Top prospect Pedro Alvarez could join Pirates as soon as tomorrow

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UPDATE: Sure enough, Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com reports that the Pirates will up Alvarez in time for Wednesday’s game.
Within the past three weeks the Pirates have called up prospects Neil Walker, Jose Tabata, and Brad Lincoln, and general manager Neil Huntington has indicated that Pedro Alvarez could join them in Pittsburgh as soon as this week. In fact, Conlin Dunlap of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette reports that Alvarez could be promoted as soon as tomorrow.
Alvarez was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2008 draft and has played exclusively third base in the minors, so the clock is ticking on Andy LaRoche’s days as a starter. LaRoche was once a top prospect himself, but his stock has steadily declined and he’s now 26 years old with a measly .231 AVG/.312 OBP/.347 SLG line in 1,148 plate appearances.
Had LaRoche shown more promise this year the Pirates might be less inclined to push Alvarez to the majors until the second half, but LaRoche is dangerously close to flat-out bust territory and Alvarez is crushing Triple-A pitching to the tune of .285/.370/.549. That mark in 64 games at Triple-A is essentially identical to his .288/.379/.535 line in 126 games between Single-A and Double-A last season, with Alvarez averaging 31 homers and 37 doubles per 500 at-bats.
High strikeout rates and so-so batting averages are concerns, but Alvarez has shown good plate discipline along with the excellent power and his left-handed bat should eventually slot in the middle of Pittsburgh’s lineup. Not only do the Pirates rank second-worst in the league with just 45 homers in 63 games this season, they haven’t had a 35-homer hitter since Jason Bay in 2006.

Brett Anderson and Mike Montgomery could share Cubs’ rotation spot in 2017

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 01:  Mike Montgomery #38 of the Chicago Cubs throws a pitch during the seventh inning against the Cleveland Indians in Game Six of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on November 1, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon hasn’t selected a fifth starter for his 2017 rotation yet, but told reporters that he could envision left-handers Brett Anderson and Mike Montgomery sharing the spot throughout the year. Neither pitcher was stretched out to the full 200-inning threshold last year, Maddon added, and suggested that the two could alternate innings out of the rotation and bullpen as needed (via MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat).

Anderson, 29, was acquired by the Cubs in January on a $3.5 million deal. He’s coming off a rough 2016, during which he underwent back surgery and missed all but 11 1/3 innings of his last season with the Dodgers. His last full, healthy year in the majors yielded a 3.69 ERA, 2.3 BB/9 and 5.8 SO/9 over 180 1/3 innings with Los Angeles in 2015.

Montgomery, meanwhile, is vying for a rotation spot after pitching almost exclusively from the bullpen during the second half of the Cubs’ 2016 run. The 27-year-old lefty put up a 2.82 ERA, 4.7 BB/9 and 8.9 SO/9 over 38 1/3 innings for Chicago last year, returning in the postseason to post a 3.14 ERA during the Cubs’ championship finish.

Maddon also mentioned the possibility of throwing a sixth starter into the mix, which would help prevent his other starters from getting overworked too early in the year. Either way, Anderson and Montgomery are expected to get a lot of looks early in spring training as rotation spots are finalized in the weeks leading up to Opening Day.

Michael Bourn to miss four weeks with a broken finger

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - SEPTEMBER 6:  Michael Bourn #1 of the Baltimore Orioles looks out of the dugout as he waits to get on deck to bat during the sixth inning of a game against the Tampa Bay Rays on September 6, 2016 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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Orioles’ center fielder Michael Bourn is expected to be sidelined for four weeks while he rehabs a broken ring finger on his right hand, according to reports from the Baltimore Sun’s Peter Schmuck. Bourn broke the finger while playing catch with a football after a spring training workout.

The veteran outfielder re-signed with the club earlier this week on a minor league deal and was prepared to compete for a bench role this season. He’s in line to receive a $2 million salary if he makes the major league roster and can make an additional $3.5 million in incentives based on a set number of plate appearances. Now, however, his chances of cracking the roster out of spring training look considerably diminished, as his current timetable gives him an approximate return date of March 25 if all goes well.

Bourn had an impressive, if short-lived run with the Orioles following his trade to Baltimore last August, batting .283/.358/.435 with two home runs and a .793 OPS in 55 PA. While still somewhat removed from the totals that brought him an All-Star nod with the Braves in 2012, his defensive chops should give the Orioles some depth in center once he’s healthy again.