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Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco did not travel with the team and instead remained in Cincinnati to undergo an MRI on his hip, tweets John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Catcher Kyle Skipworth will fill in for the time being, as he’s had his contract selected from Triple-A, the Reds announced. (A corresponding 40-man move will happen prior to tonight’s game.) The Reds entered the season with quite a few injury question marks, but Mesoraco was not thought to be one. Clearly, losing Mesoraco for any significant amount of time would be crushing for a Cincinnati team that many have already picked to struggle in the NL Central, though it’s too early to tell exactly how great the level of concern surrounding Mesoraco should be.
A few more notes from baseball’s Central divisions…
- Fangraphs’ Craig Edwards breaks down Raisel Iglesias‘ debut against the Cardinals yesterday, noting that while the start didn’t alleviate concerns about Iglesias’ ability to work deep into games, he showed enough to suggest that he can get big league hitters out on a consistent basis, even if it ultimately has to come in a relief role. With Homer Bailey nearing a return from the DL, the Reds will have to make a decision between Iglesias and veteran righty Jason Marquis. For the time being, that’s been solved by optioning Iglesias to Louisville, but Edwards wonders if it’d be a better decision to eventually let Iglesias develop at the highest level — a move that would seemingly force Marquis into the bullpen or off the Cincinnati roster.
- Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette spoke to Pirates GM Neal Huntington about the decision to pursue a long-term contract with Josh Harrison. “When you believe in the person and you believe in the abilities of that person, and it aligns with where you want to go, you’re able to find the common ground, it makes all the sense in the world,” Huntington told Brink. As Brink points out, not all deals of this nature work out — he uses Jose Tabata as a particularly regrettable deal for the Pirates — but the cost certainty they provide is valuable. Brink notes that the Bucs will be on the hook for $42.25MM in 2017 — the last guaranteed year of the Andrew McCutchen and Francisco Liriano contracts — for the combined salaries of Harrison, McCutchen, Liriano and Starling Marte.
- Torii Hunter told reporters prior to today’s home opener that the Royals, Mariners, Rangers and Orioles were all interested in him before he made the decision to sign with the Twins, tweets the St. Paul Pioneer Press’ Mike Berardino. The Royals, in particular, seemed to tantalize Hunter, per Berardino: “Those guys going to the World Series, that was very appealing,” Hunter added.
With rosters being finalized around the league, it’s a busy time for players departing and ascending to the 40-man roster. Here’s the latest:
- The Twins announced that they’ve selected the contract of outfielder Shane Robinson, who had been in camp on a Minor League deal. The 30-year-old Robinson had previously spent his entire career in the Cardinals organization and will presumably serve as the right-handed half of a center field platoon with Jordan Schafer. Minnesota entered Spring Training hoping that Aaron Hicks would show progress and win the center field job outright, but he struggled throughout the month and was optioned to Triple-A, paving the way for Robinson to make the roster. In parts of five seasons with St. Louis, Robinson is a .231/.303/.308 hitter in 452 plate appearances. He’s received strong marks at all three outfield spots, per UZR and DRS, and he hit .283/.340/.370 in Grapefruit League action this year.
- The Reds are set to add several veterans to their 40-man roster, as John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer tweets. Veteran righties Kevin Gregg and Jason Marquis will be joined by reserves Brennan Boesch and Chris Dominguez on the Opening Day roster, and all will need a 40-man spot. That crunch already led the team to outright reliever Sam LeCure, and several other slots will need to be created before things are official.
- The Rockies have selected the contract of right-hander Rafael Betancourt, the team announced last night (on Twitter). Betancourt, who will turn 40 at the end of this month, has gone through a somewhat remarkable comeback, recovering from Tommy John surgery that he underwent as a 38-year-old to return to the 40-man roster. The former Rox closer has had an excellent spring, yielding just one run on eight hits and a walk with 10 strikeouts in 8 2/3 innings. He adds another arm with closing experience to what is looking like a fairly murky bullpen situation in Colorado. It’s worth mentioning that setup man Rex Brothers was optioned to Triple-A and won’t be a factor in the ‘pen in the season’s early stages.
Cubs righty Jacob Turner will likely not return to action for another spring game, MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat reports, but medical review after he experienced elbow discomfort revealed no ligament damage. “I’m just going to see how it feels,” said Turner. “The plan is four to six weeks of not throwing, and then go off how I feel.” Given his lack of options, I would expect the club to bring him along quite slowly — possibly utilizing a 60-day DL stay to free a roster spot.
