Charlie Manuel made things official Thursday, announcing that Brad Lidge will try to get back on track in “low-stress” situations while Ryan Madson takes over at closer. Manuel showed incredible patience with Lidge, allowing him to go 0-7 with 10 blown saves and a 7.11 ERA in 51 innings before losing his job. That also means that he’ll probably be quick to give Lidge another chance in the ninth inning if he pitches well.
In the meantime Madson will have tons of fantasy value down the stretch. He’s been one of the NL’s elite setup men since shifting to the bullpen full time in 2007, posting ERAs of 3.05, 3.05, and 3.10. He should have little trouble getting the job done one inning later than usual, but if Madson struggles or needs any days off Brett Myers will likely be asked to be step in now that he’s off the disabled list and looking healthy.
While the defending champs take advantage of their five-game lead in the NL East to get the bullpen right for October, here are some other notes from around baseball …
* Eric Young Jr. went 2-for-3 with a walk and two steals Thursday, finally showing off the blazing speed that enabled him to swipe an amazing 80 bases per 150 games in the minors. Young’s father played 15 seasons in the majors, retiring just three years ago after hitting .283/.359/.390 with 465 steals over 1,730 games. Junior is a similar player, hitting .293/.385/.416 in the minors while showing modest power.
Young’s long-term position remains unclear, as he played almost exclusively second base until shifting to center field literally a few weeks ago, and was back in the infield Thursday for the Rockies. However, he’s batted at least .290 in each of the last four seasons and has always shown good patience, giving him the on-base skills needed to thrive without much pop. If he plays, his speed makes him a big fantasy asset.
* Luke Hochevar turned heads in July by racking up 22 strikeouts versus zero walks over a two-start stretch, but has gone 0-6 with an 8.12 ERA in eight starts since then. At this point back-to-back strong starts look like the clear aberration for a guy who’s 12-22 with a 5.61 ERA overall, but the former No. 1 overall pick got a little reason for optimism this week after discovering that he’s been tipping pitches. We’ll see.
AL Quick Hits: Chien-Ming Wang (shoulder) said Wednesday that he hopes to begin playing catch in January, but his future with the Yankees remains uncertain … Jarrod Washburn returned to the rotation Thursday, allowing three runs in five innings … Gil Meche (shoulder) is unlikely to pitch again this year after going 6-10 with a 5.09 ERA in 23 starts … As expected, Carlos Pena underwent surgery Thursday on his broken fingers and won’t resume baseball activities for several months … Brian Bannister is seeking a second opinion on his injured shoulder, which likely isn’t good news … In his final start before being shut down for the season, Brett Cecil tossed six innings of two-run ball Thursday to finish at 7-4 with a 5.30 ERA … Switch-hitter Carlos Guillen (shoulder) will be limited to batting from the left side of the plate for the remainder of the year … David Robertson (elbow) has been shut down for two weeks, but hopes to come back in October … Alex Gordon homered Thursday as the last-place Royals swept the first-place Tigers.
NL Quick Hits: Joe Blanton was knocked around for eight runs Thursday, snapping a streak of 11 straight Quality Starts … Garrett Atkins went deep at home Thursday for the first time since April … Mark DeRosa said Wednesday that he’ll need offseason surgery to fix a torn tendon sheath in his left wrist … Troy Tulowitzki missed his third straight game with back stiffness Thursday and Ian Stewart also sat out with a back problem of his own … Adam Rosales went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts Thursday and is now hitting below .200 in 216 at-bats … Ian Desmond homered, doubled, and knocked in four runs Thursday in his first career start, making quite a first impression with the Nationals … Lance Berkman homered Thursday night for the first time in 33 games dating back to July 9 … Brian McCann snapped his 0-for-17 slump Thursday with four hits … Jose Contreras exited Thursday’s start after straining his quadriceps running out a ground ball.
