Mark Townsend

  • David Ross sheds light on chaotic free agency process

    Mark Townsend at Big League Stew 18 hrs ago

    Veteran catcher David Ross recently signed a two-year, $5 million deal with the Chicago Cubs, reuniting him with Boston Red Sox teammate Jon Lester. At that time, we noted it was a sensible signing for Chicago given his past success with the Cubs new ace, but not one that would steal headlines or garner lengthy discussion on television. That much remains true. However, it turns out the process leading to his decision is well worth discussing, which is exactly what Ross did with Rob Bradford of WEEI in Boston

    From there, he says, all heck broke loose.

    To Ross’ surprise, there was plenty to discuss after those two hours at the gym.

    There had been the agreement by the Padres to trade catcher Ryan Hanigan — whom was just acquired by San Diego three days earlier — to the Red Sox in exchange for Will Middlebrooks. And then a report that Ross had also agreed to a deal with the Padres.

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  • Rafael Furcal faces latest injury setback — a torn hamstring

    Mark Townsend at Big League Stew 21 hrs ago

    To say the past few years of Rafael Furcal's career have been plagued by injury would be an understatement. Since 2007, the now 37-year-old shortstop has only topped 100 major league games played twice (150 in 2007 and 121 in 2012), and five times he's appeared in 50 games or less.

    His health really bottomed out over the past two seasons. He ended up missing the entire 2013 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, and played in only nine games in 2014 after dealing with a left hamstring issue. 

    Unfortunately, Furcal has become a disabled list stint waiting to happen. Even more unfortunate, that truth has now extended into MLB's offseason. Before Furcal could find a major league team willing to take a gamble on him for 2015, he suffered a torn hamstring while playing in the Dominican Winter League, officially ending his offseason audition.

    Sources: Rafael Furcal has a torn hamstring and will miss the DR Winter League playoffs

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  • Penn State hero occupied Derek Jeter's locker at Pinstripe Bowl

    Mark Townsend at Big League Stew 1 day ago

    The first game took place on Nov. 19 when Patriot League rivals Lehigh and Lafayette met for the 150th time ever. It's not clear who used Jeter's locker that day. The second took place on Saturday afternoon when the fifth annual Pinstripe Bowl was played between the Penn State Nittany Lions and Boston College Eagles, and we know for a fact the locker belonged to Penn State senior kicker and special teams' captain Sam Ficken

    Here's the visual proof.

    Gameday #13 is here. @PinstripeBowl at 4:30 on ESPN. @sficken1 using the locker that belonged to Derek Jeter today.

    It's a locker fit for a captain, and though Ficken wears a considerably higher uniform number than Jeter's famous No. 2 — he's still a kicker after all, so he gets No. 97 — it appears it's also a locker fit for a hero.

    Ficken drills it. The game is tied 24-24. Still 20 seconds to go.

    This parting photo is pretty cool, too.

  • Dan Uggla and Heath Bell get another chance, sign with Nats

    Mark Townsend at Big League Stew 1 day ago

    On Friday, the defending NL East champion Washington Nationals announced the signings of veterans Dan Uggla and Heath Bell to minor-league deals, thus proving once again that it's difficult for once established major league players to play their way completely out of MLB.

    That's especially true if a specific player once earned an All-Star selection or three in his career, and perhaps even more so if the player once had a specific unique skill, such as middle infielder with home run power, or experience in a specific role, such as a closer. If a player fits that criteria, which both Uggla and Bell do to a tee, chances are teams will be more willing to take a flier or at least kick the tires.

    That's the good news for Uggla and Bell. The less encouraging reality, however, is both have declined quickly and have burned through a few opportunities or "baseball lives" already over the past couple seasons. Without a turn around in 2015, the end may soon be near.

    Uggla is an extreme longshot to move the needle in Washington, but he serves as reasonable infield depth should general manager Mike Rizzo elect to trade Ian Desmond, which is heavily rumored.

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  • Starlin Castro questioned after shooting in Dominican Republic

    Mark Townsend at Big League Stew 1 day ago

    According to ESPN's Enrique Rojas, Chicago Cubs shortstop  Starlin Castro was detained — not arrested, as was originally reported — by authorities in the Dominican Republic on Saturday and held for questioning in connection to a nightclub shooting that left six people injured. There are few concrete details on the series of events surrounding the incident, but it's reported a shooting took place late Friday night or early Saturday morning at  Ocean Club in Montecristi while Castro and his entourage were in attendance.

    A police spokesperson did not initially indicate whether they believed Castro was direcltly involved, but noted that some people close to Castro participated in the shooting. 

