Monday's minor matters: Mets, Cardinals adding bench candidates

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henry blanco.jpgFOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal says the Mets and catcher Henry Blanco are close to agreeing to terms.
Blanco, 38, hit .235/.320/.382 in 204 at-bats while playing behind Nick Hundley in San Diego last season. He’s a career .228/.292/.366 hitter, but he’s always been very well regarded as a defender. It’s something of a surprise to see him land in New York. It’s hard to imagine the Mets going with an Omir Santos-Blanco pairing behind the plate, so it looks like Santos will lose his spot once the team lands a starter.
Veteran backup catcher Chris Coste told his hometown paper, the Fargo-Moorhead Forum, that he’s signed a major league deal with the Mets.
Coste hit .224/.301/.317 in 205 at-bats for the Phillies and Astros last season. He turns 37 in February and he’s never been very good behind the plate, so it’s odd to see the Mets putting him on their 40-man roster. He’s not an ideal option as a No. 2 catcher, and he probably no longer has the offensive value to be very useful as a pinch-hitter/backup first baseman/third catcher.
The Cardinals agreed to terms with second baseman Ruben Gotay on a minor league deal.
Gotay was expected to be one of the most sought-after minor league free agents after hitting .272/.429/.450 for the Diamondbacks’ Triple-A club. He’ll provide the same kind of protection for the Cardinals that Jarrett Hoffpauir would have had he not been lost to the Jays on waivers. Gotay is challenged defensively at second base, but he can play there in stints and he’s improved at third base. He might be a legitimate bench player if given the opportunity.

A.J. Hinch: “We’ll use every pitcher in Game 7 if we have to”

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It’s not entirely clear why the Astros threw Ken Giles into the ninth inning of Game 6 of the ALCS. With a six-run advantage and the bottom half of the Yankees’ lineup due up, pushing the series to its seven-game capacity looked like a sure bet. Giles may be one of Houston’s better bullpen arms, but he’s not their only option, and it would have made more sense to keep him fresh for a do-or-die Game 7 on Saturday night.

Of course, there’s no such thing as a sure bet when it comes to postseason baseball. That’s more or less what Astros’ manager A.J. Hinch had to say after the game, telling reporters that he had envisioned a quick three outs from his closer as they tried to pull back from the brink of elimination. “We didn’t have the luxury of limping into that inning,” Hinch said. “We’ve seen how these guys can explode in these innings.”

It’s not difficult to recall the Yankees’ explosive drive in the eighth inning of Game 4, when they exploited the holes in Houston’s ‘pen and evened the series with Gary Sanchez‘s go-ahead double off of Giles. Back home in Minute Maid Park, however, there was a slightly different feel to the eighth and ninth innings of Game 6. Jose Altuve led off the eighth with a solo home run, followed by Alex Bregman‘s two-run double and Evan Gattis‘ sac fly. In the ninth, Giles labored through a 23-pitch outing to lock down the win, handing out a base hit and a seven-pitch walk before eventually whiffing Chase Headley on three straight pitches for the last out.

So, while Hinch’s decision to lean on Giles in Game 6 may have felt wasteful, his concerns were not entirely unfounded. He’s prepared to roll with the same strategy during Saturday’s series finale, too, leaving nothing on the table as the Astros battle for their first World Series showdown since 2005. According to Dallas Keuchel, that means all hands on deck — except for Justin Verlander, whose four wins, 24 strikeouts and 1.46 postseason ERA have gotten the Astros as far as he could possibly be expected to take them. “No pitcher is going to be in the dugout,” said Keuchel. “They’re all going to be in the bullpen, myself included. Any way we can help out, we’re trying to get to the World Series, the same way the Yankees are, and that’s a nice feeling to have.”

Does that mean Giles will be available for a Game 7 appearance? Stranger things have happened. Joe Sheehan notes that the right-hander has pitched in back-to-back days 13 times this year, though he’s never thrown as many as 23 pitches on Day 1. Granted, he likely doesn’t have enough left in the tank for another 20+ pitch run on Saturday, but with the World Series on the line, any help he can offer will be invaluable.