The game was ugly, but what Cubs catcher John Baker did was pretty sweet.
Pressed into service in a 16-inning marathon, Baker threw 11 pitches, six for strikes, walked a batter but saw him erased on a double play. The other out was a foul out, showing that the Rockies couldn’t touch his wicked stuff. In the bottom of the sixteenth he drew a walk, took second on a sacrifice, took third on a single and then lumbered home on a Starlin Castro fly to left, scoring the winning run as the throw home skipped to the backstop.
That Baker was pitching was something less than an accident, actually. Cubs manager Rick Renteria actually used pitcher Jake Arrieta as a pinch hitter in the 13th with two men on and one out, rather than use Baker, his lone remaining position player. Renteria was saving Baker, he said, to pitch. That’s the sort of decision that you can almost laugh at after a win. If things had turned out differently, however, you’d have to really scratch your head. Well, I’ll scratch my head anyway. We live in an era of 13-man pitching staffs. You gotta feel like managers can manage their resources better.
But as it was, Baker pitched for the first time since he played in the Cape Cod League. And he became the first Cubs position player to get a win in more than 100 years.
A report from the Baltimore Sun’s Dan Connolly suggests that free agent catcher Welington Castillo currently tops the Orioles’ list of potential backstop targets for the 2017 season. With Matt Wieters on the market, the Orioles lack a suitable platoon partner for Caleb Joseph behind the dish, and Connolly adds that the club has been discussing a multi-year deal with Castillo’s representatives since the Winter Meetings.
Castillo batted .264/.322/.423 with the Diamondbacks in 2016, racking up 14 home runs and driving in a career-high 68 RBI in 457 PA. His bat provides much of his upside, and Connolly quoted an anonymous National League scout who believes that the 29-year-old’s defensive profile has fallen short of his potential in recent years.
For better or worse, both the Orioles and Castillo appear far from locking in a deal for 2017. Both the Rays and Braves have expressed interest in the veteran catcher during the past week, while the Orioles are reportedly considering Wieters, Nick Hundley and Chris Iannetta as alternatives behind the plate.
The Phillies reportedly signed veteran outfielder Daniel Nava to a minor league contract, according to Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Nava began the season on a one-year contract with the Angels, during which he slashed .235/.309/.303 through 136 PA in the first half of 2016. He was flipped to the Royals in late August for a player to be named later and saw the remainder of his year go down the drain on an .091 average through 12 PA in Anaheim. After getting the boot from the Angels’ 40-man roster in November, the 33-year-old outfielder elected free agency.
Nava is expected to compete for a bench role on the Phillies’ roster in the spring. As it currently stands, the club’s projected 2017 outfield features Howie Kendrick and Odubel Herrera, with precious little depth behind them. Nava’s bat is underwhelming, but at the very least he offers the Phillies a warm body in left field and a potential platoon partner for one of their younger options, a la Tyler Goeddel or Roman Quinn.