Bill Baer

Detroit Tigers' Justin Upton blows a bubble in the dugout during  the first inning of a baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Monday, April 11, 2016, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
AP Photo/Paul Sancya

Video: Justin Upton bobbles but hangs onto a deep fly ball at the wall

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Tigers left fielder Justin Upton robbed Chris Coghlan of at least a double in the top of the third inning of Tuesday’s game against the Athletics. Coghlan drove a 3-1 Mike Pelfrey fastball to the opposite field, sending Upton back towards the wall. He leaped for the ball and it bounced off of the heel of his glove, but he stayed with the ball and re-grabbed it before it hit the ground.

From the camera angle provided in this video, it’s not clear if the ball would or would not have gone over the fence if Upton hadn’t interfered. Either way, he robbed Coghlan of extra bases.

If Joe Girardi were commissioner, he’d ban infield shifts

New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi walks out to the mound to pull starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi during the sixth inning of an exhibition baseball game against the Miami Marlins on Friday, April 1, 2016, in Miami. (AP Photo/Rob Foldy)
AP Photo/Rob Foldy

Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal spoke to Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who said that if he were commissioner of baseball, he would ban infield shifts. Girardi added that the second base bag would be the dividing line. Ostensibly, he means that a team would have to have two fielders on both sides.

This would be a serious change to the rulebook, as Diamond points out:

Teams are shifting now more than ever, but it actually hasn’t had much an effect on batted balls overall. Here’s a look at league-wide BABIP since 2000:


American League BABIP is at its lowest point while National League BABIP is at its highest. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports posted team-by-team shift data recently:

There aren’t a preponderance of AL teams at the top or the bottom of the list which might help explain the disparity. But it’s certainly not evident that shifts are leading to hit prevention. Girardi’s solution may be addressing a problem that doesn’t exist.

Matt Albers was pretty pumped up over fielding a bunt

Chicago White Sox relief pitcher Matt Albers throws against the Cleveland Indians during the ninth inning of a baseball game Saturday, April 9, 2016, in Chicago. The White Sox won 7-3. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

White Sox reliever Matt Albers started the eighth inning on Monday with the task of protecting a one-run lead against the Blue Jays. He got two quick outs, striking out Darwin Barney and getting Josh Thole to line out to center field.

Looking to get something going, Ezequiel Carrera dropped a bunt down the first base line. Albers pounced on the ball and threw to first to get Carrera out and end the inning. Albers was pretty pumped up about it, racing off the field into the dugout, seemingly yelling at the top of his lungs. He very enthusiastically accepted high fives from his teammates.

[sarcasm] We’ll await Goose Gossage’s criticism of Albers’ exuberance. Why did he have to show up the Blue Jays’ hitters like that? [/sarcasm]

Jake Arrieta on PED whispers: “The 10 tests I take a year say otherwise.”

Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jake Arrieta throws in the first inning of a baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds, Thursday, April 21, 2016, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
AP Photo/John Minchillo

We have a certified genesis story for Jake Arrieta‘s rise to superstardom. Orioles closer Zach Britton elucidated on that, as mentioned on Monday, saying, “[The Orioles] took away the individual approach to everything.” Jake Arrieta, once a top prospect in the Orioles’ minor league system, had a cut fastball, but the O’s forbade him from throwing it. It wasn’t until Arrieta joined the Cubs in a trade that he began throwing the cutter again. The rest, as they say, is history.

Still, there have been many whispers from fans and players alike that Arrieta owes his success to performance-enhancing drugs. Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY spoke to Arrieta about those rumors, and Arrieta responded as well as one could have hoped.

“I’ve heard players, and I’m talking about some of the best players in the league,’’ Arrieta told USA TODAY Sports, “question whether I’ve taken steroids or not. Some of the things I hear are pretty funny, and some people are idiots, frankly.

“I’ll see on Twitter, ‘My close source revealed to me he’s on steroids.’ Well, the 10 tests I take a year say otherwise. I eat plants. I eat lean meat. I work out. And I do things the right way.

“If there are guys still on it, I hope they get caught. I care about the integrity of the game. I wouldn’t want to disappoint my family, my friends, my fans. That’s a huge motivating factor in doing it the right way.

“There are so many people that are counting on you, and leaning on all of us in this clubhouse to do some special things for the city of Chicago. To jeopardize that by taking banned substances, would be a ridiculous mistake.’’

He laughs at the cynicism and innuendo, without displaying the slightest hint of anger.

“Hey, that’s one of the best compliments you can give a guy,’’ he says. “I appreciate the fact that you think I’m pretty good, but taking steroids, that’s pushing it.’’

It isn’t even as if Arrieta had been linked to PEDs through the Biogenesis scandal, or failed a test at the minor league level. Some people, for whatever reason, can’t accept that a guy who had a 5.46 ERA over parts of four seasons with the Orioles went on to author two no-hitters and win a Cy Young Award with the Cubs without the help of illegal substances.

Blue Jays may revisit extension talks with Edwin Encarnacion at the All-Star break

Toronto Blue Jays' Edwin Encarnacion reacts to a called strike in the eighth inning against the New York Yankees in a baseball game Tuesday, April 12, 2016, in Toronto. The Yankees won 3-2. (Fred Thornhill/The Canadian Press via AP)
Fred Thornhill/The Canadian Press via AP

The Blue Jays and 1B/DH Edwin Encarnacion had preliminary contract extension cards early in spring training, but the two sides weren’t able to make much progress before the regular season began. MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reports that the two sides may revisit extension talks at the All-Star break, but adds that it doesn’t seem likely Encarnacion would forego free agency.

Encarnacion, 33, has been one of the game’s premier power hitters since the 2012 season. Since the beginning of that season, he has swatted 153 home runs in 2,520 plate appearances, an average of nearly 40 home runs per 650 plate appearances. He and Jose Bautista have arguably been the most feared 3-4 punch in any lineup.

Encarnacion is earning $10 million this season after the Jays exercised their club option in November. It’s the final year of what turned out to be a four-year, $39 million contract signed in July 2012.