Brandon Maurer

Astros light up Mariners rookie Brandon Maurer

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Finally getting to take out some frustration, the Astros racked up six runs and seven hits in the first Tuesday against Mariners starter Brandon Maurer, sending him to the showers after 36 pitches.

It was a second straight rough outing for Maurer, who climbed over several pitchers this spring to win a spot in the Mariners rotation. He gave up six runs over six innings in a loss to Oakland in his major league debut last week.

While the Mariners probably won’t bail on Maurer after two starts, he’s going to have to be better next time to keep his spot. If he fails again, the Mariners could give Jeremy Bonderman a shot. Bonderman, who is trying to return to the majors after two years off, allowed three runs in five innings in his first start for Triple-A Tacoma.

Ideally, the Mariners would have Erasmo Ramirez available to fill in, but he’s on the minor league DL after coming down with some elbow soreness late in the spring. They do have top prospect Danny Hultzen available if they don’t want to turn to Bonderman. Hultzen has battled control problems since being drafted second overall two years ago, but he had a nice season debut for Tacoma, allowing one run in six innings and striking out eight.

As for the Astros, their six runs in the first tonight matched their total from the previous three games combined. They had been shut out in three of their first seven games.

Jason Kipnis could join Team Israel for 2017 World Baseball Classic

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Jason Kipnis #22 of the Cleveland Indians throws during batting practice prior to Game Seven of the 2016 World Series against the Chicago Cubs at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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With the 2017 World Baseball Classic around the corner, Team Israel has reportedly reached out to Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, per MLB Network’s Jon Morosi. Tournament rules stipulate that a player’s roster eligibility can be achieved in one of several ways: they were born in the country in question or hold citizenship/permanent legal residence there (or are simply capable of qualifying for citizenship), or one of their parents was born in the country or holds citizenship/permanent legal residence there.

For Kipnis, it’s the latter. Kipnis’ father, Mark Kipnis, is Jewish. That gives Kipnis the status he needs to suit up for Team Israel, despite the fact that he is a practicing Roman Catholic. He has yet to confirm or deny his participation in the competition.

Fifteen players have confirmed for Team Israel so far, including Mets’ infielder/outfielder Ty Kelly and free agents Sam Fuld, Nate Freiman, Jason Marquis and Jeremy Bleich. Per MLB.com’s Chad Thornburg, eight minor leaguers will also appear for the team. Like Kipnis, at least three other major leaguers are eligible for Team Israel’s roster but have yet to accept or decline involvement in the WBC: Dodgers center fielder Joc Pederson, Mariners infielder/outfielder Danny Valencia and free agent left-hander Craig Breslow.

Rangers to sign James Loney to minor league deal

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 21: James Loney #28 of the New York Mets tosses to first base against the San Francisco Giants during the second inning at AT&T Park on August 21, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  The New York Mets defeated the San Francisco Giants 2-0. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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Free agent first baseman James Loney has reportedly signed a minor league deal with the Rangers, per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. The deal includes an invite to spring training and a $1 million salary if he makes the major league roster in 2017.

Loney picked up a one-year stint and starting role with the Mets in 2016, slashing .265/.307/.397 with nine home runs in 336 PA. While his numbers were down a hair from the .280/.322/.357 batting line he produced with the Rays in 2015, he provided the Mets with a necessary, if underwhelming upgrade over an injured Lucas Duda through most of the season.

The 32-year-old infielder is expected to have some competition at first base, with at least five other candidates in the mix: Jurickson Profar, Ronald Guzman, Ryan Rua, Joey Gallo and Josh Hamilton. Rumor has it that the team is planning on platooning Rua and Profar in 2017, barring any impressive breakouts or injuries during spring training, though Loney could still provide the club with some veteran depth and a decent left-handed bat off the bench.