And That Happened: Thursday's Scores and Highlights

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Vernon Wells homer.jpgBlue Jays 3, Rangers 1: On the scale of unexpected and dramatic comebacks, Vernon Wells starting the season with four homers in three games falls somewhere south of Bruce Wayne donning the cape and cowl after a decade in retirement in The Dark Knight Returns, but somewhere north of Steely Dan releasing “Two Against Nature” in 2000. On a related note, Ricky [Romero] had the Rangers’ number all night, allowing only one run in seven innings. Cito Gaston probably didn’t have to call nobody else, but he used Casey Janssen and Jason Frasor anyway.

Athletics 6, Mariners 2: Hot start for Oakland, as they take three of four from M’s.  Six innings of shutout ball for Brett Anderson, four RBI for Daric Barton and, as Matthew pointed out last night, some interesting defensive choices for the Mariners in the eighth inning all contributed to the win. Only thing I don’t get about that play is that since the catcher used his mask to scoop up the ball, why were Travis Buck and Cliff Pennington only awarded one base each? Rule 7.05(b) clearly states that baserunners in such instances are to be awarded three bases. Anyone have any ideas?

Reds 2, Cardinals 1: Pretty much covered this one as it ended yesterday afternoon. But since then I’ve been provided a verbatim transcript of the meeting which took place just prior to Jonny Gomes’ walkoff home run.

Cardinals catcher Jason LaRue calls for an offspeed pitch. Jason Motte shakes him off:

LaRue: Why you shaking me off?
Motte: I wanta throw the heater to announce my presence with authority.
LaRue: “To announce your f—— presence with authority”?  This guy’s a first ball fastball hitter.  He’s looking for heat.
Motte:  But he ain’t seen my heat.
LaRue: [sighs, then smirks] Awright, meat, give him your heat.


Nationals 6, Phillies 5:  A Willie Harris home run off Kyle Kendrick put the Nats up 5-2 in the fourth inning, but Philly came back to tie it up with two runs in the fifth and one in the sixth. But then new arrival Nelson Figueroa came in and gave up a walk and then a bloop RBI double that proved to be the difference in the Nats’ victory.  “Quail ball,” Charlie Manuel antiquatedly called it, doing absolutely nothing to disprove my hypothesis that Manuel was sent to our time from 1946 in some time-travel experiment connected to Operation Paper Clip or something. I love Charlie, but you gotta admit, the guy’s a living Burma Shave add.

Cubs 2, Braves 0: Randy Wells and four relievers shut the Braves out, allowing three hits to Martin Prado and two to Troy Glaus, but utterly flummoxing everyone else. At least until the ninth when Eric Hinske almost, but not quite, hit a walkoff three run homer. But you know they say about where close counts. Tommy Hanson wasn’t terrible for Atlanta, but the two hits he gave up in the early going were both the kind that went over the fence. Jason Heyward went 0 for 4 and looked like some young kid or something striking out on three pitches from Carlos Marmol in the ninth. Such is the way of the world when you’re 20.  Chipper Jones strained his oblique and will miss 2-3 days. Such is the way of the world when you’re Chipper Jones.

Dodgers 10, Pirates 2: In that stupid T.J. Simers article that suckered me yesterday, Simers wrote that Ronnie Belliard was “hired by the Dodgers to laugh at Manny’s jokes, allow Manny to ignore
his other teammates and talk trash about reporters in Spanish so the
reporters won’t know what he’s saying.”  He is apparently also there to go 3-5 with a double, triple, homer and four RBI when he’s spelling Casey Blake at third. Every Dodgers position player — five of whom were second stringers — got a hit. The first five guys in the lineup each had multiple hits.

Orioles 5, Rays 4: Brian Matusz’s targeting systems were malfunctioning (five walks) but he muddled through on manual and got the win.  Rays’ starter Jeff Niemann left the game in the second when a comebacker caught his shoulder. Matt Wieters is hitting .500 through his first three games. 

Tigers 7, Royals 3: Dontrelle Willis is back (6 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4K). Spectacular? No. But we’ll all settle for competent. Fellow former Marlin Miquel Cabrera was more than competent, going 4 for 5 with a three-run homer and an RBI single. Alberto Callaspo stranded nine runners all by himself in this one, hitting into two double plays and striking out with two men on in his first three at bats and then grounding out with the bases loaded in the eighth.

Marlins 3, Mets 1: Nice outing for Jonathon Neise (6 IP, 8H, 3 ER) but Nate Robertson was better (5 IP, 6 H, 1 ER).

Twins 10, Angels 1: A big question for the Twins this season was how to work Jim Thome, Jason Kubel and Delmon Young through two positions and still give everyone at bats. No worries: just beat the tar out of someone and they all get a chance: Kubel got the start in left and had an RBI single, Thome DH’d and went 2-4 with a three-run homer and Young subbed in for Kubel late and hit a three-run homer of his own. Problem solved!  As for the Angels, their two main offseaon additions — Joel Piniero and Fernando Rodney — combined to give up seven runs in seven innings. So there’s that.

