It’s increasingly likely that Josh Willingham has already taken his final at-bat for the Twins this year.
Willingham is currently shut down due to a sprained ligament in his left shoulder suffered when he slammed into the left field fence Monday while trying to catch a home run. John Shipley of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports that he still felt a “pinch” in his shoulder while trying swing a bat earlier today. With that in mind, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire told Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that Willingham could miss the final six games of the season.
“We’re going to be very careful about this,” Gardenhire said. “I have to go by what he says, and right now he can’t play. And I don’t plan on putting him out there until he can do it. If anybody could play, he would play, but he doesn’t feel it right now.”
The Twins are out of the race, so there’s little reason to risk putting him back out there if he’s not 100 percent. Best to just start his offseason early.
Willingham is currently enjoying the best season of his career, batting .260/.366/.524 with 35 home runs, 110 RBI and an .890 OPS in 145 games played. The 33-year-old is owed $7 million in each of the next two seasons.
With the 2017 World Baseball Classic around the corner, Team Israel has reportedly reached out to Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, per MLB Network’s Jon Morosi. Tournament rules stipulate that a player’s roster eligibility can be achieved in one of several ways: they were born in the country in question or hold citizenship/permanent legal residence there (or are simply capable of qualifying for citizenship), or one of their parents was born in the country or holds citizenship/permanent legal residence there.
For Kipnis, it’s the latter. Kipnis’ father, Mark Kipnis, is Jewish. That gives Kipnis the status he needs to suit up for Team Israel, despite the fact that he is a practicing Roman Catholic. He has yet to confirm or deny his participation in the competition.
Fifteen players have confirmed for Team Israel so far, including Mets’ infielder/outfielder Ty Kelly and free agents Sam Fuld, Nate Freiman, Jason Marquis and Jeremy Bleich. Per MLB.com’s Chad Thornburg, eight minor leaguers will also appear for the team. Like Kipnis, at least three other major leaguers are eligible for Team Israel’s roster but have yet to accept or decline involvement in the WBC: Dodgers center fielder Joc Pederson, Mariners infielder/outfielder Danny Valencia and free agent left-hander Craig Breslow.
Free agent first baseman James Loney has reportedly signed a minor league deal with the Rangers, per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. The deal includes an invite to spring training and a $1 million salary if he makes the major league roster in 2017.
Loney picked up a one-year stint and starting role with the Mets in 2016, slashing .265/.307/.397 with nine home runs in 336 PA. While his numbers were down a hair from the .280/.322/.357 batting line he produced with the Rays in 2015, he provided the Mets with a necessary, if underwhelming upgrade over an injured Lucas Duda through most of the season.
The 32-year-old infielder is expected to have some competition at first base, with at least five other candidates in the mix: Jurickson Profar, Ronald Guzman, Ryan Rua, Joey Gallo and Josh Hamilton. Rumor has it that the team is planning on platooning Rua and Profar in 2017, barring any impressive breakouts or injuries during spring training, though Loney could still provide the club with some veteran depth and a decent left-handed bat off the bench.