The Red Sox may not be very good, but they certainly are resilient.
Bouncing back from their second horrible loss of the season — a 17-inning game against the Orioles in which Chris Davis got the victory — the Red Sox lit up Jonathan Sanchez on their way to an 11-5 victory over the Royals on Monday.
Will Middlebrooks was the star. After hitting a grand slam for his first major league homer Sunday, he contributed three-run and two-run blasts tonight. He’s hit .381 with six extra-base hits in four games since taking over for the injured Kevin Youkilis at third base.
Middlebrooks has been something of a controversial prospect in the five years since the Red Sox gave him a big bonus as a fifth-round pick. Scouts were always fond of his power potential, and he produced better numbers at every stop as he climbed the ladder. However, statheads remained skeptical about him because of his poor plate discipline. He had a 114/26 K/BB ratio while hitting .285/.328/.506 last year. This season, he appeared to have made some progress in that area in Triple-A, amassing an 18/7 K/BB ratio while hitting .333/.380/.677 in 93 at-bats.
Middlebrooks has already fanned five times in his four games for Boston, but all of the power has made that very easy to ignore. He certainly looks the part of a guy with 25- or 30-homer ability. Tonight, he went opposite field with the first homer and then pulled the second high up off the foul pole. AL pitchers may find some flaws at some point, but I’m now a much bigger believer than I was a couple of months ago.
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.