There has been considerable uncertainty swirling around Chase Utley’s health this spring, fueled in no small part by Utley and the team being seemingly unwilling, until Sunday at least, to provide updates as to his status. This led to Ruben Amaro assembling reporters in Clearwater yesterday to tell them, hey, I wouldn’t lie to you:
“We don’t have anything to gain from hiding information from you guys. That’s not our modus operandi. There are times we just don’t know. I’m not trying to deceive anybody. Why would I lie to the public? How is that going to make the organization’s relationship with the public better? What benefit would I have to tell you Chase is fine when I know that he’s not? What good does that do for us? We pride ourselves on having a pretty good relationship with our fans. There’s no real benefit for us to lie to them.”
All of which is true. And as Amaro implied later, this was less about the team being unwilling to talk about it than it was Utley being unwilling. As Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com reports, it was Utley who did not want the team to reveal the name of the specialist he went to see over the weekend, and it appears to be his desire for privacy about all of this that has led to the Phillies, if not deceiving people, at least being cagey about it all.
This is less about injuries and Utley, though, and more about expectations. Whether it’s this or trade talks or something else, fans and the media have come to expect a certain kind of discourse when it comes to these things. It may be inane discourse, but it’s noticed in the absence in ways that it would never be noticed if Amaro or Utley had just mouthed platitudes about it all last week.
Just the kind of thing that makes you realize the weirdness of our relationship with these teams and these players. We think we know them so well. We expect to know even more than than we already do. But in reality, we are kind of distant. I think therein lies both the appeal of sports-as-storyline and the problem with it.
Former Mets catcher Johnny Monell signed a contract with the KT Wiz of the Korea Baseball Organization, per a report by Chris Cotillo of SB Nation. The 30-year-old originally struck a deal with the NC Dinos on Thursday, but the deal appeared to fall through at the last minute, according to Cotillo’s unnamed source.
Monell last surfaced for the Mets during their 2015 run, batting a dismal .167/.231/.208 with two extra bases in 52 PA before the club DFA’d him to clear space for Bartolo Colon. While he’s had difficulty sticking at the major league level, he’s found a higher degree of success in the minor league circuit and holds a career .271 average over a decade of minor league play. He played exclusively in Triple-A Las Vegas during the 2016 season, slashing .276/.336/.470 with 19 home runs and a career-high 75 RBI in 461 PA.
The veteran backstop appears to be the second MLB player to join the KT Wiz roster this offseason, as right-hander Donn Roach also signed with the club last month on a one-year, $850,000 deal.
Brewers’ right-hander Phil Bickford received a 50-game suspension after testing positive for a drug of abuse, per the Los Angeles Times’ Bill Shaikin. This is the second time Bickford has been suspended for recreational drug use, as he was previously penalized in 2015 after testing positive for marijuana prior to the amateur draft.
Bickford was selected by the Giants in the first round of the 2015 draft and was later dealt to the Brewers for lefty reliever Will Smith at the 2016 trade deadline. He finished his 2016 campaign in High-A Brevard County, pitching to a 3.67 ERA, 10.0 K/9 rate and 5.0 BB/9 over 27 innings.
Two other suspensions were handed down on Friday, one to Toronto minor league right-hander Pedro Loficial for a positive test for metabolites of Stanozolol and one to Miami minor league outfielder Casey Soltis for a second positive test for drugs of abuse. Loficial will serve a 72-game suspension, while Soltis will serve 50 games. All three suspensions are due to start at the beginning of the 2017 season for each respective minor league team.
Brewers’ GM David Stearns issued a statement after the Commissioner’s Office announced Bickford’s suspension (via Vince Lara-Cinisomo of Baseball America):
We are very disappointed to learn of Phil’s suspension, but we fully support the Minor League Baseball Drug Prevention and Testing Program and its enforcement by the Commissioner’s Office. Phil understands he made a mistake, and we fully anticipate that he will learn from this experience.