Red Sox Outfielder Yoenis Cespedes Guns out Another Runner at Home

Outfielder Yoenis Cespedes has made quite an impression on Red Sox Nation since he was acquired nearly a month ago for ace Jon Lester.

On Saturday afternoon, he continued to add to his resume.

Cespedes showed off his cannon, yet again, by gunning out the Mariners' Kyle Seager at home plate.

This comes just days after he threw out Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton on a rope.

Memo to the MLB: Don't run on Yoenis.

[MLB]

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MLB Records That Could Fall During the Rest of the 2014 Season

With just over three quarters of the MLB season complete, it is a good time to take a look at some records that are on the verge of being broken during the rest of the 2014 campaign.

True, the marks we are going to discuss don’t necessarily carry legendary weight. No one is on the precipice of breaking Barry Bonds’ single-season home run record, for example, or of topping the 233 strikeouts Mark Reynolds amassed in 2009.

These will be a bit more obscure.

Some are MLB records, and others are franchise specific. Some of them are achievements that a player will be happy to be remembered for, while others speak to the changing landscape of professional baseball.

Here are seven records that could fall during the rest of the 2014 season.

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4 MLB Rookies Who Will Have to Perform Like Veterans in Pennant Races

The 2013 playoff races were defined by strong rookie performances.

There was Michael Wacha, who went from first-round draft pick in 2012 to No. 2 starter for the St. Louis Cardinals down the stretch and well into the postseason. Gerrit Cole and Sonny Gray had similar impacts on their respective teams, as both right-handers reached the major leagues in the middle of the season and ultimately shined in their first tastes of playoff baseball.

Meanwhile, Billy Hamilton literally stole the show on the other side of the ball. The infamous speedster was called up in September and blew past all reasonable expectations by batting .368 with nine runs and 13 stolen bases over 13 games.

This season, there should be just as many, if not more, big-name prospects who influence their team’s quest for a playoff berth.

With that being said, here are four prospects who could impact the 2014 MLB postseason races.

 

*All stats courtesy of MLB.com, Baseball Reference or FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.

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Now 25 Years into Lifetime Ban, Pete Rose Deserves Return to Baseball

Charlie Hustle, for 25 years now, has been waiting for a second chance that continues to outsprint him.

When is a lifetime ban long enough?

When that life ends? At an arbitrary juncture sometime before? Perhaps when that life has reasonably passed the point where the man can do much more with the tools of his trade other than sit and reminisce?

Now, 25 years to the day (Sunday) Pete Rose was suspended for life by then-commissioner Bart Giamatti, the stars are realigning and the rows of corn are rearranging in baseball’s Field of Dreams. Two upcoming events now are positioned for what probably will be Rose’s last, best chance for reinstatement:

  • Commissioner-elect Rob Manfred is set to replace Bud Selig on Jan. 25.
  • The All-Star Game is scheduled for Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park on July 14.

So maybe right now is the time to begin the discussion surrounding whether Rose has done his time, enough time, and maybe the game should move toward some sort of reinstatement.

Mr. Manfred, tear down that wall.

While Selig would not offer details of what might happen in Cincinnati next July, he hinted that Rose will be allowed on the fringes.

"That will be up to the Cincinnati club, and they know what they can do and can't do," Selig said last month during his annual All-Star Game meeting with the Baseball Writers' Association of America. "It's sort of been subjective. They've done some things with Pete, but they've been very, very thoughtful and limited. But that's a subject that I’m sure they'll discuss next year."

So let's begin that discussion.

First, understand: Rose broke baseball's most sacred rule—no betting on the gameand he should have been harshly punished. He has been. No man who is still living has been iced for as long as Rose. Life with the Ghost of Shoeless Joe Jackson surely has been interminable.

So let's all agree on that. And from here, if you want to keep Rose locked up in solitary until he ascends (or descends, your pick) to meet Ty Cobb in the Great Hereafter, I respect that.

Rose long ago wrote his own future first by committing the crime, then by lying about it for 15 years. Even after voluntarily accepting the ban from Giamatti on Aug. 24, 1989, he still denied that he bet on the game. This surely killed any chance he had at leniency.

That Giamatti stunningly died of a heart attack just eight days after sentencing Rose further complicated things. Had he lived, would Giamatti eventually have commuted Rose's lifetime ban? We'll never know.

What we do know is that in the NFL, in 1963, then-commissioner Pete Rozelle suspended the Lions' Alex Karras and the Packers' Paul Hornung for one season for gambling crimes that included betting on their own teams.

Looking back, those suspensions were shockingly light.

But they do make you wonder: Is 25 years enough?

Understandably, baseball has carried a zero-tolerance policy where gambling is concerned since the Black Sox Scandal that fixed the 1919 World Series (the Sox's opponents, interestingly, were the Cincinnati Reds).

Unlike the Black Sox, Rose never was accused of fixing games. The Dowd Report documented that he gambled on Reds games between 1985 and 1987. He was a player-manager in 1985-86, then retired as a player and solely managed in '87.

He did the crime.

And he hasn't been allowed in the game on an official basis since.

