UPDATE: It looks like Pedro Beato’s poor performance tonight saved Duda from a demotion. Beato gave up four runs over one-third of an inning in the 10th inning tonight against the Nationals, after which he was sent to the minors.
9:30 PM: The Mets need to clear a spot on their roster for top prospect right-hander Matt Harvey, who will make his major league debut Thursday against the Diamondbacks. Many speculated that the struggling Kirk Nieuwenhuis would be the odd-man out, but Bob Klapisch of the Bergen Record hears that Lucas Duda will be demoted to Triple-A Buffalo.
Duda earned a shot at the starting right field job after hitting .292 with 10 homers and an .852 OPS in 100 games last season, but he has delivered a disappointing .241/.335/.391 batting line to go along with 12 home runs, 44 RBI and a .726 OPS across 355 plate appearances in 2012. He’s hitting just .140 (6-for-43) with one homer and 16 strikeouts this month. Making matters worse, he has been one of the worst defensive outfielders in the majors.
While the Mets try to get Duda back on track in the minors, they appear ready to give more playing time to the hot-hitting Jordany Valdespin. The 24-year-old entered tonight’s action batting .299/.330/.586 with six home runs, 20 RBI, four stolen bases and a .916 OPS over his first 92 plate appearances in the majors.
Infielder Javier Baez is back in camp with the Cubs after helping Puerto Rico to a second-place finish in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. He was the focal point of what was, to many, the most memorable play of the entire tournament: Baez pointed at catcher Yadier Molina, who was attempting to throw out a would-be base-stealer, before applying the tag for the final out of the eighth inning.
While Baez didn’t receive much criticism for his theatrics, aside from an insignificant handful of spoilsports, he is one of the players who most exemplifies the emotional, celebratory culture that foreign players bring to Major League Baseball. U.S. (and Tigers) second baseman Ian Kinsler is on the other side of that spectrum, as he said prior to the WBC final that he hopes kids mimic the solemn way U.S. players play the game rather than the emotional, passionate way players from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic play the game.
Baez isn’t about to apologize for the way he and his teammates play the game. Via CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney, Baez said, “We do a great job playing and having fun out there. That’s what it’s all about. This is a game. It’s not as serious as a lot of people take it. but, you know, everybody’s got their style and their talent. I have a lot of fun.”
He continued, “It’s their choice to look at how we play, how excited we get. To us, it’s really huge what we did, even though we didn’t win. All of Puerto Rico got really together. We were going through a hard time over there and everything got fixed up for at least three weeks. Hopefully, they keep it like that.”
Angels outfielder Mike Trout came up with an idea that would allow less experienced umpires an opportunity to call some major league spring training action. As ESPN’s Buster Olney reports, Trout thinks the veteran umpires should only call five or six innings as they get back into regular season shape. The rest of the innings could be called by minor league umpires.
According to Olney, baseball officials loved Trout’s idea when they heard about it last week. One official said, “It makes a lot of sense for a lot of different reasons.” Another said, “That’s Trout — he’s always paying attention to stuff beyond what he’s doing.”
Of course, I have to agree that the suggestion is a great one. As Olney notes, the turnover rate for umpires every year is relatively low, so younger, less-experienced umpires have few opportunities to get a feel for what it’s like calling major league action. Even beyond the actual interpretation of the rules, interacting with big league personalities would also be helpful for minor league umpires.