Heavy workload catching up to Mets setup man Fernando Nieve

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After eight consecutive scoreless appearances Fernando Nieve finally gave up a run last night. Two of them, in fact, blowing a two-run lead in the eighth inning by serving up back-to-back homers to Joey Votto and Scott Rolen.
New York went on to win anyway, but Nieve’s incredibly heavy workload figures to catch up with him again if manager Jerry Manuel continues to lean on him. In most seasons the league leaders in relief appearances have 85 or so, basically pitching in every other game. Last night Nieve pitched for the third straight day and he’s worked 17 times in 27 games so far this season, which is a 102-appearance pace.
Mike Marshall, Kent Tekulve, Salomon Torres, and Wayne Granger are the only pitchers in the history of baseball to make 90 or more relief appearances in a season and Marshall is the only reliever to ever work 100 or more games in a season. In other words, if the Mets want to have Nieve available and effective in the second half they’ll want to ease up considerably on the workload.
And he’s not alone. Reds closer Francisco Cordero and Dodgers setup man Ramon Troncoso have already appeared in 16 games and Nieve’s bullpen-mate Pedro Feliciano is one of four relievers with 15 outings. I’m all for riding the hot hand (or arm) in the bullpen, but riding them into the ground in April and May seems short-sighted. It’ll be interesting to see if Manuel eases up on Nieve or if Nieve begins to struggle so much because of the overuse that the manager stops leaning on him for performance reasons.

Michael Bourn opts out of his minor league deal with the Orioles

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Outfielder Michael Bourn was traded by the Diamondbacks to the Orioles late last season and hit a solid .283/.358/.435 in 55 plate appearances with them through the end of the season. While that’s not enough to outweigh the miserable season he had in Arizona, it was enough to get the O’s to give him a look in spring training with a minor league deal. They signed him to one in late February.

Then, a couple of days later, Bourn broke his finger while playing catch with a football. Unable to play, the O’s cut him. In early April, once Bourn healed, the O’s signed him again. He played 11 games for their Triple-A affiliate and went 9-for-41 with ten walks in 51 plate appearances. While that makes for a decent OBP, his lack of any sort of pop or good contact suggests that if someone throws him strikes, he can’t do much with the ball.

As such, the O’s had not called him up to Baltimore. And as a result of that, Bourn exercised his opt-out rights and became a free agent.

Someone may take a look at him given that his batting eye seems to be intact and given that, in an admittedly small sample size, he still performed last season. But if he does get a look, it’ll likely be back at the minor league level.

Rob Manfred talks about playing regular season games in Mexico

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The new Collective Bargaining Agreement commits the players and the league to regular season games on foreign soil. Most of the focus of this has been on games in London, for which there has been a lot of activity and discussion.

Yesterday before the Astros-Tigers game in Houston, however, Commissioner Rob Manfred talked about playing games in Mexico. And not as just a one-off, but as a foot-in-the-water towards possible expansion:

Commissioner Rob Manfred said Tuesday that the time had come to play regular-season games in Mexico City as Major League Baseball weighs international expansion.

“We think it’s time to move past exhibition games and play real live ‘they-count’ games in Mexico,” Manfred said. “That is the kind of experiment that puts you in better position to make a judgement as to whether you have a market that could sustain an 81-game season and a Major League team.”

A team in Mexico could make some geographic sense and some marketing sense, though it’s not clear if there is a city that would be appropriate for that right now. Mexico City is huge but it has plenty of its own sports teams and is far away from the parts of the country where baseball is popular (mostly the border states and areas along the Pacific coast). At 7,382 feet, its elevation would make games at Coors Field look like the Deadball Era.

Monterrey has been talked about — games have been played there and it’s certainly closer — but it’s somewhat unknown territory demographically speaking. It’s not as big as Mexico City, obviously. Income stratification is greater there and most of the rest of Mexico than it is in the United States too, making projections of how much discretionary income people may spend on an expensive entertainment product like Major League Baseball uncertain. Especially when they have other sports they’ve been following for decades.

Interesting, though. It’s something Manfred has talked about many times over the years, so unlike so many other things he says he’s “considering” or “hasn’t ruled out,” Major League Baseball in Mexico is something worth keeping our eyes on.