Wagner close to rejoining Mets' bullpen

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Adam Rubin of the New York Daily News reports that Billy Wagner is expected to return from the disabled list and rejoin the Mets’ bullpen Sunday, assuming that his final minor-league rehab outing goes smoothly Friday at high Single-A. Wagner is ahead of schedule in his recovery from Tommy John surgery last September and has thrown five scoreless innings with six strikeouts and zero walks during his rehab stint.
Wagner is making $10.5 million this season, but because the Mets are all but guaranteed to buy out the final year of his contract for $1 million rather than exercise their $8 million team option for 2010 the 38-year-old will likely be auditioning for a new team. In fact, there’s some speculation that the Mets could look to pass Wagner through waivers and trade him before the end of the month.
While in Washington, D.C. last month for the annual Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) convention, my dorks friends and I had a debate about the greatest left-handed relief pitcher in baseball history while eating sushi one afternoon. Lots of names were tossed into the mix and compelling cases were made for a handful of guys, but at the end of the day the consensus was that Wagner reigns supreme.
If that strikes you as unlikely you’re not alone, but it turns out that the vast majority of elite relievers throughout baseball history are right-handed, whether because of random chance, platoon effects, or teams being less likely to convert an effective southpaw to the bullpen. Whatever the case, here are the top adjusted ERA+ marks from left-handers who totaled at least 600 career innings and worked primarily as relievers:

                        IP     ERA+
BILLY WAGNER           818     180
John Franco           1246     137
John Hiller           1242     134
Steve Howe             606     129
Sparky Lyle           1390     127
Jesse Orosco          1295     125
Gary Lavelle          1085     125
Steve Kline            682     124
Ron Perranoski        1175     123
Randy Myers            885     122

No one even comes close to Wagner on a per-inning basis, but perhaps a decent argument could be made for guys like John Franco, John Hiller, Sparky Lyle, and Jesse Orosco based on their throwing significantly more innings. Still, it would be tough not to pick Wagner, who checks in with a 180 ERA+ while the rest of the top 10 are bunched between 122 and 137, ranks sixth all-time in saves, and has six All-Star appearances. Now we’ll see if he can add to that resume.

NL Wild Card Game: Cubs vs. Pirates lineups

Jake Arrieta

Here are the Cubs and Pirates lineups for tonight’s Wild Card game in Pittsburgh:

CF Dexter Fowler
RF Kyle Schwarber
LF Kris Bryant
1B Anthony Rizzo
3B Tommy La Stella
2B Starlin Castro
C Miguel Montero
SS Addison Russell
SP Jake Arrieta

Cubs manager Joe Maddon wanted Tommy La Stella in the lineup over Jorge Soler or Chris Coghlan, so he starts at third base and Kris Bryant shifts to left field. Bryant started just four games in left field all season, compared to 136 starts at third base. Also of note: After batting Addison Russell ninth–behind the pitcher–116 times this season Maddon has him in the more traditional eighth spot tonight.

RF Gregory Polanco
3B Josh Harrison
CF Andrew McCutchen
LF Starling Marte
C Francisco Cervelli
2B Neil Walker
SS Jordy Mercer
1B Sean Rodriguez
SP Gerrit Cole

Pedro Alvarez started 119 games at first base for the Pirates and with right-hander Jake Arrieta on the mound he was the presumed starter tonight, but instead manager Clint Hurdle has benched the 27-homer slugger in favor of utility man Sean Rodriguez. Alvarez is vastly superior to Rodriguez offensively, especially versus a righty, but he’s also very shaky defensively. During the regular season Rodriguez started a grand total of one game at first base against a right-hander, so this qualifies as a hunch by Hurdle.

The Cardinals are optimistic about Yadier Molina’s status

St. Louis Cardinals' Yadier Molina celebrates as he arrives home after hitting a solo home run during the fourth inning of a baseball game against the San Francisco Giants Monday, Aug. 17, 2015, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
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Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com reports that Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina‘s bum thumb responded well after participating in baseball activities Tuesday, including catching, hitting, blocking balls and the like.

This morning Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said that he’s now even more optimistic that Molina will be on the NLDS roster. The Cards’ first game will be Friday against the winner of tonight’s Cubs-Pirates tilt.

Having Molina would obviously be a boon for the Cardinals on the field. For a look at what Molina means to the Cardinals off the field, however, take some time to go read Derrick Goold’s excellent story about what Molina’s teammates think of him. Short version: the world. It’s worth your time, even if you’re not a citizen of Cardinals Nation.