Was that convincing? Nah, didn’t think so. Sigh.
I started thinking about tonight’s Braves-Giants game a few minutes ago. I want to talk myself into Atlanta coming out of the gate strong, but I’m having a hard time really getting on board. My thought process:
The good: Derek Lowe was 5-0 in September, with 29 strikeouts, three walks and a 1.17 ERA in 30.1 innings.
The not-so-good: Those starts came against the Pirates, the Nationals — twice — the Mets and the Marlins.
The good: Lowe is 5-1 with a 1.98 ERA in eight starts in AT&T Park, including a good one this year.
The not-so-good: He’s a groundball pitcher and the Braves have Brooks Conrad at second and Omar Infante at third. Conrad is bad everywhere. Infante is more comfortable at second than he is at third.
I guess a hot Lowe is all a Braves fan can ask for at the moment, but I think there may be more light than heat here. And I really just wanted an excuse to say “OctLoweber” again, because it’s all kinds of fun. Other random bits causing me nervousness:
- The Giants’ ERA for the month of September: 1.78. Yikes;
- The Braves outfielders that aren’t named Heyward are still McLouth, Melky, Diaz and Ankiel;
- The Braves were 35-46 on the road this year, which is the worst road record among playoff teams;
- The Braves bullpen is cited as a big strength — and it is — but the Giants’ was actually better this year;
I’m not trying to be overly pessimistic here. I’m psyched and rooting and all of that. But I figured I owe a lot of people who are accusing me of being a Debbie Downer about the Braves’ chances this postseason a bit of an explanation as to why I’m being a Debbie Downer.
But again: OctLoweber!
Former Mets catcher Johnny Monell signed a contract with the KT Wiz of the Korea Baseball Organization, per a report by Chris Cotillo of SB Nation. The 30-year-old originally struck a deal with the NC Dinos on Thursday, but the deal appeared to fall through at the last minute, according to Cotillo’s unnamed source.
Monell last surfaced for the Mets during their 2015 run, batting a dismal .167/.231/.208 with two extra bases in 52 PA before the club DFA’d him to clear space for Bartolo Colon. While he’s had difficulty sticking at the major league level, he’s found a higher degree of success in the minor league circuit and holds a career .271 average over a decade of minor league play. He played exclusively in Triple-A Las Vegas during the 2016 season, slashing .276/.336/.470 with 19 home runs and a career-high 75 RBI in 461 PA.
The veteran backstop appears to be the second MLB player to join the KT Wiz roster this offseason, as right-hander Donn Roach also signed with the club last month on a one-year, $850,000 deal.
Brewers’ right-hander Phil Bickford received a 50-game suspension after testing positive for a drug of abuse, per the Los Angeles Times’ Bill Shaikin. This is the second time Bickford has been suspended for recreational drug use, as he was previously penalized in 2015 after testing positive for marijuana prior to the amateur draft.
Bickford was selected by the Giants in the first round of the 2015 draft and was later dealt to the Brewers for lefty reliever Will Smith at the 2016 trade deadline. He finished his 2016 campaign in High-A Brevard County, pitching to a 3.67 ERA, 10.0 K/9 rate and 5.0 BB/9 over 27 innings.
Two other suspensions were handed down on Friday, one to Toronto minor league right-hander Pedro Loficial for a positive test for metabolites of Stanozolol and one to Miami minor league outfielder Casey Soltis for a second positive test for drugs of abuse. Loficial will serve a 72-game suspension, while Soltis will serve 50 games. All three suspensions are due to start at the beginning of the 2017 season for each respective minor league team.
Brewers’ GM David Stearns issued a statement after the Commissioner’s Office announced Bickford’s suspension (via Vince Lara-Cinisomo of Baseball America):
We are very disappointed to learn of Phil’s suspension, but we fully support the Minor League Baseball Drug Prevention and Testing Program and its enforcement by the Commissioner’s Office. Phil understands he made a mistake, and we fully anticipate that he will learn from this experience.