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Larry Demery Jersey

Four weeks ago, major league teams declined to tender 2020 contracts to 53 players, including 40 who were arbitration eligible. This was on top of 83 players previously sent outright from the start of the offseason, meaning they went unclaimed through waivers. In total, that’s 136 players who were theoretically available to all teams to reserve if they desired.

While the number of non-tenders was higher than the past couple years (though not unprecedented either), this is largely nothing unusual. While roster churn has picked up in intensity over the last decade, the same types of offseason transaction cycles happened in the 2000s, 1990s, and even most of the 1980s.

In one respect it was quite striking to me. I’ve spent a fair bit of time the last couple months digging through the Toronto Star and Globe and Mail coverage of the Blue Jays from the late-70s birth of the franchise. And a recurring theme was just how hard it was for the front office to find players worth acquiring. By definition, those 136 players referenced above either project as marginal, or whose salaries are beyond their production. Nonetheless, there’s numerous established quality MLB players, and plenty of interesting young players worthy of opportunity, some of whom will go on to quality big league careers.

This was simply not the case back in 1976. Consider that when the Jays joined the American League, it was after a wave of expansion that has increased the Major Leagues by 50% from 16 to 24 teams from 1960 to 1969. Those teams certainly had it pretty bad, especially the four who joined at once in 1969, but at least then the echo of the Baby Boom was resulting in a surge of prime-baseball-aged population entering into the system. That takes time to work through, and then along comes another expansionary wave diluting things.

That meant there was a shortage of talent to go around. Salary arbitration had started just three years before, and while teams were not at all happy pleased with it pushing up salaries, it was a good decade or so before non-tendering became a thing. It was the dawn of free agency, but a much limited version and the expansion teams were frozen out the first year since the free agent draft was the day before the expansion draft. In any event, the Jays weren’t going to be players, and only signed one drafted free agent before 1984 (Luis Gomez, a light hitting shortstop).

Waivers? In September 1977, the Jays claimed 24-year old John Hale from the Dodgers, who had promising AAA numbers but hadn’t translated to the majors (.214/.314/.317 in 478 PA). He promptly refused to report unless the Jays would give him a guaranteed 1978 contract, and you can imagine how well that went down. Two weeks later he was sent on to Seattle for the $20,000 the waiver claim that cost them. The next Spring, the Jays claimed Larry Demery from Pittsburgh, who had thrown 260 innings with a 3.06 ERA in 1975-76. After they got a closer look at his ailing shoulder, they decided they preferred their $20,000 and the claim was reversed four days later. Small wonder they didn’t use waivers for a long time.

In fact, about the only way the Jays did add real talent was when they leveraged their financial resources. They got Ron Fairly from Oakland when Charlie Finley wanted to dump his salary. They sent $200,000 to Texas to acquire Roy Howell, who had signed a three-year to end a holdout but was stuck behind other starters. Well into Spring Training 1978, Rico Carty was surplus to Cleveland and the Jays took on his hefty $135,000 (the entire 1977 payroll was $858,000). Right before the season began, the Royals deemed John Mayberry expendable with and the Jays took on the remaining three years of his contract at a reported $200,000 per year.

But those were the exceptions, and otherwise the Jays were limited to castoffs to try and fill out their roster. Within the first two years, the Jays never had more than 38 players on their 40-man, and more typically 35 or fewer. It was so dire that Pat Gillick purported to have not done trades that he otherwise would have (ie, established MLB players for younger prospects) because they didn’t have anyone who could slot for the departed regular. To illustrate this point, I’ve put a story that I like at the end.

With that in mind, I got to thinking whether a team of non-tendered 2019 players would compare to the actual 1977 expansion Blue Jays. The latter, it may be recalled, won just 54 games though was better on paper with a runs scored/allowed that would suggest 58. Here’s the starting line-up I put together:

The salaries are the MLBTR estimated arb salaries, the WAR is a rough estimate of what I’d project in 2020 and actual 1978 levels. On balance, I think I’d prefer the non-tender group of position players. There’s some holes, but I think my projection of 10 WAR is reasonable, with some upside if a couple players bounce back. The $54-million price tag is hefty, but some could probably be had cheaper.

The thing about the 1977 position players is that despite totalled just 2 fWAR, they surprisingly didn’t lack for solid performers. There were five players who were essentially average regulars or better, and another three who were not below average but not black holes. They totaled about 10 fWAR, the problem is of the 21 players on the roster, only nine had positive fWAR. The other 12 cumulatively had 2,000 plate appearances, and some were just awful, in particular the middle infielders. This is where the lack of depth killed the Jays, and the rest of the non-tenders/outright guys would be better.

The pitching side is a different story:

While I can put together a decent bullpen, I really struggled to just out the staff with players who have started. Kevin Gausman would be decent, and after that…I’d be happy to get 500 innings. I could see getting 4-5 WAR out of those guys, but I’d be wary of giving it all back with the lack of depth and whomever pitched the other 300 innings.