Indians 5, White Sox 3: Good win for the Indians and all, and it’s nice that they’re 2-1, but as I heard someone say yesterday, when you have to say “the season’s only three games old, but . . .” it’s probably the kind of thing that you shouldn’t be saying anyway due to the meaninglessness of it all.

Mets expected to tender a contract to Jenrry Mejia

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 12:  Jenrry Mejia #58 of the New York Mets reacts as he walks off the field after getting the final out of the seventh inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Citi Field on July 12, 2015 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
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Jenrry Mejia appeared in just seven games this past season due to a pair of suspensions for performance-enhancing drugs, but Adam Rubin of ESPN New York reports that the Mets are expected to tender him a contract for 2016.

While the Mets were vocal about their disappointment in Mejia’s actions, it makes sense to keep him around as an option. Had he played a full season in 2015, he would have earned $2.595 million. He’s arbitration-eligible for the second time this winter and figures to receive a contract similar to his 2015 figure, but he’ll only be paid for the games he plays. He still has 100 games to serve on his second PED suspension, which means that he’ll only be paid for 62 games in 2016. This likely puts his salary closer to $1 million, which is a small price to pay for someone who could prove useful during the second half and beyond. He also won’t count toward the team’s 40-man roster until he’s active.

Mejia, who turned 26 in October, owns a 3.68 ERA in the majors and saved 28 games for the Mets in 2014. He’s currently pitching as a starter in the Dominican Winter League.

Braves and Jim Johnson reunite on a one-year contract

ATLANTA, GA - JULY 17: Jim Johnson #53 of the Atlanta Braves throws a ninth inning pitch against the Chicago Cubs at Turner Field on July 17, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
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UPDATE: The deal is official. Bowman adds that Johnson will make $2.5 million in 2016.

6:11 p.m. ET: Jim Johnson enjoyed some success out of the Braves’ bullpen in 2015 until a midseason trade to the Dodgers and Mark Bowman of reports that he has returned to Atlanta on a one-year contract. No word yet on the terms involved.

After an awful 2014 between the Athletics and Tigers, Johnson signed a one-year deal with the Braves last winter and bounced back to the tune of a 2.25 ERA and 33/14 K/BB ratio over 48 innings. He also saved nine games. However, things went south for him after a trade to the Dodgers in late July, as he put up an ugly 10.13 ERA in 23 appearances. He was left off the team’s roster for the NLDS against the Mets.

It’s unclear what role the Braves have in mind for Johnson, as Arodys Vizcaino finished the season as the closer, but they have made upgrading their bullpen a priority this winter.

Report: Barry Bonds under consideration to be the Marlins hitting coach

Barry Bonds

This shouldn’t cause any controversy, lead to a lot of people saying dumb things or provide fodder for jokes at all. Nope, none whatsoever:

In what promises to be a bombshell move, if executed, all-time great slugger Barry Bonds is under consideration to become Marlins hitting coach.

Team higherups have quietly been discussing this possibility for weeks.

That’s Jon Heyman, who reminds us that Bonds has worked with the Giants in the spring in recent years. And who, no matter what else you can say about him, was one of the greatest hitters the game has ever seen. Also worth remembering that despite his controversial past, that greatness came not just from physical gifts, naturally or artificially bestowed. It came from his approach, preparation and strategy at the plate. No one can teach a hitter to hit like Barry Bonds, but you’d think that hitters could be taught to try to approach an at bat the way Barry Bonds would. And who better to do it than Barry Bonds?

That is, if Bonds is willing to drop his seemingly ideal retired life in San Francisco, move to Miami and work for Jeff Loria for nine months a year. Which, eh, who knows? But the possibility of it is pretty fascinating to think about.

Yadier Molina’s new backup: Cardinals sign Brayan Pena to two-year deal

Brayan Pena Reds

Veteran catcher Brayan Pena has agreed to a two-year, $5 million contract with the Cardinals, who’re investing much more than usual in their backup for Yadier Molina.

After bouncing around for a decade without getting even 250 plate appearances in a season Pena signed with the Reds and topped 350 plate appearances in both 2014 and 2015. His production didn’t improve any, as Pena hit .263 with five homers and a .652 OPS in 223 games as a regular.

Pena’s best skill is rarely striking out, which enables him to hit for a decent batting average, but he has very little power and swings at everything. He struggled to control the running game this season at age 33, but has a decent throw-out rate for his career.

Making a multi-year commitment to Pena suggests the Cardinals are no longer counting on Molina being the same type of workhorse behind the plate, which certainly makes sense given his age and injury history. Pena will replace Tony Cruz, who’s been Molina’s understudy since 2011 while hitting just .220 with five homers and a .572 OPS in 259 games.