Can you hear me now? Bullpen phone mixup sinks Cardinals

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During his postgame press conference Tony La Russa shed light on the odd sequence of events that led to the Rangers taking the lead in the eighth inning, explaining that he stayed with left-hander Marc Rzepczynski to face right-handed slugger Mike Napoli and then used Lance Lynn solely to intentionally walk Ian Kinsler because the bullpen coach never heard him call for Jason Motte to get warmed up.

Seriously.

According to La Russa the dugout first placed a call to the bullpen to have Motte warm up alongside Rzepczynski, which would have gotten him ready to face Napoli. However, bullpen coach Derek Lilliquist either never picked up the phone or didn’t hear the instruction correctly.

Later a second call was made, but Lilliquist once again misunderstood the instructions and, according to La Russa, thought he heard “Lynn” rather than “Motte” even though Lynn was only to be used in what the manager described as an emergency situation. “I saw Lynn and was like ‘OK, what are you doing here,'” La Russa explained, adding that crowd noise has caused similar problems at other ballparks.

So without Motte ready to pitch La Russa stuck with Rzepczynski, who allowed the go-ahead double to Napoli, and then brought in Lynn only to remove him after an intentional walk. Motte finally came in after that and did his job, striking out Elvis Andrus to the end the inning, but the damage had already been done.

And all because the calls from the dugout to the bullpen were misunderstood.

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.