Report: Mariners to fire professional scouting director over Josh Lueke controversy

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Jack Zduriencik hired Carmen Fusco as the Mariners’ professional scouting director soon after he took over as general manager two offseasons ago, but Seattle’s local NBC television affiliate KING5 reports that Fusco will be let go in the wake of the controversy surrounding the team’s acquisition of prospect Josh Lueke.
Lueke missed most of last season after being charged with rape and sodomy, eventually pleading guilty to lesser charges and serving 40 days in jail, but some Mariners decision-makers–and specifically team president Chuck Armstrong–said they didn’t know of his history when they got him from the Rangers as part of the haul for Cliff Lee.
And then later there were contradictory reports about who did or didn’t know about Lueke’s history, and when they did or didn’t know. It was a big mess, and now apparently Fusco has been made the fall guy. Or one of the fall guys, at least.
“Mariners fire scouting director” is an attention-grabbing headline, but as Jason Churchill of Prospect Insider and ESPN.com notes Fusco was the professional scouting director, which is very much different than the amateur scouting director. Tom McNamara remains in the role people typically associate with the scouting director title, which is to say he’s in charge of the draft and minors while Fusco ran the big-league scouting operation.
Either way, Fusco is reportedly out of a job after 35 years in baseball and Zduriencik is burning through scapegoats pretty quickly.

Video: Bryce Harper crushes a home run to the Chase Field concourse

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Aaron Judge may be the talk of the town right now, but let’s not forget some of Major League Baseball’s more established sluggers. Take the Nationals’ Bryce Harper, for instance, who jumped on a full count during the first inning of Saturday’s game and postmarked the ball to the center field concourse in Chase Field.

Harper’s mammoth hit was the first career home run allowed by Diamondbacks’ rookie Anthony Banda. Banda quickly recovered with an inning-ending strikeout to Ryan Zimmerman, but was booted from his big league debut after Harper, Zimmerman and Anthony Rendon combined for a three-run spread in the sixth.

The first-inning homer also served another purpose: it extended Harper’s hitting streak to 15 games, the longest current streak in MLB this season. He’ll need four more games to tie the 19-game streak Royals’ infielder/outfielder Whit Merrifield established back in June.

The Nationals currently lead the Diamondbacks 4-2 in the bottom of the seventh inning.

Chi Chi Gonzalez to undergo Tommy John surgery

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Rangers’ right-hander Chi Chi Gonzalez is slated for Tommy John surgery, according to a report by Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. Gonzalez was placed on the 60-day disabled list back in early April with a partial UCL tear and was working towards a throwing program before getting sidelined with more elbow pain. He’s expected to miss the entirety of the 2018 season while recovering from the surgery.

This is the second straight season that has been derailed for Gonzalez due to injury. The 25-year-old starter pitched just 10 1/3 innings in 2016 after recovering from a torn UCL, and was optioned to Triple-A Round Rock to finish out the year after compiling an 8.71 ERA, 7.8 BB/9 and 6.1 SO/9 in three starts with the club. He showed more promise in Triple-A with a 4.70 ERA, 2.9 BB/9 and 5.9 SO/9 through 24 starts and 138 innings.

It’s a tough blow for the Rangers, who have seen Gonzalez healthy in just one major league season to date. General manager Jon Daniels told reporters that a recent MRI showed signs of weakening in the ligament, which disrupted the team’s plans to have the right-hander stick to a six- to eight-week recovery timetable after getting a platelet-rich plasma injection (via Stefan Stevenson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram). The surgery is expected to take place next week and will put Gonzalez’s earliest return date sometime in September 2018.