Daily Dose: Big Papi heating up

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David Ortiz has finally broken free of his season-long slump, taking CC
Sabathia deep Thursday for his third homer in five games. It’s
certainly not time to say that Big Papi is back to his usual self yet,
but he’s now 9-for-29 (.310) with three long balls already this month
after batting .185 with one homer in 178 at-bats through the end of
May.

Unfortunately for Ortiz and his fantasy owners this hot streak
figures to be put on hold over the weekend–and for nine of the next 15
games–because Boston will be playing under NL rules during interleague
games. He’ll no doubt see plenty of pinch-hitting opportunities and may
get a couple starts, but the Red Sox will just hope that he doesn’t
cool off before the AL schedule resumes on June 29.

While the Red Sox win eight straight games versus the Yankees for
the first time since 1912, here are some other notes from around
baseball …

* Kelvim Escobar looked fairly good in his return to the Angels’
rotation Saturday, but will give up plans of starting another game this
year after determining that his surgically repaired shoulder simply
isn’t ready for the workload. He’ll move to the bullpen, where he’s had
plenty of success in the past, and Angels relievers have combined for
an AL-worst 5.71 ERA. Matt Palmer will replace him in the rotation.

* David Price struggled to throw strikes again Thursday, failing to
make it out of the fifth inning while handing out six walks and needing
105 pitches to record 13 outs. Price has an impressive 26 strikeouts
and .188 opponents’ batting average in 19 innings, but 18 walks and
just 58 percent strikes. He showed good control prior to this season,
but walked 18 in 34.1 innings at Triple-A before the call-up.

* John Maine admitted Thursday that his shoulder “hurts a little
bit,” so New York placed him on the disabled list after initially just
pushing his next start back a day while saying that he was going
through a “dead arm” period. “Nothing serious,” Maine said. “My
shoulder is just fatigued. It’s dead. I think I pushed it a little too
much. Now it’s starting to lock up on me.” Fernando Nieve may fill-in
Saturday.

* Chien-Ming Wang will remain in the rotation for now, with manager
Joe Girardi saying Thursday that the struggling right-hander will make
one more start before the Yankees reevaluate his role. “At some point,
production is important,” Girardi said. “We told him that it’s a very
important start.” Wang will start Wednesday at home against the
Nationals, with his pregnant wife set to be induced Tuesday.

AL Quick Hits: Zack Greinke allowed three runs over 7.1 innings
in a no-decision Thursday, but two of them scored off the bullpen … Jim
Thome will be limited to pinch-hitting duties for the next nine games
of interleague play … Jason Bartlett (ankle) is expected to remain
sidelined until next week, but Pat Burrell (neck) will rejoin the
lineup Friday after missing a month … Ervin Santana allowed six runs
over 4.2 innings Thursday and now has a 7.47 ERA in six starts since
coming off the disabled list … Garrett Olson beat his old team
Thursday, holding the Orioles to two runs over five innings … Luke
Scott went deep again Thursday, giving him nine homers since coming off
the DL on May 27 … Gavin Floyd took a shutout into the eighth inning
Thursday, but got a no-decision when Bobby Jenks blew a save … Koji
Uehara returned from the DL by allowing four runs over five innings
Thursday … Orlando Hernandez will try a minor-league comeback with
Texas.

NL Quick Hits: St. Louis is reportedly interested in Miguel Tejada, which could be a good fit
… Max Scherzer shut out the Giants for 7.2 innings Thursday, tossing a
career-high 116 pitches … Willy Taveras went hitless Thursday and is
0-for-20 this month while battling through hamstring soreness … Huston
Street gave up a three-run homer Thursday while working on a fourth
straight day … Fighting the blogosphere
hasn’t slowed Raul Ibanez down, as he smacked a three-run homer
Thursday … Javier Jazquez had a dozen strikeouts over eight innings of
one-run ball Thursday, but got a no-decision … Mike MacDougal worked
three innings in the past two days, so Joe Beimel picked up a one-run
save Thursday … Carlos Delgado (hip) is reportedly still at least three
weeks from swinging a bat … Geoff Blum delivered his second
game-winning hit in 24 hours Thursday with a walk-off single in the
13th inning.

The Rays are considering reliever Tyler Clippard

New York Mets pitcher Tyler Clippard throws during the eighth inning of Game 4 of the National League baseball championship series against the Chicago Cubs Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
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On Thursday, we learned that the Diamondbacks were still considering free agent reliever Tyler Clippard. You can add the Rays to the list as well, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.

The Rays traded lefty reliever Jake McGee to the Rockies in exchange for outfielder Corey Dickerson in late January, so Clippard would be able to slot right in behind closer Brad Boxberger. Clippard, 30, compiled a 2.92 ERA with 64 strikeouts and 31 walks over 71 innings in a season split between the Athletics and Mets. The strikeout rate was at its lowest since the right-hander become a full-time reliever in 2009, and his walk rate was at its highest since 2010, which may be a factor in his still being a free agent in February.

