Astros set to meet with projected No. 1 pick Carlos Rodon

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Carlos Rodon has been the projected No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 draft for a long time now and the Astros hold the top selection for the third straight season, so Houston is sending some representatives to meet with the North Carolina State left-hander.

Here’s what scouting director Mike Elias told Brian McTaggart of MLB.com:

Every year we’re picking at the top of the draft we have made it a point to meet the candidates in some way, shape or form prior to the draft. That includes scouts responsible for scouting the players, members of the front office and me.

We try to get to know the kids personally so we have some relationship and feel for his personality and relationship history going into the process. We’re doing that with several players this winter, particularly college ones over the winter time.

Certainly a lot can change between now and June, but there’s no doubt that Rodon will enter the college season as the consensus top-ranked player in the country.

The Royals are talking to the Jays about Francisco Liriano

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Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that the Kansas City Royals are in talks with the Toronto Blue Jays about a trade for Francisco Liriano.

Liriano is not having a good year, but an arm is an arm I suppose. Liriano’s arm has posted 5.99 ERA and 70/42 K/BB ratio through 76.2 innings across 17 starts. He’s a free agent to be, so he shouldn’t cost too much, of course.

Earlier this week Kansas City picked up  Trevor Cahill, Brandon Maurer, and Ryan Buchter from the Padres. They’ve also won seven in a row and are just a game and a half behind the first place Indians. They’re going for it with whatever help they can find.

Odubel Herrera flips his bat on a fly ball, gets benched for lack of hustle

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Phillies outfielder Odubel Herrera has been a polarizing figure in his young career. He’s talented and at times has shined, inspiring the Phillies to give him a long term contract this past offseason. At other times, however, he’s aggravated the snot out of his manager, his teammates and his team’s fans. Last night, in the Phillies-Astros game, he did the latter and was the subject of mockery of the opposing team to boot.

In the first inning he hit a long fly ball to center. He thought it was going out but . . . it didn’t. When the ball came off of his bat, however, he flipped his bat like he went yard. You know our view about bat flips — who cares? Flip away! — but you flip at your own risk. Just because you’re allowed to flip it whenever you want doesn’t mean you’re not gonna get mocked if you flip prematurely. That’s what Herrera did, and he was mocked for the flip by the Astros from the dugout:

If that was all that happened in the game, life would go on just fine. I mean, it’s just a bat flip. But later in the game he committed a more substantive transgression: he failed to hustle in a hustle situation.

In the sixth inning Herrera struck out swinging on a 1-2 curveball. The catcher didn’t hold on to it, though, and the ball went in the dirt. Herrera didn’t bother to run to first base and Pete Mackanin pulled Herrera from the game in a double switch right after that. Asked if Herrera was benched for not running that ball out, Mackanin said “It had something to do with it . . . I’m going to talk to him tomorrow.”

If you’re a veteran and you have hamstring issues or something you can take a dropped strike three off and no one is gonna say anything. If you’re hitting like Herrera has been hitting of late (i.e. pretty well) and you otherwise have no issues with your manager along these lines, it’s doubtful anyone will hold that sort of play against you either as long as it’s an isolated incident.

Herrera is not in that position, however. He’s raised Mackanin’s ire in the past for ignoring signs and taking what Mackanin believed to be a lackadaisical approach to the game. Whether that’s a fair assessment of Herrera or not — we can’t fully know everything about their interaction from the outside — is sort of beside the point. He has to know by now that Mackanin is going to get after him for that stuff and he has to know that him not being in the game is neither good for the Phillies or for Herrera.

Are these growing pains or a signs of a growing problem? That, it would seem, is up to Odubel Herrera.