While some folks tell us not to care about such things, the fact remains that there is a fifth starter’s race in the Bronx, so we may as well pass along the developments that transpire therein.
Joba pitched in that intra-squad game yesterday giving up two runs on six hits in five innings against mostly backups and AAA talent. Hughes pitched against a Phillies lineup consisting of many starters, but Hughes did pitch late in the game and there had been many substitutions by then. His line score looked superficially bad — four runs on five hits in 4.1 innings with three homers — but (a) people who were at the game are saying that the wind was blowing out strong; (b) Hughes struck out six; and (c) Joe Girardi said that Hughes had his best stuff all spring. Which matters more than a random line score in the Grapefruit League.
Girardi says that he’s going to make his decision by Thursday. Most people are assuming at this point that it will be Hughes, partially because he threw well yesterday, partially because they view Joba’s appearance in a split squad game as some kind of exile and partially because people are still in love with 2007 Joba Chamberlain and the bullpen and all of that. And it may very well be Hughes. Usually when the tabloid guys pull something out of their posterior someone will contradict it in short order, but thus far no one has contradicted the “it’s Hughes” conventional wisdom.
Which is fine, at least as long as it doesn’t mean that the Yankees are going to forever consign Chamberlain to the pen. Working him in to the rotation a bit this season to give tired arms a rest and planing on him moving in to replace Pettitte or Vazquez next year makes a lot more sense than ending his career as a starter at age 24.
Especially considering that he really hasn’t done anything to lose his spot as a starter as much as Hughes has done to win a spot as one. If that makes any sense.
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.