St. Louis got swept by at home by the Braves over the weekend, but it certainly wasn’t the shortstop’s fault. Rafael Furcal went 7-for-11 with two walks against his original team and is a ridiculous 15-for-21 over his last five games.
The stretch has him batting .383/.447/.519 for the season. Baseball-reference’s WAR rates him the game’s second most valuable offensive player so far behind Josh Hamilton and ahead of Matt Kemp.
All of this comes from a guy who looked pretty much done last October. He followed up a weak .231/.298/.348 regular season by hitting .195/.244/.325 in 18 games during the postseason. He also struggled so much this spring that the Cardinals started hitting him at the bottom of the order in the second half of March to see if anyone else could step up and claim the leadoff spot.
No one did, of course, and now Furcal has been a terror through one-fifth of the regular season. He’s walked more than he’s struck out (15-14), and he’s seven for eight stealing bases, putting him on pace for his best season in that department since 2006. With another big game tonight, he’d become the first player this season to have multiple hits in six straight contests.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that the Yankees have signed pitcher Jon Niese to a minor league contract, pending a physical. Assuming the deal is finalized, Sherman notes that the Yankees will have Niese work as both a starter and a reliever in big league camp this spring.
According to Sherman, the Yankees were interested in lefty relievers Jerry Blevins and Boone Logan, but didn’t want to commit at their asking prices. They are looking for a lefty set-up man along with Tommy Lane.
Niese, 30, pitched for the Pirates and Mets last season, finishing with a 5.50 ERA and an 88/47 K/BB ratio over 121 innings.
Veteran Omar Infante has spent the overwhelming majority of his career as an infielder, but the Tigers plan to give him some playing time in center field this spring. The Tigers’ center field situation is still murky and adding more versatility would increase Infante’s odds of making the roster.
Infante, 35, signed a minor league deal with the Tigers in December. He played 39 games for the Royals last season, batting .239/.279/.321 in 149 plate appearances while playing second base exclusively. Infante last played in the outfield in 2010 with the Braves, and last played center field specifically in ’09 with the Braves.
The Tigers currently have Mikie Mahtook, Tyler Collins, and JaCoby Jones at the top of their center field depth chart. It is not what one would call “optimal.”