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Friday, August 23, 2019

Baseball

Max Scherzer admits he still has concerns over back injury

Max Scherzer

Washington Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer returned to the mound for the first time since July 25 on Thursday night, but he knows he still has to monitor his back injury.

After getting through four innings of work against the Pittsburgh Pirates Thursday, Scherzer played catch without incident on Friday. He admitted, however, that the rhomboid strain in his back cannot be assumed to be completely behind him.

Scherzer is 35 years old and is well aware he has to watch himself physically. The Nationals are in the heat of a playoff race, sitting 1.5 games in front for the first Wild Card spot in the National League. They need Scherzer and his 2.41 ERA to keep them there, and another injury would seriously hurt their chances, even though they did well in his absence. Expect the Nationals to be cautious with Scherzer down the stretch to ensure that he stays healthy, as they already have been doing.

Justin Verlander accuses reporter Anthony Fenech of ‘unethical behavior’

Justin Verlander

The Houston Astros created a controversy when they blocked reporter Anthony Fenech from entering the clubhouse immediately after Wednesday’s game, apparently at the request of Justin Verlander.

Verlander pitched for the Detroit Tigers from 2005-2017. Fenech has been a beat reporter covering the Tigers for the Detroit Free Press since 2011. Fenech was blocked by the Astros from coming to interview Verlander after Detroit’s 2-1 win in Houston due to what the team described as “past history” between Fenech and Verlander.

MLB has spoken with the Astros to let them know Fenech should have been allowed to enter the clubhouse at the same time as all other reporters. The Baseball Writers’ Association of America said in a statement that they were “alarmed” by Houston’s decision.

Verlander addressed the matter on Twitter Thursday and accused Fenech of “unethical” past behavior.

Accusing Fenech of “unethical behavior” is a serious matter, but Verlander has not offered more background regarding his accusation.

Verlander did express some frustration last year with the Free Press’ portrayal of an issue he had with the Tigers over an injury. However, the initial article was not written by Fenech. There is also some speculation that Verlander was retaliating on behalf of teammate Alex Bregman.

Fenech reported on August 4 that the Tigers turned down a chance to trade Michael Fulmer for Bregman in 2017. Bregman called that report “false”.

Despite Bregman’s denial, Fenech wrote a second article discussing the trade Detroit turned down in 2017. The article was published on Tuesday morning, in the middle of the series between the Tigers and Astros, and the day before Verlander’s start against his former team.

Bregman’s previous denial of the trade via Twitter makes it clear he was irritated by the report. It’s possible he was bothered that Fenech brought the matter up a second time, which led Verlander to take action. This Bregman matter is just speculation, but it adds some background and context to stories Fenech has written that relate to Verlander’s Astros.

Rays rookie Brandon Lowe done for the season with injury

Tampa Bay Rays logo

Tampa Bay rookie Brandon Lowe is out for the season, manager Kevin Cash told the media on Thursday.

Lowe had not played since July 2 due to a shin injury. He was in the middle of a rehab assignment and working his way back before suffering a quad injury on Wednesday, according to the Tampa Bay Times’ Marc Topkin.

Lowe, 25, was in the middle of an impressive season that had him as a leading contender to win American League Rookie of the Year. He was batting .276 with an .862 OPS, 17 doubles and 16 home runs.

Eric Sogard, who was acquired by Tampa Bay before the trade deadline last month, is batting .321 with a .977 OPS since the trade and will continue to play second base in Lowe’s absence.

Marcus Stroman says he will not miss start with hamstring issue

Marcus Stroman

Marcus Stroman was forced to leave Wednesday night’s game between the New York Mets and Cleveland Indians after four innings due to a hamstring injury, but it is not one the right-hander expects to force him to miss any time.

Stroman told reporters on Thursday that he is going to make his scheduled start against the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday night.

It’s unclear if the hamstring issue is something that was bothering Stroman prior to Wednesday, but he has not pitched all that well since the Mets acquired him in a trade with the Toronto Blue Jays. He lowered his ERA to 4.58 with the Mets by allowing just one run in four innings against the Indians, but he had a 5.17 ERA and 1.85 WHIP in three starts with the Mets heading into that game. He acknowledged he has to improve.

