Hank Blalock changes mind, accepts assignment to Triple-A

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Last week, when the Rays were still deciding whether or not to keep him around, Hank Blalock made it abundantly clear that he would not accept an assignment to the minors.

I don’t have any plans on playing minor-league baseball this year. At this time in my life, if there’s no major-league opportunities for me then I’ll find something else to do.

Two days later the Rays Bay opted to keep Reid Brignac over Blalock as their final bench player and Blalock reportedly spent the weekend searching for one of those “major-league opportunities.” Apparently he came up empty, because today the 29-year-old former two-time All-Star indeed accepted an assignment to the minors and will try to work his way back to the majors with an impressive stint at Triple-A Durham.

The reason that I would go and play in Durham, if no other team wants to pick me up right now, is because I love baseball and I’m going to continue to play and not going to do that would be quitting. And that’s not an option for me. I’ve changed my mind about that. Mentally, I feel very positive regardless of the fact I was told I’m not going to be on the Opening Day roster. I’m staying focused and I’m going to keep playing baseball.

I give Blalock some credit for not simply opting out of his contract with Tampa Bay after not making the Opening Day roster, because while his pride was no doubt damaged remaining in the Rays organization is likely his best shot to make it back to the majors for good. They obviously have some level of interest in him, whereas clearly no other teams feel strongly about giving him a chance right now, and a strong month or two at Triple-A could get him into their plans as a designated hitter option or backup corner infielder.
Of course, Blalock hasn’t been healthy and produced an OPS above .750 since way back in 2004, so his name is definitely much bigger than his actual upside at this point. He also hasn’t played regularly at Triple-A since 2002, when he hit .307 with an .821 OPS in 95 games as a 21-year-old to help cement his status as a top prospect in 2002. In fact, that year Baseball America ranked him as the third-best prospect in all of baseball, behind only Josh Beckett and Mark Prior.

Orioles “have begun fielding calls of interest” on Manny Machado

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Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports Thursday that the Orioles “are said to have begun fielding calls of interest” on superstar Manny Machado and “are close to the point of seriously weighing whether to trade him.”

You’d think it would be a no-brainer for the last-place O’s to flip Machado — an impending free agent — for prospects, but Heyman notes there is “still a question whether or not longtime Orioles owner Peter Angelos” will give the go-ahead. One person familiar with the situation put it a “50-50” likelihood. Another suggested that it would take a massive return, which, sure.

Machado entered play Thursday with a sensational .328/.405/.635 batting line, 15 home runs, and an MLB-leading 43 RBI in 49 games. It’d be a real shock if he’s still wearing an O’s uniform by the end of July.

Heyman reported previously that at least nine teams made aggressive plays for Machado this winter, including the Cubs, Phillies, Dodgers, Indians, Diamondbacks, Yankees, Red Sox, White Sox, and Cardinals. A whole lot of those teams still make sense here in late May — maybe all of them except the White Sox.