Daily Dose: Boston's busy day

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Boston was busy Wednesday afternoon, getting Adam LaRoche from the
Pirates for a pair of marginal prospects before swapping Julio Lugo to
the Cardinals for Chris Duncan. Eating most of the $13.5 million
remaining on Lugo’s deal allowed the Red Sox to get a potentially
useful player in return, although Duncan’s stock is down dramatically
over the past two years and he’ll head to Triple-A for now.

Lugo is expected to assume a fairly big role for the Cardinals,
pushing Brendan Ryan for playing time at shortstop while also being an
option at second base and third base. His bat remains useful and his
lack of range following knee surgery is less of an issue at another
spot, but Tony La Russa and company will soon learn that Lugo simply
isn’t capable of playing a decent shortstop right now.

While dumping Lugo for whatever they could get became a no-brainer
for Boston the move to add LaRoche is more interesting. He figures to
be a part-time player if everyone else is healthy, essentially
providing insurance for Mike Lowell, Kevin Youkilis, and David Ortiz.
LaRoche’s struggles against left-handers won’t be an issue if Lowell is
healthy and he’s a career .275/.347/.500 hitter versus righties.

If nothing else he’s a sizable upgrade over Mark Kotsay and the Red
Sox may be one of the few teams that can afford to pay $3 million for
50 games of a part-time player. Rather than wait to see if he’d fetch
draft picks as a Type B free agent the Pirates chose to cash LaRoche in
for Argenis Diaz, a 22-year-old shortstop with lots of glove and little
bat, and 21-year-old right-hander Hunter Strickland.

While the Red Sox get a jump on the trading deadline and the Pirates
continue their never-ending rebuild, here are some other notes from
around baseball …

* Jordan Zimmermann has been one of the few bright spots for the
Nationals this season, posting a 4.63 ERA and impressive 92/29 K/BB
ratio in 91.1 innings as a 23-year-old rookie who basically skipped
Triple-A. Unfortunately he was placed on the disabled list Wednesday
with right elbow soreness. There’s no timetable yet for his return, but
fellow 23-year-old Collin Balester will take his rotation spot.

* Bobby Jenks has allowed runs in four of his last five outings, but
Ozzie Guillen made it clear Wednesday that he’s in no danger of losing
closer duties. “He’s my closer and if people don’t want him to be my
closer, don’t come to the God damn game,” Guillen said. Despite those
comments it was Matt Thornton closing out a one-run lead Wednesday
night with Jenks having worked on back-to-back days.

AL Quick Hits: Vicente Padilla was scratched from his Wednesday
start with the flu, so Dustin Nippert held the Red Sox to one run in
5.2 innings for his first win since last September … Glen Perkins could
be headed for the disabled list after complaining of shoulder soreness
after Wednesday’s brutal effort … Juan Rivera (hamstring) missed his
fourth straight game Wednesday … Kevin Slowey (wrist) will begin a
rehab assignment Saturday at Triple-A … Clay Buchholz struggled
Wednesday while subbing for Tim Wakefield, leaving after throwing 90
pitches in four innings … Felix Hernandez allowed just one run
Wednesday while throwing at least seven innings for the ninth straight
start … Armando Galarraga gave up just one hit in 7.2 innings
Wednesday, but got stuck with a no-decision … Nelson Cruz (finger)
returned to the lineup Wednesday by going 2-for-2 with two walks and
two steals.

NL Quick Hits: Manny Corpas may miss the rest of the season
following surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow … Manny Ramirez
was out of Wednesday’s lineup after being plunked on the hand, but
delivered a pinch-hit grand slam into the “Mannywood” section at Dodger
Stadium… Garrett Jones went deep again Wednesday, giving him nine
homers in 17 games … Jason Marquis’ next start has been pushed back to
Tuesday thanks to a finger blister … Chris Carpenter tossed eight
innings of two-run ball Wednesday before Ryan Franklin blew the lead …
Edinson Volquez (elbow) reported zero problems after a bullpen session
Wednesday … Ricky Nolasco struck out 10 and combined with three
relievers on a three-hit shutout Wednesday … Josh Willingham snapped a
0-for-14 slump by going 4-for-4 with a homer Wednesday … Jair Jurrjens
beat Tim Lincecum while retiring 17 straight batters Wednesday … Tony
La Russa said Wednesday that Todd Wellemeyer’s rotation spot is safe
for at least one more start.

Jose Canseco to join NBC Sports California as an A’s analyst

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Hey, I have a new coworker: Jose Canseco has been hired by NBC Sports California as an Athletics pregame analyst.

OK, maybe he’s not technically a coworker, as the folks at NBC Sports California — formerly CSN Bay Area — and I do not hang out at the water cooler, have potlucks in the conference room or exchange secret Santa gifts at Christmas time, but dang it, I’m gonna TELL people I work with Jose Canseco. The only downside will be people assuming that, because he and I are on the same team, my performance is something less than authentic. Or, perhaps, Canseco may write another book and tell all of my secrets.

Anyway, Canseco will be part of NBC Sports California’s A’s Pregame Live and A’s Postgame Live shows. Live TV can be hard. I’ve done a bit of it, and there is certainly more to that gig than meets the eye. You can’t always prepare for what happens on the fly. I’m sure Canseco will do well, however, as he’s great with coming up with the best stuff off the top of his head.

2017 Preview: Cleveland Indians

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Cleveland Indians.

The Cleveland Indians almost won the World Series without their best hitter for the whole season and two of their starting pitchers for the playoffs. This year that hitter — Michael Brantley — is back and the starters — Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar — are healthy. Oh, and they added arguably the best free agent bat available in Edwin Encarnacion.

Baseball teams love to downplay their expectations, but given where the Indians are at the moment, anything less than another American League Pennant will have to feel like a disappointment, right? Fortunately for the Indians, they stand as the favorites to do just that.

They didn’t lose much in the offseason. Yes, World Series hero Rajai Davis is gone, but the Indians outfield will be fine if Brantley remains healthy. Mike Napoli‘s loss will be felt but it will be made up for with Encarnacion’s bat and probably then some. Coco Crisp left too, but he was not a key part of the equation.

The biggest losses are guys from last year who will start the year on the disabled list, most notably Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall. Kipnis is just starting to work out following time off to rest his sore shoulder. Chisenhall ran into a wall the other day and is being evaluated. There is no sense that either will miss extended time, however.

Otherwise, the lineup should score a lot of runs, with on-base machines Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor setting the table for Encarnacion, Brantley and Carlos Santana, who is entering his walk year. The Indians trailed only the Red Sox in runs scored in the American League last year and they should score a lot of runs this year as well.

The strength of the club, however, remains its pitching. Corey Kluber looked like his old Cy Young self last year, particularly in the playoffs. Danny Salazar built on his excellent 2015 season in the first half before falling prey to injury. Carlos Carrasco posted an ERA+ of 141 before breaking his hand and Josh Tomlin and Trevor Bauer both stood out for fourth and fifth starters.

The bullpen is excellent too, as relief ace Andrew Miller is joined by Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw and newcomer Boone Logan make up one of the relief corps in baseball.

Pitcher health is probably the biggest uncertainty for any contender, but the Indians have the best pitching in the AL if everyone stays healthy. And maybe even if one or two guys don’t.

It’s hard to find much fault with the 2017 Cleveland Indians. They are the class of their division and, while the slog of the regular season turns a lot of surefire contenders into hash before it’s all said and done, there is no reason to look at the Indians right now and think of them as anything other than the best team in the American League.

Prediction: First place, American League Central.