Washington Nationals v Philadelphia Phillies

Phillies move Ethan Martin to bullpen, Tyler Cloyd to rotation

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Chris Branch of the News Journal reports that the Phillies have decided to move Ethan Martin to the bullpen and Tyler Cloyd to the rotation. Martin, acquired from the Dodgers last year in the Shane Victorino trade, had made seven starts since making his Major League debut against the Braves on August 2, posting a 6.90 ERA in 30 innings of work.

While Martin flashed an impressive mid-90’s fastball and a decent curve, he quickly lost steam. In his first trip through the opposing lineup, Martin held the opposition to a .618 OPS. The second time through, he allowed a .961 OPS, and his third time through, 1.488. His fastball averaged 95 MPH in the first inning but dropped below 93 MPH by the fifth inning, according to Brooks Baseball. Scouts profiled him as a future reliever and it seems like the Phillies are starting to see that, though pitching coach Rich Dubee says the team wants to “protect him”.

More from Dubee, via CSN Philly’s John Finger:

“I’m not afraid to put him in the eighth inning right now,” Dubee said. “Again, this is all trial and error. It will be interesting to see how he handles it. His stuff has played phenomenally well the first time through a lineup.

“And again, I don’t know if it’s because of fatigue, I don’t know if it’s because he burns up too much energy, but his stuff shortens up the second and third time through. I do think this guy is a gem. He will play some big role on a pitching staff. It will be a nice little change to take a different look at him.”

Cloyd was with Triple-A Lehigh Valley between June 17 and August 14, then made one start with the Phillies on the 20th, and a five-inning extra-inning relief appearance on the 24th against the Diamondbacks. He went back to Lehigh Valley on the 30th for a six-inning start and hasn’t pitched since. Martin was scheduled to start against the Padres on September 10, so that will likely be Cloyd’s next appearance.

Blue Jays will have a closer competition this spring

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Roberto Osuna became the youngest pitcher to ever play for the Blue Jays last season at age 20 and he rose to the challenge with a 2.58 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, and 75/16 K/BB ratio in 69 2/3 frames. Osuna eventually took over as Toronto’s closer, earning 20 regular-season saves and one in the American League Division Series — a five-out effort in Game 5 to close out the visiting Rangers.

But the Jays upgraded the back end of their bullpen this winter, acquiring Drew Storen from the Nationals in early January for speedy outfielder Ben Revere. Jesse Chavez was also brought to Toronto in a trade with the A’s.

Storen has more experience at closer than Osuna, and Storen struggled when the Nationals tried to put him in a setup role. Storen, in his final year of salary arbitration, also gets paid much more. He’s probably going to enter spring training as the favorite for the Jays’ ninth-inning gig, but there will be a competition …

Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins told Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca on Wednesday that he doesn’t expect the team to choose between Osuna or Storen until midway through spring training, if not later.

There’s been talk of making Osuna a starter, so add that wrinkle.

Storen, 28, boasts 95 career major league saves.

Orioles plotting late-offseason push? Gallardo, Fowler, Alvarez, Bruce in consideration

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Baltimore’s front office appears to be lining up a run of potential roster additions leading into the beginning of spring training.

We’ve already passed along the reports suggesting they are close to a three-year deal with free agent starter Yovani Gallardo, but now FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal adds that free agent outfielder Dexter Fowler could be next on the Orioles’ target list. It they get those two deals done, the O’s could then chase free agent slugger Pedro Alvarez.

Rosenthal says the Orioles are even eyeing Jay Bruce of the Reds, though the FOX reporter hears the O’s might not have the prospects to pull off that kind of trade.

The focus for the Orioles out of the gate this winter was re-signing Matt Wieters and Chris Davis. Wieters accepted his one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer in November and Davis was locked up to a seven-year, $161 million contract in mid-January.

Now the O’s are spending a little leftover cash on late-offseason additions to improve their position in what should be a tight 2016 American League East race.

Brandon Belt signs $6.2 million deal, avoiding arbitration with Giants

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In a last-second compromise before a scheduled heading today, first baseman Brandon Belt and the Giants have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $6.2 million deal.

Belt requested $7.5 million and the Giants countered at $5.3 million, so they’ve settled slightly on the team-friendly side of the midpoint. Belt will be arbitration eligible again next season for the final time before hitting the open market as a free agent.

He’s coming off a very good season in which he hit .280 with 18 homers and an .834 OPS in 137 games and Belt has a lifetime .803 OPS through age 27, making him one of MLB’s most underrated all-around first baseman.

Orioles sign ex-Padres reliever Dale Thayer

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Right-hander Dale Thayer and the Orioles have agreed to a minor-league contract that includes an invitation to spring training.

Thayer had a rough 2015 season for the Padres, posting a 4.06 ERA and spending time in the minors, but he was a solid part of San Diego’s bullpen from 2012-2014 with a combined 3.02 ERA and 173/50 K/BB ratio in 188 innings.

At age 35 there’s no guarantee that Thayer will look good enough to claim a spot on the Opening Day roster, but he’s got a strong chance to wind up pitching middle relief for Baltimore.