And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights

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Rangers 10, Tigers 4: So much for pitching porn. Darvish wasn’t exactly sharp early but he ultimately settled down. Meanwhile, who put the benzedrine in Mr. Verlander’s Ovaltine? He was a hot mess. And I do mean hot. He was lighting up the radar gun in the early innings but was overthrowing and seemed to have no idea where the ball was going. Just a mechanical disaster, really, unlike I’ve ever remembered seeing him. Darvish ended up going eight innings and improving to 7-1.

Mariners 3, Yankees 2: Andy Pettitte left with a muscle injury. Andy Pettitte is 40. So basically, this is his life now (warning: a bit of bad language, but if you’re 40, you NEED to hear this because it’s 100% true).

Mets 5, Cardinals 2: The Mets end a six-game skid behind five hits from Daniel Murphy and David Wright. From the AP gamer about Jon Niese:

Terry Collins thought it was no coincidence the lefty rediscovered his groove in shirt-sleeve weather and paved the way for the New York Mets’ slump-buster.

That word he used: I do not think it means what he thinks it means.

Pirates 7, Brewers 1: Travis Snider hit a 458 homer that ended up in the Allegheny River. Snider went 3 for 5 with three RBI and the Pirates won their sixth of seven.

Red Sox 4, Rays 3: Down 3-1 in the ninth, the Red Sox loaded the bases off Fernando Rodney and Will Middlebrooks cleared them with a double. Just bananas. Oh, sorry Fernando, not bananas at all. Rodney has already blown three saves this year. He only blew two last year.

Reds 5, Marlins 3: [Craig press three keys and his “The ____ sweep the Marlins” macro is activated]. This one was competitive at least, as Mat Latos ran out of gas in the ninth and Aroldis Chapman couldn’t close the deal either, sending it to extras. Brandon Phillips, who had homered earlier, hit a sac fly for the go-ahead run in the 10th.

Giants 8, Rockies 6: Down 6-0 early, the Giants put up five in the fourth and three in the sixth. I didn’t see the broadcast, but I’m gonna assume the announcers said “no lead is safe in Coors Field” approximately five times. San Francisco has beaten Colorado ten straight times.

White Sox 5, Angels 4: Yet another rally on a night that seemed to have many of them. The Sox were down two in the eighth when they scored three. The go-ahead run came on a bases-loaded walk to Jeff Keppinger, who had not walked in over 140 plate appearances so far this year.

Nationals 6, Padres 2: Stephen Strasburg pitched eight innings allowing only one earned run. Bryce Harper shook off his ailments from the fence collision in L.A. and hit a 432 foot homer in the seventh.

Agent: Nick Senzel’s reassigment “egregious case of service time manipulation”

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Reds prospect Nick Senzel is ready for the majors. Although he battled injuries, the 23-year-old performed well with Triple-A Louisville last season, batting .310/.378/.509 with 20 extra-base hits, 25 RBI, 23 runs scored, and eight stolen bases in 193 plate appearances. Senzel has also performed well this spring, batting .308 across 39 at-bats.

The Reds, however, announced on Friday that Senzel was among a handful of players reassigned to minor league camp. Senzel was drafted as a third baseman, began playing second base last year, and had been playing in center field during spring training. The common thought is that the Reds, who have built a competitive roster, will keep Senzel at Triple-A to begin the season and call him up right after the club secures an extra year of contractual control.

Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, Senzel’s agent Joel Wolfe calls Senzel’s reassignment an “egregious case of service time manipulation.” The full quote:

I don’t believe I’ve ever made public statements on this issue in my career, but I feel compelled to do so in this case where it feels like a simply egregious case of service time manipulation.

We are well aware of the mandate from ownership for the Reds to win this year — and this seems to fly in the face of it. The NL Central was decided by one game last year. Every game matters. This is a shortsighted move that may be frugal now but could cost them dearly later.

Nick Senzel is not a young prospect. He’s a major league-ready impact-type player. He has done everything they’ve asked this spring, including working hard to become a major league center fielder.

Nick takes pride in wearing the Reds uniform. He appreciates how much support he’s received from Reds fans. He’s going to go to Triple-A and prove every day he belongs in MLB.

We have covered the service time manipulation issue pretty extensively here, so Wolfe’s statement doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Prior to an injury, the Blue Jays were going to undeservingly stuff Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. — baseball’s No. 1 prospect — at Triple-A for the first two weeks or so of the season. The White Sox were going to do the same with Eloy Jiménez before using their leverage to nudge him into inking an extension. The Braves toyed with Ronald Acuña Jr.’s playing time last year. Kris Bryant and Maikel Franco filed respective grievances against the Cubs and Phillies for service time manipulation several years ago.

Team executives don’t outright admit to gaming a prospect’s service time to gain that extra year of control because that’s how one loses a grievance. They dance around the topic by making a nebulous claim, typically about the player’s defense needing to be worked on at Triple-A. That’s what the Cubs said about Bryant, and it’s what the Jays said about Guerrero. It’s a subjective enough evaluation that it can’t be falsified. It’s why the grievances that have been filed over this have fizzled out and it’s why more and more teams have brazenly joined the service time manipulation bandwagon.

Senzel’s case is, admittedly, a bit more murky. Though he performed well this spring, Scott Schebler has outperformed him, batting .379 with five extra-base hits and 11 walks in roughly 40 trips to the plate. The starting spot in right field is taken by Yasiel Puig and left field is taken by Jesse Winker. Schebler has ostensibly earned the starting job in center. I can’t imagine Wolfe having a compelling case if he were to file a grievance on Senzel’s behalf.

That being said, it is important that agents (and the MLBPA) speak out about this when they can. Senzel’s case may not be open-and-shut, but bringing service time manipulation into the public consciousness will have a lasting impact ahead of the December 2021 expiration of the current collective bargaining agreement. Holding team executives publicly accountable may make them less willing to manipulate their players’ service time going forward, as it may sour what could otherwise be a terrific relationship between team and player. Service time manipulation is an important piece of the labor puzzle and those on the players’ side have to seize whatever they can to potentially gain leverage. Awareness leads to solidarity.