Oakland A’s minor league coach banned after ordering intentional balks to end game

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This is kind of nuts. A coach in the A’s system, who was acting as manager for the Stockton Ports in the class-A California League, has been banned from being in the Ports’ dugout for a year after ordering his pitchers to intentionally commit balks in an effort to end a game that had reached the 17th inning.

The pitchers were actually position players — each team had burned through its pen — and he ordered the balks in order to prevent injuries to his players:

[Todd] Steverson, Oakland’s roving hitting instructor, ordered Josh Whitaker, an outfielder and the second Ports’ position player to pitch that night, to commit balks to move Modesto runners into scoring position. Whitaker blatantly balked twice in the 17th, but the Nuts could not get the game-ending hit until the 18th, after another balk.

Steverson, who was filling in for the usual Ports manager who was on vacation, admitted the next day that he did it on purpose:

“We had a position player out there and I didn’t want to put another position player on the mound and get him hurt … I didn’t get any of my pitchers hurt and I didn’t get any position players hurt. So a game on June 23, 2012, well, these guys will be playing many more games more important than that.”

After that interview, the California League banned him for a year. Though, since managing or even coaching the Ports exclusively is not his job, is probably not the most arduous thing ever.

Still, that’s something else, no? I can’t say I’ve ever heard of a coach ordering that kind of thing. And I am divided in my thinking about this.

On the one hand I understand Steverson’s rationale. You don’t want prospects getting hurt in such a situation. But more compelling to me is the counter argument: these games count and are supposed to be competitive. If the California League or, for that matter, Major or Minor League Baseball wanted them to solely be about player development and/or preservation, they’d suspend games that go beyond a set number of innings like they do in spring training.

So ok, Steverson, I get it.  But if you didn’t want to wind up in a situation where position players could get hurt pitching, maybe you need to manage your bullpen better and make some reliever wear one rather than make a mockery of the competition, however mild a mockery it might be.

Mariners sign Mark Lowe

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The Mariners have signed reliever Mark Lowe, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports. The Tigers released him on Sunday.

Lowe, 33, is entering the last of a two-year, $11 million deal signed with the Tigers in December 2015. The right-hander struggled to a 7.11 ERA with a 49/21 K/BB ratio in 49 1/3 innings last season. His performance this spring didn’t do much to inspire confidence.

Lowe began his major league career with the Mariners, breaking out in 2009 with a 3.26 ERA across 80 innings. He has been inconsistent throughout most of his 11-year big league career, however.

Cardinals place Trevor Rosenthal on DL with lat strain

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The Cardinals announced on Thursday that pitcher Trevor Rosenthal has been placed on the 10-day disabled list with a right lat strain. Sam Tuivailala has been added to the roster in Rosenthal’s place.

The Cardinals’ closer until the second half last year, Rosenthal came into camp this spring hoping to battle for a rotation spot. However, the lat injury killed that dream. When Rosenthal is healthy, he’ll return to the bullpen.

Last season, Rosenthal posted a 4.46 ERA with 14 saves and a 56/29 K/BB ratio in 40 1/3 innings.