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Justin Verlander thinks the baseballs are juiced and sign-stealing lengthens games

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MLive.com’s Evan Woodbery has an interesting read up today focusing on Tigers starter Justin Verlander. Verlander read the recent piece from The Ringer by Ben Lindbergh, featuring research from Mitchell Lichtman, that concluded that the baseballs were changed starting after the 2015 All-Star break.

“Are people talking about this? Are people writing about this?” Verlander asked.

Verlander said, “The old eye test is the best thing to go by. Guys that have been around this game for a long time, you see balls leaving the yard that probably shouldn’t be.” He added, “If it is true, I wish MLB would just say, ‘Yeah, we wanted more offense.’ But the explanation of why home runs are going out at such an extreme rate…I think people just want answers to that. Specifically pitchers. I don’t think hitters mind too much.”

Speaking about another one of baseball’s recent issues, the pace of play, Verlander suggested that the increasingly complex signs between catchers and pitchers is adding to the downtime in between pitches.

The game comes to a screeching halt when guys get on base, and specifically when guys get in scoring position on second base. The signs have to be more advanced than they ever were before.

Those 1-2-3 innings go pretty quick. It’s when guys get on base: Pitchers picking off and stepping off, managers giving signs to the catcher, catcher giving the signs to the pitcher. All these things take place and that’s where the lull is. I think there’s a lot of extra space in that area we could tighten up.

I have much more advanced signs now. I have fallback signs for my fallback signs. There’s a lot of stuff happening that makes it pretty easy to get off rhythm with the catcher or maybe throw the wrong pitch or have to say, ‘Hold on, let’s talk about this, because we’re not on the same page.

If Verlander got his way, Major League Baseball would come clean about altering baseballs and crack down on sign-stealing.

Video: Jaime Garcia hits a 399-foot grand slam

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Jaime Garcia has been at the center of trade talks for several days now, but on Friday night, he commanded center stage for an entirely different reason. The Braves’ southpaw went head-to-head with Dodgers’ lefty Alex Wood and mashed his first career grand slam: a two-out, 399-foot blast that cleared the wall in right field and put the Braves up 9-0 in the fifth inning.

The bases-loaded knock was the third career home run for Garcia, whose contributions at the plate have been few and far between over his nine-year track in the major leagues. Not only did the homer mark an impressive career first for the 30-year-old, but it was just the second pitcher grand slam in Braves’ history and the first since 1966.

Garcia looked almost as impressive on the mound during Friday’s series opener, issuing one run, four hits and three strikeouts through his first six innings. The Braves currently lead the Dodgers 12-1 in the top of the seventh inning.

As for whether the slam will affect negotiations between the Braves and Twins? MLB.com’s Mike Petriello put it best:

Ryon Healy exits game after taking a ground ball to the face

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Athletics’ first baseman Ryon Healy had a scary moment during Friday’s loss to the Mets. Lucas Duda smacked a single to the first base side, where the ball took a high hop and caught Healy in the left temple. He crumpled to the ground after getting struck by the one-hopper, but was eventually able to stand and walk off the field with assistance from a trainer.

Prior to the injury, Healy went 2-for-3 at the plate with an RBI single in the first inning. He was replaced by Yonder Alonso, who finished off the rest of the night’s 7-5 loss with a walk in two plate appearances.

Following the game, manager Bob Melvin told reporters that Healy did not appear to have sustained a concussion as a result of the hit. Healy said he thinks he’ll be good to go for Saturday’s game, though a final decision likely won’t be made until tomorrow.