Athletics ink No. 6 overall draft pick, starter A.J. Puk



One of the best pure talents in the recent Major league Baseball draft is under contract as the Oakland Athletics have announced they have signed hard-throwing starting pitcher A.J. Puk.

Jon Heyman of Today’ and the FanRag Sports Network reported that Puk has signed for the slot contract number, which is $4.0692 million. He was the sixth overall draft choice.

Puk has the potential to be an imposing member of the Athletics’ starting rotation for years to come. He was a dominant player for the stalwart Florida Gators for three years,

Puk, who is 6-foot-7, 230 pounds, is a left-handed pitcher. His combination of being a southpaw, having great size and have a good array of pitches made Puk a top draft prospect. Many mock drafts had him linked to the Philadelphia Phillies with the No. 1 overall, draft pick, but the Phillies went with Southern California high school outfielder Mickey Moniak.

Many draft observers were surprised that Puk fell to No. 6. The Athletics quickly ended Puk’s slide and now they have him under wraps.

Puk started 15 games this season for the Gators. He had 3.21 earned run average. He struck out 95 batters in 70 innings. Puk struck out 104 batters in 78 innings as a sophomore for Florida, which went to the College World Series in 2015. Thus, Puk had 199 strikeouts in 148 innings in his final two college seasons. That had to entice Oakland’s brass.

Last summer, Puk pitched four innings of a no hitter against Cuba for the United State Collegiate National team. It was the first time Cuba was no-hit in international play.

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Mets promote pitcher Logan Verrett with a need for depth



The New York Mets, who have been dealing with injuries throughout the 25-man roster, have made a move based on another injury concern.

After their gutty 2-1 home win over the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday night, in a game they got a bit of revenge from their World Series miseries last October, the Mets made a move with the intentions of keeping their pitching staff fresh. New York promoted right-handed pitcher Logan Verrett from Triple-A Las Vegas. Infielder Ty Kelly, who was recently promoted to New York, was sent down to Las Vegas in a corresponding move.

The promotion of Verrett and the demotion of Kelly were fueled by the events of the first at-bat of the game. Mets’ starter Bartolo Colon was drilled on his hand by a batted ball. He had to leave the game. Thus, the Mets’ relievers had to finish all but one out of the game.

After the game, New York manager Terry Collins told reporters that X-rays on Colon’s hand were negative. Colon escaped the scary moment with just a bruised right thumb. Collins said the team is hopeful Colon will make his next start, which is Sunday in Atlanta.

Verrett was brought up to help cover the bullpen in the next couple of games. Also, if Colon’s thumb doesn’t recover as expected, Verrett could start Sunday against the Braves. The situation is less than ideal for the Mets’ because the departure of Kelly leaves them with a hole on the bench. New York is 37-32 and in is second place in the National League East. They are 4.5 games behind Washington.

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Mariners trade for Wade LeBlanc and promote him


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Wade LeBlanc has been making a strong pitch to return to the Major Leagues for the first time in two years.

The Seattle Mariners, who are trying to stay in the American League Wild Card race, have taken notice of LeBlanc’s strong performance in Triple-A. They paid to give him a chance to get back to the Major leagues. The Mariners acquired LeBlanc from the Toronto Blue Jays for a player to be named later.

The Mariners will instantly show faith in LeBlanc. He is reportedly being promoted to the Major leagues and he will start Friday in place of an injured Taijuan Walker, who has a foot issue, against St. Louis in intra-league play.

LeBlanc is a left-handed starter, and, of course, those types of human beings are coveted by Major League Baseball teams. So, the idea of the Mariners taking a flyer on LeBlanc is understandable.

LeBlanc had a sterling 1.71 earned run average and has thrown 85 strikeouts compared to just 21 walks in 89 and two-thirds innings for the Buffalo Bison, the Triple-A affiliate of the Blue Jays. Now, LeBlanc, who will turn 32 in August, is getting another crack at The Show. He has plenty of big-league experience.

LeBlanc was with the San Diego Padres from 2008-2011, the Miami Marlins from 2012-2013, the Houston Astros in 2013, the Angeles in 2014, the Yankees in 20014 and then back to the Angels in 2014.  LeBlanc spent last season in Japan, playing for the Saitama Seibu Lions.

Now, after signings with Toronto this year, the Mariners are banking on the Lake Charles, Louisiana native to keep them in the playoff hunt. Seattle is 36-35 and in second place in the American League West; 9.5 games behind the red-hot Texas Rangers.

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Tigers promote journeyman Casey McGehee



Casey McGehee is back in Major League Baseball.

The Detroit Tigers purchased McGehee’s contact from the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens. McGehee, a third baseman, has been on a quite a career rollercoaster in recent years. Thus, this trip back to the bigs with Detroit has to be satisfying for the Santa Cruz, California native.

In fact, it seemed improbable McGehee would be part of a 25-man Major League roster in recent months. McGehee, 33, didn’t sign a 2016 contract until after spring training began in late February when the Tigers inked him to a minor league deal. A month later, McGehee was released by the Tigers. Yet, they signed him back to a minor league deal four days later.

McGehee, who was originally drafted by the Chicago Cubs in 2003, made his Major League debut in 2008 before being claimed off waivers by the Milwaukee Brewers. He had some success there until he was traded to Pittsburgh in 2011. McGehee was then traded to the Yankees a year later. After being sent down by the Yankees, McGehee went to Japan and had success.

