Roy Oswalt plays left field in extra-innings loss to Astros

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Who said Roy Oswalt wasn’t going to appear against his former team this week?

Yes, we’ll all remember this one for Oswalt becoming the first Phillies’ pitcher to play a position in the field since Bill Wilson on August 6, 1971, but the game was actually plenty entertaining before that. Cole Hamels and Bud Norris provided quite the duel early on while Jimmy Rollins sent the game into extras in dramatic fashion, slugging a solo home run with two out in the bottom of the ninth inning.

The Braves were busy losing in Colorado again, so the Phillies had a golden opportunity to pull to within 1 1/2 games in the National League East. With the momentum in their favor and a raucous home crowd behind them, this seemed like the sort of game the Phillies were destined to win. They were well on their way to doing so until Ryan Howard struck out on a check swing with two outs and runners on second and third in the bottom of the 14th inning.

Frustration boiled over for Howard, who was still fuming from another check-swing call earlier in the at-bat. After throwing his bat to the ground, he was ejected by third base umpire Scott Barry. Howard then ran down the third base line to give him a piece of his mind. From what I saw, it looked like he swung on neither pitch, but of more importance, it actually seemed like Barry egged him on a bit. While Howard had every right to be upset, his ejection meant that the Phillies were out of position players.

In turn, Raul Ibanez was forced to play first base for the first time since 2005, which meant that Oswalt went out to play left field. It was a truly bizarre sight. And wouldn’t you know it, the ball found him right away. Jason Castro flied out to left for the first out of the 15th inning and Oswalt received a standing ovation from the Citizens Bank faithful. He couldn’t help but smile, but neither could most of us. It’s worth noting that Ibanez had a gem of his own for the final out of the 15th, diving to tag the first base bag to retire the speedy Michael Bourn.

The game entered the 16th at the same 2-2 score, but the Astros finally pulled ahead on two groundballs that didn’t even leave the infield. Facing a 4-2 deficit in the bottom of the inning, the Phillies did their best to stage a late rally. Placido Polanco drew a walk, but it ultimately set-up an intentional walk to Chase Utley which, of course, brought Oswalt to the plate with two outs. The Phillies’ fans tried to will him into a hit, but it was not to be. He was retired on a weak grounder to third base to end it.

The 16-inning affair checked in as the second-longest game of the season, only topped by the 20-inning thriller between the Mets and Cardinals on April 17. Without any rooting interest in last night’s game, I found it endlessly more entertaining.  

Drew Smyly brings youth and experience to Mariners rotation

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PEORIA, Ariz. (AP) Trades don’t surprise Drew Smyly anymore.

At age 27, the Seattle Mariners left-hander has been dealt twice. The first swap sent him from the team that drafted and developed Smyly, the Detroit Tigers, to the Tampa Bay Rays in midseason 2014. That trade landed star pitcher David Price in Detroit.

“I was surprised by that one,” Smyly said.

The most recent trade involving him came in January, when the Rays shipped Smyly to Seattle for three prospects in one of many moves by Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto. Smyly immediately joined the Mariners’ projected starting rotation, and is having fun getting to know his new teammates at spring training by way of manager Scott Servais’ clubhouse icebreakers.

Servais thinks Smyly is a solid fit as a still young yet experienced pitcher.

“One, being where he’s at in his career age-wise and service time, he’s kind of at the point where, put him in the right environment … very good defensive outfield, he’s a fly ball guy, maybe he does step up and take the next step,” Servais said. “Getting out of the American League East certainly should help him, but there’s no guarantees. Our division’s pretty tough.”

Servais suggested that another Arkansas native, ex-big leaguer Cliff Lee, might have helped sell Seattle on Smyly. Lee is a former Mariner and the two share an agent.

Smyly went 7-12 in a career-high 30 starts last season in Tampa, but won five games from July 30 to the end of the season after starting out 2-11. From May 21 to July 18, he lost seven straight starts.

“Pitching’s tough, you know,” Smyly said. “To manipulate the ball, to make it do different things, to put it in the strike zone with hitters that know what they’re doing. … I just had a rough stretch but I show up at the field every day, play catch and work on my craft and you know, that’s going to turn around one day.”

The 32 home runs Smyly surrendered in 2016 figure to be reduced in Seattle’s pitcher-friendly Safeco Field.

“It can only help,” he said. “But it’s still going to be up to me to execute pitches and pitch well.”

Smyly is set to join the U.S. World Baseball Classic team shortly. Before that, he’ll make his first spring training start in the middle of next week.

“It’s an honor to be able to put your country on your chest and play with some of the guys on that team,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it big time.”

NOTES: Servais plans to roll out what figures to be Seattle’s opening day lineup in the spring training opener Saturday against San Diego. It’s OF Jarrod Dyson, SS Jean Segura, 2B Robinson Cano, DH Nelson Cruz, 3B Kyle Seager, OF Mitch Haniger, 1B Dan Vogelbach, C Mike Zunino and OF Leonys Martin. … Servais said Cano and Cruz will play a little more than is typical for early spring games, as the two will depart for the World Baseball Classic in early March. … LHP Ariel Miranda will start Saturday, then RHP Chris Heston Sunday, RHP Yovani Gallardo on Monday and ace Felix Hernandez on Tuesday.

Mitt Romney’s sons are trying to buy a stake in the Yankees

TAMPA, FL - AUGUST 30:  Tagg Romney son of Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney gives an interview during the final day of the Republican National Convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on August 30, 2012 in Tampa, Florida. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was nominated as the Republican presidential candidate during the RNC which will conclude today.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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Mitt Romney built his professional life in Massachusetts and was once the governor of the state. As such, it is not surprising that he has long identified as a Red Sox fan. So this has to be troubling to him from a fan’s perspective. From Jon Heyman:

The Romney family is bidding to buy a small stake in the Yankees months after their try for the Marlins stalled. If the deal goes through, it is expected to be $25 million to $30 million per percentage point and thought to be interested in one or two percentage points. The Yankees are valued around $3 billion or more.

The effort is being led by Mitt’s son Tagg, one of his brothers and their business partners. Mitt’s spokesman tells Jon Heyman that he has nothing to do with it personally. Tagg Romney is reported to have been planning a bid for controlling interest in the Marlins, but that has fallen through.

I find this interesting insofar as the M.O. for the Steinbrenners has, for years, been to buy out minority shareholders in the Yankees, not seek more. Indeed, when George Steinbrenner bought the Yankees back in 1973 he held just a bare controlling interest and there were a ton of silent partners, most of which were back in Ohio and knew Steinbrenner from his shipping business. I’ve personally gotten to know some of them over the years as there are a handful of them in Columbus and I crossed paths with them in my legal career. They have almost all been bought out in the past couple of decades. They still get season tickets and World Series rings and stuff. You can tell them by their personalized Yankees plates and the fact that, within the first ten minutes of meeting them, they will tell you that they once owned a piece of the Yankees but got pushed out.

In light of all of that it’s interesting that the Steinbrenners are once again accepting bids for small stakes in the team. Especially from someone whose interest in controlling the Marlins suggests that they do not consider it to be a mere vanity investment. Makes me wonder what the Steinbrenners’ long term plans are.