Daily Dose: Philly close to signing Pedro?

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Reports surfaced early this week that the Phillies had renewed interest
in Pedro Martinez and now it sounds like the two sides could be close
to a deal. Martinez said Thursday that his agent is negotiating with
the Phillies after they scouted his workout Tuesday and a report out of
the Dominican Republic even claimed that a one-year deal worth $4
million was already in place.

General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. refuted reports of a done deal, but
clearly the Phillies are seriously interested in Martinez and an
official announcement by the end of the week wouldn’t be surprising. If
healthy he remains capable of being a solid fourth or fifth starter for
a contending team like the Phillies, but Martinez will probably need
some time to shake the rust off before being an NL-only option.

While the Phillies hope that Martinez has another half-dozen wins
left in the tank, here are some other notes from around baseball …

* Joel Pineiro tossed his third complete game of the year Thursday
as Milwaukee managed just one run on three hits and no walks. Pineiro
is having a career year with a 3.20 ERA through 17 starts, yet with
just 48 strikeouts in 115.1 innings his strikeout rate is horrible
after previously just being poor. Instead of missing more bats he’s
simply become the most extreme ground-ball pitcher in the league.

He recorded 19 ground-ball outs Thursday and is the only starter in
the league to induce a ground ball on over 60 percent of his balls in
play, which is remarkable given that Pineiro never even cracked 50
percent grounders from 2000-2008. In the past hitters have teed off on
his low-90s fastball, but now he’s working in the high-80s with
significantly more sink and the results are amazing.

* Ozzie Guillen was very pessimistic Thursday when asked about
Carlos Quentin returning from his foot problems, saying that he expects
him to remain out for “a while.” Quentin has already played multiple
games on his rehab stint at Triple-A, so Guillen admitted that he
“maybe” ready shortly after the All-Star break despite wanting to avoid
rushing him back until “he’s ready to help us here.”

* Dusty Baker announced Thursday that he’s benching Jay Bruce for at
least two days in an effort to break the recent slump that has his
batting average down to .209. “I’m letting him clear his head, like
Jimmy Rollins … and Magglio Ordonez,” Baker said. While his average
isn’t pretty, Bruce is actually showing more power and plate discipline
than last year and his OPS is only down about five percent.

* David Price showed how great he can be when he actually throws the
ball over the plate Thursday, holding Toronto to one run over six
innings while out-dueling Roy Halladay with seven strikeouts and one
walk. Price has been maddeningly inconsistent while going 3-3 with a
4.70 ERA overall, but has 47 strikeouts and a .241 opponents’ batting
average in 44 innings. He’s very close to breaking out.

AL Quick Hits: J.P. Howell received Thursday off, so Dan Wheeler
picked up his first save of the season … Brandon Inge won the “Final
Vote” competition for the AL’s last All-Star roster spot, beating out
Ian Kinsler … Clayton Richard is in danger of being replaced in the
rotation by Bartolo Colon after struggling again Thursday … Ryan Garko
started in the outfield Thursday for the eighth time this season and
went 4-for-5 at the plate … Kevin Slowey (wrist) is slated to begin a
throwing program Friday … Mark Teixeira took Francisco Liriano deep
Thursday for his first homer since June 12 … Cardinals general manager
John Mozeliak indicated Thursday that he’ll contact the Blue Jays about
Roy Halladay … After having his rehab delayed by a knee injury, Jed
Lowrie (wrist) is set to come off the disabled list within the next two
weeks … Handed nine runs of support, David Huff couldn’t make it
through five innings to get the win Thursday.

NL Quick Hits: Manny Parra returned to the Brewers’ rotation
with seven shutout innings Thursday … Manny Ramirez went 2-for-2 with
two RBIs and two walks Thursday … Shane Victorino won the “Final Vote”
competition for the NL’s last All-Star roster spot, beating out Pablo
Sandoval … Raul Ibanez (groin) is slated to come off the disabled list
Friday after being out since June 18 … Matt Kemp went 3-for-4 while
again batting eighth in the Dodgers’ lineup Thursday … Javier Vazquez
has been scratched from his scheduled Sunday start due to a strained
abdominal muscle … Fernando Martinez (knee) and his .517 OPS landed on
the disabled list Thursday … Kyle Lohse (forearm) is scheduled to
rejoin the rotation Sunday … Orlando Hudson left Thursday’s game after
being hit on the knee by a pitch … Livan Hernandez coughed up eight
runs on 11 hits Thursday, finishing the first half at 5-5 with a 5.10
ERA … John Bowker could have some NL-only value after being called up
Thursday by the Giants.

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.