Meanwhile, here are some roster situations percolating elsewhere in the National League:
- We noted earlier today that Tony Cingrani is destined for the Reds pen. John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer discusses the implications of that move for the team’s rotation battle. Another candidate — David Holmberg — was bumped down to minor league camp, leaving the relatively inexperienced Raisel Iglesias and Anthony DeSclafani to fight veteran non-roster invitees Jason Marquis and Paul Maholm for two permanent spots (and a temporary substitute for Homer Bailey to start the year). Skipper Bryan Price explained that considerations of control will come into play: “The thing is, we’ve got veteran guys like Marquis and Maholm and we don’t want to use them one start,” Price said. “If they’re going to be on our team, the hope is they’re on our team for the entire season if not longer. That’s how we have to look at it. You can back-and-forth a young guy. He can start a game or two, go down the minor leagues or go into the bullpen and help as a long guy. Marquis and Maholm are looking more like long-term, start-to-finish options for us.”
- The Diamondbacks will be fascinating to watch this year, albeit not necessarily in terms of the on-field product, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes. As he notes, the team’s newly-installed front office leaders seem to have different ideas than many of their counterparts in the industry. While the organization is saddled with some less-than-ideal contracts, and seems higher on several players than others, it nevertheless has no shortage of young talent, trade chips, and roster options. That should make Arizona an active player in the transactional game over the course of the season.
- Meanwhile, it is time for the Mets to press forward with delivering a winning team, even with Zack Wheeler likely lost to Tommy John surgery, Ken Davidoff of the New York Post writes. In the immediate term, there have been conflicting signals on how the club will fill in for Wheeler, with skipper Terry Collins saying Dillon Gee will move back to the rotation, GM Sandy Alderson declining to provide such a clear answer, and Joel Sherman of the New York Post reporting that prospect Rafael Montero could have a chance at breaking camp. In the aggregate, there is enough depth and talent to make up for losing Wheeler, says Davidoff, removing his injury as an excuse if a legitimate contender does not emerge. For his part, Sherman wonders whether the club has staked too much of its future on the health and development of young arms, though it seems worth echoing Davidoff’s point here: the sheer number and upside of the alternatives in camp give New York ample options.
The Reds announced that they’ve signed veteran right-hander Jason Marquis to a minor league deal with an invitation to big league Spring Training.
The 36-year-old Marquis, a client of ACES, spent much of the 2014 campaign recovering from Tommy John surgery and worked out in front of Reds scouts last May before ultimately signing a minor league deal with the Phillies. In 51 2/3 innings with the Phillies’ minor league affiliates, he posted a combined 4.1 ERA with a 43-to-13 K/BB ratio.
Marquis’ most recent Major League work came as a member of the Padres, with whom he spent parts of the 2012 and 2013 seasons. Signed by the Twins in 2012, Marquis hurled 34 dreadful innings with Minnesota (8.47 ERA) before latching on with the Friars and working to a 4.05 ERA in 211 1/3 innings from 2012-13. In total, the sinker specialist has worked to a 4.56 ERA with 5.3 K/9, 3.5 BB/9 and a 50.7 percent ground-ball rate in 1921 career innings between the Braves, Cardinals, Padres, Twins, Cubs, Nationals, D-Backs and Rockies. And, as far as pitchers go, he’s respectable with the bat, as evidenced by a .196/.214/.278 career batting line. (The league-average pitcher hit .122/.153/.153 in 2014.)
The Reds have traded away a pair of starters this offseason in Mat Latos and Alfredo Simon, so it’s not surprising to see the club pursuing possible depth options in the rotation. Currently, Johnny Cueto, Homer Bailey, Mike Leake and Tony Cingrani project as the top four starters in Cincinnati’s rotation. Marquis, then, will presumably compete for the fifth spot in the rotation, going up against the likes of right-hander Anthony DeSclafani (acquired from the Marlins in the Latos trade), Dylan Axelrod and David Holmberg.
The Phillies announced that they have released veteran right-hander Jason Marquis from his minor league deal.
The 36-year-old Marquis signed with the Phillies back in early June as the longtime Major Leaguer was on the road back from Tommy John surgery. He made eight starts for the Phillies’ Triple-A affiliate at Lehigh Valley, pitching to a 4.63 ERA with 6.9 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9, totaling 46 2/3 innings. Marquis was slowed by a sore back and eventually placed on the minor league disabled list with an oblique injury, though he recovered and made a start as recently as Saturday.
It’s possible that a team in need of veteran pitching depth will take a look at Marquis for the season’s final month. In parts of 14 Major League seasons, Marquis has a 4.56 ERA with 5.3 K/9, 3.5 BB/9 and a strong 50.7 percent ground-ball rate.
The Phillies announced that they’ve signed right-hander Jason Marquis to a minor league deal. The 35-year-old veteran is a client of ACES.
