Mark Townsend

  • Masahiro Tanaka named Yankees' opening day starter

    Mark Townsend at Big League Stew 52 mins ago

    The New York Yankees entered spring training with more questions than answers regarding the outlook of their roster. Fortunately, the answers they're receiving so far have been mostly encouraging, and that continued on Friday with Joe Griardi's announcement that right-hander Masahiro Tanaka will get the opening-day pitching assignment.

    According to Girardi, Tanaka, who's pitching through a small tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, will be slightly limited when he takes the ball against the Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium. But he's in a better position than long-time ace CC Sabathia, who's coming back from July surgery on his right knee. 

    “When we came into spring training, our main focus was to make sure they were both healthy,” Girardi said of Sabathia and Tanaka, who are both coming back from major injuries. “We took it slow because of things they dealt with the year before.

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  • Marcus Stroman returning to college while recovering from knee injury

    Mark Townsend at Big League Stew 3 hrs ago

    An unlucky and untimely setback on the baseball field is about to help Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman get one step ahead in the game of life.

    After suffering a torn left ACL during a pitchers' fielding drill on March 10 and subsequently being ruled out for the season, Stroman has decided to return to Duke University this summer with the intention of completing his degree.   

    I will be heading back to @DukeU this summer to finish my degree. Also, be able to rehab with some of the best doctors in the world! #HDMH

    Beyond excited for this time in my life. Being a college graduate was also priority. Little hiatus from baseball while I prepare for 2016!

    Don't think for a second that being in school will interfere with my baseball dreams. The motivation is at an all-time high. On a mission!

    Good for you, Marcus Stroman.

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  • Cubs hit four home runs against former ace Jeff Samardzija

    Mark Townsend at Big League Stew 5 hrs ago

    To aptly describe the damage the Chicago Cubs did in their first-ever meeting against former ace Jeff Samardzija, the Associated Press may have to consider reinstating many of its banned home run terms.

    During Friday's Cactus League tilt at Sloan Park in Mesa, four different Cubs launched home runs against Samardzija, beginning with Jorge Soler's titanic two-run shot to the left-field berm in the first inning.

    Your browser does not support iframes. Talk about a rude welcome and powerful reminder of the future Samardzija won't be part of on the north side.

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    The deal couldn't have worked out any better for the Cubs. For Samardzija, another trade followed, this time to the south side of Chicago. But he still doesn't have that extension. 

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  • Atlantic League will experiment with three-pitch walks, two-strike foul outs

    Mark Townsend at Big League Stew 2 days ago

    If you like your baseball short and to the point, the independent Atlantic League has a forthcoming experiment you might find very appealing. 

    When the Long Island Ducks host the Bridgeport Bluefish on April 18, the most basic of baseball's rules will be rewritten with three-pitch walks and two-strike foul balls counting as outs.

    [Baseball is back! Check out Yahoo For Spring Training for great spring training pics.]

    Basically, we're talking about the implementation of slow-pitch softball rules — or something close to them — at the professional baseball level, with the intention to speed up the game by limiting each plate appearance to a maximum of five pitches.

    The league also utilized pinch runners for catchers as soon as they reached base, which allowed for greater speed on the bases, but more importantly allowed catchers to suit up quicker for the next half-inning.

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  • Jason Lane serves up monster homer to Yasiel Puig, hits homer of his own

    Mark Townsend at Big League Stew 2 days ago

    The following is a public service announcement from Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig.

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    The message: Don't build your executive offices so close to home plate.

    We didn't hear an exact estimate of the distance, but that had to be at least a 460-foot ride for one of the most soundly struck baseballs we've seen all spring. 

    The two-run homer, which came complete with a signature Puig bat flip, happened during Wednesday's 9-5 victory against the San Diego Padres. And it came against a pitcher whose career has been notable for several unique reasons, including another chapter that was added in this same game. 

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    Unfortunately, the home run was one of three Lane allowed in the ballgame, which will greatly damage his chances. But Lane ended his day on a high note when he turned back the clock and connected for his first big league home run since Aug. 13, 2007. 

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  • Alex Rodriguez seems ticketed for full-time DH role with Yankees

    Mark Townsend at Big League Stew 2 days ago

    The only thing certain about Alex Rodriguez's future in baseball – coming off his year-plus suspension for his connection to Biogenesis – is that most people were going to root against him having a future in baseball. 

