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.  

Angels ink Javy Guerra to minor league deal

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Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times reports that the Angels have agreed to terms on a minor league contract with right-handed reliever Javy Guerra. The deal includes an invitation to major league spring training.

Guerra was suspended 50 games by Major League Baseball last July after testing positive for a drug of abuse. That suspension is now over, though Guerra is probably ticketed for the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate to begin the 2016 season.

The 30-year-old made just three major league appearances in 2015 for the White Sox before getting outrighted off Chicago’s 40-man roster. He does own a 2.87 ERA in 150 1/3 career innings, but it has come with bouts of inconsistency and unreliability.

Maybe he can get everything going in the right direction with Anaheim.

Braves sign reliever Carlos Torres

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As first reported by Bill Shanks of Fox Sports 1670, the Braves have signed right-handed reliever Carlos Torres to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.

Torres was waived by the Mets in January, somewhat surprisingly, and elected to become a free agent. The 33-year-old ultimately chose Atlanta, where he should have a good shot at an Opening Day roster out of spring training with the rapidly-rebuilding Braves.

Torres posted an ugly 4.68 ERA in 57 2/3 innings last season for the Mets, but he registered a gorgeous 3.06 ERA and 96 strikeouts across 97 innings in 2014.

If he gets off to a good start in 2016, he could become valuable trade bait.

Blue Jays will have a closer competition this spring

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Roberto Osuna became the youngest pitcher to ever play for the Blue Jays last season at age 20 and he rose to the challenge with a 2.58 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, and 75/16 K/BB ratio in 69 2/3 frames. Osuna eventually took over as Toronto’s closer, earning 20 regular-season saves and one in the American League Division Series — a five-out effort in Game 5 to close out the visiting Rangers.

But the Jays upgraded the back end of their bullpen this winter, acquiring Drew Storen from the Nationals in early January for speedy outfielder Ben Revere. Jesse Chavez was also brought to Toronto in a trade with the A’s.

Storen has more experience at closer than Osuna, and Storen struggled when the Nationals tried to put him in a setup role. Storen, in his final year of salary arbitration, also gets paid much more. He’s probably going to enter spring training as the favorite for the Jays’ ninth-inning gig, but there will be a competition …

Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins told Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca on Wednesday that he doesn’t expect the team to choose between Osuna or Storen until midway through spring training, if not later.

There’s been talk of making Osuna a starter, so add that wrinkle.

Storen, 28, boasts 95 career major league saves.

Orioles plotting late-offseason push? Gallardo, Fowler, Alvarez, Bruce in consideration

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Baltimore’s front office appears to be lining up a run of potential roster additions leading into the beginning of spring training.

We’ve already passed along the reports suggesting they are close to a three-year deal with free agent starter Yovani Gallardo, but now FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal adds that free agent outfielder Dexter Fowler could be next on the Orioles’ target list. It they get those two deals done, the O’s could then chase free agent slugger Pedro Alvarez.

Rosenthal says the Orioles are even eyeing Jay Bruce of the Reds, though the FOX reporter hears the O’s might not have the prospects to pull off that kind of trade.

The focus for the Orioles out of the gate this winter was re-signing Matt Wieters and Chris Davis. Wieters accepted his one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer in November and Davis was locked up to a seven-year, $161 million contract in mid-January.

Now the O’s are spending a little leftover cash on late-offseason additions to improve their position in what should be a tight 2016 American League East race.