MLB changes mind, invites Dirk Nowitzki to throw first pitch

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UPDATE: MLB apparently changed its mind–or had its mind changed–and has now invited Nowitzki to throw out the first pitch at an as-yet-undecided game in Texas.

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Dirk Nowitzki threw out of the ceremonial first pitch at a Rangers game back in June and they wanted the Mavericks star to do so again when the World Series moves to Texas, but MLB said no.

Apparently all postseason first-pitch assignments much be cleared by the commissioner’s office beforehand. According to Marc Stein of ESPN Dallas the Rangers “nominated” Nowitzki for the honor and MLB “nixed” him.

As for why they would turn down a beloved Texas athlete, Stein writes:

At least some hesitation stems from the idea that MLB executives want to stand behind their basketball counterparts and have notified the Rangers that they can’t bestow first-pitch honors on an NBA player.

Of course, MLB spokesperson Pat Courtney denied those claims, saying:

MLB absolutely denies that any part in selecting the first ball pitcher had anything to do with the current labor situation in the NBA. You want the club’s input in what makes sense for them and then we talk about what makes sense for the team and a good broad-base national appeal.

Nowitzki is one of the best, most popular NBA players and the reigning Finals MVP, regular watches and attends Rangers games, and is obviously a tremendously popular athlete in Texas, so the explanation/excuse that he doesn’t have “a good broad-base national appeal” seems absurd. On a national level he’s almost surely more well-known than every player involved in the World Series except for Albert Pujols.

Oh, and there’s also this: First pitch honors for Game 2 in St. Louis tomorrow night will go to an Ohio man named Tim Wisecup who won the Pepsi Max “Field of Dreams” contest by entering in a code from a bottle cap and being selected in a random drawing. Seriously.

If only Nowitzki had been entering himself into contests sponsored by MLB advertisers rather than wasting time winning an NBA championship he might have had a chance.

Video: Angels use eight pitchers in spring training no-hitter

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Who says no-hitters can’t be just as fun when they happen during spring training?

Angels’ right-hander Bud Norris delivered two perfect innings on Friday night, paving the way for an eight-pitcher no-hitter against the Mariners at Tempe Diablo Stadium. Jose Alvarez, Cam Bedrosian, Andrew Bailey, Austin Adams, Drew Gagnon and Justin Anderson each filed a hitless inning of their own, leaving right-hander Abel De Los Santos to close out the ninth inning with just three pitches — and three game-saving plays by the defense.

Of course, it didn’t hurt that the Angels were facing a bevy of Mariners’ backups, rather than their starting lineup. In fact, Seattle’s lineup featured just two starting players — outfielder Leonys Martin and shortstop Jean Segura — while the majority of their everyday position players took on the Royals in a 4-3 win elsewhere in the Cactus League. The Mariners managed to reach base twice, first on catcher interference in the fourth inning, then on a four-pitch walk in the sixth, spoiling the Angels’ chances of turning their combined no-hitter into a combined perfect game.

Still, whether it’s executed in spring training or the regular season, against an All-Star lineup or one comprised of minor leaguers, a no-hitter is a no-hitter. The team’s eight-pitcher effort marked the first spring training no-no the Angels had completed since 1996, when they took on the Giants in a 15-0 showdown. Unfortunately for the 1996 squad, their regular season ended with a 70-91 record, good for last place in the AL West. Perhaps this no-hitter will prove a better omen for the coming season.

Tanner Scheppers leaves Cactus League game with lower core injury

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Rangers’ bullpen candidate Tanner Scheppers left Friday’s Cactus League game with pain in his “lower half,” according to reports by Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. The specifics of the right-hander’s injury have yet to be determined, but he was accompanied by the athletic trainer when he exited the game and is scheduled to undergo an MRI on Saturday.

Scheppers, 30, has a long history of elbow and knee injuries. He missed all but 8 2/3 innings of the 2016 season after undergoing a procedure to repair torn articular cartilage in his left knee. While he appeared healthy enough through his first seven appearances this spring, he failed to impress with three runs, five walks and six strikeouts over 7 2/3 innings with the club.

Should Scheppers find himself on the disabled list for another lengthy stay, MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan speculates that his absence could clear some room in the bullpen for Rule 5 draft pick and fellow righty Mike Hauschild. Hauschild, 27, has dealt seven runs, five walks and 15 strikeouts through 17 1/3 innings in camp.