UPDATE: Roch Kubatko of MASNSports.com reports that Orioles manager Buck Showalter and longtime scout Fred Ferreira watched Ramirez take batting practice shortly after the Winter Meetings. It isn’t clear whether they have legitimate interest or this was just a matter of due diligence.
4:00 PM: Manny Ramirez is scheduled to hold a workout for MLB teams later this month, but a couple teams are already getting a headstart on their evaluation process.
Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes reports (link in Spanish) that the Orioles and Blue Jays have sent scouts to watch Ramirez hit in an indoor hitting cage in Miami.
Ramirez was officially reinstated from the voluntary retirement list last month. While he was initially expected to serve a 100-game suspension for a second positive test related to performance-enhancing drugs, MLB has since ruled that because he sat out nearly the entire 2011 season, he’ll instead serve a 50-game penalty. However, the clock on his suspension won’t begin until he signs with a team. Not surprisingly, interest is lacking.
Ramirez turns 40 in May and considering the wealth of alternatives among aging free agent DH-types, a minor league deal is probably the best-case scenario.
MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand reports that the Rays have acquired first baseman Lucas Duda from the Mets. The Mets will receive pitching prospect Drew Smith in return, per Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports.
Duda, 31, is batting .246/.347/.532 with 17 home runs and 37 RBI in 291 plate appearances for the Mets this season. He’ll provide a potent bat in the Rays’ lineup as they attempt to overcome their current 2.5-game deficit in the AL East.
Smith, 23, is the Rays’ No. 30 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline. He ascended from High-A to Triple-A already this season, posting an aggregate 1.60 ERA with a 40/9 K/BB ratio over 45 innings across four stops with High-A Lakeland (Tigers), High-A Charlotte (Rays), Double-A Montgomery, and Triple-A Durham.
The Blue Jays completed a four-game series sweep against the Athletics on Thursday afternoon and won their second consecutive game in walk-off fashion. Last night, the Jays went into the bottom of the ninth inning trailing 2-0, but a two-run home run by Justin Smoak followed by a solo home run from Kendrys Morales led to a 3-2 walk-off victory.
Thursday’s game was already interesting enough as starter Marcus Stroman, catcher Russell Martin, and manager John Gibbons were all ejected by home plate umpire Will Little. Despite the adversity, the Jays battled the A’s, tying the game at four apiece when Morales blasted a solo home run — his second of the game — in the bottom of the ninth inning. In the 10th inning, A’s reliever Liam Hendriks walked the bases loaded with two outs to bring up Steve Pearce. Pearce worked the count full before pulling a fastball down the left field line for a walk-off grand slam, giving the Jays an 8-4 victory to complete the sweep.
Before Pearce, the last Jays hitter to hit a walk-off grand slam was Gregg Zaun on September 6, 2008 against the Rays, per SportsNet Stats.