Must-click link: Jonah Keri on the Rangers and pitching injuries

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Jonah Keri has a long, fascinating piece up today about the Texas Rangers and their approach to pitching and pitcher injury prevention. It’s not some analysis piece from afar: it’s based on his original
reporting and research conducted over the past year, and it’s a
must-read.

The short version: the Rangers have largely rejected the current dogma about babying pitchers and limiting their workload. Not that they’ve gone back to the 60s, mind you. Rather, they’ve started from scratch, thinking about what it really takes to pitch in the Texas heat and focus on the kinds of training and drills that make success in that environment — and in the modern offensive environment — more likely. Sprints instead of distance running. Throwing batting practice between starts. Figuring out each pitcher’s fatigue point rather than mindlessly deciding that everyone wears out at 100 pitches.

It’s probably too early to tell how successful these methods will ultimately be. My personal sense is that some pitchers will break no matter how much you baby them and others will last no matter how hard you work them because that’s just the way genes roll.  But as Keri notes, the Rangers aren’t content to treat pitcher usage like it was religion or something (“and thou shalt only throw 100 pitchers lest ye be damned”). They’re using reason and observation and are trying new things.

Clear some time this afternoon and give Jonah’s piece a read.

Braves ink Blaine Boyer to a minor league deal

DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 2:  Relief pitcher Blaine Boyer #48 of the Milwaukee Brewers delivers to home plate during the seventh inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on October 2, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
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The Braves have signed reliever Blaine Boyer to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports. Bowman adds that the right-hander has a “good chance” to make the Braves’ bullpen out of spring training.

Boyer, 35, spent the past season with the Brewers, finishing with a 3.95 ERA and a 26/17 K/BB ratio in 66 innings.

Boyer, of course, started his professional baseball career with the Braves as they selected him in the third round of the 2000 draft. Since the Braves traded him in 2009, Boyer has pitched for the Cardinals, Diamondbacks, Mets, Padres, and Twins along with the Brewers.

Report: Rays nearing a deal with Shawn Tolleson

ST. LOUIS, MO - JUNE 18: Reliever Shawn Tolleson #37 of the Texas Rangers pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals in the eighth inning at Busch Stadium on June 18, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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Update (6:48 PM EST): Topkin reports the contract will be of the major league variety.

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Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that the Rays and free agent reliever Shawn Tolleson are close to finalizing a contract.

Tolleson, who turns 29 years old on Thursday, had an ugly 2016 season, finishing with a 7.68 ERA and a 29/10 K/BB ratio in 36 1/3 innings. He was one of the Rangers’ best relievers in the two seasons prior to that, however, which included saving 35 games in 2015.