The tension that has been building between the Blue Jays and Rangers since last October finally manifested itself Sunday in the form of an all-out brawl (MLB.com video link) between the two clubs. Multiple suspensions are sure to be handed out to members of both teams in the coming days. Of greater concern for the Jays was yet another late-game bullpen meltdown, as a 6-3 lead in the seventh turned into a 7-6 deficit (and the eventual final score) thanks to an Ian Desmond three-run homer off Jesse Chavez. Here’s some more from around the AL East…
- Cuban star Yulieski Gurriel “would be super happy” to join the Yankees, Aroldis Chapman told NJ Advance Media’s Brendan Kuty through a translator. Gurriel and Chapman are former teammates on Cuba’s national team, and in a conversation two weeks ago, Gurriel asked the closer some questions about what it was like to play for the Yankees. As Kuty points out, the Bombers may not have room for Gurriel given that Chase Headley is already locked in at third base and Gurriel (who turns 32 in June) may be too old for a Yankees club that has been focused on transitioning to a younger, more flexible roster. Gurriel and his younger brother Lourdes defected from Cuba earlier this year and are still waiting on clearance from MLB to become free agents, with several teams expected to bid on the siblings once they’re officially on the open market (though Lourdes is subject to international signing pools).
- The Blue Jays have found several late-blooming hitters in recent years, and Justin Smoak’s early success has Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star wondering if the first baseman could be the latest example. Smoak entered today’s action hitting .314/.448/.500 with three homers over 87 plate appearances, and manager John Gibbons believes a steady everyday role (forced by Chris Colabello’s suspension) could be contributing to Smoak’s hot bat. Smoak was one of the game’s top prospects after being selected 11th overall by Texas in the 2008 draft, though he showed little at the plate over his first six MLB seasons.
- Blue Jays righty Dustin Antolin was almost frustrated enough to walk away from baseball this offseason, Sportsnet.ca’s Shi Davidi writes. An 11th-round pick in 2008, Antolin battled injuries (including Tommy John surgery in 2010) during his long stint in the minors and was unsigned with two weeks remaining before Opening Day. His girlfriend encouraged him to give it one last chance, however, and after re-signing with the Jays, Antolin performed well at Triple-A and has now finally reached the Show after being called up to replace the injured Brett Cecil in Toronto’s bullpen.
- It’s no surprise that any team would take some lessons from the Royals following their World Series victory, as even the big-market Red Sox have observed K.C.’s model for success, Dave Dombrowski tells Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald. While Dombrowski noted some distinct differences between the two franchises, he praised the Royals’ mentality, player development and (most specifically) their bullpen construction. Silverman points out that the acquisitions of Craig Kimbrel and Carson Smith were perhaps the most direct way in which the Sox have tried to emulate the Royals’ blueprint, though Boston needed a bullpen upgrade in general following a rough 2015 for the relief corps.
- In other AL East news from earlier today, the Orioles placed Jimmy Paredes on waivers, the Red Sox designated Sean O’Sullivan for assignment and we explored several more items out of Boston in an edition of Red Sox Notes.