Matt Kemp won’t pick Bryce Harper for Home Run Derby

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MLB decided a year ago to spice things up a bit by letting a captain pick his roster for the Home Run Derby. It added to the fun the first time it was tried. Things might be starting to get interesting this time around, too.

Despite popular demand, Matt Kemp told USATODAY that 19-year-old Bryce Harper won’t be picked for the NL squad.

“It’s not because he’s a rookie. It’s just that there are other guys out there that are capable,” Kemp said. “I’m not saying he wouldn’t do a good job in the Home Run Derby. He’s going to have plenty of time to participate in many Home Run Derbies. Just not this year. Nothing against him. I love watching him play.”

Kemp expects to compete himself, even though he’ll still likely be on the disabled list with a strained hamstring. That leaves three openings for the likes of Ryan Braun, Giancarlo Stanton, Carlos Beltran and others. Harper doesn’t really merit a selection based on performance, as he has a modest seven homers in 198 at-bats. It’d be more a case of giving the fans what they want.

The Nationals, though, probably prefer it this way, given the number of past participants who claim to have messed up their swing by taking part in the Home Run Derby. Just 19, Harper might be more vulnerable to that than most.

Report: Mariners sign Juan Nicasio to a two-year deal

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Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that the Mariners have signed pitcher Juan Nicasio to a two-year contract, pending a physical.

Nicasio, 31, spent last season with the Pirates, Phillies, and Cardinals, putting up an aggregate 2.61 ERA with a 72/20 K/BB ratio in 72 1/3 innings. He appeared in 76 games, leading the National League.

Nicasio will help bolster the Mariners’ bullpen behind closer Edwin Diaz. It’s not known exactly what role he’ll have but it seems reasonable to assume he’ll handle mostly the seventh inning while Nick Vincent will set up for Diaz. Nicasio does have plenty of starting experience so he could also spot start in a pinch.