Yesterday I tweeted, mostly jokingly, that Billy Wagner was still on the Braves 40-man roster. Many others have continued to notice the same thing, fueling rumors that the left-hander isn’t ready to retire.
David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution did his best to dispel that notion last night, writing that there has been no indication from anyone involved that Wagner has wavered from retirement and is quietly gearing up for spring training. His retirement isn’t official yet, but Wagner’s agent has told Braves general manager Frank Wren on multiple occasions this offseason that his retirement paperwork will be filed.
Well, what the heck has taken so long? Who knows. Buster Olney of ESPN.com wonders if perhaps Wagner has held back on his final decision just in case he gets the impulse to pitch again as spring training nears. Plausible, I guess, but the Braves are confident that Wagner’s fantastic career is over.
Nothing went right for the Blue Jays this weekend. The club was swept in a four-game series against the Athletics, including a 9-2 loss on Sunday. Not wanting to burn out his bullpen in a lopsided game — and perhaps thinking about the general entertainment value involved — Blue Jays manager John Gibbons decided to send designated hitter Kendrys Morales out to pitch the ninth inning. And in typical baseball fashion, he saw better results than some of the dudes who do this all the time.
Morales, who actually pitched in Cuba nearly 20 years ago, worked around a walk for a scoreless inning. He induced three fly outs and topped out at 87.4 mph on his fastball, per Brooks Baseball. He received a standing ovation on the way back to the dugout. Morales hasn’t been hearing that sort of thing for his contributions with the bat recently.
Morales, 34, is batting just .163/.248/.279 with three home runs through 32 games this season. There’s been some understandable clamoring for top prospect Vladmir Guerrero, Jr. to cut into his at-bats. For his part, Morales has been doing everything he can to break out of his slumber at the plate, including ditching the glasses he started wearing during spring training. Hey, whatever works. Morales also had two of Toronto’s four hits on Sunday.
On the heels of Morales’ first MLB appearance on the mound, it feels rather appropriate that the Blue Jays will get their first look at Angels sensation Shohei Ohtani — at least as a hitter — beginning on Tuesday.