Daily Dose: Jays cut Ryan, eat $15 million

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Earlier this year Scott Downs emerged as Toronto’s closer thanks to
B.J. Ryan’s struggles and Wednesday the Blue Jays welcomed him back
from the disabled list by releasing Ryan. Ryan has been a mess, posting
a 6.53 ERA with 17 walks and just 13 strikeouts in 20.2 innings while
displaying decreased velocity, but the move still comes as a surprise
given that he’s owed $10 million for 2010.

While his days as a dominant closer may be over it wouldn’t be
shocking if Ryan got things together enough to be a capable middle man
or left-handed specialist, yet the Blue Jays are eating the $15 million
remaining on his contract rather than stashing him back on the DL or in
a mop-up role. And they’re doing so less than 24 hours after saying
that they had no plans to let Ryan go. Something is fishy.

While the Blue Jays learn the dangers of handing five-year contracts
to relievers, here are some other notes from around baseball …

* Demoted to Triple-A less than a month ago, Manny Parra is
scheduled to rejoin the Brewers’ rotation Thursday afternoon against
the Cardinals. Parra wasn’t all that great in four starts at Triple-A,
posting a 2.92 ERA and 19/13 K/BB ratio, but with Seth McClung coughing
up seven runs in his last outing Milwaukee decided to reverse the
rotation switch that was made last month.

Parra definitely has the stuff to thrive in the majors and went 9-2
with a 3.68 ERA through mid-June last year, but since then he’s 7-14
with an ugly 5.77 ERA and 1.69 WHIP in 156 innings. Plus, while he has
just 44 career starts under his belt Parra is quite a bit older than
his experience level and actually turns 27 years old in a few months.
He still has upside, but even NL-only teams should be cautious.

* General manager Tony Reagins said Tuesday that Kelvim Escobar
still feels “a deep ache” in his surgically repaired shoulder and
hasn’t picked up a baseball in weeks, leading to speculation that he’s
unlikely to pitch again this year. “We’re not writing him off, by any
means,” Reagins said. “We’re going to move forward cautiously. If we
get him back, great. If we don’t get him back, then we don’t.”

* Jose Contreras earned a mid-May demotion to the minors by going
0-5 with an 8.19 ERA, but he’s been a new man since returning a month
ago. Contreras held the Indians to just one run in 6.1 innings
Wednesday, making him 4-2 with a 1.94 ERA and 38/6 K/BB ratio in 44
innings spread over six post-demotion starts. He’s not suddenly an
elite starter, but the solid 4.50-ERA guy from 2005-2008 is back.

Note: I’ll be live blogging this afternoon’s games over at NBCSports.com.

AL Quick Hits: David Ortiz homered and knocked in four runs
Wednesday … Joe Mauer went 3-for-5 with a homer and a double off the
wall Wednesday … Carlos Guillen (shoulder) is hoping to start a rehab
stint this weekend … David Aardsma blew a three-run lead Wednesday as
all six batters reached … Scott Rolen went 3-for-5 with a double
Wednesday to extend his hitting streak to 25 games … Tim Wakefield
celebrated his first All-Star selection by becoming the AL’s first
pitcher to 11 wins … Scott Kazmir was rocked for seven runs in 6.1
innings Wednesday, but escaped with a no-decision … David Hernandez had
his third straight Quality Start on Wednesday and should stick in
Baltimore’s rotation … Jim Leyland said Wednesday that he plans to
platoon Magglio Ordonez and Clete Thomas in right field … Moving up a
day thanks to Glen Perkins’ illness, Anthony Swarzak failed to make it
out of the fifth frame Wednesday … Andruw Jones homered in each of his
first three at-bats Wednesday, but then popped out and struck out.

NL Quick Hits: Manny Ramirez went deep Wednesday for the second
time in five post-suspension games … Raul Ibanez (groin) is hoping to
come off the disabled list Friday … Wandy Rodriguez totaled 11
strikeouts in a complete-game shutout Wednesday, slicing his ERA to
2.96 … General manager Mike Rizzo has made it clear that the Nationals
won’t deal Adam Dunn … Oliver Perez returned from the DL by handing out
seven walks in five innings Wednesday … Rafael Soriano has overtaken
Mike Gonzalez as the Braves’ closer, picking up his fourth save of the
month Wednesday … Chris Volstad threw a complete-game shutout Wednesday
after going 1-5 in his previous seven starts … Homer Bailey turned in
his second straight good start Wednesday and may finally be in the
majors for good … Dave Bush (biceps) is slated to begin a rehab
assignment Friday at Single-A.

Tommy La Stella talks about his refusal to report to the minors in 2016

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In late July of 2016, Cubs infielder Tommy La Stella was demoted to Triple-A. It wasn’t personal. It was a roster crunch situation and La Stella had options left so, despite the fact that he had been an effective player to that point of the season, it made sense to send him down.

La Stella didn’t take the demotion well. In fact he refused to report to Iowa and went home to New Jersey instead. It was not until August 17 that he finally reported and then only after prolonged discussions with the Cubs and the assurance that he’d be back in the majors once rosters opened up. Which he was, after spending just over a week down on the farm.

Such a move by a player would, normally speaking, make him persona non-grata. His teammates would shun him and the organization would, eventually, cut bait, with the press characterizing him as a me-first player as he walked out the door. That did not happen with La Stella, however, who remains with the Cubs two years later and, by all accounts, is a popular and important guy in the Cubs’ clubhouse, even if he’s not one of the team’s big stars.

Today Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic has an in-depth story about La Stella, what went down in 2016 and how he and the Cubs have proceeded since then. The story is subscription only, but the short version is that there was a lot of understanding and empathy on the part of the Cubs organization and their players about what was going on in La Stella’s head at the time and how everyone allowed everyone else the space to work through it.

I’m happy to read this story, because all too often we only hear about such incidents as they occur, with little followup. To the extent the story is told, most of the time its completely one-sided, with the player who acts out being treated like a bad seed with little if any explanation of his side of things. And, yes, there are always two sides to the story. Sometimes even more.

Kudos to Rosenthal for telling this story. Here’s hoping the next time a player is involved in a controversy that, in the moment, makes him appear to be a bad seed or have a bad attitude, we hear more about it then too.