Daily Dose: Tigers get Huff from Orioles

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Detroit added Aubrey Huff to the mix Monday, sending 2008 fourth-round pick Brett Jacobson to Baltimore for the 32-year-old veteran. Huff was one of the best hitters in baseball last season, but has seen his OPS drop nearly 200 points this year while batting .253/.321/.405 in 110 games. Those numbers would be Huff’s worst since he was a rookie in 2001, so he figures to bounce back, especially versus righties.
However, finding a spot for him defensively could prove difficult for the Tigers. Huff has played only first base and designated hitter this season, was a terrible defensive third basemen even when he was playing there regularly, and hasn’t spent a single inning in the outfield since 2006. He’s not going to bump Miguel Cabrera from first base and Carlos Guillen seems entrenched at DH, so things could get tricky.
In theory he provides a backup plan at third base should Brandon Inge’s knee issues linger, but going from Inge to Huff would be a massive downgrade defensively. His best fit is probably in left field, platooning with the right-handed Marcus Thames, but the Tigers could also use Huff as a way to lessen Magglio Ordonez’s playing time as he nears the plate appearances needed to trigger next year’s $18 million option.
While the Tigers pick up a useful left-handed hitter and the Orioles get a decent relief prospect, here are some other notes from around baseball …


* Vicente Padilla signed a three-year, $33.75 million contract extension after going 15-10 with a 4.50 ERA in 200 innings spread over 33 starts in 2006, but has posted a 5.09 ERA in 70 starts since. Texas designated him for assignment last week and released him outright Monday, eating the rest of his $12 million salary for this season while dropping another $1.75 million to buy out his $12 million option for 2010.
Padilla hasn’t had an ERA below 4.50 since 2003, has dealt with several injuries that includes a recent bout with swine flu, and the Rangers’ pitching staff is significantly improved, so simply cutting him loose has little chance of keeping general manager Jon Daniels up at night. With that said, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a contender take a flier on Padilla down the stretch, because he’s still a reasonable fifth starter.
* Speaking of veteran pitchers getting released Monday, as expected the Red Sox cut John Smoltz loose. Smoltz reportedly balked at a possible move to the bullpen and the Red Sox had obviously seen enough of him as a starter after eight mostly terrible outings. He’s now free to sign anywhere and there’s speculation that at least a half-dozen teams could be vying for his services.
I’m still convinced that Smoltz can get big-league hitters out, but would certainly give him a shot in middle relief long before letting him take the mound as a starter again. He generally pitched fairly well during his first trip through the order and was pretty effective against right-handed batters, so bullpen work seems like the best remaining bet for the 42-year-old future Hall of Famer.
AL Quick Hits: No. 2 overall pick Dustin Ackley agreed to a last-minute deal with the Mariners that’s reportedly worth nearly $10 million … Meanwhile, the Rangers failed to sign first-round pick Matt Purke … Joe Mauer came up a triple short of the cycle Monday and also stole a base while boosting his batting average to .380 … Justin Morneau left Monday’s game with dizziness, either from the Texas heat or sickness from watching the Twins’ pitching staff … Vladimir Guerrero went deep twice and knocked in five runs Monday, giving him six long balls in 10 games … Matt Harrison (ribs) said Monday that “there’s a chance” he could pitch again this year … Francisco Liriano could be headed to the bullpen or the disabled list after coughing up seven runs in two innings Monday … Tigers first rounder Jacob Turner landed a big-league deal worth as much as $7 million, which is pretty amazing for a high-school pitcher.
NL Quick Hits: With just a few minutes remaining before Monday’s midnight signing deadline, No. 1 overall pick Stephen Strasburg and the Nationals agreed to a deal that will reportedly pay him over $15 million … Tommy Hanson improved to 8-2 with another solid outing Monday and has 16 strikeouts versus zero walks in his last two starts … Garrett Jones went deep again Monday, giving the career minor leaguer 13 homers in 158 at-bats … Nate McLouth (hamstring) was placed on the disabled list Monday, so the Braves will shift Ryan Church to center field with Matt Diaz manning right field … Hiroki Kuroda (concussion) will miss his next start, but hopes to avoid the DL … Max Scherzer gave up nine runs Monday, but his own error made six of them unearned … No. 3 overall pick Donavan Tate will bypass college after inking a $6.25 million deal with the Padres … Todd Wellemeyer (elbow) has been cleared to resume throwing.

