Wieters debut stacks up to the greats

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So Matt Wieters made his debut last night. It was a rather
uneventful one: 0-for-4 (fly out to right, grounder back to the box,
weak grounder to 3rd, and a backwards K), and the poor Orioles fans
couldn’t even watch him take BP because of rain. Surely there will be
some highlights to come for the top prospect in baseball, but an 0-fer
debut, in a twisted way, actually puts him in some good company. Let’s
take a look at how some other Hall of Fame catchers fared in their
first game.

Johnny Bench made his debut on August 28th, 1967 at Crosley
Field as the Reds hosted the Phillies. Less than 10,000 people were in
the stands. Hitting 7th in the lineup, Bench popped up to short in his
first at-bat against Dick Ellsworth. But Bench had already had his “Welcome to the Majors” moment in the top half of the inning, when the opposing catcher, Gene Oliver,
stole third. The oppposing catcher! Ouch. Two innings later,
Philadelphia’s Don Lock tried to take second, but Bench gunned him
down.

Unfortunately, his first caught stealing didn’t translate to success
at the plate. In the bottom of the 4th, Ellsworth struck him out
looking, and in the 6th, against Turk Farrell,
Bench went down swinging with the tying run on third base. In the 9th,
trailing 3-2, Bench was lifted for the batting prowess of Chico Ruiz,
who was hitting .227 with a .577 OPS at that point (and was a career
.240 hitter with 2 HR). Ruiz flew out to left and the Reds eventually
lost. It would get much better for Bench after that.

A little more than 2 years later, on September 18, 1969, Carlton Fisk was behind the plate at Fenway Park for the first game of a doubleheader. With Mike Cuellar
on the mound for the Orioles, Fisk grounded out to third in the in 2nd
inning and then gave the shortstop some work in the 4th. Cuellar got
him swinging in the 7th and then to pop up to second the end the 8th.
No one tried to steal off of Fisk, although he did have a passed ball.
About a month later, those same Orioles would fall to the Amazin’ Mets
in the World Series in five games.

What about Gary Carter? He was a late September call-up for
the Expos in 1974, and made his debut on September 16th on the back
half of a doubleheader against the defending NL Champion Mets at Parc
Jerry in Montreal. This was the battle for 4th place, and only 9,166
people (assuming they all hung around) were there when The Kid stepped
in face Randy Sterling leading off the 3rd inning. He grounded out to third, and then flew out to left in the 5th. Tug McGraw
was on the hill when Carter batted in the 7th, but he fouled out to
first. he had the chance to be a hero in the bottom of the 9th though.
The tying run was on first with two outs, but Carter grounded into a
fielder’s choice to short, and the Mets held on. 0-for-4, but at least
he put it in play every time, unlike Bench or Fisk.

Didn’t any all-time catcher have an auspicious debut, you ask? Well of course. We just haven’t spoken about one Michael Joseph Piazza.

It was 73 degrees and sunny on September 1st, 1992, but the Cubs
must’ve really been awful because only 14,981 showed up to Wrigley
Field that day. Too bad, because a few thousand more people could’ve
been able to say, “I was there when the greatest hitting catcher of
all-time played his first game.”

Batting 6th in the Dodgers lineup, Piazza drew a walk in the 2nd inning off of pitcher Mike Harkey.
In the 4th, he didn’t give Harkey a chance to pitch around him, lining
a double to right-center, the quintessential Piazza hit. In the bottom
half of the inning, Dwight Smith attempted to steal second.
Maybe you could get away with that stuff in 2002, but not on this day:
Piazza gunned him down. In the 6th, he singled between third and short,
and then did the same off Paul Assenmacher in the 8th. After that, he was lifted for pinch runner Eric Young.
The game would last 13 innings, but in Piazza’s 8, he went 3-for-3 with
a walk, double, and threw out the only baserunner who tried to steal.
Not too shabby.

Jacob deGrom open to extension with Mets

New York Mets starting pitcher Jacob deGrom talks during media day for the Major League Baseball World Series against the Kansas City Royals Monday, Oct. 26, 2015, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
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The Mets are currently enjoying the spoils of the best young rotation in the game, but the big question is whether this is just a brief window or the start of sustained success. Given the huge prices on the free agent market, it’s going to be next to impossible to keep the band together, but at least one member of the rotation is open to sticking around for the long-term.