At 73, Pete Rose is not going to manage. He's not going to pull on a uniform and affect the outcome of games. He's been away for far too long. Besides, baseball can bend and twist rules as it sees fit (see the Giants' protest from Chicago this week involving the rain and the tarp).

What about at least taking him off the permanently ineligible list and, even if you tell clubs he's off-limits as a manager, allowing him to, say, work as a guest hitting coach for the Reds during spring training (if they'll have him)? Or volunteer during the season?

As things stand right now, Rose is barred from going anywhere in a ballpark that a regular fan cannot go.

Except, and here is where hypocrisy steps to the plate, MLB allowed him to participate in an All-Century Team celebration at the 1999 World Series. It also permitted Rose to take part in festivities at Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park in 2010 marking the 25th anniversary of his record-setting 4,192nd hit.

But he is conspicuously missing in other celebrations, such as when the Reds closed Riverfront Stadium, or when the Phillies closed Veterans Stadium.

There comes a point where it is unconscionable to trot Rose out like a show horse for some occasions and keep him locked in the barn like a glue horse for others.

One of Manfred's biggest challenges will be to reconnect with a generation of young fans who slept through the World Series games of their youth because baseball long ago sold its soul to television.

Yes, Rose was well before their time. He's been in the hole for so long that he was from their grandparents' time.

Still, at this point, Rose can be an asset for baseball. As he will be the first to tell you, nobody can sell baseball like Pete Rose (well, maybe after he's done selling Pete Rose).

His enthusiasm remains contagious. The first question he asked a couple of writers when at Cooperstown, New York, last month was whether they thought there was any chance Derek Jeter would be elected to the Hall of Fame unanimously.

Manfred, so far, has not tipped his hand as to how he will approach the application for reinstatement Rose filed way back in 2002, the one Selig has just let sit there like a piece of junk mail. There are those who believe Manfred will keep Rose on ice because, after 20 years working in the commissioner's office, he's been conditioned to lean that way.

Then again, unlike Selig, who was very close with Giamatti, Manfred has no personal ties to Giamatti and 1989.

It's difficult to predict how he will play it, and so far, there are no tea leaves to read.

But can you imagine the scene in Cincinnati next July if an apologetic and rehabilitated Rose is reinstated back into baseball's clubhouse?

It is one of sports' longest-running and most enduring tragedies, how a man with the most hits (4,256), games played (3,562), at-bats (14,053) and times on base (5,929) of anybody in baseball history is locked out of the game for good.

As he told ESPN's Jeremy Schaap recently for an Outside the Lines special on the 25th anniversary of his lifetime suspension, "I've been led to believe America is a forgiving country, and if you do the right things—keep your nose clean, be a good citizen, pay your taxes, do all the things you're supposed to doeventually you'll get a second chance."

Now is a good time for eventually.

Forgiveness can be an incredibly complicated concept. As a Hall of Fame voter, I do not vote for Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire or any of the suspected performance-enhancing drug cheaters.

Granted, the PED scandal is totally different from that of Rose.

Still, though, I wonder: In a quarter of a century, will I change my mind?

 

Scott Miller covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report. He has over two decades of experience covering MLB, including 14 years as a national baseball columnist at CBSSports.com.

Follow Scott on Twitter and talk baseball @ScottMillerBbl. 

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5 Biggest Takeaways from This Week’s MLB Action

The latest Cuban star has found a new MLB home.

Rusney Castillo has agreed to a deal with the Boston Red Sox, as first reported by William Perez Villalba of Glorias del Beisbol Cubano. Already, there are differing reports on just how good the outfielder will be.

There has also been plenty of action on the diamond. The Oakland Athletics are learning all about life without Yoenis Cespedes, and how the 28-year-old's impact went far beyond the numbers. Plus, in the East, one club enjoyed a historic week and cemented its status as the team to beat in the National League.

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Orioles Need Bold Recourse to Contend Without Superstar Manny Machado

If misery loves company, the Los Angeles Angels just got company.

Two days after the Halos lost their ace Garrett Richards for the season to a knee injury, the Baltimore Orioles learned they'll be without budding superstar Manny Machado for the remainder of the 2014 season, per Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports.

As with Los Angeles, Baltimore is poised to make a deep run into October. The loss of Machado doesn't necessarily derail those hopes, but it adds a serious roadblock.

The 22-year-old third baseman posted a .278/.324/.431 slash line through 82 games with 12 home runs and 32 RBI.

Over the last month, he'd begun to turn it up, hitting .351 with five home runs and 15 RBI over a 28-game span, per Eduardo A. Encina of The Baltimore Sun

Machado has been on the disabled list since August 12 with a sprained right knee, but the O's and their fans were crossing their fingers for a stretch-run return.

"I'll probably try to bring some clarity and everything to where we are with that situation, try to gather exactly what he's being told, as far as when baseball activities would start and all that stuff," skipper Buck Showalter told MLB.com's Brittany Ghiroli.

Now clarity has come: Machado will undergo his second knee surgery in as many seasons. He hurt his left knee last September and wound up missing the remainder of the 2013 campaign plus the first month of 2014.

With that clarity, one thing is abundantly clear: Baltimore needs to get creative to keep its World Series hopes alive.

