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Friday, July 20, 2018

Baseball

Report: Braves among teams interested in Zach Britton

Zach Britton

Zach Britton has looked sharp in his last several outings with the Baltimore Orioles, and teams are showing an increasing interest in the left-hander heading into the trade deadline. The Atlanta Braves are reportedly one of those teams.

According to ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, the Braves are searching for bullpen help and have expressed interest in Britton.

Contending teams are almost always looking for bullpen arms near the trade deadline, and the Braves are currently 52-42 and just a half-game behind the Philadelphia Phillies in the NL East.

Britton ruptured his Achilles last December, and he is still trying to regain the form that made him one of the best closers in baseball for several seasons. The left-hander has looked very sharp in the month of July, recording three saves and a win in six appearances and lowering his ERA from 5.59 to 3.68. A team that was close to acquiring him last year is also said to still be interested, so the Orioles should have plenty of suitors as July 31 approaches.

Lance McCullers calls out MLB for failing to market star players

Major League Baseball has been trying to find ways to offset declining attendance and television ratings for quite some time, and one star pitcher thinks he knows what the league’s biggest issue is.

In his weekly appearance on Sports 610 Radio Thursday, Houston Astros starter Lance McCullers was highly critical of MLB for being the “worst marketed league” of the major sports in America.

“We have the worst marketed league, in my opinion…of the three major sports, in the United States. I don’t know why that is. I think that the other sports leagues understand that the product that you have, the more people are interested in that product, especially, [it’s going] to sell,” McCullers said. “I think that the MLB, for a long time, has just always believed that baseball will sell because it’s baseball, and I think that it’s starting to catch up to us.”

McCullers said social media is a big tool to use for marketing players, but he admitted he has grown tired of it and there are a lot of players who don’t enjoy it. Rather than leaving it to players to build their own brands, the left-hander thinks MLB can do a lot more to help.

“The overall league needs to do a better job, like the NBA has done, in marketing its players, going on worldwide tours, taking certain players that aren’t just the two or three biggest names in sports, taking everyone,” McCullers said. “[This would let people understand] that this is what’s baseball’s about, [and would allow] everybody to get out there, versus just a certain few, and that’s something that the MLB is going to have to work on.”

The discussion of marketing MLB stars became a more polarizing one recently when commissioner Rob Manfred seemed to call out Mike Trout for not doing enough to build his brand. Trout took the high road in responding, but the remarks were surprising. McCullers seems to think Manfred should look in the mirror before calling upon guys like Trout to do more.

Jose Ramirez had tough question for new teammate Brad Hand

Jose Ramirez

Jose Ramirez had nothing but the tough questions for his newest teammate.

Ramirez’s Cleveland Indians acquired Brad Hand in a trade with the San Diego Padres on Thursday. The reliever tweeted his excitement about heading to the Indians.

In response, Ramirez just wanted to know whether Hand plays the classic video game “Mario Kart.”

Hopefully Hand does, because then he would clearly fit in with the rest of his new teammates. We’re surprised he didn’t ask about “Fortnite” instead.

Cubs acquire Jesse Chavez in trade with Rangers

Chicago Cubs logo

The Chicago Cubs have added another relief pitcher to their bullpen.

Chicago acquired pitcher Jesse Chavez in a trade with the Texas Rangers on Thursday. The Cubs dealt minor league lefty Tyler Thomas in return.

Chavez has spent time during his career as both a starter and reliever. He’s been working exclusively as a reliever this season and carries a 3.51 ERA with 50 strikeouts in 56.1 innings this season.

The move adds some depth to the Cubs bullpen, which is without Brandon Morrow, who is currently on the DL.

Thomas, a 7th-round pick last year, is 3-5 with a 2.88 ERA in Single-A this season.

Top Royals prospect hurt himself getting out of bed

Kansas City Royals players seem to keep finding the oddest ways to injure themselves this season, even their minor leaguers.

According to a report by Maria Torres of the Kansas City Star on Thursday, top Royals prospect Bubba Starling dislocated his left index finger as he stumbled getting out of bed. Starling, who had been recovering from an oblique injury for the last two months, had to undergo surgery on the finger, which was said to be “completely bent backwards.” His return to the Class-AAA Omaha Storm Chasers is now expected to be delayed another six weeks.

Starling was taken by the Royals with the No. 5 overall pick in the 2011 MLB Draft, ahead of the likes of Francisco Lindor, Javy Baez, and George Springer. The 25-year-old outfielder has yet to make his major league debut.

If there’s any good news here, it’s that Starling bats and throws righty, so the injury was not to his dominant hand. Still though, it’s getting pretty eerie just how many Royals have hurt themselves in bizarre circumstances recently.

Shohei Ohtani cleared to begin throwing, could pitch again this season

Shohei Ohtani

Shohei Ohtani has already returned to the Los Angeles Angels lineup as a hitter, and now seeing him on the mound again may not be too far off either.

The Angels announced on Thursday that the rookie star has been medically cleared to begin a throwing program after showing continued improvement in the healing of his elbow ligament, per Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY Sports. That means that Ohtani could possibly pitch again this season.

Ohtani, 24, missed nearly a month of action after landing on the disabled list with a Grade 2 sprain of the UCL in his right elbow. He returned as a batter on Jul. 3 though and has made 11 total appearances since coming off the DL.

Ohtani’s progress is in line with what the Angels have been saying all along. However, the team is a middling 49-48 on the season and nearly ten games out of a playoff spot, so it would make little sense for them to push Ohtani to pitch if it’s not necessary.

Nats players reportedly voicing concerns about manager’s handling of pitching staff

Washington Nationals

Washington Nationals manager Dave Martinez appears to share at least one major weakness with his predecessor Dusty Baker.

Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post reported on Thursday that Nats players have expressed concerns about Martinez’s management of the pitching staff.

Per Janes:

Martinez’s ability to handle a pitching staff emerged as the primary concern in the Nationals clubhouse in the first part of this season, according to on- and off-the-record conversations with players and those familiar with this team’s inner-workings.

The biggest concern is workload — a problem relievers believe, and have said publicly, sent Brandon Kintzler and Ryan Madson to the disabled list while causing Sammy Solis’s performance to suffer enough that he ended up at Class AAA Syracuse. At one point in May, the Nationals had five relievers — Kintzler, Madson, Solis, Sean Doolittle and Matt Grace — on pace for career-highs in appearances. Those numbers have evened out, in part because of those disabled list stints. Kintzler leads the team with 40 appearances in 96 games, though more than 60 relievers around the league have appeared more often.

Janes also cites other points of contention that the clubhouse has with Martinez. Specifically, she mentions Martinez’s lack of communication, a perceived lack of trust in his relievers via how he warms up reinforcements, and a tendency to allow his starters to take another turn at the plate just so that they can face a few more hitters in the next half-inning.

Martinez, 53, is a first-year manager and has also butted heads with his players over other issues this season as well. That disconnect could be as much to blame for the Nats’ underwhelming first half as anything else.

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