Just what the heck is a "simulated game" anyway?

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The Sims.jpgGentlemen: let’s broaden our minds.

All spring you heard about pitchers throwing “simulated games.” Today Amalie Benjamin reports that Clay Buchholz, who won’t get his normal turn in the rotation for a while, is throwing a simulated game.  So, just what is a “simulated game?”

A lot of fun from the sound of it. Pitchers usually face two or three volunteer hitters from their own team (today Buchholz is facing Bill Hall, Jeremy Hermida and Jason Veritek).  Hitters take their cuts against the pitcher’s full speed pitches with someone — often the catcher — calling balls and strikes.  There are no fielders, however. A coach observing the game calls out the result of any given batted ball. A hot shot in the gap is a double. A grounder to where the shortstop would likely be standing is an out, etc.

If the hitter reaches safely the pitcher assumes the stretch and a ghost runner takes the base.*  Once the pitcher retires the side he sits down and either takes a break long enough to approximate his own team’s half inning or, in some instances, another pitcher or a coach throws to the same three hitters and simulates the results.  The whole thing usually ends when the desired pitch count for the simulated game is reached. Since Buchholz is on the Red Sox, though, it probably takes three hours and forty-eight minutes.

I saw a couple of simulated games in spring training and they looked like a lot of fun. Lots of good-natured trash talk between the pitcher and whoever was calling balls and strikes. Lots of pitchers claiming that hard hit balls were really outs due to amazingly acrobatic plays by their invisible defense. Basically, it sounds a lot like the sandlot games we used to play when we were little and couldn’t find enough kids to make full teams. I bet someone could do well setting up a simulated baseball league in which guys like me who think they can pitch a little go head-to-head (note: I can’t pitch, even a little).

Anyway, the more you know.

*Note: unlike my brother’s amazingly swift ghost runners during the
backyard games of our youth, simulated game ghost runners can’t score
from first on an infield single. Not that I’m still angry about it or
anything.

Johnny Monell signs with KBO’s KT Wiz

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JULY 06:  Johnny Monell #19 of the New York Mets runs back to the dugout after he scored in the ninth inning against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park on July 6, 2015 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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Former Mets catcher Johnny Monell signed a contract with the KT Wiz of the Korea Baseball Organization, per a report by Chris Cotillo of SB Nation. The 30-year-old originally struck a deal with the NC Dinos on Thursday, but the deal appeared to fall through at the last minute, according to Cotillo’s unnamed source.

Monell last surfaced for the Mets during their 2015 run, batting a dismal .167/.231/.208 with two extra bases in 52 PA before the club DFA’d him to clear space for Bartolo Colon. While he’s had difficulty sticking at the major league level, he’s found a higher degree of success in the minor league circuit and holds a career .271 average over a decade of minor league play. He played exclusively in Triple-A Las Vegas during the 2016 season, slashing .276/.336/.470 with 19 home runs and a career-high 75 RBI in 461 PA.

The veteran backstop appears to be the second MLB player to join the KT Wiz roster this offseason, as right-hander Donn Roach also signed with the club last month on a one-year, $850,000 deal.

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.