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Gallardo Reportedly Signs Deal To Return To Brewers

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The Milwaukee Brewers have reportedly brought a familiar face back to Miller Park. Though it has not yet been confirmed, the team agreed to terms with former ace Yovani Gallardo on Saturday.

Gallardo, 31, was drafted by the Brewers in 2004 and played for the team from 2006 to 2014, after which he signed with Texas as a free agent. He then went to Baltimore and Seattle is consecutive years. Arguably the best pitcher in the team’s history, Gallardo was at his best with the Brewers and its probably not much of a coincidence that he’s played for three different teams in three consecutive seasons since. He was an All-Star in 2010 and won the pitching Silver Slugger that year as well.

If true, the move is wise for Milwaukee. Pitching was the only thing that the Brew Crew lacked in 2017 and they might have been able to capture the one of the two NL Wild Card spots had that not been the case (they finished just one GB of Colorado). Gallardo knows how to pitch in Miller Park and would give a veteran presence to a young staff.

Gallardo may not return as the ace that he once was for Milwaukee, but he will give Craig Counsell some much needed depth in the rotation. He may not solve the team’s pitching issues, but bringing the former fan-favorite back is a wise move for the Brewers and should pay dividends. We will have to wait and see if the move will be confirmed or turn out to just a rumor.

American League

Mediocre Bullpen May Cost Boston in 2019

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Boston's bullpen has a cloud of uncertainty surrounding it entering 2019.

The 2018 Boston Red Sox won a franchise record 108 games and iced the season with the franchise’s ninth World Championship, all in spite of a lousy bullpen. Closer Craig Kimbrel was the team’s only truly reliable option throughout the year and even he struggled badly at points. In 2019 the prognosis looks even worse for the staff. Boston lost two big bullpen assets this winter and hasn’t made any big moves to fill the void.

Kimbrel became a free agent after the season ended and has been reported as seeking a six-year, $100 million+ contract that would be a record for a reliever. The Red Sox and every other MLB team have made it evident that this won’t happen and Kimbrel is still available with Opening Day less than a week away. Fellow gas-thrower Joe Kelly also moved on and signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers, ironically who Boston defeated in the Fall Classic. Kelly was converted into a reliever in 2015 and it proved to be a good choice, as he was consistent and served as a capable bridge to the late innings

Kelly and Kimbrel’s absences leave a big hole in the Red Sox roster. It’s understandable why Red Sox President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski wouldn’t want to give such a massive deal to a closer on the wrong side of 30 like Kimbrel, but not resigning the fireballer at all may prove to be a mistake for Boston, especially since Knuckleballer Steven Wright was suspended for PED usage and will miss 80 games. Wright was expected to be a big part of the bullpen since he can both eat innings and get strikeouts. Instead the Sox lost another big name, albeit not permanently.

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Boston has walked away from its former ace closer Craig Kimbrel (AP).

Sophomore Manager Alex Cora announced today what the Red Sox bullpen will look like at least for the start of the 2019 season, and you wouldn’t be wrong if the first thought in your head was “average”. According to Boston’s MLB.com reporter Ian Browne, Cora’s ‘pen to start 2019 will be Matt Barnes, Heath Hembree, Brandon Workman, Ryan Brasier, Brian Johnson, Hector Velazquez, Tyler Thornburg and Colten Brewer. While that is by no means the worst group of relief pitchers a team could throw together (pun not intended), it isn’t exactly a stellar one either, due to the massive amount of question marks surrounding it.

The first and biggest problem is that none of those players seem capable of stepping up and taking the closer’s role. Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier seem to be the most viable guys if the team wants a set closer. Barnes has been with Boston since 2016 and spent most of that time as one of Kimbrel’s set-up men. He has battled consistency issues, though and has posted an ERA above three in each of the past two seasons, which isn’t exactly a selling point.

Brasier, on the other hand, was a very pleasant surprise for Boston when he was brought up from Triple-A on July 8 and proved to be very consistent. He posted a 1.64 ERA on the year and was given very important innings by season’s end and the playoffs. The only question with Brasier is if he can continue that success into the new season or prove to be a one-season wonder. After spending 2017 in the NPB, Brasier was a low-risk signing that has paid off on Boston’s part to this point. It all hinges on how he follows up.

