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Inside Baseball AL Notes | Blue Jays still in spring training mode

Jon Heyman



(AP Photo/Mike Carlson)

News and notes from around the camps of each of the 15 American League teams.

National League notes on all 15 teams    Jon Heyman’s 50 players to admire or follow in 2017

Boston Red Sox

  • David Price could head on a rehab assignment within two weeks.
  • Panda may be treating this year as his World Series. The man can play, when the chips are down.
  • Pablo Sandoval’s winter boxing with Tigers icon Miguel Cabrera may have paid off. Sandoval has a three-run home run off Cabrera’s teammate Francisco Rodriguez. One possible issue: Sandoval has started 0 for 7 from the right side.
  • Catchers Sandy Leon and Christian Vazquez, thought to be defensive specialists, are a remarkable 12 for 22, as Peter Gammons of MLB Network recently pointed out.
  • Drew Pomeranz gave an encouraging start in his 2017 debut, silencing the doubters, at least for now.
  • The flu has hurt the BoSox this week, with Hanley Ramirez, Mookie Betts and others going out with it.
  • Craig Kimbrel may not have been perfect since coming to the Red Sox, but he has the best ERA plus in history, for pitchers with 400 innings (via, Brian Kenney of MLB Network).
  • Chris Sale is throwing BB’s (no pun on his agent’s name, B.B. Abbott). Ninety seven on the gun. He looks even better since changing Sox.

Baltimore Orioles

  • While others were devaluing homers, the Orioles continued to pile up power hitters. They even have Pedro Alvarez in reserve. It may pay off.
  • Zach Britton has the second best streak of saves in MLB history, behind only Eric Gagne.
  • Seth Smith just kills righties,
  • Michael Bourn is back with a minors deal, as Jerry Crasnick of ESPN reported first. He has also sworn off football, which almost ended his career. He is said to be “almost ready” to play.
  • Random thought: Chris Davis is a helluva first baseman.
  • Cedric Mullins is off to a big start at Double-A Bowie, with a 16-for-29 beginning (via Roch Kubatko of MASN).
  • Nolan Reimold is finally not an Oriole and is a Long Island Duck.

Chicago White Sox

  • Michael Kopech and Yoan Moncada are off to big starts, and that’s what really matters.
  • Even without a decent changeup, Kopech whiffed 10 in 4 2/3 innings in his debut for Double-A Birmingham.
  • Geovany Soto is off to a nice start. Some will recall that Soto, while playing across town for the Cubs, became the first rookie catcher to start for the NL in the All-Star Game. So he has it in him. He’s been hampered by injuries and an issue with throwing back to the pitcher in recent years, and was just placed on the 10-day DL on Thursday.

Cleveland Indians

  • Perusing the MLB player salary list (I used USA Today Sports Weekly), the Indians may have the most logical and reasonable salaries of any contending team, with the deserving Edwin Encarnacion ($14,666,666) and Carlos Santana ($12M) the only two reaching eight figures for the small-market contending club.
  • Santana may also have provided a clue where he wants to sign in a story he penned for MLB.com, saying “Cleveland is my city.” But of course, the negotiations will ultimately determine that. The Indians will try, as was reported in this space a week ago.
  • Encarnacion grounded into consecutive 5-4-3 DPs, noted Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. In one case, the hitter before EE was given an IBB to set up the DP (initial game).
  • Strange but true: The Indians’ 5.82 ERA early is the worst in the AL.

Detroit Tigers

  • Shortstop Jose Iglesias is one of the best fielders in the bigs. But apparently his love of music spurred an agent change to Magnus, which is fronted by famous singer Marc Anthony. Some think Iglesias (off to a 2-for-22 start) may have singing aspirations, but at the very least, he is a music lover who wants to be marketed. The agent switch was first reported by Ken Rosenthal of MLB Network and FOX Sports.
  • I love JaCoby Jones’ enthusiasm. But declaring that the Tigers have the “best” fan base a week into his career might be a bit of a stretch. That kind of quote would be better from someone who’s played for 10 teams or more, or at least a few weeks in the majors.
  • James Loney provides good minor-league insurance.
  • Bruce Rondon used to throw 102 mph, but he didn’t seem to have the aptitude for pitching. Now that he’s throwing only 95, he needs it. He’s been frustrating manager Brad Ausmus since spring, so his demotion should not have been a surprise.
  • Nick Castellanos may be on the cusp of stardom.

Houston Astros

  • The Astros have done early extensions for some players, but Carlos Correa won’t be one of them.
  • They also haven’t had serious talks with George Springer for a couple years.
  • Springer is the first in MLB history to have three leadoff home runs in his team’s first seven games. And he made it four in nine games, which was also a first. Alfonso Soriano holds the record for lead-off homers in a season, with 13 (via @jakemkaplan). Soriano also was the first since Scott Hairston with the Padres in 2007 to have a walk-off home run one game, then a lead-off homer the next.
  • Danny Knobler of Bleacher Report did a nice story on Springer recently.
  • Charlie Morton was at 93-97 last time out, better than he’s every been.
  • “This team looks really good,” raves on scout.
  • Still hard to believe Doug Fister has no job. He’s better than many currently in rotations.
  • Collin McHugh had to leave his rehab start. It’ll be a blow if he can’t make it back this year, and ramp up the need for Jose Quintana.
  • Marwin Gonzalez is a nice versatile player.
  • Carlos Beltran tied Joe DiMaggio for RBI with 1,537, as Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle noted on Twitter.

