Pirates confirm interest in Rick Ankiel

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Last week Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that the Pirates were interested in Rick Ankiel, and yesterday team president Frank Coonelly confirmed their interest in a chat with fans on MLB.com:

Rick certainly had an off-year at the plate for the Cardinals in 2009, but we believe that the Pirates could provide Rick with an opportunity to re-establish himself. We have let Rick’s representative know of our interest.

In his report last week Kovacevic noted that the Pirates were pursuing both Ankiel and Hank Blalock for what’s essentially one potential opening in the lineup. Garrett Jones will start somewhere, but his position isn’t set in stone yet. He could play first base if Ankiel is signed for right field or right field if Blalock is signed for first base.
MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch speculates that Ankiel is looking for a one-year deal that would give him a chance to put together a comeback season and then hit the open market again, which seemingly fits the Pirates’ plans as well with prospect Jose Tabata nearing the majors. Another option could be Xavier Nady, who played for the Pirates from 2006-2008 and like Ankiel is trying to re-establish his value following a forgettable year.

Report: Steven Matz has been pitching through pain, may need elbow surgery

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Newsday’s Marc Carig reports that Mets starter Steven Matz has been pitching through pain for most of the season. He may need surgery to fix a nerve issue in his elbow. Matz was sidelined in spring training with an elbow injury and made his regular season debut on June 10.

Matz, 26, has struggled over 13 starts, posting a 6.08 ERA with a 48/19 K/BB ratio in 66 2/3 innings. Many were scrambling for explanations for his pitching woes and now they have it.

According to Carig, the Mets let Matz skip his bullpen sessions to help him pitch through the pain. Given the Mets’ shoddy history of dealing with injuries, that’s not a good look for the club.

Carig noted on Twitter that Jacob deGrom offers some optimism for Matz’s case. deGrom underwent right elbow surgery to repair ulnar nerve damage last September and bounced back to have a great season this year.

Clayton Kershaw’s simulated game went so well he threw an extra inning

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Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw was scheduled to throw three innings in a simulated game on Monday. That simulated game went so well, he threw an extra inning, MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick reports. Kershaw will make a minor league rehab start next and could be activated towards the end of next week.

Kershaw, 29, has been on the disabled list since July 24 with a lower back strain. That put the pause button on another outstanding season. He’s carrying a 15-2 record with a 2.04 ERA and a 168/24 K/BB ratio in 141 1/3 innings.

The 87-35 Dodgers have run away with the NL West, needing some combination of 20 wins and 20 Rockies losses (19 for the third-place Diamondbacks) to officially clinch the division. While the Dodgers are all but mathematically assured of reaching postseason baseball, the club would still like to get Kershaw as ready as possible over the next month-plus.