Don’t blame Will Middlebrooks for the fluky obstruction call that ended Game 3. Don’t blame umpire Jim Joyce, who made the gutsy choice to call it and give the Cardinals a 5-4 victory.
Blame the guy who made the bad throw in the first place: Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
The struggling Saltalamacchia shouldn’t have even been in the game; Red Sox manager John Farrell admitted afterwards that he blew it by not double-switching in David Ross for Salty when he brought in Brandon Workman to pitch the bottom of the eighth. Salty had just grounded out with two on to end the top of the eighth.
There was also a great case for pinch-hitting for Saltalamacchia against left-hander Kevin Siegrist to start the seventh. Salty struggles against lefties anyway, and he’s been awful against everyone of late, striking out 19 times in the postseason. He fanned in that at-bat, and then Farrell pinch-hit Will Middlebrooks for Stephen Drew with one out and Jonny Gomes for the pitcher’s spot with two outs. If Farrell was going to go hog wild with pinch-hitters anyway, he should have had Gomes lead off and Ross bat for the pitcher.
On the crucial play in the ninth, Salty’s initial mistake was to throw the ball to third in the first place. One of the most effective relievers in the league was on the mound in Koji Uehara. One of the worst hitters in the league, Pete Kozma, was due to bat next with two outs. Even without taking that into consideration, the smart play was to put the ball in his back pocket. Given the matchup, it was a no-brainer.
But Salty made the throw, and it was a bad one. It was the second straight loss for the Red Sox swinging on an errant throw to third base. In Game 2, that throw was made by Craig Breslow from behind home plate. But the ball only made it to Breslow because Salty decided to keep his foot on home trying to handle Jonny Gomes’ relay instead of coming off the base to handle it. So, Salty had quite a hand in that loss as well. Throw in his struggles at the plate, and it seems unlikely that we’ll see him back in the lineup in Game 4. The free-agent-to-be will also sit out Game 5 with Jon Lester pitching (Ross has turned into his personal catcher), so it’s possible Salty has made his last start for the Red Sox.
Former Mets catcher Johnny Monell signed a contract with the KT Wiz of the Korea Baseball Organization, per a report by Chris Cotillo of SB Nation. The 30-year-old originally struck a deal with the NC Dinos on Thursday, but the deal appeared to fall through at the last minute, according to Cotillo’s unnamed source.
Monell last surfaced for the Mets during their 2015 run, batting a dismal .167/.231/.208 with two extra bases in 52 PA before the club DFA’d him to clear space for Bartolo Colon. While he’s had difficulty sticking at the major league level, he’s found a higher degree of success in the minor league circuit and holds a career .271 average over a decade of minor league play. He played exclusively in Triple-A Las Vegas during the 2016 season, slashing .276/.336/.470 with 19 home runs and a career-high 75 RBI in 461 PA.
The veteran backstop appears to be the second MLB player to join the KT Wiz roster this offseason, as right-hander Donn Roach also signed with the club last month on a one-year, $850,000 deal.
Brewers’ right-hander Phil Bickford received a 50-game suspension after testing positive for a drug of abuse, per the Los Angeles Times’ Bill Shaikin. This is the second time Bickford has been suspended for recreational drug use, as he was previously penalized in 2015 after testing positive for marijuana prior to the amateur draft.
Bickford was selected by the Giants in the first round of the 2015 draft and was later dealt to the Brewers for lefty reliever Will Smith at the 2016 trade deadline. He finished his 2016 campaign in High-A Brevard County, pitching to a 3.67 ERA, 10.0 K/9 rate and 5.0 BB/9 over 27 innings.
Two other suspensions were handed down on Friday, one to Toronto minor league right-hander Pedro Loficial for a positive test for metabolites of Stanozolol and one to Miami minor league outfielder Casey Soltis for a second positive test for drugs of abuse. Loficial will serve a 72-game suspension, while Soltis will serve 50 games. All three suspensions are due to start at the beginning of the 2017 season for each respective minor league team.
Brewers’ GM David Stearns issued a statement after the Commissioner’s Office announced Bickford’s suspension (via Vince Lara-Cinisomo of Baseball America):
We are very disappointed to learn of Phil’s suspension, but we fully support the Minor League Baseball Drug Prevention and Testing Program and its enforcement by the Commissioner’s Office. Phil understands he made a mistake, and we fully anticipate that he will learn from this experience.