Dodger signings: Mientkiewicz, Towers, Ayala

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While the Dodgers have yet to confirm the Jamey Carroll signing (his agent has, however), they did add several veterans on minor league deals announced Thursday, including first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz, infielder Angel Berroa, RHP Josh Towers and RHP Luis Ayala.
It’s necessary depth for a team that’s bled prospects recently and can’t afford a bunch of additional veteran options right now.
Mientkiewicz’s return was a surprise. He said he came back last year to get the 10 years of service time he’d need to qualify for a full pension. He ended up spending 4 1/2 months on the disabled list with a dislocated shoulder, but he hit the 10-year mark anyway. It seems unlikely that the Dodgers will want to carry him again when they already have a left-handed-hitting first baseman in James Loney and another possible left-handed-hitting infield reserve in Blake DeWitt.
Berroa added a little life to his floundering career by hitting .230/.304/.310 in 226 at-bats with the Dodgers in 2008 before jumping to the Yankees last winter. The decision presumably will result in him being mailed a World Series ring in April, but he ended up with just 22 at-bats with the Bombers and 27 more with the Mets, and he finished up 7-for-49. He shouldn’t be a candidate to break camp with the Dodgers.
Towers also spent a portion of last season with the Yankees, making two relief appearances for the club. He spent the bulk of the year going 7-6 with a 2.74 ERA in 18 starts for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. With no fastball to speak of and a tendency to give up long flyballs, Towers is strictly Triple-A depth for the Dodgers.
Ayala finished with a 5.71 ERA for the Nationals and Mets in 2008 and a 5.62 ERA for the Twins and Marlins last season. The 31-year-old was a pretty extreme groundball pitcher prior to blowing out his elbow in the 2006 World Baseball Classic, but his sinker isn’t what it was and probably never will be again. The Dodgers should have better options for their last couple of bullpen spots.

Mets owners get some breathing room on their Bernie Madoff settlement payments

New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon stands on the field before baseball's Game 3 of the National League Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Monday, Oct. 12, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
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For years the central fact of life of the New York Mets has been that their owners, the Wilpon family and Saul Katz, lost a ton of money after investing it with friend and business partner Bernard Madoff, perpetrator of the biggest Ponzi scheme in history. It has hampered their payroll and led to huge amounts of borrowing and restructuring that, before last year’s pennant run, seemed like it’d be a millstone on the Mets competitive prospects for years to come.

In addition to losing money, it was later determined that Katz and the Wilpons unfairly gained in some other respects and thus they ended up having their phony earnings clawed back via a settlement with the trustee managing the fallout of the Madoff scandal.  The upshot: the Wilpons and Katz, in addition to their losses, were ordered to pay nearly $60 million dollars back, half payable this week, half payable next year. That’s a lot of money for anyone to fork over and this week’s payment loomed large.

Now, however, Adam Rubin of ESPN New York reports that the Wilpons and Katz will get some breathing room. Specifically, they have modified their agreement with the trustee and some of the owed money has been deferred. Instead of some $29 million payable this week, they will only have to pay $16 million. The remainder will be paid in four installments — from 2017 through 2020 — with an interest rate of 3.5 percent on the unpaid balance, Rubin says.

Now, there obviously was no promise that the $13 million saved this week be invested in the baseball team, but it’s probably a good thing overall for the Mets if their owners’ debt payments are reduced a bit.

Mike Napoli hit a homer for a fan with cancer

CLEVELAND, OH -  MAY 30: Mike Napoli #26 of the Cleveland Indians rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run during the sixth inning against the Texas Rangers at Progressive Field on May 30, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Last night a fan named Kathi Heintzelman showed up at Progressive Field in Cleveland with a sign asking Indians first baseman Mike Napoli to hit a home run for her and to give her a hug. But there was a reason beyond her love for Mike Napoli. She’s starting chemotherapy today and the hug and homer would be a nice thing.  Hard to disagree with that, even if everyone knows that ballplayers can’t hit homers on demand.

Well, most players can’t. Mike Napoli did the easy part before the game, giving her a hug. Then in the sixth inning, he went yard:

 

Whether you believe that such things can be fated or if you merely acknowledge that Heintzelman asked Napoli for a homer at a good time — he’s on a hot streak right now and has hit bombs in four of his last 11 games — it’s a great story.

 

The Twins recall Byron Buxton

Byron Buxton
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Byron Buxton has been recalled from Triple-A Rochester by the Twins.

Buxton will replace Danny Santana, who was placed on the disabled list following a hamstring injury. But the bigger picture here is that Buxton will get a fresh go-around to show that he is the future of the Twins like so many assume he will be. The 22-year-old hasn’t hit so far in the majors, but he batted .336/.403/.603 with six homers, four steals, and a 26/11 K/BB ratio over 129 plate appearances after his demotion to Triple-A last month.

At this point the Twins, who stink on ice, need to just put their top young player in the game and let him learn to swim at the big league level rather than try to squeak out a few extra relatively meaningless wins with guys who won’t be part of the next contending Twins team.

92-year-old World War II vet throws a nifty ceremonial first pitch

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Think of how many bad ceremonial first pitches you’ve seen. From the worm burners from local business owners and pillars of the community at minor league games to ex-big leaguers who obviously haven’t picked up a ball since they retired to the famous celebrity ones that go viral the next day, there are probably a lot more bad first pitches out there than good ones.

But when the good ones come, they’re really enjoyable. And few are more enjoyable than the one which preceded yesterday’s Padres-Mariners game in Seattle. The pitcher: Burke Waldron, a 92-year-old veteran of World War II. He did it in his dress whites. He ran out onto the field beforehand. And though his catcher didn’t set up the full 60 feet, six inches away from where Waldron threw it, it was still a spiffy pitch. Way better than most: