- Padres bullpen coach Doug Bochtler, who helped former teammate Trevor Hoffman and former AL Cy Young winner Johan Santana refine their changeups, calls Fernando Rodney’s changeup one of the best he’s ever seen, writes Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union Tribune. While Rodney struggled tremendously in 2015, he’s off to an excellent start in 2016, displaying the same 96 mph heat he’s long been known for and showing renewed dominance with his changeup, yielding just a .080 average and generating a career-best 28.7 percent swinging-strike rate with the pitch. Rodney’s deal comes with just a $1.6MM base salary but allows him to earn up to $5MM this season based on appearances and games finished, Lin writes, and whatever incentives he earns in 2016 are tacked onto the value of next season’s club option (which has a $2MM base).
5:40pm: Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune tweets that Hessler will report to the Padres tomorrow and serve as the club’s 26th man for Wednesday’s double-header.
4:03pm: The Padres announced today that they have claimed left-hander Keith Hessler off waivers from the Diamondbacks. Arizona had designated Hessler for assignment back on April 30 in order to clear room on the roster for lefty Zac Curtis, whose contract was selected from Triple-A.
The 27-year-old Hessler has appeared in 20 games for the D-backs over the past two seasons but struggled, yielding 14 earned runs in 15 1/3 innings. He’s struggled in similarly limited exposure to the Triple-A level as well (5.32 ERA in 22 innings), but overall he enjoyed a strong season in the minors last year, working to a combined 2.14 ERA with 9.9 K/9 against 2.3 BB/9 across three levels. Lefties batted just .195/.246/.322 against Hessler between the Majors and Minors in 2015.
Here are Sunday’s minor moves from around the majors:
- The Padres announced that they have placed second baseman Jemile Weeks on the 15-day DL with a right hamstring strain and recalled Jose Pirela. Prior to suffering the injury Saturday, Weeks collected 57 PAs and hit just .140/.204/.200. Pirela, also a second baseman, has slashed .306/.352/.447 at the Triple-A level in 2016. He was with the Padres earlier this season and appeared in four games, racking up five PAs and a double.
- Catcher Adam Moore, whom the Indians designated for assignment earlier this week, will stay in the organization after accepting an outright assignment to Triple-A Columbus, tweets Tribeinsider.
- The Astros reinstated catcher Max Stassi from the DL and optioned him to Triple-A Fresno, Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle was among those to report (Twitter link). Prior to undergoing surgery on the hamate bone in his left wrist in mid-March, Stassi was expected to team with Jason Castro to form the Astros’ catching tandem. The club is now preparing Evan Gattis for a role behind the plate, however, lessening the need for Stassi – whom Baseball America ranked as Houston’s 19th-best prospect entering the season.
- The Cubs have activated right-hander Neil Ramirez from the bereavement list and optioned righty Spencer Patton to Triple-A Iowa, the team announced. Ramirez has amassed six innings of three-run ball this year (seven strikeouts, four walks), while Patton made his sole big league appearance of the year Saturday and faced two batters – one of whom walked, the other of whom doubled.
- The Athletics have optioned right-hander Jesse Hahn to Triple-A Nashville and recalled righty J.B. Wendelken, per a team announcement. Hahn threw 17 2/3 innings in the minors this year before the A’s recalled him at the end of last month. He made two starts with Oakland, allowing four earned runs in 12 innings while walking six and striking out four. Hahn had a rough start Saturday, surrendering eight hits, four earned runs and four walks in 5 1/3 innings of work in a loss to Baltimore. Wendelken, 23, is now in position to make his major league debut after racking up 315 2/3 innings in the minors, where he has posted a 4.08 ERA, 9.2 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9.
- The Reds announced that they have sent outfielder Scott Schebler to Triple-A Louisville and recalled outfielder/first baseman Kyle Waldrop. Schebler’s demotion is the result of the Reds wanting to give him playing time, which he hadn’t been receiving enough of in the majors lately because of the success of left fielder Adam Duvall. Schebler hit just .188/.246/.344 with a home run in 69 plate appearances prior to his demotion. Waldrop, not to be confused with the former major league reliever of the same name, has hit .276/.322/.437 in 2,445 career minor league PAs. The 24-year-old got his first taste of big league action last season, though he accrued only one at-bat.
The Brewers announced today that they have claimed left-hander Michael Kirkman off waivers from the Padres. San Diego had designated Kirkman for assignment earlier in the week after just one appearance. Kirkman, 29, allowed four runs in just an inning and a third in his lone appearance as a Padre. He’d allowed three runs on three hits and no walks with six strikeouts in six innings for San Diego’s Triple-A affiliate this season.
