Cincinnati Reds v Pittsburgh Pirates

Aroldis Chapman had family problems last year

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Aroldis Chapman took a step back last year, walking a ton more guys than he had previously. Yesterday Dusty Baker told John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer that Chapman had some family issues that may have affected his focus, and that, for him, family problems are trickier than they are for other guys:

“Last year he had some off-the-field stuff going on, Cuban family stuff. That makes it tough … Right now he’s different than most,” Baker said. “Most of the other Latins can go home. He can’t go home. If he goes home he might not be able to come back out.”

One always has to take this stuff with a grain of salt — the spring lends itself to guys talking about past troubles as if they were isolated incidents — but I think Dusty Baker has earned the benefit of the doubt when it comes to talking about and dealing with his players’ personal problems.

I’ve mentioned this a lot in the past, but I thought that Baker’s public handling of Joey Votto’s anxiety issues a couple of years ago was near perfect. He was likewise great in dealing with Mike Leake’s weird shirt-theft thing.  Baker seems to get that kind of stuff — and is able to talk about that kind of stuff — in a way that is more clear and intelligent and with more empathy than most managers.

It’s one of the reasons, I’ll wager, why he’s so popular with his players, basically everywhere he’s been.

Braves ink Blaine Boyer to a minor league deal

DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 2:  Relief pitcher Blaine Boyer #48 of the Milwaukee Brewers delivers to home plate during the seventh inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on October 2, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
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The Braves have signed reliever Blaine Boyer to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports. Bowman adds that the right-hander has a “good chance” to make the Braves’ bullpen out of spring training.

Boyer, 35, spent the past season with the Brewers, finishing with a 3.95 ERA and a 26/17 K/BB ratio in 66 innings.

Boyer, of course, started his professional baseball career with the Braves as they selected him in the third round of the 2000 draft. Since the Braves traded him in 2009, Boyer has pitched for the Cardinals, Diamondbacks, Mets, Padres, and Twins along with the Brewers.

Report: Rays nearing a deal with Shawn Tolleson

ST. LOUIS, MO - JUNE 18: Reliever Shawn Tolleson #37 of the Texas Rangers pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals in the eighth inning at Busch Stadium on June 18, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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Update (6:48 PM EST): Topkin reports the contract will be of the major league variety.

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Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that the Rays and free agent reliever Shawn Tolleson are close to finalizing a contract.

Tolleson, who turns 29 years old on Thursday, had an ugly 2016 season, finishing with a 7.68 ERA and a 29/10 K/BB ratio in 36 1/3 innings. He was one of the Rangers’ best relievers in the two seasons prior to that, however, which included saving 35 games in 2015.