Wagner, mid-90s fastball return intact

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Billy Wagner made his triumphant return from Tommy John elbow surgery last night, coming on in relief of Johan Santana in the eighth inning and retiring all three batters he faced. Wagner got swinging strikeouts on Brian McCann and Reid Gorecki, induced a fly out from Chipper Jones, and showed that his surgically repaired left arm can still bring the heat.
Here are the MLB.com velocity readings for his 14 pitches:
94-mph fastball
95-mph fastball
86-mph changeup
84-mph slider
83-mph slider
95-mph fastball
84-mph slider
87-mph changeup
94-mph fastball
94-mph fastball
95-mph fastball
95-mph fastball
95-mph fastball
84-mph slider
At his peak Wagner averaged 97-98 miles per hour with his fastball, but he was at 94-95 mph during the two seasons preceding the surgery and had a 2.50 ERA with 10.3 strikeouts per nine innings. Last night he threw eight fastballs and they were all either 94 or 95 mph. He averaged 84 mph on four sliders, which is also right in line with his 2007-2008 velocity.
Obviously only time will tell if Wagner can maintain his velocity and bounce back quickly from appearances, but for one night at least the 38-year-old looked every bit like the dominant force he was before going under the knife. Perhaps it shouldn’t be shocking that the greatest left-handed reliever of all time can come back months ahead of schedule from career-threatening elbow surgery and resume pumping 95-mph heat, but it was still pretty damn impressive to watch.

Yoenis Cespedes: “I’m going to play the last year of my career with Oakland”

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Yoenis Cespedes told Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle that he wants to finish his career with the Athletics, according to an exclusive interview released on Friday. The Mets’ 31-year-old outfielder praised Oakland manager Bob Melvin, telling Slusser, “I don’t think there’s a better manager than Melvin” and adding that while he didn’t know if a return to Oakland would be possible, his love for the city had not faded.

Melvin, for his part, said he wasn’t surprised that the slugger wants another go-round with his first major league club, even if only as a final hurrah. Cespedes hit well over two and a half seasons with the A’s, compiling a cumulative .262/.318/.470 batting line from 2012 to 2014 and enjoying two postseason runs with the club before he was traded for Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes in 2014.

There’s been relatively little for Cespedes to complain about since his departure from Oakland, of course: he turned in a career-best performance in 2015, slashing .291/.328/.542 with 35 home runs and 6.7 fWAR in back-to-back gigs with the Tigers and Mets, and netted a whopping three-year, $75 million contract prior to the 2016 season. Still, there’s something special about the A’s, as the slugger relayed to teammate Jerry Blevins:

I told Blevins, ‘I don’t know how many years I’m going to play, but I’m going to play the last year of my career with Oakland.’ I don’t know if that’s possible or not, but that’s my goal.

Whether or not Cespedes gets his wish, it’s unlikely he’ll pursue any kind of deal with the A’s for the time being. He’s still owed $23.75 million in 2017 and 2018 and isn’t scheduled to hit free agency until 2019.

Brewers sell Michael Choice’s contract to the Nexen Heroes

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The Brewers offloaded outfielder Michael Choice’s contract to the Nexen Heroes of the Korea Baseball Organization, per a team announcement on Friday. Choice signed a minor league deal with the Brewers in early May, but did not earn a major league stint in 11 weeks with the team.

It’s been two full years since the 27-year-old outfielder snagged a big league opportunity of any kind. He last appeared with the Rangers in 2015 and played in just one game, striking out in his only at-bat. His production rate sagged through three consecutive minor league assignments with the Indians, Orioles and Brewers and peaked in 2016 after slashing .246/.304/.456 with 14 home runs for the Indians’ Triple-A Columbus. He was off to a decent start this season for the Brewers’ Double-A Biloxi, working a .272/.349/.503 batting line with nine home runs and an .852 OPS through his first 195 PA.

Choice is poised to join several other ex-major leaguers on the Heroes’ roster, including left-hander Andy Van Hekken, right-hander Jake Brigham and infielder/outfielder Danny Dorn.

6:43 PM: Danny Dorn no longer plays for the Nexen Heroes, as he was released to clear roster space for Choice.