The playoffs still look like a near certainty. Entering play Friday, the Orioles stood at 73-53 and held a commanding 8.5-game lead over the New York Yankees in the American League East. 

But if they plan to make a serious push for the franchise's first championship in three decades, Baltimore must make a move.

There are internal options. Chris Davis could take over full time at the hot corner, where he's played 79 games in his big league career. 

The Orioles called up infielder Cord Phelps on August 13 when Machado first landed on the DL.

Phelps was hitting .258 with Triple-A Norfolk at the time of his call-up, be he's hit just .158 with two home runs in 114 MLB at-bats since 2011.

Not brimming with confidence? Want the O's to bring in outside help? There are names to consider.

The Texas Rangers, mired in a nightmare season, could be looking to deal. And third baseman Adrian Beltre cleared waivers on Monday, per Calvin Watkins of ESPNDallas.com.

The 35-year-old was hitting .322 with 17 home runs entering play Friday. It's unclear how willing the Rangers are to deal him, though.

The Washington Nationals inquired about Beltre prior to the trade deadline, per MLB.com's Bill Ladson, and "were rebuffed."

If Davis does make a permanent move to third, Baltimore could also look to add a first baseman or an outfielder. 

Another Ranger who cleared waivers, outfielder Alex Rios, could be an option, though he's battling a thumb injury, per Evan Grant of The Dallas Morning News.

As for first basemen, Adam Dunn of the Chicago White Sox cleared waivers last August, as reported by CBS Sports' Jon Heyman.

Dunn will be a free agent after the season, meaning it likely wouldn't require a mortgage of the farm to get him.

The Big Donkey is a liability in the field and is hitting just .224, but he's still got pop, to the tune of 19 home runs.

Any route the Orioles take will involve risk. Sure-bet players aren't just hanging out there waiting to be claimed in late August.

But this is a team with a legitimate shot at doing something special. You can't let those chances slip away, because you never know when they'll come again.

Misery may love company, but that's a party Baltimore is hoping to leave as quickly as possible.

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Manny Machado Injury: Orioles 3B Reportedly Having Season-Ending Knee Surgery

The Baltimore Orioles are running away with the American League East, but their chances at reaching the World Series once the postseason begins took a major hit Friday. Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports and Eduardo A. Encina of The Baltimore Sun provided an update regarding Manny Machado’s health:

Machado is hitting .278 on the season with 12 home runs, 32 RBI and a .755 on-base plus slugging. He has not played since an August 11 contest against the New York Yankees.

This is certainly unwelcome news for the Orioles as the stretch run of the season approaches. They are 8.5 games clear of the Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays and have their eyes firmly set on the postseason.

Machado is an important bat in a lineup that ranks sixth in the majors in batting average and third in slugging percentage. What’s more, he was just starting to heat up at the plate after hitting .333 in July and .378 in August.

Stay tuned for updates as they develop.

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Robinson Cano Wins Back New York Hearts with Awesome Celebrity Hoops Showdown

Robinson Cano left the New York Yankees to join the Seattle Mariners, but that didn't stop him from holding his joint charity event in Brooklyn with friend and former teammate CC Sabathia. Cano's RC22 foundation and Sabathia's PitCCh foundation held a celebrity charity basketball game at the Barclay's Center raising $1,040,000.

Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony were honorary team captains. I played alongside Terrell Owens, Rapper Fabolous, DJ Khaled and more representing Team Cano. Chris Brown led all scorers with 23 points for Team CC.

I caught up with CC and Cano to discuss their love for New York and the game of basketball.

And yes, of course our team won by 2 points! #TeamCano 


Follow Lance Fresh on Instagram and Twitter

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Robinson Cano Wins Back New York Hearts with Awesome Celebrity Hoops Showdown

Robinson Cano left the New York Yankees to join the Seattle Mariners, but that didn't stop him from holding his joint charity event in Brooklyn with friend and former teammate CC Sabathia. Cano's RC22 foundation and Sabathia's PitCCh foundation held a celebrity charity basketball game at the Barclay's Center raising $1,040,000.

Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony were honorary team captains. I played alongside Terrell Owens, Rapper Fabolous, DJ Khaled and more representing Team Cano. Chris Brown led all scorers with 23 points for Team CC.

I caught up with CC and Cano to discuss their love for New York and the game of basketball.

And yes, of course our team won by 2 points! #TeamCano 


Follow Lance Fresh on Instagram and Twitter

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

3 Reasons the Boston Red Sox Can Be Big September Spoilers

The Boston Red Sox's hopes for a return to October baseball may be long dashed by now, but they can still throw their weight around when it comes to affecting the eventual outcome of the American League playoff picture.

Playing the role of a spoiler is not exactly a lofty goal for teams like the Red Sox, who always have high expectations. At this point, Boston's priority should be the development of younger players on the roster as well as identifying the team's most pressing needs for the 2015 MLB season. 

But Boston's ability to finish strong in 2014 could prove vital in determining which AL east rival takes the division crown. The Red Sox's play might also affect other teams' chances around the majors.

Getting hot at the end of the year can be huge for any team regardless of the standings. Even if you are in the cellar—where the 56-71 Red Sox dwell—nobody wants to play you when you are riding a hot streak.

