With the Cardinals clinching the National League Central last night, the Pirates and Reds will officially play in the Wild Card game on Tuesday. And now we know who will be starting for Pittsburgh.
According to Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle confirmed today that Francisco Liriano will get the ball in the play-in game. This would set A.J. Burnett up to start Game 1 of a possible NLDS matchup. Hurdle is leaning toward using four starters in the series should the Pirates make it that far.
Liriano is the natural choice for the play-in game following a resurgent season. While a broken arm resulted in the Pirates adjusting his contract and a late start to the season, the 29-year-old left-hander has posted a surprising 3.02 ERA and 163/63 K/BB ratio over 161 innings.
While we know the matchup, there’s still the matter of who will be hosting the Wild Card game. The Pirates can clinch it with a win over the Reds today or tomorrow. Meanwhile, the Reds will make a decision on their Tuesday starter depending on how things play out. Johnny Cueto or Mat Latos are the favorites.
On Friday, Athletics teammates Billy Butler and Danny Valencia were involved in a clubhouse altercation that started when Butler told an equipment representative that Valencia was wearing off-brand spikes during games. Valencia didn’t like Butler’s interference, potentially costing him an endorsement deal, so he punched Butler in the temple, causing a concussion.
Neither player had said much to the media about the incident, but Butler finally addressed the issue on Wednesday. MLB.com’s Mark Chiarelli reported Butler’s comments:
“This was something that could’ve been prevented on both sides,” Butler said. “We had equal faults in this. I definitely said some things that you shouldn’t have. I definitely stepped in an area where it wasn’t my business.”
“By no means do I think his intentions were to give me a concussion,” Butler said. “This is me addressing my faults and what I took away from the team.”
“To say that we’re enemies is not right,” Butler said. “To blame this all on one side is not right either.”
Butler also apologized to his teammates. “I would like to apologize for putting [my teammates] through this because they didn’t deserve this. This was an issue between me and Danny. To be fair for them, they didn’t deserve this. The coaching staff didn’t deserve this. The organization didn’t deserve this,” he said.
Butler is making progress in his recovery from his concussion. He’ll travel with the team to St. Louis to open up a three-game series against the Cardinals starting on Friday. If he passes his concussion protocol test, the Athletics will put him back on the active roster from the seven-day concussion disabled list.
WEEI’s Rob Bradford reports that Red Sox third baseman Pablo Sandoval has lost 22 pounds during his rehabilitation after undergoing shoulder surgery in early May. Weight has been the top subject of conversation regarding Sandoval ever since he showed up to spring training and an unflattering photograph was published by the Boston Globe.
Sandoval had a miserable spring training, batting .204 in 49 at-bats and lost out on the starting third base job to Travis Shaw. He went hitless in seven regular season plate appearances before landing on the disabled list with a sprained left shoulder, which ultimately required reconstructive surgery.
Sandoval is still under contract through at least 2019, earning $17 million next season, and $18 million in ’18 and ’19. His controlling club has a $17 million option with a $5 million buyout for 2020 as well. It’s hard to see Sandoval fitting into his current club’s future plans, but it will be tough for the Red Sox to get rid of him without eating a significant portion of his remaining contract.