Tigers’ right-hander Michael Fulmer might not make it to the World Baseball Classic this year. The 23-year-old sprained his right ankle during agility drills on Saturday and is expected to miss his next spring training start on Monday. According to manager Brad Ausmus, the sprain will likely prevent Fulmer from reaching the necessary pitch counts to play for Team USA later this month.
MLB.com’s Jason Beck reports that the sprain is classified as a Grade 1 injury, which shouldn’t affect the righty’s chances of making the roster by Opening Day. As far as the WBC is concerned, Fulmer’s involvement depends on Team USA advancing beyond the first round, as he’s been named to a Designated Pitcher Pool that the team can only draw from in subsequent rounds of the tournament.
Beck adds that pitchers in the second round can toss up to 80 pitches, with an additional 65 pitches in the third round. Fulmer, meanwhile, has thrown a total of 19 pitches in three innings during spring training so far. The Tigers are understandably inclined to take a conservative approach with the right-hander, who turned out a 3.06 ERA, 2.4 BB/9 and 7.5 SO/9 over 159 innings with the club during his award-winning rookie campaign in 2016.
The new Collective Bargaining Agreement commits the players and the league to regular season games on foreign soil. Most of the focus of this has been on games in London, for which there has been a lot of activity and discussion.
Yesterday before the Astros-Tigers game in Houston, however, Commissioner Rob Manfred talked about playing games in Mexico. And not as just a one-off, but as a foot-in-the-water towards possible expansion:
Commissioner Rob Manfred said Tuesday that the time had come to play regular-season games in Mexico City as Major League Baseball weighs international expansion.
“We think it’s time to move past exhibition games and play real live ‘they-count’ games in Mexico,” Manfred said. “That is the kind of experiment that puts you in better position to make a judgement as to whether you have a market that could sustain an 81-game season and a Major League team.”
A team in Mexico could make some geographic sense and some marketing sense, though it’s not clear if there is a city that would be appropriate for that right now. Mexico City is huge but it has plenty of its own sports teams and is far away from the parts of the country where baseball is popular (mostly the border states and areas along the Pacific coast). At 7,382 feet, its elevation would make games at Coors Field look like the Deadball Era.
Monterrey has been talked about — games have been played there and it’s certainly closer — but it’s somewhat unknown territory demographically speaking. It’s not as big as Mexico City, obviously. Income stratification is greater there and most of the rest of Mexico than it is in the United States too, making projections of how much discretionary income people may spend on an expensive entertainment product like Major League Baseball uncertain. Especially when they have other sports they’ve been following for decades.
Interesting, though. It’s something Manfred has talked about many times over the years, so unlike so many other things he says he’s “considering” or “hasn’t ruled out,” Major League Baseball in Mexico is something worth keeping our eyes on.
The score was tied in the top of the 10th inning in last night’s game between the Dodgers and the Cardinals. Yadier Molina was up to bat, facing Kenley Jansen and drove one to deep right center field.
Yasiel Puig was in full run for the ball as center fielder Joc Pederson ranged hard for it himself. Puig caught the ball, but not before slamming into Pederson. Both men went down, but Pederson went down harder, taking an elbow to the face from Puig before crashing head-first into the outfield wall.
Pederson came out of the game, apparently bleeding from his head. There will be an update on his condition today.
UPDATE: Oops, there was an update last night: