Luke Hochevar

The Royals have decided to baby Luke Hochevar

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Luke Hochevar is far from the kind of 22-year-old hotshot starting pitcher teams typically shut down in September.  He actually turned 28 today, and he’s currently sporting a 5.29 ERA in 96 big-league starts (and four relief appearances).  Nevertheless, the Royals have decided to have him hang it up for the season because of concerns about his workload.

The Kansas City Star’s Bob Dutton has the quotes:

“Could he finish the year?” manager Ned Yost asked. “Yeah. He wants to. But for me, it just  doesn’t make any sense to continue to push his innings when he’s in a good spot.  It gives us an opportunity to look at somebody else.”

The decision likely has a lot to do with last year’s reduced workload, the result of a sprained elbow ligament that sidelined him from mid-June until early September.  Hochevar ended up throwing just 103 innings then before jumping to 198 this year.

“He’s had a real nice second half,” Yost said, “and the innings are  way up. He ends on a real good note. He’s healthy. He’s strong. He’s ready to go  230 innings next year without missing a beat.”

Well, let’s not go that far.  Generally, one has to be pretty good to pitch 230 innings.  Hochevar is ending this season with a 4.68 ERA.  Yost is right about the second half improvement — he went 6-3 with a 3.52 ERA and a particularly impressive 1.13 WHIP in his final 12 starts — but he got some help from the schedule makers there.  Overall, his peripherals suggest that little has changed.  This year’s strikeout rate is a little worse than his career average, the walk rate is a little better and the home run rate is almost exactly the same.

Hochevar may yet make the jump from No. 4 starter to No. 3 starter, but it’s hard to see him having much more upside than that.  With his salary likely to increase to $3 million or so in arbitration next year, it’s still to be determined whether he’s going to fit into Kansas City’s long-term plans or not.

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.