Diamondbacks add A’s reliever Brad Ziegler, make room for Paul Goldschmidt

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Feeling they have an even better one on the way, the Diamondbacks traded their starting first baseman to the A’s for a setup man on Sunday.  The three-player deal sent Brad Ziegler to Arizona in return for Brandon Allen and left-hander Jordan Norberto.

Allen had three homers and seven RBI in 29 at-bats since his callup earlier this month, but he was hitting just .172, leaving him with a .213/.325/.404 line in 178 at-bats with the Diamondbacks over the last three years.  He’s not a surprising A’s target, in that his game is much more about power and walks than batting average.  Unfortunately, he does strike out a lot and he may fall short of being a quality regular as a result.

The move opens up first base in Arizona for Paul Goldschmidt.  The Diamondbacks debated long and hard whether to try Allen or Goldschmidt at first base when they decided to give up on Juan Miranda.  Allen was having a fine season in Triple-A, but Goldschmidt was simply dominant in Double-A, hitting .306/.435/.626 with 30 homers and 94 RBI in 366 at-bats.  A right-handed hitter, he’ll probably take over as an everyday player for the Diamondbacks.  They had been platooning the right-handed-hitting Xavier Nady with the lefty-swinging Allen.

The Diamondbacks also sent Norberto to Oakland.  The 24-year-old reliever made 33 appearances for Arizona last year, amassing a 5.85 ERA in 20 innings, but he had spent all of this season in Triple-A and had a 4.25 ERA and a 54/26 K/BB ratio in 48 2/3 innings.

In return, GM Kevin Towers gets Arizona the setup man he believed the team needed to help David Hernandez in front of J.J. Putz.  Ziegler is very vulnerable to left-handed hitters with his sidearm delivery, but he shuts down right-handers about as well as anyone and he’s yet to allow a homer in 37 2/3 innings this season.  He has a career 2.49 ERA in four seasons since debuting in 2008, and he’s under control through 2014.

Young Blue Jays say they aren’t intimidated by top seed Rays

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) When the Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays opened the pandemic-delayed season a little over two months ago, there was little to indicate the AL East rivals might meet again to begin the playoffs.

While the Rays launched the truncated 60-game schedule with expectations of making a strong bid for their first division title in a decade, the Blue Jays generally were viewed as an immensely talented young team still years away from postseason contention.

Tampa Bay didn’t disappoint, shrugging off a slow start to go a league-best 40-20 and claim the No. 1 seed in the AL playoffs that begin Tuesday.

Lefty Blake Snell, who’ll start Game 1 of the best-of-three wild-card series against Toronto at Tropicana Field, also isn’t surprised that the eighth-seeded Blue Jays earned a spot, too.

The Rays won six of 10 games between the teams during the regular season, but were outscored 48-44 and outhomered 17-11.

And while Toronto (32-28) lacks the playoff experience Tampa Bay gained last season when the Rays beat Oakland in the AL wild-card game before falling to Houston in the divisional round, the Blue Jays are building with exciting young players such as Cavan Biggio, Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

“They’ve got a lot of young guys who can ball over there,” Snell said. “It’s going to be fun to compete and see how we do.”

Rays defensive whiz Kevin Kiermaier said Tampa Bay, in the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the second time franchise history, will not take the Blue Jays lightly.

“We know we’re playing a real good team,” Kiermaier said. “It’s not going to be easy, regardless of what a team is seeded.”

The Blue Jays, who’ll start right-hander Matt Shoemaker, aren’t conceding anything.

Bichette said he and his teammates respect how good Tampa Bay is, but are not intimidated by facing the No. 1 seed.

“I would say that we didn’t care who we played. I would say that we didn’t mind playing Tampa, that’s for sure. We’re familiar with them. We’ve played them well,” Bichette said.

“I think we’re confident in our ability against them. Our talent matches up well,” Bichette added. “We think if we play well we’ve got a good chance.”

NO FANS

The stands at Tropicana Field will be empty, leaving players to wonder what the atmosphere will be like for the playoffs.

Tampa Bay routinely rank at or near the bottom of the majors in attendance, but usually pack the stands in the domed stadium during the postseason.

“It will be different,” Bichette said. “Normally when you think of your first postseason you think 40,000, you think about not being able to think it’s so loud, stuff like that.”

The Blue Jays open the playoffs near where they hold spring training in Dunedin, Florida. It’s been a winding road for Toronto, which played its home games in Buffalo, New York, at the site of its Triple-A affiliate after the Canadian government barred the Blue Jays from hosting games at their own stadium because of coronavirus concerns.

CONFIDENT RAYS

Tampa Bay’s five-game loss to Houston in last year’s divisional round was a source of motivation during the regular season.

“It definitely lit a fire under everybody. It really showed us we belong. … We gave them a tough series,” second baseman Brandon Lowe said.

“We won the wild-card game. We belong in the postseason. I think that did a lot for us to understand that we should be in the postseason and we can go a lot farther. We know what to expect this time around. I think everyone in our clubhouse expects to be playing until the end of October,” he said.

CLOSE FRIENDS

Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash has the Rays in the playoffs for the second time. His close friend and former Rays third base and bench coach Charlie Montoyo is in his second year as manager of the Blue Jays, who last made the playoffs in 2016.

“Pretty special,” Cash said of his relationship with Montoyo.

“I really learned a lot from him being around him. The way he carried himself. His hand print is throughout this organization,” Cash added. “A pretty big impact and a positive one. … When they clinched I talked to him, we face-timed at 1:30 in the morning. I’m so happy for him.”