Daily Dose: Barton replaces injured Giambi

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Jason Giambi was supposed to provide some power and patience in his
return to Oakland, but like many of the A’s recent moves things didn’t
go quite as planned. Giambi hit .193/.332/.364 through 83 games while
costing the team even further with his horrible glove at first base,
and was mercifully placed on the disabled list Monday with a strained
right quadriceps muscle.

Giambi is on a one-year deal with a team option for 2010, so with
Oakland out of the playoff picture there’s no reason to rush the
38-year-old back. Daric Barton is taking his roster spot and will get
another shot to show that he’s capable of being an impact hitter.
Barton is amazingly still only 23 years old, but so far he’s hit just
.239/.338/.383 over 170 games in the majors and slugged .432 at
Triple-A.

While the A’s pay $5.3 million for 328 plate appearances of a .697 OPS, here are some other notes from around baseball …

* Starting for the first time since June of 2007, Jason Schmidt
allowed three runs in the first inning Monday before recovering to
throw four scoreless frames. Five innings of three-run ball is
certainly a nice first start for Schmidt, but his final line wasn’t
pretty with two strikeouts versus three walks and his fastball was
clocked in the mid-80s for most of the night.

* Chien-Ming Wang’s chances of pitching again this season took a hit
Monday as he experienced biceps soreness during a routine game of
catch. “It’s not exactly the news that I wanted,” manager Joe Girardi
said. “We were hoping two weeks’ of rest would be enough for him to get
on a throwing program. Does it mean he won’t pitch this year? No, I’m
not saying that.”

* Scott Olsen might be facing shoulder surgery after an MRI exam
revealed what interim manager Jim Riggled called “labrum issues.”
Labrum injuries are typically far more difficult to recover from than
elbow injuries, or as Riggleman put it: “Any time you hear that word,
we figure that’s going to be a while.” Olsen is probably at minimum
finished for the season with a 2-5 record and 6.03 ERA in 11 starts.

* Frank Francisco landed on the disabled list Monday for the third
time this year, but the good news is that his arm is fine. Instead he
has what the Rangers called a mild case of pneumonia and because
Francisco hasn’t pitched in a game since July 10 he’s eligible to
return as soon as Sunday. C.J. Wilson will once again get ninth-inning
duties in the meantime.

AL Quick Hits: Out since May with a torn tendon in his foot,
Carlos Quentin came off the disabled list Monday and went 1-for-4 while
batting sixth … Nelson Cruz sat out his second straight game Monday
with a fractured ring finger, but hopes to avoid the DL … After
struggling in 14 games atop the lineup, J.D. Drew slid to the sixth
spot Monday while Jacoby Ellsbury led off … David Hernandez rejoined
the rotation Monday with six innings of one-run ball against the
Yankees … Chris Ray (biceps) is slated to begin a rehab stint Friday at
Double-A … Freddy Garcia threw a bullpen session Monday in front of
Ozzie Guillen and pitching coach Don Cooper, and will head to the
minors … Mike Scioscia said Sunday that Vladimir Guerrero (knee) will
be limited to designated hitter duties when he comes off the DL … Gio
Gonzalez was rocked for 11 runs in 2.2 innings Monday against a Joe
Mauer-less Twins lineup, including seven RBIs from Justin Morneau.

NL Quick Hits: Mat Gamel was demoted back to the minors Monday
following the Brewers’ trade for Felipe Lopez … Livan Hernandez likely
saved his rotation spot with seven innings of two-run ball Monday …
Edinson Volquez (elbow) reported no problems following a bullpen
session Monday and is due to throw twice more this week … Jeff
Francoeur went 3-for-4 with a homer Monday and is now hitting .345 in
seven games with the Mets … Pedro Martinez is set to throw a simulated
game Tuesday before beginning a minor-league rehab assignment …
Jonathan Sanchez followed his no-hitter with three runs in six innings
Monday … General manager Omar Minaya and manager Jerry Manuel have been
told that their jobs are safe in New York … Ted Lilly had been pitching
well, but was rocked for nine runs in four innings Monday … Fernando
Nieve is expected to miss at least six weeks with a torn thigh muscle
suffered Sunday.

