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Indians sign Matt Belisle to minor-league deal

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Free agent reliever Matt Belisle picked up a minor-league contract with the Indians, the team announced Sunday. Per ESPN’s Buster Olney, Belisle will receive $1.5 million if he makes the big league roster and can earn an additional $1.75 million in bonuses.

Belisle, 37, is coming off of a one-year gig with the Twins, during which he fired a 4.03 ERA, 3.3 BB/9 and 8.1 SO/9 through 60 1/3 innings. Following Brandon Kintzler‘s midseason trade to the Nationals, the veteran righty got a taste of the closer’s role during the second half of the season and finished 20 games with a career-high nine saves.

The Indians are projected to start the season with a bullpen comprised of closer Cody Allen, right-handers Dan Otero, Zach McAllister and Nick Goody and left-handers Andrew Miller and Tyler Olson. According to MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian, Belisle is expected to compete with fellow veteran right-hander and non-roster invitee Carlos Torres for the remaining spot. The 35-year-old Torres signed a minors deal with the club last week and carried a 4.21 ERA, 4.1 B/9 and 6.9 SO/9 in 72 2/3 innings for the Brewers in 2017.

Astros defend barring reporter from clubhouse

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As we wrote about this morning, last night the Houston Astros, at the request of Justin Verlander, barred Detroit Free Press reporter Anthony Fenech from the clubhouse during Verlander’s media availability following the Tigers-Astros game. After Verlander was done talking to the press in the scrum setting — and after a call was placed to Major League Baseball about the matter — Fenech was allowed in.

As we noted, this was done in violation of agreements to which Major League Baseball, the Houston Astros and the Baseball Writers Association of America are parties. The agreements are meant to ensure full access to BBWAA-accredited reporters as long as they have not violated the terms of their credentials.  In no case do the clubs — and certainly not the players — have the right to bar access to BBWAA-accredited reporters. Indeed, the whole point of the BBWAA is to ensure such access and to ensure that teams cannot bar them simply because they are unhappy with their coverage or what have you.

This morning Verlander tweeted, obliquely, about “unethical behavior” on the part of Fenech that led to his request to the Astros to bar him. As we noted at the time, such an allegation — however interesting it might be — is of no consequence to the admission or barring of a reporter. If Fenech has acted unethically it’s a matter between him and his employer and, potentially, between him and the BBWAA. At the very least, if Verlander has a specific concern, it would be incumbent upon him or the Astros to take the matter up with either the Free Press or the BBWAA.

In light of all of this, it’s hard to make a case for Verlander’s request and the Astros’ honoring it. A few moments ago, however, the Astros released as statement on the matter which, basically, says, “so what?”

Which is to say, the Astros have made a decades-long agreement between the BBWAA and MLB regarding reporter access optional, because a player does not like a reporter who is covering him.  Someone without the power to alter the BBWAA-MLB relationship has just done so unilaterally. And they have done so in such a way that any player, should they decide they don’t like a reporter, will now presumably rely on as precedent. And, it should be noted, in doing so they gave at least some tacit credence to Verlander’s thus far unsubstantiated and unspecified allegations of unethical behavior on the part of Fenech.

It’s your move, Major League Baseball and BBWAA. Whatcha gonna do about it?