Adrian Gonzalez, David Ortiz in lineup as Rays-Red Sox showdown begins

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Adrian Gonzalez, who exited Wednesday’s game against the Blue Jays with a calf injury after homering, is starting at first base and batting third as the Rays and Red Sox begin a crucial four-game series at Fenway Park on Thursday night.

The Red Sox lead the Rays by four games in the wild card race.

With Gonzalez and David Ortiz in there, there are no surprises in either team’s lineups.  Ortiz missed Boston’s previous two games due to back spasms.

The Rays are using the same nine they did Wednesday with the exception of having Desmond Jennings back in the leadoff spot.  He was given last night off.

Tonight’s game is one of two in the series in which the Rays would seem to have a big advantage when it comes to pitching matchups.  They’ll throw Jeremy Hellickson (12-10, 2.96 ERA), while the Red Sox will counter with Kyle Weiland (0-1, 6.75 ERA).  It’s a rematch of last Saturday’s game in St. Pete, which the Rays won 6-5 in 11 innings.

Here are the rest of the matchups:

Friday: James Shields (15-10, 2.70 ERA) vs. Josh Beckett (12-5, 2.49 ERA)
Saturday: Jeff Niemann (10-7, 3.97 ERA) vs. Jon Lester (15-7, 3.07 ERA)
Sunday: David Price (12-12, 3.34 ERA) vs. Tim Wakefield (7-6, 5.13 ERA)

As long as the Red Sox can win two out of four, they’ll be in great position with both teams having 10 games remaining.  If the Rays can win three, then the last week and a half could get very interesting.

Report: Jose Ramirez close to four-year extension with Indians

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Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan reports that third baseman Jose Ramirez is finalizing a four-year extension with the Indians. The deal is said to be worth north of $30 million, and may crest $50 million if all options are exercised. While the extension won’t take effect until the 2018 season, it guarantees Ramirez a $26 million sum with two options worth $11 and $13 million and will give the Indians control of the infielder through the 2023 season.

Ramirez, 24, is entering his fifth season in the Indians’ organization. He posted career-high numbers during his first full season in the majors, slashing .312/.363/.461 with 11 home runs, 22 stolen bases and 4.8 fWAR in 2016. He’s projected to have a strong follow-up season at the plate and will likely see some time at second base as Jason Kipnis works his way back from a shoulder injury.

Although 2016 only showcased the beginning of Ramirez’s success with the club, FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman says it’s a standard move for Cleveland to “sign their stars early,” and indicates that Ramirez was rumored to want the deal. Jeff Todd of MLB Trade Rumors adds that the extension will keep Ramirez under club control through three arbitration-eligible years and one year of potential free agency.

Diamondbacks return Rule 5 pick Tyler Jones to Yankees

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Diamondbacks’ right-hander Tyler Jones is headed back to the Yankees, the teams announced on Friday. The Diamondbacks had previously selected Jones in the Rule 5 draft last December, but elected to leave the 27-year-old off of their 40-man roster heading into the 2017 season. Rule 5 draft rules stipulate that when a player is not kept on the receiving team’s roster, the player must be offered back to his original team.

Jones signed a minor league contract with the Yankees prior to the 2016 season. He pitched to an impressive 2.17 ERA, 2.2 BB/9 and 13.2 SO/9 over 45 2/3 innings with Double-A Trenton, but was unable to make the leap to Triple-A or beyond during his stay with the organization.

Jones’ outlook with the Diamondbacks appeared slightly more promising. GM Mike Hazen described the righty as a power arm with a “good fastball and power curveball” after selecting him in the Rule 5 draft, and early reports indicated that Jones would be in the mix for a bullpen spot. A rough spring performance — underscored by his lack of experience at the Triple-A and major league levels — undid most of that confidence, however, and the Diamondbacks weren’t willing to keep him on the active roster throughout the entire 2017 season in order to acquire his control rights.

Jones is set to open the season with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, per a report from the Yankees.