Something about Progressive Field brings out the best in the Cleveland Indians, even if the place is empty enough to hear the hecklers on a lot of weekday summer nights. The Tribe finished tied with Texas for best home record in the American League this year at 53-28, even while ranking 28th in the majors in attendance. Only the Oakland Athletics and Tampa Bay Rays, teams in a perpetual state of bad-ballpark limbo, fared worse at the gate.
“Yeah, you know, Rich Hill Juan Marichal Jersey was kind of the inspiration for that, I guess,” Kershaw said of his new teammate who arrived at the start of August. “I don’t know, it just looked kind of fun. I used to do that in high school. I used to pitch that way a little bit.”
But this does not seem to be about throwing back the clock. Kershaw, who faces the Washington Nationals in Game 1 of the NLDS on Friday, sounded as if he was interested in messing with the minds of opposing hitters. Or perhaps, messing Madison Bumgarner Jersey with their minds even more than he already does.
“I think it’s a different look,” Kershaw said after his final regular-season start at San Francisco. “Scouts are having to write it down, so it’s good.”
Porcello left pitches up in the strike zone that have been down all season. He lasted 4? innings, his shortest outing since July 29, 2015. He gave up three home runs, more than he allowed in any start since Aug. 3 at Seattle, and although they were all solo shots, the fact that they were bunched together in a four-batter span of the third inning whipped a raucous crowd into a frenzy and blunted any momentum the Red Sox could generate.
“That’s never how you want to start a playoff series off,” Porcello said after a taut 5-4 loss. “I’ll go back and look at it, kind of recap what happened and what the situations were and why that happened and come up with a better game plan.”
It wasn’t supposed to go like this. Porcello, in the midst of a dream season in which he went 22-4 with a 3.15 ERA and took the lead in the race for the AL Cy Young Award, was supposed to carve up the Indians’ lineup. In every way possible, his matchup with Cleveland’s default Game 1 starter Trevor Bauer should have been a mismatch.
But Bauer actually recorded one more out than Porcello. And because the Indians carried a 5-3 lead through five innings, they were able to unleash their greatest strength: a shutdown bullpen. Between them, high-leverage specialist Andrew Miller and closer Cody Allen threw 80 pitches (40 apiece) and recorded 11 outs.
This whole thing could have been easier if only the Red Sox hadn’t lost six of their past seven games and squandered home-field advantage in the division series. They responded by drawing confidence from how well they played on the road after the All-Star break, when they pulled away from the pack to win the AL East.
But the littlest things can turn a short series. The team that wins Game 1 has gone on to win 84 of 120 best-of-5 series in baseball history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. So, it helps to play in front of a friendly crowd in a ballpark as friendly as Fenway, where Porcello went 13-1 in 16 starts.
Still, everything was lined up for the Red Sox to take Game 1, beginning with their starter.
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NEW YORK – Every Los Angeles commuter can tell you that three inflated tires are not enough to get the car from the front door to the office.
And so it is with the Los Angeles Dodgers, who have much of the offense clicking, but one aspect still needs proper inflation.
So even though the Dodgers’ offense is far better than it was during the first two months of the season, there remains an issue with producing against left-handed pitching. New York Yankees starter CC Sabathia is just the latest lefty to make life miserable for the Dodgers. He led the Yankees to a 3-0 victory Tuesday in the Bronx.
The Dodgers know the flaw and are trying to fix it. Talking about it hasn’t improved the situation.
As it has been for the Cubs all season, as Lester builds his case for an individual award, it is done in service to a burgeoning team success. Chicago earned its 96th win of the season, improved to 54-23 at Wrigley Field, and trimmed its magic number for clinching the top seed in the National League playoffs to three.
With two starts remaining, Lester is one shy of his career-high in victories of 19, achieved in 2010 for Boston. He’s probably the only remaining National League pitcher with a shot at winning 20 games this season.
The veteran Sabathia might be in the midst of an up-and-down season, but he looked to be in control while holding the Dodgers to three hits over 6 1/3 scoreless innings.
The Dodgers’ left-hander issue is far from an unknown. And the problem is not just with starting pitchers.
