Pirates designate Akinori Iwamura for assignment

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To make room for top prospect Pedro Alvarez, the Pirates on Wednesday designated big offseason acquisition Akinori Iwamura for assignment.
The Pirates picked up Iwamura from the Rays in November for reliever Jesse Chavez. But more important than the talent surrendered for him — Chavez was later dealt to Atlanta for Rafael Soriano and is now back in Triple-A — was that Pittsburgh took on a $4.85 million commitment in order to solidify their second-base situation.
It seemed like a safe enough play, if not the wisest way for a likely fifth- or sixth-place team to spend money. Iwamura, 31, was remarkably consistent in his three seasons with Tampa Bay, finishing with OPSs of 770, 729 and 745. He also proved to be an above average defender at second after moving off the hot corner to make room for Evan Longoria.
Iwamura, though, was a disaster for the Pirates, hitting just .182/.292/.267 in 165 at-bats. Primarily a leadoff man, he had scored just 18 runs all season. He had driven in nine.
Given his success in the other league and his ability to play two infield positions pretty well, Iwamura shouldn’t have to wait long to find work after clearing waivers. The Twins would be an obvious fit, given their injury problems and their poor production from third base. The Tigers, Angels, Yankees, A’s, Blue Jays and White Sox are other possibilities. Most would probably want him to head to Triple-A for a few weeks to find his swing, but it’s possible some team would give him a chance right away.

Yordano Ventura exits game with back tightness

DETROIT, MI - SEPTEMBER 24: Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals pitches against the Detroit Tigers during the first inning at Comerica Park on September 24, 2016 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)
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Royals’ right-hander Yordano Ventura was pulled in the fifth inning of Saturday’s matinee against the Tigers with an apparent injury. After throwing four pitches to start the fifth and serving up a Justin Upton double, Ventura was visited on the mound by head trainer Nick Kenney. Per Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star, he’s day-to-day with back spasms and lower back tightness.

It’s just another bump in the road for the defending champions, who currently sit 6.5 games back of a postseason spot with seven left to play. Through 176 innings in 2016, Ventura posted a 4.35 ERA and 1.2 fWAR, a considerable downgrade from the 4.08 ERA and 2.7 fWAR he contributed during last season’s championship year despite a moderate bounce-back in the second half.

Prior to his early exit from Saturday’s game, Ventura went four innings for the Royals, giving up three runs on 10 hits and two walks and striking out six of 24 batters faced.

Cubs are seeking a court order against unlicensed vendors

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If you’re looking to rep the red and royal blue this October, you best get your gear inside the ballpark. According to Lauren Zumbach of the Chicago Tribune, the Cubs have sought a court order that would allow them to seize unauthorized merchandise being hawked outside of Wrigley Field. That includes shirts with taglines like “Just One Before I Die” and apparel depicting a blue flag with a white “W.”

[The Cubs] received a trademark for “W” flags, but a trademark for use on apparel is pending. Deeming a letter of the alphabet worthy of a trademark might seem like a stretch, but around Wrigley, everyone knows what that particular W in that particular color combination means, [intellectual property attorney Douglas Masters] said.

While seven vendors have been named in the suit, the Cubs have a list of 30 more whom they suspect of trademark infringement, including retailers who primarily operate online.

Back in 2013, the Cubs ran into a similar issue when a fan dressed as alternative mascot Billy the Cub and made multiple appearances on game days outside the park. After six years in the role, Billy the Cub was ordered to cease and desist his ballpark activities by the team.

This time, however, Billy’s tip jar pales in comparison to the revenue unauthorized sellers stand to reap over the next two months. With the playoffs just around the corner and playoff merchandise sales in full swing, quashing the competition (both on the field and off) will be top priority in weeks to come.

The club’s full complaint can be found here.