Michael Morse

Giants’ back woes lead to flight upgrades

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PHOENIX – The Giants were concerned enough with the ergonomic health of their players that they invested in a larger chartered jet this season that features more first class seats.

And here you thought the term “wide body” only applied to Pablo Sandoval.

Well, it was a good thought, anyway.

Maybe it’s time to replace the flight attendants with chiropractors, make Barry Bonds’ old Barcalounger standard issue in the clubhouse and fit everyone for custom orthotics. Because this is officially the Year of the Bad Back.

Michael Morse could play outfield in a pinch Sunday after exiting Saturday’s game in the fifth inning because of back stiffness. That’s more than manager Bruce Bochy will get out of Angel Pagan, who hits home runs in batting practice yet remains unavailable for a sixth consecutive game because of his back discomfort.

Buster Posey has dealt with a bad back this season. And of course, Marco Scutaro hasn’t played at all.

“We’ve done things to make it more comfortable, more first class seats,” Bochy said. “We’ve done that to make the travel easier on the back.”

Morse jokingly blamed the soft beds at the Ritz Carlton for his back issues. He doesn’t believe they are significant, which is a good thing since Morse is the only backup outfielder at Bochy’s disposal behind Gregor Blanco, Tyler Colvin and Hunter Pence.

(Colvin had a bad back in the spring, by the way, and Pence has been icing his back as well.)

The disabled list isn’t out of the question for Pagan, although the Giants continue to delay the decision because their leadoff hitter still could return within a day or two. If he were to go on the DL, he’d miss the next eight games including Sunday.

“Angel’s about the same, which is good,” Bochy said. “It hasn’t gotten any worse with baseball activities. Morse is hoping to play (Monday) and we’ll have a pretty good idea on both of them by then.”

Outfielder Juan Perez, who was optioned to make room for second baseman Joe Panik on Saturday, didn’t leave to join Triple-A Fresno in Texas. Instead he’ll go back to San Francisco just in case the Giants need to bring him back to replace Pagan on the roster.

In the meantime, Panik is making his first big league start Sunday as the Giants try for a series victory behind Madison Bumgarner. They hope to follow that up with a happy – and comfortably short – flight home.

Rays and Braves reportedly interested in Welington Castillo

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 27: Welington Castillo #7 of the Arizona Diamondbacks hits an RBI double in the third inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on September 27, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images)
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Catcher Welington Castillo was non-tendered by the Diamondbacks on Friday, making him one of 35 additional players to enter the free agent pool. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reported that Castillo was drawing interest from the Rays, among a bevy of major league clubs, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s David O’Brien added that the Braves have “some interest” as well.

The Rays’ trifecta of catchers — Curt Casali, Luke Maile, and Bobby Wilson — did little to inspire confidence behind the plate in 2016, and with top free agent Wilson Ramos sidelined after suffering a torn ACL in September, it makes sense that they’d explore more affordable options. Castillo profiled well at the plate during his first full season with the Diamondbacks, slashing .264/.322/.423 with 14 home runs in 457 PA. Behind the dish, he placed third among all qualified major league catchers with seven DRS (Defensive Runs Saved), though his league-leading 10 passed balls weren’t anything to write home about.

Unlike the Rays, the Braves have a serviceable catching platoon in Tyler Flowers and Anthony Recker. Beyond that, their catching depth is fairly shallow despite the recent addition of former Mariners’ outfield prospect Alex Jackson. Jackson, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Mark Bradley, has not played behind the plate since high school, though GM John Coppolella is reportedly interested in trying him there again. A.J. Pierzynski is also rumored to be seeking a deal elsewhere in free agency, which could open the door for a multi-year deal with Castillo.

Marc Rzepczynski signs two-year, $11 million contract with Mariners

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 9: Marc Rzepczynski #23 of the Washington Nationals looks on before pitching against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the sixth inning during game two of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park on October 9, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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After rumors of the deal surfaced on Thursday, the Mariners officially signed veteran reliever Marc Rzepczynski to a two-year, $11 million deal on Friday night. Per a report by ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, the lefty is due $5.5 million in 2017 and 2018.

The signing marks the left-hander’s fourth trade since July 2015. He bounced from the Indians to the Padres at the 2015 trade deadline, then to the Athletics in the offseason, then to the Nationals in late August of 2016. Last season, he pitched to a career-best 2.64 ERA during 47 2/3 innings with the Athletics and Nationals, but hit an all-time low with 5.5 BB/9 that fed into a 1.59 K/BB rate. While the 31-year-old’s split against right-handed batters are underwhelming (a career .277/.377/.431 line with 123 walks and 24 home runs), he’s held lefties to a respectable .222/.291/.298 line with just 52 walks and eight homers.

Adding Rzepczynski to the bullpen should check off another to-do item for Mariners’ GM Jerry Dipoto, though FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman notes that the club is still likely to pursue an additional reliever and a No. 4 starter before the offseason comes to a close.