It was 50 years ago today that Nolan Ryan made his Major League debut, tossing two relief innings (and recording three strikeouts) for the Mets during an 8-3 loss to the Braves. Ryan spent his first five big league seasons in New York, including winning his only World Series ring as part of the 1969 Miracle Mets squad. Still, Ryan is probably much better remembered for his stints with the Angels, Astros and Rangers during his legendary career. Here’s the latest from around the AL West…
- The clubhouse fight between Billy Butler and Danny Valencia in August didn’t play a role in the Athletics’ decision to release Butler today, A’s GM David Forst and manager Bob Melvin told reporters (including CSNBayArea.com’s Joe Stiglich) today. Butler was released because it was simply “the right time to move on. It’s something we’ve discussed,” Forst said. “A lot of the younger players are here now, potentially more coming once [Triple-A] Nashville’s done. The at-bats just were not there. It’s time for us to move our focus beyond.”
- Butler also comments within the piece, saying the release wasn’t unexpected but he feels he could’ve used more at-bats to prove himself. His rough 2015 season “was definitely below what my expectations of myself are,” Butler said. “This season, it’s hard to even judge that. I haven’t even had many opportunities to play. When I did, I thought I helped the team.”
- Sonny Gray threw 11 pitches off a mound in a short bullpen session on Sunday, and the A’s righty told the media (including MLB.com’s Michael Wagaman) that he is still hopeful of pitching again this season, even if it’s just a relief outing or two. Earlier reports this week suggested that Gray’s 2016 season was probably over, given the nature of his injury (a right forearm strain) and the fact that the A’s are well out of the pennant race.
- Tim Lincecum won’t pitch again for the Angels in 2016, but GM Billy Eppler tells John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle that he’ll touch base with the righty in the offseason. In fact, Eppler said he has already “spoke at length with [Lincecum] about some thoughts for the wintertime and I’ll probably have more dialogue with him to see what he’s doing from a rehabilitation and strengthening standpoint.” Shea figures Lincecum will have to accept a minor league contract and be more open about converting to relief pitching if he hopes to continue his career. The Giants were interested in Lincecum as a reliever last winter, so a reunion could be possible if Lincecum indeed accepts a role change. While Lincecum struggled badly in limited duty with the Halos, Shea feels a proper offseason of conditioning and a full Spring Training could be greatly beneficial for the right-hander.
- This weekend’s Cubs/Astros series has led to some reflection about Houston’s decision to pass on Kris Bryant in the 2013 draft, but ESPN.com’s Jesse Rogers looks back at another connection between the two clubs. In January 2015, the Astros traded Dexter Fowler to Wrigleyville for Luis Valbuena and Dan Straily, a deal GM Jeff Luhnow said the two sides discussed for over a month before Straily’s inclusion clinched things. While Fowler has been a star over his two seasons for the Cubs, Luhnow has no regrets, given that Fowler was a year away from free agency and Valbuena has been a pretty solid player for the Astros. (This isn’t mentioned in Rogers’ piece, but moving Straily may actually be the bigger loss for Houston. Straily was traded to San Diego in March for Erik Kratz, and the righty developed into a good rotation piece for the Reds this season.)