Can the Texas bullpen hold up?

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Going into Wednesday’s games, 10 American League relievers had made at least 22 appearances. Five of them happen to pitch for the same team:
1. Will Ohman (Orioles) – 25
2. Daniel Bard (Red Sox) – 24
2. Neftali Feliz (Rangers) – 24
2. Chris Ray (Rangers) – 24
5. Scott Downs (Blue Jays) – 23
6. Randy Choate (Rays) – 22
6. Phil Coke (Tigers) – 22
6. Frank Francisco (Rangers) – 22
6. Darren O’Day (Rangers) – 22
6. Darren Oliver (Rangers) – 22
With 46 games in the books, five Rangers relievers are on pace to appear in about 80 games. A sixth, Dustin Nippert, has appeared in 19 games and thrown 24 2/3 innings, so while he hasn’t been as used as often, he’s on pace to throw 87 innings in relief.
Breakdowns are almost certainly on the way. Feliz, who was handled so carefully after being moved to the pen last year, is on 86-inning pace. Francisco has a history of arm problems and has never thrown more than 63 1/3 innings as a major leaguer. He’s on pace for 73 right now.
Ray, in his second year back from Tommy John surgery, hasn’t put in a full season since 2006. O’Day was given up on by the Angels two years ago because of a shoulder injury.
Oliver has a track record of durability, but his current 83-inning pace would be a new career high for him as a reliever. He threw 72 and 73 innings in his last two years with the Angels. The appearances might be more of an issue here than the innings. The Angels tended to give him longer appearances than the Rangers have. He appeared in 54 games in 2008 and 63 last year. Right now, he’s on pace for 77 appearances.
The Rangers do have fallbacks on the way. Matt Harrison, who opened the year in the rotation, is going to try his hand at relieving after returning from a case of biceps tendinitis. And top prospect Tanner Scheppers could be this year’s Feliz if he’s needed in a setup role later this year.
Still, manager Ron Washington is walking a dangerous path. In doing so much mixing and matching of O’Day, Ray and Oliver based on matchups, he’s given them workloads they’re simply not accustomed to. If he’s going to keep those guys healthy, he’ll have to start winning some games while using only two or three of his best relievers, rather than four or five.

Dexter Fowler: “I didn’t say anything wrong.”

JUPITER, FL - FEBRUARY 20:  Dexter Fowler #81 poses for a portrait during St Louis Cardinals Photo Day at Roger Dean Stadium on February 20, 2017 in Jupiter, Florida.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
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New Cardinals outfielder Dexter Fowler was recently asked by ESPN’s Mark Saxon how President Trump’s efforts to institute a travel ban affected him and his family. Fowler’s wife is from Iran and Fowler said that he had reconsidered traveling with his daughter to Iran to visit her family. His wife’s sister also delayed her return from a business trip to Qatar as a result of Trump’s executive order. “It’s huge,” Fowler said. “Especially anytime you’re not able to see family, it’s unfortunate.”

Fowler’s statement was pretty bland as far as athletes wading into political waters go. He didn’t criticize Trump or conservatives, nor did he espouse support for liberals or Democrats. It was a simple statement that his life had been adversely impacted by an executive order.

The responses to Fowler’s comment were mostly awful. The @BestFansStLouis Twitter account highlighted this, as did Jeff Passan for Yahoo Sports and Will Leitch for Sports on Earth. Fans suggested that Fowler “shut up and play” because “nobody cares” and that Fowler is “property” of the Cardinals. The responses were so negative that Fowler tweeted about it:

Fowler, however, isn’t backing down. Via MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch:

“I didn’t say anything wrong,” Fowler said. “I think it was taken out of context [by other outlets]. I don’t think people read the article. I think people made their own [headlines]. The question was asked out of empathy to my family, and I appreciate that. If anybody is asking about my family, then I’m going to let them know that, ‘Yeah, obviously it affected my family. My wife is Iranian.’ … I think it’s kind of ignorant of people to just come at me like that and not read the article.”

[…]

“I’m always going to care for my family,” Fowler said. “And if a question is asked out of concern, I’m going to answer the question. And I’m going to answer it truthfully. It’s not to hurt anybody. It’s unfortunate that people think of things that way. I believe they’re sensitive. I’m not the sensitive one. I appreciate the ones that understood.”

Manager Mike Matheny has Fowler’s back. He said, “I think he handled it correctly. He was very clear that he was trying to make a statement about his family [and it] ended up becoming a political statement.”

Tony Clark, executive director of the MLBPA, also expressed support for Fowler:

“Baseball players are a microcosm of society, and I was a grown man before I was a baseball player,” Clark said. “If I have a view, I should be willing to share it, while understanding what I’m a part of and what my responsibilities are. Any player understands that when they take a particular position, it may not be a popular one.

“There may be pushback. That shouldn’t be a reason not to have an opinion. In this instance, it’s a very personal one to Dex. I respect the commentators that responded. I respect their freedom to respond to it.”

Indeed, Fowler had every right to say what he said and it’s good to see that both his manager and the head of the MLBPA support him fully. It would have been easy and politically safe to allow Fowler to hang out to dry.

Report: Extension talks between Mets, Neil Walker are “probably dead”

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 21: Neil Walker #20 of the New York Mets sits in the dugout before the game against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park on August 21, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  The New York Mets defeated the San Francisco Giants 2-0. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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On Sunday, it was reported that second baseman Neil Walker and the Mets were discussing a potential three-year contract extension worth “north of $40 million.” Those discussions took a turn for the worse. The Mets feel extension talks are “probably dead,” according to Mike Puma of the New York Post.

Walker underwent a lumbar microdisectomy in September, ending his 2016 season during which he hit .282/.347/.476 with 23 home runs and 55 RBI over 458 plate appearances.

The Mets may not necessarily need to keep Walker around as it has some potential options up the middle waiting in the minor leagues. Though Amed Rosario is expected to stick at shortstop, Gavin Cecchini — the club’s No. 3 prospect according to MLB Pipeline — could shift over to second base.