This Great Game Comebacker

The Month That Was in Baseball: February 2020

The Astros Face the Music (and Fail Basic P.R.) as Spring Training Opens
Pick Your Foe: MLB’s Nutty Postseason Thought    Minor Leaguers Get a Pay Bump


Saturday, February 1

Phil Rizzo, longtime scout and father of Washington general manager Mike Rizzo, dies at the age of 90. Rizzo had been an adviser to the Nationals since 2009.

Sunday, February 2

It’s a good day to be a former Detroit Tigers draft pick. Patrick Mahomes II, who formally goes by the name of his father (thus the “II”)—a relief pitcher for 11 years in Major League Baseball—wins Super Bowl MVP honors as the Kansas City Chiefs come from behind to defeat the San Francisco 49ers in Miami, 31-20. The younger Mahomes was a high school star in both football and baseball and was considered high-draft material for both sports; as a pitcher, he threw in the mid-90s with good control. But after committing to Texas Tech as quarterback, MLB teams cooled on his availability; he was selected by the Tigers in the 37th round of the 2014 draft, but never signed.

Monday, February 3

The Houston Astros find their replacement for the disgraced Jeff Luhnow by naming former Tampa Bay executive James Click as the team’s new general manager. The 42-year-old Click was employed by the Rays for 14 years, the last three as VP of business operations.

The Seattle Mariners extend pitcher Marco Gonzales through 2024 for an extra $30 million, with a 2025 option totaling another $15 million. The 27-year-old southpaw has emerged as the Mariners’ most reliable starter, producing a 29-22 and 3.99 earned run average over the past two seasons.

Tuesday, February 4

All the people complaining that the Los Angeles Dodgers haven’t done enough to make any offseason moves can now officially shut up. The Dodgers shake things up in a huge way with the winter’s biggest trade—bringing in both Mookie Betts and David Price from the Boston Red Sox for young outfielder Alex Verdugo, while sending pitcher Kenta Maeda to the Minnesota Twins, who turn around and send young pitching prospect Brusdal Graterol to the Red Sox.

Betts, who’s been heavily rumored to be headed to either the Dodgers or San Diego Padres, was ushered out of Boston as he insisted on free agency following this coming season; do expect the Dodgers to work hard toward extending the former AL MVP. Price, meanwhile, is in need of a correction after a blasé, injury-prone 2019 (7-5 record, 4.28 ERA). The Red Sox will pay half of the remaining $96 million owed to Price over the next three seasons.

Five days later, the trade will be restructured; see Sunday, February 9.

The pitcher that refuses to die gets yet another shot. Edwin Jackson, who’s played for a record 14 different major league teams—and was awful for two of them (Detroit and Toronto) last season—gets a minor league contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks. The 36-year-old right-hander played part of the 2010 season for the Diamondbacks, going 6-10 with a 5.16 ERA—but within that mediocre set of numbers was his lone career no-hitter, delivered on 149 pitches.

Wednesday, February 5

The Yankees get some bad news before camps open, as pitcher James Paxton undergoes “unexpected” back surgery and will likely miss the first two months of the regular season. Paxton was 15-6 with a 3.82 ERA last year for New York.

Over two years since throwing his last major league pitch, Ubaldo Jimenez is attempting to go home again and make a comeback. The 36-year-old Jimenez signs a minor league contract with the Colorado Rockies, with whom he produced the franchise’s best one-year pitching effort when, in 2010, he furnished a 19-8 record, 2.88 ERA, the one no-hitter in Rockies history to date and a start in the All-Star Game. But his fastball faded, and strong results were much tougher to come by; he was a combined 14-23 with a 6.13 ERA from 2016-17, the last two seasons he has played.

Thursday, February 6

Max Muncy, who came out of obscurity to hit 35 homers for the Dodgers in each of his last two seasons, signs a three-year, $26 million extension. The contract includes a $13 million team option (with $1.5 million buyout) for 2023.

Friday, February 7

The Wall Street Journal publishes a story that, if accurate, exposes the Houston Astros’ front office not only in the know of the team’s cheating scandal, but that it laid the foundation for it. The Journal writes that now-fired general manager Jeff Luhnow was given a PowerPoint introduction in 2016 from front-office employees of an algorithmic program called Codebreaker (informally known as “dark arts”) that broke down opposing team’s pitching signs. The story also claims that a previously unreleased document from MLB commissioner Rob Manfred to Luhnow placed the blame squarely on him, stating, “There is more than sufficient evidence to support a conclusion that you knew—and overwhelming evidence that you should have known—that the Astros maintained a sign-stealing program that violated MLB’s rules.” Luhnow pled ignorance to investigators, saying he knew little to nothing regarding Codebreaker, but other front office staffers claim otherwise; he declines to respond to the article.

