Texas Rangers v New York Yankees, Game 3

Olney on Andy Pettitte: “He would not lie”

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There are a ton of Andy Pettitte career-remembrances floating around already and more will be added to the pile today (he officially announces his retirement in less than an hour).  I thought Buster Oleny’s was particularly good.  I think you can see most of it even if you’re not an Insider subscriber.

The upshot of it all is that Pettitte was an honest guy and good teammate.  I know that sounds obvious, and I’ll grant that it’s stuff that in the wrong hands could come off treacly or cliche. But Buster does a good job with it, especially the stuff about how Pettitte was loathe to retaliate in beanball wars. I feel like I learned something new about Pettitte having read it.

There’s one passage, though, that you probably want to save and keep in the back of your mind for the next few years.  Excerpted below, I bet it’s going to be the argument-of-choice for those who really, really want to vote for Andy Pettitte for the Hall of Fame while not voting for Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and the rest of the PED-associated crowd:

After Pettitte’s name appeared in the Mitchell Report, the pitcher quickly acknowledged his past use of performance-enhancing drugs. He would not lie.

Said one teammate, “Some of the guys who took that stuff did it because they wanted to be the greatest, maybe because of the money involved. But with Andy, I have no doubt he did it because he felt he could be better for teammates.”

You won’t be shocked to learn that it’s an argument that does absolutely nothing for me.  We have some evidence in “Game of Shadows” that Barry Bonds was truly driven by some notion to be The Best Ever, but I have a really, really hard time believing that megalomania was the true motivator for the guys who used PEDs.  These guys wanted to excel, stay in the lineup and all of that for all of the same reasons any ballplayer does. They wanted to win, both for themselves and their self-interest and for their teammates and all of those usual team-centric concerns.

I no sooner believe that, say, David Sequi or Larry Bigbie’s primary motivation was that they “wanted to be the greatest” than I would believe that Andy Pettitte was a monastic and altruistic soul who wouldn’t have taken PEDs if it wasn’t for the fact that he’d let his teammates down.  It was the usual mix of self-interest, self-preservation and the normal competitiveness that drives every ballplayer. The only difference is the means the PED-users employed to do so.

I don’t think that Olney is trying to start a Pettitte apology campaign here. He has always been a straight shooter when it comes to PEDs and the Hall of Fame. I think, though, that the observation he’s passing along here might be appealing to some people out there who want to treat Pettitte differently than other PED users when it comes to legacy construction.  But sorry: it won’t wash.  You either hold PED use against a guy when it comes to that stuff or you don’t.  Pettitte doesn’t get special treatment no matter how great a player he was and how great a guy he is.

Michael Pineda hopes to reach 200-inning mark for first time

New York Yankees' Michael Pineda delivers a pitch during the third inning of a baseball game against the Chicago White Sox on Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
AP Photo/Adam Hunger
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It was reported on Friday that Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka isn’t sure if he’ll be ready for Opening Day as he makes his way back from arthroscopic surgery to remove a bone spur from his right elbow. His health will be crucial to the Yankees’ chances this season, but the same goes for rotation-mate Michael Pineda, who hopes that this is the year he’ll be able to take on the workload of a frontline starter.

Pineda was on pace for a career-high in innings last season, but he landed on the disabled list in late July with a right flexor forearm muscle strain and missed a month. He struggled upon his return and ended up with 160 2/3 innings, so he fell short of his career-high of 171 innings as a rookie with the Mariners way back in 2011. Now going into his age-27 season, Pineda told Bryan Hoch of MLB.com that his goal for 2016 is to reach 200 innings for the first time in his career.

“For me, this year, I’m coming here early to be strong and working hard to pitch 200 innings this year,” Pineda said at the club’s Minor League complex. “I want to throw 200 innings this year. This is my goal, and help my team.”

