Olney: Mariners appear destined to sign a big-name starting pitcher

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We’ve heard all sorts of talk about the Mariners attempting to upgrade their offense this winter, with names like Carlos Beltran and Nelson Cruz in the conversation, but ESPN’s Buster Olney writes that they might be better-positioned to land one of the top free agent starting pitchers on the market:

If the Mariners are truly ready to splurge on free agents, they’d probably have an easier time convincing pitchers to come to Seattle than hitters. While moving in the fences at Safeco Field resulted in increased offense this past season, the park still played slightly pitcher-friendly and continued to limit home runs. Of course, 81 games isn’t a big sample size, but its reputation as a pitchers’ park figures to linger.

The Mariners already have Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma at the top of their rotation and young right-hander Taijuan Walker looked promising during a late-season sneak preview, so their starting pitching could be pretty scary if they are able to sign one of those guys. But they’ll be losing a lot of 2-1 and 3-2 games unless they are able to add a bat or two, as well.

Steven Souza Jr. exits game after injuring his hand on a hit by pitch

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Rays’ right fielder Steven Souza Jr. left Saturday’s game after getting hit on the left hand by a pitch from Blue Jays’ right-hander Joe Biagini in the seventh inning. The pitch appeared to hit the top of Souza Jr.’s hand, causing the outfielder to crumple at the plate and requiring assistance from assistant athletic trainer Paul Harker as he exited the field. Postgame reports from the Tampa Bay Times’ Marc Topkin revealed that Souza Jr. sustained a left hand contusion and is scheduled to undergo further evaluation on Sunday.

While the diagnosis isn’t as bad as it could be, it’s still a tough break for the right fielder, who missed 40 days of the 2015 season after sustaining a fracture in his left hand on another hit by pitch. The team has yet to announce any concrete timetable for Souza Jr.’s return, though manager Kevin Cash indicated that they’ll be taking things day to day for the time being.

Souza Jr. is batting .326/.398/.543 with four home runs and 17 RBI through 104 PA in 2017. He went 1-for-2 with a base hit and a walk prior to his departure during Saturday’s 4-1 loss.

Video: Brett Gardner goes deep for his first and second home runs of 2017

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It’s been a slow start to the season for Yankees’ outfielder Brett Gardner, who entered Saturday’s matinee against the Orioles with a .188/.316/.234 batting line, three doubles and five stolen bases in his first 76 PA of the year. That all changed in the first inning of Saturday’s game, when Gardner skied a leadoff home run to right field:

Orioles’ right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez couldn’t find his footing against the Yankees in the second inning, either. Gardner returned for his second home run of the season, a three-run shot to lift New York 5-0 over Baltimore:

Measured at 411 feet in the right field bullpen, the left fielder’s blast marked the seventh home run hit by a Yankee this series. According to the club’s PR department, it’s also the first multi-home run game Gardner has recorded since September 2015. The Yankees currently lead the Orioles 7-0 through four innings.