Forget the veterans: Pittsburgh should hand first base to Jeff Clement

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Amid reports that the Pirates are interested in signing a veteran left-handed hitter coming off a down year like Rick Ankiel, Hank Blalock, or Kelly Johnson, Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette suggests that they may end up simply going with young, in-house left-handed hitter Jeff Clement instead:

The deeper we get into this offseason, the clearer it is becoming that the Pirates want to see what Clement has, with maybe some urgency toward doing so before Pedro Alvarez and Jose Tabata arrive to crowd things further. They do nothing less than rave about what Clement did at the plate in Indianapolis right after the trade, and they sound as if they are very much looking forward to seeing if that translates.

Clement was once a top catching prospect, but just about everyone seems to have given up on the notion of him sticking behind the plate defensively and Pittsburgh got him from Seattle in the midseason deal for Ian Snell and Jack Wilson. While playing first base rather than catcher significantly lowers Clement’s overall upside, his bat still projects to be an asset. He’s struggled through 75 games in the majors, but the former No. 3 overall pick hit .279/.368/.492 with 59 homers and 95 doubles in 359 games at Triple-A.
Those aren’t spectacular numbers, especially spending four seasons at the same level, but Clement has 25-homer power and should supplement a modest batting average with a good number of walks. And as Kovacevic notes, at 26 years old and with over 1,500 plate appearances logged at Triple-A the time has come to see what Clement can do with 150 starts against big-league pitching. He’s certainly no worse of a bet than someone like Johnson or Blalock, and at a fraction of the cost with much more upside.

Sean Manaea pitches the first no-hitter of 2018

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Athletics southpaw Sean Manaea delivered his first career no-hitter against the Red Sox in a decisive 3-0 victory on Saturday night. Any thought of a perfect game was banished in the first at-bat, when Mookie Betts drew a leadoff six-pitch walk to open the first inning. From there, Manaea was nearly flawless, holding the Sox to four total baserunners and striking out 10 of 30 batters faced — a career record.

Manaea was gifted a three-run lead thanks to RBI doubles from Jed Lowrie and Stephen Piscotty and Marcus Semien‘s solo shot off of Chris Sale in the fifth inning. While the Red Sox managed to draw two walks off of Manaea, they didn’t come anywhere close to plating a run. Andrew Benintendi tried to break up the no-no in the sixth inning with an infield hit down the first base line, but strayed out of bounds and later saw his hit reversed on a call of batter interference.

Entering the ninth inning, the 26-year-old lefty was sitting at just 95 pitches through eight frames of no-hit ball. He quickly deposed Blake Swihart and Mookie Betts with a groundout and fly out, then walked Benintendi on seven pitches. Any threat the Red Sox might have posed was soon eliminated, however, as Hanley Ramirez ground into a force out to complete the no-hitter.

Manaea is the first A’s pitcher to toss a no-no since Dallas Braden’s perfect game against the Rays eight years ago. The last time the Red Sox were on the losing end of a no-hitter was also against an AL West rival, when the Mariners’ Chris Bosio clinched a 2-0 no-no on April 22, 1993. Manaea’s feat is even more outstanding given how dominant the Red Sox have looked this season: prior to Saturday’s defeat, they boasted a 17-2 record and had yet to be shut out during the regular season.