In a related story, A.J. Hinch—the Houston manager fired along with Luhnow in the aftermath of the cheating scandal—speaks with the MLB Network in his first interview since his dismissal. Looking uncomfortable with interviewer Tom Verducci, Hinch restates his position that he was not involved with the cheating though he knew of it—and deeply regrets not putting an end to it, insisting that had he held a team meeting to address the situation, the players would have stopped it at that moment. Interestingly, when asked by Verducci whether Astros players used buzzers as part of the sign-stealing scheme, Hinch deferred to MLB’s statement that there was none without directly answering the question himself.

The San Francisco Giants aren’t so much going back to the future as they are forward to the past. A week after bringing back 2012 World Series hero Pablo Sandoval, the Giants welcome back 36-year-old outfielder Hunter Pence into the fold. Pence surprised in 2019 after a precipitous two-year decline with the Giants from 2017-18, hitting .297 with 18 home runs and 59 RBIs over just 286 at-bats for Texas before injuries stopped his progress. Pence’s contract for 2020 is $3 million.

Saturday, February 8

Yet another San Diego outfielder is headed to St. Petersburg. The Padres send Manuel Margot to the Tampa Bay Rays for reliever Emilio Pagan, who last year saved 20 games with a 2.31 ERA over 60 appearances; it will be Pagan’s fourth team in four years, having previously performed for Seattle and Oakland. Margot struggled to find everyday traction in San Diego despite looking to have the tools to do; in 398 at-bats last season, he hit .234 with 12 home runs and 20 steals. He joins fellow ex-Padre Hunter Renfroe, who was also traded to the Rays earlier this offseason.

Former major leaguer Angel Echevarria, a seven-year utility player for three different teams, dies at the age of 48 after having his head struck in a fall at his Bridgeport, Connecticut home. Echevarria accumulated 543 at-bats from 1996-2002 and hit .280 with 21 homers and 90 RBIs.

Sunday, February 9

The trading of Mookie Betts from the Red Sox to the Dodgers, part of a larger deal involving three teams, is restructured after being endangered. The Dodgers will still get Betts, but in addition to giving up outfielder Alex Verdugo and (to Minnesota) pitcher Kenta Maeda, they’re also sending Boston top prospects in shortstop Jeter Downs and catcher Connor Wong. Young Twins pitcher Brusdal Graterol, who initially was headed to Boston, will go to Los Angeles instead. The original trade, five days earlier, threatened to fall apart when the Red Sox reportedly grew cold feet over the health of Graterol and, it was rumored, hostile reaction from Red Sox Nation to the trade.

There’s collateral damage to the retooled Betts trade in that another trade involving the Dodgers, also committed five days earlier, is now off. It had been announced that outfielder Joc Pederson and pitcher Ross Stripling were headed to the Los Angeles Angels for infielder Luis Rengifo and two prospects. Though the Dodgers are said to be the team that voided the deal, Angels owner Arte Moreno will admit a week later that it was he who “killed” the trade.

Monday, February 10

MLB intentionally leaks a proposed revision of the playoffs which, if it gets its way, could be installed as early as 2022. Under the new format, the number of postseason teams would increase from the current 10 to 14—representing nearly half of MLB’s 30 teams. The team with the league’s best record would get a bye to the Division Series; the two other divisional winners would then get to pick, on TV a la LeBron James, their opponents from the three lowest-seeded wild card teams. The top wild card team would be matched with the last wild card team not selected. This unique first round would be best-of-three series, with winners advancing to the more traditional Divisional Series. Response is varied, with union chief Tony Clark releasing a statement basically saying that players would need to buy off on the format change.

If this becomes reality, this will continue to do what other playoff enlargements have done: Reward mediocrity, cheapen the regular season, and push the World Series closer to Thanksgiving (or start the regular season on St. Patrick’s Day). NBC Sports’ Craig Calcaterra did the math and discovered that had this system been in place over the last decade, there would have been six teams with losing records making the playoffs.

As always, this is about nothing more than money; MLB is seeking new TV contracts, and something like this will certainly pique a network’s interest, while faux interest will be created for average teams hoping to get a shot at October glory. Money is also the reason why this new format would likely not be accommodated by a reduced regular season schedule (as has been pitched around for a number of years), which again brings up the point of how late—or how early—the overall campaign would need to be expanded.

