Tanner Roark accuses Cubs of playing “scared baseball” by avoiding Bryce Harper

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Tanner Roark started but did not factor into the decision in Sunday’s 4-3, 13-inning loss to the Cubs. Roark pitched well, yielding a lone unearned run on four hits and a pair of walks with seven strikeouts in six innings of work. Neither of his walks were intentional.

That’s notable because Roark watched teammate Bryce Harper get walked six times in seven plate appearances on Sunday, with three of those walks of the intentional variety. In fact, in the Cubs’ four-game series sweep of the Nationals, Harper was walked 13 times in 18 trips to the plate. Teams have become increasingly less willing to pitch to Harper, but Cubs manager Joe Maddon’s reluctance hasn’t been seen since the early 2000’s when Barry Bonds routinely drew intentional walks.

Roark was “very, very surprised” to see the Cubs avoid Harper so deliberately, Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post reports. He added, “I think it’s scared baseball.”

While some rudimentary analysis showed that most of Harper’s walks were ill-advised, the Cubs limited him to one single for the entire series and they wound up sweeping the Nationals. So, in that regard, the strategy worked. The Nationals will likely have to get used to it because if Harper continues hitting the cover off of the ball, opposing managers will be more and more unwilling to pitch to him, particularly in important situations.

Kinsler back with Rangers as special assistant to GM Young

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ARLINGTON, Texas — Former Texas Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler returned to the team as a special assistant to general manager Chris Young, his teammate in the organization’s minor league system nearly two decades ago.

Young said that Kinsler, who was part of the franchise’s only two World Series teams in 2010 and 2011, will be heavily involved in player development and providing mentorship to both players and staff.

Kinsler, a four-time All-Star, was part of a World Series championship with the Boston Red Sox in 2018, a year before his retirement. Kinsler played 14 seasons in the major leagues and spent the last three years in the front office of the San Diego Padres as a special assistant in baseball operations and player development. The 40-year-old has been living in the Dallas area, as he did throughout his playing career.

Kinsler played for the U.S. in the 2017 World Baseball Classic and Israel in last summer’s Olympics, and he will manage Israel in next month’s WBC.

Young and Kinsler were teammates for several weeks at Double-A Frisco in the summer of 2004, the same year the pitcher made his big league debut. They were in big league spring training together in 2005, then Young was traded after that season.

A 17th-round draft pick by Texas in 2003, Kinsler played 1,066 games for the Rangers from 2006-13, hitting .273 with 156 homers, 539 RBIs and 172 stolen bases. He hit .311 with a .422 on-base percentage in 34 postseason games. He was inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame last summer.

Kinsler hit .269 with 257 homers, 909 RBIs and 243 stolen bases in 1,888 career games overall with Texas, Detroit (2014-17), the Los Angeles Angels (2018), Boston (2018), and San Diego (2019). He is one of only two MLB second baseman with 30 homers and 30 stolen bases in multiple seasons, and had the only six-hit cycle in a nine-inning game since 1900 on April 15, 2009.