Phil Niekro is in the best shape of his life

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Niekro AP.jpgReally, he’s rarin’ to go:

Phil Niekro claims he’s in great shape, and if the wind is
favorable enough, the 70-year-old right-hander said he can still crank
his fastball up in the 80-mph range . . . “I’m in excellent shape,” Niekro said on a conference call with
reporters on Monday. “In fact, I’m on the boat right now fishing, and I
just got done throwing this morning. My fastball is up to about 81
[mph] now with the wind behind me, so yeah, I’m looking forward to [the

What he means is the Hall of Fame Classic, the exhibition game played in Cooperstown in advance of the inductions in late June. Neikro was announced today as one of seven Hall of Famers who
will play this year.  Bob Feller will be there too, as he was last year. As will newcomers Rollie
Fingers Goose Gossage, Gary
Carter, Harmon Killebrew and Mike Schmidt.

The real question: If Niekro can really throw 80, and if he still has even a modicum of control over the knuckler — to the extent anyone ever really has control over a knuckler — how much better is he than, say, the Royals or the Mets fifth starters this year?

Walt Weiss returning as Rockies manager in 2016

Walt Weiss
AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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As first reported by FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, the Rockies have decided to bring back manager Walt Weiss for the 2016 season — the final year of a three-year deal he signed after his debut season in 2013.

Weiss carries a rough 208-278 managerial record through his first three years at the helm for Colorado, but it’s not like the rosters he’s been managing have been built to win.

The biggest need for the Rockies this winter is pitching — both starters and relievers — and general manager Jeff Bridich is also being retained for the 2016 season to try to find some.

Colorado’s starters and relievers combined for a 5.04 ERA in 2015, worst in MLB.

Colorado’s offense produced 737 runs, ranking fifth in the major leagues.

Astros flashing power early in AL Wild Card Game

Colby Rasmus
AP Photo/Kathy Willens

Houston got on the board first in Tuesday night’s American League Wild Card Game at Yankee Stadium when Colby Rasmus led off the top of the second inning with a solo home run to deep right field against Masahiro Tanaka.

It was the first career postseason homer for Rasmus, whose only other postseason experience came in 2009 with St. Louis. He slugged 25 home runs during the 2015 regular season and will be looking to cash in as a free agent whenever the Astros’ postseason runs come to an end. A big October (and perhaps early November) would obviously help that.

Tanaka retired the next two batters after the Rasmus bomb, but he gave up a single and two walks to load the bases before eventually inducing an inning-ending fielder’s choice groundout from Jose Altuve. Tanaka’s shakiness extended into the third and fourth innings, with Carlos Gomez adding a solo shot to left field in the top of the fourth.

Houston leads 2-0 heading into the bottom of the fifth. Astros starter Dallas Keuchel has looked sharp on three days of rest, tallying five strikeouts through four scoreless frames.