Outspoken Cincinnati pitcher Trevor Bauer would like to say something on his Twitter account: “No idea who made this new playoff format proposal, but (commissioner Rob Manfred) is responsible for releasing it, so I’ll direct this to you, Rob…Your proposal is absurd for too many reasons to type on (Twitter) and proves you have absolutely no clue about baseball. You’re a joke.”

Also tweeting is Dodgers pitcher Alex Wood, who bashes the thought that this is all about small-market teams getting more of a chance: “The Royals just sold for $1 BILLION there is no $ disparity. There are rich teams and there are really rich teams.”

On August 4, 2017, Toronto pitcher Mike Bolsinger lasted just a third of an inning at Houston, allowing four runs on four hits and walks as the trash can banged away near the Astros’ dugout. It was the last time Bolsinger, a four-year major league veteran, has pitched at the big-league level; after being demoted to the minors to finish out the 2017 season, he’s pitched the last two years in Japan. Bolsinger is now suing the Astros for $31 million, saying that his career was effectively ruined by the team’s sign-stealing scheme. He doesn’t want the money, which equates to the total value of Houston’s postseason shares from 2017; instead, he wants it given to charities and a fund for needy retired players. We are starting to see that this scandal has far-reaching effects.

Two-time Gold Glove shortstop Nick Ahmed is extended four years and $32 million by the Arizona Diamondbacks. It includes this upcoming season—Ahmed’s last as an arbitration-level player—and his first three years of free agency.

Tuesday, February 11

Longtime coach and former Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke is promoted to interim manager of the Red Sox, who are still awaiting word on any sign-stealing punishment coming their way as camps open. The 63-year-old Roenicke has served as Boston’s bench coach over the past two seasons; the results of MLB’s investigation on the Red Sox will determine whether Roenicke loses the “interim” tag—or his job.

Meanwhile, the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal isn’t going away; it’s getting bigger, even after all of the punishments have been handed out (for now). The Athletic, interviewing up to six former (and anonymous) Houston players, all claim that the scheme’s ringleader was Carlos Beltran, who was playing his final season for the Astros in 2017 and pretty much took over the sign-stealing, trash can-banging shenanigans once the front office’s Codebreaker scheme proved less effective. Some of the players interviewed felt uncomfortable with the scheme, but because they were relatively green in the clubhouse were afraid to confront Beltran. Other, more veteran players—such as catcher Brian McCann—tried to talk Beltran out of using the system, to no avail. No response from Beltran, who has not made any public statements since apologizing for his role in the scheme.

This is certain to sting Beltran’s already-tarnished legacy; he was likely not to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer before the scandal broke, but now he’s probably not going to make the Hall on any ballot.

Baseball Prospectus’ popular—and sometimes assailed—PECOTA projections for the coming season are revealed. The Dodgers are tabbed to win the most games with 103—a rather impressive number given PECOTA’s historically conservative predictions; the Yankees are next at 99, with the Astros behind them at 98. On the flip side, Baltimore is anticipated to lose 99 games—an improvement for the Orioles, who’ve lost a combined 223 games over the last two seasons—followed by Seattle (96) and Kansas City (94). In between, PECOTA has Cincinnati winning the NL Central, the New York Mets (88-74) taking the NL East over defending champion Washington (87-75) and Atlanta (83-79), and the Los Angeles Angels (87-75) finishing second over Oakland (85-77) in the AL West.

Wednesday, February 12

If Cole Hamels is going to earn his $18 million in 2020, he’s going to need to do it in make-up fashion. The 36-year-old lefty will miss the start of the season for the Atlanta Braves after harming his shoulder while trying to throw a weighted ball to build up his strength.

Thursday, February 13

As spring camps open around baseball, the Astros set up a formal press conference in which owner Jim Crane and All-Stars Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman take turns apologizing for the organization’s sign-stealing scandal. The scripted statements are monotonal, unconvincing and all but embarrassing. Crane is the worst offender; he states that the scheme “didn’t impact the game”—just a minute later, he’ll claim he didn’t say that—that he personally should not be held accountable (again, he’s the owner), and keeps repeating, “This will never happen again,” as if trying to convince himself.

