Yovani Gallardo

Yovani Gallardo’s emergence as ace helps Brewers advance

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It was hardly a given that the Brewers should start Yovani Gallardo in Game 1 of their series against the Diamondbacks. The pitching stats of their top three starters were eerily similar:

Yovani Gallardo: 17-10, 3.52 ERA, 1.22 WHIP
Zack Greinke: 16-6, 3.83 ERA, 1.20 WHIP
Shaun Marcum: 13-7, 3.54 ERA, 1.16 WHIP

Gallardo, though, was Milwaukee’s Opening Day starter, and he was Ron Roenicke’s choice to match up against 21-game winner Ian Kennedy and potentially start two games against the Diamondbacks. And what a call it was. Gallardo went eight innings and allowed one run in the Game 1 victory, and he recovered from a bumpy start to limit Arizona to one run over six innings in Game 5, which Milwaukee won 3-2 in 10 innings.

Gallardo was something of a disappointment in previous years, in part because his terrific performance as a 21-year-old in 2007 set the bar so high. Gallardo missed most of 2008 following knee surgery, but he did make it back for the postseason to pitch against the Phillies. The Brewers lost that LDS, with Gallardo allowing three unearned runs over four innings in a Game 1 loss (he later pitched three scoreless innings in relief with the Brewers behind in Game 4).

Expectations were that Gallardo would challenge for Cy Young Award as soon as 2009 or 2010, but while he was generally effective, he failed to dominate either year. In 2009, he went 13-12 with a 3.73 ERA and a shockingly high total of 94 walks in 185 2/3 innings. In 2010, he improved to 14-7, but his ERA was 3.84 and his WHIP was a pedestrian 1.37.

Gallardo broke through with 17 wins this year, but he still didn’t put it all together.  He gave up 27 homers, which was tied for the fifth-highest total in the NL. His first-inning struggles were particularly frustrating; the league hit .288 with nine homers in 132 at-bats off him then, compared to .236 with 18 homers in 656 at-bats the rest of the time.

So, Gallardo still had some potential to fulfill… some upside left to attain. Fortunately for the Brewers, it looks like it’s happening now. He’ll be Milwaukee’s choice to start Games 3 & 7 in the NLCS, and that’s almost surely just how they want it.

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.

Report: Tyson Ross not expected to pitch in April

SAN DIEGO, CA - SEPTEMBER 29:  Tyson Ross #38 of the San Diego Padres pitches during the first inning of a baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Petco Park September 29, 2015 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
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Comments from an anonymous team official suggest that Rangers right-hander Tyson Ross will not be expected to join the rotation until May or June, per a report from Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Both Ross and GM Jon Daniels favor a conservative approach for the 29-year-old as he works his way back up to full health after undergoing surgery last October to relieve thoracic outlet syndrome.

The delay is reportedly being implemented so that Ross will be have the strength and stamina to contribute during the stretch run. Per Daniels:

We would rather err on a little extra time up front with the goal being to finish strong, pitching in big spots, meaningful games down the stretch and hopefully past 162.

Ross signed a one-year deal with the team on Thursday after pitching through an injury-riddled season with the Padres in 2016. If all goes according to plan, he’ll slot into a rotation that includes Yu Darvish, Cole Hamels, Andrew Cashner and Martin Perez. The Rangers are expected to narrow down their fifth starter alternatives in spring training.