Steve Gilbert of MLB.com reports that the Diamondbacks’ new hitting coach is Dave Magadan, who “parted ways” with the Rangers last month after three years filling the same role in Texas.
Magadan also previously was the Red Sox’s hitting coach and his teams have generally done pretty well, including the Rangers scoring the third-most runs in the league this year.
He’ll have plenty of talent to work with in Arizona, as the Diamondbacks scored the second-most runs in the league led by Paul Goldschmidt, A.J. Pollock, and David Peralta. Turner Ward, who had been Arizona’s hitting coach, chose to leave the team two weeks ago.
Jed Lowrie, who was traded from the Astros to the A’s in 2013 and then re-signed with the Astros as a free agent last offseason, has now been traded back to the A’s.
Lowrie got a three-year, $23 million deal from the Astros with the idea that he’d play shortstop in the first season and then move to another position whenever stud prospect Carlos Correa arrived. Instead he got hurt right away, Correa became an immediate star, and the Astros weren’t so keen on paying him $15 million over the next two seasons.
He could resume playing shortstop for the A’s, who watched rookie Marcus Semien make an absurd number of errors there this year. Lowrie hit .271 with a .738 OPS in two seasons in Oakland, which is similar to his career totals and makes him a solidly above-average offensive shortstop. There’s a decent chance the A’s will have a Lowrie-Lawrie double-play duo in 2016.
In return the Astros get minor leaguer Brendan McCurry, a 24-year-old right-hander who split 2015 between high Single-A and Double-A with a 1.86 ERA and 82/17 K/BB ratio in 63 relief innings. He was a 22nd-round draft pick in 2014 and doesn’t have exceptional raw stuff, but McCurry’s numbers are incredible so far.
There have been a lot of articles published in the past few days about how to navigate awkward Thanksgiving conversations with your relatives. Heck, we even wrote one.
But there’s always room for more! Such as “How to talk to your father at Thanksgiving dinner about the fact that he let you walk away from the only team you’ve ever known to sign with a division rival.” Which is what Alex Avila will likely be talking about with his father, Tigers GM Al Avila:
The older Avila can’t even say he did it because he’s opposed to nepotism. After all, he just hired his other son — who has had his law degree for just over a year — as the Tigers assistant legal counsel for baseball operations. Though I’m sure that wasn’t nepotism. He probably just aced the interview and impressed everyone more than the other candidates did.
OK, those are jokes. In all seriousness, this is a good move for Alex and Al and, probably, the White Sox. With the emergence of James McCann, there really is not space for Alex Avila in Detroit in anything other than a backup capacity. In Chicago, he’ll get more playing time. At least if he can (a) stay healthy; and (b) not hit .191/.339/.287 again like he did in 2015.
The best thing about minor Thanksgiving week transactions is that they are almost certainly done by GMs frantically looking for some work to do rather than go pick up their in-laws at the airport. I mean, sure, the player in question could very easily be an important player who fills a key role in the organization, but it’s not like it couldn’t have waited until Monday, right? This is the GM equivalent of you pretending you have to run into the office on Wednesday afternoon and, in reality, driving around in your car, listening to Neil Young and promising that NEXT YEAR you’re just doing a small Thanksgiving dinner with no family and, maybe, might even go on a little trip, just you and the wife.
Or is that just me? OK, maybe that’s just me.
Anyway, that’s how I’m choosing to view the Pirates activity today. First they traded for Allen Webster and now they’re signing minor league free agent first baseman/outfielder Jake Goebbert, according to Adam Berry of MLB.com.
Goebbert, 28, hit .294 with an .844 OPS and 10 homers for Triple-A El Paso last season. He has 115 plate appearances in the bigs, all for San Diego in 2014. Overall he has a line of .282/.386/.465 with 30 homers in 997 Triple-A plate appearances in the Astros, Athletics and Padres organizations.
Not a bad depth move, especially given that the Pirates are looking to trade Pedro Alvarez and otherwise re-jigger their first base situation.