Will Middlebrooks

Red Sox shut down Will Middlebrooks and Shane Victorino indefinitely

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ESPN Boston’s Gordon Edes reports that the Red Sox have shut down third baseman Will Middlebrooks and outfielder Shane Victorino indefinitely. Neither player will be involved in baseball activities for the time being.

Middlebrooks, 25, suffered a broken right index finger after he was hit by a pitch on May 10. He was scratched from a rehab game on Monday when the finger swelled up. Middlebrooks slashed .197/.305/.324 with two home runs and nine runs batted in over 82 plate appearances.

Victorino, 33, has been out since May 24 with a strained right hamstring and back soreness. It’s the back soreness that continues to keep him out. Prior to the injuries, Victorino was slashing .242/.276/.352 with one home run and 10 RBI in 99 plate appearances.

It’s been a tough year for the defending world champions. They enter Friday’s action against the Yankees in fourth place in the AL East with a 36-43 record, eight games out of first place.

Announcement: Hardball Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $40,000 Fantasy Baseball league for Friday night’s MLB games. It’s $25 to join and first prize is $6,000. Starts at 7:05pm ET on Friday. Here’s the FanDuel link.

Report: Rays nearing a deal with Shawn Tolleson

ST. LOUIS, MO - JUNE 18: Reliever Shawn Tolleson #37 of the Texas Rangers pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals in the eighth inning at Busch Stadium on June 18, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that the Rays and free agent reliever Shawn Tolleson are close to finalizing a contract.

Tolleson, who turns 29 years old on Thursday, had an ugly 2016 season, finishing with a 7.68 ERA and a 29/10 K/BB ratio in 36 1/3 innings. He was one of the Rangers’ best relievers in the two seasons prior to that, however, which included saving 35 games in 2015.

It’s not known yet what kind of contract the two sides are negotiating. It could be a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training, a non-guaranteed major league contract, or a guaranteed major league contract.

President Obama pardons Willie McCovey

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - APRIL 06:  San Francisco Giants legend Willie McCovey  waves to the crowd while seating between Jeff Kent (L) and Willie Mays during a ceremony honoring Buster Posey for winning the 2012 National League MVP before the Giants game against the St. Louis Cardinals at AT&T Park on April 6, 2013 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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The big presidential pardon news today concerns the commutation of Chelsea Manning’s sentence. We’ll leave that aside. For our purposes, know that someone in the world of baseball was pardoned: Willie McCovey.

Yes, Hall of Famer Willie McCovey, who in 1995 pleaded guilty to income tax fraud related to the non-reporting of income received from memorabilia and autograph shows. Duke Snider pleaded guilty alongside McCovey. They were given two years probation and fines of $5,000. Snider died in 2011. McCovey still works with the San Francisco Giants as a senior advisor and goodwill ambassador.

President Obama’s release of McCovey’s pardon was pretty succinct. But it’s enough to scrub the record of one of the greatest sluggers of all time.