Results tagged ‘ Jesse Crain ’

Astros sign reliever Crain

The Astros have agreed to terms on a one-year contract with free agent right-handed pitcher Jesse Crain, who played at the University of Houston.

Crain, an American League All-Star in 2013, posted an 0.74 ERA in 37 relief appearances for the White Sox with 11 walks and 46 strikeouts in 36 2/3innings pitched for an 11.29 strikeouts per nine innings ratio. Other highlights from 2013 included holding right-handed hitters to a .174 average (12-for-69), no home runs allowed and a  streak of 29 consecutive scoreless appearances from April 17 through June 22.

Crain’s season ended prematurely due to a right shoulder strain. The White Sox traded Crain to the Rays on July 29, but he did not appear in a game for the Rays.

– Brian McTaggart

12/23 Roundup

The Dodgers already have a strong closer in Kenley Jansen, but that hasn’t stopped them from bolstering their bullpen during Hot Stove season, acquiring a pair of experienced ninth-inning men in the process.

Los Angeles, which already had re-signed Brian Wilson and J.P. Howell, took steps to further strengthen its relief corps on Sunday and Monday by reaching reported agreements with former Indians closer Chris Perez and veteran right-hander Jamey Wright. The club’s bullpen could be a force to be reckoned with this season, writes our Phil Rogers.

In other news around the league on Monday:

  • Our Doug Miller takes a look at the players who could be finding new homes during the holiday season in the latest edition of The Week Ahead.
  • Also in the holiday spirit, our Anthony Castrovince proposes the perfect gift for each National League club.
  • The Twins finalized their deals with catcher Kurt Suzuki and right-hander Mike Pelfrey.
  • At Sports on Earth, Jack Moore runs through the top six remaining free agents, with Kendrys Morales grabbing the top spot.
  • Reds general manager Walt Jocketty told the Cincinnati Enquirer that his club will account for the loss of Shin-Soo Choo by making speedy prospect Billy Hamilton its starting center fielder and leadoff hitter.
  • After backing out of a deal with Grant Balfour due to concerns over his physical, the Orioles are looking at Fernando Rodney to fill their closer vacancy but also are interested in re-signing Fernando Rodriguez, according to The Baltimore Sun.
  • Meanwhile, Balfour continues to draw interest from other teams, with the New York Post reporting that the Yankees are among those involved. The San Francisco Chronicle’s Henry Schulman also tweeted that the Giants have had “conversations” with Balfour.
  • The Cubs are one of the teams interested in veteran reliever Jesse Crain, according to Bruce Levine of Chicago’s WSCR-AM and 670thescore.com.

– Andrew Simon

Veras would like to return to Houston; Astros in on Morse

Free agent pitcher Jose Veras, who served as the Astros closer the first half of the season, said Tuesday his agent has been talking to Houston about a possible return to the Astros.

Veras, who lives in Miami, told MLB.com he would be thrilled to come back to the Astros, who signed him to a one-year deal a year ago and then traded him to Detroit in July. Veras saved 19 games for the Astros last year and posted a 2.93 ERA with 44 strikeouts and 14 walks in 43 innings.

“It feels like family there,” Veras said. “It’s a young team and they’re hungry to win. I feel part of the team. I doesn’t matter to me if we won or lose. When you play as a team and everybody cares, that’s the best part for me. I do my job to make the tam excited we won the game.

“It was my first time to get an opportunity to be a closer, and I appreciated that part. It felt like the best place I’ve been. I was talking to my agent and I feel excited the Astros are interested to bring me back to the team.”

The Astros have added Chad Qualls to their bullpen but would like to sign one more reliever. They’ve talked to the representatives of Jesse Crain, a Houston resident, and Chad Gaudin.

Meanwhile, a source told MLB.com the Astros have been talking with the agent for free agent outfielder/first baseman Mike Morse, who has a history with manager Bo Porter in Washington. Morse, 31, hit .215 with 23 homers and 27 RBIs in only 88 games split between the Mariners and Orioles last year and is two years removed from slugging 31 homers for Washington in 2011.

