Tagged in: Manager

Héctor Neris gets the Phillies’ closer role to start the season, Joe Girardi says

The Phillies’ rebuilt bullpen incorporates four new relievers who have experience closing games, but the ninth-inning duties will remain with the same closer from last season’s historically poor unit.

Manager Joe Girardi said Tuesday that Héctor Neris, the team’s primary closer for the last three seasons, will again handle the ninth. Archie Bradley and José Alvarado will be used in setup roles while other newcomers Sam Coonrod and Brandon Kintzler will be utilized when needed.

Neris had a 4.57 ERA in 24 appearances last campaign, converting five of his eight save chances. His production dipped last summer, but Neris’ strikeout rate (11.2 per nine innings), contact rate (61.4%), swing rate (66.2%), and hard-hit rate (39.7%) were similar to his marks in 2019 when he finished with a 2.93 ERA and 28 saves.

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There is an argument that Neris’ biggest detriment last season was bad luck as his batting average on balls in play was .381, the 14th highest among all relievers and 59% higher than it was in 2019.

More balls seemed to fall in last season against Neris, whose FIP — a stat that is similar to ERA but removes the results on balls hit into play — was the 22nd-best among relievers and two runs lower than his ERA.

The Phillies will give Neris the opportunity to show that he’s more the pitcher he was in 2019 than the one who never seemed to find his footing in last year’s truncated season. But if Neris stumbles, there are options waiting to take the ninth inning.

“Héctor’s been a successful closer, Archie’s been a successful closer. I know Alvarado can close and Kintzler’s been a successful closer,” Girardi said.

“I know they can all do it. I just decided to go with Héctor. He’s done it, he’s done it in this town, and I like the way he’s throwing the baseball.”

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Boston Red Sox name Eduardo Rodriguez their Opening Day starter

A year after a bout with COVID-19 denied him an opportunity to be the Boston Red Sox’s Opening Day starter, Eduardo Rodríguez is getting a do-over.

Manager Alex Cora made the declaration Wednesday following Boston’s 9-1 spring training victory over the Minnesota Twins. Rodríguez threw an efficient 55 pitches, striking out six and giving up two hits and one earned run over five innings.

“Indeed, it’s going to be Eduardo. He’s one of the best out there,” Cora said of the left-hander. “He had a great season in ’19. Last year, he wasn’t able to pitch for obvious reasons. What he’s shown now, he’s healthy and he’s ready to go. … It was just a matter of time.”

Boston opens its calendar April 1 versus the Baltimore Orioles. Rodríguez went 13-5 for the Boston team that won a franchise-record 108 games and the World Series in 2018. He went into the next year at the bottom of the rotation behind Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello and Nathan Eovaldi.

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But Rodríguez had the best season of the group, going 19-6 with a 3.81 ERA to finish sixth in American League Cy Young voting. He made his major-league-leading 34th start on the final day of the season with a chance at 20 wins but did not figure in the decision. Still, he finished with career bests in wins, ERA, starts, innings (203⅓) and strikeouts (213).

With Sale recovering from Tommy John surgery, Rodríguez was in line to start on Opening Day in 2020 before testing positive for the coronavirus and being diagnosed with inflammation in his heart muscles.

He said he couldn’t even complete a 25-pitch workout without feeling tired; on Aug. 1, just one week into the season, he was shut down for the year.

After putting the extended rest and recovery time to good use, he said he’s ready to take advantage of a chance he has yet to have during his five major league seasons.

Speaking prior to Cora naming him the starter, Rodríguez told reporters he would be honored to get the ball in the opener.

“If given the opportunity, I’m going to be so happy to do it because that’s something that everybody wants to do one time in their career,” he said.

“If I have the opportunity this year, I’m going to really appreciate it. I’m going to love it.”

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Texas Rangers reliever Jonathan Hernandez shut down from pitching at least 4 weeks with UCL sprain

The Texas Rangers will be without one of their top relievers to initiate the season after hard-throwing Jonathan Hernandez was shut down from pitching for at least four weeks because of a ligament sprain in his right elbow.

Rangers general manager Chris Young stated Tuesday that an MRI revealed a low-grade ulnar collateral ligament sprain after the right-hander felt something when throwing his last batting practice session.

