Link-O-Rama: Pirates have mastered losing in Milwaukee

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* Yesterday the Pirates lost in Milwaukee for the 21st straight time, which as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette notes is the the fifth-longest streak in baseball history for one team losing in a road city.
As manager John Russell put it: “I don’t have an answer for that. It’s a lot of games.” The amazing thing is that the Brewers are 21-0 against the Pirates at Miller Park, but just 216-217 in all other games since 2007.
* Written off by the Cubs after struggling in limited playing time through the age of 23, Felix Pie is now showing that his strong minor-league track record is no fluke by hitting .272/.335/.457 with very good defense for the Orioles. Yet another reason why the future is looking pretty bright in Baltimore finally.
* Baseball-Reference.com passes along an interesting stat: Of the 20 active players who have the most career plate appearances without a homer, 19 of them are pitchers and one is … Angels outfielder Reggie Willits. In fact, Willits sits atop the list with 785 homerless trips to the plate, although he has managed to post a strong .365 on-base percentage while swiping 37 bases. You need some serious plate discipline to draw 103 walks without homering even once.
* Like me, Phil Mushnick of the New York Post can’t help but watch the Dodgers whenever the legendary Vin Scully is announcing the game. How often is an 81-year-old still at the very top of his profession?
* Not only are the Royals extending general manager Dayton Moore’s contract, they’re extending it through 2014. Good luck with that. And as a fan of one of the other AL Central teams, thanks.

Julio Urias to undergo season-ending shoulder surgery

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The news has gone from bad to worse for Dodgers’ left-hander Julio Urias, who is scheduled for anterior capsule surgery on his left shoulder next Tuesday and expected to be sidelined through the middle of the 2018 season. His MRI came back negative on Wednesday, giving the Dodgers some hope that the 20-year-old’s bout of shoulder inflammation wasn’t masking any structural damage, but the pain lingered several days later and prompted further concern from the club. The procedure will be performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache.

Urias was optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City in late May and placed on the disabled list with left shoulder discomfort several weeks into his assignment. At the major league level, he owned a 5.40 ERA, 5.4 BB/9 and 4.2 SO/9 through 23 1/3 innings, going 0-2 in five starts with Los Angeles. He made a brief rebound in Triple-A, posting three wins and striking out 17 of 67 batters in 17 1/3 innings before landing on the DL.

It’s a tough blow for the southpaw, who had yet to hit his stride in the majors before getting sidelined with shoulder issues. The Dodgers were especially mindful of this outcome for Urias, and had taken preventative measures to protect his arm by establishing a strict innings limit last season. According to club president Andrew Friedman, there’s a small silver lining here: while Urias’ injury will keep him out of work for at least 12 months, he doesn’t appear to have sustained any damage to his labrum or rotator cuff, and could be facing a much more streamlined recovery process as a result. Whether he’ll be able to rebound once he takes the mound again remains to be seen.

Tigers release Francisco Rodriguez

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Tigers’ right-handed reliever Francisco Rodriguez was released on Friday, per a team announcement. The club recalled fellow right-hander Bruce Rondon from Triple-A Toledo in a corresponding move.

The former closer got the boot after losing his closing role in early May, giving left-hander Justin Wilson a chance to impress at the back end of the bullpen. It’s been a rough year for Rodriguez, who manufactured six blown saves and a 7.82 ERA, 3.9 BB/9 and 8.2 SO/9 over 25 1/3 innings for the Tigers. The final straw, it seemed, came with Robinson Cano‘s grand slam in the seventh inning of the Tigers’ 6-9 loss to the Mariners on Thursday.

While the demotion to a clean-up role and an apparent lack of communication caused Rodriguez considerable frustration, he’s two years removed from his last dominant performance as a major league closer and has shown few signs of returning to form. His recent slump doesn’t diminish the impressive totals he’s racked up over his 16-year career — 437 saves and six All-Star nominations among them — but if he can’t break out of it soon, he may not receive the kind of high leverage role he’s seeking with another big league team, either.