Mark Grace, who went from the Diamondbacks’ broadcast booth to a prison cell due to multiple drunk driving convictions has a job in baseball once again. The Hillsboro Hops of the single-A Northwest League have announced that Grace will be their hitting instructor for 2014.
The Hops are affiliated with the Diamondbacks, a team which did not abandon Grace when his problems with alcohol became incompatible with his job as a team broadcaster. They allowed him to work as an instructor during spring training, when he was getting work-release passes from jail. Their loyalty to Grace in this regard is admirable and, quite possibly, vital to his recovery and rehabilitation.
The Tampa Bay Rays have signed lefty swingman Ryan Merritt to a minor league contract. Nah, it’s not a big signing but we’ll take anything today.
Merritt, who has spent his entire career in the Indians organization, spent the entire 2018 season at Triple-A Columbus. It wasn’t a bad year for him — he posted a 3.79 ERA and a 52/2 K/BB ratio in 13 starts and two relief appearances covering 71.1 innings — but the Tribe just couldn’t find a role for him at the big league level. He has shown in the past, however, that he can hack it in the bigs, having posted a 1.71 ERA in 31.2 innings with the Indians between 2016-2017.
His thing is that he simply doesn’t strike guys out at anything approaching a typical clip for a big leaguer: 3.7 per nine innings in his small sample of major league outings and 6.3 Ks per nine innings in the minors. Which, while it may not prevent him from having success at the big league level, is likely a reason for the limited number of chances he’s been given.
The Rays are probably the best place he could go, frankly. They’ve shown themselves willing to utilize guys in unique ways and are more likely than most teams to find places to spot a lefty control specialist who has shown he can both start and come out of the pen.