Rangers reliever Tanner Scheppers told reporters he was sucker-punched by a group of males after having dinner on Thursday night in Cleveland, thus explaining his suddenly-bruised left eye and the cuts on his face. But that might not be the actual story.
A witness to Scheppers’ supposed sucker punch told Clevescene.com that the incident happened at 2:30 a.m. — not anywhere near dinner time — and that Scheppers was accompanied by teammates Joe Nathan and A.J. Pierzynski, along with “a bunch of girls.” Scheppers, according to the witness, was a “verbal instigator” and there was some jawing back and forth for a few minutes before a punch got thrown.
“He lost a bar fight,” the witness, whose exact level of involvement is unclear, explained to Vince Grzegorek of Clevescene.com on Sunday morning. “He had 10 chances to walk away before this happened.”
The 6-foot-4 right-hander will undoubtedly have to field questions about this account of the incident on Sunday evening, after the Rangers wrap up their weekend series against the Indians at Progressive Field.
Scheppers, 26, has an impressive 1.74 ERA and 1.07 WHIP in 46 2/3 innings of relief this season.
UPDATE, 5:21 p.m. ET: Here’s a statement from the Cleveland Police, via the Dallas Morning News:
“The preliminary investigation reveals that on Friday, July 26, at approximately 2:30 a.m. Texas Ranger pitcher Tanner Scheppers was involved in a physical altercation at Panini’s Bar located on W. 6th Street. Further investigation reveals that the altercation was called in by Downtown Alliance workers and that Third District officers responded to the scene to investigate. Once on scene officers attempted to get information from Scheppers for a report however, he refused to provide information and refused to make a police report. Further, officers called for EMS and he refused medical attention and EMS was disregarded. The officers then conveyed Scheppers and another male to the Ranger’s team hotel.”
The Athletics and Royals swapped outfielders on Saturday. The Athletics sent Billy Burns to Kansas City and the Royals sent Brett Eibner to Oakland.
Burns, 26, doesn’t provide much in the way of offense, but he runs the bases well and plays solid defense. He was hitting .234/.270/.303 with 11 doubles, four triples, and 14 stolen bases in 274 plate appearances.
Eibner, 27, was batting .231/.286/.423 with three home runs and 10 RBI in 85 plate appearances. He has spent most of the season with Triple-A Omaha, where he’s put up a .902 OPS in 219 PA. Eibner played the outfield corners in the majors, but racked up a ton of time playing center in the minors, so his versatility will be valuable to the A’s.
Burns will become eligible for arbitration for the first time after the 2017 season while Eibner has hardly accrued any service time, which might explain part of the motivation behind the trade for the small-market Athletics.
The Nationals announced on Saturday afternoon that the club acquired closer Mark Melancon from the Pirates in exchange for reliever Felipe Rivero and minor league pitcher Taylor Hearn.
Melancon, 31, put together another solid season for the Pirates, leaving the club with 30 saves, a 1.51 ERA, and a 38/9 K/BB ratio in 41 2/3 innings. He led the majors last season with 51 saves and has a 1.80 ERA since joining the Pirates in 2013. Melancon is earning $9.65 million this season and can become eligible for free agency after the season.
With Melancon out of the picture, the Pirates intend to have Tony Watson take over the closer’s role.
Rivero, 25, has handled the seventh and eighth innings for the Nationals this season, compiling a 4.53 ERA and a 53/15 K/BB ratio in 49 2/3 innings. He’s just shy of one year of service time, so the Pirates will have control of him for a long time.
Hearn, 21, was rated the Nationals’ 27th-best prospect by MLB Pipeline. He was originally drafted by the Pirates in the 22nd round of the 2012 draft but he didn’t sign and ended up going back to college. The Nationals took him in the fifth round of last year’s draft. This season, between rookie ball and Single-A Hagerstown, Hearn put up a 2.79 ERA and a 39/13 K/BB ratio in 29 innings. He’s a long way away from the majors, so he’s essentially a lottery ticket for the Pirates.
The Nationals needed an upgrade at closer as Jonathan Papelbon has struggled this season. The right-hander has allowed runs in each of his last three appearances, ballooning his ERA up to 4.41 with a 30/13 K/BB ratio in 32 2/3 innings. It will be interesting to see how Papelbon, who has never made a habit of letting his feelings go unspoken, handles a demotion to the eighth inning.