Astros bring back Michaels, sign Chacin

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MLB.com’s Alyson Footer reports that the Astros have re-signed Jason Michaels to a one-year, $800,000 contract and added left-hander Gustavo Chacin on a minor league deal.
After a brutal start, Michaels performed well in extremely limited action for the Astros last season, hitting .311/.400/.557 in 61 at-bats after the break to finished with a 752 OPS. Although he spent all season on the active roster, he made just 18 starts and received a total of 135 at-bats. He did his best work when he was in the lineup, as he hit only .225 with four RBI in 53 at-bats a pitch-hitter.
His return, in combination with the decision not to non-tender Jeff Keppinger, makes it appear as though the Astros will have a particularly punchless bench again. Geoff Blum is the star of the group. As things stand now, Humberto Quintero and J.R. Towles will form the catching duo, while the fifth bench spot could go to Jason Bourgeois. The Astros may yet add a veteran backup center fielder and bump Bourgeois to Triple-A.
Chacin, who has dealt with a multitude of arm problems since going 13-9 with a 3.72 ERA as a 24-year-old for the Blue Jays in 2005, finished 8-4 with a 3.21 ERA for the Phillies’ Triple-A club last season. He hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2007. He picked a good team to sign with, given that the Astros currently have Brian Moehler and Felipe Paulino at the bottom of the rotation.

Giants place Hunter Pence on 10-day disabled list with right thumb sprain

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The Giants placed outfielder Hunter Pence on the 10-day disabled list with a right thumb sprain, per an official announcement on Friday. Pence initially sustained the injury during the club’s home opener on April 3, when he dove to intercept a line drive double from Robinson Cano and jammed his thumb. Weeks of playing through the pain hasn’t worked, so he’ll take a breather while the Giants give outfielder Mac Williamson a chance to start in left after getting called up from Triple-A Fresno.

Pence, 35, wouldn’t pin his recent struggles on his injury, but it’s clear that he’s having difficulty finding his footing this year. He slashed a meager .172/.197/.190 through 61 plate appearances in 2018, collecting just one extra-base hit and two walks during the Giants’ dismal 7-11 stretch. While it’s far too early in the season to make any final judgments, it doesn’t look like the veteran outfielder will be replicating the .275+ average, 4.0+ fWAR totals of years past (at least, not anytime soon).

Williamson, meanwhile, has gotten off to a hot start in Triple-A. Prior to his call-up this weekend, the 27-year-old batted an incredible .487/.600/1.026 with six home runs and a 1.626 OPS through his first 50 PA. A hot Triple-A bat doesn’t always survive the transition to the majors, but the Giants will use all the help they can get — especially as they take on the AL West-leading Angels this weekend.