Lots of love from the Cubs about all the help Greg Maddux have them as a special assistant/jack-of-all-trades in Mesa this spring:
The former Cubs and Braves pitcher dabbled in a variety of duties
this spring, from watching pitchers to scouting to even throwing a
little batting practice. One day this past spring, Minor League catcher Chris Robinson was at
Fitch Park, and the Cubs were short of coaches to throw batting
practice. Maddux volunteered, threw a couple times to warm up, then
asked Robinson what he wanted to work on. Maddux then pinpointed the
pitches exactly where Robinson wanted . . .
. . . On a rainy day in February, Maddux was standing behind pitcher Jeff
Stevens, who was throwing in the batting cages. Stevens’ assignment was
to throw 20 pitches, rest, then throw another 20. After he began, Maddux
made a suggestion. “He’s pretty soft-spoken,” Stevens said. “He’d whisper one thing to you
— you’re going to trust him. He said, ‘Throw a slider here.’ He would
help me with sequence and gave me perspective.
And then you see what happened to the Cubs yesterday and you realize the full depth and breadth of the Braves master plan. It begins with Greg Maddux: double agent. Step two will be revealed tomorrow.
Why no, I’m not bitter or jealous that my favorite player of all time has foresaken the team with which he had the most success and provided me the most joy for the team that never loved him the way we, er, I mean, the Braves loved him. No sir.
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.