Astros close to signing No. 1 pick Mark Appel

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Last year, after falling from projected No. 1 pick to No. 8 pick Mark Appel and agent Scott Boras played hardball with the Pirates, turning down $3.8 million to go back to school for his senior season.

This year Appel went No. 1 overall to the Astros–who passed on him in 2012–and Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports reports that the two sides are already close to a deal.

As a senior Appel can take his sweet time negotiating because the normal deadline doesn’t apply, but according to Passan “one club source expects Appel to be signed by the middle of next week.”

No word yet on the money, but the slot amount for the No. 1 pick is $7.8 million or more than double what the Pirates offered Appel last year. Returning to Stanford for his senior season carried a ton of risk for Appel, but it’s tough to argue that it didn’t work out exactly as he (and Boras) planned.

After experiencing his first draft as the Astros’ pro scouting director former Baseball Prospectus writer Kevin Goldstein talked to Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller about life behind the scenes and how the decision to draft Appel came down to the wire. Interesting stuff, so check it out.

Yankees GM Brian Cashman not considering demoting struggling Greg Bird

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Yankees first baseman Greg Bird gave his team tons of confidence to hand him the everyday job at first base to start the 2017 regular season, batting .451/.556/1.098 with eight home runs in 51 spring at-bats. But he’s followed that up by hitting .107/.254/.214 through the first month of the regular season.

GM Brian Cashman doesn’t have any intent to demote Bird back to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch reports. Cashman said, “It’s not even an option for me in my mind right now, at all.”

Bird didn’t start Sunday’s game against the Orioles, a 7-4 loss in 11 innings. Lefty Wade Miley started for the Orioles, prompting manager Joe Girardi to put Chris Carter into the lineup at first base. If Bird isn’t able to figure things out, Carter might have an increased role on the team.

Chris Archer threw behind Jose Bautista

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Rays starter Chris Archer threw his first pitch to Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista behind the slugger’s back with one out in the first inning of Sunday afternoon’s game in Toronto. Bautista and Archer then had a staredown. Home plate umpire Jim Wolf issued warnings to both teams. Bautista ultimately flied out to right field and he appeared to have a quick word with Archer on his way back to the dugout.

Archer could have been exacting revenge — euphemistically known as “protecting his teammate” — because Jays reliever Joe Biagini hit Rays outfielder Steven Souza in the seventh inning of Saturday’s game. Souza was forced to leave the game and underwent an X-ray, which came back negative. He was held out of Sunday’s lineup. Biagini’s pitch did not appear to be intentional.

The Jays won Sunday’s contest 3-1 with no further incident. The two clubs meet again in Tampa for a three-game series starting on May 5, so we’ll see if Sunday was the last of the bad blood between them.