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Red Sox tell Franklin Morales to prepare as a starting pitcher

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Franklin Morales was used primarily out of the bullpen this past season, but new Red Sox manager John Farrell told Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe today that the current plan is for him to come into spring training as starting pitcher.

Morales had a 3.77 ERA and 76/30 K/BB ratio in 76 1/3 innings with the Red Sox this year before coming down with shoulder fatigue in late August. The 26-year-old southpaw enjoyed some success during a small sample in the starting rotation, posting a 4.14 ERA and 47/19 K/BB ratio in 45 2/3 innings over nine starts. Once considered one of the top pitching prospects in the game, it was his first stint as a starting pitcher since 2009 as a member of the Rockies.

As of now, the Red Sox have three locks for their rotation next season with Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and Felix Doubront. John Lackey is coming off Tommy John surgery, but he should be in there too if he can avoid setbacks. The Red Sox would probably prefer to keep Morales in the bullpen, especially considering that he wore down toward the end of the season, so plans could change if they add a starting pitcher this offseason.

Report: Rays nearing a deal with Shawn Tolleson

ST. LOUIS, MO - JUNE 18: Reliever Shawn Tolleson #37 of the Texas Rangers pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals in the eighth inning at Busch Stadium on June 18, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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Update (6:48 PM EST): Topkin reports the contract will be of the major league variety.

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Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that the Rays and free agent reliever Shawn Tolleson are close to finalizing a contract.

Tolleson, who turns 29 years old on Thursday, had an ugly 2016 season, finishing with a 7.68 ERA and a 29/10 K/BB ratio in 36 1/3 innings. He was one of the Rangers’ best relievers in the two seasons prior to that, however, which included saving 35 games in 2015.

President Obama pardons Willie McCovey

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - APRIL 06:  San Francisco Giants legend Willie McCovey  waves to the crowd while seating between Jeff Kent (L) and Willie Mays during a ceremony honoring Buster Posey for winning the 2012 National League MVP before the Giants game against the St. Louis Cardinals at AT&T Park on April 6, 2013 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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The big presidential pardon news today concerns the commutation of Chelsea Manning’s sentence. We’ll leave that aside. For our purposes, know that someone in the world of baseball was pardoned: Willie McCovey.

Yes, Hall of Famer Willie McCovey, who in 1995 pleaded guilty to income tax fraud related to the non-reporting of income received from memorabilia and autograph shows. Duke Snider pleaded guilty alongside McCovey. They were given two years probation and fines of $5,000. Snider died in 2011. McCovey still works with the San Francisco Giants as a senior advisor and goodwill ambassador.

President Obama’s release of McCovey’s pardon was pretty succinct. But it’s enough to scrub the record of one of the greatest sluggers of all time.