Last month the Cubs fired hitting coach Gerald Perry one season after
he presided over the league’s highest-scoring offense, so having run
out of ideas for how to get Kosuke Fukudome on track now that he’s
faded following a great start for the second straight season they’ve turned to his old hitting coach from Japan for help:
Kyosuke Sasaki will join the team in Philadelphia on Monday. Sasaki
will work with Fukudome for a week or so, hoping to get the same kind
of success he saw with the Chunichi Dragons, where Fukudome won a pair
of batting titles. “He’s going to be on the field and in uniform with
us for a few days and let him observe,” manager Lou Piniella said. “If
need be, he can work with Fukudome all he wants.”
Last year Fukudome hit .327/.436/.480 in April compared to
.241/.340/.355 from May 1 on and this year he batted .338/.461/.592 in
April only to hit .235/.346/.385 since, but it’s worth noting that he’s
at .288/.377/.577 with nine extra-base hits in 15 games this month.
Meanwhile, Piniella has bypassed new hitting coach Von Joshua and plans to personally tutor Milton Bradley:
Piniella plans to take a turn soon at trying to solve Milton
Bradley’s season-long hitting slump from the left side of the plate
that neither Bradley nor two hitting coaches have cracked. “I had a
nice talk with Bradley,” Piniella said. “I’m going to work with him
personally for a while and see if we can get him going.” …
Joshua has worked with Bradley on getting his top half in sync with
his bottom half in his left-handed stance and swing. “We’re going to
try to simplify things a little bit,” Piniella said. “We’re going to
get him a little shorter path to the ball, increase a little bat speed.
And we can do that with a couple of adjustments, I feel. We’ll start
[today]. And when he’s ready, we’ll get him out there.”
Now that Sasaki “can work with Fukudome all he wants” and Piniella is
taking care of Bradley, Joshua is left with just 10 hitters to work
with. Or maybe 11 if you decide to count either Andres Blanco or Carlos Zambrano as hitters. Not a bad gig.
The Orioles and closer Zach Britton avoided an arbitration hearing, agreeing to a $6.75 million salary for the 2016 season, Jon Heyman reports. The club has now handled all of its remaining arbitration cases and won’t have to go to a hearing with any players.
Britton, in his second of four years of arbitration eligibility, filed for $7.9 million while the Orioles countered at $5.6 million. $6.75 million is exactly the midpoint between the two submitted figures.
The 28-year-old lefty saved 36 games in 40 chances last season for the O’s while putting up a 1.92 ERA with a 79/14 K/BB ratio over 65 2/3 innings.
Tacking onto Friday’s report that the Blue Jays will attempt to sign Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion to multi-year deals, Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports that the club will try to do the same with third baseman and defending American League Most Valuable Player Josh Donaldson. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports notes that Donaldson’s arbitration hearing is scheduled for February 15, so the two sides will have 10 days to hammer out a contract.
Donaldson, 30, is entering his second of four years of arbitration eligibility. After earning $4.3 million last season, Donaldson filed for $11.8 million and the Blue Jays countered at $11.35 million. The $450,000 difference isn’t much compared to some of the other disparities among arbitration-eligible players and their respective clubs. Jake Arrieta and the Cubs, for example, had a gap of $6.5 million.
This past season, Donaldson let the league in runs scored and RBI with 122 and 123, respectively, while batting .297.371/.568 with 41 home runs and 41 doubles. He earned 23 of 30 first place votes in AL MVP balloting, with runner-up Mike Trout of the Angels grabbing the other seven votes.
Juan Duran, a minor-league outfielder in the Reds’ farm system, has been suspended 80 games following positive tests for the performance-enhancing drugs Drostanolone, Stanozolol, and Nandrolone.
Duran is 6-foot-7 with big-time power, averaging 23 homers per 150 games since 2011, but he also strikes out a ton and struggles to control the strike zone. He spent last season at Double-A, missing a lot of time with injuries and hitting .256 with six homers and a .728 OPS in 59 games as a 23-year-old.
Duran is on the 40-man roster and is considered a quasi-prospect, but he’ll be ineligible to play until July and figures to head back to Double-A once reinstated.
Ever since Alex Anthopoulos resigned as Blue Jays’ GM and Mark Shapiro took over as team president, a distinct air of frugality has set in over Rogers Centre. The go-for-broke attitude that fueled Toronto’s fantastic second half last year was repudiated and long-term, sustainable building has seemed to be the order of the day.
But the Jays aren’t going to go crazy with that: ESPN’s Jayson Stark reports that the Blue Jays plan to have long-term extension talks with the agents of Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion during spring training. This, combined with the still-remaining possibility that they can avoid arbitration with MVP Josh Donaldson and hammer out a long-term deal could mean some serious spending by the Jays before Opening Day.
Or this could just be talk from the front office designed to buoy the spirits of fans. Locking up all three of them to long-term deals may be hella expensive and may not be possible. It’s also the case that, given their ages — Bautista is 35 and Encarnacion is 33 — it may not be advisable to lock the both up. As always, it depends on the terms and how generous Rogers Communications plans on being with the Jays’ budget.
But the chatter is now out there and expectations are poised to be set.