Keeping in mind that the 1977 Jays started the year with nine pitchers, had 10 most of the year and used 15 in total so it was a completely different staff, pitching was the strength of the 1977 team, with 10 WAR. The core of that was the trio of Jerry Garvin, Jesse Jefferson and Dave Lemanczyk turning in 650 innings close to league average at preventing runs, about 7.5-8 WAR. They got nothing beyond that, and Pete Vuckovich was the only contributor out of the bullpen, but that’s still well ahead of the non-tenders.

Of course, all four were acquired in the expansion draft, though other than Garvin at 4th overall none were taken early (19th, 43rd and 47th picks). And to some extent, the three starters all being good was fluky, as each only had one other good season afterwards (which is why despite the emergence of Dave Stieb and Jim Clancy it wasn’t until 1982 that the pitching staff outperformed the 1977 group). It certainly wouldn’t be hard today to supplement the non-tenders with some cheap free agent veterans to stabilize the starting rotation, in depth if not quality. But that’s beyond the scope of this exercise.

Jorge Polanco Jersey

In case you hadn’t heard, the 2019 Minnesota Twins set a record for most home runs by a team in Major League history with 307 long-balls.

In other news that you may have somehow missed, the Twins are reportedly still one of only three or four teams in the running to sign former American League MVP and Bringer of Rain, Josh Donaldson.

A marriage between the record-setting Twins and the dangerous Donaldson would be … smashing, to put things mildly.

Comparing last year’s “regular lineup” to a projected lineup for 2020 proves challenging, given manager Rocco Baldelli’s penchant for tinkering with his starting nine; the Twins only used two lineup cards more than twice. The top six players in those two lineups, which were used seven and six times, respectively, were as follows, pictured along with their individual home run totals.

Max Kepler – 36 HR
Jorge Polanco – 22 HR
Nelson Cruz – 41 HR
Eddie Rosario – 32 HR
C.J. Cron – 25 HR
Marwin Gonzalez – 15 HR

All of those guys except Cron will be back in 2020. Additionally, only one of those six players appeared in more than 137 games: Jorge Polanco, who played in 153 contests.

The other players who combined to make up the bottom-third of the Twins’ most commonly used lineups in 2019 were as follows, in order of dingers swatted over the fence.

Mitch Garver – 31 HR
Jonathan Schoop – 23 HR
Jason Castro – 13 HR
Byron Buxton – 10 HR

Schoop and Castro are gone, having signed with the Detroit Tigers and Los Angeles Angels, respectively. Garver famously demolished 31 homers while appearing in just 93 games due to a combination of injury and somewhat of a rotation with the now-departed Castro. And Buxton was once again felled by injury midway through the campaign, stepping to the plate only 295 times in 87 games.

If we do a bit of projecting, it’s fair to assume that of the seven above-mentioned guys who are still on the Twins’ roster today, everyone except the 39-year-old Cruz has a real possibility to hit more home runs than they did in 2019. Now, they won’t all hit more, but assuming relative health, some of them certainly will.

Also, did you notice anyone missing? Miguel Sano only appeared in 105 games due to his late start to the season and didn’t even make the above list of 10, and he was third on the team with 34 round-trippers.

Let’s take a stab at a lineup with Donaldson, who hit 37 home runs last year with Atlanta, again with their 2019 numbers.

(There’s probably an extra bench player listed in the below scenario, but remember that the active roster is expanding to 26 players in 2020. Cave would likely be the odd man out due to the positional flexibility of Gonzalez and, to a lesser extent, Astudillo and Adrianza.)

C Mitch Garver (R) – 31 HR
SS Jorge Polanco (S) – 22 HR
DH Nelson Cruz (R) – 41 HR
3B Josh Donaldson (R) – 37 HR
RF Max Kepler (L) – 36 HR
1B Miguel Sano (R) – 34 HR
LF Eddie Rosario (L) – 32 HR
CF Byron Buxton (R) – 10 HR
2B Luis Arraez (L) – 4 HR

UT Marwin Gonzalez – 15 HR
UT Willians Astudillo – 4 HR
C Alex Avila – 9 HR
OF Jake Cave – 8 HR
INF Ehire Adrianza- 5 HR

That lineup is … stacked. That’s six players who hit over 30 home runs a season ago, and it’s quite possible they’ll all challenge that number again. Polanco and a healthy Buxton would each hit north of 20 dingers, and Gonzalez would have a chance given semi-regular at-bats, too.

The other aspect of this that doesn’t fit the point being made but must be mentioned is that adding the slick-fielding Donaldson would also improve the Twins’ defense immensely.

We don’t have any idea how long the Donaldson process will drag on, with Washington, Atlanta, and possibly the Dodgers all still involved alongside the Twins. But the Twins have the best top-to-bottom lineup of the three teams, and potentially the easiest division with the dreadful Tigers and Royals nowhere near contending status.

