UPDATE: Indians make Russell Branyan an offer

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Branyan headshot.jpgUPDATE: The Indians have reportedly made an offer to Branyan. It’s unclear at present if it’s a minor league deal or something with some real dollars attached.  Either way, I think Branyan and the Indians go well together, so here’s hoping this gets done.

7:57 A.M.: Ken Rosenthal reports that Russell Branyan — a guy who hit 31 home runs last year but hasn’t had more than a nibble this winter — is talking with the Indians, Red Sox and Rays, but that things are furthest along with Cleveland. Branyan, you may recall, came up with the Indians in the death throes of their late-90s/early 2000s run, but the team didn’t like his defense or his strikeouts, shipped him out of town and went with guys like Casey Blake and Ben Broussard instead.

That was a long time ago, though, and lately the Indians have been trying to bargain hunt for a first base/corner outfield bat, showing some interest in Jermaine Dye as recently as last week.  Each of those two have problems with the glove, but at least in Branyan’s case first base won’t be a land of experimentation like it would be for Dye. Each have question marks at the plate too. Was Dye’s first half or second half more indicative of what he might do this year? Is Branyan’s back healthy enough to where his 31 home runs last year are a reasonable expectation again?

From Branyan’s perspective, the Indians make more sense than the Red Sox or Rays because it’s fairly easy to
envision playing time in Cleveland, whereas both Boston’s and Tampa
Bay’s rosters are more crowded at the positions Branyan can play (1B, 3B,
LF).

What Cleveland actually does here probably depends upon which of the two sluggers — Dye or Branyan — comes off his unreasonable mid-winter demands.

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.