Jed Lowrie’s thumb injury may land him on the disabled list

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X-rays and an MRI both came back negative after Jed Lowrie sprained his right thumb diving back into second base on a pickoff throw on Wednesday, but the Astros are still concerned that he might miss the start of the season.

Lowrie took some ground balls and played catch yesterday, but Astros manager Brad Mills told Brian McTaggart of MLB.com that his thumb was still “pretty tender” and that “he wasn’t able to grip the ball as well as we’d like.” He also expressed doubt about whether he would be able to play in any exhibition games next week.

Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said that it wouldn’t be “the end of the world” if Lowrie starts the season on the disabled list, so it’s clear they won’t rush him if he’s not ready. Assuming he is held out of Grapefruit League action, the Astros could backdate a potential DL-stint to Wednesday, so he may only end up missing the first few games of the season.

Rule 5 pick Marwin Gonzalez and last year’s Opening Day shortstop Angel Sanchez are among the potential alternatives if Lowrie needs more time to recover.

Astros defend barring reporter from clubhouse

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As we wrote about this morning, last night the Houston Astros, at the request of Justin Verlander, barred Detroit Free Press reporter Anthony Fenech from the clubhouse during Verlander’s media availability following the Tigers-Astros game. After Verlander was done talking to the press in the scrum setting — and after a call was placed to Major League Baseball about the matter — Fenech was allowed in.

As we noted, this was done in violation of agreements to which Major League Baseball, the Houston Astros and the Baseball Writers Association of America are parties. The agreements are meant to ensure full access to BBWAA-accredited reporters as long as they have not violated the terms of their credentials.  In no case do the clubs — and certainly not the players — have the right to bar access to BBWAA-accredited reporters. Indeed, the whole point of the BBWAA is to ensure such access and to ensure that teams cannot bar them simply because they are unhappy with their coverage or what have you.

This morning Verlander tweeted, obliquely, about “unethical behavior” on the part of Fenech that led to his request to the Astros to bar him. As we noted at the time, such an allegation — however interesting it might be — is of no consequence to the admission or barring of a reporter. If Fenech has acted unethically it’s a matter between him and his employer and, potentially, between him and the BBWAA. At the very least, if Verlander has a specific concern, it would be incumbent upon him or the Astros to take the matter up with either the Free Press or the BBWAA.

In light of all of this, it’s hard to make a case for Verlander’s request and the Astros’ honoring it. A few moments ago, however, the Astros released as statement on the matter which, basically, says, “so what?”

Which is to say, the Astros have made a decades-long agreement between the BBWAA and MLB regarding reporter access optional, because a player does not like a reporter who is covering him.  Someone without the power to alter the BBWAA-MLB relationship has just done so unilaterally. And they have done so in such a way that any player, should they decide they don’t like a reporter, will now presumably rely on as precedent. And, it should be noted, in doing so they gave at least some tacit credence to Verlander’s thus far unsubstantiated and unspecified allegations of unethical behavior on the part of Fenech.

It’s your move, Major League Baseball and BBWAA. Whatcha gonna do about it?