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MLB Regular Season Thread  Rating:  Rating
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 Posted: Mon Sep 26th, 2016 10:09 pm
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CHICAGO - Chicago Cubs outfielder Jorge Soler played with Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez when the two were growing up in Cuba. They traveled together to Venezuela for a youth tournament.

Soler said Fernandez's ability was obvious, right from the start.

''Since he was a child, since we were kids, I knew he had something,'' Soler said through a translator. ''He had a talent. It was very impressive.''

Fernandez's death in a boating accident at the age of 24 cast a dark shadow over the major leagues on Sunday. Miami's home game against Atlanta was canceled, and several ballparks observed moments of silence. Wrigley Field's iconic hand-operated scoreboard displayed Fernandez's No. 16 in its pitching column next to Miami.

But the loss of Fernandez was felt most acutely in baseball's growing Cuban community.

''He was one of those guys that everybody loved,'' St. Louis Cardinals catcher Brayan Pena said. ''He was one of those guys that everybody knew exactly what he meant to our community. For us, it's a big, big loss."

There were 23 Cubans on opening-day major league rosters this year, an increase of five over last season and the most since the commissioner's office began releasing data in 1995.

A native of Santa Clara, Cuba, Fernandez was unsuccessful in his first three attempts to defect, and spent several months in prison. At 15, Fernandez and his mother finally made it to Mexico, and were reunited in Florida with his father, who had escaped from Cuba two years earlier.

He was drafted by the Marlins in 2011, and quickly turned into one of the majors' top pitchers.

''How he was on the mound was a reflection of him,'' Oakland first baseman Yonder Alonso said. ''A guy who had a lot of fun, was himself. A very talkative guy, he would come into the room and you'd know he was in the room. Never big-leagued anyone, very professional. No matter what, he would talk to you about hitting, because he thought he was the best hitter, and he (would) talk to you about pitching, because he thought he was the best pitcher.''

Alonso said Fernandez's death was ''a big-time shock.'' Yasiel Puig used torn pieces of white athletic tape to display Fernandez's jersey on the wall in the home dugout at Dodger Stadium. Cardinals rookie Aledmys Diaz, who had known Fernandez since they were little kids, declined an interview request through a team spokeswoman.

Fernandez, who became a U.S. citizen last year, also was beloved for his stature in the Cuban community in Miami.

''He was a great humanitarian,'' Cubs closer Aroldis Chapman said through a translator. ''He gave a lot to the community and I think that's why he got a lot of respect from the community in terms of what a great person he was and always giving, in terms of always willing to help out in whatever way he can to try to better and progress within the community someone that perhaps wasn't as fortunate as he was.''

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 Posted: Tue Sep 27th, 2016 03:11 am
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Freddie Freeman's hot September has netted him yet another award, as the Atlanta Braves first baseman's excellent week earned him National League Player of the Week honors for the second time this month.

Cleveland Indians first baseman/designated hitter Carlos Santana and Detroit Tigers outfielder Justin Upton, whose teams are battling each other for a division title, shared honors in the American League.

Freeman, one of the lone bright spots in Atlanta this season, stood out during the NL-worst Braves' 5-1 week, hitting .500/.593/.909 with 11 hits, five runs scored, and two homers. He's now won the Player of the Week award three times this season.

Santana posted a .458/.500/1.333 slash line with 11 hits and two home runs over six games, including three multi-hit performances and a four-hit game on Wednesday in Kansas City. His eighth-inning RBI single on Wednesday drove in the game-winning run for the Indians.

Upton received a share of the award thanks to a stellar .400/.464/.880 line over six games to go along with six extra-base hits, six runs scored, and six RBIs. The 29-year-old capped off his week with a three-hit performance in Sunday's loss to the Royals.

It's the second time Santana has been awarded the weekly honor in his career, while Upton takes home the award for the fourth time, and the first since 2014.

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 Posted: Tue Sep 27th, 2016 03:12 am
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The Minnesota Twins appear primed to hire a new president of baseball operations, as Cleveland Indians assistant GM Derek Falvey has reportedly won the organization's top baseball job, according to Keith Law of ESPN.

While the deal is not yet official, it's expected be finalized soon, writes Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan, who initially reported that Falvey was the top candidate earlier this month.

Falvey, 32, spent seven seasons as Cleveland's director of baseball operations before earning a promotion to assistant GM last October.

Other top candidates for the position - which became available after Terry Ryan was fired in July - reportedly include Chicago Cubs senior vice president of scouting and player development Jason McLeod, Kansas City Royals assistant general manager J.J. Picollo, and Tampa Bay Rays executive Chaim Bloom.

The Twins, at 56-100, own baseball's worst record and have already clinched the first overall pick in the 2017 MLB Draft.

