Russell Martin

Pirates outlast Cubs, win 4-3 in 16 innings

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Fortunately, rain is expected to wash over PNC Park on Thursday. Neither the Cubs nor Pirates are going to want to play an afternoon game after this.

The Pirates topped the Cubs 4-3 in 16 innings Wednesday night when the final player on their bench, backup catcher Tony Sanchez, delivered a pinch-hit single off Carlos Villanueva that scored Jose Tabata. It concluded a 5 hour, 55 minute game that ended just before 1 a.m. The two teams are currently scheduled to play again at 12:35 p.m., unless there’s a rainout.

Some highlights:

– Emilio Bonifacio followed up his four-hit opener on Monday with four more hits in regulation and then a fifth hit in the 15th inning tonight. He became the first player since Dante Bichette in 1998 and just the fifth player in 100 years to have back-to-back four-hit games to start a team’s season and then the first known player to end the second game with nine hits. Bonfacio also made things interesting on the basepaths again, stealing two bases but also getting picked off first for the second straight game.

– Going along with the theme of the first three days, both closers blew saves, with Jason Grilli doing so in the ninth and Jose Veras returning the favor after an Anthony Rizzo solo homer gave the Cubs a 3-2 lead in the 12th.

– Villanueva, the Cubs’ fifth starter, fell to 0-2 before even getting a chance to make a start. He gave up the 10th-inning run in the Pirates’ 1-0 win Monday and then allowed a run in his second inning of work tonight.

– In the 13th, Clint Barmes managed to ground into a exceedingly rare 7-2-3 double play. The Cubs went to a five-man infield with the bases loaded and none out, bringing Junior Lake in from left field to play near third base. Barmes hit a grounder right to Lake and he made a clean throw home, starting the double play.

For Lake, it was his first opportunity as an “infielder” in the majors, but something he’s very used to. While he’s been exclusively an outfielder since getting called up last year, he played 418 games at short and 93 at third in the minors. In fact, he made just six appearances ever in the outfield before being called up.

– The Cubs lost despite outhitting the Pirates 15-8. They also had the game’s only two extra-base hits.

– The game featured three replays, all after the seventh inning, one of which resulted in an overturn.

According to Baseball-Reference’s Play Index, it was just the fourth 16-inning game to take place within the first two games of the season over the last 100 years. The last was in 2012, when the Blue Jays beat the Indians 7-4 in 16 innings on April 5. Prior to that, the Rays beat the Red Sox 9-8 in 16 innings on April 1, 2003 and the Royals beat the Twins 4-3 in 17 innings on April 9, 1969.

Angels ink Javy Guerra to minor league deal

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Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times reports that the Angels have agreed to terms on a minor league contract with right-handed reliever Javy Guerra. The deal includes an invitation to major league spring training.

Guerra was suspended 50 games by Major League Baseball last July after testing positive for a drug of abuse. That suspension is now over, though Guerra is probably ticketed for the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate to begin the 2016 season.

The 30-year-old made just three major league appearances in 2015 for the White Sox before getting outrighted off Chicago’s 40-man roster. He does own a 2.87 ERA in 150 1/3 career innings, but it has come with bouts of inconsistency and unreliability.

Maybe he can get everything going in the right direction with Anaheim.

Braves sign reliever Carlos Torres

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As first reported by Bill Shanks of Fox Sports 1670, the Braves have signed right-handed reliever Carlos Torres to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.

Torres was waived by the Mets in January, somewhat surprisingly, and elected to become a free agent. The 33-year-old ultimately chose Atlanta, where he should have a good shot at an Opening Day roster out of spring training with the rapidly-rebuilding Braves.

Torres posted an ugly 4.68 ERA in 57 2/3 innings last season for the Mets, but he registered a gorgeous 3.06 ERA and 96 strikeouts across 97 innings in 2014.

If he gets off to a good start in 2016, he could become valuable trade bait.

Blue Jays will have a closer competition this spring

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Roberto Osuna became the youngest pitcher to ever play for the Blue Jays last season at age 20 and he rose to the challenge with a 2.58 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, and 75/16 K/BB ratio in 69 2/3 frames. Osuna eventually took over as Toronto’s closer, earning 20 regular-season saves and one in the American League Division Series — a five-out effort in Game 5 to close out the visiting Rangers.

But the Jays upgraded the back end of their bullpen this winter, acquiring Drew Storen from the Nationals in early January for speedy outfielder Ben Revere. Jesse Chavez was also brought to Toronto in a trade with the A’s.

Storen has more experience at closer than Osuna, and Storen struggled when the Nationals tried to put him in a setup role. Storen, in his final year of salary arbitration, also gets paid much more. He’s probably going to enter spring training as the favorite for the Jays’ ninth-inning gig, but there will be a competition …

Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins told Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca on Wednesday that he doesn’t expect the team to choose between Osuna or Storen until midway through spring training, if not later.

There’s been talk of making Osuna a starter, so add that wrinkle.

Storen, 28, boasts 95 career major league saves.

Orioles plotting late-offseason push? Gallardo, Fowler, Alvarez, Bruce in consideration

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Baltimore’s front office appears to be lining up a run of potential roster additions leading into the beginning of spring training.

We’ve already passed along the reports suggesting they are close to a three-year deal with free agent starter Yovani Gallardo, but now FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal adds that free agent outfielder Dexter Fowler could be next on the Orioles’ target list. It they get those two deals done, the O’s could then chase free agent slugger Pedro Alvarez.

Rosenthal says the Orioles are even eyeing Jay Bruce of the Reds, though the FOX reporter hears the O’s might not have the prospects to pull off that kind of trade.

The focus for the Orioles out of the gate this winter was re-signing Matt Wieters and Chris Davis. Wieters accepted his one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer in November and Davis was locked up to a seven-year, $161 million contract in mid-January.

Now the O’s are spending a little leftover cash on late-offseason additions to improve their position in what should be a tight 2016 American League East race.