Philadelphia signed Chad Billingsley to an incentive-laden one-year deal in the hopes that he’ll bounce back well from Tommy John and flexor tendon surgeries, but Todd Zolecki of MLB.com reports that “he’s not expected to be big league-ready until late April.”
That’s no surprise given that Billingsley went under the knife last April. He also hasn’t pitched in a big-league game since way back in April of 2013, when his solid seven-year run as a mid-rotation starter for the Dodgers came to a halt.
In the meantime David Buchnanan could get an extended chance to remain in the rotation after starting 20 games with a 3.75 ERA for the Phillies as a 25-year-old rookie last season.
Orioles catcher Matt Wieters is recovered enough from Tommy John elbow surgery to be in the lineup for early spring training games, but he’ll be limited to designated hitter duties until mid-March.
That’s when Wieters will be cleared to resume throwing at 100 percent, although in the meantime he may do some catching without throwing in intrasquad games.
Wieters underwent surgery in June and the recovery timetable for catchers is typically much closer to that of pitchers than it is to other position players. Baltimore could choose to stash Wieters at DH and get his bat into the lineup even if his elbow isn’t fully healthy by Opening Day.
Now that David Price is out of the picture the Rays need a new Opening Day starter and they’ve decided on 27-year-old right-hander Alex Cobb.
During the past two seasons Cobb has started 49 games with a 2.82 ERA, which is the third-best mark in the league over that span behind only Felix Hernandez and Chris Sale.
He was particularly great in the second half last season, starting 14 games with a 1.79 ERA and 81/23 K/BB ratio in 90 innings.
Price or James Shields have made every Opening Day start for the Rays since 2007, when Scott Kazmir got the assignment.
For one day at least the power Jung-Ho Kang showed in Korea translated to the big leagues, as the Pirates’ new $16 million infielder went deep off Blue Jays right-hander Marco Estrada:
Kang hit .356 with 40 homers in Korea last season.
Alex Johnson, an outfielder who played 13 seasons in the majors and won the American League batting title for the Angels in 1970, died Saturday at age 72.
A speedy, right-handed-hitting corner outfielder known much more for his bat than his glove, Johnson hit .288 with 78 homers and 113 steals in 1,322 games for eight different teams in the 1960s and 1970s.
He made the All-Star team in 1970 and went on to win the batting championship by hitting .329, marking his third straight season with a batting average above .300.
Johnson finished his career playing for his hometown Tigers and lived in Detroit after retiring.