In an appearance on Pittsburgh’s 93.7 The Fan, Pirates GM Neal Huntington admits that the winter swap of Neil Walker for Jon Niese was a mistake. “We felt that that was our best return, and it has not played out that way, and that’s a challenge,” Huntington said. “We own that. We accept that.” Reports have suggested that the Bucs are hoping to trade Niese. For the time being, he’s headed for bullpen duties, as Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review tweets. Though Huntington expressed hope that Niese can turn things around, he was unusually forthright in acknowledging the faulty trade (while also hinting at the team’s alternatives in shopping Walker). “In hindsight, maybe the two fringe prospects and trying to figure out where to reallocate the money might have been a better return,” he said.
- Niese’s former club, the Mets, surely didn’t envision a scenario where the lefty could hold appeal in 2016, but Marc Carig of Newsday writes that the club isn’t ruling out a reunion. New York is still prioritizing pen help, but seems increasingly open to the idea of bringing back a pitcher who had a good deal of success over his time with the club. The 29-year-old has been hit hard in Pittsburgh, but carried a 3.91 ERA in over 1,000 innings through eight years with the Mets.
- Braves closer Arodys Vizcaino left tonight’s action with what appeared to be an oblique issue. As MLB.com’s Mark Bowman tweets, the preliminary expectation is that he’ll require a DL stint. The injury comes at an inopportune time for Vizcaino’s trade chances, as he has already missed action of late and has struggled when he has been available. Over his last five appearances, Vizcaino has allowed five earned runs on eight hits and seven walks while recording only a pair of strikeouts. Once viewed as one of the best relief arms on the market, it seems increasingly likely that he’ll end up staying in Atlanta for the rest of the season.
- Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein says the his club will be flexible in the build-up to the deadline, as Bruce Levine of CBS Chicago reports. “I don’t think its productive to pigeonhole yourself into thinking you have needs in just one specific role as the key to improving this club,” Epstein said. “There are so many variables. Things change. The way you look now may not be the way you look in mid-September. We are going to be open-minded to adding talented players knowing that could happen.” Epstein did discuss the idea of adding a starter, though Chicago’s rotation has been quite solid. “We are always looking to add long-term starting pitching,” he noted. “Sometimes the trading deadline can be a better forum for that than the offseason. Sometimes it is not. It is important to stay focused this time of year on this year’s club. You still want to keep one eye on opportunities that can help you down the road as well.”
- The Giants are seeing solid progress on some injured players, as Andrew Baggarly of the Mercury News reports. Outfielder Hunter Pence is set to begin a rehab assignment, where he’ll test his surgically-repaired hamstring. And second baseman Joe Panik has passed a concussion test, meaning he could soon be cleared to start his own brief rehab stint. Righties Cory Gearrin and Matt Cain are also nearing readiness; the former has extended his throwing distance while the latter reached 93 pitches in an outing tonight (though he was also touched for 10 runs).
- The division-rival Dodgers also got some injury news, though it’s not necessarily all positive. Outfielder Trayce Thompson has lower back pain that could land him on the DL. Fellow outfielder Andre Ethier is now looking like he’s more likely to make it back in mid-August, about two weeks later than had been targeted, though the team is still awaiting the results of a bone scan on his injured leg before it gets a clearer picture.
- While the Dodgers think they’ll utilize prized lefty Julio Urias at the major league level again later this year, manager Dave Roberts says he’ll work at the pen at Triple-A for the time being. (Via MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM; Twitter link.) Los Angeles has been understandably cautious with his workload, and seemingly hopes to keep him fresh while also tamping down the innings for the time being.