It’s possible that Ryan Howard could return from July knee surgery to rejoin the Phillies lineup in September, but interim manager Ryne Sandberg told Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com that it would be “counterproductive” for the first baseman to do so.
I don’t know what 10 or 15 games would do. He needs to get healthy and strong and in top baseball shape and whether or not that can happen by mid-September is a question. … He had a big injury and I don’t think he ever got into true baseball shape. He needs to get trimmed up to a playing weight that he can be productive at. Go ahead get him in baseball shape and be ready for first day of spring training ready to go.
It’s interesting that Sandberg is so focused on Howard’s status for 2014 considering the Phillies haven’t officially named him the manager for next season, although he’s certainly right that the focus of Howard’s recovery shouldn’t be some meaningless September games.
As for the repeated references to Howard getting into “baseball shape” … general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said recently that he’s dropped 15 pounds and Salisbury reports that he’s expected to spend at least part of the offseason “working with team conditioning personnel and hitting coaches” at the Phillies’ spring training complex in Florida.
Howard, who’ll be 34 years old in November, is signed for three more seasons at a total cost of $85 million.
With the 2017 World Baseball Classic around the corner, Team Israel has reportedly reached out to Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, per MLB Network’s Jon Morosi. Tournament rules stipulate that a player’s roster eligibility can be achieved in one of several ways: they were born in the country in question or hold citizenship/permanent legal residence there (or are simply capable of qualifying for citizenship), or one of their parents was born in the country or holds citizenship/permanent legal residence there.
For Kipnis, it’s the latter. Kipnis’ father, Mark Kipnis, is Jewish. That gives Kipnis the status he needs to suit up for Team Israel, despite the fact that he is a practicing Roman Catholic. He has yet to confirm or deny his participation in the competition.
Fifteen players have confirmed for Team Israel so far, including Mets’ infielder/outfielder Ty Kelly and free agents Sam Fuld, Nate Freiman, Jason Marquis and Jeremy Bleich. Per MLB.com’s Chad Thornburg, eight minor leaguers will also appear for the team. Like Kipnis, at least three other major leaguers are eligible for Team Israel’s roster but have yet to accept or decline involvement in the WBC: Dodgers center fielder Joc Pederson, Mariners infielder/outfielder Danny Valencia and free agent left-hander Craig Breslow.
Free agent first baseman James Loney has reportedly signed a minor league deal with the Rangers, per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. The deal includes an invite to spring training and a $1 million salary if he makes the major league roster in 2017.
Loney picked up a one-year stint and starting role with the Mets in 2016, slashing .265/.307/.397 with nine home runs in 336 PA. While his numbers were down a hair from the .280/.322/.357 batting line he produced with the Rays in 2015, he provided the Mets with a necessary, if underwhelming upgrade over an injured Lucas Duda through most of the season.
The 32-year-old infielder is expected to have some competition at first base, with at least five other candidates in the mix: Jurickson Profar, Ronald Guzman, Ryan Rua, Joey Gallo and Josh Hamilton. Rumor has it that the team is planning on platooning Rua and Profar in 2017, barring any impressive breakouts or injuries during spring training, though Loney could still provide the club with some veteran depth and a decent left-handed bat off the bench.