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Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Baseball

Phillies get good early news on Bryce Harper injury

Bryce Harper

Bryce Harper’s injury does not appear to be overly serious, at least initially.

Initial X-rays on Harper’s ankle and foot were negative, and manager Gabe Kapler did not seem especially concerned about his star outfielder’s status.

Harper was hit on the foot or ankle with a fastball during Friday’s spring training contest against the Toronto Blue Jays, and limped off the field. Initial fears about a break or some sort of significant injuries appear to be unfounded, and it sounds like the best case scenario may be him sitting out for a few days as a precaution.

Watch: Bryce Harper limps off after being hit by pitch on ankle

Bryce Harper Phillies

Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Bryce Harper had a scary moment during Friday’s spring training game against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Harper was hit on the ankle or lower leg by a 96 MPH fastball and went down on the ground, very slow to get up. He limped off the field and was replaced by pinch runner Shane Robinson.

Harper is less than a week removed from his spring debut, so this is just terrible luck. The Phillies will be desperately hoping this isn’t as severe as it looks and he’ll only have to sit out a couple days at most.

Aaron Judge not interested in Home Run Derby despite new cash prize

Aaron Judge

Major League Baseball is adding a $1 million prize to try to entice players to participate in the Home Run Derby, but the early returns aren’t as encouraging as they may have liked.

New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge, a Home Run Derby winner in 2017, said the cash prize doesn’t change the fact that he has no interest in participating again and risking injury.

This is the problem MLB often runs into with the Home Run Derby. Stars simply don’t see it as fun. More marginal players may be enticed by the potential prize money, but the league’s best veteran players who are already making millions of dollars a year probably won’t change their mind about participating anytime soon.

Clayton Kershaw gets through another bullpen session without setback

Clayton Kershaw

Clayton Kershaw is building strength in hopes of being ready to pitch for the Los Angeles Dodgers on Opening Day, and the left-hander took another step in the right direction on Thursday.

For the second time since he experienced discomfort in his throwing shoulder last month, Kershaw threw a bullpen session. While he did not use his curveball at all, it seemed to go well.

The Dodgers have not formally announced an Opening Day starter, and it would not be a surprise if they decided to play it safe with Kershaw. Roberts acknowledged that the ace might not be ready for the start of the season, but the positive updates over the past week have been a good sign.

Kershaw has not thrown more than 200 innings in a season since 2016, and his velocity was way down last year. Despite that, he still finished with a 2.73 ERA last season in 26 starts, and the Dodgers felt confident enough in his health to sign him to a three-year, $93 million extension back in November. He has downplayed the latest issues with his shoulder, but it will be worth monitoring.

MLBPA did not support three-batter minimum rule

Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association agreed to numerous changes that will take effect this season or next, but it sounds like the union was very reluctant on at least one of the new rules.

One major change that will be implemented beginning in 2020 is a three-batter minimum for relief pitchers, which is designed to prevent teams from making excessive pitching changes in the same inning. The only exception to the rule is if a pitcher comes on and finishes the remainder of the half-inning. On Thursday, MLBPA executive director Tony Clark made it clear the union was opposed to that change.

While the MLBPA did not formally support the three-batter minimum, it agreed not to challenge the league’s plans to implement it beginning in 2020. MLB could have also put a pitch clock into effect, but that change has been tabled as part of the deal between the league and union.

Many baseball purists are heavily opposed to the three-batter minimum, but it should help speed games up and will add a new element of strategy for managers. Other developments have been received much more favorably, such as what MLB is doing with the Home Run Derby.

Bruce Bochy has plans to troll Royals during spring training game

Bruce Bochy

The San Francisco Giants still have a lot of the same players on their roster from when they won the World Series in 2014, and manager Bruce Bochy may call attention to that to bring back some bad memories for the Kansas City Royals this weekend.

It was the Royals that the Giants beat in a dramatic series more than four years ago, and World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner came on to close out Game 7 with five innings of two-hit relief. Bumgarner is scheduled to pitch against Kansas City in Sunday’s spring training game, and Bochy said he might start the exact same infield behind the left-hander that the Giants had in Game 7.

That would be cold, Bruce. Keep in mind that Bochy recently announced he will retire after the 2019 season, so perhaps taking shots at opponents will be part of his farewell tour. It’s all in good fun, right?

Astros pitcher rips White Sox for manipulating Eloy Jimenez service time

White Sox

Houston Astros pitcher Collin McHugh ripped the Chicago White Sox for manipulating the service time of top prospect Eloy Jimenez.

The White Sox officially optioned Jimenez to Triple-A on Wednesday as part of their Spring Training roster cuts. McHugh commented on the news by mocking the White Sox, asking what the outfielder really needs to work on.

McHugh’s point is well taken. Jimenez is a career .311 hitter with an .878 OPS during his time in the minors. He batted a combined .337 with a .961 OPS over stints in Double and Triple-A last season.

The 21-year-old is regarded as one of the top prospects in baseball and is clearly being sent down for a few weeks so that the White Sox can exploit a loophole in the MLB system that would give them an extra year of control over the player. This practice is nothing new — Kris Bryant was a victim of the system and recently criticized it — and now it’s happening to Jimenez. Maybe the White Sox will use Jimenez’s .154 spring training batting average as their justification for the move.