Boston can hope for this as the final month of the regular season draws near.

Let's take a look at three specific reasons why the Red Sox can be big-time spoilers in the month of September. Many of Boston's final matchups come against division rivals, so it will be interesting to see how the homestretch of the AL East plays out with the Red Sox being a significant factor. 

 

The Schedule

Nineteen of Boston's final 26 games are against teams within the division. Only three of these are against the 62-65 Tampa Bay Rays—nine games out in the division and seven back in the Wild Card race—meaning the Red Sox's matchups against the New York Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays and division-leading Baltimore Orioles are significant.

Baltimore has a stranglehold on the division—nine games up over both New York and Toronto, who are both tied for second place.

The Red Sox play the Orioles six times during September—three games at home and away, respectively. Baltimore is 7-6 against Boston this year.

It may be too much of a challenge to thwart the Orioles' hold on the division alone, but if Baltimore enters any type of slump at the end of the season, these six games could be a factor.

But the Red Sox's best chance of playing the spoiler role within the division will likely come down to how they fair against the Yankees and Blue Jays. Toronto plays three games at Fenway Park during the month of September and New York has six, with its final three of the season in Boston.

Facing a nine-game deficit in the division, both the Blue Jays and Yankees are likely vying for one of the two Wild Card spots in the American League. Boston is 5-8 and 3-10 this season against New York and Toronto, respectively.

Outside of the division, the Red Sox have the chance to upset the playoff hopes of the Kansas City Royals and Pittsburgh Pirates. Boston will play Kansas City four times and Pittsburgh thrice in the midst of a 10-game road trip.

The Red Sox lead the season series against the Royals 3-0. 

 

The Pitching

If the phrase "pitching wins championships" is true, then good pitching from a spoiler can also ruin a contender's chances for a championship as well.

We know the complete overhaul Boston's pitching staff underwent at the July 31 trade deadline. After the flurry of deals, the Red Sox's rotation looks nothing like what it did on Opening Day.

Let's not go so far as to say Boston's rotation is elite. Far from it. 

But there are a number of reasons to be hopeful for the team's current crop of arms in the waning days of the 2014 season.

Boston's pitching staff has a 3.81 ERA over its past 12 games. The bullpen, such a strength last year, has posted a respectable 3.27 ERA this season.

The problem of late has been the offense. During that same 12-game span, Red Sox hitters are batting just .224, averaging 3.83 runs scored per game. Boston needs a little more offensive thump to improve that differential. We'll get to that in a moment.

Back on the mound...

Let's make a case study out of the Red Sox's deadline acquisition of Joe Kelly. 

Kelly is 0-1 with a 5.29 ERA and 1.647 WHIP with Boston over three starts since the trade. Those numbers don't look particularly inspiring, but it is a small sample size.

If we take away Kelly's ugly August 17 loss to the Houston Astros, in which he allowed seven earned runs over 4.0 innings, Kelly's team ERA falls to 2.08—clearly a much more favorable number.

Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe summarized Kelly's impact over his first two games with Boston:

He’s now put together two very good starts since being traded from St. Louis along with Allen Craig for John Lackey, who has had one good outing and one bad outing for the Cardinals. Kelly is 26, while Lackey is 35. The Red Sox would rather have a pitcher throwing 94-96 miles per hour under their control until 2019 rather than deal with Lackey’s whining over a minimum salary contract and the fact that they would have to extend him to keep him happy.

Having Kelly under contract does provide some incentive. He'll look to solidify his spot in the rotation for next year, and a positive showing down the stretch will undeniably help him with that.

Oh, and it may affect teams the Red Sox face as well.

Let's bring our attention back to the rest of the rotation for a moment. 

Aside from Kelly, the Red Sox have Clay Buchholz, Rubby De La Rosa, Brandon Workman and Allen Webster starting. All four of these starters have something to prove for next year.

For Buchholz, it is the chance to show that his 5.94 ERA this season was merely a fluke. He wants to remain a part of the Red Sox's rotation in spite of trade rumors that have been circulating.

Buchholz still feels he can shine, per Tom Layman of The Boston Herald, and he will have just over a month to prove it.

The rest of the rotation has something to prove as well. It is impossible to guarantee spots for De La Rosa, Workman or Webster next season given the possibility of adding a free-agent starter during the offseason. Additionally, many of Boston's fine young arms—like Henry Owens and Anthony Ranaudo—will be vying for consideration.

Cafardo writes:

The Red Sox currently have no starting pitcher 30 or older, though Clay Buchholz turns 30 Thursday. Buchholz and Kelly surely sit on the front end of that rotation at present as the Red Sox continue to look at their youngsters such as Anthony Ranaudo, Brandon Workman, Rubby De La Rosa, and Allen Webster with Henry Owens, Matt Barnes, and Brian Johnson still in the minors.

Motivation can be a valuable tool even for players on a spoiling team. There are roster spots up for grab in 2015 and that competition begins now.

 

Getting Healthy

Boston's 2014 season has been one mired in injury and setbacks. This has unquestionably been a major factor in determining why the Red Sox have gone from World Series champions to last in the division.

We touched on the recent struggles of the Red Sox's offense. A .224 team average over the past 12 games is pretty rough, but there are reasons why.

