With the start of spring training each year comes the start of position battles — two or three guys, fighting for one roster spot or one particular gig.
The Braves have a position battle going on in the back end of their bullpen, where Craig Kimbrel and Jonny Venters are vying to become Billy Wagner’s replacement at closer. The Pirates have a similar thing going on between hard-throwing relievers Joel Hanrahan and Evan Meek.
Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle is not expected to settle on one of the two until well into the Grapefruit League schedule, but one Pirates beat writer has identified a favorite.
Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review wrote Sunday in his “Spring Training At A Glance” column that “most signs point toward” Hanrahan winning the gig because of his past experience closing games and his heftier contract.
Hanrahan, 29, posted a 3.62 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and struck out 100 batters in only 69.2 innings last season. He will make $1.4 million this year as a first-year arbitration-eligible player. Meek, 27, finished with a 2.14 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 70 strikeouts in 80 innings in 2010. He is not yet eligible for salary arbitration.
The Pirates might not have the greatest overall roster, but the back end of their bullpen should be just fine.
Major League Baseball announced on Wednesday that former Red Sox DH David Ortiz and Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant won the 2016 Hank Aaron Award in their respective leagues.
Ortiz, 40, flourished in his final season, batting .315/.401/.620 with 38 home runs and 127 RBI in 626 plate appearances during the regular season. His .620 slugging percentage, 1.021 OPS, and 48 doubles led the majors while his 127 RBI led the American League. Ortiz also won the Hank Aaron Award back in 2005.
Bryant, 24, is the likely winner of the National League Most Valuable Player Award as well. He hit .292/.385/.554 with 39 home runs and 102 RBI over 699 plate appearances. He also led the league by scoring 121 runs. Bryant is the first Cub to win the Hank Aaron Award since Aramis Ramirez in 2008.
Last year’s winners in the AL and NL, respectively, were Josh Donaldson and Bryce Harper.
If you’ve happened to catch any of the coverage of the 2016 postseason on Fox and FS1, you’ve heard former Yankees DH Alex Rodriguez as part of an analyst panel with host Kevin Burkhardt and former major leaguers Pete Rose and Frank Thomas. Rodriguez has drawn rave reviews not just for passing a rather low bar we set for former athletes-turned-commentators, but because he’s adding real insight drawn both from his playing days and from doing research.
Indeed, Rodriguez is taking his new job as an analyst quite seriously, Newsday’s Neil Best reports. Bardia Shah-Rais, the VP of production for Fox, said of Rodriguez, “This is not a hobby for him. It’s not a parachute in. He’s invested. If we have a noon meeting, he’s there at 11:30 a.m. He’s emailing story ideas in the morning. He wants research. He’s almost all-in to the point where it’s annoying.”
Rose also praised Rodriguez, saying, “You’ve never been around a guy who prepares more than Alex does. Alex does his homework. He knows the game. He understands players. He’s into the deal . . . Frank does a great job in preparation, too. I’m the only one that don’t prepare as much as these two guys. I don’t know if that’s because I can’t write or what it is. But these guys do their homework and they ask questions and they ask the right questions and then you put that in with our experience, all the things we’ve been through and how good we get along with each other, that’s why it shows up on the TV.”
Rodriguez, who hasn’t officially retired despite not having played since the Yankees released him in mid-August, wouldn’t commit to more TV work beyond this year’s postseason.