Kansas City Royals

  • Salvy Perez came close to the team record by hitting homers in four straight games. Mike Sweeney has the record at five.
  • The KC pen, a staple of their World Series teams, is carrying an even 9 ERA. Their overall velocity isn’t what it used to be – no surprise with Wade Davis gone.
  • Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star did a heart-tugging story on how the Royals are dealing with the tragic loss of Yordano Ventura. In it, Dodd told the story of how Danny Duffy dreamed of Ventura the night before perhaps the biggest start of his career, a WBC matchup vs. The Dominican Republic, Ventura’s country.

 Los Angeles Angels

  • Even Mike Trout’s agent, Craig Landis, was drafted higher than he was. His career didn’t quite work as well, at least not in baseball.
  • That was a blow when Trout’s roommate for the last eight years Garrett Richards – the Angels’ talented ace — had to go on the DL after only one start. He is trying to return from a UCL tear without having Tommy John surgery. He’s an ace, if healthy.
  • The Angels’ amazing seven-run, ninth-inning comeback is as rare as you’d suspect. According to ESPN Stats, the record of teams leading by six or more entering the ninth inning since 2011 had been 2,529-1 before the Angels came back from down 9-3 to beat the Mariners 10-9.
  • The Angels have been in first place for five days, two days more than they spent in first last year.

Minnesota Twins

  • The Twins started 4-0 for the first time since 1987, their first World Series title .
  • More positive news for the Twins; there appears to be a clear No. 1 pick for the June draft. L.A. Valley area RHP/SS Hunter Greene looks like a star pitcher in the making. Keith Law of ESPN reports Greene never went below 94 on a recent scouting mission.
  • After a great September and solid spring, Byron Buxton is off to a rough start (2 for 26, 14 K’s), though a Twins person said they will be very patient with him, especially since his defense has been exemplary. His fantastic catches are piling up.
  • The Twins asked the Tigers to fumigate the visitors clubhouse after the flu-ridden Red Sox left. Good idea.
  • The Twins, along with the Marlins and Mets, are carrying 13 pitchers.
  • Hard to believe: the Twins’ 2.62 ERA is tops in the AL. Twins people believe enhanced analytics and advance scouting, plus the importing of Jason Castro and Chris Gimenez to catch, are at least partly responsible for the improvement.

New York Yankees

  • Dellin Betances had an opportunity to sign a two-year deal for somewhere in the neighborhood of $8 million to $8.5 million over two years before he decided to take the case to arbitration. Not sure that’s available now.
  • Matt Holliday has been a terrific sign, a quiet veteran presence who’s been a plus in the clubhouse and on the field. He gathered his 2,000th hit, and he also walked in all five plate appearances on Sunday.
  • The Yanks made the right call to go with Aaron Judge, a terrific young man, in a battle of Aarons (great historic baseball name). Judge had four balls hit 115 mph or more in the early going, Kenny Ducey of Sports Illustrated pointed out. He has three of baseball’s six hardest-hit balls, Gammons noted.
  • James Kaprielian is undergoing Tommy John surgery, the team announced.
  • Kyle Higashioka should not be referred to as “Higgy,” as Joe Girardi is wont to do.
  • One thing folks have noticed is that while Greg Bird can rake he’s no Mark Teixeira in the field. Few are.
  • Chase Headley deserves mega credit for actually doing something about the shift that’s killed slow left-handed power hitters like him.
  • Michael Pineda’s issue is that he throws too many strikes, Alex Rodriguez said on FOX. That theory is probably dead on.
  • Gary Sanchez is a big loss for however long he’s out. The Yankees are saying four weeks.
  • They could use someone like John Ryan Murphy, who hasn’t played his best with the Twins. George King of the New York Post originally suggested this could be a possibility.
  • Ronald Torreyes is a “real gamer” but isn’t really a shortstop, one scout opined. He’s doing OK so far, though.
  • Jordan Montgomery, who got the No. 5 starter’s job, has what they call “pitchability.” Which basically means he doesn’t throw especially hard but knows how to pitch. The lefty has four pitches.
  • Tyler Kepner of the #failing New York Times had a balanced look at Yankees GM Brian Cashman, in a story headline “Can This Man Revive the Yankees?”

Oakland Athletics

  • The A’s have perhaps the most under-rated rotation. Kendall Graveman could be a star. Sean Manaea had a six-strikeout streak vs. the Rangers Sunday.
  • If Sonny Gray can come back, they might really have something. He could be back by the end of the month, reports Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle.
  • Ryon Healy has major power.
  • Jharel Cotton continues to look like a burgeoning star.
  • The A’s are the only AL team without one player cracking eight figures. Ryan Madson leads at $7,666,667, which also ranks as the highest palindromic salary in MLB.

