Alexi Casilla

The Orioles want Alexi Casilla to give up switch-hitting

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Infielder Alexi Casilla is hitting .200/.222/.257 in 35 at-bats for the Orioles this season after coming in at .241/.282/.321 in 299 at-bats for the Twins last year. Hence, the Orioles think it’s time for him to try something new. In this case, they believe the natural right-handed hitter should give up switch-hitting.

The interesting thing about this is that Casilla doesn’t have pronounced splits. In fact, he has a higher OPS as a left-handed hitter in his career:

As a left-handed hitter: .246/.307/.339, 9 HR, 98 RBI in 1,094 at-bats
As a right-handed hitter: .258/.297/.322. 2 HR, 49 RBI in 516 at-bats

(That doesn’t count his five at-bats as a right-handed hitter against right-handed pitchers. I’m assuming those came versus knuckleballers.)

The Orioles, though, have declined to use Casilla against right-handers this season, even with Brian Roberts out and Ryan Flaherty struggling mightily as a replacement second baseman. Casilla has started 10 games, nine of which have come versus left-handers.

According to MASN”s Roch Kubatko, Casilla is going along with the idea. He intends to bat left-handed against righties for now, but he’s been taking batting practice right-handed against righties and it sounds like he’ll do it in games once he’s more comfortable.

Perhaps the Orioles’ hope is that Casilla, instead of trying to stay sharp from both sides of the plate and splitting his focus, will improve if he concentrates solely on hitting right-handed. It probably can’t hurt, since Casilla is very much in danger of getting bumped from the major leagues the way things are going now.

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.