Daily Dose: Brawling in Boston

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Junichi Tazawa’s first big-league start turned out to be a wild one Tuesday night, as his plunking Miguel Cabrera in the first inning led to a bench-clearing incident when Kevin Youkilis charged the mound after being hit in the next inning by Rick Porcello. Cabrera left with a hand contusion, Youkilis and Porcello were ejected, and Mike Lowell homered twice after replacing Youkilis as the Red Sox won.
Tazawa got the victory for allowing one earned run and two unearned runs in five innings, totaling six strikeouts compared to just two walks and one extra-base hit on the same day that John Smoltz reportedly cleared waivers. However, his time in the rotation could be limited with Tim Wakefield slated to make a rehab start Saturday at Triple-A, so Tazawa’s value is limited to deeper AL-only leagues.
While everyone awaits their suspensions and the Tigers hope that Cabrera isn’t seriously injured, here are some other notes from around baseball …

* Jhoulys Chacin pitched well in four relief outings after a surprise call-up three weeks ago, striking out nine hitters in five innings, but struggled Tuesday night in his first start. He failed to make it out of the third inning, walking six and allowing four runs on just one hit. His control has been fine in the minors, but it’s certainly not shocking that a 21-year-old who skipped Double-A would have some issues.
* Nick Blackburn’s implosion continued Tuesday, as he gave up six runs before being chased in the second inning. Blackburn had a sub-3.00 ERA as recently as mid-July, but his horrendous strikeout rate always predicted a trip back down to earth and sure enough he’s coughed up 29 runs in 30.1 innings since then. He’s still a capable mid-rotation starter, but there just isn’t much long-term upside.
* Scott Rolen went on the disabled list Tuesday with post-concussion symptoms, which stem from being beaned by a Jason Marquis pitch last week. Rolen is due back in a couple weeks and in the meantime Adam Rosales will continue to fill in at third base. Rosales has hit just .219 so far, but put up a decent .299/.353/.490 line with 16 homers, 62 extra-base hits, and 11 steals in 147 games at Triple-A.
* Ervin Santana entered Tuesday having given up at least four runs in all but one of his eight starts since coming off the disabled list in early July. He tossed eight innings of one-run ball against Oakland on July 16, yet still had a 6.98 ERA over 39 innings during that span. That is until hurling a complete-game shutout versus the Rays, allowing just three hits while recording 27 outs on 97 pitches.
AL Quick Hits: Ian Kinsler (hamstring) is slated to begin a rehab stint Wednesday at Double-A … Daisuke Matsuzaka (shoulder) tossed a 40-pitch bullpen session Tuesday and reported no problems … Jake Westbrook (elbow) will be shut down for six weeks following a visit with Dr. Lewis Yocum … Dallas Braden (foot) was unable to throw a side session Tuesday … Troy Percival said Tuesday that he’s retiring “unless something miraculous happens” … Akinori Iwamura (knee) is set to start a rehab assignment Friday at Triple-A … Koij Uehara (elbow) will start a throwing program Wednesday with an eye toward returning in September … J.P. Ricciardi said Tuesday that Shaun Marcum likely won’t come back from Tommy John surgery this season … Justin Speier is still owed $5.25 million for 2010, but the Angels released him Monday after two disappointing seasons … Cleveland sent Josh Barfield outright to Triple-A after the ex-top prospect cleared waivers.
NL Quick Hits: Adrian Gonzalez had hits in all six of his at-bats Tuesday, raising his batting average 11 points in one night … After missing two weeks with back soreness, Roy Oswalt gave up six runs in five innings Tuesday … Johnny Cueto is expected to make his next start despite leaving Monday’s game with some hip cramping … Jamie Moyer said Tuesday that he’s “disheartened” by Philadelphia moving him to the bullpen … Arizona pitching prospect Jarrod Parker will be shut down for the rest of the year with a strained elbow … Tommy Hanson had nine strikeouts and zero walks in 6.2 frames Tuesday, improving to 7-2 … Corey Hart (appendicitis) quit Tuesday’s workout after just eight minutes, explaining that “my body still hurts” … Rich Harden threw seven innings of two-run ball Tuesday and has allowed just eight runs in his last six starts … Jeff Weaver will get the nod on Wednesday in place of Chad Billingsley (hamstring).

MLB games were six minutes shorter this year

Pitch Clock
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According to STATS, INC., the average game in 2015 was 2 hours, 56 minutes. That’s six minutes faster than games in 2014.

The gains came in the first half, when games averaged 2:53. Second half games averaged three hours even. One can probably thank the expanded rosters in September for that, as games then see many more pitching changes. Of course, it’s likely that second half games were faster in 2015 than 2014 as well given the rules changes.

Those changes: agreement to enforce the rule requiring a hitter to keep at least one foot in the batter’s box and the installation of clocks timing pitching changes and between-inning breaks in ever ballpark.

It remains to be seen if MLB stays satisfied with that modest improvement or if chooses to go the way Triple-A and Double-A leagues did. They installed 20-second pitch clocks and started penalizing violators with balls and strikes. Triple-A’s two leagues, the International and Pacific Leagues, saw game-time decreases by 13 and 16 minutes, respectively.

Billy Beane promoted to VP, David Forst named A’s general manager

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I’m so old I remember when general managers used to run baseball operations departments. Now they’re basically assistants.

The latest example: the Oakland Athletics have promoted Billy Beane to vice president of baseball operations and have named David Forst general manager. Forst has been with the A’s for 16 years and has been Beane’s assistant for 12 years, so it’s not exactly a situation in which Forst will be making the final calls. The official move came today, though the move has been in the works for some time, it seems.

Someone with a lot of good front office access is going to write a good story this winter about the title inflation going on in Major League Baseball over the past year. And it’s gonna be great when one of his or her sources breaks the pattern of saying “well, baseball transactions are so much more complex these days . . . ” and admits “hey, if Theo gets a fancy title and La Russa gets a fancy title I WANT A FANCY TITLE TOO.”

Not that it’s much of a secret as it is.