In 2014, he was signed by the Miami Marlins and had one of his best seasons. McGehee hit .289 with 76 runs batted in and he was named the National League Comeback Player of the Year. McGehee was then traded to the San Francisco Giants. They pegged him to be the replacement for Pablo Sandoval, who left the World Series champions for the riches of Boston.

McGehee was dreadful in San Francisco and the Giants quickly DFA’d him. He resurfaced with Miami to finish the season.

Now, after another trip to the minor leagues, McGehee is back in the bigs. The Tigers designated outfielder Wynton Bernard for assignment to make room for McGehee, who gives the Tigers a luxury of having an extra utility infielder.

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Phillies’ prospect Alec Asher suspended 80 games for PED use



A stunning hot start for the Philladelphia Phillies has turned into a 30-36 record and a fall from contention. Now comes the bitter news that one of the pieces in the emotional Cole Hamels trade last summer has sabotaged his career. Major League Baseball announced Thursday that Philadelphia pitcher Alec Asher has received an 80-game suspension without pay for testing positive for Dehydrochlormethyltestosterone, a performance-enhancing substance. Thus, Asher will be out of the mix until September.

Asher, who is on the team’s 40-man roster, has spent the entire season in the minor leagues. He did pitch in seven games for the Phillies last September, posting an ugly 9.31 earned run average. While his suspension doesn’t directly adversely affect the Phillies’ Major League squad now, the organization can’t be thrilled by this news. Surely, Asher was in the team’s big-league plans in the near future. Now, his status is up in the air.

That is far from an ideal situation for a player who was part of the Hamels’ deal last July with the Texas Rangers. While Hamels is a key reason why the Rangers are a serious World Series contender (they have the best record in the American League by far), the rebuilding Phillies are now dealing with Asher’s transgression.

Asher has made eight starts between Double-A and Triple-A  this season. He is 24 years old and is from Lakeland, Florida. Asher went to Polk State College in Winter Haven, Florida. He was a fourth-round pick by the Rangers in the 2012 draft.

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Cubs promote top prospect Willson Contreras


9 OCT 2015: The 2015 MLB Postseason logo is seen on the sleeve of Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jon Lester (34) as he sits in the dugout during the seventh inning of game one of baseball's National League Division Series against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium in St. Louis Missouri. The Cardinals won 4-0.  (Photo by Scott Kane/Icon Sportswire)

The young, talent-rich Chicago Cubs – who just happen to have the best record in Major League Baseball – are bringing in yet another hot young prospect on Joe Maddon’s party bus.

According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, the Chicago Cubs, who are a dominant 44-20 and lead their rival St. Louis Cardinals by 9.5 games in the National League Central, are promoting catcher Willson Contreras. Rosenthal reports that Contreras will join the Cubs on Friday when they host the Pittsburgh Pirates. Rosenthal reported that the Cubs will keep three catchers. Contreras will join Miguel Montero and David Ross in Chicago. Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports is reporting that catcher Tim  Federowicz is leaving the Cubs’ roster to make room for Contreras.

Contreras has been ripping apart Triple-A pitching with Iowa this season. He was hitting an eye-popping .350 with nine home runs and 43 RBIs in 203 at-bats. The Cubs have to be excited about Contreras’ power surge. He had eight home runs in 454 at-bats for Double-A Tennessee last season. He did hit .333 last season, so he clearly is a natural contact hitter.

Contreras emerged as a strong prospect last year after struggling some in Single-A ball. His lifetime batting average in the minors is .283. Contreras turned 24 years old last month. He is from Carabobo, Venezuela.

It has been reported recently that the Cubs consider Contreras untouchable in any potential trade talks this summer. Thursday, the Cubs showed just have much Contreras means to them by making him part of a serious World Series contender.

Federowic, 28, had just 26 at-bats for the Cubs this season.

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Diamondbacks place Chris Owings on 15-day DL with foot issue


28 May 2016: Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Chris Owings (16) [7289] scores one of the Diamondbacks five runs in the second inning during the Major League Baseball game between the San Diego Padres and the Diamondbacks at Chase Field in Phoenix, Ariz. The Diamondbacks lead 8-1 in the fifth inning. (Photo by Carlos Herrera/Icon Sportswire)

The Arizona Diamondbacks have put center fielder Chris Owings on the 15-day disabled list with plantar fasciitis in his left foot.

Owings missed the past four games with the foot issue. The team was hopeful a few days of rest would enable Owings to get back into the lineup. However, the pain persisted and he will be out an extended period of time.

Michael Bourn, acquired earlier this season, is expected to be Owings’ primary replacement. To take Owings’ place on the 25-man roster, the Diamondbacks promoted pitcher Zack Godley. Godley is set to start Saturday night against the visiting Miami Marlins at Chase Field

When Owings returns from the disabled list, he will likely still be affected by his injury. Plantar fasciitis is very difficult injury to return from and it often lingers for months, it is also very painful and athletes have to adjust to dealing with the pain that comes with the injury. So, it’s possible Owings may not be able to play every day when he returns.

Owings has played in 54 games this season and he is batting .285 with two home runs with 18 runs batted in. he has eight stolen bases. Owings, who is 24 years old, made his Major league debut in 2013. He is a lifetime .293 hitter.

Bourn, 33, is hitting .246 in 221 games for the Diamondbacks this season.

Godley, 26, was 5-1 with a 3.19 ERA in nine games (including six starts) for the Diamondbacks last year. He was 4-5 with a 3.61 ERA in 11 starts between Reno and Double-A Mobile in 2016.

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