The Astros intend to use Jose Veras as their closer

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There wasn’t anything interesting on the surface about the Astros signing Jose Veras to a one-year, $2 million deal earlier this week, but Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports hears that the club intends to use him as their closer next season. In fact, they have included incentives in his contract with that very role in mind.

Veras will have the opportunity to earn an additional $500,000 next season based on games finished. His contract includes a $3.25 million option for 2014 or a $150,000 buyout, but the price of the option can increase to between $4 million and $5.5 million based on games finished. If exercised, he could also make an additional $500,000 with incentives.

Veras has a 4.01 ERA over eight seasons in the majors and only has five career saves to his name, but he throws in the mid-90s with his heater and can make hitters look silly with his curveball at times. Of course, the 32-year-old has averaged 4.9 BB/9 during his career, so he doesn’t always know where it is going. The rebuilding Astros might not offer a ton of save chances next season, but they can afford to experiment in the ninth inning. If Veras emerges as a solid closer, they could have a nice trade chip on their hands.

Yoenis Cespedes blames a lack of golf for his early season slump

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Back during the 2015 playoffs the sorts of New York media types who love to find reasons to criticize players for petty reasons decided to criticize Yoenis Cespedes for playing golf the day of a playoff game. The Mets won the series with the Cubs during which the controversy, such as it was, occurred and it was soon dropped.

It was picked back up again in 2016 when Cespedes, while on the disabled list with a strained quad, was seen playing golf. Despite the fact that everyone involved said that golf did not contribute to his injury and that golf would have no impact on his injured quad, it was deemed “a bad look” by a columnist looking to get some mileage out of bashing Cespedes for having a hobby that probably half of all ballplayers share. They did it when he showed off his fancy cars too, by the way, even though just about every ballplayer has a fancy car or three. When you’re a superstar in New York — especially when you’re one with whom the media is not particularly close for various reasons — you’re going to catch hell for seemingly nothing.

Now there’s a new twist to the Cespedes golf saga. Yoenis himself says that his poor start — he’s hitting .195/.258/.354 and leads the league in strikeouts — is due to . . . not enough golf! From the New York Times:

He gave a possible reason for the poor start this weekend: not playing enough golf, a hobby beloved by many baseball players. And, yes, he is serious.

“In previous seasons, one of the things I did when I wasn’t going well was to play golf,” he said after a game on Friday in which he struck out four times but still drove in the go-ahead run in the 12th inning. “This year, I’m not playing golf.”

The story says Cespedes quit golf last summer because he worried that it was contributing to hamstring problems. He’s thinking about going back to it soon, as he thinks it’ll help his swing. Given that he’ll catch hell either way, he may as well do what he wants.