Milwaukee is no stranger to Kirkman, as the left-hander spent a good portion of the 2015 campaign pitching with the Brewers’ Triple-A affiliate in Colorado Springs. Last year, Kirkman posted a 2.81 ERA across 32 innings in that hitter-friendly environment. However, despite an impressive 34 strikeouts in that time, he also issued 28 walks, continuing control problems that have followed him for much of his professional career. Indeed, Kirkman has averaged 5.1 walks per nine innings pitched in his 374 innings at the Triple-A level. His control has been slightly better in an admittedly limited sample at the Major League level, where he has a lifetime 5.25 ERA with 8.6 K/9 against 4.6 BB/9 in 108 innings. The entirety of his Major League experience, aside from this year’s brief cameo in a Padres uniform, has come with the Rangers, who selected him in the fifth round of the 2008 draft.
Tom Haudicourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel tweets that GM David Stearns tells him Kirkman is out of options and will thus join Chris Capuano as a second left-handed option in the Brewers’ big league bullpen following Sam Freeman’s recent DFA. A corresponding 25-man roster move has yet to be announced. (Apologies to our readers for previously and incorrectly writing that Kirkman had a minor league option remaining.)
While Padres ace Tyson Ross has moved onto the next phase of his rehab from shoulder inflammation and is doing stabilization exercises (with strengthening exercises around the corner), there’s still no timetable for his return, writes MLB.com’s A.J. Cassavell. Ross has yet to resume throwing, and manager Andy Green tells Cassavell that not only is there no timetable for a return to the Majors, there’s not even a timetable for when Ross will pick up a ball. Green somewhat vaguely says that Ross has reported feeling good, but the lack of definitive updates on his return continues to represent an ominous scenario for the Padres.
Padres left-hander Robbie Erlin has a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow and will miss the remainder of the season (and, presumably, the beginning of the 2017 campaign) due to Tommy John surgery, tweets Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune. Erlin had been placed on the 15-day disabled list back in late April with what manager Andy Green described to reporters as forearm tightness.
The 25-year-old Erlin, originally acquired from the Rangers as part of the 2012 Mike Adams trade, has spent parts of the past four seasons with San Diego’s big league affiliate, pitching to a combined 4.54 ERA with 6.6 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9 to go along with a 40.4 percent ground-ball rate in 148 2/3 innings. This season, Erlin had tossed 15 2/3 innings across three appearances (two starts) and allowed seven earned runs with a 13-to-3 K/BB ratio. The loss of Erlin will further thin out the Padres’ pitching depth, as Opening Day starter Tyson Ross remains on the shelf indefinitely due to inflammation in his right shoulder. With Erlin out, the Padres’ rotation currently consists of Andrew Cashner, James Shields, Drew Pomeranz and rookies Colin Rea and Cesar Vargas. Further depth options at the Triple-A level include left-hander Christian Friedrich and veteran right-hander Jeremy Guthrie.
To this point in his career, Erlin has accumulated a year and 78 days of big league service time, and he’ll accrue another full season due to time spent on the disabled list. That’ll push him up to two-plus years of service, but he’ll still fall considerably shy of Super Two status and therefore will not be arbitration eligible next winter.
We learned recently that free agent righty Tim Lincecum is preparing for a long-awaited showcase on Friday. Once one of the best pitchers in the game, Lincecum has been slowed by a variety of injury and performance issues more recently — including, particularly, hip surgery this past September — and is looking to show that he’s back to full health before signing.
Here’s the latest, with links to the Twitter account of MLB Network’s Jon Heyman unless otherwise noted:
- The showcase will be held at Scottsdale Stadium, the Giants’ spring home, per Heyman. While Lincecum has availed himself of his long-time team’s facilities during his ramp-up, it shouldn’t be supposed that a return to San Francisco is particularly likely. As we’ve covered before, the Giants are said to be interested in Lincecum as a bullpen option, while he’s hoping to find a shot as a starter.
- This particular event was always going to draw more fanfare than a typical bullpen session for a free agent who hasn’t posted a sub-4.00 ERA since 2011, but it appears that it could be made into a bigger spectacle than anyone would have foreseen. ESPN may be on hand to broadcast the outing, Heyman tweets, which would certainly lend an interesting combine-esque quality to the proceedings.
- Beyond the Giants, we heard previously that the Orioles, Padres, and Athletics plan to have a scouting presence on hand. The White Sox, too, will be there, per Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune (Twitter link), as will the Angels, according to Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com (via Twitter). And the Blue Jays will also take a look, John Lott tweets.
- Heyman also adds several more clubs that plant to send eyes (links: 1; 2; 3; 4). The Dodgers, Cubs, Nationals, and Marlins will be there from the National League side of things. And American League teams with at least one scout in the stands will include the Rangers and Astros.
