UPDATE: Nats defeat Padres, protest dropped

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UPDATE: Yep, didn’t matter. The Nationals defeated the Padres 5-3 on Friday night. Nationals manager Jim Riggleman told Corey Brock of MLB.com that he sympathized with Bud Black’s mistake:

“It’s my nightmare, Casey Stengel’s nightmare, it’s the future managers
of the world’s nightmare. I know I look at it 10 times. I’ve had our
coaches look over it, over and over,” Riggleman said. “I shouldn’t speak
for Buddy. He is first-class. He brought to the attention of the
umpire. … Just for the sake of our ballclub. We protested.”

Friday, 11:46 PM: Here’s something you see just about never. According to Ben Goessling of MASNSports.com, the Nationals played Friday night’s game under protest because the Padres listed Adam
Russell as the starting pitcher on the lineup card instead
of Clayton Richard.

Seriously. The same Adam Russell that was sent to minor leagues earlier in the day. The same Adam Russell that has 43 major league appearances, but no starts. I could understand Bud Black writing Kevin Correia, maybe Jake Peavy if he was feeling nostalgic, but Russell? Crazy.

Anyway, I don’t have a rulebook in front of me, but Goessling lays out the grounds of the Nationals’ protest like this:

The official MLB rules that govern what happened are Nos. 3.05 and 4.01;
3.05 says an improper pitcher becomes legal if he is permitted to
pitch, which is why the Nationals had to protest before Richard threw
his first pitch on Friday night. But rule 4.01 says teams should not be
“trapped” by a mistake that was obvious to everyone and can be
corrected
.

Protests happen all the time — and this one was accepted by the umpires — but one hasn’t been upheld since 1986 when it was determined that a game between the Pirates and Cardinals was improperly called due to rain. In the end, it seems like a pretty honest mistake. And if the Nationals win, which they are doing right now, 4-2 in the 8th, it won’t matter.

Athletics trade Billy Burns to the Royals for Brett Eibner

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - MAY 13: Billy Burns #1 of the Oakland Athletics waits on deck to bat during the fourth inning of a game against the Tampa Bay Rays on May 13, 2016 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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The Athletics and Royals swapped outfielders on Saturday. The Athletics sent Billy Burns to Kansas City and the Royals sent Brett Eibner to Oakland.

Burns, 26, doesn’t provide much in the way of offense, but he runs the bases well and plays solid defense. He was hitting .234/.270/.303 with 11 doubles, four triples, and 14 stolen bases in 274 plate appearances.

Eibner, 27, was batting .231/.286/.423 with three home runs and 10 RBI in 85 plate appearances. He has spent most of the season with Triple-A Omaha, where he’s put up a .902 OPS in 219 PA. Eibner played the outfield corners in the majors, but racked up a ton of time playing center in the minors, so his versatility will be valuable to the A’s.

Burns will become eligible for arbitration for the first time after the 2017 season while Eibner has hardly accrued any service time, which might explain part of the motivation behind the trade for the small-market Athletics.

Nationals acquire closer Mark Melancon from the Pirates

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 20:  Mark Melancon #35 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches during the ninth inning against the Colorado Rockies on May 20, 2016 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
Joe Sargent/Getty Images
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The Nationals announced on Saturday afternoon that the club acquired closer Mark Melancon from the Pirates in exchange for reliever Felipe Rivero and minor league pitcher Taylor Hearn.

Melancon, 31, put together another solid season for the Pirates, leaving the club with 30 saves, a 1.51 ERA, and a 38/9 K/BB ratio in 41 2/3 innings. He led the majors last season with 51 saves and has a 1.80 ERA since joining the Pirates in 2013. Melancon is earning $9.65 million this season and can become eligible for free agency after the season.

With Melancon out of the picture, the Pirates intend to have Tony Watson take over the closer’s role.

Rivero, 25, has handled the seventh and eighth innings for the Nationals this season, compiling a 4.53 ERA and a 53/15 K/BB ratio in 49 2/3 innings. He’s just shy of one year of service time, so the Pirates will have control of him for a long time.

Hearn, 21, was rated the Nationals’ 27th-best prospect by MLB Pipeline. He was originally drafted by the Pirates in the 22nd round of the 2012 draft but he didn’t sign and ended up going back to college. The Nationals took him in the fifth round of last year’s draft. This season, between rookie ball and Single-A Hagerstown, Hearn put up a 2.79 ERA and a 39/13 K/BB ratio in 29 innings. He’s a long way away from the majors, so he’s essentially a lottery ticket for the Pirates.

The Nationals needed an upgrade at closer as Jonathan Papelbon has struggled this season. The right-hander has allowed runs in each of his last three appearances, ballooning his ERA up to 4.41 with a 30/13 K/BB ratio in 32 2/3 innings. It will be interesting to see how Papelbon, who has never made a habit of letting his feelings go unspoken, handles a demotion to the eighth inning.