Must-click link: “A brother’s passage”

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Robert Sanchez has written a powerful story for ESPN The Magazine about Tigers pitcher Max Scherzer and his family. Scherzer’s younger brother, Alex, took his own life last summer following a battle with depression.

The story goes into heartbreaking detail about Alex’s death and how Max went ahead with his scheduled start against the Pirates, just days after his brother’s passing.

Max wanted to finish the outing emphatically, to leave no doubt about his resolve and give his parents one last burst of light, before everything went black again. He got a sign for a slider, low, and nodded his head. McCutchen swung at the pitch and missed.

McCutchen might chase something now, Max thought. He waited on the sign for another slider. The pitch broke inward then cut back and dropped sharply. McCutchen swung through it. Strike three.

Max took a breath and walked off the mound, his head down and his glove arched high on his left hip. From their seats, his parents held back tears. Max saw his teammates waiting for him at the edge of the dugout. They engulfed him. Hugs. Pats on the back. Handshakes.

Max nodded his appreciation, but had to get past the crowd. He walked through the dugout and into the field crew’s room near the clubhouse. Here, no one could see him. In the quiet shadows, he began to sob.

It’s not an easy read, so I can’t even imagine the weight of having to write it, but Sanchez treats the subject with grace and respect. A truly touching story about a bond between brothers and family.

Diamondbacks, T.J. McFarland avoid arbitration

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Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY Sports reports that the Diamondbacks and reliever T.J. McFarland have avoided arbitration, agreeing on a $1.45 million salary for the 2019 season. McFarland, in his third of four years of arbitration eligibility, filed for $1.675 million while the Diamondbacks countered at $1.275 million. McFarland ended up settling for just under the midpoint of those two figures.

McFarland, 29, was terrific out of the bullpen for the D-Backs last season, finishing with a 2.00 ERA and a 42/22 K/BB ratio in 72 innings. While the lefty may not miss a lot of bats, he does induce quite a few grounders. His 67.9 percent ground ball rate last season was the third highest among relievers with at least 50 innings, trailing only Brad Ziegler (71.1%) and Scott Alexander (70.6%).

McFarland was dominant against left-handed hitters, limiting them to a .388 OPS last season, but the D-Backs deployed him nearly twice as often against right-handed hitters, who posted an aggregate .764 OPS against him. It will be interesting to see if the club decides to use him more as a platoon reliever in 2019.