The Week Ahead: Manny hits Big Apple

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Manny Ramirez’s return from a 50-game suspension this past week was met
with a mixed reaction, helped no doubt by the games being played in
“Mannywood South”, also known as San Diego’s PETCO Park.

But this week, Manny and the Dodgers head to New York for a
three-game series against the Mets beginning Tuesday. Will Ramirez’s
reception be any different? Will the boo birds come out in force, or
will it be more of the rainbows and puppy dogs we saw in San Diego?

Ramirez’s reception so far has been fascinating to watch, a mix of boos and cheers, with the booing seemingly half-hearted. (Video, here)

Can you imagine Barry Bonds receiving that kind of treatment anywhere outside of San Francisco?

Stephanie Armijo, 27, fell into the category of indecisive fans who
don’t hold an opinion concerning Ramirez. She brought along three
friends, all San Diego residents, and made creative signs in the hopes
of finding tickets to Friday’s sold-out game.

“Baseball is entertainment,” she said. “Manny is just being Manny.”

Ahhh! Manny being Manny. I guess that’s the difference. Very few
ever found “Barry being Barry” to be particularly charming. But if you
wear dreadlocks, smile a lot and appear to float through life on a
childlike cloud of indifference, they cut you some slack.

It will be interesting to see if New Yorkers treat Manny any
differently. It seems to me he deserves at least as much scorn as Bonds
received. For all his faults, at least Bonds never failed a drug test,
as Ramirez did. At least Bonds was never suspended by baseball, as
Ramirez was.

But Manny wasn’t caught with a steroid, you say? It was only a female fertility drug?

My answer then, is this: Why was this substance banned by baseball
in May of 2008? Why are they testing for it? Why, if you are caught
with it, does it result in a 50-game suspension?

The N.Y. Daily News sheds some light on these questions:

While it’s not technically a steroid (a point Ramirez strove to make
early on) hCG is well-known to bodybuilders, who use it as an adjunct
to their testosterone regimens, according to experts interviewed by the
Daily News.

“Every steroid dealer carries hCG because he knows his customers
will use it,” says Anthony Roberts, a trainer, blogger and steroid
expert who has written two anabolic reference books. “That indicates he
was a longtime user and that he knew what he was doing. The fact that
he was using hCG is as damning as a positive drug test to me.”

Manny being Manny? Not so charming now is it?

More after the jump …


**Rangers at Angels, July 6-8: The Rangers enter the week
on a four-game winning streak, while the Angels have won their last
two. Oh, and they’re tied atop the AL West. The Rangers took two of
three from the Angels last week.

**Giants at Marlins, July 6-8: Two surprising second-place
teams go at it in Miami. The Giants have managed just enough offense to
back a great pitching staff, while the Marlins have been boosted by the
return to form of starter Ricky Nolasco, who struck out 12 in eight
scoreless innings on Sunday.

**Cardinals at Brewers, July 7-9: The top two teams in the
NL Central battle this week, although no one seems able to run away
from this division. Even the last-place Pirates are only seven games
out of first.

**Dodgers at Brewers, July 10-12: After Manny braves New York, he and the Dodgers head to Milwaukee. Should be a welcome reprieve … or will it be?

**Yankees at Angels, July 10-12: The red-hot Yankees enter
the week having won nine of their last 10. After a series against
Toronto, they head to Anaheim. Should be a good test.

Monday, 7:05 p.m. ET: Braves at Cubs (ESPN)
Wednesday, 7:10 p.m.: Dodgers at Mets (ESPN)
*Saturday, 4:10 p.m.: Yankees at Angels (FOX)
*Saturday, 4:10 p.m.: Cardinals at Cubs (FOX)
Sunday, 2 p.m.: Dodgers at Brewers (TBS)
Sunday, 8:05 p.m.: Cardinals at Cubs (ESPN)
*Check local listings

Erik Johnson likely to open 2016 in the White Sox rotation

DENVER, CO - APRIL 09:  Starting pitcher Erik Johnson #45 of the Chicago White Sox delivers against the Colorado Rockies during Interleague play at Coors Field on April 9, 2014 in Denver, Colorado. The Rockies defeated the White Sox 10-4.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
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With the White Sox losing Jeff Samardzija to free agency, Erik Johnson will likely get a shot to contribute out of the rotation to open up the 2016 season, GM Rick Hahn said in a conference call on Wednesday, per a report from’s Scott Merkin.