Tyler Thornburg has shown in the past that he has the tools to be a dominant reliever, but he’s been all but non-existent since coming to Massachusetts. The 30-year-old was Boston’s return in the December 2016 deal that sent Travis Shaw to Milwaukee and Boston is still waiting for that return. Due to thoracic outlet syndrome, Thornburg missed all of 2017 and didn’t make his Red Sox debut until July 6, 2018, 17 months after he was acquired. He pitched to a 5.63 ERA in 24 innings and was not included on the playoff roster. 2019 will be Thornburg’s first full season with the Red Sox and the team is still waiting to see whether or not that December 2016 trade was a steal on the Brewers’ part. If he pitches well, Cora will put him in the big role that he was expected to fill. If he doesn’t, a designation for assignment may come a-calling.

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Longtime Red Sox Brandon Workman has toiled to get back to the majors, but will have to show that he’s worth keeping in 2019.

A member of the 2013 World Championship team, Brandon Workman is one of the longest-tenured Red Sox at this point. The righty’s fast rise was derailed in 2015 when he was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery that caused him to miss all of the next two seasons. He finally returned in 2017 but has had to fight for a roster spot ever since. Workman has shown that the surgery didn’t slow him and his stuff is still very effective. However, he hasn’t played a full season since 2014 and will have to prove that he is capable of handling the weight after all he’s been through. Cora is giving him the chance, the ball is in Workman’s court.

Similar to Barnes, Heath Hembree’s problem over the past few seasons has been consistency. Hembree excels at strikeouts and handles the middle innings well, but he doesn’t do well in pressure situations, which was why he wasn’t on the postseason roster last year until Steven Wright went down. In 2018 he struck out a career-high 76 batters but posted a 4.10 ERA. Since Wright will miss half of this season, Boston will count on Hembree even more to eat the middle innings. He will have to find a way to give up less runs, even if it means cutting down on his K total.

The problem with Hector Velazquez and Brian Johnson is that both are starters converted to the way of the bullpen. Both have been effective in this role over the last two seasons and can eat multiple innings when the rest of the ‘pen is spent, but neither possess dominant, overpowering stuff. You won’t see either come into the game in the eighth with the scored tied and the bases loaded. You can’t hold this against either Velazquez or Johnson, but it’s tough to deny that this bullpen lacks guys like that. Both pitchers are often called on as spot starters and this will continue, especially early this season. Boston opens 2019 on the West Coast with 11 games in as many nights.

All I can say about Colten Brewer is that I know nothing about him other than Boston acquired him from San Diego last November.

All of these guys are talented, but none of them are considered truly dominant. That’s not good enough for a Red Sox team that will compete for the AL East with a New York Yankees squad that spent the whole winter bolstering its relief core. Brian Cashman brought in a couple of big names and it would be very tough to say that the Bomber bullpen isn’t pretty darn stacked. Fellow sophomore Manager Aaron Boone will have Dellin Betances, Aroldis Chapman, Chad Green, Zach Britton and Adam Ottavino at his disposal. That’s a scary quintet especially considering all five of those guys can close. Boston won the East last season and beat its storied rival in the ALDS relatively easily, but the Yankees just might have the edge in 2019. Boston’s bullpen can be called mediocre at best, New York’s can be called an embarrassment of riches.

Will Boston end up resigning Kimbrel after all? It will be very intriguing to see how the team performs in the early going. No matter how well a starter does, every team has to turn to its relievers eventually. That may be a frightening experience for Red Sox Nation in 2019.



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American League

Red Sox Knuckleballer Steven Wright Suspended For PEDs

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Red Sox knuckleballer Steven Wright will sit out 80 games without pay.

The Boston Red Sox pitching staff suffered a big setback on Wednesday. The MLB announced that Boston knuckleball pitcher Steven Wright has been suspended 80 games for testing positive for the performance enhancing substance GHRP-2 ( Growth Hormone Releasing Peptide 2). The blow is a major one for both Boston and Wright personally, it will be All-Star Game time before he will be eligible to return.

