UPDATE: Junichi Tazawa visits with Dr. James Andrews

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Tazawa headshot.jpgUPDATE: Tazawa tells Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald that there appears to be ligament damage in his elbow. He’s not sure about surgery, according to Lauber, but it “will be part of the discussion.” Doesn’t sound too promising.

Monday, 7:14 pm: Uh-oh. The Red Sox announced on Monday that Junichi Tazawa was in Birmingham, Ala. to have his right elbow examined by famed orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews. As Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell told Rob Bradford of WEEI.com, the elbow bothered Tazawa during the second half of the 2009 season:

“He’s been dealing with some discomfort, some tightness, in the second
half of last year,” Farrell explained. “He went through a normal
offseason, didn’t have any issues, came into spring training, went
through every outlined throwing session that we had and there were
varying degrees of tightness or discomfort at different points this
spring. And then in games his velocity was not quite where it was in the
past and his breaking stuff was not as sharp. And even in his last
bullpen he felt there was a little bit of tightness. I wouldn’t say it
was further, or getting worse, but precautionary we wanted to send him
to see Andrews and get that evaluation.”

Tazawa, 23, was 2-3 with a 7.46 ERA, 2.05 WHIP and 13/9 K/BB ratio in 25 1/3 innings with the Red Sox last season. We aren’t going to look too much into those numbers, though, as the young right-hander was 9-5 with a 2.55 ERA and 1.04 WHIP in 20 starts between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket last season, showing plenty of promise and elite command. Hopefully this is just a mere bump in the road for him.
 

Phil Bickford suspended 50 games for drug of abuse

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 10:  Phil Bickford of the U.S. Team pitches during the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game at PETCO Park on July 10, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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Brewers’ right-hander Phil Bickford received a 50-game suspension after testing positive for a drug of abuse, per the Los Angeles Times’ Bill Shaikin. This is the second time Bickford has been suspended for recreational drug use, as he was previously penalized in 2015 after testing positive for marijuana prior to the amateur draft.

Bickford was selected by the Giants in the first round of the 2015 draft and was later dealt to the Brewers for lefty reliever Will Smith at the 2016 trade deadline. He finished his 2016 campaign in High-A Brevard County, pitching to a 3.67 ERA, 10.0 K/9 rate and 5.0 BB/9 over 27 innings.

Two other suspensions were handed down on Friday, one to Toronto minor league right-hander Pedro Loficial for a positive test for metabolites of Stanozolol and one to Miami minor league outfielder Casey Soltis for a second positive test for drugs of abuse. Loficial will serve a 72-game suspension, while Soltis will serve 50 games. All three suspensions are due to start at the beginning of the 2017 season for each respective minor league team.

Brewers’ GM David Stearns issued a statement after the Commissioner’s Office announced Bickford’s suspension (via Vince Lara-Cinisomo of Baseball America):

We are very disappointed to learn of Phil’s suspension, but we fully support the Minor League Baseball Drug Prevention and Testing Program and its enforcement by the Commissioner’s Office. Phil understands he made a mistake, and we fully anticipate that he will learn from this experience.

Diamondbacks sign Fernando Rodney to a one-year, $2.75 million deal

PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 21:  Fernando Rodney #56 of the Miami Marlins pitches during the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates on August 21, 2016 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***
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Confirming a report from Tuesday, the Diamondbacks officially signed right-hander Fernando Rodney to a one-year, $2.75 million contract on Friday. The 39-year-old stands to receive up to $4 million in incentives, per Jack MacGruder of FanRag Sports, with $250,000 kicking in when the veteran reaches 40, 50 and 60 appearances and $500,000 if he reaches 70.

Rodney came three games shy of the 70-appearance mark in 2016 during back-to-back stints with the Padres and Marlins. He put up a cumulative 3.44 ERA on the year, which effectively disguised the extreme split during his performances in San Diego and Miami. The Diamondbacks aren’t anywhere close to contending in 2017, but Rodney should stabilize the back end of their bullpen while providing Arizona GM Mike Hazen with a potential trade chip during next year’s deadline.

Hazen issued a statement following the signing:

With Fernando, we’re getting an established Major League closer and a veteran presence in the bullpen. It is helpful to have someone with his experience on the back end to slow the game down and get the final three outs.