Daily Dose: Doubleheaders galore

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Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz each turned in gems Sunday as Boston claimed both ends of a doubleheader against Tampa Bay, extending the Rays’ losing streak to 11 games. Lester allowed just two hits over eight shutout innings for his fifth victory in a row and is now 10-2 with a 2.02 ERA and 149/39 K/BB ratio in 129.1 innings since a loss on May 26 dropped him to 3-5 with a 6.07 ERA.
Buchholz hasn’t been nearly that dominant, but seven innings of one-run ball Sunday gives him seven Quality Starts in eight outings. He’s now 5-3 with a 3.66 ERA in 71 innings overall this year, although a 49/30 K/BB ratio isn’t particularly good. With two wins Sunday afternoon the Red Sox widened their Wild Card lead to 3.5 games over the Rangers, putting their odds of making the playoffs at around 85-90 percent.
While the Red Sox prepare to welcome Daisuke Matsuzaka back to the rotation later this week, here are some other notes from around baseball …


* Sunday also saw the Phillies take both ends of a doubleheader from the Mets, with each game offering some intrigue. Game 1 had Brad Lidge back at closer just three days after he was officially stripped of ninth-inning duties. A three-run lead gave him plenty of leeway and he needed it, giving up two runs before escaping with his 29th save in an outing that certainly shouldn’t help him reclaim the full-time gig.
Game 2 featured Pedro Martinez turning back the clock with eight shutout innings, at which point Ryan Madson got the nod to close out a 1-0 win. Charlie Manuel clearly couldn’t be sure things would work out that way, but Lidge taking the easy saves and Madson taking the tough saves makes some sense. Martinez tossed 130 pitches for his biggest workload since way back in 2001 and is now 5-0 with a 2.87 ERA. Wow.
* Alfonso Soriano is officially done for the season after the Cubs announced Sunday that he’ll undergo arthroscopic knee surgery this week. Soriano finishes the year at .241/.303/.423 with 20 homers, 55 RBIs, 64 runs, and nine steals in 117 games, all of which represent career-worst totals except for his 18 homers as a rookie in 2001. The surgery is considered minor, but Soriano is still a big question mark for 2010.
* After missing his last start because of back spasms, Tim Lincecum threw a bullpen session Saturday and reported no problems, clearing the way for him to take the hill Monday night against the Rockies. Lincecum hasn’t been great versus Colorado for his career, but shut out the Rockies for eight innings on August and obviously should be in all fantasy lineups for this week.
AL Quick Hits: Michael Young (hamstring) is hoping to rejoin the lineup Friday, which means that he’ll probably return before Josh Hamilton (back) … CC Sabathia picked up his AL-best 17th win Sunday despite walking four versus just one strikeout … Joe Mauer went 3-for-4 with a homer Sunday and is now one RBI short of his career-high of 85 … Jake Peavy (elbow) was encouraging by a bullpen session Sunday and may finally join the White Sox’s rotation this week … Brian Bannister has been told to take the rest of the season off after getting a second opinion on his fatigued arm … Brian Duensing tossed seven shutout innings Sunday and has allowed three runs or fewer in all six of his starts … Dustin Pedroia had an opposite-field homer at Fenway Park for the first time in his career Sunday … Kyle Davis threw six shutout innings Sunday despite six free passes and as many balls as strikes … Justin Morneau was absent from Sunday’s lineup with back and wrist soreness.
NL Quick Hits: Chris Carpenter had a rare ugly outing Sunday, giving up seven runs in six innings for his fourth loss … Randy Wolf (elbow) had a bullpen session Sunday and is now slated to start Tuesday … Ian Desmond collected two more hits Sunday while starting at second base for the first time since high school … Chad Billingsley was pulled after just four innings and 71 pitches Sunday, allowing three runs … Brad Penny tossed seven innings of two-run ball Sunday, making him 3-0 with a 1.64 ERA since returning to the NL … J.A. Happ (oblique) will throw a bullpen session Monday in the hopes of avoiding a third straight missed start … Javier Vazquez allowed two runs in a complete-game win Sunday after taking a shutout into the ninth … Ted Lilly cut his ERA to a career-best 3.05 with six scoreless innings Sunday … Pittsburgh is shutting Ross Ohlendorf down for the season after logging 30 innings more than his previous career-high.

Marc Rzepczynski signs two-year, $11 million contract with Mariners

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 9: Marc Rzepczynski #23 of the Washington Nationals looks on before pitching against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the sixth inning during game two of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park on October 9, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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After rumors of the deal surfaced on Thursday, the Mariners officially signed veteran reliever Marc Rzepczynski to a two-year, $11 million deal on Friday night. Per a report by ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, the lefty is due $5.5 million in 2017 and 2018.

