– Jair Jurrjens’ timetable is changing by the minute — and for the
better. He was originally supposed to long-toss again in the next few
days, but Mark Bowman of MLB.com reports that he was out there today and could possibly pitch off a mound on Monday. Manager Bobby Cox is expected to release his Grapefruit League rotation on Monday,
so provided he doesn’t suffer a setback with the shoulder, there’s a chance Jurrjens could see
some work in an exhibition game much sooner than originally anticipated. David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes that it could be as soon as the first or second week of March.
– Derek Holland threw a successful bullpen session on Saturday, his first since spraining his knee during agility drills one week ago. Holland, who wore a protective brace during the session,
“wanted to keep going,” however he’ll probably toss live batting practice on Monday as he inches toward game action.
– Brad Bergesen received rave reviews after tossing his first bullpen session since December due to a strained shoulder. Pitching coach Rick Kranitz said Bergesen “didn’t miss a beat,” while catcher Matt Wieters said the 24-year-old right-hander “had his sink back already.” Bergesen is expected to complete two more side sessions before throwing live batting practice.
– Francisco Rodriguez is still being bothered by a contagious pink eye condition. According to Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com, he is expected to visit a doctor on Monday.
With the 2017 World Baseball Classic around the corner, Team Israel has reportedly reached out to Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, per MLB Network’s Jon Morosi. Tournament rules stipulate that a player’s roster eligibility can be achieved in one of several ways: they were born in the country in question or hold citizenship/permanent legal residence there (or are simply capable of qualifying for citizenship), or one of their parents was born in the country or holds citizenship/permanent legal residence there.
For Kipnis, it’s the latter. Kipnis’ father, Mark Kipnis, is Jewish. That gives Kipnis the status he needs to suit up for Team Israel, despite the fact that he is a practicing Roman Catholic. He has yet to confirm or deny his participation in the competition.
Fifteen players have confirmed for Team Israel so far, including Mets’ infielder/outfielder Ty Kelly and free agents Sam Fuld, Nate Freiman, Jason Marquis and Jeremy Bleich. Per MLB.com’s Chad Thornburg, eight minor leaguers will also appear for the team. Like Kipnis, at least three other major leaguers are eligible for Team Israel’s roster but have yet to accept or decline involvement in the WBC: Dodgers center fielder Joc Pederson, Mariners infielder/outfielder Danny Valencia and free agent left-hander Craig Breslow.
Free agent first baseman James Loney has reportedly signed a minor league deal with the Rangers, per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. The deal includes an invite to spring training and a $1 million salary if he makes the major league roster in 2017.
Loney picked up a one-year stint and starting role with the Mets in 2016, slashing .265/.307/.397 with nine home runs in 336 PA. While his numbers were down a hair from the .280/.322/.357 batting line he produced with the Rays in 2015, he provided the Mets with a necessary, if underwhelming upgrade over an injured Lucas Duda through most of the season.
The 32-year-old infielder is expected to have some competition at first base, with at least five other candidates in the mix: Jurickson Profar, Ronald Guzman, Ryan Rua, Joey Gallo and Josh Hamilton. Rumor has it that the team is planning on platooning Rua and Profar in 2017, barring any impressive breakouts or injuries during spring training, though Loney could still provide the club with some veteran depth and a decent left-handed bat off the bench.