Injuries have again taken their toll on Boston's offense. 

Designated hitter David Ortiz (soreness), first baseman Mike Napoli (back) and third baseman Will Middlebrooks (hamstring) have all recently missed time due to injury, per Chris Towers of CBS Sports. Allen Craig has spent most of his tenure with Boston on the disabled list, having landed there on August 1.

Deadline acquisition Yoenis Cespedes has also missed time due to a family issue.

Cespedes, Craig, Ortiz and Napoli provide much more thump to the Red Sox lineup. Unfortunately, this cast has seen relatively few chances to help the team since the deadline, so getting healthy will be paramount as the Red Sox's offense looks to improve.

Let's speculate that it does, however.

That combination, if healthy, should be able to increase Boston's recent average of 3.83 runs scored per game. If the rotation can hold its own, this would imply the Red Sox would improve on their overall record provided the bullpen can maintain its relatively solid season thus far.

This matters when factoring in the upcoming matchups against contending teams like Baltimore, Kansas City, New York and Toronto.

The Red Sox don't need to blow these teams out—though it would be helpful if they could—rather they simply need to gain the edge.

That edge will produce wins and potentially shake up the standings.

 

***

It all comes down to three factors: opportunity, good pitching and a healthy lineup—areas that have hindered the Red Sox for much of this season.

The opportunity to thwart opposing prospects for the postseason is there. We can thank the makers of the 2014 schedule for that.

Boston's rotation has a lot to prove in the final month of the season. As mentioned, jobs are on the line. Additionally, fielding a fully healthy team may provide the necessary boost the offense needs down the stretch.

We can't say that this will necessarily happen, but there are signs that it could.

At this point, those signs are all we can hope for.

 

All statistics are accurate as of August 21, 2014. Statistics, records and accolades courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise indicated.  

Peter Panacy is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report, covering the Boston Red Sox. Be sure to check out his entire archive on Red Sox news, insight and analysis.  

Follow @PeterMcShots on Twitter.

 

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Indians’ Corey Kluber Records 1st 200-Strikeout Season of Career

Cleveland Indians pitcher Corey Kluber became the third major league hurler to reach 200 strikeouts this season, hitting the milestone in Thursday's 4-1 loss to the Minnesota Twins.

In the midst of a tremendous breakout season, the 28-year-old right-hander now has 205 strikeouts through 27 outings, easily topping his previous career-high mark of 136 punchouts, which he set last season.

Though he reached a milestone and held the Twins to three runs over seven innings, Kluber took his first loss since June 30 on Thursday, as he was outdueled by Minnesota right-hander Phil Hughes, who is having a breakout season of his own.

Kluber's outing, while a strong one for most pitchers, was disappointing by the standards that he has created. He gave up just four earned runs over his previous six starts, compiling a 55-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 47.2 innings during that stretch.

Although the Seattle Mariners' Felix Hernandez remains the obvious front-runner, Kluber has nearly as strong of an argument for AL Cy Young honors.

Among qualified American League starters, the Indians' ace is third in ERA (2.46), second in innings (186.1), ninth in WHIP (1.08), tied for second in strikeouts (205) and tied for fifth in wins (13). Per FanGraphs.com's measure, Kluber has been worth 5.5 wins above replacement, tied with Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw for second in the majors, behind only Hernandez (6.2).

 

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Cincinnati Reds: Unexplored Internal Options for Left Field in 2015

It's finally come to this, Cincinnati Reds fans. With virtually no hope remaining in what has been one of the more miserable, disappointing Reds seasons to date, we shift our focus to 2015. In Redsland, 2015 is all we have. Beyond that, very little is guaranteed. 

Anyone with even a fractional interest in this team understands where improvements need to be made.

For years, dating back to 2010, left field has been a constant area of debate. We remember the days of the Jonny Gomes and Chris Heisey platoon. Ryan Ludwick was supposed to put an end to that, but in typical Reds fashion, a crippling injury in 2013 has reduced Ludwick to a shell of his former self.

He was signed by Walt Jocketty to essentially be the power bat in the middle of the order. But Ludwick has just 10 home runs in the near 479 plate appearances since he injured his shoulder on Opening Day of 2013. The power outage seems to be real. But it was probably expected considering he is 36 years old anyway.

And it's not just the power. Everything from batting average, OBP and slugging have all been down since the beginning of 2013. With that in mind, it's probably realistic that the Reds will spend $4.5 million just to send Ludwick off.

And with his departure comes the topic of replacements. 

The popular idea may be to just hit the market and sign a big bat. But with so many vital players approaching arbitration, that's unlikely. Because of what these players are making now, it is not far-fetched to assume that Mike Leake and Mat Latos get salaries close to or above $10 million. 

Alfredo Simon's salary will likely jump from just $1.5 million to maybe somewhere around $5 million, but that is strictly a guess and is in no way validated. Could be more, could be less.

Then there are, of course, the salaries of Jonathan Broxton, Sean Marshall, Homer Bailey, Brandon Phillips and Joey Votto.

Unless there is a decision to increase payroll, it is highly unlikely the Reds will have the cash necessary to procure the services of a bona fide cleanup hitter from the market. Therefore, they may have to consider internal options.

