The Phillies got their middle-of-the-order hitter Friday, picking up two-time All-Star Hunter Pence from the Astros for first baseman Jonathan Singleton, RHP Jarred Cosart, RHP Josh Zeid and a still undisclosed fourth player.
It’s the right-handed bat the Phillies felt they needed to slot in behind Chase Utley and Ryan Howard in the order. Pence, though, hasn’t been all that much better than Domonic Brown of late. He’s batting .200 with just two RBI in 45 at-bats since the All-Star break. Since June 1, he’s hitting .297/.344/.424 with three homers and 19 RBI in 172 at-bats.
Maybe now that he’s finished with the trade rumors, he’ll improve. The Phillies are certainly banking on it after surrendering their top two prospects. Singleton, who is just 19, was hitting .284/.387/.413 for Single-A Clearwater this season. Because of Howard’s presence, the Phillies tried him in left field earlier this year. But that didn’t take. Singleton should be a 30-homer guy down the line, and he could be an upgrade over Brett Wallace by the end of 2013.
Cosart, 21, was also at Clearwater and was 9-8 with a 3.92 ERA and a 79/43 K/BB ratio in 108 innings. He lacks polish for someone regarded as a top pitching prospect, but he throws in the mid-90s and shows a plus curveball. He’s a definite candidate to flame out, but he has top-of-the-rotation potential.
Zeid isn’t so talented. The 24-year-old had a 5.65 ERA and a 56/27 K/BB ratio in 63 2/3 innings while splitting time between the rotation and the pen for Double-A Reading. If he makes it in the majors, it’ll be as a middle reliever.
Pence is the Phillies’ answer to Carlos Beltran, and the fact that he’s under control through 2013 necessated the big offer. He will give the Phillies offense a lift, and he may well make a difference as a No. 5 hitter come playoff time. Still, it’s debatable whether he was really enough of an upgrade to justify the investment. He has a 119 OPS+ since 2009, which puts him a bit below fellow corner outfielders Nick Swisher and Josh Willingham and barely above Corey Hart and Bobby Abreu. He is an above average defender and an asset on the basepaths, but he’s not truly a star and he’s about to get paid like one.
LOS ANGELES — Dee Gordon has been suspended 80 games by Major League Baseball after the Miami Marlins second baseman tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug.
Gordon tested positive for exogenous Testosterone and Clostebol, MLB said in a release after the Marlins’ 5-3 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Thursday night.
The fleet-footed Gordon won the National League batting title by hitting .333 last season and signed a $50 million, 5-year deal with Miami in January. He’s made two All-Star teams in his six seasons and won the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards at second base last year.
Gordon, the son of former major league pitcher Tom Gordon, had a key hit in Miami’s win over the Dodgers on Thursday. He’s batting .266 with six stolen bases this season.
“Dee Gordon is a very important part of our team, and we all love him and support him,” Marlins president David Samson said. “That said, I don’t like or condone what he did. He is an important member of this organization and will be for many years to come. It’s a huge, huge disappointment to the kids, to our fans, to his teammates and to everyone in our organization every single day.
“He will be back 80 games from now, and he will be welcomed back to this organization. But in the interim period, we expect him, and we are positive that he will do everything that’s necessary to make it up to his fans, to his teammates and to this organization.”
Blue Jays second baseman Devon Travis underwent left shoulder surgery last September. MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm caught up with Jays head athletic trainer George Poulis for updates on several injured players, including Travis. Here’s what Poulis had to say about Travis:
“He’s going to get some live at-bats with the extended team down in Florida on Friday. Big step for him, he’s very excited, he’s doing great, and we’re very optimistic, but no timeline right now on his return. We’re just going day by day, step by step.
“When you have something like that, it continues to heal even when you’re playing. We’re just trying to acclimate him and condition him to withstand all of the stress that he’s going to put on his shoulder … He won’t play in the field right now. We’ll mix that in, as well, but right now he’s just going to get some at-bats.”
The key phrase, of course, is “no timetable”. The second baseman’s rehab has gone slower than expected. Getting into some extended spring training games, though, signals progress.
Travis, 25, broke out last season, hitting .304/.361/.498 with eight home runs and 35 RBI in 239 plate appearances last season. The Jays have had Ryan Goins and Darwin Barney handle second base duties this year, but their aggregate .560 OPS is the worst mark in the American League.
We’re almost into May and outfielder Alex Rios remains teamless. MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reports that Rios has received offers, but he hasn’t accepted any yet because he’s seeking a job with a “significant role”. Ostensibly, that means a starting role or possibly a platoon role.
Rios, 35, was on last year’s championship-winning Royals team, but he hit a meager .255/.287/.353 with four home runs and 32 RBI in 411 plate appearances. It’s understandable if teams aren’t willing to gamble on him rediscovering his once-potent bat now that he’s in his mid-30’s.
Rios earned $11 million last year on a one-year deal with the Royals. Now, he may have to settle for a minor league contract. If Rios doesn’t receive a palatable offer, Heyman suggests he may retire.
Manny Machado is good at baseball. The Orioles’ third baseman busted Thursday’s game wide open when he clubbed a grand slam to left-center field off of reliever Jake Petricka to boost his team’s lead to 10-2 in the sixth inning.
The blast was Machado’s second career grand slam and his seventh home run of the season. Along with that, he’s hitting .337/.394/.686 with 16 RBI on the season.