– 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.
The Athletics and Royals swapped outfielders on Saturday. The Athletics sent Billy Burns to Kansas City and the Royals sent Brett Eibner to Oakland.
Burns, 26, doesn’t provide much in the way of offense, but he runs the bases well and plays solid defense. He was hitting .234/.270/.303 with 11 doubles, four triples, and 14 stolen bases in 274 plate appearances.
Eibner, 27, was batting .231/.286/.423 with three home runs and 10 RBI in 85 plate appearances. He has spent most of the season with Triple-A Omaha, where he’s put up a .902 OPS in 219 PA. Eibner played the outfield corners in the majors, but racked up a ton of time playing center in the minors, so his versatility will be valuable to the A’s.
Burns will become eligible for arbitration for the first time after the 2017 season while Eibner has hardly accrued any service time, which might explain part of the motivation behind the trade for the small-market Athletics.
The Nationals announced on Saturday afternoon that the club acquired closer Mark Melancon from the Pirates in exchange for reliever Felipe Rivero and minor league pitcher Taylor Hearn.
Melancon, 31, put together another solid season for the Pirates, leaving the club with 30 saves, a 1.51 ERA, and a 38/9 K/BB ratio in 41 2/3 innings. He led the majors last season with 51 saves and has a 1.80 ERA since joining the Pirates in 2013. Melancon is earning $9.65 million this season and can become eligible for free agency after the season.
With Melancon out of the picture, the Pirates intend to have Tony Watson take over the closer’s role.
Rivero, 25, has handled the seventh and eighth innings for the Nationals this season, compiling a 4.53 ERA and a 53/15 K/BB ratio in 49 2/3 innings. He’s just shy of one year of service time, so the Pirates will have control of him for a long time.
Hearn, 21, was rated the Nationals’ 27th-best prospect by MLB Pipeline. He was originally drafted by the Pirates in the 22nd round of the 2012 draft but he didn’t sign and ended up going back to college. The Nationals took him in the fifth round of last year’s draft. This season, between rookie ball and Single-A Hagerstown, Hearn put up a 2.79 ERA and a 39/13 K/BB ratio in 29 innings. He’s a long way away from the majors, so he’s essentially a lottery ticket for the Pirates.
The Nationals needed an upgrade at closer as Jonathan Papelbon has struggled this season. The right-hander has allowed runs in each of his last three appearances, ballooning his ERA up to 4.41 with a 30/13 K/BB ratio in 32 2/3 innings. It will be interesting to see how Papelbon, who has never made a habit of letting his feelings go unspoken, handles a demotion to the eighth inning.