Report: Juan Uribe is too expensive for the Giants

New York Mets' Juan Uribe follows the flight of his solo home run off Colorado Rockies starting pitcher Chris Rusin in the third inning of a baseball game Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that, while the Giants are interested in free agent Juan Uribe, the utilityman’s asking price is too high for the club. Despite having a capable starter at every position, the Giants are a bit thin on depth and Uribe would be a nice fit given his versatility.

Uribe, 36, spent last season with the Dodgers, Braves, and Mets. He hit a combined .253/.320/.417 with 14 home runs and 43 RBI over 397 plate appearances. In his only postseason plate appearance for the Mets, he hit an RBI single in Game 3 of the World Series against the Royals.

Uribe has mostly played third base in recent seasons, but also has plenty of experience at second base and shortstop.

A study showed “grit” isn’t always a great attribute

Washington Nationals left fielder Bryce Harper slides into third with a three RBI triple during the third inning of a baseball game against the San Diego Padres, Friday, April 25, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
AP Photo/Nick Wass
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This popped up in my Twitter feed and I felt it had some applicability to baseball. This past October, Olga Khazan of The Atlantic highlighted a study in which researchers from the University of Southern California and Northeastern University performed three separate but related experiments to determine how “gritty” their subjects were.

One experiment had them solve anagrams. The second, a computer game. Finally, the third test had them solve math problems. Those who were deemed “grittier” attempted to solve fewer anagrams, which means they were sticking too long with difficult words rather than skipping and moving onto easier ones. The “grittier” crowd worked harder when losing at the computer game, but worked only as hard as the less-gritty when winning. With the math problems, the subjects when stuck were given a choice to take $1 and quit or keep going for a potential reward of $2 but $0 if they failed. The study showed that the “grittier” people weren’t any more productive but were more willing to risk the $1 for the doubled prize.

“Grit” is also a common colloquialism in baseball circles, used to refer to players who always run out a routine ground ball or pop-up. Other common characteristics include a willingness to dive for fly balls, slide into players to break up double plays, and to stick up for their teammates when there’s a disagreement between members of two teams. Often, those deemed “gritty” are in many other ways subpar players, but their perceived “grit” gives them value.

Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper is a rare superstar player who has earned the “grit” descriptor. There are many examples showing why he has earned it, but the most famous incident occurred on May 13, 2013 at Dodger Stadium. Harper turned his back to the field to chase an A.J. Ellis fly ball but went face-first into the wall, suffering abrasions on his face and a jammed left shoulder. This was during a game the Nationals were comfortably winning 6-0 in the sixth inning. At the time, the Nationals were 95 percent favorites to win the game, according to FanGraphs. Is the risk of suffering an injury — which could keep Harper out only a game or two, or cause him to miss the rest of the season — worth potentially turning a double or triple into an out?

Famously, Philadelphia fans and talking heads got on outfielder Bobby Abreu’s case in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s because he appeared gun-shy when approaching the outfield fence on fly balls. He was under a lot of pressure to sacrifice his body for the supposed good of the team, and developed a reputation as “soft”. As a more recent example, former Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins caught flack from fans when he didn’t run out a routine pop-up against the Mets on August 30, 2012. Then-manager Charlie Manuel benched the veteran. At the time, the Phillies were 62-69 and 17.5 games back of first place in the NL East and 8.5 games behind the second Wild Card. Freak injuries can happen, as Rollins’ teammate Ryan Howard showed when making the final out of the 2011 NLDS against the Cardinals. Is that non-zero injury risk worth the tiny chance that the infielder drops the pop-up and Rollins gets a single (or, in rarer cases, a double) in a game that is essentially meaningless?

The aforementioned study shows that maybe Abreu and Rollins had it right after all. Statistically, a freak injury that occurs on a “hustle” play is bound to happen. Maybe that’s what it will take to stop expecting athletes to put their bodies on the line for no realistic gain.

Zach Britton settles with the Orioles for $6.75 million

Baltimore Orioles relief pitcher Zach Britton delivers a pitch against the Boston Red Sox in the ninth inning of a baseball game at Fenway Park, Tuesday, June 23, 2015, in Boston. The Orioles won 6-4. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
AP Photo/Steven Senne
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The Orioles and closer Zach Britton avoided an arbitration hearing, agreeing to a $6.75 million salary for the 2016 season, Jon Heyman reports. The club has now handled all of its remaining arbitration cases and won’t have to go to a hearing with any players.

Britton, in his second of four years of arbitration eligibility, filed for $7.9 million while the Orioles countered at $5.6 million. $6.75 million is exactly the midpoint between the two submitted figures.

The 28-year-old lefty saved 36 games in 40 chances last season for the O’s while putting up a 1.92 ERA with a 79/14 K/BB ratio over 65 2/3 innings.