The Yankees got a glimpse of it Monday in their 8-2 loss to L.A.. While Yanks right-hander Bryan Mitchell started the game, giving up six runs and eight hits in 2 1/3 innings, left-handed relievers Chasen Shreve, Richard Bleier and James Pazos gave up a combined one run on one hit over 5 2/3 innings.
The Dodgers are stacked with left-handed hitting options such as Joc Pederson, Chase Utley, Corey Seager, Josh Reddick and Adrian Gonzalez. Yasmani Grandal is a switch hitter, but most of his damage has come from the left side.
The whole at-bat had a playoff feel to it, right down to three separate conferences on the mound to make sure Rodriguez and catcher Sandy Leon were on the same page. And Rodriguez’s emphatic fist pump after Trumbo swung through strike three was an indication that he understood the significance of the moment.
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As the Houston Astros battle to stay in the playoff chase, it’s not clear whether two starters who helped them to the postseason last year will do the same this year.
The 88-year-old announcer tells the Los Angeles Times his Hall of Fame career will end Oct. 2 in San Francisco. Scully had already said this will be his final season in the booth after 67 years, but until Tuesday had not announced whether he planned to call any potential postseason games on radio.
Scully says if he stayed on the air, he would be “saying goodbye like in grand opera, where you say goodbye 12 different times.”
His decision was not a surprise to the team, Dodgers spokesman Joe Jareck says.
Scully has two farewells coming up: First, on Sept. 25 during the Dodgers’ final home game of the regular season and then a week later at San Francisco.
Looking for their first World Series appearance since winning the 1988 championship, the Dodgers began the night with a four-game lead in the NL West over the Giants.
Scully switched from television to radio in recent years during the playoffs, when national broadcasters have exclusive TV rights.
Not this time.
The 26-year-old Cole threw 29 of his 55 pitches for strikes. He had hopes to boost a Pirates team that is all but out of the NL wild-card race, but instead is making his third trip to the DL this season.
“I’m disappointed. There’s just not enough time to recover,” Cole told reporters Tuesday. “I’m disappointed I’m not out there to help the team. That’s the one thing I’ve been fighting for all season, to try to be able to contribute to our ultimate goal. It’s unfortunate we ran out of time.”
We mentioned the Cubs’ power display in last year’s NLDS, and indeed Chicago clubbed 10 home runs in the series. The Cardinals, though, hit eight, and this season St. Louis leads the NL in homers. Meanwhile, the Cubs’ pitching staff is an aggressive bunch, and as a group it hasn’t allowed much of anything. Their opponent batting average is an almost unbelievable .210. They’ve also surrendered a league-low isolated slugging average.
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The New York Yankees have already accomplished what looked impossible earlier this season: They have become interesting and exciting, and have given their fans hope.
Now, they can take it to the next level with four games against the last-place Tampa Bay Rays. If they sweep, and move 12 games above .500 with 20 games to go, they would have quite a story to tell.
Yes, there’s something fitting about Tebow making all kinds of headlines hours before his former team, the Broncos, would start defending its Super Bowl title. Make no mistake: This is not a Denver story. This is a New York, New York, story all the way.
Fred Wilpon’s Mets tried to be George Steinbrenner’s Yankees here, and knowledgeable locals understand why. Until recently the Mets cowered in the shadow of their big-budget neighbors, who were forever shaped by the advice a young Steinbrenner received from the Nederlanders, a prominent theater family, on how to survive around Broadway. “New York,” they told the wannabe Boss in the early 1970s, “is a star-vehicle town.”
But from Catfish to Reggie to Winfield to Henderson to Clemens to Giambi to Matsui to A-Rod, Steinbrenner made sure his recruiting trips weren’t always about box-office traffic and back-page buzz. He landed big names who could, you know, play a pretty mean game of baseball. That was the one non-negotiable part of his deals.
“He has demonstrated over his athletic career that he is a tremendous athlete, has got character, a competitive spirit. Aside from the age (29), this is a classic player-development opportunity for us. As an organization, we’re going to provide that development opportunity for Tim.”
The decision nonetheless was made at the highest levels of the organization — by Alderson and chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon — and did not intimately involve the team’s baseball-operations personnel. The Mets were one of 28 teams to attend Tebow’s showcase last week in Los Angeles.
