Last year around this time A.J. Burnett was taking part in the Pirates’ bunting competition when he fouled a ball off his face and suffered an orbital fracture that required surgery and two months of recovery time.
Burnett missed the first three weeks of the regular season and apparently learned his lesson. When asked today what his plans were for this year’s bunting competition, Burnett said: “No. I’m out. I’ll bunt only if coach throws the ball. No machine pitch.”
Because so many people had gotten used to mocking Burnett for his performance with the Yankees the bunting injury last spring led to all sorts of ridicule, but once healthy he had a very good season for the Pirates with a 3.51 ERA and 180 strikeouts in 202 innings.
The Mets signed catcher Jose Lobaton to a minor league contract, the team announced Friday. The deal includes an invitation to spring training, where it’s assumed Lobaton will be in the mix for a backup role behind Travis d'Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki.
Lobaton, 33, is coming off of a four-year stint with the Nationals. He put up his worst career numbers in 2017, producing -0.6 fWAR after slashing just .170/.248/.277 with four home runs in 158 plate appearances. While he’ll give the Mets little to work with at the plate, his near-decade of experience behind the dish should make him a decent emergency option, if nothing else.
In the meantime, the Mets are expected to roll with a d’Arnaud/Plawecki platoon to start the season. Both catchers saw slight upticks in value over the 2017 season: d’Arnaud turned in 0.8 fWAR after hitting a career-high 16 home runs, while Plawecki collected 0.6 fWAR and three homers after raising his batting line over the Mendoza Line for the first time since 2015.