Hernandez had a breakout season last year, when he was 5-1 with a 2.90 ERA in 27 appearances in the pandemic-shortened 60-game season. He had 31 strikeouts and eight walks in 31 innings, relying heavily on a sinker that averaged nearly 98 mph.

“The good news on him is that this [injury] is one that normally recovers and responds well with some rest,” Young said from the team’s spring training camp in Surprise, Arizona. Young also stated that outfielder/designated hitter Willie Calhoun is dealing with some mild groin tightness after playing Monday.

The team planned to be cautious with Calhoun for a few days but didn’t initially plan an MRI.

That game came exactly one year after Calhoun was hit in the face by a fastball that broke his jaw during a spring training game.

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Young said the Rangers would re-evaluate Hernandez after four weeks, and determine then if the 24-year-old’s ulnar collateral ligament has healed enough to begin a throwing program. He hadn’t yet pitched in a spring training game and will need significant time to build back up once he can throw again.

“Jonathan is obviously one we were counting on,” said Young, who expects the reliever to be out at least a couple of months. “This one hurts a little bit. But there’s still a chance he pitches this year.”

While Hernandez didn’t have any save opportunities last season, he pitched in some high-leverage situations. The Rangers expected to use him in a similar role this year, with maybe some opportunities as the closer.

“We kind of anticipated him being obviously one of our back-end guys, a multiple inning-type pitcher as well,” manager Chris Woodward said. “He’s an eighth-, ninth-inning guy that we can pitch for the eighth and the ninth if we wanted to. We don’t have that option with some of our other guys.”

Jose Leclerc is coming back from a shoulder injury the closer sustained a week into last season, when pitched in only two matches. Left-handed Joely Rodriguez, who had a 2.13 ERA and struck out 17 in his 12⅔ innings last season, is still behind in spring training because of a sprained ankle before getting to camp. He is expected to throw his first bullpen session Friday.

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New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone has surgery to get pacemaker

New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone is taking an immediate medical leave of absence after having surgery Wednesday to get a pacemaker, the team revealed.

The team stated Boone’s surgery went “as expected” and that he will spend the night at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa, Florida, to rest and recover. Boone was “in good spirits,” the team said.

General manager Brian Cashman said Boone could return to the team in two to three days.

The 47-year-old Boone, who had open-heart surgery in 2009, said in a statement that he has had mild symptoms of lightheadedness, low energy and shortness of breath over the past six to eight weeks. He said further tests in New York before spring training indicated he had a low heart rate, necessitating the surgery.

“My faith is strong, and my spirits are high,” Boone said. “I’m in a great frame of mind because I know I’m in good hands with the doctors and medical staff here. … They are confident that today’s surgery will allow me to resume all of my usual professional and personal activities and afford me a positive long-term health prognosis without having to change anything about my way of life.”

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Boone, entering his fourth season as manager of the Yankees, said he looks forward “to getting back to work in the next several days.”

Bench coach Carlos Mendoza took over as acting manager for Wednesday night’s exhibition, a 4-1 victory over Toronto in Tampa.

Mendoza, 41, was a minor leaguer mostly with San Francisco and the Yankees from 1997-09 and is starting his 13th season working for the Yankees. He joined the major league staff as quality control and infield coach under Boone in 2018 and succeeded Josh Bard as bench coach for 2020.

“The mindset doesn’t change,” Mendoza said. “We have a really good group of coaches here and really good personnel that are going to continue to get these guys ready to play the regular season.”

Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner said “the thoughts of the entire organization are with Aaron and his family” in a statement released by the team.

“Aaron leads our players, coaches and staff with a rare combination of work ethic, intelligence and a genuine concern for others,” Steinbrenner said. “Our only priority at this time is Aaron’s health and well-being, and we will support him in every way throughout his recovery.”

Boone played in the major leagues from 1997 to 2009. He was an All-Star for the Cincinnati Reds in 2003 shortly before getting traded to the Yankees. Later that year, his 11th-inning home run off Boston’s Tim Wakefield in Game 7 of the AL Championship Series won the pennant for New York.

Boone is a third-generation major leaguer; his grandfather Gus, father Bob and brother Bret also played in the big leagues, and his nephew Jake is a minor leaguer in the Washington organization.

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DeMarlo Hale replaces Brad Mills on Terry Francona’s Cleveland Indians coaching staff

Indians manager Terry Francona has assembled his coaching staff for the 2021 season, but it won’t contain his longtime friend and bench coach Brad Mills.

