Penny dropped from rotation; Smoltz was tipping pitches?

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Boston dumping Brad Penny from the rotation certainly shouldn’t be shocking to anyone, but that the move is taking place in mid-August and involves Penny being bounced in favor of Junichi Tazawa rather than John Smoltz is pretty surprising.
Prior to Smoltz joining the Red Sox there was all kinds of talk about whether they should part with Penny to make room in the rotation, but they kept both and then Smoltz’s struggles made it a moot point. However, Penny definitely pitched his way out of the rotation by going 7-8 with a 5.61 ERA and 89/42 K/BB ratio in 131.2 innings spread over 24 starts, including 0-4 with a 9.11 ERA in his last five outings.
He’ll move to the bullpen for now while Tazawa makes one more start, and then Tim Wakefield’s return from the disabled list could shake things up further. Penny is one of just seven AL starters with an average fastball velocity of at least 94.0 miles per hour and he threw the pitch more often than any other starter in the league except for Jeff Niemann of the Rays, relying on his heater 72.4 percent of the time. All of which tells you that getting major-league hitters out involves a lot more than just throwing really hard.
Meanwhile, after watching Smoltz toss five shutout innings with nine strikeouts in his return to the NL yesterday the Cardinals are apparently convinced that he was tipping his pitches while getting knocked around in the AL. Tony La Russa told reporters yesterday that “it’s pretty clear he was tipping his pitches” while Smoltz said merely that he “very well could have been.”
We may never know the truth on that, but whatever the case moving to the NL and being on schedule to face the Padres, Nationals, and Pirates in his first three starts gives Smoltz every opportunity to succeed. I’ll have to double-check the Cardinals’ schedule to be certain, but I’m pretty sure that his fourth start would be against the Little League World Series runner-ups.

Report: Royals and Eric Hosmer have discussed a long-term contract extension

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 12:  Eric Hosmer #35 of the Kansas City Royals and the American League rounds the bases after hitting a home run against the National League in the 2nd inning of the 87th Annual MLB All-Star Game at PETCO Park on July 12, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
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Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Royals and first baseman Eric Hosmer have discussed a long-term contract extension. However, Hosmer also indicated that he will head into free agency if a deal is not consummated by Opening Day.

Hosmer, 27, avoided arbitration with the Royals last month, agreeing to a $12.25 million salary for the 2017 season. He is one of four key Royals players who can become a free agent after the season along with Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar, and Lorenzo Cain. If Hosmer does reach free agency, he would arguably be the top free agent first baseman.

Hosmer finished the past season hitting .266/.328/.433 with 25 home runs and 104 RBI while making his first All-Star team.

Yankees sign Jon Niese to a minor league deal

PHOENIX, AZ - AUGUST 17:  Jonathon Niese #49 of the New York Mets delivers a pitch during the first inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on August 17, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
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Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that the Yankees have signed pitcher Jon Niese to a minor league contract, pending a physical. Assuming the deal is finalized, Sherman notes that the Yankees will have Niese work as both a starter and a reliever in big league camp this spring.

According to Sherman, the Yankees were interested in lefty relievers Jerry Blevins and Boone Logan, but didn’t want to commit at their asking prices. They are looking for a lefty set-up man along with Tommy Lane.

Niese, 30, pitched for the Pirates and Mets last season, finishing with a 5.50 ERA and an 88/47 K/BB ratio over 121 innings.