Refreshingly, the responses in the clubhouse from various Astros players reveal more honesty and emotion than what had been expected at the press table. Nobody seems more blunt than shortstop Carlos Correa, who begs to differ with Crane on the assumptions that the cheating didn’t make an impact. “It’s definitely an advantage, I’m not going to lie to you,” he tells reporters. “I think you get a slight edge. And that’s why people got suspended and people got fired, because this is not right.”

Understandably, reviews of the presser are harsh. ESPN’s Jeff Passan: “(Crane) used commissioner Rob Manfred’s report on the Astros’ malfeasance as a binky and so often repeated talking points that the Apology.exe program he tried to install in his head looked as if it were glitching.” The Associated PressTim Dahlberg: “Ah, the Houston Astros. Good at stealing signs. Not so good at pretending they’re sorry about it.” The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal: “They chose their course. They do not get to choose when everyone moves on.”

Comments from players on other teams are, to say the least, much more rough. Cleveland’ Mike Clevinger has this to say about the Astros: “I don’t think any of those mother**kers should be able to look us in the eye. They should feel ashamed.” Oakland pitcher Sean Manaea objects to Crane’s comments: “Why are you all cheating if you don’t think it’s going to affect the game?” The Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger tells the press that not only does he believe the Astros stole the championship from Los Angeles in 2017, but that Altuve stole the AL MVP from the Yankees’ Aaron Judge. And Atlanta’s Nick Markakis states, “I feel like every single (Astro) needs a beating.” The mass hostility toward the Astros is such that recently hired Houston manager Dusty Baker asks MLB that these comments need to stop to protect his players from an inordinate number of beanballs he fears are coming this season.

Friday, February 14

The Cleveland Indians traded Corey Kluber to Texas with the confidence that their rotation would stay strong with potential young aces such as Mike Clevinger. That confidence is frayed a little today after it’s reported that Clevinger will likely miss Opening Day with undergo surgery to repair a torn muscle in his left knee.

Former AL Rookie of the Year Jeremy Hellickson decides to hang them up at age 32, wrapping an oft-fragile career that never took root after early promise. Hellickson was 13-10 with a 2.95 ERA for Tampa Bay in 2011, winning AL rookie honors—but that would be as good as it got for the right-hander, who ultimately played for five teams and posted a lifetime 76-75 mark and 4.13 ERA over 10 seasons.

Bartolo Colon’s career is not dead yet. The portly pitcher, who turns 47 in May, signs to play with the Monclava Acereros of the Mexican Baseball League, which is regarded as Triple-A caliber though not affiliated or associated with MLB or Minor League Baseball (MiLB). Colon did not pitch in 2019; he last was seen with the Texas Rangers in 2018.

Saturday, February 15

Tony Fernandez, the dynamic shortstop who played the bulk of his 17-year career with the Toronto Blue Jays, dies after a two-year battle with kidney disease at the age of 57. The switch-hitting Dominican was reliable glue in the Blue Jays’ vaunted lineup of the 1980s and a terrific defender, winning Gold Gloves each year from 1986-89; he remains the franchise leader in hits (1,583), triples (72), while he’s fifth with a .297 batting average. Toronto shipped Fernandez (and Fred McGriff) to San Diego after the 1990 season—fetching future championship components Joe Carter and Roberto Alomar in return—but realized how much they missed him and brought him back midway through 1993, in time to experience his first World Series title by hitting .326 in 12 postseason games. Four years later with Cleveland, Fernandez was both hero and goat in the playoffs; his 11th-inning solo homer in ALCS Game Six gave the Indians the pennant over Baltimore—but in Game Seven of the World Series against Florida, his 11th-inning error helped set up the Marlins’ series-winning rally. Fernandez enjoyed four different tenures for the Blue Jays, making the All-Star team for the fifth and last time in 1999 while hitting a career-high .328 for Toronto at age 37.

Sunday, February 16

Minor leaguers will get a pay raise starting in 2021—but advocates for higher wages shouldn’t be dancing in the street yet. While minimum salaries will rise expansively—almost double in Class A and AA—the new monthly rates of $700 (Triple-A), $600 (Double-A), $500 (Single-A) and $400 (rookie and short-season) still is barely half of a typical worker earning minimum wage. And while a number of minor leaguers are also living off the signing bonuses they received—ranging from a few hundred bucks to millions—most everyone does not, resorting to deplorable living conditions that sometimes may not translate to optimal working performance.

A couple of days later, the Giants announce that the pay raises will take effect immediately within their organization—and they’ll also throw in a housing allowance, which will especially go over well with the Class-A San Jose Giants, whose players have to find someplace to live in pricey Silicon Valley.

