Orioles bring in Millwood to head young rotation

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It was a prerequisite to the Rangers’ signing of Rich Harden; Kevin Milllwood’s $12 million salary simply had to be stricken from the books.
To make it happen, the Rangers ate $3 million and sent the veteran to the Orioles for former closer Chris Ray and a player to be named.
Millwood is coming off his best season in his four with Texas, as he went 13-10 with a 3.67 ERA in 31 starts. It seems like he’s frequently dealt with leg problems in recent years, but he still averaged 31 starts per year as a Ranger. He’s at that same 31 even if you go back eight years.
And that’s the kind of stability the Orioles were looking to add to a rotation that’s only other sure thing is Jeremy Guthrie. They’ll accept a return to 4.00+ ERA from Millwood if he stays on 200-inning pace. And if some other young starters come along as hoped, he could be traded again at the deadline, most likely at a profit.
The key here is that the Orioles kept all of their promising young starters and instead parted with Ray, who will still intriguing but was also arbitration eligible and no longer prized by the team. The soon-to-be 28-year-old Ray saved 33 games in his first full season in the majors in 2006, but he required Tommy John surgery in Aug. 2007, missed all of 2008 and failed to bounce back as hoped last season. He ended up with a 7.27 ERA in 43 1/3 innings for the club.
The good news is that Ray didn’t leave much velocity on the table. He still throws 92-95 mph consistently. However, AL batters typically had a very easy time lining up his fastball last season, and his decision to rely more and more on his slider did him little good. A new pitching coach in Mike Maddux might be just what he needs to turn his career around and reemerge as a quality late-game reliever. Still, it’s at least as likely that he’ll be off the 40-man roster by June 1 as it is that he’ll be a major asset in the Texas pen.
In the end, both teams are getting what they wanted here. The Orioles identified Millwood as more desirable than the free agent options and got him without surrendering a key piece. The Rangers viewed Harden as a potential upgrade for their rotation and still saved $1.5 million with the rotation switch. Sounds like a good trade to me.

Major League Baseball needs to make an example out of José Ureña

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We’re about an hour and a half separated from the first pitch of Wednesday night’s Marlins/Braves game that featured Marlins starter José Ureña hitting Braves outfielder Ronald Acuña on the elbow with a first-pitch, 97.5 MPH fastball. The benches emptied, Ureña was ejected, and the game went on. Acuña left the game not long after to tend to his injured elbow.

After the game, when the Marlins speak to the media, they will almost certainly deny any ill intent towards Acuña, who had hit leadoff home runs in three consecutive games against them. When they do so, they will be lying. Watch how catcher J.T. Realmuto sets up on the first pitch.

ESPN Stats & Info notes that Ureña’s 97.5 MPH fastball was in the 99th percentile in terms of velocity of the 2,125 pitches he has thrown this season. It was also the fastest pitch Ureña has ever thrown to begin a game. Ureña put a little extra mustard on this pitch, for some reason.

Ureña has a 6.8 percent walk rate, which ranks 37th out of 95 starters with at least 100 innings of work this season. The major league average is eight percent. Control isn’t typically something with which he struggles.

Furthermore, Acuña isn’t the only player who has drawn Ureña’s ire:

Ureña wanted nothing to do with Hoskins — even though Hoskins has yet to get a hit off of him — in his August 4 start at home against the Phillies, walking him twice which included a few up-and-in pitches.

Ureña will almost certainly be fined and suspended for his actions on Wednesday night against Acuña. But will his punishment be enough to deter him and others from wielding a baseball as a weapon? Probably not. On June 19, when Marlins starter Dan Straily intentionally threw at Buster Posey, he received a five-game suspension and manager Don Mattingly was suspended one game. If you look at Straily’s game logs, you can’t even tell he was suspended. He started six days later on June 25 against the Diamondbacks and again on July 1 and 6. Because starters only pitch once every five days, it was like he wasn’t even suspended at all.

Major League Baseball needs to levy harsher punishments on players who attempt to injure other players. A 15-game suspension, for example, would force Ureña to miss at least two starts and it would inconvenience the Marlins enough to more seriously weigh the pros and cons of exacting revenge. The Marlins couldn’t work around it the way they did Straily by pushing back his scheduled start one day.

Major League Baseball also needs to make a legitimate effort to do away with this culture of revenge against players who are just a little bit too happy. Batters get thrown at when they flip their bats, when they yell at themselves in frustration, and even when they’re just hitting well. Baseball’s stagnating audience is very old, very white, and very male. It is not going to bring in fans from diverse backgrounds by keeping this antiquated culture that prevents baseball players from showing their personalities and being emotive. In the event Acuña needs to go on the disabled list for a couple weeks, that’s two weeks that Acuña isn’t on SportsCenter’s top-10, isn’t on the front page of MLB.com, and isn’t in articles like this. The culture of revenge is actively harming MLB’s ability to market its bright, young stars. If ending this culture of revenge doesn’t hit MLB from a moral angle, it should absolutely hit home from a business angle.