If Donaldson chooses the Twins, look for another 300-plus homer season at Target Field. It’s an offense that should carry this team to postseason play once again, regardless of how average their pitching staff appears to be.

Brandon Watson Jersey

JACKSONVILLE – The workload could be heavy for a change.

We’re talking about the Jaguars’ defense, and that conversation promises to be different in the 2020 offseason than it has been in quite a while because a unit that had been a team strength changed dramatically in 2019.

Now, multiple areas must be addressed in the coming months.

Nearly every level of the defense – line, linebacker and secondary – enters the offseason with at least one position needing upgrading, and salary-cap figures could force the team to make painful decisions regarding players such as defensive end Calais Campbell, cornerback A.J. Bouye and defensive tackle Marcell Dareus.

Also key: how the Jaguars handle the contract of defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, who is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in March at the start of the 2020 League Year. The Jaguars have the franchise tag available, which limits Ngakoue’s leverage, but this was a messy situation last offseason that doesn’t figure to be easier in the coming months.

We’ll look at those positions and more in this position-by-position look at the defense as the Jaguars move into the 2020 offseason:

Defensive end (7)

2019 starters:Calais Campbell (16), Yannick Ngakoue (15), Josh Allen (4).

Others on roster:Dawuane Smoot, Lerentee McCray, Chuck Harris, Dewayne Hendrix.

Pending free agents:Ngakoue.

Season in review:This remained a strength in 2019, with the end position featuring one of the NFL’s best pass-rushing trios in Campbell, Ngakoue and Allen. Allen led the team with 10.5 sacks as a rookie, with Ngakoue registering eight and Campbell finishing with 6.5. Campbell was selected to the Pro Bowl for a third time in as many seasons since joining the Jaguars, and Ngakoue reemerged as one of the best strip-sack specialists in the NFL.

Possible first-round defensive ends:Chase Young, Ohio State; Yatur Gross-Matos, Penn State; A.J. Epenesa, Iowa; Julian Okwara, Notre Dame; Anfernee Jennings, Alabama; Terrell Lewis, Alabama; Jon Greenard, Florida.

Chances of Jaguars selecting defensive end in first round:So-so.

Too-early look at the offseason:This figures to be a major offseason focus, with the team needing to determine the franchise futures of both Ngakoue and Campbell. Ngakoue and the Jaguars couldn’t reach a long-term contract extension last offseason, leading to Ngakoue holding out early in training camp. General Manager David Caldwell shortly after the 2019 regular season called a long-term deal with Ngakoue the team’s No. 1 offseason priority, but reaching a figure that makes sense to both sides figures to remain tricky. Campbell has a year remaining on his contract, and the team must decide whether to bring him back at his $17.5 million cap figure, release him or try to reach an agreement under which Campbell can return at a lower salary/cap figure.

Defensive tackles (7)

2019 starters:Taven Bryan (8), Marcell Dareus (6), Abry Jones (15)

Others on roster:Carl Davis, Dontavius Russell, Akeem Spence, Brian Price.

Pending free agents:Spence, Davis.

Season in review:This was difficult season for this position, which struggled much of the season – particularly against the run and particularly after the midseason loss of Dareus to a core-muscle injury. That forced Bryan into the starting lineup and caused he and Jones both to play more snaps than planned.

Possible first-round defensive tackles:Derrick Brown, Auburn; Javon Kinlaw, South Carolina; Raekwon Davis, Alabama.

Chances of Jaguars selecting defensive tackle in first round:High.

Too-early look at the offseason:This will be a major area of offseason focus, with perhaps the team’s top priority moving forward improving a struggling run defense that in a sense defined the 2019 season. Dareus’ $22.5 million cap figure likely will force the team to either release him or dramatically restructure his contract – and the latter seems unlikely for a player still playing at a high level. Considering Dareus’ effectiveness against the run, he may represent the biggest offseason loss if he doesn’t return. Bryan likely will start next season, but the team figures to address this area heavily in the offseason – perhaps with one of their two first-round selections in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Linebackers (13)

2019 starters:Myles Jack (11), Donald Payne (5), Quincy Williams (8), Leon Jacobs (7), Austin Calitro (4), Najee Goode (4)

Others on roster:Jake Ryan, D.J. Alexander, Dakota Allen, Preston Brown, Joe Dineen, Joe Giles-Harris, James Onwualu.

Pending free agents:Brown, Alexander, Goode, Payne (restricted), Onwalu (restricted), Calitro (exclusive rights).

Season in review:This is another position that struggled much of the 2019 season – in part because of inexperience and in large part because injuries. Jack spent the past five games on injured reserve, and Williams entered his rookie season as the starter after the offseason retirement of longtime starting weak-side linebacker Telvin Smith. Williams then struggled early and was replaced in the lineup by Goode. Payne played solidly in place of Jack in the final five games, and Jacobs in his second season showed flashes of being a solid starter in the coming seasons.

