Ohioans rejoice: LaPorta, Stubbs get callups

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One move was overdue.  The other was more about the thrill of finally getting Willy Taveras out of the Cincinnati lineup.  On Wednesday, the Indians added 2007 first-round pick Matt LaPorta to their roster, while the Reds called up 2006 first-rounder Drew Stubbs.

 

Bypassed when Ryan Garko, Ben Francisco, Victor Martinez all were shipped off, Matt LaPorta finally received his promotion when fellow youngster Trevor Crowe landed on the disabled list.  The 24-year-old was up briefly earlier this year, batting .190/.286/.286 in 42 at-bats.  He was hitting .299/.388/.530 in his first season in Triple-A, but the Indians held off on promoting him because of some indecisiveness over where to play him.  A first baseman in college, LaPorta was moved to the outfield when drafted by Milwaukee.  The Indians didn’t have Prince Fielder blocking him when they picked him up for CC Sabathia, but they left him in the outfield originally, only starting to give him more time at first base as this year went along.  He projects best at first base, but he could continue to shift between positions in the majors.

 

While it’s LaPorta’s bat that will carry him, Stubbs was chosen to replace the injured Taveras because of his defense in center.  It was still a surprise to see him picked over Chris Heisey, who played center in Double-A before joining Stubbs at Louisville.  Heisey has shown the better bat all year long, even though he’s faded recently.  Stubbs has struggled mightily of late, posting a .194 average in 62 at-bats this month.  He’s hitting .268/.353/.360 with 46 steals in 54 attempts for the season.

 

Stubbs stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 205 pounds, so the strength should be there.  He also strikes out like a power hitter, with 104 Ks in 107 games this season.  Unfortunately, he’s totaled just three homers in 411 at-bats.  Last year, he had seven in 470 at-bats.  That his defense in center is truly exceptional should make him a long-term regular, but there wouldn’t seem to be any star potential here, unless we’re talking fantasy baseball.  He’s not quite the burner that Taveras is, but he is an excellent basestealer, something that could land him a spot at the top of the order for the Reds next year.  The audition comes now, and if he’s impressive enough, then the team could eat the second year of Taveras’ deal.

 

As an aside, this isn’t the first time LaPorta and Stubbs have been connected.  LaPorta starred for the Gators and Stubbs for the Longhorns when Florida and Texas met in the finals of the 2005 College World Series, won by Texas.

Video: Adrian Beltre belts a walk-off home run on Monday against the Athletics

ARLINGTON, TX - JULY 25:  The Texas Rangers celebrate the two-run walk off homerun by Adrian Beltre #29 against the Oakland Athletics at Globe Life Park in Arlington on July 25, 2016 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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The Rangers found themselves in a 5-1 hole after three innings against the Athletics on Monday, but scratched out some runs in the middle innings. That allowed them to enter the bottom of the ninth inning trailing by only one run, 6-5, facing A’s closer Ryan Madson.

Adrian Beltre, who hit a solo home run in the seventh inning, stepped to the plate with a runner on first base and two outs. He was the Rangers’ last hope to keep the game alive. The veteran third baseman swung at Madson’s first pitch, a 96 MPH fastball, and drilled it to left-center field for a walk-off two-run home run.

Beltre now has nine walk-off home runs in his career. While the 37-year-old isn’t quite the offensive dynamo he was even two years ago, his numbers are still respectable. He’ll head into Tuesday’s action batting .281/.334/.468 with 16 home runs and 63 RBI in 392 plate appearances.

Jay Bruce: “This is such a fleeting game. It’s so unforgiving.”

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JULY 25:  Jay Bruce #32 of the Cincinnati Reds swings and watches the flight of his ball as he hits a two-run homer against the San Francisco Giants in the top of the fourth inning at AT&T Park on July 25, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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Outfielder Jay Bruce was the catalyst in the Reds’ 7-5 victory over the Giants on Monday night, drilling a pair of two-run home runs. It’s good timing for the Reds, as the trade deadline is six days away. The Reds might prefer to get a prospect or two for Bruce rather than pick up his $13 million club option for 2017 or buy him out for $1 million and let him walk into free agency.

It was only a year ago that it seemed like the Reds would have to settle for next-to-nothing to get rid of Bruce. He posted career-lows across the board in 2014, including a .654 OPS and 18 home runs. He improved last season, returning to 26 home runs, but came with an uninspiring .729 OPS.

This year is another story. Bruce is currently hitting .272/.326/.564 with 23 home runs and a league-best 77 RBI. He’s on pace to set career-bests in a lot of categories if he’s able to stay healthy.

Bruce was honest about his resurgence, though, admitting that he doesn’t know why he’s so much better this year as Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports.

This is such a fleeting game. It’s so unforgiving. You’re never settled. You’ve never got it. You’ve never figured it out. It’s like a puzzle that never has all the pieces to it. You might get close and feel pretty good about your progress, but you never are going to have the puzzle put together.

Bruce, who welcomed a child into the world back in April, also discussed the difficulties of hearing his name bandied about in trade rumors once again.

It’s harder this year. I have a family I have to focus on now. Logistically, it’s much more intricate. I know the skit. I know how it goes. But it will be nice when it’s passed because we’ll have a plan of attack on whether my family is staying where they are in Cincinnati or elsewhere.

This is a point of view that is not often covered. This time of the year can be very difficult for players who may be traded, as they await a phone call that could send their lives into upheaval. It may mean being away from their families for three months. It means living out of a hotel room or finding a place to live on very short notice. Even Bruce’s comments about his success this year are illuminating about the mental strain of the game.

As usual, great reporting by Buchanan. His full article is worth your time.