Johnny Damon wasn’t in the Indians’ lineup yesterday because they were facing a tough left-hander in Chris Sale, but manager Manny Acta revealed that he’ll likely serve as the team’s leadoff man when he does play.
That’s certainly nothing new for Damon, who’s batted leadoff in more than 1,500 games during his 17-year career, but he’s done so a total of just 46 times in the previous three seasons and last season posted a below-average on-base percentage for the first time since 2001.
Acta of course chose to cite Damon’s career numbers in explaining the decision to Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
Other than the fact that he has a .355 lifetime on-base percentage in the leadoff spot, he’s close to 3,000 hits, and the fact that over the last three years he’s hit lefties better than righties? What else do you want me to give you? He’s been very effective doing that in his career.
All of which would be extremely compelling reasoning if not for the fact that Damon is 38 years old and posted a .326 OBP in 2011. If he’s still capable of an OBP around .350 the signing will have been an excellent one for Cleveland.
CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury reports that Phillies outfielder Nick Williams has been working out daily with free agent starter Jake Arrieta in Austin. The right-hander, who won the 2015 National League Cy Young Award, still remains teamless with spring training less than a month away. Williams has been trying to sell Arrieta on joining the Phillies.
Williams said of Arrieta, “He loves it here [Austin]. He has told me he likes working with young guys. I’m like, ‘All right, come on up.’ But I’m not writing the check. I don’t know what he wants. I don’t really dig into that because I’m not really in his position.”
On GM Matt Klentak’s hunt for pitching help, new manager Gabe Kapler said, “The pursuit is very real. I have a lot of trust that we’ll either go in [to spring training] with a new toy or we will pass on the opportunity because we’re better off giving this collection of pitchers a really healthy look because we thought that we could go acquire that piece a little bit later on this season or in the offseason next year.”
Arrieta, who turns 32 years old in March, went 14-10 with a 3.53 ERA and a 163/55 K/BB ratio in 168 1/3 innings last season with the Cubs. The Cubs, Cardinals, and Brewers have been linked to Arrieta this month.
Presently, the Phillies’ starting rotation figures to include Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff, and Vince Velasquez along with some combination of Nick Pivetta, Ben Lively, Zach Eflin, Mark Leiter, and Jake Thompson. Arrieta would certainly amount to a big upgrade in the starting rotation and could make the Phillies a more attractive landing spot for Bryce Harper or Manny Machado, who become free agents after the 2018 campaign. The Phillies are expected to be in the mix for either or both players.