    Here's a translated statement that was released on Twitter:

    It's also reported that one person injured in the shooting is currently listed in serious condition. The condition of the others has not been released. 

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  • Curt Schilling offers sage advice to Johnny Manziel

    Mark Townsend at Big League Stew 1 day ago

    The only thing Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel asked for this holiday season is another opportunity to earn the team's starting job. That's something the Browns aren't yet willing to give their disappointing rookie, who through two NFL starts has done more to embarrass himself than establish himself. But perhaps if Manziel follows the unsolicited yet sage advice of former major league pitcher and current ESPN analyst Curt Schilling, he'll have a better chance of realizing his potential.

    It all started on Christmas Eve, just one day after Manziel openly admitted that he needed to work harder and take his job more seriously if he hopes to survive in the NFL. Having apparently heard or read this, Schilling immediately took charge and tweeted a message to Manziel, which has since led to some fun responses. 

    Here's how it began. 

    Nailed it, Curt. 

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  • Reports: Kenta Maeda and Hiroki Kuroda to pitch in Japan

    Mark Townsend at Big League Stew 2 days ago

    Two of baseball's top remaining free agents have reportedly reached agreements to pitch in Japan next season.

    Kenta Maeda, a 26-year-old right-hander who was expected to command north of $100 million if made available to MLB teams this winter, has reportedly agreed to a one-year contract with the Hiroshima Carp after they refused to post him last week. He'll be joined by 39-year-old right-hander Hiroki Kuroda, who reportedly agreed to a deal with Hiroshima on Friday.

    So Long Hiroki Kuroda - Hiroki Kuroda is returning to NBP Hiroshima via @proyakyuantenna #yankees h/t @daisukesugiura

    Of course, that's not Maeda's concern. He's just looking forward to the challenge of pitching in MLB someday.

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  • Fredi Gonzalez announces A.J. Pierzynski signing in ham store

    Mark Townsend at Big League Stew 4 days ago

    The Atlanta Braves are keeping busy around the holidays. On Tuesday, they announced the signing of veteran reliever Jason Grilli to a two-year contract. On Wednesday, it was reported the Braves have also signed veteran catcher A.J. Pierzynski to a one-year deal, though credit for that scoop doesn't go to the usual suspects in the baseball reporting field, or even the next wave of teenage reporters hoping to make a name.

    Nope. It was actually reported by Aaron Lunsford (@darrenstains on Twitter), whose father learned of the signing while speaking to Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez while they shopped at Honeybaked Ham. Lunsford then tweeted this information to several baseball reporters and his near 3,000 followers on Twitter.

    Source: @braves and AJ pierzynski agree to deal. No details. Check it @Buster_ESPN @Ken_Rosenthal @jcrasnick @jessespector not kidding

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  • Braves beef up bullpen with addition of Jason Grilli

    Mark Townsend at Big League Stew 5 days ago

    New Atlanta Braves president John Hart has already put his stamp on the team by trading away offensive centerpieces Jason Heyward and Justin Upton for a collection of prospects and a viable young starter in Shelby Miller. He's also added a pair of free agent bats in Nick Markakis and Alberto Callapso to help offset the lost production. Now the time has come to address an already impressive bullpen.

    According to Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal, the Braves have reached an agreement with veteran reliever Jason Grilli on a two-year deal that includes a third-year team option. David O'Brien of the Atlanta-Journal Constitution has since confirmed those details.'s Mark Bowman added the financial details.  

    Grilli will receive $4.25M in 2015 and $3.5M in 2016. He has a $3M option for 2017 ($250K buyout). Contract includes a $250K signing bonus

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  • Ryan Lavarnway joins fourth different team in December

    Mark Townsend at Big League Stew 5 days ago

    Roster moves around Major League Baseball have slowed considerably in wake of the chaotic Winter Meetings. With the holidays fast approaching, that's not likely to change much between now and the new year. However, one major league player in particular, veteran catcher Ryan Lavarnway, has done enough moving over the past three weeks that he'd be wise to keep his figurative bags packed and his cell phone handy while enjoying the holiday festivities.

    On Tuesday, Lavarnway was claimed off waivers by the Baltimore Orioles, meaning he's officially represented four different teams since Dec. 5.

    Lavarnway's winding holiday road comes after six years of stability with the Boston Red Sox. He was drafted by Boston in the 6th round of the 2008 amateur draft and worked his way up their system, spending parts of four seasons as their backup catcher. After appearing in nine games in 2014 and 97 overall for Boston, he was designated for assignment on Nov. 25 to make room on the roster for Pablo Sandoval.

    That brings us to today's transaction and Lavarnway's new team, the Baltimore Orioles.

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