Daily Dose: Astros shut down Oswalt

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Roy Oswalt’s back problems haven’t improved, so after back-to-back rough starts the Astros have decided to shut him down for the season. “It’s not getting any better and it’s kind of lingering a bit,” Oswalt said. “If we were in contention and fighting for the playoffs, I would try to get an epidural block and ride it as long as I could. But I don’t want it to linger for next year.”
Oswalt had a 3.66 ERA and 104/33 K/BB ratio in 135.1 innings through 21 starts, but has a 5.48 ERA in nine outings since then and finishes the season with an ERA over 4.00 for the first time in his nine-year career. Toss in a team-record 16 no-decisions leading to just eight wins and it has definitely been a very disappointing campaign, but his secondary numbers suggest a 2010 bounce back if he can get healthy.
While the Astros remain on the hook to the 32-year-old Oswalt for at least two more seasons and at least $33 million, here are some other notes from around baseball …

* Matt LaPorta is showing why it was so foolish for Cleveland to keep him at Triple-A for so long, driving in three runs Wednesday to make him 28-for-96 (.292) with five homers and eight doubles since being called up in mid-August. LaPorta’s extended stint in the minors will keep his raw totals modest and likely make him undervalued in 2010, but he’s a potential middle-of-the-order bat with 30-homer power right now.
* Mike Scioscia talked earlier this week about possibly giving rookie Kevin Jepsen some save chances because of Brian Fuentes’ struggles and may want to put those wheels in motion after Fuentes blew his seventh save of the year Wednesday. Some questionable umpiring conspired against Fuentes and the Angels, but he has a 6.38 ERA and four blown saves since the All-Star break and Jepsen has been great.
* Trevor Cahill tossed seven innings of one-hit ball Wednesday, combining with two relievers on a shutout of the Rangers. Even with the excellent outing Cahill moves to just 9-12 with a 4.54 ERA and equally unimpressive 88/68 K/BB ratio in 168 innings, although certainly at 21 years old he has plenty of room to improve. He’s not likely to miss a ton of bats, but induces lots of grounders and will throw more strikes in 2010.
* Jesus Flores got off to a nice start this year, hitting .301/.371/.505 through 106 trips to the plate, but a bruised shoulder turned into a stress fracture that sidelined him for four months. He finally returned this week, but had season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum Wednesday. Washington is hoping that Flores will be healthy for spring training, but the 24-year-old former breakout candidate is now a big question mark.
AL Quick Hits: Jorge Posada began serving a three-game suspension Wednesday, so third-string catcher Francisco Cervelli delivered a walk-off single … Bartolo Colon (elbow) was released Wednesday by the White Sox after going 3-6 with a 4.19 ERA in 12 starts … Jarrod Saltalamacchia will undergo surgery Monday for thoracic outlet syndrome, which has a four-month recovery … Jonathan Papelbon was unavailable Wednesday because of back soreness … Nate Robertson will start Sunday in place of Jarrod Washburn (knee) … Tim Wakefield (back) is now scheduled to rejoin the rotation Monday, but will throw a bullpen session first … Fausto Carmona will stay in the rotation at 3-11 with a 6.58 ERA, with Eric Wedge explaining that “we’re going to keep running him out there” … Vladimir Guerrero left Wednesday’s game after taking a fastball off the ribs … Victor Martinez is due to rejoin the team Thursday after being away for a personal issue.
NL Quick Hits: St. Louis is skipping Kyle Lohse’s next rotation turn, with John Smoltz set to start Friday … Huston Street (biceps) threw a bullpen session Wednesday and hopes to return Sunday, but will work as Franklin Morales’ setup man initially … Joe Blanton bounced back from his worst outing of the season with six scoreless innings Wednesday … Manny Parra (neck) won’t make his scheduled Friday start despite an MRI exam revealing no structural damage … Justin Upton went 5-for-5 and missed the cycle by a homer Wednesday while teammate Mark Reynolds went 0-for-5 with four strikeouts … Randy Johnson came off the disabled list and officially joined the Giants’ bullpen Wednesday … Justin Lehr amazingly gave up five runs on five solo homers Wednesday … George Sherrill threw two perfect innings Wednesday, giving him a 0.42 ERA in 21.1 innings with the Dodgers … Milwaukee is debating whether to shut Yovani Gallardo down for the season after 180.2 innings.

Braves sign Bud Norris to one-year contract

Bud Norris

Bud Norris has found a home for his attempt at a bounceback season, signing a one-year deal with the Braves. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com says it’s worth $2.5 million, which is a huge cut from his $8.8 million salary this year.

Norris had established himself as a solid mid-rotation starter from 2009-2014, but had a brutal 2015 season split between the Orioles and Padres with a 6.72 ERA in 83 innings and a late-season move to the bullpen.

In announcing the signing the Braves referred to Norris as a starting pitcher, so joining the rotation for a rebuilding team gives him a chance to get his career back on track with an eye on hitting the open market as a free agent again next offseason. And if he fares well, the Braves could use him to add a prospect or two at the trade deadline.

The Cubs acquire Rex Brothers from the Rockies

Rex Brothers Rockies

The number of people who, if you held a gun to their head, would say that “Rex Brothers” was a game show host and/or local TV news personality from the late 1970s or early 80s is not insignificant. But if you’re a Rockies fan or if spend all day thinking about baseball you know that he’s a reliever who has played in Colorado for the past five years. Now you know him as a reliever for the Cubs:

Brothers — a former Best Shape of His Life All-Star — was pretty good until he hit a brick wall in 2014 and spent most of 2015 in Triple-A. He had something of a bounceback after being called up when rosters expanded in September, but that’s not the sort of thing to excite anyone. He could be useful for the Cubs or just spring training cannon fodder and organizational depth.

Cabrera just turned 18 a couple of weeks ago and pitched a grand total of 14 games in the Dominican Summer League. He’s young and was a $250,000 signee from the Dominican as a 16-year-old so, by definition, he’s a project. Worth giving up Rex Brothers for him if you’re the Rockies, worth risking for some depth in the pen if you’re the Cubs.

Diamondbacks hire Dave Magadan as hitting coach

Dave Magadan Rangers
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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.

A’s reacquire Jed Lowrie in trade with Astros

Jed Lowrie

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.