    Present and long-time employer included.

    At the very least, the New York Yankees made it clear they have no intention to pay separate $6 million bonuses should he pass Willie Mays, Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds on the all-time home run list, a condition that was agreed upon when he originally signed his 10-year, $272 million contract. And by re-signing Chase Headley to be their regular third baseman, they made it clear he'd have to earn every bit of the playing time needed to reach even one of those milestones, likely as a designated hitter.

    [Baseball is back! Check out Yahoo For Spring Training for great spring training pics.]

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  • Theo Epstein responds to Scott Boras, defends Cubs' handling of Kris Bryant

    Mark Townsend at Big League Stew 2 days ago

    The loudest voice in the debate over whether the Chicago Cubs should start Kris Bryant in the minor leagues this season not surprisingly belongs to Bryant's agent, the infamous Scott Boras. Simply said, Boras has never been shy about expressing his opinions, particularly when they involve his clients and their potential future income, and the circumstances surrounding Bryant play right into his wheelhouse.

    The situation is this: If the Cubs delay Bryant’s big league debut by two or three weeks, they will gain an extra year of control before he qualifies for free agency. The forward-thinking Boras understands that one year will delay what could very easily be a massive payday for his client, and all spring he's been aggressively pushing back against the decision he assumes the Cubs have already made. 

    [Baseball is back! Check out Yahoo For Spring Training for great spring training pics.]

    Of course, Epstein himself could have picked up the phone in an attempt to smooth things over with Boras. But it seems like he understood the futily in those efforts once Boras started playing his cards.  

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  • Justin Verlander says coddling pitchers only 'delays the inevitable'

    Mark Townsend at Big League Stew 5 days ago

    In today's baseball landscape it's difficult to find a pitcher with more than five years service time who hasn't spent a day on the disabled list. Among the most notable names on that short list is Detroit Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander.

    Now entering his 11th season (10th full), Verlander will look to make it ten straight with at least 30 starts and nine straight with no less than 201 innings pitched. It's a remarkable run of durability combined with dominance. And as we learned on Friday, the man behind it all has his own theories on why younger pitchers are breaking down once they reach the major leagues.

    In a new column from ESPN's Buster Olney, Verlander says that teams are spending too much time coddling pitchers before they reach the big leagues. In doing so, Verlander adds, teams are only managing to delay the inevitable breakdown until they start counting on those arms as major league contributors, which ends up costing them even more.

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  • Rockies release former ace Jhoulys Chacin

    Mark Townsend at Big League Stew 5 days ago

    A lot can change quickly in Major League Baseball. There's no better evidence of that often unfortunate reality than the Colorado Rockies decision to grant Jhoulys Chacin his unconditional release on Sunday.

    Two years ago at this time, Chacin was set to make his first opening day start for Colorado. He went on to become a 14-game-winner that season, posting a very respectable 3.47 ERA while pitching half his games at Coors Field. It was supposed to be the season that cemented him as the Rockies long-awaited ace.

    Then 2014 happened. 

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    The 27-year-old right-hander was signed by the Rockies as an amateur free agent in 2004 and made his big-league debut in 2009. Over his six seasons with Colorado, he posted a 3.78 ERA. His final start with the Rockies came on Saturday, when he allowed four runs on seven hits in three innings against the Los Angeles Dodgers. 

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  • Joe Maddon and several Cubs players shave their head for pediatric cancer

    Mark Townsend at Big League Stew 5 days ago

    Before taking on the San Diego Padres at Sloan Park on Sunday afternoon, Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon and several of his players participated in the team's inaugural Respect Bald fundraiser for pediatric cancer research.

    The event is a spinoff of a similar event held annually by the Tampa Bay Rays. As a yearly partitcipant in that event, Maddon helped facilitate the Cubs starting a similar tradition, and based on early results it appears to be a rousing success. 

    One by one, Maddon and stars such as Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo were seated in the special barber's chair that sat elevated on a stage in center field, and one by one they each watched their locks fall to the ground in an effort to raise awareness for a worthy cause.

    Here are some the sights and sounds, beginning with Maddon's haircut.

    If you're wondering about Maddon's attire, there's purpose behind that as well. During Sunday's warm ups, all of the Cubs coaches were to be dressed as football coaches. Whistles and athletic shorts included, obviously.