Monday, February 17

An Astros player gets suspended—but it’s not for the reason you think. Pitcher Francis Martes, who was docked with an 80-game PED penalty last March, is caught again; this time, it will cost him 162 games. The 25-year-old Dominican right-hander hasn’t thrown in the majors since 2017; he has since undergone Tommy John surgery and has been struggling to make it back to the majors with subpar minor league results. This latest positive will negatively affect Martes’ comeback chances.

Tuesday, February 18

MLB has reportedly sent a memo to umpires to be more vigilant in assessing immediate punishment for pitchers throwing at hitters this coming season. The MLB Network’s Jon Heyman says that the note has nothing to do with recent concerns that Houston Astros players will be a target, but few on the outside of MLB believe that.

Retired player and active social media basement guy Aubrey Huff, a member of the 2010 championship Giants, is told that he will not be invited for an upcoming formal reunion of that team. Huff claims that the Giants told him to get lost because he’s a big Donald Trump fan (though he’ll later admit the Giants didn’t specifically mention that), but most everyone else points out that his active Twitter account has become an increasingly vile extension of his personality. To wit: Huff has said that he would train his kids to “effectively use a gun under socialism” if Bernie Sanders wins the Presidency over Trump, and suggested that 10 Iranian women be kidnapped, brought to America and turned into slaves. Huff also disagreed with the Giants’ recent decision to hire Alyssa Nakken as the majors’ first female coach…simply because she’s a woman.

Wednesday, February 19

Pittsburgh outfielder Pablo Reyes, who emerged as an everyday player toward the end of last season, will miss the first 80 games of 2020 after testing positive for PEDs—in this case, Boldenone, which is typically intended for horses. Reyes, who hit .203 over 143 at-bats in 2019, makes no immediate statement in response.

Thursday, February 20

Another day, another star chiming in on the Astros sign-stealing scandal. Yesterday, it was the Yankees’ Giancarlo Stanton saying he would have hit 80 home runs if he knew what type of pitch was coming, and before that it was the usually soft-spoken Mike Trout declaring that the punishment upon the Astros was too light. Today, it’s retired Red Sox legend David Ortiz, who takes his anger out on whistleblower Mike Fiers, calling him a “snitch” and assailing him for not speaking up until after the Astros had won their World Series, while not returning the ring he received as a result. Fiers later responds that he’ll give up the ring when the other Astros do, and that he’s been receiving death threats since revealing the information that blew the scandal open.

It’s seems a twinge odd that Ortiz, who was listed as one of nearly 100 players in what was supposed to be a secret list of players testing positive for PEDs in 2003, is going to lecture someone else on the subject of cheating.

Friday, February 21

Spring Training action begins with the Texas Rangers scoring twice in the top of the ninth to defeat the Kansas City Royals, 5-4, at Surprise, Arizona. Three other games take place between MLB and college teams, with the big leaguers winning all three—including the Twins’ 16-0 romp in seven innings over the University of Minnesota.

The offseason’s final two salary arbitrations are decided, with Arizona reliever Archie Bradley getting the $4.1 million he asked for (the Diamondbacks countered with $3.6 million), while Philadelphia All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto is denied his request to earn $12.4 million; he’ll get $10 million instead. Overall, teams get the arbitrators’ nods in seven of 12 cases, ending a short two-year streak in which the players won over 50% of the cases.

Saturday, February 22

In their first spring training game of the year, the Astros are back to stealing signs—this time, those of the fans’. In a rematch of the 2019 World Series against Washington that lasts only two innings before rain stops it, Astros employees at the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches confiscate signs held up by Nationals fans that reference the team’s sign-stealing scandal. Spectators can boo the Astros without themselves getting taken away, though the Houston’s lineup completely consists of reserves as all of its star players watch from the dugout.

The White Sox like reliever Aaron Bummer enough that they give the 26-year-old southpaw a five-year extension worth $17 million with two team options. Bummer was sharp throughout 58 appearances last season, posting a 2.13 ERA and 0.99 WHIP.

