The fireworks started early at the Brewers-Braves game in Atlanta on Wednesday, with a Carlos Gomez homer off Paul Maholm in the top of the first leading to a benches-clearing incident.
Gomez and Maholm had a history, with Gomez batting .424 with two HBPs in 21 career plate appearances against the lefty. After his long homer tonight, he paused and watched, then started jawing with Maholm as he finally decided to start his trot. The conversation continued with Freddie Freeman as he rounded first, and as he turned third, he found himself a roadblock in the form of Brian McCann about 15 feet in front of home plate.
That went as well as one might expect. Gomez and McCann traded barbs and were quickly joined by a couple of Brewers and Reed Johnson off the Braves’ bench. Gomez got very angry, but he seemed more interested in finding teammates to hold him back than actually taking a swing at anyone. In the end, no blows were exchanged. Freeman was the Brave ejected, to his great surprise. The Gomez ejection went unannounced, but he didn’t take his position in the bottom of the first.
Oddly enough, Gomez never did come around to touch home plate. Since McCann obstructed him, it seems he didn’t have to.
For McCann and the Braves, it’s the second incident in a couple of weeks in which they didn’t much like someone’s actions after homering off them. The Marlins’ Jose Fernandez previously got into it with McCann and Chris Johnson.
Whether McCann started this one or not, he should have been the Brave ejected for getting in Gomez’s way. It was hard to see what Freeman did beyond some verbal jousting.
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.