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 Posted: Tue Sep 27th, 2016 09:46 pm
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Though none of their players were ejected, the Toronto Blue Jays didn't make it through Monday's benches-clearing brawl with the New York Yankees unscathed, as reliever Joaquin Benoit had to be helped off the field after hurting himself in the melee.

Benoit stormed in from beyond the left-field wall after Luis Severino hit Justin Smoak in the bottom of the second inning to prompt the fracas, but didn't return to the bullpen following the brawl, instead heading straight to the clubhouse after hurting his left leg or foot.

After the Blue Jays dropped the series finale, 7-5, Benoit was seen leaving the clubhouse on crutches, according to Sportsnet's Shi Davidi, who notes that the 39-year-old appears to have suffered a "significant" injury.

Acquired by the Blue Jays days before the non-waiver trade deadline, Benoit has impressed since coming over from Seattle, crafting a 0.38 ERA with a 1.10 WHIP in 25 appearances with Toronto while pitching primarily in the seventh inning.

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 Posted: Wed Sep 28th, 2016 12:54 am
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David Ortiz's career is creeping closer and closer to its finale, and he wants to get something off his chest.

"Let me tell you, there’s not one player in baseball, not one player, that has been drug tested more than David Ortiz. I guarantee you that. I never failed a test," the three-time World Series champion told Tom Verducci in an exclusive for Sports Illustrated.

Ortiz, who has 37 home runs, 48 doubles, 124 RBIs, and a big league-best 1.039 OPS, was among the 104 MLB players who allegedly tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in 2003.

When the list of names surfaced in 2009, Ortiz issued the following statement:

Today I was informed by a reporter that I was on the 2003 list of MLB players to test positive for performance-enhancing substances. This happened right before our game, and the news blindsided me.

I want to talk about this situation and I will as soon as I have more answers. In the meantime I want to let you know how I am approaching this situation. One, I have already contacted the Players Association to confirm if this report is true. I have just been told that the report is true. Based on the way I have lived my life, I am surprised to learn I tested positive.

Two, I will find out what I tested positive for. And, three, based on whatever I learn, I will share this information with my club and the public. You know me - I will not hide and I will not make excuses.

Ortiz continues to deny he's ever used performance-enhancing drugs and said in 2015 that the steroid claim could damage his Hall of Fame candidacy. On numbers alone, Ortiz appears to be a shoo-in.

"I never failed a test. I kept on banging," Ortiz explained to Verducci. "So, you know, the reality is that it’s a noise that I think was more damaging (to some players’ careers) than anything else, because a lot of guys that were pronounced (as having tested) positive for things or having been caught using things, their careers went away. Yet I am (here)."

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 Posted: Wed Sep 28th, 2016 12:56 am
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The Chicago Cubs became the first club of the 2016 campaign to reach 100 wins, doing so in grand fashion against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday.

Chicago dominated the division rival Pittsburgh Pirates 12-2, which included six shutout innings from baseball's ERA leader Kyle Hendricks, and a six-RBI night from Javier Baez, who hit a grand slam in the fourth inning.

¿Qué sabroso es cuando un #PapaSlam como el de @javy23baez pone a tu equipo en ruta a 100 victorias? @MejorPizza. pic.twitter.com/jYH2evbCS4

— LasMayores (@LasMayores) September 27, 2016
Baez became just the fifth Cubs second baseman to have a 6-RBI game, joining Ryne Sandberg (3), Rogers Hornsby (2), Footsie Blair (1), and Starlin Castro (1), according to StatsCentre.

Chicago reached the 100-win mark for the first time since 1935 - they completed the 1935 season with a 100-54 record, losing in the World Series to the Detroit Tigers four games to two.

The franchise record for wins came in 1906 when the Cubs won 116 games.

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 Posted: Wed Sep 28th, 2016 01:07 am
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The Washington Nationals, already reeling from several injuries to star players, will now head into October without their All-Star catcher.

Manager Dusty Baker announced Tuesday that Wilson Ramos suffered a torn ACL on a play at home plate Monday that will end his 2016 season. He'll have surgery to repair the ligament, which he previously tore in 2012, later this week.

The injury occurred when Ramos jumped to try to catch a relay throw in the sixth inning Monday at Nationals Park, which was being played in a rain storm. When he came down, Ramos appeared to slip on the wet dirt and his right knee buckled, sending him to the ground for several minutes.

Ramos, a free agent at season's end, earned his first All-Star appearance in 2016 thanks to a career year at the plate. The 29-year-old hit .307/.354/.496 with 22 homers and 25 doubles in 131 games to help the Nationals win their third NL East title in five years.

Ramos is the latest Nationals player to suffer an injury in September. The team lost ace Stephen Strasburg to a flexor strain earlier in the month - he hasn't pitched since Sept. 7 - while reigning NL MVP Bryce Harper and second baseman Daniel Murphy have been nursing ailments down the stretch.

