Billingsley relegated to Game 4; Hudson to the bench for Dodgers-Cardinals series

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In my NLDS preview the other day I blithely assumed that Chad Billingsley would pitch Game 3 for the Dodgers, but that’s apparently not the case. Vicente Padilla gets the nod. Joe Torre said that Billingsley’s simulated game “went fine” but if that were the case you’d think that the guy would be the Game 3 starter over a famously erratic guy who was designated for assignment by the Rangers for being a clubhouse cancer earlier this year.  Joe Torre has forgotten more about baseball than I’ll ever know, but I can’t help but think that he’s reading too much into Padilla’s last start. Yes, he mowed down the Rockies, but the game was meaningless and it was not exactly their starting nine.

But Billingsley isn’t the only All-Star who will be riding the pine for L.A.  Torre also named Ronnie Belliard the starting second baseman for tonight’s game.  While he and Orlando Hudson have been splitting time down the stretch, as Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness notes, Belliard has hit really well against Game 2 starter Adam Wainwright, so he is probably going to get that start as well, rendering Hudson a full-blown backup.

Both of these moves are defensible on the micro level. The big picture, however has to be rather disquieting for Dodgers fans, because teams who win World Series tend not to have to depend on guys like Vicente Padilla and Ronnie Belliard in key roles.

Rob Manfred says Tampa Bay must pick up pace on new stadium

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred wants Tampa Bay to work a little quicker on getting the Rays a new ballpark.

Rays Principal Owner Stuart Sternberg has been working for nearly a decade to get a new stadium for the club and signed a three-year agreement with the City of St. Petersburg early in 2016 to search for a site in the Tampa Bay area. Manfred wants that search to pick up some steam.

“I think it’s fair to say we want the process to take on a better pace moving forward,” Manfred said Wednesday night at Tropicana Field, home of the Rays since their first season in 1998.

The Rays were averaging 15,815 fans per game before Wednesday night’s contest against the Toronto Blue Jays. That is just over half the major league average of 30,470. Tropicana Field and its location have been almost universally blamed as the reason for the poor attendance.

“I’ve been pretty clear that they need a new facility here, a major league quality facility in an A-plus location,” Manfred said. “It is time to move that decision to the front burner here in Tampa.”

The matter of how a stadium would be financed has been tabled until a site is determined, but Sternberg continued to express confidence in the Tampa Bay market.

“I’ve had the opportunity to bail on it many times over the years,” he said. “I won’t say this is a slam dunk, it’s certainly not. But I think we can do something that’ll at least double our attendance. That’s a lot to ask for.”

Manfred said Major League Baseball “doesn’t have a firm timetable” for what steps to take if the Rays fail to get an agreement to build a new stadium in the Tampa Bay area, but but added that “it is a topic of discussion in the industry, the lack of progress.”

More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball

Robinson Cano leaves game with hamstring tightness

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Bad news for the Mariners this evening: Robinson Cano left Seattle’s game against the Atlanta Braves with tightness in his left hamstring.

Cano walked off the field after legging out a double — his second of the game — in the third inning. He pulled up as he approached second base and walked off the field, accompanied by a trainer. There was no immediate word on the severity of the injury. The Mariners have a day off Thursday before opening a series at the Yankees on Friday night, so they have some time to evaluate him.

Cano is hitting .277/.377/.460 with 19 homers and 78 RBI on the year.