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BALTIMORE — For the Jekyll-and-Hyde Orioles to make it back to the postseason, they’ll need to hide Hyde down the stretch. So far, so good.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Alvarez said of his team’s multidimensional dismantling, as B.o.B’s bouncy single “So Good” blared in the background. “That’s the name of the game, though. You’re not going to be working on all cylinders at all times. The teams that have the most success are the teams that can do that more often throughout the year. That’s what we try to do every time we go out there. We know it’s not going to be a hundred percent of the time, but anytime you can get the ball rolling on all ends, that’s usually the recipe for a W at the end of the day. Obviously, a day like today is a lot of fun, and we hope to have a lot more coming up here.”
“I’m happy that I was given the opportunity again,” Puig said Friday through an interpreter before the game. “It was helpful for me to go to Oklahoma City and being able to share with the coaches there and with other players. It just helps me moving forward.”
Puig started in right field and batted fifth against the Padres. His two singles boosted his batting average to .263. He has seven home runs and 34 RBIs in 281 at-bats.
“Yasiel has done everything we asked of him; we felt ultimately that he makes us better, that was the deciding factor,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts told MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM earlier in the day.
Puig said it was “a little strange” to be back with the Dodgers but that he had learned how to be more disciplined and a better teammate.
“Five minutes ago, I was talked to by my teammates, and they explained to me what they needed from me,” Puig said. “That was really what I was looking for was a talk with my teammates, a talk with everyone and have an understanding of what was needed from me to succeed with this team. Now I’m going to get to work, and hopefully you will see the success of 2013. That’s what I will be working for.”
He also said he hadn’t worried about whether he would return.
“I was just doing my job in Oklahoma,” he said. “I was doing the things I wasn’t doing here. They made the right choice sending me down there. But now I was doing the correct things to come back; I’m here now and grateful for the opportunity.”
Earlier this week, Roberts said he was unsure whether Puig, who had been at Oklahoma City since Aug. 2, would be called up. MLB rosters expanded Thursday.
Before deciding to have their ace pitch in Single-A this weekend, the Dodgers hinted at a Kershaw return as early as the upcoming homestand, but that scenario always seemed overly optimistic at best and risky at worst. When a pitcher misses two months with a back injury, the normal course of events wouldn’t have him returning to the majors after throwing just two simulated innings.
The Dodgers have stayed relatively quiet when it has come to Kershaw’s status, outside of a blip when manager Dave Roberts dared to say that surgery wasn’t out of the question if he was being completely honest. That type of honesty, though, only maxed out the panic meter in Los Angeles.
SEPT. 13-OCT. 2: Simple math says that if Kershaw returns to the major leagues on Sept. 10 or 11, he could make four more regular-season starts to fine-tune his stuff for a potential postseason run. If his return is held off until Sept. 12 or later, then three more regular-season appearances are likely. Either way, it should give him enough time to work through any issues that would have arisen from a long layoff, assuming those issues are mechanical in nature and not physical. A Sept. 10 or 11 return also would line Kershaw up for potentially two outings against San Francisco down the stretch. If he returns on Sept. 12, he likely would not face the Giants during the stretch run.
OCT. 5: So why would the Dodgers even consider a Sept. 12 return for Kershaw if he would miss the Giants twice and make three, instead of four, regular-season appearances? One reason could be that it would line up the left-hander to pitch in a potential NL wild-card game on Oct. 5 if the Dodgers don’t win the NL West. Even if the Dodgers do win the division, Kershaw would be afforded a longer rest heading into the first division series game with a Sept. 12 return, although he would have one less regular-season start to prepare himself.
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Josh Hamilton had worn out his welcome elsewhere, but the Texas Rangers promised him a fresh start last season. Based on Hamilton’s natural talent, it was possible to squint and see the upside, and in Hamilton’s first at-bat back in Texas, he ripped a double and received a standing ovation. Things didn’t stay quite so terrific — he was recently released.
Yost couldn’t contain himself, and clearly felt like he had to do something. Perhaps he thought Mondesi, as a rookie, couldn’t handle the pressure of the situation, or that with his blazing speed, he might beat out the sacrifice, or that as a struggling .184 hitter entering the game, Mondesi had to be treated like a pitcher.
