Cuban defector Gerardo Concepcion works out for Rangers

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Gerardo Concepcion, the 18-year-old pitcher who established residency in the Dominican Republic to become a free agent after defecting from Cuba, worked out for the Rangers yesterday.

Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com reports that team president Nolan Ryan was part of the Rangers group on hand to watch Concepcion in the Dominican Republic, adding that “the club is among the favorites to sign the Cuban left-hander.”

Concepcion’s agent, Jaime Torres, previously said that the Rangers, Yankees, Phillies, Cubs, and White Sox have shown the most interest, but Sanchez says the Royals, Marlins, Giants, Blue Jays, and Red Sox are also in the mix.

Torres indicated that Concepcion will likely choose a team within two weeks, which would be a speedy timetable considering he wasn’t officially declared a free agent until last Wednesday. Concepcion doesn’t light up radar guns like fellow Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman and isn’t considered an elite prospect, but the fact that he’s only 18 should lead to a sizable deal.

James Paxton has a fantastic new nickname

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James Paxton of the Mariners is 3-0 with a 1.39 ERA, 39 strikeouts and only six walks in 32.1 innings of work over five starts. Last night he shut the Tigers down, tossing seven shutout innings, striking out nine and allowing only four hits. With Felix Hernandez looking less than king-like lately, Paxton is asserting himself as the new ace of the Seattle staff.

And now the tall Canadian native has a nickname to match his ace-like status:

“Pax was really outstanding and we certainly needed it,” manager Scott Servais said of the Canadian southpaw. “Big Maple is what he was nicknamed tonight and I kind of like that. He was awesome.”

“Big Maple” is a fantastic nickname. That’s the sort of nickname guys used to get back when nicknames were great. Before managers just put “y” at the end of dudes’ names and before the “First Initial-First Three Letters of The Last Name” convention took hold in the wake of A-Rod.

“Big Maple.” That makes me smile. I’m gonna be smiling all dang day because of that.

The Rays gave Seth Smith a little league homer last night

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I mentioned this in the recaps this morning, but I think it deserves it’s own special place. Get what went down in the second inning of last night’s Rays-O’s game:

Ryan Flaherty was on first with Seth Smith up to bat. Smith hit a single to center. Flaherty, who was running with the pitch, was making for third base. All-world defender Kevin Kiermaier tried to gun him down but threw wildly to third, causing Flaherty to break for home.

Pitcher Alex Cobb had the play backed up, however! He got the ball near the dugout. Flaherty scampered back to third and Cobb tried to throw him out. The ball hit Flaherty’s helmet, richocheting into left field, allowing both Flaherty and Smith — who had stopped at first and then stopped at second, like a kid at tee ball or something — to come around and score.

Watch:

 

I still think the Rays walking home the winning run on four pitches in the 11th inning was worse, but this looked worse.

Oh well: the Rays get the day off today and tomorrow, of course, is another day.