Possible first-round linebackers:Isaiah Simmons, Clemson; Kenneth Murray, Oklahoma; Dylan Moses, Alabama.

Chances of Jaguars selecting linebacker in first round:Mid-to-high.

Too-early look at the offseason:This position must be addressed, and the first question must be where to play Jack. He played better in the middle than many observers believe, but he still seems better-suited to playing outside – perhaps on the weak side. If the Jaguars move Jack, that likely will mean having to acquire a starting middle linebacker through free agency or the draft. One possibility to watch is the Jaguars playing Ngakoue at strong-side linebacker in base situations and moving him to rush end in passing situations. If the Jaguars keep their current 4-3 scheme, that’s an option.

Cornerbacks (5)

2019 starters:A.J. Bouye (14), Jalen Ramsey (2), Tre Herndon (14), D.J. Hayden (8), Parry Nickerson (1), Breon Borders (1)

Others on roster:Brandon Watson.

Pending free agents:None.

Season in review:This area underwent a major shakeup early in the season, when Ramsey – a two-time Pro Bowl selection – demanded a trade and eventually was traded to the Los Angeles Rams for two first-round selections. Herndon moved into Ramsey’s place in the lineup, finishing the season with a team-leading three interceptions and 13 passes defensed. Bouye had an interception with eight passes defensed, and Hayden had perhaps the best season of any Jaguars defensive back with two sacks, 40 tackles, six passes defensed, five tackles for loss and five quarterback hurries.

Possible first-round cornerbacks:Jeff Okudha, Ohio State; Trevon Diggs, Alabama; Paulson Adebo, Stanford; C.J. Henderson, Florida.

Chances of Jaguars selecting cornerback in first round:High

Too-early look at the offseason:This figures to be a major area of focus, with many mocking the position to the Jaguars with one of two first-round selections. The team also must address the future of Bouye, whose $15.4 million cap figure could make him a candidate for restructure or release. How the Jaguars address this position will be one of the team’s primary storylines in the coming weeks.

Safeties (5)

2019 starters:Jarrod Wilson (16), Ronnie Harrison (14), Andrew Wingard (2).

Travis Schlichting Jersey

Travis Schlichting
18 OF 23
You can’t help but think what Don Mattingly has to say about Travis Schlichting’s mullet.

Then again, does a mullet first come to mind when describing California hair styles? I doubt it.

However, Travis shows something entertaining after everything the Dodgers have been through this year.

Doug Drabek
19 OF 23
Doug Drabek’s mullet looks sort of rough and scrappy from this angle.

But since the beard and goatee appear rough as well, it all flows well together.

Larry Walker
20 OF 23
What more can you say about Larry Walker’s mully?

It’s solid and gets the job done.

No need to be fancy, just straight-up business.

Troy Tulowitzki
21 OF 23
Who knows how long Troy will keep it, but any fresh mullet with some creative buzz on the side is gold.

Maybe Tulowitzki will continue his style, and we’ll get to see more designs.

Tom Norton Jersey

Over the weekend U.S. Rep. Justin Amash (R-Grand Rapids) dominated headlines after tweeting that President Donald Trump’s actions as outlined in the Mueller report demonstrated “impeachable conduct.”

The five-term congressman shared his conclusions about the report on Twitter. They were retweeted by tens of thousands of people and met with praise and criticism. Amash is the first Republican member of Congress to begin discussions of impeachment.

Trump fired back at Amash, also using Twitter as a platform for his comments. The president called him a “lightweight” and a “loser” on Sunday.

Following Amash’s tweets, two West Michigan residents said they are challenging the sitting congressman in the 2020 election.

RELATED: Trump fires back at congressman who said his conduct was ‘impeachable’

Amash represents Michigan’s 3rd district, which covers Grand Rapids and parts of Ionia, Barry and Calhoun counties.

State Representative Jim Lower, a Republican from Greenville, announced Monday that he will be running against Amash for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2020.

Lower hinted to a possible run on Twitter Saturday in response to Amash’s thread. His campaign said they planned to announce the run around July 4, but moved up the timetable because of Amash’s tweets.

“It is never easy to defeat an incumbent, but we are going to do it,” Lower said in a press release.

Tom Norton, a Republican from Sand Lake, is also challenging Amash. He announced his campaign in late April on Facebook, but reached out to 13 ON YOUR SIDE on Sunday.

Norton posted his response on Facebook, saying he is running to remove Amash from office and “be a representative of the people not the politicians.”

As a Congressman during Trump’s presidency Amash has made headlines for bucking party trends. Both Lower and Norton are positioning themselves as Republicans who would vote with Trump and party platforms.

Monday afternoon, Amash doubled down on his impeachment argument. The congressman, again, took to Twitter to explain and justify his conclusions about the Mueller report.