Before the severity of Ramos' injury was announced, Washington called up catcher Spencer Kieboom from Double-A to serve as an extra catcher for the final week.

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 Posted: Wed Sep 28th, 2016 01:10 am
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The San Francisco Giants reportedly acquired infielder Gordon Beckham from the Atlanta Braves for cash Tuesday, according to Mark Bowman of MLB.com.

Though he won't be eligible for the playoffs should the Giants reach them as he was acquired after Sept. 1, Beckham could help fill a void in the final week of the season after infielder Eduardo Nunez sustained a hamstring strain Sunday. Nunez went for an MRI on Monday, and the Giants are hoping it's not a serious issue so he can return to the lineup Tuesday.

Beckham, a former first-round pick of the Chicago White Sox, owns a .217/.300/.354 slash line with five homers and 16 doubles in 85 games with the Braves this season while playing three infield positions.

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 Posted: Wed Sep 28th, 2016 01:11 am
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The Miami Marlins agreed to a three-year, $40-million extension with third baseman Martin Prado on Tuesday, multiple sources told Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald.

Prado has spent the last two seasons in Miami after coming over in a deal with the New York Yankees. He was set to hit free agency this winter.

The 32-year-old is hitting .305/.360/.415 with seven home runs, 37 doubles, and 73 RBIs in 149 games this season.

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 Posted: Wed Sep 28th, 2016 07:43 pm
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With a 12-3 win over the Colorado Rockies on Tuesday at AT&T Park, the San Francisco Giants officially put the wild-card out of reach for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Miami Marlins, eliminating both teams from postseason contention.

After qualifying for the playoffs in each of the past three seasons, the Pirates took a step back in 2016 amid inconsistency in their rotation and regression from several key position players, including former All-Star Josh Harrison and 2013 National League MVP Andrew McCutchen.

With five games left in the regular season, the Pirates own a -19 run differential and remain one of just three teams in the majors without a player with at least 25 home runs.

For the Marlins, even though they haven't made the playoffs since winning the World Series in 2003, missing the cut may not sting as much, as the club is still reeling from the tragic death of ace right-hander Jose Fernandez, who died along with two friends in a boating accident Sunday morning.

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 Posted: Wed Sep 28th, 2016 07:44 pm
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Given the opportunity, Colorado Rockies manager Walt Weiss will sit DJ LeMahieu if it means it'll help him win a batting title.

Coming into Tuesday's game against the San Francisco Giants, LeMahieu leads the majors with a .350 batting average. Nipping at his heels is Washington Nationals slugger Daniel Murphy, who is at .347.

"I’ve taken a lot of heat for something like this, with (Justin) Morneau, and I’ll fall on the sword, for sure, for DJ," Weiss told the Denver Post's Patrick Saunders. “When it comes down to sitting out an at-bat or two, whatever it looks like, I’m willing to do that to get him the batting title.”

Murphy hasn't played since Sept. 20 due to a strained buttocks, while LeMahieu has continued to be in the lineup.

While Weiss is fully aware that he might get ripped for his decision to play the odds in favor of his player, he has a reason behind his madness.

“Winning a batting title doesn’t take one day, the last game of the season, it takes six months," Weiss said. "I don’t know how it’s all going to play out. I’d love to see DJ win that batting title.”

But while most players would be thrilled at the chance of winning a batting title, LeMahieu, despite his manager's efforts, doesn't care too much.

The Rockies came into the game 17 games back of the NL West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers, so it's tough for LeMahieu to focus on something like his achievements when the team is struggling.

“I don’t really enjoy that,” he said. “It’s not how I got here, it’s not how I played all year. And now that we are officially out of (the playoffs), it makes it harder. It’s more difficult to concentrate on winning. We don’t have that urgency we had a couple of weeks ago.”

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 Posted: Wed Sep 28th, 2016 09:08 pm
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NEW YORK -- David Ortiz was annoyed -- with himself and New York Yankees rookie catcher Gary Sanchez.

Starting his final series at Yankee Stadium, Ortiz went 0-for-5 with two strikeouts and stranded seven runners as the Yankees beat the Red Sox 6-4 on Tuesday night and delayed Boston from clinching the American League East.

Big Papi ended the game by fanning with two runners on when Tyler Clippard threw him a high, backdoor cutter. The 40-year-old slugger was succinct, saying, "That ain't fun."

Ortiz also didn't like all the trips to the mound by Sanchez.

"They tricked me tonight. Too much talking between the pitcher and catcher," Ortiz said. "I'll trick them tomorrow."

Despite a stellar season, Ortiz said before the game that there is no way he will change his mind about retirement.