The Mets are just 1.5 games back in the NL wild card race, so they need Stroman to rediscover his old form down the stretch. They also need him to be healthy, which is why it’s a good sign he is not going to miss a start.

Alex Rodriguez was ‘bummed’ over trade to Red Sox falling through

Alex Rodriguez

Alex Rodriguez spent the bulk of his career playing for the New York Yankees, so it’s easy to forget just how close he was to becoming a member of the Boston Red Sox.

A-Rod signed a then-record 10-year, $252 million contract with the Texas Rangers prior to the 2001 season. He put up godly numbers with Texas, leading the American League in home runs all three years he was there. Unfortunately, Rodriguez’s success did not translate to team success, so the Rangers decided to deal him.

The Red Sox were dying to get their hands on the reigning AL MVP and agreed to trade Manny Ramirez and prospect Jon Lester to Texas for A-Rod. Rodriguez would have taken a pay cut as part of the deal. However, the players association rejected the trade because they did not want the league’s highest-paid player to take a pay reduction.

During an appearance on Boston sports talk station WEEI’s “Dale & Keefe” show Wednesday, Rodriguez discussed his feelings when the deal fell through.

“And of course it all came down and collapsed really quickly after the union did not allow me to give back tens of millions of dollars because it would set the wrong precedent for the other 749 players. I was completely bummed it collapsed. It was so depressing, never knowing that the Yankees were even an option at that point,” Rodriguez said.

In a separate interview last year, Rodriguez admitted he even got drunk after the deal fell through.

Of course, everything worked out well anyway. The Red Sox went on to win several World Series with the help of Lester and Ramirez. The rival New York Yankees decided to swing a trade for Rodriguez later in the offseason after third baseman Aaron Boone injured his knee playing basketball. A-Rod played 12 seasons for the Yankees and helped them win the 2009 World Series.

Brad Hand explains mental mistake that cost Indians against Mets

Cleveland Indians logo

Cleveland Indians closer Brad Hand is going through a rough patch that includes three blown saves over his last four appearances. He blew a save chance on Wednesday night that cost Cleveland in a 4-3 loss to the New York Mets in 10 innings, one that may have been avoided if he hadn’t committed a mental mistake.

Hand entered the game in the bottom of the 10th with his Indians leading 3-2. He allowed a double, sac bunt, and intentional walk that put runners on the corners with one out. Hand then induced a ground ball from Michael Conforto, but he failed to cover first base. Carlos Santana fielded the ball and went to second looking for the game-ending double play, but Francisco Lindor had nowhere to go after that because nobody was covering first.

Hand was supposed to cover first and would have given the Indians the opportunity to end the game on that play had he been there. He said after the game that he was expecting Santana to throw home, which is why he was late getting to first base.

That’s brutal. When you’re going through a tough time and get a double-play ball that can help you end the game, the last thing you want is a mental mistake to prevent you from winning. But that’s exactly what happened as the Mets got two hits in a row to win the game 4-3 in a walk-off. Making matters worse, the Indians had an opportunity to pick up ground in the division as the first-place Twins also lost.

Ronald Acuna says Braves teammate’s bat flip was best he has ever seen

Ronald Acuna

Adeiny Hechavarria’s exploits on Wednesday night left even his teammates reaching for the superlatives.

The Atlanta Braves infielder launched a massive two-run homer in the second inning of a 5-0 win over the Miami Marlins and topped it off with one of the smoothest bat flips you will ever see. Take a look:

After the game, Braves star Ronald Acuna had high praise for his teammate.

“Honestly I think that’s the best bat flip I’ve ever seen,” said Acuna, per David O’Brien of The Athletic.

The homer was Hechavarria’s first for the Braves and just his sixth of the season. Couple that with the fact that he has only hit 34 of them in his eight-year career, and it’s obvious that he made his moment on Wednesday count.

As for the bat flip, Hechavarria may have competition for the best one ever.