Ryan Baillargeon is a reporter for MLB.com based in Baltimore and covered the Blue Jays on Monday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
The Tampa Bay Rays have a firm hold on last place in the American League East, 18 ½ games out of first place as they prepare for the final month of what has been a frustrating season. But their starting pitching has evolved in recent weeks, performing like it had been expected to at the outset of the season, with Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi et al. working effectively. In fact, Tampa Bay has the best ERA in the AL since the All-Star break, and the second-best in the majors. Archer won again Sunday.
The worst team in the AL East can go toe to toe in terms of starting pitching quality with any division opponent on any given day in September, and Tampa Bay’s next 26 games are all against AL East teams.
Meanwhile, the AL Central is inhabited by the Twins, who have essentially stopped winning and are losing games by an average of more than three runs per game over the past three weeks. And the AL West contenders — Rangers, Astros and Mariners — will have the opportunity to feast on two teams that have struggled almost all year, the Athletics and Angels.
No wonder an AL official used this term about what might happen with the AL East playoff contenders down the stretch: cannibalize.
The Nationals said placing Strasburg on the DL was strictly precautionary and that they hoped he would be able to return once he is eligible. So far the signs have all been positive for Strasburg, who has also played catch numerous times in the past week.
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“Our trainers are on top of it,” manager Dusty Baker said. “They have a program mapped out for him, and only his body can tell us how he is and if he’s going to stay on track.”
This is the time of year that non-contending teams are finishing up the evaluations of their entire organization and deciding, among other things, if they want to make a managerial change. As I wrote, there were several managers on the hot seat early in the season, including John Gibbons of the Toronto Blue Jays, Brad Ausmus of the Detroit Tigers and Bryan Price of the Cincinnati Reds. Fortunately for all three managers, their seats have cooled considerably; Gibbons and Ausmus are in pennant races, and Price has piloted the Reds to the second-best record in the National League since the All Star break, which should save his job.
They tied for the league lead in wins with Joe finishing second in the Cy Young voting for the Astros and Phil, pitching on a terrible Braves team, finishing sixth. Joe’s best season was 1982 (6.8 WAR), and Phil went 17-4 that year with a 3.65 ERA.
The easy road for the Los Angeles Dodgers would have been finding a way to keep A.J. Ellis, who was traded to Philadelphia on Thursday, and still acquire Carlos Ruiz. Given that Ellis is a free agent after this season and has no lasting value to the Phillies, this presumably was something that could’ve happened.
By keeping Ellis for another six days leading up to the September roster expansion, the Dodgers would’ve veered around the clubhouse-culture landmines — like the reaction of Ellis’ best friend on the team, Clayton Kershaw, who happens to be the most important person in the organization.
It’s not as if Kershaw will interrupt his rehabilitation because Ellis was traded; Kershaw will always compete ferociously, and he’ll work through his back trouble and get back on the mound. Ruiz has hit lefties better this year than Ellis has and might well turn out to be an upgrade. But the risk in the deal is real because it creates a 20/20 hindsight situation.
If the Dodgers go on to win the NL West and reach the World Series for the first time since 1988, this deal will probably be forgotten and forgiven by the players. Chase Utley, Ruiz’s former teammate in Philadelphia, can vouch for how good Ruiz can be, with the 2008 championship ring they both wear as evidence.
But if the Dodgers’ recent success fades and the San Francisco Giants run them down, and they exit quickly from the playoffs, this will be added to the list of decisions in which the Dodgers’ front office was perceived to be tone-deaf to the sentiments of its players.
It’s a little tricky to combine relievers and starters here, as relievers get to throw harder since they work in shorter stints бн but Chapman and Cabrera are pretty clearly a cut above, accounting for 62 percent of all 100-plus mph pitches in baseball this year (per MLB Statcast data). Syndergaard leads all starters in the same department with 80 such pitches; the only other starter with more than 20, Eovaldi, is about to get his third elbow.
There’s a lot of velocity out there right now, but I looked closely at this list, and the one thing I took away from it is that velocity is no guarantee of success, even though it’s what everyone wants and pays for. Not pictured: Mets starter Bartolo Colon, who doesn’t crack 90 anymore and rarely throws any off-speed pitches but has a 3.36 ERA/4.01 FIP this year.
