Hunter Pence is more likely than ever to get dealt

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FOXSports.com’s Jon Paul Morosi is putting the odds of a Hunter Pence deal at better than 50/50 and says the Indians are still involved despite picking up Kosuke Fukudome earlier Thursday.

The Phillies and Braves have reportedly been the more intense pursuers of Pence, but many have inquired.  The Red Sox and Reds are among those doing their homework.  The Rangers, though, aren’t in the hunt at the moment.

The Astros reportedly backed out of a deal with the Phillies that would have netted them big first baseman Jonathan Singleton and top pitching prospect Jarred Cosart for Pence.  Still, it doesn’t sound as though the Phillies have given up on Pence yet.

The Braves have more to offer with a stable of young pitchers that includes Julio Teheran, Arodys Vizcaino, Randall Delgado and Mike Minor, but Teheran probably isn’t on the table and it’s doubtful the Braves would give up two of the others in order to get a deal done.

Speculation is that the Braves would send down Jason Heyward if they were able to land Pence to play right field.  Still, it’s worth wondering if that would really leave them any better off.  Heyward has hit .231/.306/.400 with four homers and 15 RBI in 130 at-bats since coming off the DL on June 15.  Pence is at .277/.336/.387 with two homers and 12 RBI in 119 at-bats over the same span.  Pence was certainly better during the first two months of the season, but Heyward was easily the superior player last year.

The Braves, though, would have room for both if they so desired.  Left fielder Martin Prado may frequently be needed at third base with Chipper Jones dinged up, and either Pence or Heyward could play some center when everyone is healthy.

The Astros want pitching, pitching and more pitching in return for Pence, and no team has more to offer than the Braves.  There’s still almost three days left for something to get done.

There will be a pitch clock for spring training

Associated Press
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Major League Baseball just announced that there will be a pitch clock for spring training. It will be a 20-second pitch clock, phased in like so:

  • In the first Spring Training games, the 20-second timer will operate without enforcement so as to make players and umpires familiar with the new system;
  • Early next week, umpires will issue reminders to pitchers and hitters who violate the rule, but no ball-strike penalties will be assessed. Between innings, umpires are expected to inform the club’s field staff (manager, pitching coach or hitting coach) of any violations; and
  • Later in Spring Training, and depending on the status of the negotiations with the Major League Baseball Players Association, umpires will be instructed to begin assessing ball-strike penalties for violations.

As is the case in the minors, the batter will have to be in the batter’s box and alert to the pitcher with at least five seconds remaining on the timer; and the pitcher needs only to begin his windup before the 20-second timer expires, as opposed to having thrown the pitch. The timer will not be used on the first pitch of any at-bat. Rather, it begins running prior to the second pitch once the pitcher receives the ball from the catcher.

The league has not decided if the pitch clock will be used in the regular season yet. It can do so unilaterally, without union approval, for one year if it chooses to since it first introduced the idea last year.

There will likely be a lot of complaining about this, but as someone who has been to several minor league games with the clock in place, it’s pretty seamless and not noticeable. Minor leaguers had few if any complaints about its implementation.