Danny Reynolds Jersey

The Sounders began to address the holes in their defense Thursday by selecting UNC Wilmington star Danny Reynolds in MLS’s SuperDraft.

Reynolds, a 6-foot-1 defender from Shilton, England, was chosen in the second round with the 35th overall pick. He was recently named the Colonial Athletic Association Defensive Player of the Year and earned All-CAA first team honors.

Seattle, which won the 2019 MLS Cup in November, has one true center back on its roster in Xavier Arreaga. Reynolds is versatile enough where he could contribute at that position or left back, but will likely see more playing time with the Tacoma Defiance.

“Defiance coach Chris Little is high on Danny,” Sounders general manager Garth Lagerwey said via conference call. “He’s a position of need. (And) he’s a left-footed defender, those aren’t common. So we got ourselves what we felt is another option there. A player like that, who is left-footed and can play left back, center back, they’re probably always going to have some role in the organization.”

With their other second-round pick (52nd overall), the Sounders selected UNLV midfielder Timo Mehlich. The 6-footer from Monchengladbach, Germany, scored 11 goals during the 2019 season.

Mehlich may not report to the Sounders this season, however. He reportedly signed with a USL team.

“We control his MLS rights,” Lagerwey said. “If he is good enough to play in MLS, he’ll play for the Sounders.”

The two MLS expansion teams had the opening three picks in the draft. Inter Miami selected Clemson striker Robbie Robinson with the No. 1 overall pick and Georgetown defender Dylan Nealis with the No. 3 overall pick. Nashville SC nabbed Indiana defender Jack Maher with the No. 2 spot.

FC Dallas picked Seattle University defender Nkosi Burgess with the No. 14 overall pick. He’s the Redhawks’ fifth player to be drafted by an MLS team in the past four years.

The league will hold the third and fourth rounds of its draft Monday. The Sounders have one third-round selection (78th overall).

Rave Green players are filing back to the club this week with on-field training opening Tuesday at their Starfire Sports facility in Tukwila.

First-choice players forward Jordan Morris and midfielder Cristian Roldan aren’t available for the Sounders. They’ll participate in the U.S. men’s national team camp through the first week of February.

Brian Bannister Jersey

SAN FRANCISCO — The San Francisco Giants announced today that they have hired eight coaches to manager Gabe Kapler’s coaching staff. Joining the Giants staff in 2020 are Craig Albernaz (Bullpen/Catching Coach), Andrew Bailey (Pitching Coach), Brian Bannister (Pitching Director), Kai Correa (Bench Coach, Infield/Baserunning Instructor), Donnie Ecker (Major League Hitting Coach), Ethan Katz (Assistant Pitching Coach), Dustin Lind (Director of Hitting/Major League Assistant Hitting Coach) and Justin Viele (Major League Hitting Coach). Also, it was announced earlier that Ron Wotus will return for his 23rd year on the Major League coaching staff and his third season as the 3rd Base Coach.

“These staff additions bring together a group of energetic, innovative and bright minds to our organization,” said Kapler. “I’m excited about the ability of this group to connect with all of our players, front office and the broader Giants Community, and the diverse set of ideas and strengths they bring should only help the team grow this season.”

Albernaz, 37, comes to the Giants after serving as one of the Rays minor league field coordinators in 2019. In 2018, Albernaz led Class A Bowling Green to a Midwest League championship after the club won a minor-league best 90 games in a campaign that earned him Midwest League Manager of the Year honors. In 2017, he managed short-season Hudson Valley to a New York-Penn League championship. His coaching career began in 2015 when he served as a coach with rookie-level Princeton in 2015 before serving in the same capacity with Hudson Valley in 2016.

As a player, Albernaz spent eight of his nine minor league seasons in the Rays organization as a catcher, reaching as high as triple-a Durham. He spent one season in the Tigers organization (2015) before moving to the coaching ranks. Over his nine minor league seasons, he played in 371 career games and threw out 44 percent of would-be basestealers (145-of-329).

Bailey, 35, joins the Giants as the pitching coach in 2020 after spending the past two seasons working on the Los Angeles Angels Major League coaching staff. In 2019, Bailey served as the club’s bullpen coach after spending 2018 as a coaching assistant and video replay coordinator.

As a player, Bailey was a two-time All-Star (2009 and 2010) and the 2009 A.L. Rookie of the Year while pitching for the Oakland Athletics. Over eight Major League seasons between Oakland (2009-2011), Boston (2012-2013), New York-AL (2015), Philadelphia (2016) and Los Angeles-AL (2016-2017), Bailey was 16-14 with a 3.12 ERA and 95 saves in 265 career relief appearances.

