Orioles set to fill closer's role with Gonzalez

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The Orioles and Mike Gonzalez are close to an agreement on a two-year, $12 million contract that could be worth $8 million per year through incentives, according to Yahoo! Sports’ Tim Brown.
The move would seem to bring an end to Baltimore’s search for a closer and eliminate the team as a suitor for Jose Valverde, who could be left out in the cold this winter. It’s not beyond the realm of possibility that the Orioles could add another possible ninth-inning guy — after all, Gonzalez will be making the same amount as Danys Baez did when Baltimore signed him to a three-year, $18 million contract to serve as a setup man — but the club should be satisfied with the setup work that Jim Johnson and Koji Uehara will provide.
The deal qualifies as more bad news for the Braves, who were hoping to get two first-round picks and two sandwich picks after offering arbitration to Rafael Soriano and Gonzalez. Soriano, of course, accepted the arbitration offer and was traded for a mediocre reliever in Jesse Chavez. Now Gonzalez is signing with a team with a protected first-round pick, meaning the Braves will have to settle for a second-rounder in addition to their supplemental first-round pick. Atlanta will be without a true first-round pick after giving up its own to land Billy Wagner.

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.