Tony Sipp Astros

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.

Sonny Gray was denied insurance coverage for the World Baseball Classic

MESA, AZ - FEBRUARY 22:  Pitcher Sonny Gray #54 of the Oakland Athletics poses for a portrait during photo day at HoHoKam Stadium on February 22, 2017 in Mesa, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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The San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser reports that Athletics’ right-hander Sonny Gray will not pitch in the World Baseball Classic after failing to meet the necessary criteria for insurance coverage. He missed 70 days on the disabled list with forearm tightness and a back strain in 2016.

According to Oakland GM David Forst, Major League Baseball tried to persuade the insurance carrier to waive the requirements for Gray to pitch for Team USA, but the request was ultimately refused. Without coverage, Gray will be unable to participate in the competition, though Forst adds that the 27-year-old is still in perfect health as Opening Day approaches and should benefit from a slower spring training schedule without the added commitment on his plate.

Injuries complicated a down year for Gray, who pitched to a career-worst 5.69 ERA, 3.2 BB/9 and 7.2 SO/9 rate through 117 innings in 2016. His 1.4 HR/9 and 17.8% HR/FB rates suggested that he felt the effects of the home run spike more than most, capping a disappointing follow-up to his All-Star campaign during 2015.

While Gray works up to a healthy and productive start to the 2017 season, the Athletics will still see two players on WBC rosters next month: right-handed reliever Santiago Casilla, who is scheduled to pitch for the Dominican Republic, and fellow righty John Axford, for Team Canada.

Report: Josh Hamilton likely to undergo another knee surgery

ANAHEIM, CA - JULY 24:  Josh Hamilton #32 of the Texas Rangers in the dugout before a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on July 24, 2015 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Jonathan Moore/Getty Images)
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Rangers’ outfielder Josh Hamilton is scheduled for another knee exam on Monday, according to Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Hamilton left camp last week after feeling some pain in his left knee and received a PRP injection to alleviate the symptoms. Wilson notes that both Dr. Walt Lowe and Rangers’ assistant general manager Mike Daly noticed little improvement in the days following the injection.

More drastic measures could be necessary if the 35-year-old intends to return to the field this year. MLB.com’s TR Sullivan adds that the Rangers are considering arthroscopic surgery for Hamilton, which would set him back at least 4-6 weeks and eliminate any real chance of his making the Opening Day roster in April. Until they see the results of the surgery, however, the Rangers won’t rule out Hamilton’s potential return to the big leagues in 2017.

Hamilton is looking at his third major procedure since the end of the 2015 season. He missed all of the Rangers’ 2016 campaign after undergoing reconstructive knee surgery last spring and has not seen a full workload in the majors since his 2013 run with the Angels. Should he make a full recovery this season, he figures to see some time at first base/DH or the corner outfield.