Bannister, 38, joins the Giants after spending the last five seasons working in the Boston Red Sox organization. Since July 5, 2016, Bannister served as the team’s assistant pitching coach while also serving a dual role as the club’s Vice President, Pitching Development and Assistant Pitching Coach since November 3, 2016. In the time Bannister was a part of the Major League coaching staff, the Red Sox pitching staff ranked among the top third of American League staffs in ERA (3.98, fifth), SO/9ip (9.56, fourth), strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.02, fourth) and opponent’s OPS (.717, fifth).

Bannister originally was hired by Boston as a professional scout and analyst in January 2015 before being named the Director of Pitching Analysis and Development on September 9, 2015. As a player, Bannister went 37-50 with a 5.08 ERA across five Major League seasons between New York-NL (2006) and Kansas City (2007-2010). In 2007, he finished third in the AL Rookie of the Year voting behind Dustin Pedroia and Delmon Young.

Correa, 31, joins his first Major League coaching staff as the Giants bench coach and infield/baserunning instructor after spending the last two seasons working in the Cleveland Indians organization. In 2019, Correa was the minor league short-season defensive coordinator after serving as the rookie-level AZL Indians infield coach in 2018. Prior to working in Cleveland, Correa worked in the collegiate ranks with the University of Puget Sound (2011-2014) and the University of Northern Colorado (2015-2017). As a player, Correa was an all-conference infielder at Waiakea High School in Hilo, HI before playing collegiately at Puget Sound.

Ecker, 33, joins his second Major League coaching staff with his role as the club’s Major League hitting coach as he returns to the Bay Area. A Los Altos High School alum as a player and a coach, Ecker spent the 2019 campaign as the Reds assistant hitting coach on David Bell’s coaching staff in Cincinnati. Prior to the Reds, Ecker spent 2018 as the hitting coach in triple-A Salt Lake in the Angels organization. That season, the Bees led the PCL in batting average (.290), runs scored (824), home runs (173), RBI (783), slugging percentage (.480) and OPS (.841) while finishing second among PCL teams in doubles (291) and OBP (.361).

His coaching career began at Los Altos High School where he was an assistant coach from 2011-2012 and the head coach of the varsity squad from 2013-2014. He worked in the Cardinals system as a hitting coach from 2015-2017 with stops at Class A Advanced Palm Beach (2015-2016) and Class A Peoria (2017). As a player, Ecker starred as an infielder and quarterback at Los Altos High before eventually being drafted in 22nd round of the 2007 draft by Texas out of Lewis-Clark State College. Prior to his junior season at Lewis-Clark, he spent the 2006 season at Santa Clara University. He played two seasons in the Rangers system before playing two years of Independent ball.

Katz, 36, embarks on his second season in the Giants organization and his first season on a Major League coaching staff in his role of assistant pitching coach. In 2019, he served as the Giants assistant pitching coordinator in the minor leagues. Prior to his time in San Francisco, Katz worked as a pitching coach in the Angels minor league system (2013-2015) and the Mariners organization (2015-2018). Prior to his work in professional baseball, Katz was a pitching coach at Harvard-Westlake (CA) High School and helped instruct current Major Leaguers Lucas Giolito, Max Fried and Jack Flaherty.

On the field, Katz was drafted twice, eventually signing with Colorado after being taken in the 26th round of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft out of Sacramento State. He pitched in the minors with Colorado for four seasons (2005-2008), compiling a 13-7 mark with a 2.79 ERA in 102 games (eight starts).

Lind, 31, spent the last two seasons in the Seattle Mariners organization and most recently served as their director of hitting development and strategies on the Major League coaching staff. In that role, he worked with hitters, hitting coaches and analysts at all levels of the Mariners organization (Majors and minors) to optimize hitting development and performance. He joined Seattle in 2018 as the Mariners minor league quality assurance coach. From 2014-2017, he worked as an independent hitting consultant working with Major and minor league players.

As a player, he attended Montana State University-Billings before injuries ended his playing career. He transferred to Idaho State University where he graduated in 2014 with a degree in exercise science. He earned his doctorate in physical therapy from the University of Montana in 2017.

Viele, 29, joins his first Major League coaching staff with his appointment as the Giants Major League hitting coach on Kapler’s staff. He spent the last three seasons as a hitting coach in the Dodgers minor league system and was slated to be the team’s hitting coordinator this year. Last season with Class A Great Lakes of the Midwest League, the Loons led the 16-team Midwest League in home runs (113), RBI (638), walks (597), runs scored (712), on-base percentage (.339) and OPS (.730) while finishing second in doubles and slugging percentage. The Loons’ 712 runs scored were 71 runs more than the club with the second-most runs in the circuit.

His other coaching stops with the Dodgers included Class A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga (2018) and advanced rookie Ogden (2017). In 2015, he was a coach for Class A Advanced Frederick in the Orioles system before returning to his alma mater, Santa Clara University, as an assistant coach for the 2016 season. As a player, Viele was a four-year starter at shortstop for Santa Clara before being drafted in the 37th round by the Orioles in 2013. He played two minor league seasons as an infielder in the Orioles system (2013-2014) before he began coaching with Frederick in 2015.

