “How many can go in the top 15? Twelve? Thirteen? There are so many arms. This is a deeper pool of players than last year, especially with pitchers.” Aiken, Kolek, Rodon and Hoffman are likely among the Astros’ top candidates for the first overall pick, perhaps along with California high school C/OF Alex Jackson, LSU pitcher Aaron Nola, NC State shortstop Trea Turner and San Francisco outfielder Bradley Zimmer.
  • The Blue Jays are likely to soon promote top pitching prospect Marcus Stroman to join their rotation, and Baseball America’s Vince Lara-Cinisomo has a scouting report. Stroman has good stuff despite his small size (5-foot-9), with a fastball that reaches into the mid-90s and a good slider. Stroman’s workload could be a factor this season, since he only threw 111 2/3 innings in 2013.

Archie Bradley Placed On DL With Elbow Injury

4:59pm: There does not appear to be any structural trouble with Bradley’s elbow, Berthiaume tweets.

2:16pm: Top Diamondbacks prospect Archie Bradley has been sent to the minor-league disabled list with a mild flexor strain in his elbow, MLB.com’s Steve Berthiaume tweets. Heading into the season, Bradley was universally considered one of the best prospects in baseball, and a likely candidate for a summer promotion to the big leagues. After two solid starts at Triple-A Reno to begin the season, however, he struggled in his last three outings, allowing 12 runs while striking out 15 and walking eight in 12 1/3 innings.

MLB.com currently ranks Bradley the No. 7 prospect in baseball. Baseball America’s Prospect Handbook 2014 ranks Bradley the Diamondbacks’ best prospect, praising his outstanding, mid-90s fastball and plus curveball. Last season, he posted a 1.84 ERA with 9.6 K/9 and 4.1 BB/9 in 152 innings split between Class A+ and Double-A.