Umpires go first three outs of major league season without blowing a call

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Of course, our luck ran out in the bottom of the first of Sunday night’s opener between the Rangers and Astros.

With Jose Altuve on first and no outs in the frame, a Matt Harrison pitch to Brett Wallace got away from A.J. Pierzynski, causing Altuve to try for second. The throw arrived on a hop and appeared to beat Altuve but it was to the far side of the bag and by the time the tag was made, Altuve’s foot was on the base. Alas, Andy Fletcher called him out anyway, so new Astros manager Bo Porter took the field for the first argument of the season. The Astros ended up going scoreless in the inning.

MLB pushed back instant replay at least another year last winter, feeling it ready wasn’t to initiate a proper system. Even though there are a dozen cameras covering every baseball game and most calls can be affirmed or corrected in a matter of a few seconds. Still, one can count on MLB making the replay system as unwieldy as possible. It’s going to be awfully exciting next year watching Charlie Manuel deliberate on whether to throw his challenge flag.

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Update: Fletcher evened things up about a half hour later, taking a single away from Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus on a liner to center that was trapped by Justin Maxwell. That made for two easily-reversible blown calls in the first hour of the season.

Tanner Scheppers leaves Cactus League game with lower core injury

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Rangers’ bullpen candidate Tanner Scheppers left Friday’s Cactus League game with pain in his “lower half,” according to reports by Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. The specifics of the right-hander’s injury have yet to be determined, but he was accompanied by the athletic trainer when he exited the game and is scheduled to undergo an MRI on Saturday.

Scheppers, 30, has a long history of elbow and knee injuries. He missed all but 8 2/3 innings of the 2016 season after undergoing a procedure to repair torn articular cartilage in his left knee. While he appeared healthy enough through his first seven appearances this spring, he failed to impress with three runs, five walks and six strikeouts over 7 2/3 innings with the club.

Should Scheppers find himself on the disabled list for another lengthy stay, MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan speculates that his absence could clear some room in the bullpen for Rule 5 draft pick and fellow righty Mike Hauschild. Hauschild, 27, has dealt seven runs, five walks and 15 strikeouts through 17 1/3 innings in camp.

Report: Jose Ramirez close to four-year extension with Indians

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Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan reports that third baseman Jose Ramirez is finalizing a four-year extension with the Indians. The deal is said to be worth north of $30 million, and may crest $50 million if all options are exercised. While the extension won’t take effect until the 2018 season, it guarantees Ramirez a $26 million sum with two options worth $11 and $13 million and will give the Indians control of the infielder through the 2023 season.

Ramirez, 24, is entering his fifth season in the Indians’ organization. He posted career-high numbers during his first full season in the majors, slashing .312/.363/.461 with 11 home runs, 22 stolen bases and 4.8 fWAR in 2016. He’s projected to have a strong follow-up season at the plate and will likely see some time at second base as Jason Kipnis works his way back from a shoulder injury.

Although 2016 only showcased the beginning of Ramirez’s success with the club, FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman says it’s a standard move for Cleveland to “sign their stars early,” and indicates that Ramirez was rumored to want the deal. Jeff Todd of MLB Trade Rumors adds that the extension will keep Ramirez under club control through three arbitration-eligible years and one year of potential free agency.