Cito Gaston says goodbye to Toronto

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And Toronto says goodbye to Cito, who will finish the season on the road, after which he’s all done as the Jays manager.

It was a tenure — interrupted by several years off — that is one of the more underrated in the game.  Gaston won two world championships with the Jays. It was a talented bunch that won those titles you say? Most definitely. But Bobby Cox had some talented teams in Toronto — and Atlanta for that matter — and never won a ring with the Jays (and only one with the Braves).  Lots of talented teams fail to win the series. Gaston deserves more credit for those titles than he gets.

And he deserves credit for more than just winning. He kept things on a pretty even keel while doing so too. After all, Jack Morris, Roberto Alomar, Rickey Henderson and Tony Fernandez weren’t the easiest guys to get along with at times, and unless I’m just blanking here, Gaston’s clubhouses always seemed to be pretty harmonious places. As I’ve written many times before, that matters. Probably more than people who talk about managers will admit.  He was a mentor to many, most notably Dusty Baker, who may not have made it out of the minor leagues without Gaston looking out for him, and to this day calls him an inspiration as both a manager and a man.

Is he a Hall of Fame manager?  Not to slight him, but I’m not inclined to think so. He is currently 891-836, which translates to a .516 winning percentage. That’s nice, as are the titles, but the twelve seasons he took off between stints as the Jays’ manager gives him far fewer games in the bigs than most Hall of Fame managers have. It’s probably also worth noting that, more often than not, his teams underperformed their Pythagorean record, though whether that’s luck of Cito or whatever is hard to say.  He gets trailblazer points for being the first black man to manage a World Series winner. Your mileage may vary regarding how significant that is for a Hall of Fame case.

But let us not make perfect the enemy of the good here. Gaston may not get the props guys like Tony La Russa, Joe Torre and Bobby Cox get, but he’s near the head of the class for his era.  As the managerial revolving door the Blue Jays employed between 1997 and 2009 suggests, replacing him won’t be easy.  And fans — not just Jays fans — should appreciate the guy while he still has a couple of games left.

Seung-Hwan Oh finally receives his work visa, will be on time for Cardinals camp

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At last check, new Cardinals reliever Seung-Hwan Oh was still awaiting a work visa from the United States Embassy in South Korea and there was some worry that he might not be able to arrive on time to spring training in Jupiter, Florida.

But that is now officially a non-story.

Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Oh has recieved his work visa and is expected to report to Cardinals camp next week along with the rest of the club’s pitchers and catchers. Oh might even show up a bit earlier than the Cardinals originally¬†asked him to, per Goold.

Oh saved 357 games in 11 seasons between Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball and the Korea Baseball Organization before inking a one-year contract with St. Louis this winter. He also registered a stellar 1.81 ERA and 772 strikeouts across 646 total innings in Asia, earning the nickname “The Final Boss.”

Oh is expected to work in a setup role this year for Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal.

John Lamb had back surgery in December, will likely get off to late start in 2016

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John Lamb was part of the Reds’ return package in last July’s Johnny Cueto trade and he had a strong showing at the Triple-A level in 2015. But the young left-hander posted a 5.80 ERA in a 10-start cup of coffee with Cincinnati late last season — his first 10 appearances as a major leaguer — and now comes word from MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon that Lamb will probably have to get off to a late start in 2016.

Lamb underwent surgery in December to repair a herniated disc in his back — a surgery that went unreported by the Reds until Tuesday afternoon. Reds manager Bryan Price acknowledged on MLB Network that Lamb is behind the team’s other starting pitchers and will likely open the coming season on the disabled list. The hope is that he might be ready by mid-April.

It’s a small but frustrating blow for a rebuilding Reds team that will be looking to establish some foundational pieces in 2016. Once he is recovered, Lamb will be expected to fill the Reds’ fifth rotation spot behind Raisel Iglesias, Anthony DeSclafani, Brandon Finnegan, and Michael Lorenzen.

This is going to be an ugly year for Cincinnati baseball fans.

Yu Darvish will report to spring training on time, hopes to begin mound work in March

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Rangers ace Yu Darvish missed the entire 2015 season after undergoing Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery last March 17. Most starting pitchers take 13-15 months to fully recover from that procedure, and the Rangers aren’t counting on Darvish until sometime this May.

His rehab so far has gone on without issue.

Darvish offered some very positive updates Tuesday to Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram …

Darvish, 29, boasts a 3.27 ERA and 1.196 WHIP in 83 career major league starts. He can also claim a whopping 680 strikeouts in 545 1/3 career major league innings.

Texas has him under contract for $10 million in 2016 and $11 million in 2017.

Masahiro Tanaka throws off mound for first time since October elbow surgery

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According to the Associated Press — via Chad Jennings of The Journal News — Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka threw off a bullpen mound Tuesday for the first time since undergoing a cleanup procedure on his right elbow last October.

The throwing session took place in New York, and Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild later told the media in Tampa that all of the reports he heard were good.

Tanaka might be behind some of the Yankees’ other pitchers when spring training officially begins, but he should be ready for the start of the 2016 regular season.

The 27-year-old native of Japan posted a 3.51 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, and 139/27 K/BB ratio across 154 innings last season for New York. He owns a 3.16 ERA (123 ERA+) in 290 1/3 innings since becoming a major leaguer in 2014.

Tanaka is still pitching with a partially-torn ligament in his right elbow that could eventually require Tommy John reconstructive surgery. His surgery last October was of the arthroscopic variety and simply removed bone spurs.