“As we sit here today, I think it will be an opportunity for Erik Johnson to convert on sort of the return to form he showed back in 2015 when he was International League pitcher of the year for [Triple-A] Charlotte,” Hahn said. “Obviously, he got some starts in September and continued to show the progress in Chicago he had shown in the Minor Leagues over the course of the last season.

“So if Opening Day were today, then I think Johnson is penciled in to that spot in the rotation right now. In all probability, once we get closer to spring, there will be some competition for him to earn that spot. But if we were strictly looking at today, then I would think Johnson has the inside track on filling Samardzija’s innings.”

Johnson was called up from Triple-A Charlotte in September and made six starts, allowing 14 runs (13 earned) on 32 hits and 17 walks with 30 strikeouts in 35 innings. That followed up an impressive five months in the minors where he compiled a 2.37 ERA and a 136/41 K/BB ratio across 132 2/3 innings.

Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, and each included Johnson on their top-100 prospect lists, ranking him 63rd, 67th, and 70th, respectively. The right-hander was selected by the White Sox in the second round of the 2011 draft.

Major League Baseball will investigate Yasiel Puig for his role in Miami nightclub brawl

Yasiel Puig
AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi

It was reported on Friday afternoon that Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig was involved in a brawl at a Miami nightclub. Details were scant at the time, but he reportedly left with a bruise on his face.

Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times reports that Major League Baseball plans to investigate Puig under the league’s new domestic violence policy for his role in the brawl. Citing a report from TMZ, Hernandez notes that Puig shoved his sister, “brutally sucker-punched” the manager of the bar, and instigated the brawl.

The Dodgers and Puig’s agent have thus far refused to comment on the situation.

Rockies shortstop Jose Reyes was the first player to be investigated under the league’s new domestic violence policy earlier this month, as he allegedly assaulted his wife. Reyes has pleaded not guilty after he was charged with domestic abuse in Hawaii.

As our own Craig Calcaterra pointed out, commissioner Rob Manfred does not need to wait for Puig to plead guilty or to be found guilty to levy a punishment.

Dayan Viciedo close to signing with Japan’s Chunichi Dragons

Dayan Viciedo
AP Photo/Carlos Osorio
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Patrick Newman is reporting that the Chunichi Dragons of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball and outfielder Dayan Viciedo are close to an agreement on a contract. Newman notes that the Dragons are close to signing pitcher Jordan Norberto as well.

Viciedo, 26, has struggled since making his major league debut in 2010 with the White Sox, batting an aggregate .254/.298/.424 with 66 home runs and 211 RBI in 1,798 plate appearances. He spent the 2015 season with Triple-A Charlotte (White Sox) and Nashville (Athletics), hitting a composite .287/.348/.450. While Viciedo can hit the occasional home run, he hasn’t shown the ability to do much else at the big league level. Given his age, he could prove himself in Japan and parlay that into a renewed shot in the majors in the future.

The White Sox signed Viciedo out of Cuba in December 2008, agreeing to a four-year, $10 million deal. The club re-signed him to one-year deals in 2013 and ’14 for $2.8 million each and $4.4 million ahead of the 2015 season.

Blue Jays sign J.A. Happ to a three-year, $36 million contract

J.A. Happ
AP Photo/David Zalubowski

Update (8:45 PM EST): Per Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi, Happ will get $10 million in 2016 and $13 million each in 2017 and ’18.

*’s Gregor Chisholm reports that the Blue Jays have signed lefty J.A. Happ to a three-year deal worth $36 million.

Happ, 33, had a rebirth as a member of the Pirates last season after starting the season with 20 subpar starts with the Mariners. He made 11 starts for the Buccos, boasting a 1.85 ERA with a 69/13 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings.

Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported this past August that Happ’s newfound success had to do with a delivery tweak suggested by Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage. The Blue Jays are certainly hoping that adjustment is the full explanation for his success.

The Jays’ signing of Happ most likely signifies they won’t be pursuing free agent lefty David Price.

This will be Happ’s second stint with the Blue Jays. The Astros dealt him to Toronto in a July 2012 trade. He posted a 4.39 ERA with a 256/113 K/BB ratio in 291 innings with the Jays, then went to the Mariners in a trade this past December that brought outfielder Michael Saunders to the Jays.