Francona, who missed much of this past shortened season with significant health issues, will replace Mills with DeMarlo Hale. Hale, 59, joins the Indians after spending the past two seasons with the Braves.

Hale previously worked on Francona’s staff in Boston from 2006 to 2011, serving as bench coach in 2010 and 2011. Hale has also been with Texas, Baltimore and Toronto. Mills, who opted out of the 2020 season for personal motives, will remain with the Indians in a yet-to-be determined capacity.

“DeMarlo was one guy that I kind of thought that if I ever get back to managing again, this is a guy I’d like to have on my staff. He’s really good. He has an unbelievable way of not just communicating, but connecting with everybody,”

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Francona stated on a call from his home in Arizona.

Francona intends to return for his ninth season with the Indians.

He managed only 14 games this year due to a gastrointestinal issue requiring surgeries as well as blood-clot complications that landed him in the hospital for several days.

“I feel good. I’ve spent the last six weeks really working hard,” Francona said. “I told (Indians president of baseball operations) Chris (Antonetti) I needed to do that. I said, ‘Hey, give me until Thanksgiving just to make sure I’m OK.’ We’re coming up on Thanksgiving now and I’m doing pretty well.

“I’ve been active, lost some weight and feel like I’m putting myself in a better position to succeed physically over the course of a long season.”

With first-base coach Sandy Alomar Jr. filling in for Francona, the Indians clinched a wild-card spot but were eliminated by the Yankees.

Alomar, who has been a Cleveland coach for more than a decade, figured to be a candidate for a managerial job but didn’t get one.

That shocked Francona.

“I was borderline stunned that somebody didn’t try to hire him away from us this winter, because I thought he basically did a 54-game interview process and did it under the most difficult of circumstances and kind of aced it,” he said. “Now, for personal reasons, I’m glad he’s staying. I love having him on our staff.

“I guarantee you Sandy has as much or more responsibility than any first base coach in baseball, and there’s a reason, and that’s because he’s really good. … When you spend eight years with somebody you get to trust them a lot. So for personal reasons, I’m thrilled he’s back, but I am really surprised.’

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DeMarlo Hale replaces Brad Mills on Terry Francona’s Cleveland Indians coaching staff

Indians manager Terry Francona has assembled his coaching staff for the 2021 campaign, but it won’t contain his longtime friend and bench coach Brad Mills.

Francona, who missed much of this past shortened season with significant health problems, will replace Mills with DeMarlo Hale. Hale, 59, joins the Indians after spending the past two seasons with the Braves.

Hale previously worked on Francona’s staff in Boston from 2006 to 2011, serving as bench coach in 2010 and 2011. Hale has also been with Texas, Baltimore and Toronto. Mills, who opted out of the 2020 season for personal reasons, will continue with the Indians in a yet-to-be determined capacity.

“DeMarlo was one guy that I kind of thought that if I ever get back to managing again, this is a guy I’d like to have on my staff. He’s really good. He has an unbelievable way of not just communicating, but connecting with everybody,” Francona said on a call from his home in Arizona.

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Francona intends to return for his ninth season with the Indians.

He managed only 14 games this year due to a gastrointestinal issue requiring surgeries as well as blood-clot complications that landed him in the hospital for several days.

“I feel good. I’ve spent the last six weeks really working hard,” Francona said. “I told (Indians president of baseball operations) Chris (Antonetti) I needed to do that. I said, ‘Hey, give me until Thanksgiving just to make sure I’m OK.’ We’re coming up on Thanksgiving now and I’m doing pretty well.

“I’ve been active, lost some weight and feel like I’m putting myself in a better position to succeed physically over the course of a long season.”

With first-base coach Sandy Alomar Jr. filling in for Francona, the Indians clinched a wild-card spot but were eliminated by the Yankees.

Alomar, who has been a Cleveland coach for more than a decade, figured to be a candidate for a managerial job but didn’t get one.

That shocked Francona.

“I was borderline stunned that somebody didn’t try to hire him away from us this winter, because I thought he basically did a 54-game interview process and did it under the most difficult of circumstances and kind of aced it,” he stated.

