The Astros are getting calls on Bud Norris

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The Astros would prefer to keep shortstop Jed Lowrie, but Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports hears that they are willing to listen to offers for right-hander Bud Norris. The Royals are among the clubs who have inquired on Norris and they are also looking at free agent right-hander Shaun Marcum as they continue to look for ways to upgrade their rotation.

Norris, who turns 28 in March, posted a 4.65 ERA and 165/66 K/BB ratio over 168 1/3 innings this past season. While it was a disappointing showing after he had a 3.77 ERA in 2011, his peripherals were virtually the same. Norris is arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter, so the timing makes sense to see what’s out there.

The belief around the league is that the trade market for pitchers could get some more clarity once teams know where Zack Greinke is headed. While the Royals have called on Norris, they would reportedly prefer to land a big-name starting pitcher like James Shields or R.A. Dickey.

Madison Bumgarner has been competing in rodeos under a fake name

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The Athletic’s Andrew Baggarly and Zach Buchanan report that Diamondbacks starter Madison Bumgarner has been competing in rodeos under a fake name as recently as December. The fake name is Mason Saunders. Bumgarner explains that “Mason” is shortened from “Madison,” while “Saunders” is his wife’s maiden name.

Bumgarner — err, Saunders — and one of his rodeo partners, Jaxson Tucker, won $26,560 in a team-roping rodeo competition in December. The Rancho Rio Arena posted a picture of the pair on Facebook, highlighting that they roped four steers in 31.36 seconds.

As Baggarly and Buchanan point out, Bumgarner also pointed out in a rodeo competition last March, just a couple days before pitching in a Cactus League game versus the Athletics, back when he was still with the Giants.

Bumgarner suffered bruised ribs and a left shoulder AC sprain in 2017 when he got into a dirt bike accident. Given that, Bumgarner’s latest extracurricular activity does raise a concern for the Diamondbacks, who inked him to a five-year, $85 million contract two months ago. Baggarly and Buchanan asked Bumgarner about such a concern. Bumgarner referred them to the club’s managing partner Ken Kendrick. Kendrick directed them to GM Mike Hazen. Hazen declined speaking about “specific contract language.” For what it’s worth, Bumgarner says he primarily uses his right hand to rope.

The jig is up on Bumgarner’s hobby. He jokingly said to The Athletic’s pair, “I’m nervous about this interview right now.” He added, “I’m upset with both you two.”