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Sunday, June 16, 2019

Stories by Grey Papke:

Red Sox catcher proclaims team ‘back’ after sweep of Orioles

Red Sox logo

The Boston Red Sox have had a very uneven season, but one of their players thinks this weekend’s sweep of the Baltimore Orioles could mark a turning point.

Catcher Christian Vazquez celebrated the team’s three-game sweep in Baltimore by announcing to assembled reporters that the World Series winners are “back.”

A sweep is always a good thing, and it moved the Red Sox five games above .500, a new season high. Ultimately, though, the Orioles are one of baseball’s worst teams, and it’s tough to say whether this is an actual barometer of where Boston is at.

Red Sox fans have been in a panic since April over the team’s struggles, prompting the occasional response from the manager. They’re still 5.5 games back of the first-place New York Yankees in the AL East, but Sunday’s win does move them into a tie for the second Wild Card spot.

White Sox reportedly call up top prospect Zack Collins

White Sox

The Chicago White Sox are continuing their youth movement.

According to Andy Slater of 640 The Hurricane, the White Sox are calling up 2016 first-round draft pick Zack Collins.

Collins, a catcher, ranked as a top 100 prospect before the season began. He hit .258 with nine home runs in 48 games for Triple-A Charlotte this season. While it’s unclear if he’ll stick as a catcher in the long-term, he’s there now, but it’s his power bat that is generally the most intriguing.

Collins may not be up for long, but he does join a rather exciting youth movement that includes Yoan Moncada, Eloy Jimenez, and Lucas Giolito. Things are looking up in Chicago.

Yankees send Clint Frazier down after making Encarnacion deal

Clint Frazier

Clint Frazier continues to struggle to nail down a spot on the New York Yankees’ roster.

Manager Aaron Boone announced Sunday that Frazier would be sent down to Triple-A to clear a roster spot for trade acquisition Edwin Encarnacion.

The 24-year-old outfielder just can’t seem to do right by the Yankees. He’s been squeezed out of a roster spot despite hitting .285 with 11 home runs this season. Ultimately, the choice came down to either Frazier or Brett Gardner. While Gardner hasn’t performed as well as Frazier offensively, he’s a veteran with no options and a wealth of experience, which isn’t true of Frazier.

Frazier has also clashed with the New York media recently. He may well end up as trade bait before the July 31 deadline, as he just can’t seem to stick due to the immense depth of their roster.

Report: Lakers will pursue Kawhi Leonard in free agency

Kawhi Leonard

The Los Angeles Lakers are reportedly going to try to bring Kawhi Leonard home to Southern California.

According to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer, the Lakers will pursue Leonard in free agency, provided they have the cap space to make a max contract offer. Leonard would be paired with LeBron James and Anthony Davis as part of the NBA’s newest “superteam.”

Whether the Lakers can land him is another question. Returning to California could be intriguing for the Toronto Raptors star, but the Clippers are going to be very aggressive in pursuit of Leonard. The Raptors will also try to keep Leonard in the fold.

Leonard is fresh off Finals MVP honors after winning a title with Toronto. Whether he’d be interested in sharing space with James and Anthony will be a big question after he was the unquestioned leader in the Raptors’ championship run.

Hunter Pence suffers groin tightness, will be re-evaluated

Hunter Pence has been a big part of the Texas Rangers’ surprising success in 2019, but he could be sidelined after hurting his groin on Sunday.

Pence was pursuing a fly ball when he pulled up limping and left the game. The Rangers announced he has tightness in his right groin, and will undergo further evaluation on Monday.

Pence has had a surprising resurgence with Texas this season, hitting .292 with 14 home runs. He’s played a big part in the surprising Rangers occupying a Wild Card spot, and they can’t really afford to lose him for an extended period of time. At this point, though, it’s just too soon to tell how much time he’ll miss.

Fred VanVleet has awesome quote about what Raptors will do if Leonard leaves

Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet knows as well as everyone else that Kawhi Leonard may leave Toronto this offseason, and he’s prepared for the possibility.

VanVleet said Sunday that he’ll have a simple solution if Leonard departs for another team: they’re just going to beat him.

It’s the best attitude VanVleet and his teammates could possibly take. Leonard may well leave, but it’s clear that the Raptors don’t want this to be a one-off either way. VanVleet played a key role in the Finals and can certainly score and come up big in key moments, as can many of his teammates, and he clearly has the attitude to match.

Nick Nurse believes Raptors can give Kawhi Leonard ‘good deal’

The big question that lingers around the Toronto Raptors after winning the NBA title is whether they will be able to retain forward Kawhi Leonard.

Coach Nick Nurse believes that the Raptors can make a compelling case to the star free agent, and they can give him the deal he wants in a place where he’s beloved by the fans.

There is one disadvantage the Raptors have that they may not be able to overcome: geography. The Los Angeles Clippers have made no secret of the fact that they want to bring Leonard back home to Southern California this summer, and he may be interested. Nurse and the Raptors will be desperate to convince Leonard that he has a good gig on a contender right now, and there’s no reason to change that.

Report: Celtics were willing to discuss Tatum, Brown in Anthony Davis talks

Jayson Tatum

The Boston Celtics were reportedly willing to discuss their most talented young players in an Anthony Davis trade, but many limitations prevented the team from pushing ahead of the Los Angeles Lakers in trade talks.

According to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, the Celtics were willing to at least discuss the likes of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Marcus Smart with the New Orleans Pelicans. However, they were unwilling to give up as much as the Lakers ultimately did, nor did they have the high draft pick that helped the Lakers clinch the deal.

There had been reports that Tatum, at least, was off the table in trade talks. This disputes that, but it’s easy to wonder how eager the Celtics were to trade prized assets like Tatum and Brown with no guarantee that Davis would stay more than a year, plus Kyrie Irving’s uncertain future.