Astros senior vice president of broadcasting and alumni relations Jamie Hildreth passed away Friday at the age of 72, reports Alyson Footer of MLB.com. Hildreth joined the Astros in 1987 and became their longest-tenured employee. “Jamie was a vital part of the Astros’ organization for over three decades,” owner Jim Crane said in a statement. “His knowledge of the industry and great ability to connect with people were invaluable. He has left an indelible mark on those of us that were fortunate to work with him. We send our deepest condolences to his many friends and family members.”
MLBTR sends our condolences to Hildreth’s family, friends and organization.
Here’s more from the American League:
- Thanks in part to injuries, the Angels’ rotation finished last season 20th in the majors in ERA and 28th in fWAR. The Halos responded by making several depth-oriented additions during the offseason, including Yusmeiro Petit, Bud Norris and John Lamb, and expect to have far more success in 2017 as a result. “We’re confident we have the depth that is going to give us a championship-caliber rotation,” manager Mike Scioscia said Tuesday (via Pedro Moura of the Los Angeles Times). “Exactly what the names are gonna be or what order remains to be seen, but we’re excited with the depth that we have. We’re excited with our defensive team, which should be an excellent team, and the positive effect that’ll have on all of our pitching, especially on our starters. We’re confident.” While Scioscia is clearly optimistic about the Angels’ pitching depth, rival talent evaluators are largely skeptical of the group, according to Moura.
- In the same piece, Moura relays that infielder/outfielder Dustin Ackley still hasn’t received medical clearance to throw since the then-Yankee underwent shoulder surgery last June. Of course, that will make it all the more difficult for the early February minor league signing to earn a spot on the Angels’ Opening Day roster.
- With a strong spring, first baseman James Loney “could rise to prominence in the Rangers’ camp,” writes T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com. Fellow minor league signing Josh Hamilton is also competing for a roster spot, and his knee issues might aid Loney in his quest to crack the 25-man, suggests Sullivan, who points out that they could use a lefty-swinging first baseman to complement the right-handed Mike Napoli. It’s worth noting that Hamilton has never played first, whereas Loney has lined up there almost exclusively since debuting in 2006. Although Loney batted a meek .265/.307/.397 in 366 plate appearances last year, Rangers manager Jeff Bannister told Sullivan that the lifetime .284/.336/.410 hitter “has proven over time that he’s a pretty tough out.”
- While Blue Jays outfielder Dalton Pompey’s stock has dropped since he peaked as Baseball America’s 30th-best prospect after the 2014 season, the club remains bullish on the 24-year-old. “We think he’s part of the future, left field or whatever, in this organization,” manager John Gibbons informed Paul Hagen of MLB.com. Continued Gibbons: “We think he’s going to have a great career, but he just needs to go out there and play and don’t worry about anything else. Because he’s got a ton of talent. He’s really got everything he needs to be really, really good.” Only two of Pompey’s 384 plate appearances last season came in the majors, and with Kevin Pillar, Jose Bautista, Ezequiel Carrera, Melvin Upton Jr. and Steve Pearce around as outfield options, he seems likely to head to the Triple-A level to begin 2017.
- Twins right-hander Ryan Vogelsong was worried the line drive he took off the head last May would not only end his career, but perhaps cost him his vision, per Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com. Fortunately, the ex-Pirate returned to the mound with his vision intact last year, and he’s now vying for a role with Minnesota after signing a minor league pact in January. On coming back for 2017, the soon-to-be 40-year-old Vogelsong said: “I love to compete. I think talking to guys who are done, it’s hard to replace that. I love being around the guys. I just love the game. I don’t play this game to make tons of money. The money is nice, but I play it because I love it. That’s what drives me. I still feel like I have good seasons left.”