Ben Walker of the Associated Press shares this exclusive story behind Major League Baseball’s dismissal of umpire Brian Runge:
MLB announced on June 14 that Brian Runge was no longer on the staff and that a Triple-A umpire had been promoted, but didn’t give a reason. Only once since 2000 had such a change been made in midseason, and that was because of an injury.
The two people said Runge failed at least one drug test, then reached an agreement so he could remain on the umpire roster. When he failed to comply with those terms, he was released.
The Associated Press was unable to determine what drug was showing up on those tests and both MLB and the World Umpires Association have declined comment.
Runge, a 43-year-old native of San Diego, California, began umpiring in the big leagues in 1999. He took a mysterious hiatus from the job between July and September 2009 and hadn’t umpired a game this year.
Runge was behind the plate for Philip Humber’s perfect game on April 21, 2012 at Seattle’s Safeco Field and he was on the umpiring crew for the 2012 All-Star Game last July at Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Royals and first baseman Eric Hosmer have discussed a long-term contract extension. However, Hosmer also indicated that he will head into free agency if a deal is not consummated by Opening Day.
Hosmer, 27, avoided arbitration with the Royals last month, agreeing to a $12.25 million salary for the 2017 season. He is one of four key Royals players who can become a free agent after the season along with Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar, and Lorenzo Cain. If Hosmer does reach free agency, he would arguably be the top free agent first baseman.
Hosmer finished the past season hitting .266/.328/.433 with 25 home runs and 104 RBI while making his first All-Star team.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that the Yankees have signed pitcher Jon Niese to a minor league contract, pending a physical. Assuming the deal is finalized, Sherman notes that the Yankees will have Niese work as both a starter and a reliever in big league camp this spring.
According to Sherman, the Yankees were interested in lefty relievers Jerry Blevins and Boone Logan, but didn’t want to commit at their asking prices. They are looking for a lefty set-up man along with Tommy Lane.
Niese, 30, pitched for the Pirates and Mets last season, finishing with a 5.50 ERA and an 88/47 K/BB ratio over 121 innings.