It’s a pitching duel between a 23-year-old rookie and a 30-year-old veteran in Game 2 of the ALDS between the Athletics and Tigers. A’s rookie Sonny Gray has shut out the Tigers through four innings, using a mid-90’s fastball and a knee-bending curve to keep Tiger hitters at bay. Thus far, he has struck out five while surrendering just two hits: one to Miguel Cabrera in the first, and an infield single to Don Kelly in the second. As of this posting, he has retired seven consecutive Tigers in a row. One thing to keep an eye on: he has thrown 63 pitches thus far.
Verlander, however, has been even better. He ended the regular season on a high note and appears to have brought it with him into the post-season. Through four frames, he has allowed just one hit — a two-out single up the middle by Josh Donaldson. Prior to that hit, Verlander retired the first 11 Athletics he faced. Overall, Verlander has struck out seven (and six of the seven A’s to have struck out have gone down looking). He is at 69 pitches through four innings.
Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.
Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.
Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.
The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.
ESPN’s Pedro Gomez provides a previously unreported detail of the new collective bargaining agreement, agreed to by the owners and the players’ union last week. Players’ meal money for road games is being reduced from $105 to $30 per day. Teams are providing pre- and post-game meals in the visitors’ clubhouse to offset some of the decrease in meal money.
Gomez quotes an unnamed player who said, “I doubt many guys know about the money going down, nor would they have agreed to it.” All of the players Gomez contacted said they were unaware of and unhappy about the change.
Clubhouse attendants are certainly unhappy about this change, too. As Gomez notes, the attendants previously provided food for visiting teams which earned them tips from the players.
EDIT: It’s worth clarifying that chefs are required in clubhouses now as part of the new CBA, so it’s not a complete loss for the players.