Seattle Mariners

  • To blow a six-run ninth-inning lead and lose 10-9 to fall to 1-6 isn’t what the Mariners had in mind. They certainly didn’t make 34 trades to start like this (now 2-7).
  • You’d think a six-run lead is safe, but assuming it’s a win and starting with middle reliever Casey Fien for four batters doesn’t look like the best choice in retrospect.
  • Hard to believe the Mariners have struggled offensively like this. Going into Sunday, they posted a lineup with only Jean Segura (.333) batting over .250. They had nine runs in five games.
  • Ultimately, the real worry will be the soundness of the rotation.
  • James Paxton, an amazing talent, started with 13 scoreless innings. Scouts believe he can become a star, if he can stay out of his own way. One scout said he’s terrifically talented but sometimes a bit “klutzy,” leading to potential injuries.
  • The M’s window is pretty short, as Ken Rosenthal of MLB Network and FOX Sports wrote.
  • I’ll hit almost anything, but I’ll pass on the toasted grasshoppers at Safeco. Fried maybe.

Tampa Bay Rays

  • Alex Colome is fantastic. Manager Kevin Cash talked about how comforting it is to have him in the game.
  • Can’t really blame them for asking for Victor Robles in trade for Colome (can’t blame the Nats for saying no either),
  • Mallex Smith’s speed was igniting the Rays in ways that conjured the “heyday Rays,” as Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times put it. Manager Kevin Cash and coach Rocco Baldelli were dubbing it #TheMallexEffect.
  • The underside of the Rays’ pen may be an issue, as they feared. They’re great in the ninth inning, and also the 8th once Brad Boxberger (lat) returns, but the innings prior to that could be a problem.

Texas Rangers

  • The horse story is something else. Owner Ray Davis offered to throw in two top quarter horses into Rougned Odor’s deal, knowing how much Odor loves horses. Odor, of course, couldn’t resist, happily accepting. Value: $10K to $25K.
  • Closer San Dyson has gone to the videotape to try to fix his early woes, reports T.R Sullivan of MLB.com. Dyson was throwing 93 mph in his last game, not the usual upper 90s.
  • Matt Bush received a shot in his AC joint.
  • The 1.69 home runs A.J. Griffin allows per nine innings is the second most in history, to Kevin Yarvish (via Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News).
  • Adrian Beltre (calf) couldn’t be activated after the required 10 days, and may need a few more. He can hit but not yet run.
  • Joey Gallo’s amazingly poor record as an 0-and-2 hitter (0 for 42 with 38 K’s) got a little better with a hit over the weekend, reports Grant of the Dallas Morning News.
  • Andrew Cashner has said he could start Saturday. The Rangers appear to be thinking about it.

Toronto Blue Jays

  • The Blue Jays are “making a lot of mistakes,” one scout says. The scout says they look like they are still in spring training.
  • Marco Estrada has been “hanging” his changeup, his signature pitch, another scout says.
  • Meanwhile, Marcus Stroman is “nails,” says the scout, a true ace.
  • Angel Pagan makes sense for the Jays. He received two offers of MLB deals but didn’t sign them as they weren’t for what he thought was fair, so he’s not signing just any deal (Not sure if the Jays were one of those teams).
  • They need to make sure they don’t overuse Jason Grilli, who is very competitive but is also 40.
  • Part of the Jays’ mediocre start has been the absence of Josh Donaldson (calf).
  • Roberto Osuna (back) reported no tightness in a throwing session. They need him, too.
  • Anthony Alford, top outfield prospect, was 9 for 12 in a recent stretch for the Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats.

Jon Heyman is an MLB Insider for FanRag Sports, featuring breaking news, information and his Inside Baseball column, which appears on FanRagSports.com every Thursday. Heyman also has been an insider at MLB Network since the channel launched in 2009 and is a regular contributor to WFAN in New York, where he appears weekly on the Joe and Evan Show and previously appeared on the Mike and the Mad Dog Show. He also appears on WSCR in Chicago, WBZ-FM in Boston and the Petros and Money Show on Fox in Los Angeles. Heyman comes to FanRag Sports from CBSSports.com, where he worked for five years and wrote the popular Inside Baseball notes column. Before going to CBS, Heyman worked for five years at Sports Illustrated and SI.com, where he was a senior writer and started an Inside Baseball Column. Heyman worked for 16 years at Newsday in New York, where he was the Yankees beat writer, a baseball columnist and finally a general sports columnist. Heyman started his career at the Moline (Ill.) Daily Dispatch, then moved to the Los Angeles Copley Newspapers (Torrance Daily Breeze and Santa Monica Outlook) before going to Newsday. Heyman at one time also served as a national baseball writer for The Sporting News. Heyman is a graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. The Santa Fe, N.M. native grew up in Cedarhurst, N.Y., on Long Island.