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The Red Sox lowered Carlos Marmol’s release point

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Carlos Marmol was once one of baseball’s toughest closers to hit. He didn’t pitch in the majors at all last season and had to settle for a minor league contract with the Red Sox for the 2016 campaign. At this peak of his career, in 2010, Marmol saved 38 games with 138 strikeouts and 52 walks in 77 2/3 innings. What happened?

The Red Sox believe they’ve identified the culprit, WEEI’s John Tomase writes. Brian Bannister, the director of pitching analysis and development for the Red Sox, noticed that Marmol had been releasing the ball at a higher point in recent years, which limited the effectiveness of his slider.

The theory has some merit. Here are his vertical and horizontal release points, via Brooks Baseball:

Brooksbaseball-Chart (1) Brooksbaseball-Chart

Marmol will have to prove Bannister right with a strong spring performance if he wants to make the Opening Day roster.

Adrian Beltre cleared for extended spring training

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Adrian Beltre has been on the disabled list all year because of nagging right calf strain, but he’s about to take a big step toward getting back to action.

Beltre has been cleared to begin playing in extended spring training games. He’ll commence them tomorrow at the Rangers facility in Surprise, Arizona. After three games the team’s doctors will reevaluate him. If things go well, he’ll likely be sent off for a full minor league rehab assignment.

Joey Gallo has filled in for Beltre all season, bringing a lot of power but not much else to the table. While Beltre is 38, his all-around game would be welcomed back on the field and his leadership would be welcomed back in the Rangers clubhouse. On a personal note, Beltre is only 58 hits shy of 3,000 for his career.

Barring a setback, he’ll be back with the big club in early June and will hit the milestone eventually.

Michael Bourn opts out of his minor league deal with the Orioles

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Outfielder Michael Bourn was traded by the Diamondbacks to the Orioles late last season and hit a solid .283/.358/.435 in 55 plate appearances with them through the end of the season. While that’s not enough to outweigh the miserable season he had in Arizona, it was enough to get the O’s to give him a look in spring training with a minor league deal. They signed him to one in late February.

Then, a couple of days later, Bourn broke his finger while playing catch with a football. Unable to play, the O’s cut him. In early April, once Bourn healed, the O’s signed him again. He played 11 games for their Triple-A affiliate and went 9-for-41 with ten walks in 51 plate appearances. While that makes for a decent OBP, his lack of any sort of pop or good contact suggests that if someone throws him strikes, he can’t do much with the ball.

As such, the O’s had not called him up to Baltimore. And as a result of that, Bourn exercised his opt-out rights and became a free agent.

Someone may take a look at him given that his batting eye seems to be intact and given that, in an admittedly small sample size, he still performed last season. But if he does get a look, it’ll likely be back at the minor league level.