It was somewhat surprising that Ryan Howard didn’t get a minor league deal from someone this spring. If, for no other reason, than to see what he could do in games that don’t count.
It’s even more surprising that, now that he has a minor league deal in hand, it’s from a club that doesn’t really have a place for him at all: the Atlanta Braves, who SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo reports penned the former MVP to a deal today.
To the extent Howard has any value whatsoever, it’s for his bat and the Braves don’t get to use the DH except for interleague games. The only position Howard can play defensively — and he does not play it well — is first base, which is the position of the Braves best player, Freddie Freeman.
Still, this costs virtually nothing and it gives Howard a place to get some hacks in down on the farm. The Braves have a lot of time to figure out what, if anything, to do with him in the meantime.
Howard hit .196/.257/.453 last season. He did hit 25 homers, but that remains a pretty empty batting line otherwise. Even emptier when you realize that almost all of that damage came against righties, against whom he had a .269 OBP, meaning that he’s not even a platoon threat. He’s merely a guy who can hit one a long way once in a while if a righty makes a mistake.
Still: Howard seems like a good guy, and no one wants see a once-great player end their career in ignominy. Here’s wishing the best for him.
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred wants Tampa Bay to work a little quicker on getting the Rays a new ballpark.
Rays Principal Owner Stuart Sternberg has been working for nearly a decade to get a new stadium for the club and signed a three-year agreement with the City of St. Petersburg early in 2016 to search for a site in the Tampa Bay area. Manfred wants that search to pick up some steam.
“I think it’s fair to say we want the process to take on a better pace moving forward,” Manfred said Wednesday night at Tropicana Field, home of the Rays since their first season in 1998.
The Rays were averaging 15,815 fans per game before Wednesday night’s contest against the Toronto Blue Jays. That is just over half the major league average of 30,470. Tropicana Field and its location have been almost universally blamed as the reason for the poor attendance.
“I’ve been pretty clear that they need a new facility here, a major league quality facility in an A-plus location,” Manfred said. “It is time to move that decision to the front burner here in Tampa.”
The matter of how a stadium would be financed has been tabled until a site is determined, but Sternberg continued to express confidence in the Tampa Bay market.
“I’ve had the opportunity to bail on it many times over the years,” he said. “I won’t say this is a slam dunk, it’s certainly not. But I think we can do something that’ll at least double our attendance. That’s a lot to ask for.”
Manfred said Major League Baseball “doesn’t have a firm timetable” for what steps to take if the Rays fail to get an agreement to build a new stadium in the Tampa Bay area, but but added that “it is a topic of discussion in the industry, the lack of progress.”
More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball
Bad news for the Mariners this evening: Robinson Cano left Seattle’s game against the Atlanta Braves with tightness in his left hamstring.
Cano walked off the field after legging out a double — his second of the game — in the third inning. He pulled up as he approached second base and walked off the field, accompanied by a trainer. There was no immediate word on the severity of the injury. The Mariners have a day off Thursday before opening a series at the Yankees on Friday night, so they have some time to evaluate him.
Cano is hitting .277/.377/.460 with 19 homers and 78 RBI on the year.