Jose Constanza

Because you can’t let Jose Constanza beat you

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If there’s a worse hitter than Jose Constanza on a postseason roster, it’s safe to say the guy also dabbles in some mound work.

This is a guy who hit .276/.332/.314 with no homers and 17 RBI this year… in Triple-A! In the majors, he came in at .258 in 31 at-bats. He also had a .258 OBP, as well as a .258 slugging percentage. One third of his hits were bunt singles. The guy has so little power that 44 percent of his hits as a major leaguer have failed to leave the infield.

Still, there was Don Mattingly, unwilling to take the chance that Constanza would add on to the Braves’ 2-1 lead with two outs in the seventh tonight. The left-handed-hitting Constanza was Atlanta’s pinch-hitter with two outs and men on second and third. Right-hander Chris Withrow had gotten into the jam, but he had just struck out Elliot Johnson with a looping curve to give himself a chance to get out of it.

Mattingly had three options at that point:

1. Let Withrow face Jose Constanza
2. Bring in a lefty to face a right-handed pinch-hitter
3. Bring in a lefty to walk the right-handed pinch-hitter and face lefty Jason Heyward instead

Mattingly went with No. 3. He called on Paco Rodriguez, and the intentional walk came after the Braves countered with Reed Johnson. Heyward proceeded to single up the middle, scoring two runs, and the Braves ended up winning 4-3 to even up the NLDS at one game apiece.

Of course, things could have worked out differently. Rodriguez truly has been murder on left-handed hitters this year, limiting them to a .131 average. Heyward has actually been better against lefties than righties, but Rodriguez likely retires him at least 75 percent of the time there.

Really, though, it’s often true that the simplest solution is best. Left-handed hitters batted .217 against Withrow this year, and Constanza is as bad as any he faced. Plus, Heyward is the one of those options that could have turned this into a game over with one swing of the bat. A typically squib single from Conzstanza might not even have scored the second run. On the other hand, it something went wrong with Heyward, it could have been a 6-1 score.

It wasn’t a horrible decision from Mattingly. Odds are that he’ll make worse calls that work out better later in the series. Still, he’ll be reliving this one for months if the Dodgers lose the series, particularly since Hanley Ramirez hit a two-run homer in the eighth that brought the Dodgers to within 4-3.

Report: Teams reluctant to gamble on Cliff Lee

Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cliff Lee throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park Thursday, July 31, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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In Saturday’s column for the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo suggests that free agent Cliff Lee is seeking a guaranteed major league deal between $6 and $8 million plus incentives. That is turning some otherwise interested teams away, as the lefty is still recovering from a torn flexor tendon in his left elbow. Lee hasn’t pitched since July 31, 2014.

Last month, Lee’s agent Darek Braunecker said the pitcher would need “a perfect fit” to pitch in 2016. He also noted that Lee has begun a full offseason throwing program.

In his most recent season, Lee compiled a 3.65 ERA with 72 strikeouts and 12 walks in 81 1/3 innings for the Phillies. The Phillies had signed him to a five-year, $120 million contract in December 2010 but declined a club option for the 2016 season, instead buying him out for $12.5 million.

Orioles reconsidering signing Yovani Gallardo

Yovani Gallardo
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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In an article for MASN on Friday, Steve Melewski noted that the Orioles were reluctant to forfeit their first round draft pick (14th overall) in order to sign free agent starter Yovani Gallardo. The club is now reconsidering its stance and rechecking the right-handers medicals, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.

Gallardo, who turns 30 on February 27, posted a 3.42 ERA with 121 strikeouts and 68 walks over 184 1/3 innings for the Rangers last season. The Rangers had acquired him in a trade with the Brewers, sending Luis Sardinas, Corey Knebel, and minor leaguer Marcos Diplan to Milwaukee.

Gallardo has posted an ERA below 4.00 in six of his last seven seasons. He remains unsigned into February, however, because his strikeout rate has rapidly decreased with each year since 2012. Per FanGraphs, that rate was 23.7 percent in 2012, then went to 18.6 percent, 17.9 percent, and 15.3 percent progressively. Some of that may have to do with diminishing fastball velocity, as Gallardo’s 90.4 MPH average marked a career low among his eight full seasons with at least 100 innings pitched.

The Orioles lost starter Wei-Yin Chen, who signed with the Marlins, and the back end of their rotation is highly speculative with Kevin Gausman, Mike Wright, Odrisamer Despaigne, and Tyler Wilson. Adding a veteran like Gallardo, even if he is apparently declining, may be stabilizing.

Freddy Garcia is calling it a career

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Elsa/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez passes along word from the Dominican Republic that right-hander Freddy Garcia will hang up his cleats for good after Sunday’s Caribbean Series championship game.

Garcia will start that game for the Tigres de Aragua out of Venezuela. He’s taking on Mexico’s Venados de Mazatlan.

“Venezuelan fans are expecting something good from Freddy and so is everybody,” said Tigres de Aragua manager Eddie Perez, who also serves as the bullpen coach for the Atlanta Braves. “Knowing that it’s his last game is going to make it very special. We all hope he pitches a really good game so he can retire in a good way and bring the title for Venezuela. Everybody who is rooting for Venezuela expects him to do well.”

Garcia’s last major league game was in the 2013 postseason. The 39-year-0ld will finish with a 4.15 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 6.4 K/9 in 2,264 career regular-season innings. He had a 3.26 ERA in 11 playoff starts, winning a World Series title with the White Sox in 2005.

Video: 2016 will be a season to remember

Carlos+Correa+Houston+Astros+v+Arizona+Diamondbacks+Ctyu5RiU3SWl
Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com put together this very cool video montage reviewing the 2015 season and setting us up for what should be a wild 2016. Young stars, veterans chasing milestones, unpredictable divisional races.

It’s so close to spring training. Let’s do this.