While there haven’t been any talks yet, All-Star right-hander Jacob deGrom told Kevin Kernan of the New York Post that he could see himself discussing an extension with the Mets.

“I’m a little bit older, so I might be more willing to do something like that,’’ deGrom told The Post at Mets pre-camp. “You just have to look at what is fair so both sides get a decent deal. It’s something I’d have to look into and make sure I agree with it.’’

It makes sense from deGrom’s perspective. He broke into the majors later than most prospects, so he’ll be 28 this June. Depending on whether he qualifies as a Super Two, he’ll be arbitration-eligible for the first time after either 2016 or 2017. Either way, he’s under team control through 2020, which means that he’s currently on track to hit free agency after his age-32 season. The market might not be kind to him even if he manages to stay healthy, so it could behoove him to get as much guaranteed money as possible right now. The Mets could always decide to play things year-to-year, but perhaps deGrom would be willing to settle for a discount in order to get them to buy out a free agent year or two. It’s a really interesting situation to think about, but odds are the two sides will wait on contract talks until he’s arbitration-eligible for the first time.

DeGrom owns a 2.61 ERA in 52 starts over his first two seasons in the majors. Among starters, only Zack Greinke, Jake Arrieta, and Clayton Kershaw have a lower ERA since the start of 2014.

Royals, Mike Moustakas avoid arbitration with two-year deal

Kansas City Royals' Mike Moustakas celebrates after hitting an RBI single against the Toronto Blue Jays during the eighth inning in Game 2 of baseball's American League Championship Seriesagainst the Toronto Blue Jays  on Saturday, Oct. 17, 2015, in Kansas City, Mo. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP
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The Royals and third baseman Mike Moustakas have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a two-year, $14.3 million deal, reports Jon Heyman of MLB Network.

The deal, which was initially discussed last month, buys out Moustakas’ final two years of arbitration. Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com reports that it’s believed he’ll make $5.6 million in 2016 and $8.7 million in 2017.

The 27-year-old Moustakas posted an underwhelming .668 OPS over his first four seasons in the majors, but he enjoyed a big postseason in 2014 before breaking out last season by batting .284/.348/.470 with 22 home runs and 82 RBI.

Report: Rays having “advanced talks” with free agent reliever Tommy Hunter

Baltimore Orioles relief pitcher Tommy Hunter throws to the Miami Marlins during the seventh inning of a baseball game in Miami, Friday, May 22, 2015. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)
AP Photo/J Pat Carter
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ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reported this morning that free agent reliever Tommy Hunter required core muscle repair surgery earlier this offseason. Coming off a disappointing 2015, it’s understandable why he’s still on the market, but it sounds like he has at least one significant lead.

Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times hears that the Rays are having “advanced talks” with Hunter as they attempt to add an experienced arm to their bullpen. Nothing is considered close and Hunter is also talking to other clubs. Meanwhile, the Rays have been in touch with veteran reliever Ryan Webb while monitoring the trade market.

Hunter posted a 2.88 ERA as a late-inning arm from 2013-2014, but he compiled a mediocre 4.18 ERA over 58 appearances last season between the Orioles and Cubs. On the bright side, his velocity has held steady and his control is still very good. Despite the down year and core muscle surgery, Topkin writes that Hunter may be holding out for a multi-year deal.

Pirates sign left-hander Cory Luebke

Cory Luebke Getty
Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
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Eric O'Flaherty wasn’t the only reclamation project added by the Pirates today, as the club also announced that they have signed left-hander Cory Luebke to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.

Luebke once looked like a solid rotation piece for the Padres, but he hasn’t thrown a pitch in the majors since April 27, 2012. He’s undergone a pair of Tommy John surgeries since. Now 30 years old, he logged seven innings in the minors last season before requiring a procedure to remove loose bodies around a nerve in his forearm. The Padres cut ties with him in November after declining a $7.5 million club option for 2016.

It’s hard to count on much from Luebke at this point, but he told Adam Berry of MLB.com that he feels healthy and hopes to compete for a bullpen job in the spring.