High school coach cuts a pitcher who can’t field bunts. Oh, and the pitcher has two prosthetic legs.

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Reader Ben alerts me to this story: A high school sophomore pitcher who can throw 80 MPH with a “wicked curve” gets cut from his high school team because he can’t field bunts all that well.

Oh, the fact that he happens to have two prosthetic legs may have something to do with it.  And did I mention that the kid was a cover boy for an ESPN Magazine story about athletes with prosthetics? Yeah, this is a poop-storm, alright.

Where you come down on this probably correlates pretty nicely with where you believe high-pitched, winner-take-all competition in sports should begin. Is that on a varsity high school team?  Earlier? Later?  And the subject raises a host of other ethical questions:

  • Should this kid’s teammates expect only the most able athletes to go into battle with them, or is pretty darn good but flawed good enough for high school baseball?
  • Do we give this kid extra points for determination and courage that we wouldn’t give to an otherwise able-bodied pitcher who can’t field bunts because, hell, he just doesn’t have the reflexes?
  • Is it somehow unfair to the other teams that shame will prevent them from laying down bunts if this kid were pitching when they’d certainly do it if, say, a fat kid were pitching?

I’m inclined, based on the information presented, to think the coach here is a jackass and that he should have found a way to keep the kid on the team.  And that’s certainly the narrative that tends to get created in these situations.  But I don’t pretend to have all of the answers on this stuff either.  Any time you get into this subject there are unexpected advocates on either side.

There are disabled people who contend that any special treatment (i.e. letting the kid pitch even if he has trouble fielding his position) does the disabled person a disservice.  There are likewise some people who can never look past the prosthetic legs no matter what the performance. There are also some people who will ignore the unintended consequences of either course of action because paying attention to such things doesn’t jibe with their world view.

Personally, I see any argument that is grounded in a belief that an ultra-high level of competition in high school baseball should be inviolate to be a rather pathetic one.  But I’ll grant that it’s more complicated than saying “player good, coach bad!” and relying on the expected sympathies as well.

Matt Boyd earns No. 5 spot in Tigers’ starting rotation

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Matt Boyd has earned the No. 5 spot in the Tigers’ starting rotation, which means veteran Anibal Sanchez will pitch out of the bullpen, MLB.com’s Jason Beck reported on Wednesday.

Boyd, 26, pitched well this spring, compiling a 2.49 ERA with a 21/0 K/BB ratio in 21 2/3 innings. The lefty’s numbers in the majors last year weren’t nearly as good.

Sanchez, 33, is coming off of the worst season of his career and overall didn’t have a great spring, putting up a 5.03 ERA with a 20/4 K/BB ratio in 19 2/3 innings. He came on strong at the end, however, tossing 14 consecutive scoreless innings. Manager Brad Ausmus didn’t rule out the possibility of Sanchez returning to the rotation at some point.

2017 Preview: Oakland Athletics

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Oakland Athletics.

The A’s aren’t gonna be that great this year, you guys. Sorry about that, but it’s true. In this it will be much like last year.

But it will look a bit different than last year at least. The A’s signed Santiago CasillaMatt JoyceTrevor Plouffe and Rajai Davis to a combined $33.25 million in contracts. I don’t see how that makes them appreciably better, but they will be different.

Khris Davis is the biggest offensive weapon. He hit 42 homers last year. Marcus Semien hit 27. And despite those heroics, the A’s offense was dead last in the AL in 2016. Rajai Davis gives them a stolen base threat and Joyce had nice resurgence in a little under 300 plate appearances, but I’m not seeing how this crew is all that better than they were. I mean, I’m sure Trevor Plouffe is a nice young man, but he’s not an offensive difference maker. The biggest chance for improvement comes from a full season of Ryon Healy, who hit quite well in 72 games last year. He was also moved off of third base for Plouffe and into the DH role at the age of 25, so temper your expectations.

Turning to the rotation, Sonny Gray at the top of things looked great heading into last season, but then he regressed badly, posting an unsightly 5.69 ERA in 2016. The A’s don’t need him to be be third in the Cy Young voting again, but they certainly need him to be their ace, and last year he wasn’t that. He’ll get a late start to the season due to a back injury — he may miss the entire first month — so things are already starting off badly.

After Gray comes Sean Manaea, who debuted last year and improved as the season went along. Kendall Graveman was serviceable last year, but he doesn’t miss many bats and it’s hard to pitch well in this league when you’re striking out as few batters as Graveman does. Jharel Cotton is an intriguing fourth starter. He came over in the Rich Hill deal and continued his excellent work in the minors before a late season callup. He is homer-prone but doesn’t walk a ton of guys. Definitely a guy to watch for the future. Andrew Triggs is a swingman who was pressed into the rotation late in the year. The A’s liked what they saw, but he has been a reliever all through the minors. Organizations tend to do that to guys who they don’t think will be decent starters, so I’m not sure what a few starts at the end of a season really mean.

If Gray bounces back to 2015 form, Graveman continues to be lucky on batted balls and the other guys deliver on their small-sample-size promise, hey, things aren’t too bad! But when was the last time that kind of five-for-five gamble paid off? Odds are on a nice surprise here, some stasis there and some regression and/or growing pains mixed in to form a pretty meh rotation. And given that the A’s defense was terrible last year and doesn’t look all that better this year, look for a lot of unearned runs. And earned runs that should’ve been unearned.

The bullpen features some notable names — Ryan Madson, Sean Doolittle, John Axford and Santiago Casilla have all been closers in the past — with Ryan DullLiam Hendriks and Raul Alcantara providing more depth. Dull is anything but his name. His excellent K/BB ratio last year — 73/15 in 74.1 innings — is downright interesting. These guys will inherit a lot of deficits instead of leads, however, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see the A’s trade off a one or two of the ~Proven Closers~ at the deadline as well.

The A’s won 69 games last year. There are three contenders in the division who are significantly better and an Angels team that employs some considerably more talented players despite its obvious flaws. The A’s have just as many flaws and top out with Khris Davis, a rebound candidate starting the year on the DL as their best starter and some interesting young arms. All of that adds up to a long, long summer from where I’m sitting.

Prediction: Fifth place, American League West.