Joel Peralta, Curt Casali

Rays’ surge continues, grab a bit of history in the process

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With a 5-0 shutout win over the Yankees tonight, the Rays at long last returned to .500 at 61-61. As the Rays’ Twitter notes, they have become the fourth team in baseball history to reach .500 after falling at least 18 games below .500, joining the 1899 Louisville Colonels, the 2004 Devil Rays, and the 2006 Marlins.

The Rays fell 18 games below .500 on June 10 following a loss to the Cardinals. Since then, the Rays have won 37 of 56 games — a .661 winning percentage. They have fallen as far back as 15 games in the division, but are now nine games back after the Orioles lost to the Indians in 11 innings.

Their surge is interesting considering they traded away someone who very well might have been their most crucial piece to a playoff run in David Price. The Rays sent Price to the Tigers as part of a three-team trade that also involved the Mariners at the trade deadline. In return for Price, the Rays got lefty pitcher Drew Smyly, infielder Nick Franklin, and minor league infielder Willy Adames.

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.

Jake Diekman will miss at least half of the 2017 season

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 9: Jake Diekman #41 of the Texas Rangers works against the Toronto Blue Jays in the sixth inning during game three of the American League Division Series at Rogers Centre on October 9, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
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Rangers reliever Jake Diekman will have surgery on January 25 to help alleviate ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease. As a result, the lefty will miss at least half of the 2017 regular season, Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports. Diekman was diagnosed with the illness when he was 11 years old. He has brought awareness to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America with a “Gut It Out” campaign.

Diekman, who turns 30 years old on Saturday, finished the 2016 campaign with a 3.40 ERA and a 59/26 K/BB ratio in 53 innings. He came to the Rangers from the Phillies in the Cole Hamels trade on July 31, 2015.

The Rangers and Diekman avoided arbitration last Friday, agreeing to a $2.55 million salary for the 2017 season.