But is that a bad thing? With a healthy Votto, a healthy Jay Bruce, Devin Mesoraco and Todd Frazier, aren't any of them qualified to bat cleanup?

In my opinion, there are enough able bats on a healthy Reds roster to hit for power. But OBP is a major problem. Per ESPN.com, the Reds are No. 28 in OBP, nearly dead last. That, more than nearly anything else, needs to be addressed. The following are three guys who may be able to help do that from left field.

 

Jason Bourgeois

Jason Bourgeois is the starting center fielder for the Triple-A Louisville Bats. This 32-year-old right-handed option is no stranger to the big leagues. He's had stints with the Chicago White Sox, Tampa Bay Rays, Houston Astros, Kansas City Royals and Milwaukee Brewers

With a very limited time in the majors, his slash line after just 515 plate appearances in six years is .259/.305/.326. Surely that doesn't blow anyone away, but that's a very limited sample size.

In 15 minor league seasons, Bourgeois is slashing .282/.342/.386. This year, he's slashing .283/.336/.372. He has 143 hits in 126 games played. This isn't a power hitter, and he won't drive in many runs, but he gets on base at a healthy pace and can steal a base. 

 

Felix Perez

Felix Perez has played mostly right field in Louisville this season in a year in which he was named to the Independent League All-Star game. On the season, Perez is slashing .282/.328/.456. This 29-year-old has spent five seasons in the Reds farm system. His slash line for those five years is .281/.330/.405.

Unlike Bourgeois, Perez does have some power. He's got 11 home runs in 425 at-bats and 68 RBI to add to that. He also has 150 games of left field experience in five minor league seasons, with a fielding percentage of .990.

Per Rotoworld, Perez was once a prized prospect of the New York Yankees, but he lost out on a $3.5 million signing bonus when it was discovered that he lied about his age.

 

Devin Mesoraco

That's right. According to Cincinnati Enquirer beat writer John Fay, the Reds plan on possibly moving Mesoraco around a bit next spring. Per Fay, Mesoraco is willing, saying:

If that's something I was asked to do, I'd absolutely do it. There's a few positions that I could play, probably first base, maybe left field, that would take more work. But I don't see any harm in doing it. Spring training as long as it is, there's plenty of time for it. I'd be more than willing.

This is a likely option to consider, because with Brayan Pena inked through next season, he'll be able to play catcher while Mesoraco's bat stays in the lineup. It has been a challenge to keep him in the lineup for Bryan Price this year, so if Mesoraco becomes more versatile, it will help things out a lot.

Remember, while none of these options will blow you away, keep payroll in mind. It won't be the No. 4 hitter who takes the Reds to the next level. It will be the team's dominant pitching staff and, hopefully, its restructured, healthy bullpen.

The Reds need money to secure the very core of their team moving forward, so left field should be addressed as cost-efficiently as possible.

 

*Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless noted otherwise.

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Washington Nationals Match Franchise Record with 10-Game Winning Streak

The Washington Nationals won a 10th consecutive game Thursday, matching the franchise record for longest winning streak, per ESPN Stats & Info.

As has become the custom during their recent run, the Nationals won Thursday's game in dramatic fashion, downing the Arizona Diamondbacks 1-0 on a walk-off error by Arizona third baseman Jordan Pacheco in the ninth inning. The walk-off victory was Washington's fifth in a span of six games, something no team has done since the Houston Astros in 1986, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

Dating back to their time in Montreal, the Nationals/Expos have compiled five winning streaks of exactly 10 games, most recently—besides the current one—from June 2-12, 2005, per MLB.com. Each of the preceding four streaks ended at exactly 10 games, as the franchise has never put together an 11-game run in its 46-year history.

Among active major league franchises, only the Nationals/Expos and Miami Marlins have failed to compile a winning streak longer than 10 games. The Marlins have won nine in a row on four separate occasions but have yet to hit the 10-game mark in their 22-year history.

The Nationals head into Friday evening's game against the San Francisco Giants favored to take sole possession of the franchise record for longest winning streak. Playing at home for a seventh consecutive game, the Nationals will toss a red-hot Doug Fister against Giants right-hander Tim Hudson.

Fister, who owns a 12-3 record and 2.20 ERA this season, has not given up more than two runs in a start since July 2, with the streak spanning seven outings. He's held his opponent to three earned runs or fewer in 16 of his 18 starts this year.

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HyperLip Plastic Lips Forces Any Face Into a Grimace

HyperLip

 

Put on the HyperLip the next time you take a selfie and watch the likes pile up…not. It’s an unusual mouthpiece that forces the face of its wearer into a grimace. If you think only one kind of grimace exists, then think again, because these photos will prove you wrong. Who knew there could be so many ways to grimace–from smug and different to manic and just plain scary?

The HyperLip was created by French designer Sascha Nordmeyer back in 2009 as an art project. Now they’re back and are being used at the Olympus Photography Playground traveling exhibition, with the next event taking place in Cologne, Germany on September 11th to October 5th, 2014.

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No need to fret if you can’t make it to Germany because the HyperLip will be sold soon by LA design company Artecnica.

