Jed Lowrie

Now the Astros are embarrassing themselves

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It’s one thing to play bad baseball. The Astros have had plenty of practice at that. They’ve just never done it with so little class before.

As you may remember from last week’s Athletics-Astros series in Oakland, Astros reliever Paul Clemens threw at (and missed) Jed Lowrie in retaliation for him bunting against the shift in a 7-0 game in the first inning. Lowrie took issue after flying out, and Astros manager Bo Porter came out of the dugout to chastise him.

That was stupid enough, but it almost certainly seemed to be the end of things. Clemens had other ideas, though.

With Lowrie up in the seventh inning in Thursday’s series opener in Houston, Clemens aimed his first pitch at his backside, hitting him this time (Video). Home-plate umpire Toby Basner did the smart thing and immediately ejected Clemens. Lowrie, for his part, raised surprisingly little fuss, though things might have gone differently if not for the ejection.

Clemens, at that point, was probably winding down his evening anyway. Fortunately for the Astros, he didn’t do it the first time he faced Lowrie in the fifth. With starter Brett Oberholtzer done after 3 2/3 innings and two relievers unavailable, the Astros needed a long man. They could still use a fresh arm for Friday, and it’d be fitting if Clemens, who hasn’t exactly covered himself in glory when he’s not trying to drill opposing shortstops, is sent down to make room after his display.

The incident came with the Astros down 8-1. Josh Donaldson immediately followed it with a two-run homer, and the A’s ended up winning 10-1 on a night in which the Astros committed five errors.

Afterwards, Clemens, of course, denied throwing at Lowrie, just as he did last week. Manager Bo Porter rehashed his very same quote from last week. “I think the game of baseball takes care of itself,” he said. “George Springer got hit tonight, and it’s part of the game.”

It’d sure be interesting to know just how much support Clemens had from Porter for his actions. Porter didn’t have anything negative to say about his right-hander afterwards. He didn’t even go the same route as Clemens and say it was an accident.

If Porter really thinks what Lowrie did was worth further retaliation, well, that just makes him a sore loser. Lowrie did nothing wrong in the first place, and even if the warped code of baseball suggests that throwing at him once was OK, going the same route again a week later was nothing short of pathetic.

The Astros, though, have nothing to lose in situations such as this. They’re not competing for anything this year. The A’s, on the other hand, can hardly get involved in beanball wars with last-place clubs as they attempt to win another division crown.

Hopefully, Houston’s front office takes a stand after this one and tells Porter to cut it out. Even if Clemens was completely on his own here, Porter certainly could have done better with his postgame comments. His tough guy act is wearing thin.

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.

Brandon Belt signs $6.2 million deal, avoiding arbitration with Giants

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In a last-second compromise before a scheduled heading today, first baseman Brandon Belt and the Giants have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $6.2 million deal.

Belt requested $7.5 million and the Giants countered at $5.3 million, so they’ve settled slightly on the team-friendly side of the midpoint. Belt will be arbitration eligible again next season for the final time before hitting the open market as a free agent.

He’s coming off a very good season in which he hit .280 with 18 homers and an .834 OPS in 137 games and Belt has a lifetime .803 OPS through age 27, making him one of MLB’s most underrated all-around first baseman.

Orioles sign ex-Padres reliever Dale Thayer

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Right-hander Dale Thayer and the Orioles have agreed to a minor-league contract that includes an invitation to spring training.

Thayer had a rough 2015 season for the Padres, posting a 4.06 ERA and spending time in the minors, but he was a solid part of San Diego’s bullpen from 2012-2014 with a combined 3.02 ERA and 173/50 K/BB ratio in 188 innings.

At age 35 there’s no guarantee that Thayer will look good enough to claim a spot on the Opening Day roster, but he’s got a strong chance to wind up pitching middle relief for Baltimore.

Phillies acquire Taylor Featherston from Angels

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Taylor Featherston, who was designated for assignment by the Angels last week, has been traded to the Phillies for a player to be named later or cash.

Featherston stayed in the majors with the Angels for all of last season due to being a Rule 5 pick from the Rockies organization, but the 25-year-old infielder hit just .162 in 169 plate appearances.

He’s been much better in the minors, but nothing about his track record there screams quality regular and the Phillies are likely viewing him as a defense-first bench option for now.