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.

Orioles re-sign Michael Bourn to a minor league deal

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 04:  Michael Bourn #1 of the Baltimore Orioles hits a single in the fifth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays during the American League Wild Card game at Rogers Centre on October 4, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
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The Orioles have re-signed outfielder Michael Bourn to a minor league contract with an invitation to major league camp, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.

Bourn, 34, joined the Orioles last year in a trade from the Diamondbacks on August 31. Though he compiled a meager .669 OPS with the Diamondbacks, Bourn hit a solid .283/.358/.435 in 55 plate appearances with the O’s through the end of the season.

Bourn, a non-roster invitee to camp, will try to play his way onto the Orioles’ 25-man roster. If he does make the roster, Bourn will receive a $2 million salary, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports points out.

Shelby Miller is in the best mental shape of his life

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 24:  Shelby Miller #26 of the Arizona Diamondbacks pitches in the first inning during the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on May 24, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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Diamondbacks starter Shelby Miller had about as bad a season as one can have. He was the headliner in the trade that sent 2015 No. 1 overall pick Dansby Swanson, All-Star outfielder Ender Inciarte, and highly-regarded pitching prospect Aaron Blair to the Braves. It was a trade that was pilloried at the time and continues to be pilloried to this day.

Miller didn’t do then-GM Dave Stewart any favors with his 2016 performance. He went 3-12 with a 6.15 ERA and a 70/42 K/BB ratio over 101 innings. That included a bout with mechanical failure, as he kept hitting the mound with his follow-through. He went on the disabled list. And after that, he was demoted to Triple-A. After getting fired, Stewart expressed remorse over acquiring Miller — or, more accurately, giving up Swanson to do so.

So, the 26-year-old Miller heads into 2017 without any momentum. To his credit, though, he’s going into the new season with a very positive perspective. Via Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports:

I’m just in a really happy place, away from the field, on the field. […]

Maybe it’s just the way I go about everything, trying to be positive in every single aspect of life. Baseball’s not perfect. I’m not perfect. I know bumps in the road are going to happen. Last year was obviously not just a bump, but a huge mountain. Right now, that’s completely behind me. I’m not worried about any of that.

I’m really ready for this year, ready to redeem myself so much.

Even pitching coach Mike Butcher sees the change in Miller’s mentality. “He’s not a different guy. But you can see there’s a presence in him. That’s what we need. Just be Shelby Miller. You don’t have to live up to anything. Just be yourself.”

Manager Torey Lovullo, too, praised Miller. “I saw a guy who had spent a lot of time taking care of his business in the weight room — he looks fantastic, in fantastic shape,” he said.

It sounds like Miller is not only in great mental shape, but great physical shape, too. Is it the “best shape of his life”? Only time can tell.