VIA [ Laughing Squid ]

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Want Pizza? Just Push for Pizza!

Push for Pizza

Want a pizza for breakfast, lunch, or dinner? No problem. Just fire up the Push for Pizza app on your phone and, well, push for pizza. You’ll be asked to enter your address and credit card info the first time you use it, but you can go straight to ordering pizza and specifying your toppings of choice the next time you use it.

Sure, you can order pizza online or by phone, but nothing beats ordering by just pressing that button. It doesn’t get any easier than this.

You can download Push for Pizza from iTunes here.

VIA [ Food Beast ]

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‘Ignore No More’ App Gives You the Power to Lock Phones Remotely

Ignore No More App1

 

Nobody likes being ignored, especially mothers. Unfortunately, kids (and even hubbies) these days ignore parents or their SOs for one reason or the other. Sometimes, it’s understandable. Other times, it causes undue panic because one party might assume that the other is in trouble. With this premise, Sharon Standifird created Ignore No More.

It’s an app that locks a paired device at the push of a button. The app has to be installed on both “parent” and “child” devices in order for it to work. (In some cases, that could be “wife” and “husband” or “girlfriend” and “boyfriend.)

Ignore No More App

The “parent” phone can be used to trigger the lock on the “child” devices, restricting the latter to emergency calls and other contacts whitelisted by the parent. Once the child phones the parent and all is well, the parent can then enter the master password to unlock the device.

Ignore No More is available on Google Play and can be downloaded for $2.

VIA [ Technabob ]

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Whistle Straws Let You Whistle While You Sip

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Feel like annoying the crap out of your friends? Nothing does that better than these Wet My Whistle straws. First and foremost, their design is based on slide whistles, which are played by blowing on one end while sliding the other in and out. They’re easy to play, but difficult to master.

The Whistle Straws build upon this concept, only you’re supposed to slide the straw in and out of your drink. The varying beverage levels changes the amount of empty space in the straw, which allows you to produce different tunes as you go along.

Whistle Straws

Suffice to say, you’ll probably regret handing these out to guests at your next get-together, for obvious reasons.

[ Product Page ] VIA [ Incredible Things ]

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Meet Rusney Castillo, the Boston Red Sox’s New $72.5 Million Cuban Star

The Boston Red Sox landed outfielder Rusney Castillo on Friday with a record-setting contract for an international player from Cuba. The 27-year-old, who defected last December, had been weighing offers from several teams over the past few days and ultimately decided on a reported seven-year, $72.5 million deal from Boston.

The contract will begin immediately for 2014 and run through 2020.

The $72.5 million amount was quite a bit higher than expected, as Jayson Stark of ESPN.com wrote earlier in the week that the figure was presumed to be in the $50-$60 million range.

Because he is older than 23 and played for more than three seasons in Cuba's top professional league, Serie Nacional, Castillo was not subject to Major League Baseball's international bonus pool restrictions. In that regard, Castillo falls into the same camp as Yoenis Cespedes, Yasiel Puig and Jose Abreu, three other Cuban stars who signed big-money pacts in recent years.

And in case you were looking for even more video of Castillo, here is some footage from his official MLB showcase less than a month ago:

Represented by Jay Z's Roc Nation Sports as of June, Castillo checks in at 5'9" and 205 pounds, according to Ben Badler of Baseball America, who speculates that Castillo is good enough to get to the majors this year, if not right away.

Here's a take from Badler's latest report:

Castillo, 27, has gained 20 pounds since leaving Cuba and is now 5-foot-9, 205 pounds, with his best tool his plus-plus speed. The extra size and strength has translated into an increase in power, with some scouts now putting a 60 on his raw power after pegging him with below-average to average raw power while he was in Cuba. In games, at least while he was in Cuba, he’s more of a line-drive hitter with an aggressive hitting approach. He won a Gold Glove in Cuba in 2011-12, with the speed and reactions off the bat to profile in center field in the major leagues, even though his arm strength appears to have backed up since he left Cuba.

There are conflicting opinions about just how good Castillo is. Many see him as an everyday outfielder—perhaps even a center fielder—with comparisons to speedsters past and present, as Jesse Sanchez and Ian Browne of MLB.com write:

Known as an athletic outfielder with surprising power, Castillo has drawn comparisons to Ron Gant, Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury in terms of style of play, and he is seen as close to big league ready. Whether the 27-year-old would provide that type of impact this season is up for debate. He's an older and a more seasoned talent than most amateur signings, but he also hasn't played competitive baseball in more than a year.

Others, however, suggest he's more of a "tweener" type who is more of a backup who could be a fill-in starter as needed, as Jason Mastrodonato of MassLive.com writes:

While in Cuba, Castillo didn't put up the numbers of fellow defectors Jose Abreu or Yoenis Cespedes, but played well from 2011 to 2013, hitting .315 with a .383 on-base percentage and .512 slugging percentage with Ciego de Avila in Cuba’s top league.

In comparison, Cespedes hit .334 with a .420 OBP and .629 slugging from 2009 to 2011. Abreu hit an astounding .393 with a .537 OBP and .802 slugging percentage from 2011 to 2013.

