Rays pick Davis over Sonnanstine as fifth starter

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Joe Maddon announced that rookie Wade Davis has won the final spot in the Rays’ rotation, with Andy Sonnanstine heading to the bullpen after making 72 starts over the past three seasons.
Sonnanstine pitched well in 2008, winning 13 games with a 4.38 ERA and 124/37 K/BB ratio as a 25-year-old, but got knocked around for a 6.77 ERA and .311 opponents’ batting average in 99.2 innings last season. He’s a control pitcher with a fastball that tops out in the high-80s, so he figures to be more of a long reliever than late-inning option.
Davis’ control is perhaps his biggest weakness, but his fastball regularly approaches the mid-90s and he looked very good in a six-start September call-up after posting a 3.40 ERA and 140/60 K/BB ratio in 158.2 innings at Triple-A last season. He projects as a potential mid-rotation starter, although Davis may not get enough strikeouts or ground balls to thrive without cutting down on walks at least somewhat.
Opening Day starter James Shields is the oldest pitcher in the Rays’ rotation at 28, followed by Jeff Niemann (27), Matt Garza (26), David Price (24), and Davis (24). And they also have 23-year-old stud prospect Jeremy Hellickson likely beginning the season at Triple-A.

Rangers to sign James Loney to minor league deal

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 21: James Loney #28 of the New York Mets tosses to first base against the San Francisco Giants during the second inning at AT&T Park on August 21, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  The New York Mets defeated the San Francisco Giants 2-0. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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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.

Report: Tyson Ross not expected to pitch in April

SAN DIEGO, CA - SEPTEMBER 29:  Tyson Ross #38 of the San Diego Padres pitches during the first inning of a baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Petco Park September 29, 2015 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
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Comments from an anonymous team official suggest that Rangers right-hander Tyson Ross will not be expected to join the rotation until May or June, per a report from Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Both Ross and GM Jon Daniels favor a conservative approach for the 29-year-old as he works his way back up to full health after undergoing surgery last October to relieve thoracic outlet syndrome.

The delay is reportedly being implemented so that Ross will be have the strength and stamina to contribute during the stretch run. Per Daniels:

We would rather err on a little extra time up front with the goal being to finish strong, pitching in big spots, meaningful games down the stretch and hopefully past 162.

Ross signed a one-year deal with the team on Thursday after pitching through an injury-riddled season with the Padres in 2016. If all goes according to plan, he’ll slot into a rotation that includes Yu Darvish, Cole Hamels, Andrew Cashner and Martin Perez. The Rangers are expected to narrow down their fifth starter alternatives in spring training.