Marquis underwent Tommy John surgery last July but said a few months later that he didn’t intend for that operation to be the end of his career. He’s been working out for teams of late, recently throwing his fastball between 88 and 90 mph in an audition for the Reds.
Marquis’ command took a step back in 2013 with the Padres, as he walked a career-worst 5.2 hitters per nine innings (some of those struggles may have been due to his elbow injury, of course). However, his ground-ball rate remained a strong 52.3 percent — his fifth consecutive season with a ground-ball percentage north of 52.
The sinkerballing Marquis is a veteran of 14 Major League seasons with the Braves, Cardinals, Cubs, Nationals, Rockies, Twins, Diamondbacks and Padres. In 1921 career innings at the big league level, Marquis owns a 4.56 ERA with 5.3 K/9, 3.5 BB/9 and a 50.7 percent ground-ball rate. He can serve as veteran rotation depth for the Phils when healthy, as the team has already seen injuries to both Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels this season in the Major League rotation (the latter is healthy now). Additionally, Cuban signee Miguel Gonzalez is also working his way back from injury and isn’t close to appearing in the Majors.
As expected, recently signed Red Sox shortstop Stephen Drew has cleared waivers and appeared in his first minor league game for the organization, reports Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe (via Twitter). The procedural move of placing Drew on revocable outright waivers — a mechanism through which claims are rarely made — was needed since he inked a big league deal. Here’s the latest from around the game:
- The Brewers will call up top pitching prospect Jimmy Nelson to start Sunday to take the rotation turn of Yovani Gallardo, tweets Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. At this point, at least, it seems that Nelson may only get one start, as Gallardo is not expected to miss significant time. As I explained back in April, Nelson already has 27 days of service to his credit. Accordingly, if he did stay in the bigs from this point forward, he would accrue enough service time to set himself up to become eligible for an additional year of arbitration as a Super Two player, though he will not be able to pass the one-year service mark by the end of the year.
- Milwaukee’s decision to deal for reliever Will Smith (in exchange for outfielder Norichika Aoki) has been a key element in the team’s success this year, writes Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. The team’s pro scouting staff gave Smith high marks, leading GM Doug Melvin to pull the trigger on the trade. He has allowed just one earned run in 21 2/3 innings of work, posting 12.9 K/9 against 4.2 BB/9.
- Pitcher Jason Marquis was scheduled to throw for scouts today, Rosenthal reports in the same piece. The 35-year-old had Tommy John surgery last summer after tossing 117 2/3 innings of 4.05 ball for the Padres.
- Another former big leaguer looking to make a return is infielder Bill Hall, who tweets that he is on the comeback trail. The 34-year-old has spent time at third, short, second, and all over the outfield in his 11 seasons of MLB action, and owns a career .248/.308/.436 line. He spent last year with the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate, putting up a .225/.321/.407 mark with 17 home runs in 452 plate appearances.
- Ben Badler of Baseball America has the latest updates on the July 2 market. Yesterday, Badler ticked through the top ten expected bonuses among players eligible to sign for the 2014-15 period, along with the clubs expected to land them. Leading the way is infielder Gilbert Lara, who has been linked to the Brewers and could earn $3MM. Four of the players are expected to go to the Yankees, with the Rays, Red Sox, and Blue Jays also said to be set up for some large outlays among AL East clubs. (The American League could also be in line to pick up the other two players on that list, with the Mariners potentially in position to sign outfielder Brayan Hernandez and the White Sox predicted to land righty Huascar Ynoa.) And today, he profiles a set of field position prospects who figure to be among the best available players, headlined by Venezuelan shortstop Kenny Hernandez, who Badler says could get a nine-figure bonus.
- Meanwhile, the Yankees are reportedly prepared to ink Korean shortstop Hyo-Jun Park for a $1.1MM bonus, according to a report from Korean outlet Naver (Korean language link; translated article; hat tip to River Ave. Blues ). Jason Cohen of Pinstripe Alley recently compiled the available information on Park, who is said to be a solid all-around player.
While most of the major injuries we’ve seen this season have come on the pitching front, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports (via Twitter) that there could be another significant injury to a hitter. Sources tell Rosenthal that Joey Votto did not make the current road trip with the Reds and is staying back to undergo an MRI on the same knee that he had surgically repaired in 2012. Cincinnati has already lost roughly a month of Jay Bruce as well as two months of Mat Latos, and an extended absence for Votto is the last thing they need to see as they sit seven games back in the NL Central. However, a DL stint does appear to be likely, according to Rosenthal. Here are some more Reds-related items…
- Jeff Sullivan is up in the latest edition of Fangraphs on FOX, and within it, he breaks down the changes that Reds ace Johnny Cueto has made to his two-strike approach. The changes, which have resulted in Cueto more than tripling his rate of called third strikes, have vaulted Cueto into the elite ranks of Major League pitchers and made him the clear favorite for the NL Cy Young Award, writes Sullivan.
