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Astros fire their pitching coach

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The Astros have announced that they have fired pitching coach Brad Arnsberg. He is being replaced by an interim: Doug Brocail, who if you put a gun to my head I probably would have guessed was still pitching mopup duty for someone out west because I tend not to track guys like Doug Brocail very well.

The reason cited for his dismissal was “philosophical differences,” which given that Brad Mills is pretty secure in his job as manager — and should be, frankly — is likely true. It’s usually managers who are themselves on the firing line who use or allow their coaches to be used as scapegoats.

Still, it ain’t all philosophy. Houston has one of the worst pitching staffs in all of baseball. Overall, they give up more runs a game than every other team. On an ERA basis they’re second to last, ahead of only the Cubs. They have up a decent amount of runs to the Braves over the past four days, and that should be enough to have anyone fired, but I’m assuming there is more of a season-wide assessment at work.

As for the exact nature of the philosophical differences, I have an insider who tells me that it was really a grand thing about free will vs. determinism, and that Arnsberg was really fixated on all of that Pierre Simon Laplace stuff, which just drove Mills batty.

Brett Lawrie will take a pay cut to avoid arbitration with White Sox

MIAMI, FL - AUGUST 12: Brett Lawrie #15 of the Chicago White Sox fields a ground ball during batting practice before the start of the game against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park on August 12, 2016 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images)
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Infielder Brett Lawrie successfully avoided arbitration and signed a one-year contract with the White Sox on Friday, per a team announcement. FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman added that the deal was for $3.5 million, significantly lower than the $4.125 million Lawrie was paid by the White Sox in 2016.

The White Sox acquired Lawrie last December in a swap for minor league arms Zack Erwin and J.B. Wendelken. After splitting time at second and third base for the Athletics in 2015, Lawrie slotted in at second base and DH for the White Sox and batted .248/.310/.413 with 12 home runs in 384 PA. While it’s strange to see a healthy, fairly productive player receive a salary reduction in arbitration, Lawrie missed nearly half of the season with a strain in his left hamstring, though he’s projected to return at full health by the start of the 2017 season.

Cubs sign LHP Brian Duensing to a one-year, $2 million deal

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 04:  Brian Duensing #50 of the Baltimore Orioles throws a pitch in the eleventh inning against the Toronto Blue Jays during the American League Wild Card game at Rogers Centre on October 4, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
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Left-hander Brian Duensing signed a one-year, $2 million contract with the Cubs on Friday, per a report from FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman.

The free agent spent the bulk of his 2016 season with the Orioles after receiving a call-up from Triple-A Norfolk in early June. He underwent elbow surgery several weeks later when a freak bullpen injury revealed cartilage chips and inflammation in his pitching elbow, but recovered to finish the season with a 4.05 ERA and 10 strikeouts in 13 1/3 innings for the club. The Orioles utilized him for a final out during the AL Wild Card game, during which Duensing recorded a five-pitch strikeout in the ninth inning of their 5-2 loss to the Blue Jays.

The 33-year-old is currently expected to bulk up the Cubs’ left-handed relief corps, with fellow left-hander Mike Montgomery slated for the rotation in 2017.