Pineda had a mediocre 4.37 ERA (90 ERA+) last season despite impressive peripherals with 8.7 K/9 and 1.2 BB/9. Among pitchers with at least 160 innings pitched, only Bartolo Colon of the Mets had a lower walk percentage. Pineda managed to increase his ground ball rate to 48.2 percent and also saw an uptick in velocity from 2014, so there’s reason to believe in improvement if he can stay healthy.

Brewers GM: Acquiring Jacob Nottingham doesn’t change Jonathan Lucroy’s status

Jonathan Lucroy
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin
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The Brewers acquired prospects Jake Nottingham and Bubba Derby from the Athletics on Friday in exchange for slugging outfielder Khris Davis. The hope is that Nottingham will develop into the Brewers’ catcher of the future, so you could say that the club is planning for life after Jonathan Lucroy. However, Brewers general manager David Stearns said today that the trade doesn’t change Lucroy’s immediate status.

The Brewers are in rebuild-mode and Lucroy is an excellent trade chip if healthy, as his contract includes a $5.25 million club option for 2017. It’s likely just a matter of time before he’s shipped elsewhere, but yesterday’s trade shouldn’t change the timeline for a potential deal. Nottingham doesn’t turn 21 until April and has yet to play in Double-A, so he’s still a ways off from the majors. The Brewers can afford to wait on the right offer for Lucroy, whether it’s in spring training or at the trade deadline or perhaps later.

Checking in at 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds, Nottingham batted .316/.372/.505 with 17 home runs over 109 games last season between Class A and High-A. He was traded from the Astros to the Athletics as part of the Scott Kazmir deal last July. It’s worth noting that Stearns was the assistant GM for Houston when Nottingham was drafted in the sixth round back in 2013, so he’s clearly a fan.

Joe Panik says he’s “100 percent” recovered from back injury

San Francisco Giants second baseman Joe Panik follows through on a single off Colorado Rockies relief pitcher Scott Oberg in the eighth inning of Game 1 of a baseball doubleheader Saturday, May 23, 2015, in Denver. The Giants won 10-8. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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Giants second baseman Joe Panik missed nearly all of August and September last season due to a nagging back injury, but he told Alex Pavlovic of CSNBayArea.com on Friday that he’s feeling “100 percent.”

Panik, who earned his first All-Star selection last season, originally landed on the disabled list in early August due to what was described as lower back inflammation. He made his return in September, but appeared in just three games before being shut down. The good news is that he was cleared by doctors in mid-December and considers himself “back to normal.”

“It was right around the time of all the signings,” he said, smiling. “I was able to fly under the radar. I got tested and everything had healed up. I got cleared and was able to have my full offseason workouts. I’m good to go. I’m happy to be feeling good and going back out on the field to show that I’m healthy. My swing feels strong.”

Panik altered his offseason workout routine and plans to spend less time in his spikes in the early part of spring training. The hope is that these changes will prevent future issues.

After a strong showing as a rookie in 2014, the 25-year-old Panik proved to be one of the best second baseman in the majors last season by batting .312/.378/.455 with eight home runs and 37 RBI over 100 games while playing solid defense.

Baseball America names Corey Seager as baseball’s top prospect

Los Angeles Dodgers' Corey Seager follows through a single that scored Austin Barnes, in front of Colorado Rockies' Wilin Rosario during the sixth inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)
AP Photo/Danny Moloshok
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Baseball America unveiled their top 100 prospect list Friday night during a special on MLB Network. It should come as no surprise that Dodgers infielder Corey Seager came in at No. 1.

This makes Seager the consensus top prospect in the game. He was also ranked first by MLB.com, Baseball Prospectus, and ESPN’s Keith Law. Twins outfielder Byron Buxton was ranked second on all four lists.

Baseball America has the most aggressive ranking of Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada from the Red Sox, who checked in at No. 3. He was followed by pitching prospects Lucas Giolito from the Nationals and Julio Urias from the Dodgers to round out the top five.

You can see Baseball America’s full top 100 list here.