Joe Maddon concerned about the work, and lack of work, for two of his players in the WBC

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Marc Topkin reports that Joe Maddon is concerned about two Rays players currently in the WBC. One because he’s working too much, the other because he’s not working enough.

Closer Fernando Rodney has pitched in all six games, closing five, over 10 days for the Dominican Republic. On the other hand, catcher Jose Molina has had only three plate appearances for Puerto Rico backing up his little brother Yadier.

Not sure that Molina’s lack of playing time should be such a concern. Wear and tear on a catcher over the course of a season can be considerable, even when that catcher is one of the seemingly indestructible Molina brothers. And while I suppose rust at the plate is a concern, it’s not like Molina hasn’t spent most of his career as a backup catcher anyway, for whom at bats have always been few and far between. And let’s be honest: what’s the inactivity gonna do? Sap his status as an offensive juggernaut? The guy is a career .238/.286/.355 hitter. Can it really get much worse?

As for Rodney: those six games are on top of three spring training games he tossed for the Rays before the WBC began. Scanning around the league, closers who are not in the WBC have typically pitched in four games so far, though some have pitched in as many as seven.  They’re different kind of innings — stressful vs. stress free, basically — but it’s not like Rodney is on another planet. And it’s not as if Rodney has had any games in which he’s labored or thrown a ton of pitches.

Bryce Harper to Little League players: “No participation trophies, first place only”

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Nationals’ star outfielder Bryce Harper had some words of advice for a local Little League team on Saturday, telling a crowd of young players and their parents that winning matters far more than any participation trophies they might receive for their efforts on the field.

“As much as they might tell you, ‘Oh, it’s okay, you guys lost…’ No, Johnny, no,” Harper explained. “No participation trophies, okay? First place only. Come on.”

The panic over participation trophy culture has swelled over the last few years as studies continue to suggest that children are happier when they’re praised for their accomplishments, rather than rewarded for simply trying their best. The general idea is that kids aren’t motivated to succeed when they know they’ll receive a ribbon or medal celebrating their efforts at the end of the day — regardless of whether they win or lose. (Granted, it stands to reason that every kid can feel the difference between winning a championship trophy and receiving a participation ribbon.) Some have taken the idea to an extreme, claiming that when a child receives too many accolades for mediocre or poor performances, it can warp the way they view the world by generating a sense of undeserved entitlement.

Harper kept his tone light during the Q&A session, however, drawing cheers and applause from the majority of parents and a few of the kids. The 2015 NL MVP has routinely taken his own advice over the years, earning Rookie of the Year honors, four All-Star nominations and a Silver Slugger award since he broke into the major leagues in 2012. Next on his list? A World Series championship.

Indians to move Danny Salazar to the bullpen

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MLB.com’s William Kosileski reports that Indians starter Danny Salazar is being moved to the bullpen and will be available as soon as Wednesday or Thursday. The Indians will go on a five-game road strip starting on June 2, and manager Terry Francona said that Salazar could get a start during that trip.

Salazar, 27, has struggled to a 5.50 ERA over his first 10 starts this season. While none of those starts were absolute disasters, he failed to finish the sixth inning in seven of those 10 starts. It’s a far cry from his performance over the last two seasons, when he finished with a 3.45 ERA and 3.87 ERA.

Salazar’s walk rate is up to a career-high 11.9 percent, per FanGraphs, and he’s allowing many more line drives at the expense of ground balls. Compared to 2016, his line drive rate is up 8.9 percent and his ground ball rate is down 10.4 percent. All of that could explain Salazar’s struggles to some extent.