In today’s column for the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo writes that it’s “a Baltimore-Philadelphia-Pittsburgh runoff” for the services of free agent starter A.J. Burnett.
Burnett recently announced his intent to come back for one more season, and initially drew the interest of more than a handful of teams. However, he said he prefers to stay close to his home in Maryland, knocking out a good portion of potential suitors. Now, it’s apparently up to the Orioles, Phillies, and Pirates.
Burnett, of course, has a good deal of familiarity with the Pirates, as it was with them that he resuscitated his career after an unflattering three-year stint with the Yankees. The Pirates have famously adopted defensive shifts, which was one reason why Burnett’s numbers improved. Also, as Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune notes, Burnett ditched his four-seamer in favor of the two-seamer after coming to Pittsburgh.
It’s tough to say if Burnett would experience any drop-off with a change of scenery. It doesn’t hurt that the Pirates might also give him his best chance of finishing his playing career with a championship.
Cubs starter John Lackey stole the first base of his 15-year career on Wednesday against the Reds. Of course, he spent the first 11 and a half years of his career in the American League, where opportunities to bat, let alone attempt to steal a base, were rare. Lackey entered Wednesday having taken 250 plate appearances, reaching base just 31 times on 17 singles, seven doubles, and seven walks for a .134 on-base percentage. One can imagine the 38-year-old is not exactly the swiftest base runner.
Still, Lackey managed to swipe a bag in the fourth inning. He singled with two outs against Homer Bailey. Then, with an 0-1 count on Ben Zobrist, Lackey broke for second even before Bailey began his windup. Tucker Barnhart stood up to alert Bailey that Lackey was running, so Bailey wheeled around and threw to second base, but Lackey slid into the bag easily safe. It wasn’t a pretty slide, but it did the job.
Lackey, however, was picked off of second base by Barnhart later that inning. Bailey threw a 3-2 fastball wide of the strike zone, walking Zobrist. Lackey had wandered too far off of second base, so Barnhart threw behind Lackey and the tag was applied by Zack Cozart. Lackey was called safe initially. The play was reviewed and the ruling on the field was overturned, ending the fourth inning.
Base Ba’al giveth and Base Ba’al taketh away.
Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge hit another jaw-dropping home run, victimizing Mets starter Robert Gsellman in the top of the fourth game of Wednesday night’s game at Citi Field. Left fielder Yoenis Cespedes didn’t even move. The ball traveled 457 feet and was hit 117 MPH off the bat, according to Katie Sharp of River Ave Blues.
The home run moved Judge’s AL-best total to 37, putting him two ahead of the Royals’ Mike Moustakas. Along with the prodigious dinger total, he has 80 RBI, 90 runs scored, and a .291/.421/.616 triple-slash line in 499 plate appearances. Judge is on pace for 50 dingers. If it holds, that would give him the rookie record for home runs in a season. Mark McGwire currently holds the record, having hit 49 for the Athletics in 1987.