Kirkman, 29, made just one appearance on the year, surrendering six hits and four earned runs in 1 1/3 innings. Long a member of the Rangers organization, Kirkman spent most of last year at the Triple-A level with the Brewers before receiving his release in August. He carried an impressive 2.81 ERA on just 19 hits over 32 innings at Colorado Springs, but his 9.6 K/9 was accompanied by a troubling 7.9 BB/9.
MAY 2: The Athletics will also be in attendance, tweets John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group. Meanwhile, Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post (Twitter link) and Mike Puma of the New York Post (Twitter link) report that the Rockies and Mets, respectively, will not be in attendance. Puma notes that the Mets are already comfortable with their pitching depth, and as Saunders notes, it’s highly unlikely that the Rockies would be able to convince Lincecum to attempt to revitalize his career at Coors Field.
MAY 1: Tim Lincecum will hold a long-awaited throwing showcase for scouts on Friday in Scottsdale, MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reports (Twitter links). As many as 20 teams are expected to attend, including representatives from the Orioles, Padres and the Giants, Lincecum’s former team.
As of February, a return to the Giants was still Lincecum’s preference, as the right-hander told at least one person while visiting his old teammates during Spring Training, CSNBayArea.com’s Alex Pavlovic reports. The Giants have long said that they would be interested in a reunion with Lincecum if “the Freak” was willing to take on a bullpen role, and Pavlovic reports that this relief-only stance hasn’t necessarily changed even though the club’s rotation has had some early struggles.
Lincecum, for his part, wants to return as a starter and has been working out all winter in order to rebuild his durability and velocity following hip surgery that shortened his 2015 season. He reportedly wanted to be in top form before officially throwing for scouts, which is why the showcase (rumored to be imminent for four months) is only taking place this week. There is no small amount of mystery surrounding Lincecum’s condition as scouts have been kept away from his workouts, though recent reports have him throwing 70 pitches on an every-five-days basis and throwing in the 90 mph range off of flat ground.
If Lincecum looks good in his showcase, he would likely be able to find a starting job with one of the many interested teams, though it might be on a minor league contract given his health history. San Diego and Baltimore have both been connected to Lincecum all offseason, with both clubs perhaps in more need of starting pitching depth now due to injuries and ineffectiveness within their current rotations. The Orioles just added some veteran depth earlier this week by signing Wandy Rodriguez to a minors deal.
The no-trade protection in Ryan Braun’s contract allows the star outfielder to block a deal to every team besides the Angels, Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Giants, Marlins and Padres, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports (Twitter link). Like most players with partial no-trade clauses, Braun has the ability to change the teams on his no-trade list each year; last season, the Angels, Dodgers, Marlins, Nationals and Rays were the only clubs that escaped Braun’s veto power.
Braun is in his first season of a five-year, $105MM extension that he signed way back in 2011, when he still had almost five full years remaining on his previous extension with the Brewers. It’s been a roller-coaster for Braun and the Brewers ever since — superstar seasons in 2011 and 2012, a 65-game suspension in 2013 for his role in the Biogenesis scandal and some recurring injuries, particularly to his thumb.
Braun rebounded for a very productive year in 2015, though his future salary commitments have made him a possible trade chip now that the Brewers are rebuilding. That same contract, as well as Braun’s age (32) and PED history, could also just as easily limit his trade market unless the Brewers ate some salary in a trade or took on another big contract.
There are any number of reasons why a player could include or omit a team on a no-trade list, though in Braun’s case, geography could be a factor. Braun was born and raised in the Los Angeles suburbs and he went to school at the University of Miami, which could explain why the Angels, Dodgers and Marlins didn’t appear on either no-trade list. The Dodgers and Marlins are rather unlikely trade partners, however, given that both teams are already set for corner outfielders. The Angels have a big vacancy in left field, though they may not be a fit for Braun for a variety of other reasons, as Rosenthal explained yesterday.
Braun’s southern California roots may also explain why he wouldn’t block a trade to the relatively-nearby D’Backs, Padres or Giants. It generally appears as though Braun would prefer to stay in the National League, as the Angels are the only AL team on his current veto list.
If the Brewers worked out a trade that would send Braun to a team on his no-trade list, of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean the former NL MVP would choose to remain in Milwaukee. He could decide to join a contender rather than stick it out through the Brewers’ rebuilding process. Like other players with no-trade protection, Braun could ask for more financial incentive in order to allow a deal to be consummated. Braun’s deal contains a $15MM mutual option for the 2021 season that can be bought out for $4MM, so it’s possible he could ask to have that option year guaranteed to allow a trade to happen, though that would be a tough ask to give him another $11MM in his age-37 season.