Red Sox manager Alex Cora announced over the winter that the plan was for Wright to be converted to a reliever in 2019 and serve as a middle innings specialist. Boston’s bullpen will look dramatically different this year than it did during its historic 2018 campaign. Setup man Joe Kelly left for the Dodgers via free agency and the team has walked away from closer Craig Kimbrel, who is reportedly seeking at least a six-year deal and remains unsigned as Opening Day draws nearer and nearer. How President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski will fill the void remains to be seen.

Wright, on the other hand, has struggled remarkably over the last three seasons for a multitude of reasons and his strife just got even worse. In 2016 Wright was putting together one of the best seasons by a knuckleball pitcher in MLB history when he injured his shoulder as pinch runner in August. It forced him to miss the remainder of the year and dashed his case for the Cy Young award. Things didn’t improve the following season as he was limited to just five total appearances due to a knee injury that also ended his season, this time in May.

Then things took a far more serious turn. Wright was arrested on December 8, 2017 after a dispute with his wife Shannon at their Tennessee home in which he allegedly attempted to prevent her from calling 911, though his wife and the family’s attorney have both stated that Wright never laid a hand on her. Though it can be argued that his wife threw him under the bus, the MLB suspended Wright for the first 15 games of the 2018 season after he completed a rehab assignment. His knee issues returned after he served his suspension and he missed significant time for the third consecutive season, including Boston’s run to its fourth World Series title since 2004.

Given all this, it seemed like things for the knuckleballer couldn’t get any worse. After Boston’s 6-1 loss to Pittsburgh in Grapefruit League play, Wright spoke to the media and denied knowingly taking any banned substance, but accepted his punishment.

“I respect the Joint Drug Treatment Program,” Wright said to MLB.com’s Ian Browne. “Unfortunately, we couldn’t figure out how this particular substance got into my system. At the end of the day, it falls on me to try to prevent that.”

The 34-year-old has been attempting to simply get back to square one for the better part of the past three years, and he now has an even higher mountain to climb to make that happen. Wright proved in 2016 what kind of a pitcher he can be when he is healthy, but he hasn’t been consistently since then. The suspension could prove to be beneficial in that sense, however. Since it will be July before he can rejoin the Red Sox, Wright will have plenty of time to rest and rehabilitate and that could allow his plagued knee to at long last get back to 100%.

As for Boston, the team’s bullpen is now even more shorthanded than before. Will this force Dombrowski to re-open negotiations with Kimbrel? Boston has made its intentions of reducing payroll very clear and there’s no way that the team will give him the contract he’s seeking. If Dombrowski can get him to accept a lesser deal, it would be a great signing. Boston’s ‘pen was not strong in 2018 and now looks to be mediocre at best. Cora and Dombrowski have to address the flaw if the Red Sox want to be strong once again.

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American League

Royals C Salvador Perez To Have Tommy John Surgery

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Six-time All-Star catcher Salvador Perez will miss all of 2019.

The Kansas City Royals’ 2019 season may have been effectively torpedoed before it even began. The team announced on Tuesday night that catcher and franchise cornerstone Salvador Perez will undergo Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, he will miss the entirety of the 2019 season.

The announcement comes after the Royals diagnosed Perez with a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right arm. The 28-year-old sought a second opinion, but Dr. Neal ElAttrache of Los Angeles confirmed that Perez can’t avoid baseball’s two deadliest letters, TJ. It is believed he sustained the injury working out over the winter and did the final damage last Wednesday during a throwing session, Kansas City’s MLB.com reporter Jeff Flanagan states.

The news is obviously terrible for Perez, the MLB’s best defensive catcher and an All-Star in each of the last six seasons. The standard rehabilitation time is 14 months, though it will likely be less in this case for it is not a pitcher. Perez will undergo the operation tomorrow and, if all goes well, he could be ready in time for the start of the 2020 season.

Removing Perez from the equation isn’t good news for the Royals at all. The team has struggled mightily over the last two seasons and fell right back in the cellar of the American League Central almost as quickly as it climbed out and won the 2015 World Series. Ned Yost’s squad lacks big names and just lost its biggest for the entire season before it even began. With Perez out of the equation, Cam Gallagher will likely be the team’s Opening Day catcher.

The Royals probably weren’t expected to do much this season, but it appears they definitely won’t now unless they can fill a very sizable void.

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