Asdrubal Cabrera

Asdrubal Cabrera leads way as Indians complete sweep of Reds

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Asdrubal Cabrera, the American League’s best shortstop since day one this season, delivered two homers as part of a 5-for-5, five-RBI game as the Indians routed the Reds 12-4 and completed a three-game sweep Sunday.

Cabrera has nine homers, ranking him second only to Troy Tulowitzki among major league shortstops.  Jhonny Peralta is third with seven.  Cabrera leads all shortstops with 32 RBI and 32 runs scored.

Of course, it’s not likely to get him a start over Derek Jeter in the All-Star Game, but barring a big slump, he will make the team for the first time.

The Indians also got a nice game from Michael Brantley, who went 3-for-5 with a double, a steal and three runs scored as Grady Sizemore’s replacement in the leadoff spot.  Primarily valued for his speed, on-base skills and defense, he’s been a very pleasant surprise in contributing three homers and 13 RBI in 18 games this month.

The Reds received homers from Joey Votto and Jay Bruce in the contest, but it wasn’t nearly enough to overcome an ugly outing from Edinson Volquez, who should have been pulled from the rotation earlier this month.  Volquez, the team’s Opening Day starter, gave up seven runs — six earned — in 2 2/3 innings to raise his ERA to 6.35.  He walked four today, giving him 38 walks in 51 innings for the season.

With the victory, the Indians moved to 29-15.  They’re not only leading the AL Central by 7 1/2 games, but they’re 4 1/2 games up on the Yankees and Rays for the American League’s best record.

The Reds have lost five in a row to fall to 25-22.  It’s their longest losing streak of this season, and it matches their longest from 2010.

Jason Kipnis could join Team Israel for 2017 World Baseball Classic

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Jason Kipnis #22 of the Cleveland Indians throws during batting practice prior to Game Seven of the 2016 World Series against the Chicago Cubs at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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With the 2017 World Baseball Classic around the corner, Team Israel has reportedly reached out to Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, per MLB Network’s Jon Morosi. Tournament rules stipulate that a player’s roster eligibility can be achieved in one of several ways: they were born in the country in question or hold citizenship/permanent legal residence there (or are simply capable of qualifying for citizenship), or one of their parents was born in the country or holds citizenship/permanent legal residence there.

For Kipnis, it’s the latter. Kipnis’ father, Mark Kipnis, is Jewish. That gives Kipnis the status he needs to suit up for Team Israel, despite the fact that he is a practicing Roman Catholic. He has yet to confirm or deny his participation in the competition.

Fifteen players have confirmed for Team Israel so far, including Mets’ infielder/outfielder Ty Kelly and free agents Sam Fuld, Nate Freiman, Jason Marquis and Jeremy Bleich. Per MLB.com’s Chad Thornburg, eight minor leaguers will also appear for the team. Like Kipnis, at least three other major leaguers are eligible for Team Israel’s roster but have yet to accept or decline involvement in the WBC: Dodgers center fielder Joc Pederson, Mariners infielder/outfielder Danny Valencia and free agent left-hander Craig Breslow.

Rangers to sign James Loney to minor league deal

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 21: James Loney #28 of the New York Mets tosses to first base against the San Francisco Giants during the second inning at AT&T Park on August 21, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  The New York Mets defeated the San Francisco Giants 2-0. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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Free agent first baseman James Loney has reportedly signed a minor league deal with the Rangers, per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. The deal includes an invite to spring training and a $1 million salary if he makes the major league roster in 2017.

Loney picked up a one-year stint and starting role with the Mets in 2016, slashing .265/.307/.397 with nine home runs in 336 PA. While his numbers were down a hair from the .280/.322/.357 batting line he produced with the Rays in 2015, he provided the Mets with a necessary, if underwhelming upgrade over an injured Lucas Duda through most of the season.

The 32-year-old infielder is expected to have some competition at first base, with at least five other candidates in the mix: Jurickson Profar, Ronald Guzman, Ryan Rua, Joey Gallo and Josh Hamilton. Rumor has it that the team is planning on platooning Rua and Profar in 2017, barring any impressive breakouts or injuries during spring training, though Loney could still provide the club with some veteran depth and a decent left-handed bat off the bench.