On Wednesday night, Astros starter Mike Fiers took exception when Angels third baseman Luis Valbuna flipped his bat after hitting a home run in the first inning. Fiers threw a pitch over Valbuena’s head in the fourth inning, causing umpire Cory Blaser to issue warnings to both benches. After the game, Fiers said, “I took [the bat flip] as disrespect.”
Fiers has been suspended five games by Major League Baseball for his actions and fined an undisclosed amount, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports. Fiers is not appealing his suspension, McTaggart notes, so his suspension will begin tonight. A five-game suspension for a starting pitcher really amounts to a one-game suspension since they go four games in between starts. The Astros can just push his next scheduled start back one day.
Fiers, 32, isn’t having a great season anyway. He’s 8-10 with a 5.22 ERA and a 146/62 K/BB ratio in 153 1/3 innings.
As I wrote yesterday, Major League Baseball can’t say “there’s no right or wrong way to play,” then allow pitchers to throw baseballs at players’ head for purportedly playing “the wrong way” by giving them meaningless punishments. In a perfect world, Fiers’ punishment should give him incentive to never throw at a hitter’s head again.
The Blue Jays have shut down left fielder Steve Pearce for the remainder of the season following a lingering case of lower back stiffness. Pearce has not appeared in a game since September 8, when he was forced to exit in the first inning after experiencing back pain during his at-bat. Per Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca, he’s scheduled to return to Florida next week, where he’ll receive epidural injections to address the pain.
Pearce, 34, impressed in his first season with Toronto. He battled through a calf injury during the first half of the season and finished the year with a modest .252/.319/.438 batting line, 13 home runs and a .757 OPS through 348 PA. By September, the Blue Jays started testing the waters with outfield prospect Teoscar Hernandez, who shouldered the bulk of the starts in left field after Pearce was sidelined with back issues.
With the Blue Jays all but eliminated from playoff contention, however, there’s no rush to get Pearce back to the outfield. He should be in fine shape to compete for another starting role in spring, and could face stiff competition from Hernandez if the rookie continues building on his .278 average and three home runs this month. The veteran outfielder is slated to receive the remaining $6.25 million on his contract in 2018 and will be eligible for free agency in 2019.
Brewers’ minor league infielder Julio Mendez remains in “critical but stable condition,” club GM David Stearns announced Friday. Back in August, Mendez suffered a cardiac event after he was inadvertently struck by a ball from the Angels’ Austin Krzeminksi during a game between the rookie-level affiliates. The 20-year-old was removed to a Phoenix-area hospital for treatment following the incident and has recently been transferred to a hospital in his native Venezuela.
Mendez was in his fourth season with the Brewers’ organization. He spent the majority of his 2017 run with the rookie-level AZL Brewers, slashing .255/.294/.355 with 10 extra-base hits, 16 RBI and four stolen bases over 119 plate appearances. He currently holds a career .241/.324/.309 batting line, 33 extra bases and a .633 OPS through 668 PA.
Baseball is still on the back burner, however, as Mendez appears to have made little progress nearly a month following the hit by pitch. Thoughts go out to his family during this difficult time.