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What’s on Tap: Previewing Thursday’s action

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Phillies right-hander Alec Asher will make his 2016 debut on Thursday night in a 7:05 PM EDT start opposite the Nationals A.J. Cole at Nationals Park.

Asher, 24, was suspended 80 games on June 16 earlier this year after testing positive for dehydrochlormethyltestosterone, a performance enhancing drug. Which really goes to show that simply taking a PED alone doesn’t make you a good athlete. Asher never had the most impressive minor league numbers, posting an aggregate 3.97 ERA last year in 24 starts between Double-A Frisco and Triple-A Round Rock in the Rangers’ minor league system as well as Triple-A Lehigh Valley after the Phillies acquired him in the Cole Hamels trade. In seven major league starts last year, he had an ugly 9.31 ERA.

A lot of people — fans and sportswriters alike — have this idea that PEDs are like Popeye’s spinach where you take the substance and it instantly makes your muscles bigger and your reflexes faster, leading to undeniably improved on-field performance. Asher is a good reminder that that’s not the case.

The rest of Thursday’s action…

Cincinnati Reds (Dan Straily) @ Pittsburgh Pirates (Ivan Nova), 7:05 PM EDT

Tampa Bay Rays (Alex Cobb) @ New York Yankees (CC Sabathia), 7:05 PM EDT

Milwaukee Brewers (Junior Guerra) @ St. Louis Cardinals (Jaime Garcia), 7:15 PM EDT

Colorado Rockies (Jeff Hoffman) @ San Diego Padres (Clayton Richard), 10:10 PM EDT

Texas Rangers (Derek Holland) @ Seattle Mariners (Taijuan Walker), 10:10 PM EDT

Pirates hire Ben Cherington as their new general manager

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The Pittsburgh Pirates have hired Ben Cherington as the team’s new general manager. They do so after the general manager meetings ended, but better late than never.

Cherington served as GM of the Boston Red Sox for four years, winning the World Series in 2013, but resigned during the 2015 season after Dave Dombrowski was named Boston’s new president of baseball operations. Which was a defacto demotionn for Cherington who, until then, had the final say in baseball decisions. Dombrowski, of course, was fired late in the season this year. Cherington went on to work for the Toronto Blue Jays as a vice president, but was seen as biding his time for another GM position. Now he has one.

Cherington takes over in Pittsburgh for executive vice president and general manager Neal Huntington, who was fired after a 12 years at the helm. Also fired was team president Frank Coonelly. Travis Williams replaced Coonelly recently. While the Pirates experienced a few years of contention under Huntington and Coonelly, they have slid out of contention in recent years as the club has traded away promising players for little return, all while cutting payroll. There’s a very big rebuilding job ahead of Cherington.

The first move he’ll have to make: hire a manager, as the team still hasn’t replaced Clint Hurdle since he was dismissed in the final weekend of the regular season.