“Now, for personal reasons, I’m glad he’s staying. I love having him on our staff. “I guarantee you Sandy has as much or more responsibility than any first base coach in baseball, and there’s a reason, and that’s because he’s really good. … When you spend eight years with somebody you get to trust them a lot. So for personal reasons, I’m thrilled he’s back, but I am really surprised.’

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Tampa Bay Rays’ Kevin Cash named AL Manager of the Year

Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash was selected American League Manager of the Year on Tuesday, receiving 22 of the 30 first-place votes.

Cash guided the Rays to a division title as well as the AL’s best regular-season record at 40-20. The Rays’ .667 win percentage was by far the best in franchise history.

Tampa Bay overcame a rash of pitching injuries to clinch the AL pennant before losing in six games to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series.

Cash, who turns 43 on Dec. 6, hit .183 with 12 homers and 58 RBIs in 246 major league games as a catcher for five teams, including Tampa Bay. After his playing career, he worked as an advance scout for Texas and Toronto before joining Terry Francona’s staff in Cleveland as the bullpen coach.

The Tampa, Florida, native and Florida State alum was hired as Tampa Bay manager the day before his 37th birthday. “There is a sense of pride being a Tampa guy,” stated Cash, who is 454-416 in six years as manager of the Rays.

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Tampa Bay had a $29 million prorated payroll as of Aug. 1, which ranked 28th out of 30 teams.

Still, the Rays obtained the AL East for the first time since 2010.

Cash became the second manager in Rays history to win the AL Manager of the Year award, joining Joe Maddon, who won the award in 2008 and 2011. Cash ended third in the balloting for AL Manager of the Year each of the past two seasons.

Cash was roundly criticized for pulling ace left-hander Blake Snell in the sixth inning of the decisive Game 6 of the World Series versus the Dodgers. However, the Rays leaned heavily on their bullpen throughout the pandemic-shortened season, with 12 pitchers recording at least one save — matching the major league record. Cash has insisted that if he were to face the same situation again, he would trust his bullpen to close it out.

“Yes, I would do it the same way all over again. I would plead for a different outcome, that’s for sure,” Cash said. “That decision was not reflective of my confidence in Blake. It was very reflective of my confidence in Nick [Anderson], and that’s [what] I felt was, at the moment, the best chance for us to win the game.”

Voting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America concluded before the start of the playoffs. Rick Renteria of the White Sox finished second, and Charlie Montoyo of the Blue Jays finished third.

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Manager Aaron Boone will turn to rookie Deivi Garcia to start Game 2 for New York Yankees

By taking the mound in Game 2 of the American League Divisional Series versus the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday, rookie Deivi Garcia will make history.

The 21-year-old Dominican-born pitcher will become the youngest player to make a postseason start in New York Yankees franchise history (at 21 years and 140 days).

Despite only six major league starts under his belt, manager Aaron Boone said he opted to go with Garcia due to the maturity he has displayed this campaign.

According to research by ESPN Stats & Information, the only other 21-year-old to make a postseason start for the Yankees was Whitey Ford in Game 4 of the 1950 World Series (21 years, 351 days).

“We deliberated on that a lot over the last several days,” Boone stated Monday ahead of Game 1 of the ALDS at Petco Park in San Diego.

“Masa [Masahiro Tanaka] will now go in Game 3. So just like slot and Deivi in between [Game 1 starter Gerrit] Cole and Masa was the way we wanted to go.

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“I think the way he’s pitched, and the way he’s handled himself and handled every situation so far. I felt like I wanted to go this way a couple days ago but wanted to continue to flesh it out because we could. Ultimately today, this morning, decided this is the way I wanted to go. I just felt [we had] a lot of good options there, [different] ways we could have gone. I don’t worry about him not being able to handle it, mentally, emotionally and all those things and I know he’s looking forward to it.”

The rookie right-hander concurred.

“Super excited,” Garcia said of his reaction upon hearing the news from Boone. “When they finally told me that I was going to get the ball for Game 2, what can I say? Just so excited about it. At the same time, very thankful for the opportunity and I will try to go out there and do the best I can.”

Tuesday’s start will also make Garcia the fifth-youngest player in American League history to make a postseason start, and the youngest player born outside the United States to make a playoff start in the AL.

