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#pounditThursday, August 13, 2020

Baseball

Zach Plesac thinks his media portrayal has been unfair

Zach Plesac is offering his side of the story amid the incident that led to his being sent home for a violation of health and safety protocols.

The Cleveland Indians righty took to Instagram on Thursday in an attempt to set the record straight. Plesac admitted that he broke curfew when he went out to dinner and hung out with friends in Chicago but said that he practiced safe distancing. The 25-year-old added that his actions were not malicious and that he thought his portrayal in the media has been unfair, per AP’s Tom Withers.

Here is Plesac’s full six-and-a-half minute video:

Plesac was not allowed to fly home with the team after the excursion was discovered, and his decision to go out reportedly angered teammates and club officials. It was later found out that Indians teammate Mike Clevinger had gone out with Plesac as well, and he was also sent away to quarantine.

You can’t blame the Indians for taking the protocol violations seriously, but Plesac clearly feels that the portrayals of him as a bad teammate and an irresponsible person are very far off-base.

Video: Zack Greinke tells hitter what pitch is coming, strikes him out

Zack Greinke has been one of the best pitchers in baseball for years, and his stuff remains as good as ever. So good, in fact, that the Houston Astros star can tell a hitter what’s coming and still blow the ball by him.

Greinke and Astros catcher Martin Maldonado got a bit crossed up with their signs at one point during Wednesday night’s game against the San Francisco Giants. You could clearly hear Greinke shouting the signs at Maldonado and saying “second sign after one” and “second sign after two.”

The call-outs were a lot easier to hear with no fans in the ballpark, but Greinke wanted to be sure Giants infielder Mauricio Dubon knew what was coming. The right-hander literally flashed a “two” sign during Dubon’s at-bat and then struck him out with a nasty slider.

Greinke has always marched to the beat of his own drum, and we saw a great example of that with his reason for reporting late to spring training earlier this year. It didn’t seem like he was trying to embarrass Dubon, but that was the result. When your slider has that much bite, it really doesn’t matter if the hitter knows it’s coming.

Joe Kelly blasts ‘snitch’ Astros, explains why he hates them

Joe Kelly

Joe Kelly became the first pitcher this season to draw a suspension for blatantly throwing at Houston Astros players, but his motivation for sending a message may be a bit surprising to some.

Kelly, who was not with the Los Angeles Dodgers when Houston beat them in the 2018 World Series, discussed his disdain for the Astros during a recent appearance on “The Big Swing” podcast with teammate Ross Stripling. The right-hander said the way Houston players got immunity in MLB’s investigation of their sign-stealing scheme and ratted out their coaches bothered him way more than the cheating itself.

“The people who took the fall for what happened is nonsense,” Kelly said, as transcribed by ESPN’s Buster Olney. “Yes, everyone is involved. But the way that (sign-stealing system) was run over there was not from coaching staff. … They’re not the head boss in charge of that thing. It’s the players. So now the players get the immunity, and all they do is go snitch like a little b—-, and they don’t have to get fined, they don’t have to lose games.”

Kelly was initially suspended for eight games for throwing near the heads of both Alex Bregman and Carlos Correa. The podcast was taped before his suspension was reduced to five games, but we doubt Kelly feels any differently now.

Former Astros bench coach Alex Cora was Kelly’s manager with the Boston Red Sox, and Cora lost his job over the Astros scandal along with general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch. Kelly said Cora hasn’t explained his side of the story “because he’s a respectable man” and blasted Astros players for “ruining other people’s lives.”

“Maybe they have called AC (Cora) and said, ‘Hey, I’m sorry.’ Or called Luhnow and said, ‘Hey, I’m sorry.’ Or called Hinch, and (Carlos) Beltran. … If they had said, ‘Hey, I’m super-scared, I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t want to lose money, I had to rat.’ … Grow a pair of balls and say that,” Kelly said.

