The Blue Jays were largely praised when they acquired Sergio Santos from the White Sox last winter, but his first season with Toronto was a bust, as he made just six appearances due to a nagging shoulder injury which eventually required surgery. Casey Janssen stepped up as the Blue Jays’ closer in his absence by saving 22 games in 25 chances while posting a 2.54 ERA, but Santos tells Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com that he’s ready to turn the page on 2012 and reclaim the closer job.
“Casey did an unbelievable job, but at the same time, I would love to be the closer,” said Santos, who is reporting to camp in early February. “That’s the role I relish. I would love to be able to go in and just compete for the job. If we go in and we compete and he beats me in the spring, I have no problem with being a seventh- or eighth-inning guy — whatever they need me to be.
“But just a chance to compete will be great, and if we’re both healthy and throwing well, with Darren coming back, our bullpen is going to be just fine.”
At the very least, the Blue Jays have makings of a potent late-inning combo. Janssen figures to have the edge over Santos going into spring training, but it’s worth noting that he’s coming off November surgery to relieve discomfort in the AC joint of his right shoulder.
Santos was solid in the closer role for the White Sox in 2011, posting a 3.55 ERA, 30 saves and a 92/29 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings. The 29-year-old right-hander is owed $6.5 million over the next two seasons while his contract includes team-friendly club options from 2015-2017.
Former first base and infield coach Nick Leyva was promoted to senior advisor of baseball operations on Saturday, per a report by Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The Pirates also fired third base coach Rick Sofield, with no named successor as of yet.
Leyva joined the Pirates’ organization in the 2011 offseason as a third base coach under manager Clint Hurdle. He shifted to his role as the first base coach and infield coach in 2014, when first base coach Rick Sofield was reassigned to third base prior to the 2015 season. According to Biertempfel, the swap was made in order to optimize the team’s baserunning strategies, all of which appeared to fall flat during the 2015 and 2016 seasons:
The results this season were awful. The Pirates ranked 13th in the National League with a minus-7.0 BsR — a FanGraphs.com metric that measures how many runs above or below league average a team gets via its baserunning.
In 2013 and 2014, the Pirates had one of the top five BsR ratings in the NL. In 2015, they were seventh with a 2.8 BsR.
This season, the Pirates made the second-most outs at third base in the league and were last in taking extra bases on singles and doubles. Their baserunners went from first to third base on hits a league-low 63 times.
Sofield, in particular, highlighted the Pirates’ poor baserunning choices in games like this one, when he sent Sean Rodriguez home too early during the last vestige of a ninth inning rally against the Phillies.
Following the announcement, Pirates’ GM Neal Huntington issued a statement elaborating on Leyva’s role within the organization:
We have great respect and appreciation for both men. We thank them for their time and effort as part of our Major League team and the Pirates organization. It was a difficult decision, but we felt it was the right time to make this change on our Major League staff. We look forward to Nick’s continued impact in his future role with the Pirates. Nick has held nearly every coaching position at the major league level and at the minor league level, including Major League manager, in his extensive career and will be a quality mentor for our minor league managers, coaches and players.
With Game 6 of the NLCS just hours away, the Dodgers will opt for a lefty-heavy lineup against right-hander Kyle Hendricks. Batting leadoff is rookie outfielder Andrew Toles, who made one appearance at the top of the lineup during the 2016 season. The Cubs, meanwhile, will bench Jason Heyward in favor of Albert Almora Jr.. This will be Almora’s first start of the playoffs, and while he has yet to face Kershaw in October, his right-handed bat could play well against the lefty at the bottom of the lineup.
Game time is scheduled for 8 PM EDT; lineups are below.
1. Andrew Toles (L) LF
6. Wilson Contreras (R) C
8. Albert Almora Jr. (R) RF
9. Kyle Hendricks (R) RHP