Intentional or not, Bryce Harper’s body continues to be a magnet for Braves’ pitchers. After benches cleared when the 20-year-old was hit by a pitch back on August 6, he was hit two more times last night.
Harper was hit in the back by a curveball from starter Alex Wood in the top of the fourth inning, though it certainly appeared to be a pitch that got away from the young southpaw. Luis Avilan later plunked Harper in the eighth inning with a pitch that came dangerously close to hitting him in the head.
It’s worth noting that it was a one-run game at the time and the tying run was already at second base, so it would be a silly time to throw at someone intentionally. While Avilan put his team in position to potentially lose the game, that didn’t stop some fans from giving him a standing ovation when Fredi Gonzalez made a pitching change. Oh, so classy. The Nationals would go on to tie it on a single by Jayson Werth, but the Braves won in the bottom of the 10th inning on a walk-off homer by Justin Upton.
For his part, Avilan told Amanda Comak of the Washington Times that he did not throw at Harper intentionally and simply had a “bad day” on the mound. Meanwhile, Harper declined comment after the game. There have been calls for retaliation from the Nationals, but you can bet the umpiring crew will be on high alert for any funny business this weekend. Besides, it’s not like throwing at someone will change the fact that the disappointing Nationals sit 15 1/2 games behind the Braves in the National League East.
Rangers’ bullpen candidate Tanner Scheppers left Friday’s Cactus League game with pain in his “lower half,” according to reports by Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. The specifics of the right-hander’s injury have yet to be determined, but he was accompanied by the athletic trainer when he exited the game and is scheduled to undergo an MRI on Saturday.
Scheppers, 30, has a long history of elbow and knee injuries. He missed all but 8 2/3 innings of the 2016 season after undergoing a procedure to repair torn articular cartilage in his left knee. While he appeared healthy enough through his first seven appearances this spring, he failed to impress with three runs, five walks and six strikeouts over 7 2/3 innings with the club.
Should Scheppers find himself on the disabled list for another lengthy stay, MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan speculates that his absence could clear some room in the bullpen for Rule 5 draft pick and fellow righty Mike Hauschild. Hauschild, 27, has dealt seven runs, five walks and 15 strikeouts through 17 1/3 innings in camp.
Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan reports that third baseman Jose Ramirez is finalizing a four-year extension with the Indians. The deal is said to be worth north of $30 million, and may crest $50 million if all options are exercised. While the extension won’t take effect until the 2018 season, it guarantees Ramirez a $26 million sum with two options worth $11 and $13 million and will give the Indians control of the infielder through the 2023 season.
Ramirez, 24, is entering his fifth season in the Indians’ organization. He posted career-high numbers during his first full season in the majors, slashing .312/.363/.461 with 11 home runs, 22 stolen bases and 4.8 fWAR in 2016. He’s projected to have a strong follow-up season at the plate and will likely see some time at second base as Jason Kipnis works his way back from a shoulder injury.
Although 2016 only showcased the beginning of Ramirez’s success with the club, FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman says it’s a standard move for Cleveland to “sign their stars early,” and indicates that Ramirez was rumored to want the deal. Jeff Todd of MLB Trade Rumors adds that the extension will keep Ramirez under club control through three arbitration-eligible years and one year of potential free agency.