- Cueto knows that he’s dominating this season and told Hal McCoy of the Dayton Daily News that he considers himself the best pitcher in baseball right now. Said Cueto (through a translator): “I would say, yes, definitely yes. My numbers have to talk for me. Every time I go on the mound I do my job. And I do my job to get the best numbers.” Cueto has a no-brainer $10MM club option this offseason and would then hit the open market entering his age-30 season in 2016. If he can continue on this trajectory, suffice it to say that he’ll be one of the wealthiest players in baseball history.
- Former Major Leaguer Jose Cruz Jr. tweeted earlier this week that he saw right-hander Jason Marquis throw a bullpen session for the Reds and Padres (hat tip: Chris Cotillo). Marquis was throwing 88-90 mph, per Cruz, which is impressive given that Marquis is just nine and a half months removed from Tommy John surgery on July 30 of last year. It was reported last September that Marquis didn’t plan to retire after his Tommy John surgery and could sign a minor league deal come April or May.
Despite undergoing Tommy John surgery on July 30, Jason Marquis isn't ready to end his career at age 35. The veteran right-hander told MLB.com's Corey Brock that he is making good progress in rehab and intends to pitch in 2014, though the nature of his injury will keep him on the DL for at least the first two months of the season. Marquis will be a free agent this winter and it's possible a team (maybe even the Padres, his current club) will sign him to a low-risk minor league contract come April or May.
Here's some news as we dive into the final six days of the regular season…
- Though Antonio Bastardo is currently serving a 50-game suspension for PED use, the Phillies are likely to tender him a contract this offseason, Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. The southpaw had a 2.32 ERA and 47 strikeouts in 42 2/3 relief innings for the Phils this year and has posted a 3.13 ERA, 11.7 K/9 and 2.71 K/BB ratio in 152 2/3 IP since the start of the 2011 season. Bastardo earned $1.4MM this season (though he lost approximately $420K of his salary to suspension) and will be arbitration-eligible for the second time this winter.
- Ryan Vogelsong tells Alex Pavlovic of the San Jose Mercury News that he is hoping the Giants pick up its $6.5MM club option on his services for 2014. "If I was pitching better right now, it's probably not even a question," Vogelsong said. "But I feel I still have a lot to bring to the game and this team. It's no secret I love it here. I want to be back and hope they pick it up." Vogelsong has struggled through an injury-plagued season that saw the righty post a 5.90 ERA in 18 starts.
- Yankees GM Brian Cashman saw Andy Pettitte's retirement coming and he tells Andy McCullough of the Star-Ledger that this time, Pettitte is leaving for good. “I’ve known for a while that this was going to be it,” Cashman said. “I know that I won’t be able to convince him like I’ve done in the past."
- Dillon Gee and Jonathan Niese could be trade chips for the Mets this winter as the team looks to add batting help, but Michael Baron of Metsblog.com thinks the two pitchers could stay put for at least another year until the Mets determine how long Matt Harvey will be sidelined.
There may be almost as many scouts as fans in the stands for the Padres' four-game series in Milwaukee this week. FOX Sports' Jon Paul Morosi (Twitter links) reports that scouts from the Tigers, Braves, Phillies, Dodgers and Pirates are all in attendance to watch the two struggling NL clubs, possibly in order to scout both teams' top relievers. The Brewers moved Francisco Rodriguez today but don't seem eager to deal any other relievers, while the Padres have yet to dip their toe into the trade waters. Here's the latest out of San Diego…
- The Tigers "are showing continued interest" in acquiring Luke Gregerson, Morosi reports (via Twitter). Detroit has arguably the biggest need for bullpen help of any contender and Gregerson's name was linked to the Tigers in trade talks last winter. The righty has a 2.85 ERA, 7.9 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9 in 41 IP this season.
- Gregerson has received the most trade interest of any Padres player, Bill Center of the San Diego Union-Tribune writes. Center runs through the list of Padres trade candidates in order of outside interest, ending with Edinson Volquez, who has been drawing fewer and fewer scouts to his starts.
- Jason Marquis had received virtually no trade interest, Center reports, though it's a moot point now since the veteran right-hander will miss the rest of the season after suffering a complete tear of the UCL in his right elbow. Despite the severity of the injury, Padres manager Bud Black tells MLB.com's Corey Brock that he thinks Marquis isn't willing to retire. "I think, as of right now, he plans on pitching again," Black said. "I think he wants to come back and compete."
- We heard earlier today from Morosi that the Braves were interested in Joe Thatcher.