Josh Willingham deal likely to start chain reaction

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The outfield market could start unfolding quickly now with the news that Josh Willingham is about to become a Minnesota Twin.

– Michael Cuddyer, who had been the Twins’ preference, appears likely to join the Rockies. Minnesota offered their veteran the three-year deal he desired, but it seems that last season’s experience was bad enough to give him doubts about re-signing. Cuddyer will probably put up better numbers than Willingham next year, but that will be all about the ballparks: Minnesota is getting the superior hitter out of this deal.

– The Rockies are also in on Carlos Beltran, but they’ve been much more aggressive in their pursuit of Cuddyer. Beltran has slipped through the cracks, even though he offers a much better glove than either Cuddyer or Willingham and greater offensive upside as well. Of course, the issue there is his history of knee problems. He’ll still probably get a higher annual salary than Cuddyer or Willingham, but he may have to choose between a one-year deal with a contender or a two-year deal from a lesser team. St. Louis, Boston, Texas and Detroit are candidates to get involved.

– Only once that trio is off the board will names like Cody Ross and Ryan Ludwick start to become attractive. The A’s and Mariners will rifle through the bargain bin looking for a starting outfielder. The Red Sox might as well.

– Of course, there is still one prize out there in the form of Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes. Complicating things there is that he’s not yet officially a free agent and eligible to sign. Detroit and Miami look like the early favorites to land the 26-year-old, who would slide right into a major league outfield in either center or right.

Shelby Miller left Sunday’s start with forearm tightness

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Diamondbacks pitcher Shelby Miller left Sunday’s start against the Dodgers after four-plus innings due to tightness in his right forearm, the team announced. He’ll be reevaluated tomorrow. Needless to say, though, a forearm injury is very concerning. In his four innings, Miller gave up three runs on four hits and five walks with three strikeouts, raising his ERA to 4.09.

Miller, 26, has had a nightmare of a time since joining the Diamondbacks in December 2015. Last year, he made 20 starts and posted a 6.15 ERA. He suffered a finger injury suffered from scraping his hand on the pitcher’s mound with his follow-through, and he was also demoted to Triple-A during the summer as well.

Ivan Nova finally issued his first walk. It was to an AL pitcher taking his first major league at-bat.

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Pirates starter Ivan Nova has been outstanding in his first three starts of the 2017 season. He yielded only five earned runs in 20 innings for a tidy 2.25 ERA. But even more impressively, Nova didn’t issue a walk in any of those starts.

That changed on Sunday afternoon against the Yankees, but in a most peculiar way. Nova had struck out the side in the first inning, notched a 1-2-3 frame in the second, and got two quick ground outs to begin the third inning, bringing up Yankees pitcher Jordan Montgomery for his first major league at-bat. Montgomery never batted in the minor leagues, either, so Sunday’s AB against Nova was his first since his senior year of high school in 2011. Montgomery took the first two pitches for balls, then a called strike, a ball, and another called strike to even the count. Nova came in with his sixth consecutive fastball but it missed low, walking the Yankees’ pitcher for his first free pass of the 2017 season.

Nova got out of the inning without any further issue. He wound up going seven innings, giving up a lone run on four hits and a walk with seven strikeouts, lowering his ERA to an even 2.00.