Read more: San Francisco Giants

Hernan Iribarren Jersey

Under the warm, clear skies at Louisville Slugger Field on Tuesday, 34-year-old Hernan Iribarren admitted he was thankful.

Thankful for the phone call he received from the Cincinnati Reds in mid-January. For the opportunity to return to the Louisville Bats as a player-coach, helping out in the batting cages, in the clubhouse, and occasionally on the field.

And for one last chance to play a game he called a “blessing.”

“It’s kind of a different role but I’ll be able to play and that’s great,” said Iribarren, who has already played 1,478 professional games across 14 seasons. “This is going to be my last year. … Hopefully we get a winning season here in Louisville.”

The Bats open the 2019 campaign Thursday. Louisville plays seven games on the road at the Toledo Mud Hens and then Columbus Clippers before returning to Slugger Field for the home opener on April 11 against the Gwinnett Stripers.
In his sixth year with the Triple-A Bats, Iribarren’s retirement tour will come during one of the more intriguing seasons in the franchise’s history.

More: Tebowmania is set to come to Louisville Slugger Field this summer

The team added new manager Jody Davis, a former longtime MLB catcher. The roster features several returners, as well as the addition of a handful of players with MLB experience. And they’re reaping the rewards of the Reds’ improved farm system, headlined by top prospect Nick Senzel, who will start in Louisville.

Meanwhile, off the field, the club is celebrating its 20th season at Louisville Slugger Field. And they’ll do so with a number of promotions, including mint julep-themed uniforms, a bobblehead dedicated to the Kizito Cookie lady, and improved food selection.

Iribarren, who ranks third in franchise history in hits, is hoping that all amounts to the perfect storm to help the team post its first winning season since 2011 and first playoff appearance since 2010.

“(Davis) is all about winning,” he said. “He knows we have to develop. But he made it clear, we’re here to win. Of course we want to get to the big leagues, but while we’re here, we’re going to try to win. … I think he’s going to be a great presence to bring a winning team to Louisville.”

Read this: When is Louisville Bats Opening Day? Everything you need to know

While Davis admitted that’s not the team’s No. 1 goal — it’s getting “all these guys to Cincinnati.” But after returning to Kentucky from the team’s spring training facility, he said Tuesday that his first impression of his new ball club is that they’re hungry.

“Everybody wants to win and when we put the uniform on and the umpires come out here, you’re trying to win the game,” said Davis, who was previously the Bats hitting coach in 2016-2017. “We’re here. We’re in Triple-A. We’re going to make the best of it and try to win.”

Outside of Iribarren, there will be a number of recognizable faces playing at Slugger Field in 2019. Of the 28 players listed on the team’s preliminary roster, 18 have MLB experience, and seventeen have played with Louisville before.

That latter number includes Senzel, who is ranked by as the sixth-best prospect in the game. The 23-year-old outfielder is hoping his second season in Louisville goes better than his last. His 2018 was over by June thanks to a combination of vertigo, a fractured finger and bone spurs in his elbow.

This year is already off to a similar start. After competing for the Reds’ center field job in spring training, he was optioned to the minors despite batting .308 with six doubles and four stolen bases. His agent called the move an “egregious case of service-time manipulation.” The Reds said service time wasn’t a factor in their decision.

After his demotion, Senzel sprained his ankle sliding into second base during a minor league game. He’s in a walking boot while rehabbing at the team’s spring training facility in Arizona. He’s likely rejoin the Bats when he’s healed.

Davis said Tuesday that Senzel is “still a couple of weeks away” but that he’s making progress. While Senzel came up the system as a third baseman and second baseman, the plan is still to play him in center field when he returns.

“It’s really going to hurt not having him here to start,” Davis said. “You know when you’re completely shut down like he is, it’s going to take time. It’s time we don’t want to see him away but, you know, it’s baseball and we got to fight through it.”

Davis said the service time concerns “shouldn’t be a problem now” because of the injury. If Senzel spends 16 days with the Bats — a near-certainty after the injury — it will push back the year he’s eligible for free agency by one year.

“He’s really been unlucky the last two years,” Davis said. “Last year he was probably getting ready to be called up. This year, totally unfortunate. Shouldn’t be a problem now if we can get him healthy.”

Iribarren, who has been around the game a decade and a half, said that he sees the service time issue from both perspectives; he said it “sucks” for the players but that it’s smart for the team.

As for Senzel, for whom he has served as a mentor, Iribarren said he doesn’t expect him to be in Louisville long, mainly because of his confidence.

“It sucked that he got hurt but he’ll be okay,” Iribarren said. “He’s just going to come here for a short period of time and then go back and help the big league team.”

Davis and Iribarren pointed to a number of other players to watch on the team.

