First-year manager Brad Mills quietly has Astros playing well

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Brad Mills’ managerial career got off to a rough start, as the Astros stumbled out of the gates with eight straight losses, had the majors’ worst record through two months at 17-34, and began trading away veterans a short time later.
However, since the calendar flipped to June the Astros have quietly gone 50-39 for the fourth-best record in the league behind only the Phillies, Giants, and Braves.
During that stretch Hunter Pence (.299/.351/.509) and Chris Johnson (.332/.364/.508) have led the offense, Brett Myers (2.75 ERA in 19 starts) and Wandy Rodriguez (2.99 ERA in 18 starts) have carried the rotation, and the bullpen has been shored up with Brandon Lyon closing and Wilton Lopez setting him up.
They’ll still need a very strong finish to avoid their third losing season in the past four years, but for over three months now the Astros have been playing much better than anyone could have possibly expected and even the future looks somewhat brighter thanks to general manager Ed Wade finally deciding it was time to do a full-scale rebuilding effort.

Angels sign Eric Young, Jr. to a minor league contract

ATLANTA, GA - APRIL 11:  Eric Young Jr. #4 of the Atlanta Braves slides safely into third base on a RBI triple in the fifth inning against the New York Mets during the Braves opening series at Turner Field on April 11, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia.  Andrelton Simmons #19 scored on the triple.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times reports that the Angels have inked outfielder Eric Young, Jr. to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.

Young, 31, played in just six games and logged one plate appearance in the majors this past season with the Yankees. He last played regularly in 2014. While Young doesn’t do much with the bat, he could provide value as a pinch-runner. He also offers versatility, having played all three outfield positions along with second base.

The Angels have Ben Revere as their fourth outfielder and Jefry Marte behind him, so Young would need to have a very impressive showing in spring training to find a spot on the Angels’ roster.

Report: Blue Jays close to a deal with Jarrod Saltalamacchia

TORONTO, CANADA - JULY 9: Jarrod Saltalamacchia #39 of the Detroit Tigers hits an RBI single in the fourth inning during MLB game action against the Toronto Blue Jays on July 9, 2016 at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
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Update (5:20 PM EST): It’s a minor league contract, per Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. If he makes the major league roster, Saltalamacchia will earn $1.25 million with an additional $250,000 available through incentives.

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The Blue Jays are close to a deal with free agent catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Shi Davidi of Sportsnet is reporting.

Saltalamacchia, 31, hit a meager .171/.284/.346 with 12 home runs and 38 RBI in 292 plate appearances with the Tigers this past season. With Russell Martin getting regular playing time behind the plate, Saltalamacchia will serve as his understudy, pushing A.J. Jimenez and Juan Graterol down on the depth chart.

The veteran catcher isn’t far removed from being a productive backstop. He had an .805 OPS in 70 games with the Diamondbacks in 2015 and also helped the Red Sox win the World Series in 2013 with an .804 OPS in 121 games.