Bryce Harper’s minor league at-bats will have a sponsor

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After spending a couple weeks in big-league camp Bryce Harper was optioned to high Single-A Hagerstown, where each of his at-bats will apparently be sponsored by “Miss Utility,” which is a service for construction workers to contact for information before digging into underground utility mains.

Seriously.

Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post passes along the press release announcing the sponsorship:

Prior to each of Harper’s at-bats, the Hagerstown Suns will announce, “Now batting, Bryce Harper, brought to you by Miss Utility, reminding you to call 811 before you dig.” They jumped at the opportunity to be connected with the top prospect in Major League Baseball, knowing that the window of opportunity as a nonprofit to be associated with an athlete of this caliber is very limited.

I’ll bet Harper’s agent, Scott Boras, isn’t quite as excited about his client’s new partnership, although “Miss Utility” is a non-profit organization.

Tigers release Francisco Rodriguez

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Tigers’ right-handed reliever Francisco Rodriguez was released on Friday, per a team announcement. The club recalled fellow right-hander Bruce Rondon from Triple-A Toledo in a corresponding move.

The former closer got the boot after losing his closing role in early May, giving left-hander Justin Wilson a chance to impress at the back end of the bullpen. It’s been a rough year for Rodriguez, who manufactured six blown saves and a 7.82 ERA, 3.9 BB/9 and 8.2 SO/9 over 25 1/3 innings for the Tigers. The final straw, it seemed, came with Robinson Cano‘s grand slam in the seventh inning of the Tigers’ 6-9 loss to the Mariners on Thursday.

While the demotion to a clean-up role and an apparent lack of communication caused Rodriguez considerable frustration, he’s two years removed from his last dominant performance as a major league closer and has shown few signs of returning to form. His recent slump doesn’t diminish the impressive totals he’s racked up over his 16-year career — 437 saves and six All-Star nominations among them — but if he can’t break out of it soon, he may not receive the kind of high leverage role he’s seeking with another big league team, either.

The Red Sox sign Jhonny Peralta

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The Red Sox have signed third baseman Jhonny Peralta to a minor-league deal. He’ll report to Pawtucket.

Peralta, 35, hit a paltry .204/.259/.204 in 58 plate appearances for the Cardinals this year. But with Pablo Sandoval on the disabled list — and ineffective when he hasn’t been — the Sox could use some infield depth.

This is the second former Tiger that former Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski has picked up today, after signing Doug Fister. No word if he’s kicking the tires on Andy Dirks or Brennan Boesch.