Back injury sends Angels closer Brian Fuentes to disabled list

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Brian Fuentes not pitching since Opening Day didn’t raise many eyebrows because the Angels haven’t exactly had a ton of late leads to protect while starting the season 2-6, but apparently a back injury is also to blame.
Fuentes has been placed on the disabled list with a strained back, but because the move is retroactive to April 6 he’s eligible to return next Wednesday. No word yet on whether such a quick recovery is expected, but for however long he’s sidelined ninth-inning duties will go to Fernando Rodney.
Signed this offseason to serve as Fuentes’ primary setup man, Rodney actually led baseball in save percentage last season by converting 37-of-38 chances for the Tigers. With a 4.40 ERA and 61/41 K/BB ratio in 75.2 innings Rodney wasn’t anywhere near as good as his save percentage would suggest and he has a career ERA of 4.35, but as a short-term closer fill-in he’s certainly capable.
Fuentes showed some significant signs of decline last season, particularly in the second half, and an interesting aspect of his unexpected trip to the DL is that it guarantees the Angels won’t be on the hook for his $9 million salary in 2011. They have a team option on him that vests with 55 games finished this season, which is a total Fuentes barely topped in 2009 and now has zero chance of cracking this year.
Rodney is signed through next season, so this may be the first step to his taking over the job full time.

Yordano Ventura killed in an auto accident

CLEVELAND, OH -  JUNE 2:  Starting pitcher Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals jokes with teammates as he walks off the field after the fifth inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field on June 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Terrible, terrible news: Christian Moreno of ESPN reports that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura has been killed in an automobile accident in the Dominican Republic. His death has been confirmed by police. He was only 25 years-old. There are as of yet no details about the accident.

Ventura was a four-year veteran, having debuted in 2013 but truly bursting onto the scene for the Royals in 2014. That year he went 14-10 with a 3.20 ERA in 183 innings, ascending to the national stage along with the entire Royals team with some key performances in that year’s ALDS and World Series. The following year Ventura won 13 games for the World Champion Royals and again appeared in the playoffs and World Series.

Ventura was often in the middle of controversy — he found himself in several controversies arising out of his habit of hitting and brushing back hitters — but he was an undeniably electric young talent who was poised to anchor the Royals rotation for years to come. His loss, like that of Jose Fernandez just this past September, is incalculable to both his team, his fans and to Major League Baseball as a whole.

Our thoughts go out to his family, his friends, his teammates and his fans.

Report: Tim Lincecum is not ready for retirement

ANAHEIM, CA - JULY 29:  Tim Lincecum #55 of the Los Angeles Angels during the second inning of the game against the Boston Red Sox at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on July 29, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
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Free agent right-hander Tim Lincecum isn’t ready to hang up his cleats just yet. At least, that’s the word from Lincecum’s agent, Rick Thurman, who says the 32-year-old is still “throwing and getting ready for the season” (via Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News).

Lincecum may not be ready to enter retirement, but another quote from Thurman suggests that he’ll be picky about where he pitches next. He doesn’t appear open to pitching overseas, and despite not having a contract for 2017 (or even any serious suitors), the right-hander is set on pitching in the big leagues this year. Whether or not he’s willing to take a bullpen role to do so remains to be seen.

While Baggarly predicts some interest in the veteran righty, there’s not much in Lincecum’s recent history to inspire faith in him as a starter, or even a reliever. He picked up a one-year, $2.5 million contract with the Angels following his hip surgery in 2015, and went 2-6 in 2016 with a 9.16 ERA, 5.4 BB/9 and 7.5 SO/9 over 38 1/3 innings. At this point, a minor league contract seems like the surest path back to major league success, though he’s unlikely to find an open spot on the Giants’ or Angels’ rosters anytime soon.