An extremely abbreviated Home Run Derby diary

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Given my view of it all,
you won’t be surprised to hear that I ended up only watching a fraction
of the Home Run Derby last night, but I’ll offer the following
observations:

— It took something like 20 minutes for the actual hitting to start
following the commencement of the broadcast. One would think that if
you’re hyping a Home Run Derby as much as ESPN was, you’d want to get
to some actual hitting eventually.

— Nelson Cruz was pretty impressive. Wasn’t expecting that.
Probably because I never get to see any Rangers games. I think I’ll
blame ESPN for that too.

— I get tired watching Prince Fielder simply walk around, so
watching him hack violently like he did last night was an exhausting
experience.

— Call me crazy, but I don’t know that I’d want my son to be one of
the kids who wipe down the sweaty ballplayers after they’re done
hitting. Very weird vibe.

— Berman might read CTB — or Deadspin — because in at least the parts I saw of it, he seemed to have ratcheted, um, back on the “back back backs” a good 50%

Greg Doyel of CBS Sports made a veiled accusation of steroid use by Brandon Inge yesterday. Wonder if he’s gonna take it back now that Inge didn’t hit a single dinger.

— The little comet trail thing they’re putting on the ball makes me
burn with an anger that is hotter than a thousand suns. Beyond stupid.
Who can’t follow the flight of a baseball? Who doesn’t have the
patience to see if the ball makes the stands? Half the time it doesn’t
even track the ball very well. Note to ESPN: just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.

— Adrian Gonzalez came to bat and Joe Buck made his way to the
broadcast desk. To review the bidding at that point, we had Berman,
Steve Phillips, Joe Buck, a contrived contest I can’t really get into,
and some lame, 1980s video game graphics on the ball. That’s when I
bailed. Congrats to Prince Fielder and everything, but my Ross MacDonald book was way, way more entertaining.

Look, I’ll fully admit that everyone looks like they’re having fun at
this thing. Especially all of the kids shagging flies in the outfield.
But it simply doesn’t work as televised entertainment. Perhaps if they
sped it up a bit, jacked the intensity somehow and made it into a
shorter and more direct contest the results would be better. Of course
that can’t happen because guys would get too tired and people wouldn’t
sit in the stands buying $8 beers for three hours.

All-Star Game tonight. You won’t be surprised to learn that I have a
million complaints about it too, but at least it’s baseball.

Angels ink Javy Guerra to minor league deal

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Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times reports that the Angels have agreed to terms on a minor league contract with right-handed reliever Javy Guerra. The deal includes an invitation to major league spring training.

Guerra was suspended 50 games by Major League Baseball last July after testing positive for a drug of abuse. That suspension is now over, though Guerra is probably ticketed for the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate to begin the 2016 season.

The 30-year-old made just three major league appearances in 2015 for the White Sox before getting outrighted off Chicago’s 40-man roster. He does own a 2.87 ERA in 150 1/3 career innings, but it has come with bouts of inconsistency and unreliability.

Maybe he can get everything going in the right direction with Anaheim.

Braves sign reliever Carlos Torres

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As first reported by Bill Shanks of Fox Sports 1670, the Braves have signed right-handed reliever Carlos Torres to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.

Torres was waived by the Mets in January, somewhat surprisingly, and elected to become a free agent. The 33-year-old ultimately chose Atlanta, where he should have a good shot at an Opening Day roster out of spring training with the rapidly-rebuilding Braves.

Torres posted an ugly 4.68 ERA in 57 2/3 innings last season for the Mets, but he registered a gorgeous 3.06 ERA and 96 strikeouts across 97 innings in 2014.

If he gets off to a good start in 2016, he could become valuable trade bait.

Blue Jays will have a closer competition this spring

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Roberto Osuna became the youngest pitcher to ever play for the Blue Jays last season at age 20 and he rose to the challenge with a 2.58 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, and 75/16 K/BB ratio in 69 2/3 frames. Osuna eventually took over as Toronto’s closer, earning 20 regular-season saves and one in the American League Division Series — a five-out effort in Game 5 to close out the visiting Rangers.

But the Jays upgraded the back end of their bullpen this winter, acquiring Drew Storen from the Nationals in early January for speedy outfielder Ben Revere. Jesse Chavez was also brought to Toronto in a trade with the A’s.

Storen has more experience at closer than Osuna, and Storen struggled when the Nationals tried to put him in a setup role. Storen, in his final year of salary arbitration, also gets paid much more. He’s probably going to enter spring training as the favorite for the Jays’ ninth-inning gig, but there will be a competition …

Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins told Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca on Wednesday that he doesn’t expect the team to choose between Osuna or Storen until midway through spring training, if not later.

There’s been talk of making Osuna a starter, so add that wrinkle.

Storen, 28, boasts 95 career major league saves.

Orioles plotting late-offseason push? Gallardo, Fowler, Alvarez, Bruce in consideration

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Baltimore’s front office appears to be lining up a run of potential roster additions leading into the beginning of spring training.

We’ve already passed along the reports suggesting they are close to a three-year deal with free agent starter Yovani Gallardo, but now FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal adds that free agent outfielder Dexter Fowler could be next on the Orioles’ target list. It they get those two deals done, the O’s could then chase free agent slugger Pedro Alvarez.

Rosenthal says the Orioles are even eyeing Jay Bruce of the Reds, though the FOX reporter hears the O’s might not have the prospects to pull off that kind of trade.

The focus for the Orioles out of the gate this winter was re-signing Matt Wieters and Chris Davis. Wieters accepted his one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer in November and Davis was locked up to a seven-year, $161 million contract in mid-January.

Now the O’s are spending a little leftover cash on late-offseason additions to improve their position in what should be a tight 2016 American League East race.