Yunel Escobar eye black

Yunel Escobar suspended for three games

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It was just announced that the Blue Jays have suspended Yunel Escobar for three games over his anti-gay eye black. Escobar will also participate in a sensitivity training program “in accordance with the Toronto Blue Jays and Major League Baseball.” The punishment was agreed upon between the Blue Jays, the union and Major League Baseball.

It’s worth noting that Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell was suspended for two weeks for making anti-gay remarks to a fan in San Francisco last year.

If there is no other discipline involved here, I’d have to say that Escobar is getting off pretty easily.

There will be a press conference shortly.

UPDATE:  The presser just went down.  Among the highlights:

Escobar made a statement at the outset: via a translator, which made it a little disjointed, here are the highlights of his statement:

“I’m sorry for the actions of the other day … it’s not something I intended to be offensive … it’s just something I put on the sticker on my face … it was nothing intentional directed at anyone in particular.  “I have friends who are gay,” I have nothing against homosexuals … I am sorry what will happen and it will never happen again in my career. It is a lesson I have learned … I didn’t mean for this to be misinterpreted by the gay community. I apologize.”

The first question of the conference was whether anyone in the Blue Jays clubhouse noticed the lettering on the eye black. The answer: nope. He writes things on his eye black a lot, and the lettering was small, so no one noticed it.

The second question: if Escobar didn’t mean for it to be offensive, what did he truly mean?  The answer was not the most satisfying thing ever:  he just didn’t mean it. “It’s a word that is said often among the Latino community,” he said. Which … sure.  But if “people in certain community X say that word often” was a defense, nothing would ever be considered offensive. People in the Klan could say that the N-word was, “well, something that is said often on our community.”

As for that “some of my friends are gay” comment, I must give props to a reporter who followed up and asked him who.  Escobar actually said “the person who decorates my house is gay … the person who does my hair is gay.”  I don’t know if he had any other cliches at the ready, but good for him for his apparently happy life living in a television sitcom.

Oh well. I don’t think three games are going to do anything to change Yunel Escobar as a person.  But that’s not the point. The point, one would hope, is that ballplayers would keep their prejudices to themselves rather than wear them out onto the diamond and in front of TV cameras.

Angels ink Javy Guerra to minor league deal

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Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times reports that the Angels have agreed to terms on a minor league contract with right-handed reliever Javy Guerra. The deal includes an invitation to major league spring training.

Guerra was suspended 50 games by Major League Baseball last July after testing positive for a drug of abuse. That suspension is now over, though Guerra is probably ticketed for the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate to begin the 2016 season.

The 30-year-old made just three major league appearances in 2015 for the White Sox before getting outrighted off Chicago’s 40-man roster. He does own a 2.87 ERA in 150 1/3 career innings, but it has come with bouts of inconsistency and unreliability.

Maybe he can get everything going in the right direction with Anaheim.

Braves sign reliever Carlos Torres

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As first reported by Bill Shanks of Fox Sports 1670, the Braves have signed right-handed reliever Carlos Torres to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.

Torres was waived by the Mets in January, somewhat surprisingly, and elected to become a free agent. The 33-year-old ultimately chose Atlanta, where he should have a good shot at an Opening Day roster out of spring training with the rapidly-rebuilding Braves.

Torres posted an ugly 4.68 ERA in 57 2/3 innings last season for the Mets, but he registered a gorgeous 3.06 ERA and 96 strikeouts across 97 innings in 2014.

If he gets off to a good start in 2016, he could become valuable trade bait.

Blue Jays will have a closer competition this spring

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Roberto Osuna became the youngest pitcher to ever play for the Blue Jays last season at age 20 and he rose to the challenge with a 2.58 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, and 75/16 K/BB ratio in 69 2/3 frames. Osuna eventually took over as Toronto’s closer, earning 20 regular-season saves and one in the American League Division Series — a five-out effort in Game 5 to close out the visiting Rangers.

But the Jays upgraded the back end of their bullpen this winter, acquiring Drew Storen from the Nationals in early January for speedy outfielder Ben Revere. Jesse Chavez was also brought to Toronto in a trade with the A’s.

Storen has more experience at closer than Osuna, and Storen struggled when the Nationals tried to put him in a setup role. Storen, in his final year of salary arbitration, also gets paid much more. He’s probably going to enter spring training as the favorite for the Jays’ ninth-inning gig, but there will be a competition …

Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins told Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca on Wednesday that he doesn’t expect the team to choose between Osuna or Storen until midway through spring training, if not later.

There’s been talk of making Osuna a starter, so add that wrinkle.

Storen, 28, boasts 95 career major league saves.

Orioles plotting late-offseason push? Gallardo, Fowler, Alvarez, Bruce in consideration

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Baltimore’s front office appears to be lining up a run of potential roster additions leading into the beginning of spring training.

We’ve already passed along the reports suggesting they are close to a three-year deal with free agent starter Yovani Gallardo, but now FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal adds that free agent outfielder Dexter Fowler could be next on the Orioles’ target list. It they get those two deals done, the O’s could then chase free agent slugger Pedro Alvarez.

Rosenthal says the Orioles are even eyeing Jay Bruce of the Reds, though the FOX reporter hears the O’s might not have the prospects to pull off that kind of trade.

The focus for the Orioles out of the gate this winter was re-signing Matt Wieters and Chris Davis. Wieters accepted his one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer in November and Davis was locked up to a seven-year, $161 million contract in mid-January.

Now the O’s are spending a little leftover cash on late-offseason additions to improve their position in what should be a tight 2016 American League East race.