The signing marks the left-hander’s fourth trade since July 2015. He bounced from the Indians to the Padres at the 2015 trade deadline, then to the Athletics in the offseason, then to the Nationals in late August of 2016. Last season, he pitched to a career-best 2.64 ERA during 47 2/3 innings with the Athletics and Nationals, but hit an all-time low with 5.5 BB/9 that fed into a 1.59 K/BB rate. While the 31-year-old’s split against right-handed batters are underwhelming (a career .277/.377/.431 line with 123 walks and 24 home runs), he’s held lefties to a respectable .222/.291/.298 line with just 52 walks and eight homers.

Adding Rzepczynski to the bullpen should check off another to-do item for Mariners’ GM Jerry Dipoto, though FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman notes that the club is still likely to pursue an additional reliever and a No. 4 starter before the offseason comes to a close.

2016 Winter Meetings Preview

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD - FEBRUARY 26: The Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center is seen along the Potomac River February 26, 2014 in National Harbor, Maryland.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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The baseball world will descend on Washington D.C. — well, the Maryland suburbs of Washington, at the Gaylord Resort at National Harbor — this weekend for the 2016 Winter Meetings. There’s a lot of work to be done.

Twenty free agents from a class of 191 have signed thus far. Among the notable: Yoenis Cespedes, Edinson Volquez, Neil Walker, Josh Reddick, Bartolo Colon, and R.A. Dickey. That, of course, leaves a ton of notables left, including Edwin Encarnacion, Justin Turner, Jose Bautista, Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen, Mark Trumbo, Mark Melancon, Rich Hill and a host of others. Here is our rundown of this offseason’s top free agents if you’re curious. As you have come to expect from us, we’ll have a writeup of everyone who signs, faster than almost anyone else will.

Despite the sheer number of available free agents, this is an historically thin free agent class in terms of talent. That means that, for a team to improve significantly, they may be better served by making a trade. We’ve seen a couple already, most notably the deals which sent Taijuan Walker to the Diamondbacks, Jaime Garcia to the Braves and Brian McCann to the Astros. Most experts believe there will be plenty more this winter, and the ball could really get rolling on that in the next week with guys like Andrew McCutchen, Chris Sale, Chris Archer, Jay Bruce, Curtis Granderson and Brandon Phillips on the block.

Another major activity of the Winter Meetings is the Hall of Fame Veterans Committee vote. Except, this year, there is no Veterans Committee, at least in name. It’s now the “Today’s Game” committee. Here are links to breakdowns of the candidacies of all ten men on the ballot the new committee will consider:

Harold Baines
Albert Belle
Will Clark
Orel Hershiser
Mark McGwire
George Steinbrenner
Davey Johnson
Lou Piniella
John Shuerholz
Bud Selig

Trade deals, free agent negotiations and Hall of Fame votes take place behind closed doors at the Gaylord Resort. One of the major public activities of the Winter Meetings is when all 30 of the managers meet and greet the press. This year’s new faces are Torey Lovullo with the Diamondbacks, Rick Renteria with the White Sox and Bud Black with the Rockies. Brian Snitker, now the permanent manager of the Braves, will get his first go-around at the managerial cattle call. I’ll be in the scrum for a lot of these guys — they do them two at a time so I can’t see everyone — and will let you know if they say anything fun.

Outside of the transactions and the Hall of Fame stuff, we have the more mundane Winter Meetings business. And a lot of it. Indeed, the vast majority of the people at the Meetings aren’t there for transactions. They’re there to network, seek jobs and discuss the business of baseball like any other industry convention. Ever year we hear about a rule change or a proposal for future rule changes at the Meetings, though this year’s brand new Collective Bargaining Agreement should overshadow that. We’ve already discussed the major points of that and, yesterday, I speculated that, as time goes on, the way this agreement was reached could lead to some serious strife going forward, particularly on the union side. Expect to hear some anonymous rumblings about all of that in the next few days, from players, agents and other interested parties who may not be all that pleased with how it goes.

The final event of the Winter Meetings is the Rule 5 Draft, which will take place at 8am on Thursday morning. You likely have no idea who most of the players who will be selected are, but here’s a good place to start your research on that. If your team takes someone in the draft, the most important thing to know is that he’ll either be on the big league roster all year or he’ll have to be returned to his original team. Well, they could be stashed on the disabled list with phantom injuries so they won’t have to be returned, but no team would ever do that, would they? Perish the thought.

So, yes, there’s a lot to be done. I’ll be on the scene at National Harbor, bringing you all the best hot stove business we have to offer and, as usual, some more fun odds and ends from baseball’s biggest offseason event. As they used to say in radio, tune in to us and rip off the dial. Or, at the very least, keep a tab open to us and refresh a lot.