Manny madness: Let the hype begin

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Manny Ramirez isn’t eligible to return to the Los Angeles Dodgers until
July 3, but the hype is already kicking into high gear as the tainted
slugger begins his minor league warm-up on Tuesday in Albuquerque.

No matter what you think of the slugger and his pending return, you’re bound to have an opinion about it. Everyone does.

One writer thinks it’s a sham
that he gets to play in the minors before his 50-game suspension for
failing a drug test has been completed. Another scribe wonders why that’s even an issue.
It’s not like he’s getting special treatment. All suspended players are
allowed to find their rhythm in the minors before their eligible to
return.

And for what it’s worth, my Uncle Frank thinks Ramirez, and anyone else
caught doping, should be sent somewhere far, far away. Like Mars,
maybe. I have a feeling many people feel the same way.

Regardless of where you fall on the Ramirez issue, it will be hard
not to follow his movements over the next week or so. Whether you’re
thrilled or disgusted, you won’t be able to turn your eyes away.

As one fan said “He’s a cheater, but I still want to see him play.” He’s not alone.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes, who average 7,000 fans per game, have already sold an extra 11,000 tickets in two days.

And the San Bernardino 66ers — a single-A Dodgers farm team — have already sold out Sunday’s game, even though the Dodgers have yet to even confirm Ramirez will play there.

Fans can watch Ramirez play on Tuesday – for a fee – as the game will be broadcast on MiLB.TV.

And if you’re expecting the slugger to need some time to shake off
the rust, you might be surprised. The man who’s been throwing him
batting practice says Ramirez is already locked in.

“I can tell just by watching how the balls carry,” said Flippo. “You
can tell — the way his rhythm is going when he has it together. You
can tell if he looks comfortable. You can tell when a guy is fighting
it. Everything is looking easy for him, as easy as when he came to us.

“One thing I can tell, when I throw a good pitch down the middle, I
expect that to be hit. With him, even when I don’t give him a good
pitch, he still drives it. In Spring Training, if he got one of those
bad pitches, he didn’t hit it that good. Last year, when he joined us,
no matter where the pitch was, he hit it hard. And right now, it’s the
same thing with him.”

Let the hype begin.

Report: Diamondbacks acquire Steven Souza from Rays in part of three-team deal

Tampa Bay Rays
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Update (6:35 PM ET): This is a three-team deal also involving the Diamondbacks, per Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. The Diamondbacks will receive outfielder Steven Souza from the Rays and second baseman Brandon Drury will head to the Yankees. Lefty reliever Anthony Banda will go to the Rays, Piecoro adds. The Diamondbacks will also receive prospect Taylor Widener from the Yankees, per Joel Sherman of the New York Post.

Souza, 28, is earning $3.55 million in his first of three years of arbitration eligibility, so the Rays are presumably saving money in moving him. Last season, Souza hit a productive .239/.351/.459 with 30 home runs, 78 RBI, 78 runs scored, and 16 stolen bases in 617 plate appearances. Souza’s arrival almost certainly pushes Yasmany Tomas out of a starting gig.

Drury, 25, has played a handful of positions in his brief major league career. Last year, he played second base in Arizona, batting .267/.317/.447 with 13 home runs and 63 RBI in 480 PA.

Banda, 24, made his major league debut last season, posting an ugly 5.96 ERA with a 25/10 K/BB ratio in 25 2/3 innings. The peripherals suggest he pitched better than his ERA indicated.

Widener, 23, was selected by the Yankees in the 12th round of the 2016 draft. This past season with High-A Tampa, he pitched 119 1/3 innings and posted a 3.39 ERA with a 129/50 K/BB ratio. MLB Pipeline rated Widener as the 14th-best prospect in the Yankees’ system.

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Robert Murray of FanRag Sports reports that the Rays will acquire second base prospect Nick Solak from the Yankees. The Yankees’ return is presently not known.

Solak, 23, was selected by the Yankees in the second round of the 2016 draft. He spent last season between High-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton, hitting a combined .297/.384/.452 with 12 home runs, 53 RBI, 72 runs scored, and 14 stolen bases.

MLB Pipeline ranked Solak as the eighth-best prospect in the Yankees’ system and the fifth-best second base prospect in baseball, praising him for his ability to hit line drives as well as his speed.