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Giants sign Vic Black to minor league deal

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The Giants signed veteran right-handed reliever Vic Black to a minor league deal on Friday, per MLB.com’s Rich MacLeod. It’s the first time Black has popped up on anyone’s radar since he underwent shoulder surgery last spring, though MacLeod notes that the righty has been hitting decent numbers on the radar gun during recent workout sessions. The move was verified by Black on Twitter earlier this evening and is pending official confirmation by the team:

Black, 28, was last seen working the tail end of his first full season in the majors in 2014. He delivered a 2.60 ERA, 4.9 BB/9 and 8.3 SO/9 through 34 2/3 innings with the Mets, but was sidelined by a herniated disc in his neck and eventually shut down in September with a right rotator cuff strain. After a season-long rehab stint in the minors, Black elected free agency in November 2015 and underwent an additional arthroscopic surgery on his shoulder in early 2016.

Heading into 2017, the righty appears to have made a full recovery, though he has yet to take the mound for a professional team since the procedure. Assuming he returns to the mound with good health and a working fastball, he could bring some depth to the Giants’ bullpen, which currently ranks eighth-worst in the league with a cumulative 4.89 ERA.

James Paxton will “nerd out big-time” to stay healthy next year

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To the surprise of, well, very few, the Mariners didn’t make the cut for the postseason this year. While they threw their hats in the ring for a wild card berth, their pitching staff just couldn’t stay healthy, from the handful of pitchers who contracted season-ending injuries in spring training to Felix Hernandez‘s shoulder bursitis to structural damage in Hisashi Iwakuma‘s right shoulder. Left-hander James Paxton missed 79 days with a lingering head cold, strained left forearm and pectoral strain. Heading into the 2018 season, the lefty told MLB.com’s Greg Johns that he plans to “nerd out big-time” in order to prepare for a healthy, consistent run with the club.

So far, Johns reports, that entails a new diet and workout program, hot yoga sessions and blood testing. “I just think there’s more I can do,” Paxton said. “I haven’t done the blood testing before. Finding out if there’s something I don’t know about myself. It’s just about learning and trying to find what works for me.”

When healthy, the 28-year-old southpaw was lights-out for the Mariners. He helped stabilize the front end of the rotation with a 12-5 record in 24 starts and supplemented his efforts with a 2.98 ERA, 2.4 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 136 innings. Despite taking multiple trips to the disabled list, he built up 4.6 fWAR — the most wins above replacement he’s compiled in any season of his career to date. Had he not been felled by a pectoral injury in mid-August — one that came with a five-week trip to the disabled list — the club might have been been able to make a bigger push for the playoffs.

Of course, even if Paxton manages to stay healthy next season, the Mariners still have the rest of the rotation to worry about. They cycled through 17 starters in 2017 and tied the 2014 Rangers with 40 total pitchers over the course of the season. Per GM Jerry Dipoto, their top four starters (Paxton, Hernandez, Iwakuma, and Tommy John candidate Drew Smyly) only contributed 17% of total innings pitched, just a tad below the 40% average. Finding adequate big league arms and compensating for injured aces (both current and former) will be tough. Still, getting a healthy, dominant Paxton back on the mound for 30+ starts would be a huge get for the team — whether or not the postseason is in their future next year.