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Signs of approaching fall: position players being converted into pitchers

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I always get a little bummed when August comes to a close and the minor league seasons end. It snakes up on me and reminds me that, in a couple of days, there will be a couple thousand professional baseball players not playing baseball until next spring.

And there are always a couple of signifying end-of-season stories that happen too.  The decision for someone to finally have that surgery they’ve been putting off is one. Another: some random prospect being converted into a pitcher, or vice-versa:

The Orioles placed Delmarva shortstop Mychal Givens on the inactive list Wednesday for an unspecified reason. Givens, who has also been dealing with some elbow soreness, could be back before the Shorebirds’ season ends Sept. 3 in West Virginia.

But it’s possible the second-round pick in the 2009 draft has played his last game as an infielder in the Orioles’ organization.Don’t be surprised if he ends up as a pitcher next year. That’s the plan for now.

I know nothing about this guy I didn’t read in the article (short version: he’s a shorstop who can’t hit or field but who threw 96 m.p.h. in high school).  But I always get some twinge of … something when I read this kind of thing.  The stuff about the season ending like I said. Also some weird feelings I always get when I hear about people making big life changes. A combination of excitement, trepidation and some sadness over plans going awry.

Yordano Ventura killed in an auto accident

CLEVELAND, OH -  JUNE 2:  Starting pitcher Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals jokes with teammates as he walks off the field after the fifth inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field on June 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Terrible, terrible news: Christian Moreno of ESPN reports that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura has been killed in an automobile accident in the Dominican Republic. His death has been confirmed by police. He was only 25 years-old. There are as of yet no details about the accident.

Ventura was a four-year veteran, having debuted in 2013 but truly bursting onto the scene for the Royals in 2014. That year he went 14-10 with a 3.20 ERA in 183 innings, ascending to the national stage along with the entire Royals team with some key performances in that year’s ALDS and World Series. The following year Ventura won 13 games for the World Champion Royals and again appeared in the playoffs and World Series.

Ventura was often in the middle of controversy — he found himself in several controversies arising out of his habit of hitting and brushing back hitters — but he was an undeniably electric young talent who was poised to anchor the Royals rotation for years to come. His loss, like that of Jose Fernandez just this past September, is incalculable to both his team, his fans and to Major League Baseball as a whole.

Our thoughts go out to his family, his friends, his teammates and his fans.

Report: Tim Lincecum is not ready for retirement

ANAHEIM, CA - JULY 29:  Tim Lincecum #55 of the Los Angeles Angels during the second inning of the game against the Boston Red Sox at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on July 29, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
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Free agent right-hander Tim Lincecum isn’t ready to hang up his cleats just yet. At least, that’s the word from Lincecum’s agent, Rick Thurman, who says the 32-year-old is still “throwing and getting ready for the season” (via Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News).

Lincecum may not be ready to enter retirement, but another quote from Thurman suggests that he’ll be picky about where he pitches next. He doesn’t appear open to pitching overseas, and despite not having a contract for 2017 (or even any serious suitors), the right-hander is set on pitching in the big leagues this year. Whether or not he’s willing to take a bullpen role to do so remains to be seen.

While Baggarly predicts some interest in the veteran righty, there’s not much in Lincecum’s recent history to inspire faith in him as a starter, or even a reliever. He picked up a one-year, $2.5 million contract with the Angels following his hip surgery in 2015, and went 2-6 in 2016 with a 9.16 ERA, 5.4 BB/9 and 7.5 SO/9 over 38 1/3 innings. At this point, a minor league contract seems like the surest path back to major league success, though he’s unlikely to find an open spot on the Giants’ or Angels’ rosters anytime soon.