Bill James to assume a more prominent role in the Red Sox front office

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Bill James hasn’t gone anywhere. He’s been working for the Red Sox for years, but in recent years he’s reportedly had less and less of a voice in the team’s major decisions. Which isn’t surprising because you don’t need a groundbreaking analyst’s input to decide to give Carl Crawford and John Lackey a gazillion dollars. Quite the opposite, actually.

But the Boston Herald reports that James will back to the front in this bold new era of Red Sox history:

… as Henry informed the Herald, James had fallen “out of favor over the last few years for reasons I really don’t understand. We’ve gotten him more involved recently in the central process and that will help greatly. He’s the father, so to speak, of baseball analysis and a brilliant iconoclast who looks at things differently from everyone else.”

The biggest challenge for the Red Sox — how does one rebuild in an era where investments in amateur talent are capped and fewer and fewer elite talents are hitting free agency in their prime — would seem to fit James’ skill set pretty well.

Padres, Mariners join list of teams to extend netting

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The Reds announced earlier that they plan to extend the protective netting at Great American Ball Park in time for Opening Day next season. You can add the Padres and Mariners to what will surely be a growing list.

A young fan was struck in the face by a foul ball at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday, which gave new life to the netting debate. Some fans and media types think Major League Baseball is not doing enough to protect fans. While Major League Baseball has issued guidelines for protective netting, it is ultimately up to the teams to decide just how much netting to use.

Zach Britton receives stem cell injection, likely done for the season

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Orioles closer Zach Britton is likely done for the remainder of the 2017 season after receiving a stem cell injection in his left knee, Peter Schmuck and Jon Meoli of the Baltimore Sun report. Britton has been battling knee problems for most of the season.

The Orioles are still technically in the AL Wild Card race, entering play Thursday 5.5 games behind the Twins for the second Wild Card slot. With only nine games remaining, however, the 73-80 Orioles are likely being realistic about their chances and not taking any unnecessary risks with Britton.

Britton, 29, put up a 2.89 ERA with 15 saves and a 29/18 K/BB ratio in 37 1/3 innings this season. He will be eligible for arbitration for the fourth and final time this offseason.