Kelly’s suspension was criticized by several MLB players as being too harsh, and the way he taunted Correa became a viral meme. While most have focused on the sign-stealing itself, Kelly clearly believes the Astros players’ worst infraction was not holding themselves accountable.

Angels’ Griffin Canning wonders if he was tipping pitches

Griffin Canning took a pounding on Wednesday, and now he is wondering if he may have been tipping off the opposition somehow.

The Los Angeles Angels righty, who was tagged by the Oakland Athletics for four runs (including three home runs) in four innings, said after the game that he was concerned that he had possibly been tipping his pitches.

“Honestly I felt like I had some of the better stuff I had this year,” said Canning, per Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register. “I thought they did a really good job of laying off some good sliders that were down and away.”

He specifically addressed whether or not he may have been tipping pitches.

“I think it’s just something you consistently have to be on the lookout for … I felt like my stuff was really good today. It could just be a product of them being Major League Baseball players they get paid a lot of money too. They just could have gotten out there and just really executed a game plan really well. Or there could be something there. I don’t know.”

The Angels, who were at home on Wednesday, fell to 7-12 on the year with the 8-4 loss to Oakland. Canning, for his part, is still winless on the season (0-3) and now has a 4.42 ERA in 18.1 innings pitched thus far.

The 24-year-old recently overcame a throwing elbow scare, so to feel good physically but still get rocked has to be discouraging for him. If the issue for Canning is indeed tipping off his pitches, perhaps he can learn something from this fellow hurler.

Report: MLB in ‘serious talks’ about two-city postseason bubble

Rob Manfred

Major League Baseball’s considerations of creating a bubble for postseason games are apparently growing more serious.

Jon Heyman of MLB Network reported Wednesday that the league is in “serious talks” about a possible playoff bubble. The league is said to prefer a two-city bubble, with California, Texas, and Chicago-Milwaukee under consideration as potential sites.

The consideration of a bubble was reported Tuesday, but it certainly sounds like it’s gaining momentum within the league.

One issue that the league will have to face is October weather. That’s likely why places like New York aren’t under consideration, and why Chicago’s two outdoor stadiums may prove challenging. Southern California would likely be the best option for the league if possible, as the weather is nice and two stadiums in Los Angeles and a third in San Diego provide ample options.

The league had initially decided against a bubble for the season, and top players were opposed to that idea. That’s not changing. A postseason bubble would be more feasible with fewer teams needing to be accommodated and a shorter period of time that players would be required to be away from family.

Joe Kelly has suspension reduced to five games for throwing at Astros

Joe Kelly

Joe Kelly’s suspension for his actions against the Houston Astros last month has been reduced.

MLB announced Wednesday that Kelly’s suspension has been reduced from eight games to five for throwing at Astros hitters and taunting Carlos Correa during a July 28 game.

Kelly’s initial eight-game suspension represented nearly a fifth of the shortened schedule, and was criticized as unnecessarily harsh by some within the game. At the time, the league justified it by noting that Kelly was a repeat offender and also provoked a bench-clearing incident that violated social distancing protocols.

Kelly is currently on the injured list with right shoulder inflammation. He will not begin serving his suspension until he is activated by the Dodgers.

Report: Justin Verlander hopes to begin throwing again next week

Justin Verlander

Justin Verlander still hopes to return this season, and he intends to take the first steps toward doing so next week.

According to Brian McTaggart of MLB.com, Verlander aims to begin throwing a baseball next week, and has been making “excellent” progress in his recovery from a right forearm strain.

Initial reports indicated that Verlander would likely be out for the season with the arm injury, but he immediately disputed those reports and stated his intention to return before the season ended. The 36-year-old is clearly making progress in his rehab if he’s set to receive clearance to begin throwing.

Verlander is the reigning AL Cy Young winner, posting a 2.58 ERA and 300 strikeouts in 2019. There may be a sense of urgency for the Astros to get him back, as the team has lost six of the last seven games.