– Brian McTaggart

A look at the Rockies’ plans with Hawkins and Brothers, plus notes on batting and pitching pursuits

The Rockies’ pursuit of veteran right-hander LaTroy Hawkins, which resulted in a one-year, $2.5 million guarantee that will become official once Hawkins passes a physical, can be seen in an odd way as a compliment to young lefty Rex Brothers, who served capably as closer when veteran Rafael Betancourt was injured.

Brothers, who turns 26 on Dec. 18, went 19-of-21 on save chances and finished with a 1.74 ERA last season. At times he struggled putting away hitters early in innings but he still struck out 76 (against 36 walks) in 67 1/3 innings. It certainly is a signal that he could become even more effective.

But before Betancourt went through a right groin strain, an appendectomy and finally a season-ending elbow injury, many of Betancourt’s save opportunities came partly because of Brothers’ effectiveness as a setup man. Brothers’ club-record 30-inning scoreless streak, which covered 32 games, ran from April 10 to June 27. Only the final nine games of the streak came while he was in the closer role.

As the season progressed, several games ended with Brothers not even taking the mound, because the middle relief and setup men pitched away the lead. It’s the old sabermetric argument: Why have the best option sitting in the bullpen while lesser pitchers blow it?

Hawkins ended up an effective closer for the Mets late last season. He earned all 12 of his saves and blew just one from Aug. 6 to season’s end. He struck out 18 against one walk and held opponents to a .222 batting average in those 23 appearances. At 41, he still throws hard enough and deceptively enough to be trusted with the final inning. The Rockies believe if he holds the closer job, it frees them to use Brothers when the game is tight before the ninth. And if plans change and Brothers at some point ends up the closer — which has been his plan his entire career — Hawkins gives them an attractive option in a setup role.

The Rockies still want to shore up the setup roles through free agency. Signing Hawkins as closer likely takes them out of the chase for Brian Wilson and Grant Balfour, who could be invited to pitch the ninth inning by another club. But a hard throwers such as Jesse Crain, Joe Smith or Jose Veras could further fill the Rockies’ needs.

The attempt to load up the back of the bullpen makes for intriguing competition and decisions when it comes to holdovers from last season. The club likes the 96 mph-plus fastball that righty Chad Bettis brought last season when used in relief, and will keep him there rather than revisit him in the rotation. They tested righty Adam Ottavino in late innings and there were some encouraging numbers, such as a 2.00 ERA at Coors Field. Righty Mitchell Boggs finished up with the Rockies after struggling mightily with the Cardinals when forced into the closer role, and the club is having internal discussions about returning him to a starter role. Boggs started 15 of his first 24 big-league appearances when breaking in with the Cards in 2008 and 2009.

The Rockies also continue to be in the market for starting pitching, although it’s unclear exactly where they’ll look. They’re often leery of accomplishment elsewhere because of the Mike Hampton-Denny Neagle experiment a few years back, but Tim Hudson profiled well. However, Hudson decided to take his passion and intensity to the NL West with the Giants.

Left-handed hitting outfielder-first baseman James Loney continues to be a prime candidate for the corner bat the Rockies seek. Corey Hart, coming off a knee injury, told a satellite radio audience on Tuesday that the Rockies, Red Sox and his former team, the Brewers, have checked in with him. Not much will be known until next month, when he is cleared for full activity. What isn’t clear is how strongly the Rockies are pursuing first baseman Mike Napoli, whose ability to make a pitcher work would fit nicely at first base. However, with his 2013 team, the World Series champion Red Sox, and others in the mix, the Rockies may drop out of the bidding the way they did with catcher Carlos Ruiz, who re-signed with the Phillies on Monday.

– Thomas Harding

How would Carlos Beltran look in purple pinstripes?

Open-market musings:

How would Carlos Beltran look in right field for the Rockies?

