Jeff Locke not starting Sunday due to back tightness, will not pitch in All-Star Game

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Pirates left-hander Jeff Locke felt some back tightness following his most recent start on Monday, so Michael Sanserino of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that he will not start tomorrow against the Mets and will also skip Tuesday’s All-Star Game.

Gerrit Cole will start in Locke’s place tomorrow. The good news is that the back issue isn’t considered serious and he should be good to go after the All-Star break. He isn’t slated to pitch again until July 21, so he’ll go 12 days between starts.

Locke has been a nice surprise for the Pirates this season, posting a 2.15 ERA and 73/47 K/BB ratio in 109 innings over 18 starts. The 25-year-old is on pace to easily surpass the 175 2/3 innings he threw between the majors and minors last year, so the back issue is a convenient way to get him some extra rest in preparation for what should be an interesting second half for Pittsburgh.

J.D. Martinez tells teams he prefers an outfield role

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Free agent outfielder/slugger J.D. Martinez is reportedly seeking an outfield gig, says Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald. According to Silverman’s sources, Martinez’s suitors have been informed that the veteran slugger would give preference to teams that can offer a corner outfield spot, rather than a DH-only role.

That could spell trouble for the Red Sox, who appear to be Martinez’s biggest suitors so far this offseason. Outfielders Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi are firmly established at the corners, and prior reports from club president Dave Dombrowski suggest that center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is not going anywhere anytime soon (thereby eliminating the possibility of reshuffling the outfield). The DH spot is still wide open for Martinez, who doesn’t seem to be totally closed off to the idea, but any full-time or part-time role on the field is likely off the table at this point.

Of course, the Red Sox aren’t the only ones pursuing Martinez’s services this winter. The 30-year-old slugger has been linked to both the Diamondbacks and Giants in weeks past, and while they have the roster flexibility to accommodate his preferences, they’ll need to clear another massive hurdle: the seven-year, $250 million contract he’s said to be seeking. Both clubs will need to get creative to make such a deal work. The Diamondbacks are rumored to be shopping right-hander Zack Greinke in an attempt to free up some room on their payroll for Martinez, while the Giants appear more inclined to scour the trade market for outfield help than shell out cash for another hefty contract in free agency.