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Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Baseball

Hanley Ramirez expected to make Indians’ Opening Day roster

Hanley Ramirez

Hanley Ramirez was forced to sign a minor-league deal with the Cleveland Indians last month after not receiving enough interest from other teams, but it looks like he will be on the major league roster come Opening Day.

Indians manager Terry Francona told reporters over the weekend that Ramirez is expected to be on the MLB roster when the team opens its season against the Minnesota Twins on Thursday. The only thing that could change that is if Cleveland makes a trade.

Ramirez, 35, has had a decent spring, the highlight of which was his two-homer game on Friday. He also added a double in that game, so that could have been what convinced Francona and the Indians. Overall, Ramirez has batted .278 with eight RBI and an .844 OPS in 12 games this spring.

Ramirez was surprisingly released by the Boston Red Sox midseason last year following a report that he was tied to a federal drug investigation. The report turned out to be unfounded.

Joe Maddon admits Ian Happ was not happy after surprising demotion

The Chicago Cubs made the decision to send outfielder Ian Happ to the minor leagues on Saturday, a move that surprised even the player himself.

Happ, who hit 15 home runs for the Cubs last season, will start the year in AAA, and manager Joe Maddon admitted the player was very upset by the move.

Happ has been more or less a regular for two years, and has provided some memorable moments, even if inadvertently. It comes as a shock to see him sent down even if he did hit just .135 in spring.

Trevor Bauer disputes notion he is unhappy about not being Opening Day starter

Trevor Bauer

Trevor Bauer once again used his Twitter account to protest something written by Cleveland Indians reporter Paul Hoynes.

The Indians announced on Saturday that Corey Kluber would start Opening Day while Bauer would follow him in the rotation. In his opening sentence for a story on the matter, Hoynes said on Cleveland.com that Bauer was “not happy” about Kluber getting the nod.

Bauer disputed that characterization and let it be known via Twitter.

Indians manager Terry Francona was quoted as saying Bauer might be “a little cranky” over the decision, but acknowledged that they couldn’t go wrong choosing between the two pitchers.

Though Bauer was better than Kluber by most statistical measures last season, the Opening Day honor often goes to a pitcher with a more proven history when there is a doubt. If Bauer repeats his performance from 2018 and out-pitches Kluber this season, he’ll probably have earned the 2020 nod. For now, you can’t really argue with choosing a pitcher who has won two Cy Youngs and has five straight 200-plus inning/200-plus strikeout seasons. And you also can’t argue with an athlete so competitive that he wants to earn the highest honors in his sport.

Jacob deGrom less optimistic about new contract with Mets

Jacob deGrom

New York Mets ace Jacob deGrom had been optimistic about reaching a contract extension with the team before his self-imposed deadline. Now, that seems less likely.

On Saturday, deGrom said he was not as optimistic that the two sides could reach a deal before the end of spring training, at which point the pitcher will not engage in further discussions until the end of the season.

deGrom has two seasons left to go on his contract, but there is an eagerness to get something done now before it becomes a real distraction. Plus, there could be far-ranging ramifications on the field if deGrom and the Mets can’t come to an agreement this spring.

Reds’ Nick Senzel not blaming service time for losing outfield job

A day after his agent blamed service time manipulation for him not winning a roster spot, Cincinnati Reds top prospect Nick Senzel is refusing to take the same approach publicly.

On Saturday, Senzel simply credited teammate Scott Schebler for nailing down the team’s center field job, and wouldn’t go anywhere close to as far as his agent did.

Schebler hit .379 during spring, so keeping him on the roster is far from indefensible. Senzel wasn’t bad either, though, hitting .308.

Ultimately, Senzel’s agent has a lot more leeway to speak on this publicly than Senzel probably does, but he’ll probably earn points for his professionalism whether he feels it’s fair or not.

Report: Braves, Brewers final suitors for Craig Kimbrel

Craig Kimbrel Red Sox

It appears that closer Craig Kimbrel may be inching closer to finding a home for the 2019 season.

According to David O’Brien of The Athletic, the Milwaukee Brewers and Atlanta Braves are the main suitors for Kimbrel barring an unexpected late contender.

The Brewers had been thought to be the frontrunner, and may have a glaring need due to a potential health issue in the back of their bullpen. Kimbrel knows the Braves well, having been drafted and developed by the organization while playing five seasons there.

There’s no indication of how close any deal is, but with Opening Day less than a week away, any team would probably like to get him signed as quickly as possible so he can be put on a program to get fast-tracked onto the MLB roster.

Report: Astros could re-sign Justin Verlander on short-term deal

Justin Verlander

There had been some talk that Justin Verlander and the Houston Astros may struggle to agree to terms on a short-term deal, but there may be a better chance of it than previously anticipated.

According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, it is at least “possible” that the Astros would be willing to go north of $60 million on a two-year deal to keep Verlander. Houston is an analytical organization that some believed would be hesitant to offer that kind of money to someone who will be 37 in 2020, especially with Verlander eager to set a new average annual value record for a pitcher.

Verlander has said he’d be willing to go short, but the caveat was that he added it would only happen if the value was right. That’s going to be the sticking point in any negotiations, and they could be fruitless if the Astros aren’t willing to push $35 million a year.