Overall, only Los Angeles Dodgers pitchers Julio Urías (20 years, 68 days) and Fernando Valenzuela (five times) were younger in making a postseason start among players born outside the U.S. Garcia, who stated he idolized Hall of Fame starter Pedro Martínez growing up in the Dominican Republic, reiterated that it was an honor to make pinstripes history.

Including a subpar outing at Fenway Park, Garcia finished the coronavirus-shortened 2020 regular campaign with a 4.98 ERA in 34⅓ innings pitched.

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Mets pitcher Marcus Stroman opts out of 2020 season

Marcus Stroman’s recuperation from a torn left calf muscle was almost complete, and he was in line to possibly make his season debut for the New York Mets next week versus the Miami Marlins.

But the idea of traveling to one of the country’s coronavirus hot spots played a factor in Stroman’s decision Monday to opt out of the 2020 campaign.

“Obviously, you see the Cardinals, the Marlins, you see spikes everywhere in the country, you see protocols not being handled properly from citizens everywhere,” Stroman said during a Zoom call. “You see us going to Florida soon. That was a big discussion I had with my family. Going to see the Marlins soon, that’s something I don’t want to be in that situation.”

Stroman, booked to become a free agent after the season, is the second Mets player to opt out this month. Designated hitter Yoenis Cespedes left the team Aug. 2. Stroman said he had daily conversations with his family about what to do. His grandmother and uncle have compromised immune systems and are around his mother on a regular basis.

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“This was a decision I had to kind of take myself out of it and look out for the best interests of my family,” Stroman said.

His decision came four days after he threw 85 pitches in his second simulated game and a day before he was arranged to throw another simulated game.

On Sunday, manager Luis Rojas expressed hope it would be the last simulated game for Stroman, who was injured during the Mets’ summer workouts. New York’s next road trip is to begin Friday at Philadelphia and conclude with a four-game set at Miami Aug. 17-20.

Rojas said he understood Stroman’s decision but was surprised.

“He wanted to do another one just to play it safe and see how he felt coming out of it and then come join us,” Rojas said Monday. “But, once again, we fully support him.”

Stroman will go on the restricted list, allowing the Mets to clear a spot on the 40-man roster.

Stroman’s exit further weakens a rotation that looked like one of the best before the pandemic shut the game down in March. While two-time reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom has been impressive in four starts, Noah Syndergaard is out for the season after Tommy John surgery and Michael Wacha went on the injured list Sunday with a shoulder injury Sunday.

With Stroman out, rookie left-hander David Peterson, who is 2-1 with a 3.78 ERA in his first three big league starts, is locked into a rotation spot. General manager Brodie Van Wagenen said relievers Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman are possibilities to fill the fifth spot.

Stroman was 4-2 with a 3.77 ERA in 11 starts last season for the Mets, who acquired him a little over a year ago. He grew up on Long Island about 50 miles from Citi Field.

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Red Sox remove interim tag from manager Ron Roenicke’s title

Ron Roenicke is no longer the “interim” manager of the Boston Red Sox. He’s now Mr. Manager — or as they call it in MLB, just the manager.

The team lifted the interim tag from Roenicke’s title Wednesday after MLB released its report on the 2018 Red Sox sign-stealing scandal. Roenicke was elevated to interim manager when Alex Cora and the team parted ways after Cora was outed as the mastermind of the 2017 Houston Astros cheating scandal, and Boston chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom explained the temporary interim tag on a conference call on Wednesday night.

“At the time that we named Ron interim manager, we explained the interim tag was necessary in order for us to respect that there was an ongoing investigation,” said Bloom. “Obviously, with that investigation complete and given the results of the investigation, that interim tag is removed and Ron is now our manager.”

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That investigation did not find any Red Sox coaches of players responsible, outing Boston’s replay operator J.T. Watkins was the main culprit. He has been banned through the 2020 season, and cannot return to his role as Boston’s replay room operator until after the 2021 season.

Roenicke is now the 48th manager in Red Sox history.

He is working on a one-year contract that expires after the 2020 season, Bloom said Wednesday night.

While there are theories that Cora may return to the Boston bench after serving his one-year suspension — which was handed down Wednesday for his action with the Astros in 2017 — Bloom said Roenick will get a chance to earn an extension this season.

Roenicke is a well-respected baseball man and well-liked in the Boston clubhouse. He served as manager of the Milwaukee Brewers from 2011-15, posting a 342-331 record over that span.

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