Toronto Tidbits: The Doctor is in and Hill's homers

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Roy Halladay is back from the disabled list
and set to start tonight against the Rays. Prior to being forced from
his June 12 start after three innings because of a groin injury
Halladay had completed at least seven innings in each of his first 13
outings this season and even after missing nearly three weeks he still
leads the league in wins while ranking among the top 10 in innings.

Meanwhile in Toronto, not only did Aaron Hill’s pair of homers last night
establish a new career-high, he broke the Blue Jays’ single-season
record for homers by a second baseman that was previously held by
Roberto Alomar. Oh, and there are still 85 games remaining on the
schedule.

Hill has already gone deep 19 times in 358 plate appearances after
coming into the season with 28 long balls in 1,900 career trips to the
plate, although perhaps the more amazing thing is that through 32 years
as a franchise no Toronto second baseman had ever hit more than 17
homers.

Toronto’s primary second basemen over the years: Alomar, Damaso
Garcia, Manuel Lee, Homer Bush, Orlando Hudson, and now Hill. Danny
Ainge even started 86 games at second base back in 1979, batting .237
with two homers. Most people would probably guess that Alomar is the
team’s all-time leader in games at second base, but it’s actually
Garcia and he hit just 32 homers in 3,756 plate appearances with the
Blue Jays.

Jason Kipnis could join Team Israel for 2017 World Baseball Classic

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Jason Kipnis #22 of the Cleveland Indians throws during batting practice prior to Game Seven of the 2016 World Series against the Chicago Cubs at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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With the 2017 World Baseball Classic around the corner, Team Israel has reportedly reached out to Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, per MLB Network’s Jon Morosi. Tournament rules stipulate that a player’s roster eligibility can be achieved in one of several ways: they were born in the country in question or hold citizenship/permanent legal residence there (or are simply capable of qualifying for citizenship), or one of their parents was born in the country or holds citizenship/permanent legal residence there.

For Kipnis, it’s the latter. Kipnis’ father, Mark Kipnis, is Jewish. That gives Kipnis the status he needs to suit up for Team Israel, despite the fact that he is a practicing Roman Catholic. He has yet to confirm or deny his participation in the competition.

Fifteen players have confirmed for Team Israel so far, including Mets’ infielder/outfielder Ty Kelly and free agents Sam Fuld, Nate Freiman, Jason Marquis and Jeremy Bleich. Per MLB.com’s Chad Thornburg, eight minor leaguers will also appear for the team. Like Kipnis, at least three other major leaguers are eligible for Team Israel’s roster but have yet to accept or decline involvement in the WBC: Dodgers center fielder Joc Pederson, Mariners infielder/outfielder Danny Valencia and free agent left-hander Craig Breslow.

Rangers to sign James Loney to minor league deal

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 21: James Loney #28 of the New York Mets tosses to first base against the San Francisco Giants during the second inning at AT&T Park on August 21, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  The New York Mets defeated the San Francisco Giants 2-0. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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Free agent first baseman James Loney has reportedly signed a minor league deal with the Rangers, per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. The deal includes an invite to spring training and a $1 million salary if he makes the major league roster in 2017.

Loney picked up a one-year stint and starting role with the Mets in 2016, slashing .265/.307/.397 with nine home runs in 336 PA. While his numbers were down a hair from the .280/.322/.357 batting line he produced with the Rays in 2015, he provided the Mets with a necessary, if underwhelming upgrade over an injured Lucas Duda through most of the season.

The 32-year-old infielder is expected to have some competition at first base, with at least five other candidates in the mix: Jurickson Profar, Ronald Guzman, Ryan Rua, Joey Gallo and Josh Hamilton. Rumor has it that the team is planning on platooning Rua and Profar in 2017, barring any impressive breakouts or injuries during spring training, though Loney could still provide the club with some veteran depth and a decent left-handed bat off the bench.