It sure appeared as though Bobby Valentine was more interested in proving a point than winning a ballgame on Tuesday night.
With a 5-4 lead after seven innings, Valentine sent Alfredo Aceves out to earn a two-inning save against the Angels. Aceves got through the eighth unscathed, but he lost the game on an RBI single and a sac fly in the ninth.
Aceves, of course, had just returned from a three-game, team-imposed suspension. He hadn’t pitched since Thursday, when he was left in to give up five runs in one-plus innings in a loss to the same Angels team.
Aceves pitched a one-two-three eighth inning tonight. Leaving him in to start the ninth was certainly defensible, but there should have been someone warming up behind him. Valentine didn’t bother getting anyone up until two men reached with one out. By then, it was too late; Aceves gave up a broken bat RBI single to Mike Trout and a game-ending sac fly to Torii Hunter.
If this were 1982, Valentine’s handling of Aceves may have been pretty typical. But the fact of the matter is that hardly anyone is sent out for two-inning saves these days. Aceves didn’t have one this year. In fact, there’s been exactly one two-inning save in a one- or two-run game all year; the Giants’ Jeremy Affeldt recorded it on June 4.
No, this was Valentine trying to show who’s boss. Aceves thinks he deserves to close, so Valentine made him go prove it by giving him a more difficult assignment than any closer is asked to handle these days. And Aceves probably would have handled it if not a fluke HBP — Erick Aybar reached to start the Angels’ rally because a curveball bounced off his back foot.
The Red Sox made it clear they’re trying to start over when they sent Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford packing last week. It’s time to finish the job and drop the axe on Valentine as well.
MASN’s Roch Kubatko is reporting that the Orioles have “some level” of interest in free agent outfielder Denard Span. The Nationals did not make a $15.8 million qualifying offer to Span, which means he doesn’t come attached with draft pick compensation unlike other free agents such as Alex Gordon and Dexter Fowler.
Span, who turns 32 in February, hit a solid .301/.365/.431 with five home runs, 22 RBI, 38 runs scored, and 11 stolen bases, but took only 275 plate appearances due to back and hip injuries. He underwent season-ending hip surgery in September but is expected to be ready to participate in spring training.
The Mets and Royals have also reportedly shown interest in Span’s services.
ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that the Blue Jays are on the prowl for relievers with closing experience. Ryan Madson is one of the names on their list.
Madson, 35, had a career rebirth with the Royals in 2015. He signed a minor league deal with the club that paid him a salary of $850,000 if he made it back to the majors. Due to a plethora of arm injuries, Madson hadn’t pitched in the majors since Game 5 of the 2011 NLDS against the Cardinals as a member of the Phillies. For the Royals, he wound up becoming a crucial member of the bullpen, finishing with a 2.13 ERA and a 58/14 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings.
While Madson allowed five runs in 8 1/3 post-season innings, he pitched well when it mattered most, as he hurled three scoreless frames in three appearances in the World Series against the Mets.
Madson has closing experience, with 55 career saves. 32 of them came in 2011 when he took over the closer’s role from Brad Lidge.
After signing Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ, and trading for Jesse Chavez, the Jays have bolstered their rotation but it was reported on Saturday that interim GM Tony LaCava is still focused on upgrading the pitching staff.
ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that free agent pitcher Trevor Cahill is looking for a one-year, bounce-back deal. The Pirates are one of the potential teams he is considering.
It’s no surprise that the Pirates are on Cahill’s list. Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage has garnered a reputation as a miracle worker after turning around the careers of a handful of pitchers, including Edinson Volquez, Francisco Liriano, and J.A. Happ. Volquez parlayed a one-year, $5 million deal with the Pirates into a two-year, $20 million deal with the Royals last December. Liriano signed with the Pirates on a one-year, $1 million contract and turned that into a three-year, $39 million deal. Happ, dealt to the Pirates from the Mariners at the most recent trade deadline, just signed a three-year, $39 million contract with the Blue Jays.
Cahill, once a highly-regarded pitching prospect, has scuffled over parts of seven seasons in the majors. The 27-year-old owns a career 4.13 ERA with a 754/427 K/BB ratio in 1,083 2/3 innings. Cahill had some brief success after signing with the Cubs as a free agent in mid-August, compiling a 2.12 ERA in 11 appearances out of the bullpen.
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that the Blue Jays have narrowed their search for a new general manager down to two candidates: current interim GM Tony LaCava, and Indians vice president of player personnel Ross Atkins. Former Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos resigned last month.
LaCava was promoted to interim GM on November 2 and has already made a handful of moves along with new president Mark Shapiro. The club acquired Jesse Chavez in a trade and signed pitchers Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ to multi-year deals.
Atkins worked under Shapiro in the Indians organization for 15 seasons, so it is no surprise that he is a finalist for the open GM position.