UPDATE: Phils irk Mets en route to 11th straight win

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UPDATE: Here’s Chase Utley’s response, according to Todd Zolecki of MLB.com. It’s pretty much what you would expect him to say.

“I have never ever attempted to break up a double play with the intent
to injure someone,” he told MLB.com. “I understand what it’s like to be
taken out. I’ve been kicked, kneed, elbowed, spiked and even flipped
upside down. And as much as I might not have liked it at the time, I
understand that it’s all part of being a Major League second baseman.
Second basemen have had to deal with this for over 100 years. And with
that said, we as a team play the game hard and play it to win. That is
not going to change.”

11:56 AM: The Phillies continue to be the hottest team on the planet. They defeated the Mets 3-2 last night to extend their season-high winning streak to 11 games and reduce their magic number to two. And consistent with when these two teams usually meet up, it didn’t come without a little bit of bad blood.

After the game, a number of Mets told Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com that they were irked by Chase Utley’s takeout slide of Ruben Tejada during a double play in the fifth inning. You can watch the play in question here and judge for yourself, but here’s what David Wright had to say about the incident.

“You can ask him. He’s a second baseman. If he wants guys sliding like
that into him, then it’s perfectly fine. He knows how to play the game.
If he doesn’t mind guys coming in like that when he’s turning a double
play, then we don’t have any problem with it. It’s a legal slide. It’s
within the rules. But somebody is going to get hurt. So I guess that’s a
better question for him.”

“Chase, he plays the game hard. He plays the game passionately. But
there’s a thin line between going out there and playing the game hard
and going out there trying to get somebody hurt. That’s a thin line.
Nobody is going to push us around. We’re going to have our teammate’s
back. I think cooler heads prevailed, but we’ve got to let them know
that over on our side we didn’t appreciate it and that we’re going to go
out there and have our teammates’ backs. I think our bench let him
know. As far as I’m concerned, it’s done. We move on. We’ll reevaluate
the way we go into second base.”

For what it’s worth, Tejada didn’t have any issue with the slide, though it’s nice for Wright to say something that didn’t come out of a cliche generator. In truth, the Mets should probably be more concerned with the very real possibility that the Phillies will clinch their fourth straight NL East crown right in front of them this weekend. The best way to fight back would be to, you know, actually win some baseball games.

Report: Teams reluctant to gamble on Cliff Lee

Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cliff Lee throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park Thursday, July 31, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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In Saturday’s column for the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo suggests that free agent Cliff Lee is seeking a guaranteed major league deal between $6 and $8 million plus incentives. That is turning some otherwise interested teams away, as the lefty is still recovering from a torn flexor tendon in his left elbow. Lee hasn’t pitched since July 31, 2014.

Last month, Lee’s agent Darek Braunecker said the pitcher would need “a perfect fit” to pitch in 2016. He also noted that Lee has begun a full offseason throwing program.

In his most recent season, Lee compiled a 3.65 ERA with 72 strikeouts and 12 walks in 81 1/3 innings for the Phillies. The Phillies had signed him to a five-year, $120 million contract in December 2010 but declined a club option for the 2016 season, instead buying him out for $12.5 million.

Orioles reconsidering signing Yovani Gallardo

Yovani Gallardo
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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In an article for MASN on Friday, Steve Melewski noted that the Orioles were reluctant to forfeit their first round draft pick (14th overall) in order to sign free agent starter Yovani Gallardo. The club is now reconsidering its stance and rechecking the right-handers medicals, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.

Gallardo, who turns 30 on February 27, posted a 3.42 ERA with 121 strikeouts and 68 walks over 184 1/3 innings for the Rangers last season. The Rangers had acquired him in a trade with the Brewers, sending Luis Sardinas, Corey Knebel, and minor leaguer Marcos Diplan to Milwaukee.

Gallardo has posted an ERA below 4.00 in six of his last seven seasons. He remains unsigned into February, however, because his strikeout rate has rapidly decreased with each year since 2012. Per FanGraphs, that rate was 23.7 percent in 2012, then went to 18.6 percent, 17.9 percent, and 15.3 percent progressively. Some of that may have to do with diminishing fastball velocity, as Gallardo’s 90.4 MPH average marked a career low among his eight full seasons with at least 100 innings pitched.

The Orioles lost starter Wei-Yin Chen, who signed with the Marlins, and the back end of their rotation is highly speculative with Kevin Gausman, Mike Wright, Odrisamer Despaigne, and Tyler Wilson. Adding a veteran like Gallardo, even if he is apparently declining, may be stabilizing.

Freddy Garcia is calling it a career

Screenshot 2016-02-07 at 10.16.43 AM
Elsa/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez passes along word from the Dominican Republic that right-hander Freddy Garcia will hang up his cleats for good after Sunday’s Caribbean Series championship game.

Garcia will start that game for the Tigres de Aragua out of Venezuela. He’s taking on Mexico’s Venados de Mazatlan.

“Venezuelan fans are expecting something good from Freddy and so is everybody,” said Tigres de Aragua manager Eddie Perez, who also serves as the bullpen coach for the Atlanta Braves. “Knowing that it’s his last game is going to make it very special. We all hope he pitches a really good game so he can retire in a good way and bring the title for Venezuela. Everybody who is rooting for Venezuela expects him to do well.”

Garcia’s last major league game was in the 2013 postseason. The 39-year-0ld will finish with a 4.15 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 6.4 K/9 in 2,264 career regular-season innings. He had a 3.26 ERA in 11 playoff starts, winning a World Series title with the White Sox in 2005.

Video: 2016 will be a season to remember

Carlos+Correa+Houston+Astros+v+Arizona+Diamondbacks+Ctyu5RiU3SWl
Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com put together this very cool video montage reviewing the 2015 season and setting us up for what should be a wild 2016. Young stars, veterans chasing milestones, unpredictable divisional races.

It’s so close to spring training. Let’s do this.