Evan Gattis undergoes surgery for hernia; recovery is 4-6 weeks

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Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle shares the bad news

One of the Astros’ big bats won’t be taking hacks when the Astros hold their first full workout on Feb. 23.

Astros designated hitter Evan Gattis recently underwent surgery to repair a hernia, the Chronicle has learned, taking away most of his spring training at a minimum. The recovery is four to six weeks but fortunately for Gattis and the Astros, the injury is not considered severe.

Gattis was working hard on his overall conditioning this winter, even telling MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart in late January that he had already dropped 18 pounds. It sounds like the big slugger might have gone a bit overboard with those workouts, and now he is in real danger of missing the first couple weeks of the 2016 regular season.

Gattis batted .246/.285/.463 with 27 home runs and 88 RBI in 153 games last season for the Astros. The 29-year-old is arbitration-eligible for the first time in his career and has a hearing with the Astros scheduled for February 16 to determine his salary for 2016. He requested $3.8 million and was offered $3 million when figures were exchanged a little over three weeks ago.

Suddenly the Astros’ front office might have a new talking point for those arbitrators.

Seung-Hwan Oh finally receives his work visa, will be on time for Cardinals camp

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At last check, new Cardinals reliever Seung-Hwan Oh was still awaiting a work visa from the United States Embassy in South Korea and there was some worry that he might not be able to arrive on time to spring training in Jupiter, Florida.

But that is now officially a non-story.

Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Oh has recieved his work visa and is expected to report to Cardinals camp next week along with the rest of the club’s pitchers and catchers. Oh might even show up a bit earlier than the Cardinals originally asked him to, per Goold.

Oh saved 357 games in 11 seasons between Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball and the Korea Baseball Organization before inking a one-year contract with St. Louis this winter. He also registered a stellar 1.81 ERA and 772 strikeouts across 646 total innings in Asia, earning the nickname “The Final Boss.”

Oh is expected to work in a setup role this year for Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal.

John Lamb had back surgery in December, will likely get off to late start in 2016

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John Lamb was part of the Reds’ return package in last July’s Johnny Cueto trade and he had a strong showing at the Triple-A level in 2015. But the young left-hander posted a 5.80 ERA in a 10-start cup of coffee with Cincinnati late last season — his first 10 appearances as a major leaguer — and now comes word from MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon that Lamb will probably have to get off to a late start in 2016.

Lamb underwent surgery in December to repair a herniated disc in his back — a surgery that went unreported by the Reds until Tuesday afternoon. Reds manager Bryan Price acknowledged on MLB Network that Lamb is behind the team’s other starting pitchers and will likely open the coming season on the disabled list. The hope is that he might be ready by mid-April.

It’s a small but frustrating blow for a rebuilding Reds team that will be looking to establish some foundational pieces in 2016. Once he is recovered, Lamb will be expected to fill the Reds’ fifth rotation spot behind Raisel Iglesias, Anthony DeSclafani, Brandon Finnegan, and Michael Lorenzen.

This is going to be an ugly year for Cincinnati baseball fans.

Yu Darvish will report to spring training on time, hopes to begin mound work in March

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Rangers ace Yu Darvish missed the entire 2015 season after undergoing Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery last March 17. Most starting pitchers take 13-15 months to fully recover from that procedure, and the Rangers aren’t counting on Darvish until sometime this May.

His rehab so far has gone on without issue.

Darvish offered some very positive updates Tuesday to Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram …

Darvish, 29, boasts a 3.27 ERA and 1.196 WHIP in 83 career major league starts. He can also claim a whopping 680 strikeouts in 545 1/3 career major league innings.

Texas has him under contract for $10 million in 2016 and $11 million in 2017.