Russell Martin is not a fan of the automatic intentional walk

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 15:  Russell Martin #55 of the Toronto Blue Jays reacts after being struck out in the fourth inning against the Cleveland Indians during game two of the American League Championship Series at Progressive Field on October 15, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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On Tuesday, it was announced that Major League Baseball instituted a new rule allowing for a dugout signal in order to issue an intentional walk rather than having the pitcher throw four pitches wide of the strike zone. It’s commissioner Rob Manfred’s attempt to help improve the game’s pace of play.

As Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi reports, Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin is certainly not a fan of the change.

My thing is, if they really want to speed up the game, then when a guy hits a home run, to speed up the game should a guy, just like in softball, when he hits it, should he just walk to the dugout? It’d be quicker. I’m just wondering, at what point do we just keep the game, the game? Or, how about this calculation: take all the intentional walks that were made in the last couple years and calculate – or maybe just ask to see if they have that information, to see if they really did their homework. Is it really that important to speed up the game (with this rule)? Because how many games did we play last year where we didn’t have one intentional walk? That’s something I’d like to know.

Martin also expressed concern that eliminating the four-pitch intentional walk will hurt teams’ ability to buy time for their relievers to warm up.

It’s called getting your bullpen ready so the guy doesn’t blow out his arm on the mound. Speed up the game, speed up the game.’ How about we just give guys – the human being – time to warm up on the mound after maybe something’s happened in the game? I’m not a manager, but I’m just trying to put myself in the position of a manager. OK, we’re up by one run or two runs and our bullpen’s been taxed and we’re trying to save their arms, and then the other team walks, ball gets away, guy gets to second base. When the coach visits the mound to talk to his player, it’s not like the player necessarily needs somebody to talk to him.

It’s because the guy (in the bullpen) needs time to warm up, man. It’s the same thing when you throw over to first base, like, eight times in a row. It’s not like we’re trying to keep the guy close. The guy maybe has two stolen bases in 18 years. It’s because the guy needs time to warm up. At what point does that become a problem with guys warming up in the bullpen? Sometimes it’s just strategy to give guys a little bit of time to warm up.

The Jays’ backstop then said he’d prefer if Manfred were honest about the intent behind this rule change and others which have been proposed. Martin said, “Save it. I’m tired of hearing that same lame excuse all the time. Just be honest. If they’re honest about it, we’ll get over it. But don’t hide behind the fans.”

We should be hearing from a handful of players about the new intentional walk rule in the coming days. I can’t imagine the rule is very popular among the players.

Leonys Martin feared for his life from alleged human traffickers

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 30: Leonys Martin #12 of the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on September 30, 2016 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
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Leonys Martin, outfielder for the Seattle Mariners, testified yesterday that he feared for his life after he was smuggled from Cuba by a group of men prosecutors say worked for a sports agent and a baseball trainer currently on trial for human trafficking in Miami.

Martin took the stand at the trial of Bartolo Hernandez and Julio Estrada, who face felony charges. He said that, after getting to Mexico from Cuba, men threatened to take him away. There was a kidnapping attempt against one of the men who had taken him from Cuba as well. Martin said that, eventually, he crossed the U.S.-Mexico border into Texas without any valid papers because his life was in danger and his safety was at risk.

Players like Martin who fled Cuba often hole up in Mexico while waiting to be declared free agents by Major League Baseball. There is pitched competition to sign agreements with the players in question, seeking to obtain promises of a cut of future baseball earnings for their services. Those promises can come under the threat of violence. Eventually, Martin promised to pay Hernandez and Estrada, but ceased paying them later, fomenting a lawsuit from them. In the wake of the suit, the allegations of threats and smuggling arose, leading to this trial.

Martin has been late to Mariners camp as a result of having to testify. He’ll likely report in the next day or so. The trial continues.