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.

Orioles are eying Welington Castillo as their primary catcher target

BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 25: Welington Castillo #7 of the Arizona Diamondbacks warms up prior to taking an at bat against the Baltimore Orioles in the second inning at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on September 25, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images)
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A report from the Baltimore Sun’s Dan Connolly suggests that free agent catcher Welington Castillo currently tops the Orioles’ list of potential backstop targets for the 2017 season. With Matt Wieters on the market, the Orioles lack a suitable platoon partner for Caleb Joseph behind the dish, and Connolly adds that the club has been discussing a multi-year deal with Castillo’s representatives since the Winter Meetings.

Castillo batted .264/.322/.423 with the Diamondbacks in 2016, racking up 14 home runs and driving in a career-high 68 RBI in 457 PA. His bat provides much of his upside, and Connolly quoted an anonymous National League scout who believes that the 29-year-old’s defensive profile has fallen short of his potential in recent years.

For better or worse, both the Orioles and Castillo appear far from locking in a deal for 2017. Both the Rays and Braves have expressed interest in the veteran catcher during the past week, while the Orioles are reportedly considering Wieters, Nick Hundley and Chris Iannetta as alternatives behind the plate.

Report: Phillies agree to minor league deal with Daniel Nava

KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 12:  Daniel Nava #12 of the Kansas City Royals bats during the game against the Oakland Athletics at Kauffman Stadium on September 12, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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The Phillies reportedly signed veteran outfielder Daniel Nava to a minor league contract, according to Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Nava began the season on a one-year contract with the Angels, during which he slashed .235/.309/.303 through 136 PA in the first half of 2016. He was flipped to the Royals in late August for a player to be named later and saw the remainder of his year go down the drain on an .091 average through 12 PA in Anaheim. After getting the boot from the Angels’ 40-man roster in November, the 33-year-old outfielder elected free agency.

Nava is expected to compete for a bench role on the Phillies’ roster in the spring. As it currently stands, the club’s projected 2017 outfield features Howie Kendrick and Odubel Herrera, with precious little depth behind them. Nava’s bat is underwhelming, but at the very least he offers the Phillies a warm body in left field and a potential platoon partner for one of their younger options, a la Tyler Goeddel or Roman Quinn.