D'Backs pick up Heilman from Cubs for minor leaguers

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piniella heilman.jpgAaron Heilman was traded for a third time in 12 months Wednesday, going from the Cubs to the Diamondbacks for prospects Scott Maine and Ryne White.
There’s a good chance the Cubs would have non-tendered Heilman. The former Met did bounce back from an awful 2008, lowering his ERA from 5.21 to 4.11 last season, but he still wasn’t close to the same kind of reliever he was in 2006 and 2007. One of the game’s most reliable setup men, he combined to pitch a whopping 173 innings with a 3.33 ERA and 49 holds between those seasons. His strikeout rate has remained strong since, but he’s been giving up more homers and walks and it’s been hard to trust him late in close games as a result.
The Diamondbacks could let Heilman contend for a rotation spot, as he did with the Cubs last spring before being returned to the pen. Heilman would certainly prefer to start games, as he made clear in New York on numerous occasions. Heilman does have the advantage of being very good against left-handed hitters, thanks to his plus changeup. Still, as shaky as he’s been working an inning at a time these last couple of years, there’s little reason to think he’s ready to emerge as a quality starter.
In Maine and White, the Diamondbacks received a couple of fringe prospects. Maine, a 2007 sixth-round pick, had a 2.90 ERA and a 61/22 K/BB ratio in 62 IP while being used strictly as a reliever in Double- and Triple-A last season. The former Miami Hurricane has a chance to be more than a lefty specialist out of the pen, but it’s doubtful that he’ll be a true setup man.
White, 23, was regarded as Arizona’s top first base prospect a year ago, but he couldn’t hit for power in the hitter friendly California League last season. He finished at .266/.371/.356 with six homers in 418 at-bats for Single-A Visalia. Particularly now that the Diamondbacks have young first baseman Brandon Allen, who was picked up from the White Sox for Tony Pena Jr., White was very expendable.
It’s possible that the Diamondbacks could have gotten Heilman without surrendering any talent had they waited a month, but they didn’t want to take the chance. He’s set to make a little more than $2 million in his last year of arbitration, and at that price, it’s quite possible another team would have traded for him.
My thought is that it’s a pretty good move for Arizona. Heilman has proven extremely durable, and he offers more upside than the typical pitcher who goes for $2 million or so in free agency. As for the Cubs, they get one decent prospect for a pitcher who was no longer in their plans. It’s doubtful that they could have done much better.

Royals closer Kelvin Herrera leaves with forearm tightness

Associated Press
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The Royals are a game and a half out of the crazy AL Wild Card race — six games back of the Indians in the division — so they don’t have a huge margin for error. They got some bad news last night, though, that could have a major impact on their playoff hopes: closer Kelvin Herrera experienced tightness in his right forearm in the ninth inning of last night’s win, forcing him out of the game.

Herrera walked the bases loaded, then went to a 2-0 count on the next batter before leaving the game. That last pitch was a fastball that clocked in at 91 m.p.h., which is NOT a typical Kelvin Herrera fastball.  Herrera didn’t talk after the game but his teammate Sal Perez said that Herrera told him  “I’m tight. I don’t feel my forearm.”

Reporters left the clubhouse before an official diagnosis or prognosis could be delivered, so expect an update some time today. If Herrera is out the closer duties could fall to Scott Alexander or Brandon Maurer.

Albert Pujols sets the all-time record for home runs by a foreign-born player

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Albert Pujols had a big night last night, driving in four runs as the Angels beat the Rangers 10-1. Three of those runs came on a three-run homer. That was the 610th home run of Pujols’ career, snapping a tie for eighth on the all-time list with Sammy Sosa. It also made him baseball’s all-time leader for home runs by a player born outside the U.S.

Pujols was aware of the accomplishment, of course, and noted how honored he was after the game:

”It’s pretty special. Obviously, all the great players from the Dominican Republic, Latin America, Venezuela, Mexico, Colombia, they’ve gone through the big leagues and to be able to accomplish something like this is very humbling.”

After Sosa, who is from the Dominican Republic, comes Rafael Palmeiro (569); Manny Ramirez (555); David Ortiz (541); Carlos Delgado (473); Jose Canseco (462); Adrian Beltre and Miguel Cabrera (459).