Brett Jackson

Cubs getting close to calling up Anthony Rizzo from Triple-A

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Anthony Rizzo flopped in a 49-game debut with the Padres last year, but he’s now crushing Triple-A pitching for the second straight season and the Cubs are starting to think about calling him up.

Rizzo, whom the Cubs acquired from the Padres for Andrew Cashner in January, is hitting .346 with 14 homers and a 1.106 OPS in 41 games at Triple-A after hitting .331 with 26 homers and a 1.056 OPS in 93 games at Triple-A last season.

In other words, there isn’t much left for the 22-year-old to prove in the minors at this point.

One issue is that Rizzo is a first baseman and Cubs first baseman Bryan LaHair has been one of the league’s best hitters so far. LaHair also has some experience in left field and told Bruce Levine of ESPN Chicago that he’d be fine switching positions to make room in the lineup, although the Cubs have Alfonso Soriano and his giant contract there right now.

According to Levine no one has approached LaHair about a position switch yet and he hasn’t been getting any work in the outfield, which suggests a move isn’t imminent. It would seemingly make sense to promote Rizzo for the interleague series in Minnesota that begins on June 8, as that would allow the Cubs to use the designated hitter before deciding whether they want to shift LaHair to the outfield full time.

Meanwhile, manager Dave Sveum admitted that calling up Rizzo “is definitely going to be talked about” because “he’s done everything he can down there.”

Leonys Martin feared for his life from alleged human traffickers

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 30: Leonys Martin #12 of the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on September 30, 2016 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
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Leonys Martin, outfielder for the Seattle Mariners, testified yesterday that he feared for his life after he was smuggled from Cuba by a group of men prosecutors say worked for a sports agent and a baseball trainer currently on trial for human trafficking in Miami.

Martin took the stand at the trial of Bartolo Hernandez and Julio Estrada, who face felony charges. He said that, after getting to Mexico from Cuba, men threatened to take him away. There was a kidnapping attempt against one of the men who had taken him from Cuba as well. Martin said that, eventually, he crossed the U.S.-Mexico border into Texas without any valid papers because his life was in danger and his safety was at risk.

Players like Martin who fled Cuba often hole up in Mexico while waiting to be declared free agents by Major League Baseball. There is pitched competition to sign agreements with the players in question, seeking to obtain promises of a cut of future baseball earnings for their services. Those promises can come under the threat of violence. Eventually, Martin promised to pay Hernandez and Estrada, but ceased paying them later, fomenting a lawsuit from them. In the wake of the suit, the allegations of threats and smuggling arose, leading to this trial.

Martin has been late to Mariners camp as a result of having to testify. He’ll likely report in the next day or so. The trial continues.

Josh Hamilton leaves camp with a tweaked knee

SURPRISE, AZ - FEBRUARY 28:  Josh Hamilton #32 of the Texas Rangers poses during a spring training photo shoot on February 28, 2016 in Surprise, Arizona.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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Josh Hamilton was already a long shot to make the Texas Rangers roster, but his shot got even longer today, as he left camp to have his reconstructed left knee examined after experiencing pain.

As Jeff Wilson reports, Hamilton felt discomfort in the knee during the Rangers’ first full-squad spring training workout yesterday. Hamilton has had 10 knee operations in career. Which is a lot of knee operations in case you were unaware.

You have to wish good luck to Hamilton, but at the same time you have to be realistic. The guy has not played in the major leagues since 2015 and even then he didn’t play well, hitting .253 with eight home runs and 25 RBIs in 50 games. He appeared in one game last year for Double-A Frisco, on April 30. He’ll be paid $24 million this year, mostly by the Angels. One suspects that this will likewise be his last spring training.