In a move that’s sure to revive baseball fans’ hate of mlb.tv’s in-market rules, it’s ruled that people living in Canada will not be able to stream Toronto Blue Jays games unless they pay $120 a year for a separate streaming service provided by Sportsnet, which is owned by Rogers Communications—which just happens to own the Blue Jays. While this isn’t much different than any other MLB city (or territory) that blacks out “local” teams and requires them to pay extra for the ability to view those “in-market,” the Jays’ territory covers the entirety of Canada—which means that people in Vancouver, 2,000 miles away from Rogers Centre, are not considered out-of-market. The Blue Jays had previously blacked out all of Canada until 2014, when they allowed such broadcasts to be seen. But last Fall, MLB ceded its authority to sell digital rights to the teams themselves, allowing the Blue Jays (again, owned by Rogers), to sell to themselves with no competition.

At least Canadians can still get mlb.tv and see all 29 other teams; it’s still worse in Des Moines, Las Vegas and Hawaii—where six teams are blacked out.

Sunday, February 23

Mike Fiers, the Oakland pitcher who blew the whistle (or snitched, depending on your viewpoint) on the Astros sign-stealing last fall, makes his first Spring Training appearance and gets a warm welcome from the “home” crowd at Mesa’s Hohokam Park which includes fans of both the A’s and visiting Giants. On the mound, Fiers fires two shutout innings in an eventual 5-3 loss. After the game, Fiers is positively in a “move on” mode by saying: “Every team’s trying to get back out there, play the game we love and compete. The rest will take care of itself.”

Monday, February 24

The Astros’ third Grapefruit League game is the first for many of the suspects in the team’s sign-stealing scandal as Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel get in their first on-field action and face the music from fans. That music is not pleasant to their ears as boos rain down from fans of the host Detroit Tigers and other teams who weren’t spared from the Astros’ shenanigans. Altuve gets the worst of the reception (never mind that he took far less advantage of the trash-banging clues) and he gets nicked by a pitch in his third at-bat. All of this doesn’t affect the Astros on the field, as they crush the Tigers, 11-1.

Meanwhile, the Astros’ actions continue to show that someone needs to show them a copy of Public Relations for Dummies. The Corpus Christi Hooks, the Double-A affiliate owned by the Astros, revokes the season tickets of Bob Hilliard. Why would they do that? Because Hilliard, an attorney, has sued the Astros on behalf of Houston season ticket holders over the sign-stealing scandal.

Tuesday, February 25

Luis Severino, the Yankees’ young flamethrower who won 19 games in 2018, will miss the entire 2020 campaign as it’s announced he’ll undergo Tommy John surgery. Shoulder injuries limited Severino to just five starts in 2019, including two in the playoffs. Without him, the Yankees rotation will be further stretched as they’ll also be sans the services of James Paxton (spine surgery) and Domingo German (domestic abuse suspension) through at least June.

Wednesday, February 26

Fear of the emerging COVID-19, which has already killed over 3,000 people in China (where it originated) and is spreading around the world, is starting to impact the baseball scene. In Japan, teams getting ready for its upcoming season are banning fans from exhibition games, while here in the States, the Boston Red Sox greeted recently-signed Taiwanese pitcher Chih-Jing Liu by quarantining him away from their training camp until they’re sure he’s totally healthy.

Thursday, February 27

History is made on the umpiring front as MLB assigns Kerwin Danley and Alfonso Marquez as the first African-American and Latino, respectively, to be named umpire crew chiefs. This is Danley’s 24th year as a major league arbiter; for Marquez, it will be his 21st.

Emmanuel Clase, the young, hard-throwing pitcher traded to the Indians in the deal that sent ace Corey Kluber to Texas, suffers a back sprain so severe that he is expected to miss up to three months. Clase was considered the key component for the Indians in the Kluber deal.

Friday, February 28

Johnny Antonelli, a top pitcher for the Giants during the 1950s, dies at the age of 89 in Rochester, New York. An emerging pitcher for the Braves, Antonelli was traded to the Giants in 1954 as part of a six-player deal that sent 1951 pennant-winning hero Bobby Thomson to Milwaukee; he was an immediate success in New York, winning 21 of 28 decisions with a NL-best 2.30 ERA and six shutouts in 1954, followed by a win and a save in two appearances in the Giants’ four-game sweep of Cleveland in that year’s World Series. The southpaw remained a top thrower through 1960, but once relocated to San Francisco with the rest of the Giants grew to despise the city’s cold summer weather. Over 12 major league seasons, Antonelli won 126 games, lost 110 and furnished a 3.26 career ERA; he’s currently listed as #4 on our list of the Giants’ all-time top pitchers.

Saturday, February 29

On a quiet news day in the majors, we celebrate major leaguers born on Leap Day, including Pepper Martin, Al Rosen, and Terrence Long.