Tonight is Round 2 of Bryce Harper vs. Cole Hamels as the Nationals and Phillies square off in Philadelphia, but both sides are trying their best to downplay the situation that resulted in endless headlines and a suspension for Hamels the first time they met.
Hamels has declined to comment other than to now claim that his hitting Harper on May 6 was actually unintentional–sorry Cole, that ship has long since sailed–and Harper told Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post that he doesn’t expect another incident:
I don’t even think about that. It’s a new series, a new day. I have a lot of respect for everybody in that other dugout. They’re an All-Star team … guys who are All-Stars who have been in this league for a long time.
Earlier this week Harper also praised Phillies fans while joking about their battery-throwing past and Philadelphia added extra ballpark security in the outfield to avoid any issues, so on paper at least Round 2 might end up being just another matchup between one of baseball’s best left-handers and one of baseball’s best young hitters.
Assuming, of course, that no one feels the sudden urge to be “old school.”
Oft-injured pitcher Josh Johnson is retiring from baseball, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick is reporting.
Johnson, 32, hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2013. The right-hander underwent his third Tommy John surgery in September 2015 but wasn’t able to bounce back.
Johnson spent most of his career with the Marlins, but also pitched for the Blue Jays in the big leagues, as well as the Padres in the minors. He retires with a career 3.40 ERA, 915 strikeouts across 998 innings in the majors, and two All-Star nominations. Johnson led the National League with a 2.30 ERA in 2010, finishing fifth in NL Cy Young Award balloting. One wonders what he could have accomplished if he was able to stay healthy.
The Angels are nearing a multi-year deal with free agent third baseman Luis Valbuena, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register reports. It’s believed to be a two-year contract with a third-year option.
Valbuena, 31, hit .260/.357/.459 with 13 home runs and 40 RBI in 342 plate appearances in 2016. He missed most of the second half with a hamstring injury, for which he underwent surgery in late August.
Valbuena has played a majority of his career at third base, but also has extensive experience at second base and has racked up innings at first base and shortstop as well. He won’t play every day for the Angels, as Yunel Escobar lays claim to third base and C.J. Cron first base, but he will give them flexibility and a left-handed bat off the bench.