Demoted Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong has begun to play some center field with Triple-A Memphis as a means of expanding his versatility to the team, as MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch writes. Wong, who signed a five-year/$25.5MM extension back in March only to be optioned in June after struggling all season, has experience playing center field from his college days but hadn’t suited up there as a pro until Monday night. “”That’s kind of what our club is all about right now, being able to play multiple positions and give yourself a chance to help us in ways you may not see as obvious,” said Cardinals manager Mike Matheny. “He’s got speed, instincts. All those put together really make him able to play almost anywhere.” The struggles of Randal Grichuk and regression from April star Jeremy Hazelbaker could lead to an opportunity for Wong in center field if his bat returns to form.
More from the game’s Central divisions…
- Former All-Star Joe Nathan, who signed a minor league deal with the Cubs earlier this season, spoke to Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago about his recovery from a second Tommy John surgery and his eventual aspirations of pitching for the big league club. Nathan said he’s received encouraging feedback from the medical staff thus far and is on pace to pitch in a game on Friday of this week with three bullpens under his belt. Nathan tells Rogers that when he initially spoke to president of baseball operations Theo Epstein, he made it clear that he was willing to pitch in any situation if he is ultimately able to work his way back to the Majors. “I basically told him I know how good your ballclub is with or without me,” said the 41-year-old Nathan. “I’m not here to try and disrupt anything. If you need me to throw in the sixth inning, seventh inning, I’m here for you. Whatever you want.” Nathan could begin a rehab assignment with Double-A later this month, Rogers adds.
- There’s been plenty of talk as of late regarding Royals right-hander Yordano Ventura, with some reports indicating that he’s been offered to other teams in trades and another from MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan in which a team source called the notion “utter nonsense.” Rob Bradford of WEEI.com adds his hat to the mix, writing that as of Monday this week, a source close to the situation told him that Kansas City is not currently shopping Ventura. The Royals, according to Bradford, are reluctant to part with Ventura because of a lack of an immediate replacement for the 25-year-old and due to the friendly nature of his contract.
- Indians president of baseball ops Chris Antonetti said in an appearance on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM today (Twitter link) that top outfield prospects Bradley Zimmer and Clint Frazier have become options for him, though he hedged the statement somewhat, adding: “…whether that becomes the latter part of this year, we’ll see.” A recent report suggested that Frazier and Zimmer — the organization’s top two prospects — wouldn’t be options at the big league level this season even after Marlon Byrd was suspended for 162 games. Cleveland, however, is still without Michael Brantley (whose injury situation is the source of plenty of uncertainty) and has lost both Byrd and Abraham Almonte to PED suspensions. Zimmer, 23, was the 21st pick of the 2014 draft and is hitting .233/.359/.479 with 10 homers and 21 steals at Double-A Akron. Frazier, his Akron teammate, has been even more impressive; the No. 5 pick from the 2013 draft is hitting .308/.402/.500 on the season. Both were consensus Top 50 prospects entering the season.
- Ryan Braun tells MLB.com’s Michael Wagaman that he’s aware of the trade rumors swirling around his name and has had conversations with Brewers GM David Stearns about the possibility of such a move. Braun says he has a “great relationship” with the team’s management. “As far as I know I don’t think that there’s anything that’s that close,” he adds. “But if it was up to me, if I was running an organization there would never be anybody that was off-limits. I would be open to anything, I would listen to any proposals anybody else has. Certainly they should be doing that with every player on our roster, as should every other team.”