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Pirates players are seriously peeved at ownership right now

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The Pirates have lost four in a row and eight out of 11 to fall two games behind the Cardinals for the second Wild Card spot. And things aren’t that pretty off the field either.

According to Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Pirates players are angry at ownership for scheduling a charity event on the team’s scheduled off-day on Thursday. The twist is that it was scheduled the morning after the team returned from their West Coast trip. Kovacevic hears that the team had a bus waiting on the tarmac after their five-hour flight from San Diego to take the players to the Pirates Charities Sporting Clays Invitational at the Seven Springs Resort owned by team chairman Bob Nutting. Yes, after getting swept by the Padres, they were forced to shoot some clay pigeons.

Players who participated in the June 11 Pirates Charities Golf Classic were excused from the shoot, but that still left 10 players who were told to go, including a few key performers, plus pretty much everyone else who’d been on the plane.

What a blast it must have been.

The bus capped the 90-minute drive at Seven Springs by the crack of dawn, way early for the morning session that began at 10:30 and ended at 1 p.m.

By the time all were bused back to PNC Park, retrieved their cars and drove home, it was about 4 p.m.

The day was as shot as those pigeons.

Of the several players with whom I spoke Thursday at PNC Park before that beat-goes-on 6-5 loss to the Brewers, every last one of them fumed over it, though none would speak on the record.

“It’s a pennant race,” one player said. “Maybe everyone around here will realize that at some point.”

Kovacevic later notes that the 10 players involved were given the choice to participate in the shoot as scheduled or have it pushed back to September 6 when they had a true off-day with no travel. They elected to get it over with on Thursday. I don’t expect anyone to feel sorry for millionaire athletes and charity is an important part of their duties, but this is just some really awful scheduling, regardless of whether the Pirates are contending or not.

Jason Kipnis could join Team Israel for 2017 World Baseball Classic

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Jason Kipnis #22 of the Cleveland Indians throws during batting practice prior to Game Seven of the 2016 World Series against the Chicago Cubs at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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With the 2017 World Baseball Classic around the corner, Team Israel has reportedly reached out to Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, per MLB Network’s Jon Morosi. Tournament rules stipulate that a player’s roster eligibility can be achieved in one of several ways: they were born in the country in question or hold citizenship/permanent legal residence there (or are simply capable of qualifying for citizenship), or one of their parents was born in the country or holds citizenship/permanent legal residence there.

For Kipnis, it’s the latter. Kipnis’ father, Mark Kipnis, is Jewish. That gives Kipnis the status he needs to suit up for Team Israel, despite the fact that he is a practicing Roman Catholic. He has yet to confirm or deny his participation in the competition.

Fifteen players have confirmed for Team Israel so far, including Mets’ infielder/outfielder Ty Kelly and free agents Sam Fuld, Nate Freiman, Jason Marquis and Jeremy Bleich. Per MLB.com’s Chad Thornburg, eight minor leaguers will also appear for the team. Like Kipnis, at least three other major leaguers are eligible for Team Israel’s roster but have yet to accept or decline involvement in the WBC: Dodgers center fielder Joc Pederson, Mariners infielder/outfielder Danny Valencia and free agent left-hander Craig Breslow.

Rangers to sign James Loney to minor league deal

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 21: James Loney #28 of the New York Mets tosses to first base against the San Francisco Giants during the second inning at AT&T Park on August 21, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  The New York Mets defeated the San Francisco Giants 2-0. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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Free agent first baseman James Loney has reportedly signed a minor league deal with the Rangers, per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. The deal includes an invite to spring training and a $1 million salary if he makes the major league roster in 2017.

Loney picked up a one-year stint and starting role with the Mets in 2016, slashing .265/.307/.397 with nine home runs in 336 PA. While his numbers were down a hair from the .280/.322/.357 batting line he produced with the Rays in 2015, he provided the Mets with a necessary, if underwhelming upgrade over an injured Lucas Duda through most of the season.

The 32-year-old infielder is expected to have some competition at first base, with at least five other candidates in the mix: Jurickson Profar, Ronald Guzman, Ryan Rua, Joey Gallo and Josh Hamilton. Rumor has it that the team is planning on platooning Rua and Profar in 2017, barring any impressive breakouts or injuries during spring training, though Loney could still provide the club with some veteran depth and a decent left-handed bat off the bench.