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Michael Pineda and the challenges faced by non-English speaking players

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Andrew Marchand has an interesting story up over at ESPN. It’s about Michael Pineda and how far he has come since he was suspended for using pine tar while pitching in 2014.

It’s not really about how far he’s come on-the-field — Pineda is coming off of two below average seasons — but how far he’s come as a complete player and a person. Primarily with respect to his learning of English.

It’s not a “oh good, look at the foreign-born player assimilating!” story. It’s about how, whether a player makes a big effort to learn English or not, the language barrier creates all manner of difficulties that native English speakers never have to deal with. In the case of the pine tar, a quick, comfortable conversation between American players is likely sufficient to convey the dark art of using the stuff without getting caught. In Pineda’s case he wasn’t really able to talk to anyone about how blatant is too blatant in the majors.

That’s a minor point, of course, but the language barrier extends to every facet of life in the United States, especially for younger players who are adjusting to a new home. Everything from reading street signs to a menu is a challenge to some degree, and when everything you do during the day is slightly harder, the toll adds up. It’s also worth noting that Spanish speaking players did not even necessarily have team translators until this year. It wasn’t required until the recently-adopted Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Anyway, it’s a good look at a part of the game we don’t often see. And a reminder that a lot of players have challenges separate and apart from opposing batters and pitchers.

Kenley Jansen’s consecutive saves streak ends at 34

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Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen gave up three runs in the top of the ninth inning during Sunday’s game against the Braves, blowing his first save since August 26 last season. He had converted 34 consecutive saves.

Jansen yielded back-to-back singles to lead off the ninth inning, staked to a 4-1 lead. After getting two outs, Matt Adams hit a three-run home run down the right field line to knot the game at four apiece.

After Sunday’s lackluster performance, Jansen is now 24-for-25 in save chances this season with a 1.49 ERA and a 62/2 K/BB ratio in 42 1/3 innings.

Zach Britton sets American League record with 55th consecutive save

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Orioles closer Zach Britton finished Sunday’s 9-7 victory over the Astros with a scoreless ninth inning, earning his sixth save of the season. He has now earned the save in 55 consecutive opportunities dating back to September 2015, setting a new American League record. Tom Gordon previously held the record with 54 consecutive saves. Eric Gagne holds the major league record at 84.

Britton’s last blown save came on September 20, 2015, then converted two more saves before the end of the regular season. He went 47-for-47 in save chances last season and is six-for-six so far this year.

Along with his six saves, Britton has a 2.65 ERA and a 13/8 K/BB ratio in 17 innings this season. The lefty came off the disabled list earlier this month after missing two months with a strained left forearm.