Bill Baer

KANSAS CITY, MO - MAY 18:  Alec Mills #63 of the Kansas City Royals throws against the Boston Red Sox during the second game of a doubleheader at Kauffman Stadium on May 18, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
Ed Zurga/Getty Images

Cubs acquire Alec Mills from the Royals

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The Cubs announced on Wednesday that the club acquired pitcher Alec Mills from the Royals in exchange for minor league outfielder Donnie Dewees. To create roster space, the Cubs designated pitcher David Rollins for assignment.

Mills, 25, made his major league debut last season, making three appearances and allowing five runs. Despite the lackluster performance in a very small sample, Mills progressed quickly. He was with the Royals’ High-A affiliate in Wilmington in 2015, started 2016 at Double-A Northwest Arkansas and made his way to Triple-A Omaha in mid-June.

Dewees, 23, spent last season with Single-A South Bend and High-A Myrtle Beach, hitting a combined .284/.338/.416 with 25 doubles, 14 triples, 31 stolen bases, 73 RBI, and 90 runs scored in 557 plate appearances. ESPN’s Keith Law rated him as the Cubs’ 15th-best prospect.

The real story here, though, is Rollins. On the heels of a great article by Sports Illustrated’s Jon Tayler, I discussed the tough offseason some fringe major leaguers go thorugh. Rollins was among them. This has been Rollins’ offseason thus far after ending the 2016 campaign with the Mariners:

  • November 18: Cubs claim Rollins off waivers from the Mariners
  • November 22: Rangers claim Rollins off waivers from the Cubs
  • December 2: Phillies claim Rollins off waivers from the Rangers
  • December 14: Phillies designate Rollins for assignment
  • December 21: Rangers claim Rollins off waivers from the Phillies
  • December 23: Cubs claim Rollins off waivers from the Rangers
  • February 8: Cubs designate Rollins for assignment

So, once again, Rollins has no idea where he’ll actually have to report to for spring training.

Brian Wilson attempting a comeback as a knuckleballer

Dodgers' Wilson watches the game against the Diamondbacks in the seventh inning during their MLB National League baseball game in Phoenix
REUTERS/Darryl Webb
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Former major leaguer and noted beard-haver Brian Wilson is attempting a comeback as a knuckleballer, Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports reports.

On a muddy mound at USC on Wednesday morning, wearing high-top spikes and a Hawaii-themed cap, Wilson threw a 30-minute bullpen session. Of those dozens of pitches, all but a handful were knuckleballs.

“That right there,” Wilson said while pulling off his muck-caked shoes, “was an MVP-Cy Young knuckleball. You can write that down, too. No joke.”

He smiled.

“I can already see myself out there,” he said, “throwing up some waffles.”

Wilson, a three-time All-Star, last pitched in 2014 with the Dodgers. He pitched out of the Giants’ bullpen from 2006-12 before that, helping them win a World Series in 2010. As he went into hiatus, he carried a 3.30 ERA with 172 saves and 407 strikeouts across 382 innings in his nine-year career.

“I may be 34, but I’m actually 26 biologically,” Wilson said.

MLB to test new extra-innings rules, including starting with a runner at second base

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 21:  Joe Torre, Major League Baseball's Chief Baseball Officer, looks on prior to game four of the 2015 MLB National League Championship Series between the Chicago Cubs and the New York Mets at Wrigley Field on October 21, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images
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Per Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, Major League Baseball will test new extra-innings rules in rookie ball this season. One of those rules includes starting extra innings with a runner on second base. That rule is already implemented in the World Baseball Classic, but starting with the 11th inning, as the Chicago Tribune reported.

MLB chief baseball officer Joe Torre is in favor of the experimentation. “Let’s just see what it looks like. It’s not fun to watch when you go through your whole pitching staff and wind up bringing a utility infielder in to pitch. As much as it’s nice to talk about being at an 18-inning game, it takes time,” Torre said. He continued, “It’s baseball. I’m just trying to get back to that, where this is the game that people come to watch. It doesn’t mean you’re going to score. You’re just trying to play baseball.”

The proposed change would have some tangible benefits, such as shortening games, reducing the stress of travel after those long games, and limiting abuse of pitchers’ arms.

The minor leagues have been Major League Baseball’s laboratory for rule changes because those alterations don’t need union approval… because there is no union. Both the owners and the players’ union would have to come to an agreement to adopt this proposed extra-innings rule at the major league level, so it seems unlikely that would happen in the very near future.

There were 189 extra-inning games last season out of 2,430 games played, or 7.6 percent. Of those 189 games, 75 lasted 10 innings (40%), 50 lasted 11 innings (26%), 31 lasted 12 innings (16%), 19 lasted 13 innings (10%), and 14 lasted 14 innings or longer (7%). 26 players who are typically position players pitched last season, and only two of those players were brought in during extra innings: Darwin Barney (19th inning on July 1) and Ryan Goins (18th inning also on July 1).

It seems, based on this data, that long extra-innings games — even those involving position players pitching — aren’t really that big of an issue. That being said, reducing the length and amount of extra-inning games in the minors could be very helpful because it will help preserve many young, developing arms and potentially avoid otherwise unnecessary injuries.