Tony Sipp pulls double-duty for the Astros

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Tony Sipp was a centerfielder at Clemson, but once he became a pitcher he thought the days of patrolling the outfield were behind him.

Nope.

Welcome back to National League baseball, home of the double-switch and creative substitutions.

The Astros were shorthanded in the bullpen on Monday. Fellow lefty Darin Downs, who pitched two innings the day before, was unavailable and Rudy Owens was the long man in the pen, ready to come in if the one-run game went to extra innings.

“Coming into that situation as a staff we kind of knew that once Cosart came out of the game we were going to have to be creative and try to match our guys up as best we could. Having a guy like Tony Sipp who can play the outfield, it gives you that kind of flexibility.”

So Sipp became a strategic pawn in Bo Porter’s master plan.

“When (Sipp) left the dugout (in the eighth inning) he knew he was going to get the first guy and that Williams was going to come in and get Goldschmidt, and then he was going to have (Miguel) Montero,” Porter said. “So it was pretty much explained to him before he left the dugout, so no one was shocked.”

Knowing and being prepared might be two entirely different things, though. Sipp struck out Gerardo Parra and out came Porter to make his unusual double switch, bringing in Jerome Williams to face right-handed hitting Paul Goldschmidt and sending Sipp to right field.

“I didn’t think it was actually going to happen, though. He gave me a warning, but I’m like, ‘Alright, okay Bo,’” Sipp said.

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Once in the outfield, Sipp started running the possibilities through his head.

“I don’t think I had time to be nervous, I was just more focused more than anything because obviously if I let a guy, if I misplay a ball then I put myself in a worse situation because I have to come back and face Montero, I knew that,” Sipp said. “I joked around with Dexter and told him, ‘Hey, if I have to dive for a ball back me up.’ He was like, ‘Hey, you better not dive.’ Ultimately I would have had to work with whatever situation I had out there so I was fully prepared to dive.”

Williams ended up walking Goldschmidt and Sipp was brought back to the mound to face Miguel Montero, who he also struck out. Kyle Farnsworth then replaced Sipp, who took a seat on the bench to watch Martin Prado strike out to end the inning and preserve the one run lead.

Michael Bourn opts out of his minor league deal with the Orioles

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Outfielder Michael Bourn was traded by the Diamondbacks to the Orioles late last season and hit a solid .283/.358/.435 in 55 plate appearances with them through the end of the season. While that’s not enough to outweigh the miserable season he had in Arizona, it was enough to get the O’s to give him a look in spring training with a minor league deal. They signed him to one in late February.

Then, a couple of days later, Bourn broke his finger while playing catch with a football. Unable to play, the O’s cut him. In early April, once Bourn healed, the O’s signed him again. He played 11 games for their Triple-A affiliate and went 9-for-41 with ten walks in 51 plate appearances. While that makes for a decent OBP, his lack of any sort of pop or good contact suggests that if someone throws him strikes, he can’t do much with the ball.

As such, the O’s had not called him up to Baltimore. And as a result of that, Bourn exercised his opt-out rights and became a free agent.

Someone may take a look at him given that his batting eye seems to be intact and given that, in an admittedly small sample size, he still performed last season. But if he does get a look, it’ll likely be back at the minor league level.

Rob Manfred talks about playing regular season games in Mexico

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The new Collective Bargaining Agreement commits the players and the league to regular season games on foreign soil. Most of the focus of this has been on games in London, for which there has been a lot of activity and discussion.

Yesterday before the Astros-Tigers game in Houston, however, Commissioner Rob Manfred talked about playing games in Mexico. And not as just a one-off, but as a foot-in-the-water towards possible expansion:

Commissioner Rob Manfred said Tuesday that the time had come to play regular-season games in Mexico City as Major League Baseball weighs international expansion.

“We think it’s time to move past exhibition games and play real live ‘they-count’ games in Mexico,” Manfred said. “That is the kind of experiment that puts you in better position to make a judgement as to whether you have a market that could sustain an 81-game season and a Major League team.”

A team in Mexico could make some geographic sense and some marketing sense, though it’s not clear if there is a city that would be appropriate for that right now. Mexico City is huge but it has plenty of its own sports teams and is far away from the parts of the country where baseball is popular (mostly the border states and areas along the Pacific coast). At 7,382 feet, its elevation would make games at Coors Field look like the Deadball Era.

Monterrey has been talked about — games have been played there and it’s certainly closer — but it’s somewhat unknown territory demographically speaking. It’s not as big as Mexico City, obviously. Income stratification is greater there and most of the rest of Mexico than it is in the United States too, making projections of how much discretionary income people may spend on an expensive entertainment product like Major League Baseball uncertain. Especially when they have other sports they’ve been following for decades.

Interesting, though. It’s something Manfred has talked about many times over the years, so unlike so many other things he says he’s “considering” or “hasn’t ruled out,” Major League Baseball in Mexico is something worth keeping our eyes on.