Fan returns Derek Jeter’s 3,000th hit ball

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23-year-old Christian Lopez couldn’t wipe the smile off his face this afternoon. Of course, he was the lucky fan who caught Derek Jeter’s 3,000th hit, a solo home run that landed in the left field seats in the third inning.

Lopez, a Yankees’ fan, attended the game as a gift from his girlfriend. While he could have easily sold the ball for an estimated six figures, Lopez decided to return to the ball to Jeter.

Here was his explanation during an appearance on the YES broadcast of the game, courtesy of the New York Daily News:

“He deserved this,” Lopez said in an interview on the YES Network. “He worked so hard for this. He’s been in the league for so long. I’m not really the kind to take something away from him.

“He earned it.”

While Lopez insisted that he didn’t want anything in return, he hardly walked away empty-handed. He was given four seats in a premium Yankee Stadium suite for the rest of the season – including a potential run at the playoffs and World Series. And according to ESPN New York, he will also get signed baseballs, jerseys and bats, and a chance to meet Jeter.

Not a bad deal, but hasn’t Lopez learned anything from Jeter? He could have dragged out negotiations until they gave him a three-year, $51 million contract with an option for 2014. Sorry, had to do it. In all seriousness, this was a very nice gesture by Lopez and it looks like everybody walked away happy.

Blue Jays shut down Steve Pearce for the rest of 2017

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The Blue Jays have shut down left fielder Steve Pearce for the remainder of the season following a lingering case of lower back stiffness. Pearce has not appeared in a game since September 8, when he was forced to exit in the first inning after experiencing back pain during his at-bat. Per Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca, he’s scheduled to return to Florida next week, where he’ll receive epidural injections to address the pain.

Pearce, 34, impressed in his first season with Toronto. He battled through a calf injury during the first half of the season and finished the year with a modest .252/.319/.438 batting line, 13 home runs and a .757 OPS through 348 PA. By September, the Blue Jays started testing the waters with outfield prospect Teoscar Hernandez, who shouldered the bulk of the starts in left field after Pearce was sidelined with back issues.

With the Blue Jays all but eliminated from playoff contention, however, there’s no rush to get Pearce back to the outfield. He should be in fine shape to compete for another starting role in spring, and could face stiff competition from Hernandez if the rookie continues building on his .278 average and three home runs this month. The veteran outfielder is slated to receive the remaining $6.25 million on his contract in 2018 and will be eligible for free agency in 2019.

Brewers’ Julio Mendez remains hospitalized after hit by pitch

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Brewers’ minor league infielder Julio Mendez remains in “critical but stable condition,” club GM David Stearns announced Friday. Back in August, Mendez suffered a cardiac event after he was inadvertently struck by a ball from the Angels’ Austin Krzeminksi during a game between the rookie-level affiliates. The 20-year-old was removed to a Phoenix-area hospital for treatment following the incident and has recently been transferred to a hospital in his native Venezuela.

Mendez was in his fourth season with the Brewers’ organization. He spent the majority of his 2017 run with the rookie-level AZL Brewers, slashing .255/.294/.355 with 10 extra-base hits, 16 RBI and four stolen bases over 119 plate appearances. He currently holds a career .241/.324/.309 batting line, 33 extra bases and a .633 OPS through 668 PA.

Baseball is still on the back burner, however, as Mendez appears to have made little progress nearly a month following the hit by pitch. Thoughts go out to his family during this difficult time.