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SEATTLE — New York Yankees rookie Gary Sanchez is taking everyone’s at-bats. First, he stripped Brian McCann of his catching gear, after becoming the Yankees’ regular catcher. Now, Joe Girardi won’t even sit Sanchez on what was supposed to be a day off.
Sanchez is expected to be behind home plate on Wednesday afternoon as Masahiro Tanaka faces Hisashi Iwakuma. The last time Sanchez caught Tanaka, Tanaka fired 7? scoreless innings against the Angels. In that series, Sanchez threw out Mike Trout on a one-hop throw and picked off a guy at first.
Girardi studies his catcher probably with more intensity than any other position. It was the position he played in the majors. He is a big believer that it is defense that comes first with a catcher, which is something he has preached to Sanchez.
With that said, Girardi notices all the nuances of the position. Sanchez checks them off. That is why he caught a day game after a night game over the weekend.
Sanchez is also crushing the ball, which is why Girardi kept him in the lineup Tuesday. Girardi plans on riding the impressive 23-year-old as far as he will take the Yankees. Does anyone watching, besides opponents, want Sanchez to have a day off, anyway?
“I’m feeling great right now,” Jones said Monday. “On a scale of 1 to 10, it’s probably like a two right now. It healed up fast, I got great treatment in so it wasn’t bad for what I did. We’re looking great right now and hoping for a speedy recovery.”
The Seager-Turner-Gonzalez combination just meant that it was the usual suspects who produced. Seager has delivered all throughout his rookie season, Turner’s emergence about two months ago started the offensive revival, and Gonzalez’s production of late is really what has turned the offense dynamic.
“[Those were] very competitive at-bats one through eight [in the lineup], but the 3-4-5 guys really came up huge for us,” manager Dave Roberts said. “Bumgarner is one of the elite pitchers in baseball and [our] focus to grind out at-bats and get some key hits and have a lot of traffic and stress him all night, get the pitch count up and get those big hits, was a huge lift.”
Others in the Dodgers’ offense are starting to get into the act as well. Rob Segedin and Andrew Toles each hit their second career home run Tuesday after going back-to-back on Monday at Cincinnati. Toles finished with two hits and three RBIs, which would have been a busy day under the circumstances, but he didn’t even enter the game until the sixth inning as a pinch hitter.
OK, so maybe it’s not really official yet. But Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter said after Tuesday night’s 8-1 win over the Washington Nationals that his ace is headed to the 15-day disabled list with shoulder inflammation. So let’s call it unofficially official. Which unofficially officially makes the Orioles’ chances of reaching the playoffs a whole lot worse than they would’ve been if Tillman were healthy.
“It certainly helped,” said Showalter, who became the third manager this season to win three challenges in the same game. Two of his successful challenges came on Turner’s steal attempts, both of which were initially ruled safe. “We needed each one of them. It kept any momentum from getting going.”
If the O’s are going to keep their own momentum going without Tillman, they’ll need to continue the all-hands-on-deck approach, both when the Battle of the Beltway relocates to Nats Park on Wednesday, and beyond.
“We are going to miss him on the mound,” center fielder Adam Jones (4-for-5 on Tuesday) said of Tillman, “but we’re still going to keep fighting and grinding. When he comes back hopefully after the 15 days, mid-September, whenever he does, he comes back fresh and ready to make his last three or four starts in a tight race.”
For what it’s worth, Tillman himself doesn’t seem terribly concerned about how his team will fare without him. Or, if he is, he’s not letting it show.
“These guys are hitting the ball well, having fun as a group,” Tillman said. “So we’d like to keep it going. We’re playing good baseball.”
Only time will tell if it’s good enough.
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Kershaw, who was 11-2 with a 1.79 ERA when he was injured, is optimistic he’ll have better results this time.
“We got to the point the last time where I was throwing off the mound,” he said. “This time, I’ve done everything I need to do. We gave it a shot the first time, and we were pretty aggressive. There were no signs that it would backfire, but it did. This time, we’ve been more conservative.”
Roberts expects Kershaw to throw 20 to 25 pitches Saturday and, if all goes well, 40 in another bullpen session Tuesday in Los Angeles.
Kershaw was asked why he decided to rejoin his teammates in Cincinnati.
