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Kyler Murray will pursue baseball career

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Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Kyler Murray was selected by the Athletics ninth overall in the first round of the 2018 draft. He’s a terrific baseball player, but he is in the midst of a Heisman Trophy-caliber season, as he has thrown 40 touchdowns and a total of 4,053 yards while rushing for 11 touchdowns and 892 yards. That has led to some uncertainty about his future as a baseball player, as he very easily could also jump into the NFL draft.

His agent Scott Boras put that to bed. He told Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, “Kyler has every intention of fulfilling his agreement with the A’s and he’s grateful he has had the chance to pursue his college goals. He will be in spring training with the A’s.”

It isn’t just Boras himself speaking for his client. Boras said, “Kyler said more than a week ago that he’s going to spring training. When people come around this kid and ask him all this stuff about his future and he said, ‘We’ll talk about it after the season,’ that’s what he’s saying. His attitude is, ‘The Oakland A’s gave me an opportunity to fulfill a personal goal in college football and when it’s complete, I’ll return to my contractual commitment.'”

Murray’s Sooners are 12-1 and headed into the College Football Playoff. He also helped the Sooners reach the 2018 Division I Baseball Championship, but his team was eliminated in the regionals. Murray, an outfielder, hit .296 with 10 home runs, 57 RBI, 46 runs scored, and 10 stolen bases in 189 at-bats.

From a practical standpoint, it makes sense for Murray to choose baseball over football. If he can endure the low pay — he agreed with the A’s to a signing bonus of approximately $5 million — and low quality of life of the minor leagues, and then make it to the big leagues, he will earn guaranteed money with a much lower risk of injury, particularly brain trauma.

Hunter Pence is mashing for the Rangers

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Hunter Pence was thought to be on his way to retirement after a lackluster 2018 season with the Giants. As he entered his mid-30’s, Pence spent a considerable amount of time on the injured list, playing in 389 out of 648 possible regular season games with the Giants from 2015-18.

Pence, however, kept his career going, inking a minor league deal with the Rangers in February. He performed very well in spring training, earning a spot on the Opening Day roster. Pence hasn’t stopped hitting.

Entering Monday night’s game against the Mariners, Pence was batting .299/.358/.619 with eight home runs and 28 RBI in 109 plate appearances, mostly as a DH. Statcast agrees that Pence has been mashing the ball. He has an average exit velocity of 93.3 MPH this season, which would obliterate his marks in each of the previous four seasons since Statcast became a thing. His career average exit velocity is 89.8 MPH. He has “barreled” the ball 10.4 percent of the time, well above his 6.2 percent average.

What Pence did to a baseball in the seventh inning of Monday’s game, then, shouldn’t come as a surprise.

That’s No. 9 on the year for Pence. Statcast measured it at 449 feet and 108.3 MPH off the bat. Not only is Pence not retired, he may be a lucrative trade chip for the Rangers leading up to the trade deadline at the end of July.