Joaquin Benoit demoted from setup role 16 appearances after signing $16 million deal

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Joaquin Benoit was nearly unhittable for the Rays last season, throwing 60 innings with a 1.34 ERA, .147 opponents’ batting average, and 75/11 K/BB ratio.

That earned him a three-year, $16.5 million deal from the Tigers as a free agent, but after allowing 15 runs in his first 16 appearances Benoit has been demoted from eighth-inning setup man to middle reliever.

Benoit’s long history of injuries is what made the contract such a big risk for the Tigers, but pitching coach Rick Knapp told Jason Beck of MLB.com that the 33-year-old right-hander’s problems are mental rather than physical:

Is it mechanics? I don’t think it’s mechanics. I think it’s just confidence. “Throw the ball down” isn’t really something you can think about. You have to leverage it that way. You have to know that you’re going to throw the ball down and not have to think about it. When you have to think about it, then you have a better chance [of making] a mistake. And that’s kind of about where he’s at right now. He’s trying to execute pitches maybe too hard, and he’s not.

Prior to Benoit’s breakout season with the Rays he missed all of 2009 with an injury and posted a 4.09 ERA in 207 innings from 2006-2008, but he was so amazing last year that simply turning back into a pumpkin seemed unlikely without some arm problems.

Braves release Jose Bautista

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The Braves released veteran infielder/outfielder Jose Bautista on Sunday, per a team announcement. Right-hander Lucas Sims was recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett in a corresponding move.

Bautista, 37, was recruited by the Braves in mid-April as a potential third base option. He inked a minor league deal with the club and lasted just 12 games in the majors, during which he batted a meager .143/.250/.343 with three extra-base hits and a .593 OPS across 40 plate appearances. While he isn’t too far removed from his last productive season in the big leagues — he collected 40 home runs, a .250 average and 5.3 fWAR with the Blue Jays in 2015 — his power has been noticeably declining over the last three years, and it’s clear the Braves don’t have enough time or opportunity to wait for him to get his groove back.

Without Bautista, Johan Camargo is expected to handle the hot corner on a daily basis. The 24-year-old infielder is working through his sophomore season at the major league level and entered Sunday’s game batting .226/.368/.403 with six extra bases and a .772 OPS in 76 PA. General manager Alex Anthopoulos acknowledged that top infield prospect Austin Riley could also get a shot at playing third base sometime in 2018, though the club has no current plans to promote him from Triple-A at the moment.