Injured Josh Johnson is now a defacto coach for the Padres

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Josh Johnson is out for the season following a second Tommy John elbow surgery and never even got to throw a regular season pitch for the Padres, but now he’s keeping busy by coaching the other pitchers on San Diego’s staff.

Corey Brock of MLB.com explains:

“Really, the only thing I can do is help these guys out where I can,” Johnson said. “Since the team came back from that last road trip, I have watched pretty much every single bullpen [session]. I will do that again when they come back from this trip, too.”

The Padres have a pitching coach (Darren Balsley) and a bullpen coach (Willie Blair). And now they have Johnson, who has volunteered his services, his eyes and opinions to the team if they want it.

“I love it,” Balsley said. “This wasn’t anything he asked to do, either. Going back to Spring Training … JJ was the same way, watching other guys pitch in the bullpen. I think part of it is he really wants to be a part of this team. He was really looking forward to pitching here. He has been very supportive for the pitchers. I’ve given him free reign to help out where he sees fit.”

A one-year, $8 million contract makes Johnson the world’s highest-paid coach, but it’s still a cool story because, as Brock writes, he “could just as easily slip in for his rehab work before games and leave undetected, free to head home.” Instead he’s hanging out, helping young pitchers, and generally just being a good guy to have around. All of which is especially interesting because the Padres hold a $4 million team option on Johnson for 2015.

Rob Manfred says Tampa Bay must pick up pace on new stadium

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred wants Tampa Bay to work a little quicker on getting the Rays a new ballpark.

Rays Principal Owner Stuart Sternberg has been working for nearly a decade to get a new stadium for the club and signed a three-year agreement with the City of St. Petersburg early in 2016 to search for a site in the Tampa Bay area. Manfred wants that search to pick up some steam.

“I think it’s fair to say we want the process to take on a better pace moving forward,” Manfred said Wednesday night at Tropicana Field, home of the Rays since their first season in 1998.

The Rays were averaging 15,815 fans per game before Wednesday night’s contest against the Toronto Blue Jays. That is just over half the major league average of 30,470. Tropicana Field and its location have been almost universally blamed as the reason for the poor attendance.

“I’ve been pretty clear that they need a new facility here, a major league quality facility in an A-plus location,” Manfred said. “It is time to move that decision to the front burner here in Tampa.”

The matter of how a stadium would be financed has been tabled until a site is determined, but Sternberg continued to express confidence in the Tampa Bay market.

“I’ve had the opportunity to bail on it many times over the years,” he said. “I won’t say this is a slam dunk, it’s certainly not. But I think we can do something that’ll at least double our attendance. That’s a lot to ask for.”

Manfred said Major League Baseball “doesn’t have a firm timetable” for what steps to take if the Rays fail to get an agreement to build a new stadium in the Tampa Bay area, but but added that “it is a topic of discussion in the industry, the lack of progress.”

More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball

Robinson Cano leaves game with hamstring tightness

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Bad news for the Mariners this evening: Robinson Cano left Seattle’s game against the Atlanta Braves with tightness in his left hamstring.

Cano walked off the field after legging out a double — his second of the game — in the third inning. He pulled up as he approached second base and walked off the field, accompanied by a trainer. There was no immediate word on the severity of the injury. The Mariners have a day off Thursday before opening a series at the Yankees on Friday night, so they have some time to evaluate him.

Cano is hitting .277/.377/.460 with 19 homers and 78 RBI on the year.