The club is weighing various options in free agency, with a big bat being one of the priorities. While trads are an option, the Rockies are more likely to go the free agency route. That’s what they did two years ago when they signed Michael Cuddyer, who paid off for them by winning the National League batting title this year.

Don’t be surprised if the Rockies don’t at least seriously consider making a run at Beltran, who made his first World Series appearance this year while with the Cardinals. He’ll be 37 to start next season, but was quite productive in 2013 — .296, .339 OPB, .491 SLG. Those aren’t far from the numbers over his career. With a team that includes Carlos Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki and Cuddyer, it could be a fit. He could come in at two years and $30 million, as the MLB Trade Rumors Web site predicts. The Rockies had interest in him in the past.

Of course, there are many was for the Rockies to spend their money on a slugger, who can fit in at either first base or right field with Cuddyer playing the other position. Nelson Cruz, who is expected to turn down the Rangers’ qualifying offer and test the market, Justin Morneau, Marlon Byrd, James Loney (.338, nine home runs, 54 RBIs, .957 OPS in 55 games at Coors Field) and Corey Hart also could fit the bill. Brian McCann can catch and play first base, but at the top of his earning value in terms of money and years it’s doubtful the Rockies will be a serious competitor for his services.

The Rockies will attempt to bring in a pitching leader, and are expected to inquire about Tim Hudson — despite the fact the Braves, Royals, Indians and and Red Sox have already identified themselves as contenders — and Josh Johnson. The price figures to be high for Ricky Nolasco or Ervin Santana, as SI.com and others report, but the Rockies need a stalwart and can’t be counted out in those sweepstakes. Matt Garza, who could score big in free agency, and Jason Vargas also could be possibilities.

Also, add the name of righty reliever Jesse Crain to the list of publicly identified free-agency targets. The Denver Post has identified Brian Wilson, Grant Balfour, Joe Smith and Jose Veras as bullpen possibilities. ESPNNewYork.com reported the club is looking at LaTroy Hawkins.

The Rockies are also pursuing free-agent catcher Carlos Ruiz, although the Phillies are making a push to keep him. If the Rockies sign him, the intriguing situation is what becomes of catcher Wilin Rosario, a slugger who doesn’t have Ruiz’s experience or ability defensively.

– Thomas Harding

Rockies won’t deal Cuddyer, believe they’re a contender

The Rockies enter the second half four games under .500, but at 4 1/2 games behind the National League West-leading D-backs, which has Rockies owner Dick Monfort believing the team is a contender. That assessment will color the team’s approach to the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, even though they tend not to make huge moves.

The Rockies were 35-32 when shortstop Troy Tulowitzki left the lineup with a broken rib. Tulowitzki returned for the final series before the break, and team could improve if he can stay healthy and performs to his current numbers (.332, 16 HRs, 52 RBIs in 64 games).

“You’ve got him back — you don’t know for how long; he’s got a history – but if he stays healthy, yeah I think so,” Monfort said when asked if he believes the Rockies have a shot.

Monfort threw cold water on the suggestion that the club could trade All-Star right fielder Michael Cuddyer.  Speculation during the break was that the Rockies could deal him for an established pitcher, such as the Cubs’ Matt Garza.

“Not a chance,” Monfort said. “You look at how vulnerable we are when we lose ‘Tulo,’ he [Cuddyer] is a right-handed bat,” Monfort said. “Right-handed corner bats with power are pretty important. You put into the mix he’s a guy that has Major League at-bats, and he plays first base.”

Monfort said he could see trading for “the right starting pitcher,” but he said he will not deal key lineup parts or prized prospects. That’s especially true in the case of Garza, who is a free agent at season’s end. Still, there are holes in the rotation. Juan Nicasio threw well in his final start before the break, after a brief demotion to the Minors. Lefty Drew Pomeranz has yet to have a strong start in the Majors this year.