“Skyline Chili,” he said, smiling, mentioning a local delicacy. “It’s fun to be on the road with the guys. It’s no fun watching on TV. I like being on the road.”
Roberts also said left-hander Rich Hill, who has been on the disabled list since July 18 with a left middle finger blister, likely will be activated next week and make his Dodgers debut after being acquired in an Aug. 1 trade with the Oakland Athletics.
Hill threw 75 pitches in a simulated game Thursday at the Dodgers’ spring training facility before joining the team Friday in Cincinnati. Hill said he expects to make his debut Wednesday against the San Francisco Giants, according to The Orange County Register.
ANAHEIM, Calif. — There were real questions if New York Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez had the right attitude to justify his $3 million signing bonus as a 16-year-old. There was a feeling that his inability to master preparation could negate his talents.
For outfielder Aaron Judge, there was never that question. The Yankees scouting department believed Judge was a leader coming out of Fresno State. Their scouts felt as if they knew the type of person they were bringing into the organization with the 32nd selection of the 2013 draft.
So far, what is remarkably clear about both of them is the professionalism that seems like remnants of the Core Four. It would be crazy right now to truly compare these young players to Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada, but the one thing you can tell in this early stage is their attitude. Both Sanchez and Judge appear to have the right approach.
On Friday night, in the Yankees’ 7-0 drubbing of the Los Angeles Angels, Sanchez added three more hits, including two doubles, to raise his average to .389. He is the first Yankees rookie to have four consecutive multi-hit games since another No. 24, Robinson Cano, in 2005. For good measure, Sanchez added his first stolen base.
Judge went 0-for-5, but sits at .304.
The ground floor for Yankees stardom is handling your preparation and surroundings. Before Friday’s victory, reporters at Sanchez’s locker looked as though they needed to take a number to speak with him, but the 23-year-old — with the aid of a translator — patiently spoke with each and every one of them. Judge was equally accommodating on the other side of the room.
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Can you have too much of a good thing? Not when you’re piling up victories, but it can complicate the handing out of awards.
It’s problematic for voters when a team has two players arguably worthy of winning the Most Valuable Player Award in the same season, as do the Cubs in Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant.
Look at the 1996 Mariners. Ken Griffey Jr. was in his prime, and Alex Rodriguez looked like anything but a 20-year-old in his first full season. Both delivered a 1.000+ OPS and a WAR of at least 9.4. One was an American League Gold Glove Award winner in center field; the other a terrific shortstop.
Either could have won the AL Most Valuable Player Award. But they split the vote, and the Rangers’ Juan Gonzalez won the award in one of the tightest and most memorable award races.
Mariners manager Lou Piniella and Rodriguez both said Griffey should have won the AL MVP Award, and the two voters from Seattle would agree when it was time to cast their votes. Both voted Griffey first and Gonzalez second, and that was the margin that allowed Gonzalez to edge out A-Rod, 290-287.
The Rizzo-Bryant dynamic is evolving along the same lines. I don’t see anyone more deserving than the two Cubs.
I’d be surprised if Joe Maddon voices an opinion if he’s asked when September rolls around, and I’d advise Bryant not to defer to Rizzo when he gets the chance. Let’s just let this thing play out and see where the chips fall. Everybody’s gonna have an opinion, and mine:
The Gurriel brothers are one step closer to making their Major League dreams come true.
Last month, older brother Yulieski Gurriel, 32, signed a $47.5 million deal with the Astros and is quickly making his way up the Minor League ranks. On Monday, younger brother Lourdes Gurriel Jr., 22, was declared a free agent by Major League Baseball and officially became eligible to sign.
Lourdes, who is currently training in Panama, is expected to have a large showcase for all 30 teams as well as private workouts in the coming months at a time and place to be determined. The Astros have been open about their interest in signing both Gurriels. Lourdes is expected to test the market for the best deal.
“We would like to play together on the same team, have my brother near me,” Yulieski told MLB.com earlier this year. “But if the circumstances don’t permit it and we have to go different paths, that’s what we will do.”
Lourdes is not expected to sign anytime soon and here’s why: Cuban players who are at least 23 years old and have played in a Cuban professional league for five or more seasons are exempt from the international signing guidelines established by the Collective Bargaining Agreement, effectively making them free agents once they are eligible to sign with a big league club.
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