Ryan Howard didn’t get much respect from the Astros


Here’s something you don’t expect to see too often: a guy being intentionally walked in favor of facing a dude who has hit 45+ home runs and 130+ RBI four times.  But that’s what Houston Astros manager Tony DeFrancesco did yesterday, choosing to walk Chase Utley to face Ryan Howard. Twice.

What was your rationale, Mr. DeFrancesco?

“Howard, for me, was struggling the first couple days and wasn’t even getting a good swing and if I was going to have somebody beat me it was going to be Howard,” DeFrancesco said.

You don’t hear that very often.  But then again, maybe there’s a reason for it. Because even though Howard is struggling mightily — he has been even more vulnerable to lefties lately than he usually is — he still made DeFrancesco pay for the second walk, when Howard hit a two-run double.

Blue Jays sign Danny Espinosa to minors deal

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Free agent middle infielder Danny Espinosa signed a minor-league deal with the Blue Jays, the team announced Saturday. The deal includes an invite to spring training, where Espinosa is scheduled for his first split-squad game against the Orioles this afternoon.

Espinosa, 30, was inked to another minor-league deal with the Yankees in January. The veteran infielder was competing for an infield job until the team picked up second baseman Neil Walker on a one-year, $4 million deal last Monday. Prior to his release, he slashed .160/.276/.320 with one home run through his first 12 games with the Yankees this spring. He didn’t fare much better in the majors last year, either, batting a cumulative .173/.245/.278 with six home runs and a .523 OPS in 295 PA for the Mariners and Rays.

Blue Jays starting shortstop Troy Tulowitzki is still dealing with a bone spur in his heel and has officially been ruled out for Opening Day, which could clear a path for Espinosa to claim a starting role in Toronto. Of course, he won’t be the only candidate under consideration — Yangervis Solarte and Aledmys Diaz are still in the mix as well, though no final decision appears to be made just yet.