Kirk Gibson appeared in over his head at times in the postseason last year, but now he’s back demonstrating why he was the 2011 NL Manager of the Year in the first two games of 2012.
After not using him there all spring, Gibson inserted Chris Young into the second spot in the order Friday against Tim Lincecum. Young made it pay off in a hurry, hitting a two-run homer in the first inning as part of Arizona’s 5-4 victory.
With the Giants going to a left-hander in Madison Bumgarner today, Aaron Hill moved back into the No. 2 spot, with Young batting fifth. Hill was the Diamondbacks’ regular No. 2 hitter last season after arriving in the Kelly Johnson trade and did a great job, but he slumped all spring and was dropped to eighth Friday. Given his career numbers, that’s closer to where he belongs against righties. Versus lefties, though, he is a decent enough choice to hit second. And he’s looked more than decent today, homering in his first two at-bats to drive in three of the Diamondbacks’ four runs so far.
In this day and age of everyone always wanting to know their role, it can be difficult for managers to try to play matchups and mess with their lineups. Fortunately, Gibson commands a whole lot of respect in the Arizona clubhouse and his players seem well in tune with his choices. Batting Hill second against lefties and low in the order against righties makes a whole lot of sense. It might not be a permanent arrangement — there’s really no need for anything to be a permanent arrangement — but it’s certainly worked for the Diamondbacks for two games.
With the 2017 World Baseball Classic around the corner, Team Israel has reportedly reached out to Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, per MLB Network’s Jon Morosi. Tournament rules stipulate that a player’s roster eligibility can be achieved in one of several ways: they were born in the country in question or hold citizenship/permanent legal residence there (or are simply capable of qualifying for citizenship), or one of their parents was born in the country or holds citizenship/permanent legal residence there.
For Kipnis, it’s the latter. Kipnis’ father, Mark Kipnis, is Jewish. That gives Kipnis the status he needs to suit up for Team Israel, despite the fact that he is a practicing Roman Catholic. He has yet to confirm or deny his participation in the competition.
Fifteen players have confirmed for Team Israel so far, including Mets’ infielder/outfielder Ty Kelly and free agents Sam Fuld, Nate Freiman, Jason Marquis and Jeremy Bleich. Per MLB.com’s Chad Thornburg, eight minor leaguers will also appear for the team. Like Kipnis, at least three other major leaguers are eligible for Team Israel’s roster but have yet to accept or decline involvement in the WBC: Dodgers center fielder Joc Pederson, Mariners infielder/outfielder Danny Valencia and free agent left-hander Craig Breslow.
Free agent first baseman James Loney has reportedly signed a minor league deal with the Rangers, per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. The deal includes an invite to spring training and a $1 million salary if he makes the major league roster in 2017.
Loney picked up a one-year stint and starting role with the Mets in 2016, slashing .265/.307/.397 with nine home runs in 336 PA. While his numbers were down a hair from the .280/.322/.357 batting line he produced with the Rays in 2015, he provided the Mets with a necessary, if underwhelming upgrade over an injured Lucas Duda through most of the season.
The 32-year-old infielder is expected to have some competition at first base, with at least five other candidates in the mix: Jurickson Profar, Ronald Guzman, Ryan Rua, Joey Gallo and Josh Hamilton. Rumor has it that the team is planning on platooning Rua and Profar in 2017, barring any impressive breakouts or injuries during spring training, though Loney could still provide the club with some veteran depth and a decent left-handed bat off the bench.