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Ed Weiland Jersey

SIOUX FALLS — Suzie Weiland passed away unexpectedly due to a hemorrhagic stroke on June 29, 2019 at Sanford USD Medical Center in Sioux Falls, SD surrounded by family and friends. She was 66.

Susan Jane (Gustman) Weiland was born August 23, 1952 in Plainview, NE, to Milton and Gertrude “Trudy” (Urwiler) Gustman. She graduated from Plainview High School in 1970. After completing dental assistant certification, Suzie worked for several dental practices throughout her life.

On September 22, 1979, after a blind date in March of that year, she was united in marriage with Ed Weiland, in Plainview, NE. They were married for almost forty years. After the birth of their son Josh in 1981, they moved to Watertown, SD.

Her hobbies and interests were many. From tending to her flowers to knitting blankets and scarves, she also had a love for playing piano and singing. Suzie was an active member of the P.E.O., a devoted member of Peace Lutheran and had a strong faith in her Lord and Savior. She enjoyed living out this faith by helping fulfill the various needs of the church and loving others just as she was loved.

Suzie was well-known for her ability to connect with people and create numerous friendships. Among the bonds closest to her heart were those she had with her granddaughters. She was their “Nana Suzie” who filled their lives with love, adventure, and many laughs.

Grateful for having shared her life are her husband, Ed; son, Josh, daughter-in-law, Corrie; granddaughters, Tessa and Atlee; brothers, Mike (Sherry) Gustman, Fred (Jan) Gustman, Carroll (Janet) Gustman; sister-in-law, Jackie Warner; and many special aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins. She was preceded in death by her parents and older brother Paul.

After her late brother became an organ recipient, Suzie was inspired to become an organ donor. She fulfilled this commitment with the donation of her lungs, kidneys, and liver to four individuals.

Funeral Services will be held 10:30 a.m. Monday, July 8, 2019, at Peace Lutheran Church, 5509 W. 41st Street, Sioux Falls.

The family will be present to greet friends from 2:00 to 4:00 Sunday afternoon at Miller Southside Chapel, 7400 S. Minnesota Avenue in Sioux Falls.

Ed Burns Jersey

In three seasons in the Minors, James went 5-2 with a 3.79 ERA in 35 games from 2016-18. (Turlington)

So as the summer of 2018 drew to a close, Carter came to the painful but unavoidable conclusion that it was time to put his baseball career to rest. Though he would go on to pitch a little bit in the independent Frontier League immediately after Great Lakes’ season for one last ride, he made his exit from the Dodgers’ organization official with that conversation in Shoemaker’s office.

“It was tough to get the words out,” Carter says. “I had played baseball my whole life.”

Of course, he had been photogenic his whole life, too.

And soon, that would open other doors.

* * * * *

Much like his model aunt, who didn’t let her superstar status prevent her from pursuing a master’s degree in public health from Columbia and the higher purpose of her charity work, Carter greatly valued his education. So when he put baseball behind him, he re-enrolled at UCSB to chase the final credits he needed for his history degree.

It was only natural, though, given his looks and his roots, that Carter would view modeling as a potential path. So during a visit to New York to see his family, he reached out to some casting directors in the city and, within days, was signed by IMG. (By the way, that family referenced includes Carter’s stepfather, who is screenwriter Brian Burns, brother of actor and director Ed Burns, who is married to Turlington. The two couples live within a block of each other in New York.)

Carter’s first real photoshoot this past summer was actually accidental. Turlington was shooting a cover for Vogue Brazil with the renowned photographers Luigi Murenu and Iango Henzi, and she had Carter come visit the set so that he could network with people from the industry.

“The photographers were in awe of how much we looked alike,” Carter says. “So they styled me up immediately.”

While Turlington was getting her hair and makeup done, Carter was whisked away for an impromptu shoot.

“They were gone for like an hour!” Turlington says. “I was like, ‘Hey guys, don’t we have work to do?’”

From that shoot came the image that Turlington put out to more than 800,000 followers on Instagram, with the caption, “When your nephew visits you on the set and steals the show!” The post got more than 40,000 likes.

A headshot that Christy Turlington posted on Instagram vaulted James to stardom. (Photo by Luigi & Iango)

A star was born.

Carter has since done several shoots for upcoming projects, including his first magazine cover, and he’s strutted the catwalk for Rag & Bone, Brandon Maxwell, Giorgio Armani, Fila, Missoni and Bottega Veneta at Fashion Week in New York and Milan.

“It’s kind of the same as walking out to the mound, in a way,” he says. “That confident walk.”

Carter used to devote himself to bulking up his body. Squats. Deadlifts. Protein.

Now, he’s eating fish and vegetables and doing cardio and ab workouts constantly. He pitched at 215 pounds. As a model, he’s down around 170.

“The diet,” he says with a sigh, “definitely got stricter.”

Instead of sharing a clubhouse with his A-ball teammates, he’s found himself rubbing elbows at parties with famous athletes, movie stars, musicians and, of course, many, many models.