Considered more of a line drive hitter in Cuba, many scouts projected Castillo as a fourth outfielder, but he's added 20 pounds since defecting.

As B/R's Adam Wells wrote of Castillo back in January:

He's never shown much patience or plate discipline in Cuba, as evidenced by 32 walks in 420 plate appearances in the 2011-12 season. That’s not an unusual trait for players coming from Cuba. They are trying to hit their way on base, so being an on-base percentage guy isn't likely going to be Castillo's strong suit.

On the positive side, Castillo's ability to play center field doesn't put all the pressure on his bat.

What's important to consider regarding Castillo is that questions surrounded what kind of impact Cespedes, Puig and Abreu would have at the time they signed. All three of them, of course, have turned out to be borderline MVP candidates in MLB—and right away too.

"We've had more examples of high-profile Cuban players come out [in recent years], so maybe we're more informed now on what that transition is like," Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said, via Mastrodonato. "At the time I think there was an expectation of transition time and there really wasn't any."

Their success is only helping pump up the market for Cuban players looking to come to the United States, like Castillo and fellow outfielder Yasmani Tomas, who defected earlier this summer.

The better Cuban stars do in the majors, the more money they're going to get when they sign. This market is no longer the bargain bin it had been just a year or two ago.

As for how Castillo fits in with the Red Sox, given how much they're ponying up to obtain his services, he's clearly a big part of their future—and perhaps even their present.

Despite a disappointing 2014 season that has them in last place in the American League East after they won the World Series last year, the Red Sox have done a lot in the past month to retool their roster via trades and now the Castillo signing. In other words, Boston should once again be a factor as soon as 2015.

The organization is overloaded with outfielders at the moment, what with the likes of Cespedes (acquired in the Jon Lester trade), Allen Craig (acquired from the John Lackey deal) and Daniel Nava, as well as rookies Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. Veteran Shane Victorino, who has missed almost all of the season with injury, remains under contract for next year too.

That certainly could lead to a trade or two, which makes the Red Sox a very intriguing club to keep tabs on between now and the offseason.

One thing's for sure, though: The newest member of the Boston Red Sox, Rusney Castillo, is going to be a key part of the squad going forward.

  

Statistics are accurate as of Aug. 22 and come from MLB.com, Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs.com, except where otherwise noted.

To talk baseball or fantasy baseball, check in with me on Twitter: @JayCat11

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Rusney Castillo Signing Is Worth Risk for Boston Red Sox

In the midst of an extremely disappointing season, the Boston Red Sox are gambling on a better future with the signing of highly touted Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo.

According to Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com, Castillo and the Red Sox have agreed to a seven-year deal, and he is expected to play for Boston during the current campaign:

There is no denying the fact that the Red Sox are going out on a limb to some degree by signing a largely unproven commodity. With so many teams vying for the services of international players like Castillo, though, aggressiveness has become a necessity.

Based on the way the Red Sox have operated since last offseason, their pursuit and signing of Castillo doesn't come as a major surprise.

They were among the suitors for Cuban first baseman Jose Abreu, who ultimately signed with the Chicago White Sox. Abreu is enjoying a spectacular rookie season, with 32 home runs and 90 RBI to his credit.

According to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, Boston's failure to sign Abreu likely had something to do with its pursuit of Castillo:

This is the second high-profile Cuban outfielder that the Red Sox have added in a span of just three weeks. At MLB's non-waiver trade deadline, Boston dealt starting pitcher Jon Lester to the Oakland Athletics in exchange for dynamic slugger Yoenis Cespedes.

The combination of Cespedes and Castillo figures to be an exciting one at Fenway Park for years to come, but Rotoworld's Matthew Pouliot isn't convinced that it is a smart move:

His concern has some merit since it remains to be seen how the Red Sox plan on using Cespedes and Castillo together, but the move shouldn't be discounted right off the bat.

Castillo won't put up the same numbers as Abreu. However, that doesn't mean he can't match his value. He is a different type of player who adds value from a defensive and base-running standpoint that Abreu doesn't. Because of that, Castillo could prove to be just as vital.

The fact that Castillo is expected to join the Red Sox this season adds an interesting wrinkle to the signing. It isn't often that teams are able to sign a supremely talented player in the middle of a season and utilize them immediately.

When Castillo does officially get added to the roster, Jon Morosi of FoxSports.com points out that he will have to knock off some rust:

With that said, there is also some concern that Castillo isn't exactly in his best form right now, per ESPN's Jayson Stark:

How well and how much Castillo plays during the remainder of the 2014 season isn't the main concern, though. Simply integrating him into the organization and allowing him to get a feel for the majors should be the goal in order to set him up for success in 2015 and beyond.

The Red Sox are 56-71 and last in the AL East. That means they can afford to experiment without the fear of negatively impacting a run at the playoffs.

There is always inherent risk involved with throwing big money at a player who has never competed in the big leagues. Castillo's talent is obvious, though, and recent Cuban signings have worked out well.

The likes of Abreu, Cespedes, Yasiel Puig of the Los Angeles Dodgers and many more have gotten their MLB careers off to fine starts.

This contract obviously looks like a roll of the dice for Boston right now, but it could prove to be a major coup if Castillo lives up to his immense potential.

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter

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