"My body is counting the days, let me tell you," he said. "It's hard to play baseball when you are 40. I'm not going to lie to you, it's hard -- especially when you're looking everywhere around and everybody's 20. You can be a dad."

Ortiz is hitting .318 with a major-league-leading 48 doubles, 37 homers and 124 RBIs. He hopes to earn a fourth World Series ring with the Red Sox.

"You often wonder why he's retiring," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "Gosh, the year he's having, I would really have to think about coming back. But I'm going to encourage him to retire."

Ortiz has homered six times against the Yankees this season. New York has planned a pregame ceremony for Thursday.

"Yankee Stadium, it might be my favorite place to hit, to play, regardless," he said. "The dimensions are perfect for a left-handed power hitter. All the emotions, all the adrenaline, all the competition competing against the Yankees has been outstanding through the years."

Ortiz has 53 regular-season homers against the Yankees, all but one with Boston, tied with Hank Greenberg for fourth behind Jimmie Foxx (70), Ted Williams (62) and Manny Ramirez (55). His 31 homers at the old and new ballpark in the Bronx are tied with Mickey Vernon for second-most among visiting players, one ahead of Williams and one behind Goose Goslin.

When he walked to the plate before flying out to center field in the first inning, Ortiz was greeted by a mixture of boos and cheers, with some fans rising to applaud.

"I think there will be a lot of respect paid for a guy who's had some good moments in here," Red Sox manager John Farrell said before the game, going on to compare this to the Fenway Park finales of Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter. "Despite the rivalry, I think people appreciate baseball. They appreciate really talented players, and I would expect David to receive a similar treatment."

Ortiz has been booed at Yankee Stadium since he joined the Red Sox for the 2003 season. But the jeers got more intense as his career progressed and he helped the Red Sox overcome a 3-0 deficit against New York in the 2004 AL Championship Series, then won World Series titles that year and in 2007 and 2013.

"It got more powerful now," he said. "They know me a little bit more now."

Ortiz took notice that a fan launched a website, moonbigpapi.com, encouraging spectators at Ortiz's Yankee Stadium finale on Thursday to moon the Boston star.

"Can you imagine?" Ortiz said, laughing. "If it happens, I'm going to make sure I got my cellphone in my back pocket."

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 Posted: Thu Sep 29th, 2016 12:28 am
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The Chicago White Sox will reportedly sign Robin Ventura to an extension, should the skipper wish to remain with the organization, sources told Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY Sports.

Ventura and the White Sox are in the final week of an extremely disappointing season that will likely see them finish under .500 despite getting off to a 23-11 start.

The White Sox are 373-432 since Ventura took over in 2012, missing the playoffs in each of those five seasons, though Nightengale notes the front office does not believe the skipper is the reason.

It's believed that Ventura - the 39th manager in club history - wants to return, though there's yet to be any formal commitment.

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 Posted: Thu Sep 29th, 2016 02:43 am
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The Chicago Cubs have locked up their architect, as the team announced Wednesday that president Theo Epstein has been signed to a five-year contract extension.

The deal could pay Epstein in excess of $50 million, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today.

"In the five years under Theo's leadership, he has brought in a strong executive team and acquired and developed some of the best players in the game. Now, the results are on the field. My family and I have no doubt that we have moved closer to our goal of delivering Cubs fans the World Series championship they deserve," Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts said in a statement. He went on to add that the extension "ensures the baseball operations team assembled by Epstein will continue its remarkable tenure of building a consistent championship contender."

Epstein joined the Cubs in 2011 after spending nine years as GM of the Boston Red Sox. The 42-year-old's first season on the job saw the Cubs lose 101 games. Since then, Epstein has overseen a total rebuild of the team's farm system that's helped Chicago steadily increase its record with the help of a cadre of young stars. It's all culminated in a 2016 season that's seen the Cubs run away with baseball's best record while reaching the 100-win mark for the first time since 1935.

General manager Jed Hoyer and senior vice-president of player development Jason McLeod also received extensions, reports Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports.

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 Posted: Thu Sep 29th, 2016 02:44 am
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WASHINGTON - Bryce Harper is out of the Washington Nationals' starting lineup for the third straight game because of an injured left thumb.

With rain forecast, Nationals manager Dusty Baker did not want to risk the NL MVP in a wet outfield during Wednesday night's game against Arizona.

Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos tore his right anterior cruciate ligament Monday after a rain delay. Ramos landed awkwardly after catching a relay throw at home plate.

''With the rain, you'd hate for his thumb to feel OK and then he gets hurt doing something else,'' Baker said. ''We already had that once already. Not that someone else is a sacrificial lamb, but since he's already injured, it would be better not to take a chance.''

Harper is batting .244 with 24 home runs and 95 RBIs this season.

Second baseman Daniel Murphy has not been in the starting lineup since Sept. 20 because of a strained left buttocks.

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