Kyle Freeland, Jon Lester delayed postseason bullpen-palooza

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Kyle Freeland and Jon Lester were not Jack Morris and John Smoltz redux, but in an age where managers openly talk about hoping a postseason starter makes it through four innings, last night’s Wild Card game was a welcome reminder that, occasionally, starting pitchers are allowed to be starting pitchers in the postseason.

Freeland was working on short rest but you wouldn’t know it. His velocity was a tick higher than usual and his command was excellent. He was able to place his slider exactly where he wanted it and seemed to have Cubs batters off balance all night. He pitched shutout ball into the seventh inning, which is practically unheard of in modern postseason baseball, and that paid off for the Rockies when the game went 13 innings and Bud Black was allowed to use his best relievers when it mattered most.

Yeah, the Cubs lost, but hats off to Jon Lester too. The Cubs bullpen was on fumes after heavy use throughout most of September and in Monday’s tiebreaker game against the Brewers. His early trouble — the leadoff walk to Charlie Blackmon and the ground rule double to D.J. LeMahieu which moved him to third — ended up being huge in a close, low-scoring game. But that’s on the offense, not on Lester. As it was he kept the Cubs in the game, allowing only one run on four hits over six, while striking out nine.

It was a thirteen inning game so, obviously, there were a great many relief pitchers deployed last night, but I gotta say, it was really nice to see two starters work for as long as they did. It helped build the tension and the drama. It helped me stay engaged in a way that I have trouble staying engaged when a parade of relievers begins in the third or fourth inning. Yes, I know that’s partially my problem. I’m not trying to play some judgmental “get off my lawn” card here and wish baseball would only conform to the way I like it best. The game changes. I’m just being honest about what engages me and what does not.

I don’t expect the pattern to hold in the playoffs — we’re going to see a TON of relief pitchers, early and often, in almost every game — but it was nice to have something approaching traditional starting pitcher usage for at least one night.

Phillies select active duty Navy aviator in MLB Rule 5 draft

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SAN DIEGO — The Philadelphia Phillies took U.S. Navy aviator Noah Song in the Rule 5 draft Wednesday, hoping the former top pitching prospect can still be effective once he completes his military service.

There is no definitive date on when the 25-year-old Song might be able to join the Phillies.

Song was picked from the Boston Red Sox system in the draft for unprotected minor league players. Philadelphia put him on the military list while he continues his active duty and he won’t count on the 40-man roster, the pool from which major league teams can select players for the 26-man active roster.

Song impressed in his only pro season, making seven starts for Boston’s Class A Lowell affiliate in 2019, with a 1.06 ERA and 19 strikeouts in 17 innings. With a fastball clocked in the upper 90s mph, the right-hander dominated that year as a senior at the U.S. Naval Academy, going 11-1 with a 1.44 ERA and 161 strikeouts in 94 innings.

The Red Sox drafted Song in the fourth round – he likely would’ve gone much higher, but his impending military service caused teams to back off.

In November 2019, Defense Secretary Mark Esper signed a memo clearing the way for athletes at the nation’s military academies to delay their service commitments and play pro sports after graduation. Song’s request to have those new rules retroactively applied to his case was denied.

Song began school as a flight officer in the summer of 2020 and finished that phase last April. He started additional aviation training in May.

Song was among the 15 players, including three Boston pitchers, taken in the big league phase of the Rule 5 draft, which wasn’t held last year because of the MLB lockout.

Washington took righty Thad Ward from Boston’s Triple-A roster with the first pick. Baltimore took Red Sox minor league pitcher Andrew Politi with the ninth choice and the Phillies chose Song with the 11th selection.

Teams pay $100,000 to take players in the major league portion of the Rule 5 draft. The players must stay on the big league roster next season or go on waivers and, if unclaimed, be offered back to their original organization for $50,000.