That could mean the Rockies are more in the market for bullpen help. White Sox All-Star right-hander Jesse Crain has been a prime target, but he currently out with a shoulder injury and it isn’t certain if he’ll pitch before the deadline.

“We’re hoping Nicasio stays good, but that still leaves a hole until [veteran Roy] Oswalt comes back [from a hamstring injury], but that’s no given,” Monfort said. “I guess that’s where you’d look first, but bullpen is something else.

“Starting pitchers don’t profile well here. You just never know when you get one of those, a la [Jeremy] Guthrie, a la Jason Marquis.”

Monfort allowed for the possibility that the right starter at the right price could be had closer to the deadline.

“Everybody’s asking price is huge for these pitchers right now,” Monfort said. “You never know what happens [close to the deadline when teams struggle]. Look at San Diego. They went from a buyer to potentially a seller.”

Thomas Harding

Rockies pursue numerous pitching targets

Will the Rockies make a move for a proven starting pitcher at, before or after the non-waiver Trade Deadline on July 31?

Here’s what we’re hearing, according to those with knowledge of the possibilities:

The Rockies are not considered prime contenders for the Marlins’ Ricky Nolasco, but it’s not impossible that they’ll talk to the Marlins. Nolasco is in the final year of his three-year, $26.5 million deal. With many clubs around baseball, including National League West contenders the Giants and the D-backs, being mentioned as possible trading partners, the question is whether the asking price will be too high in terms of prospects or Major League-ready players.

Another possibility is the Brewers’ Yovani Gallardo, who is 6-7 with a 4.20 ERA, but in his last four starts is 2-1, 1.08. His last one was a clunker (eight hits and five runs, three earned, in four innings of a loss to the Cubs). Gallardo’s usually impressive stuff was so ordinary at the start of the year — he faced Colorado on Opening Day — that Rockies scouts are going to have to be convinced if the team is to pursue him seriously.

A sleeper team in the mix is the White Sox, who are willing to deal pretty much everyone but left-hander Chris Sale and slugger Paul Konerko. Expect the Rockies to pay attention to lefty John Danks, who had season-ending left shoulder surgery last August and has returned to make seven starts (1-5, 4.68 ERA). His last start was a good one – three runs, one earned, in 7 1/3 innings of a start against the Mets on Wednesday. Danks struck out seven, gave up seven hits, and didn’t walk anyone.

The Denver Post also includes Cubs starter Matt Garza among those the Rockies are “aggressively scouting,” and are taking a look at reliever Kevin Gregg. The Rockies have pursued Gregg as a setup man in the past.

Don’t forget, however, that the Rockies are always looking for bullpen help, and are taking a look at White Sox righty Jesse Crain, who is 2-2 with a 0.52 ERA in 36 appearances covering 34 2/3 innings. Back in 1999, Crain was Colorado’s high school player of the year at Fairview High in Boulder.

Thomas Harding

12/16 Could Wood come back?

There are multiple reports that the Cubs are working on a deal
with free agent Kerry Wood which would bring him back to his original team. The White Sox reportedly offered the
right-hander a two-year contract, but then signed Jesse Crain. Wood had been rumored to be seeking a
two-year, $12 million deal, which would not appear to be a good fit for
the cost-conscious Cubs. GM Jim Hendry is well-versed in Wood’s medical
history — the right-hander has been on the disabled list 14 times in his career because
of his shoulder, elbow, back and blisters. Wood, 33,
isn’t going to strike out 20 in a game but was effective in short
relief with the Yankees last season, compiling a 0.69 ERA in 24 games
(two earned runs in 26 innings, 31 strikeouts). As a starter, he has a
career 71-55 record with a 3.69 ERA, and as a reliever, he’s 12-13 with
62 saves (including 34 with the Cubs in 2008) and a 3.45 ERA.

The
Cubs do want an experienced right-hander in the bullpen to compliment
lefty Sean Marshall, and Wood would welcome coming back to Wrigley
Field. He lives in Chicago year-round.

– Carrie Muskat

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