Former Astros slugger Jeff Bagwell will begin his tenure as the club’s hitting coach on Thursday night, as Houston opens the second half of the 2010 season with a series against the Pirates. Alyson Footer, who works for the team as senior director of social media, passes along this photo.
Bagwell looks like he could strap up the cleats and hit a few out of Pittsburgh’s PNC Park tonight, but that is not his mission. The 42-year-old will try his best to help the Astros climb out of Major League Baseball’s offensive cellar.
Entering the All-Star break, the Astros ranked 28th in the league in runs scored, 29th in batting average, 29th in slugging percentage and tied for dead last in home runs with 57. Bagwell, of course, was known for hitting dingers during his 15-year professional career and will try to pass along some knowledge.
Of course, it can be debated whether or not a hitting coach has any impact on the performance of athletes who have been playing the game at the highest level for years. Richard Justice of the Houston Chronicle, for one, thinks the Bagwell hire was all part of a lame public relations ploy and that former batting coach Sean Berry should have never been dumped from his post.
With the 2017 World Baseball Classic around the corner, Team Israel has reportedly reached out to Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, per MLB Network’s Jon Morosi. Tournament rules stipulate that a player’s roster eligibility can be achieved in one of several ways: they were born in the country in question or hold citizenship/permanent legal residence there (or are simply capable of qualifying for citizenship), or one of their parents was born in the country or holds citizenship/permanent legal residence there.
For Kipnis, it’s the latter. Kipnis’ father, Mark Kipnis, is Jewish. That gives Kipnis the status he needs to suit up for Team Israel, despite the fact that he is a practicing Roman Catholic. He has yet to confirm or deny his participation in the competition.
Fifteen players have confirmed for Team Israel so far, including Mets’ infielder/outfielder Ty Kelly and free agents Sam Fuld, Nate Freiman, Jason Marquis and Jeremy Bleich. Per MLB.com’s Chad Thornburg, eight minor leaguers will also appear for the team. Like Kipnis, at least three other major leaguers are eligible for Team Israel’s roster but have yet to accept or decline involvement in the WBC: Dodgers center fielder Joc Pederson, Mariners infielder/outfielder Danny Valencia and free agent left-hander Craig Breslow.
Free agent first baseman James Loney has reportedly signed a minor league deal with the Rangers, per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. The deal includes an invite to spring training and a $1 million salary if he makes the major league roster in 2017.
Loney picked up a one-year stint and starting role with the Mets in 2016, slashing .265/.307/.397 with nine home runs in 336 PA. While his numbers were down a hair from the .280/.322/.357 batting line he produced with the Rays in 2015, he provided the Mets with a necessary, if underwhelming upgrade over an injured Lucas Duda through most of the season.
The 32-year-old infielder is expected to have some competition at first base, with at least five other candidates in the mix: Jurickson Profar, Ronald Guzman, Ryan Rua, Joey Gallo and Josh Hamilton. Rumor has it that the team is planning on platooning Rua and Profar in 2017, barring any impressive breakouts or injuries during spring training, though Loney could still provide the club with some veteran depth and a decent left-handed bat off the bench.