A helmet, and a helping hand for Victorino

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victorino_090903.jpgWhile David “Lord Helmet” Wright has suddenly become ashamed of his massive brain protector, Shane Victorino is going in the opposite direction.

The Phillies center fielder is giving the fancy new Rawlings helmet a try. Victorino has always kind of looked like a little leaguer anyway in that double-flapped model, so he doesn’t have much to lose.

Then again, the Flyin’ Hawaiian seems to like to do things his own way. And that’s often a good thing. Victorino, for instance, is doing his part to try to help out high school sports in his home state of Hawaii.

According to the New York Times (with thanks to the Sporting News), Victorino has cut a check for $10,000 to help out the Hawaii High School Athletic Association, which faces some tough budget cuts.

The fact that Hawaii is facing problems is not unique to the rest of the country during these times, but Hawaii certainly faces a unique set of circumstances. There are 95 high schools spread across the set of islands, and travel can be difficult and expensive, requiring ferry rides or — if lucky — plane flights.

And with no pro teams and limited college sports options, high school sports play a greater role in the lives of many residents.

Victorino said he felt a need to step up and help. From The Times:

At last count, officials had collected more than $700,000 of their $1.2 million goal, helping the association keep sports seasons going and avoid the prospect of forcing students to pay to play.

“It was almost like an obligation to do that,” Victorino said before a recent Phillies game at Citizens Bank Park. “It tells me something. In Hawaiian culture, everybody’s got each other’s back. I’m not saying that doesn’t happen anywhere else, but it is true in Hawaii. Family is No. 1.”

If enough money is not raised, athletes may be asked to pay their way to competitions, something Victorino said was unimaginable.

“You shouldn’t have to pay to play as a kid,” he said.

Tigers in discussions with Jordan Zimmermann

Jordan Zimmermann
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that the Tigers are in discussions with free agent starter Jordan Zimmermann. His sources have told him that the talks have become “serious”.

Zimmermann, 29, has a career 3.32 ERA across parts of seven seasons in the majors. He finished fifth in National League Cy Young Award balloting in 2014, finishing with a 2.66 ERA and a 182/29 K/BB ratio over 199 2/3 innings.

Among starters who have amassed at least 1,000 innings since 2009, only Cliff Lee, Dan Haren, Madison Bumgarner, and Zack Greinke have compiled a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than Zimmermann’s 4.09. While he doesn’t have the star power of other free agents such as Greinke or David Price, the Tigers would certainly improve their rotation by bringing him on board.

Blue Jays still focused on upgrading their pitching

Marco Estrada
AP Photo/LM Otero

Having already added Jesse Chavez and J.A. Happ to the mix and re-signing Marco Estrada early in the offseason, Blue Jays interim GM Tony LaCava said the team will continue to pursue pitching upgrades, as Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports. Nicholson-Smith added that LaCava declined to comment on free agent ace David Price. It is believed that the Jays will not pursue Price and other big-name free agent starting pitchers given their November activity.

The Jays re-signed Estrada to a two-year, $26 million deal on November 13, acquired Chavez from the Athletics in exchange for reliever Liam Hendriks on November 20 and signed Happ to a three-year, $36 million deal on Friday.

Nicholson-Smith notes in a column on Sportsnet that the Jays need to address the bullpen in particular. That is especially true after swapping Hendriks, who had a career-best 2.92 ERA out of the Jays’ bullpen in 2015, for a back-end starting pitcher.

Report: Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”

Jonathan Papelbon
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports spoke to an anonymous baseball executive, who said that Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”. The Nationals are hoping to trade both Papelbon and the man he displaced, Drew Storen.

Papelbon has a poor reputation in baseball, particularly after a dugout altercation with superstar outfielder Bryce Harper. Focusing strictly on what he does on the field, Papelbon still gets the job done. The 35-year-old finished the last season with a combined 2.13 ERA, 24 saves, and a 56/12 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings between the Phillies and Nationals.

The Nationals owe Papelbon $11 million for the 2016 season.

Minor league home run king Mike Hessman retires

NEW YORK - JULY 29:  Mike Hessman #19 of the New York Mets bats against the St. Louis Cardinals on July 29, 2010 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Cardinals 4-0.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper reports that corner infielder Mike Hessman has retired from professional baseball after 20 seasons. Hessman hit 433 home runs in the minor leagues, an all-time record. He broke Buzz Arlett’s record this past August and with style as #433 was a grand slam.

Hessman, 37, was selected in the 16th round of the 1996 draft by the Braves and remained with the organization through the 2004 season. He then went to the Tigers from 2005-09, the Mets in 2010, then drifted into the Astros and Reds’ farm systems before returning to the Tigers for the last two years.

Hessman took 250 plate appearances at the major league level, batting .188/.272/.422 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI.