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With Cooperstown inspiration, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. makes Triple-A debut

Spending the weekend in Cooperstown, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. received a reminder of how much dedication it took his father to earn induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

It was a timely lesson for Guerrero now that minor league baseball’s acclaimed top prospect has entered the next phase of his career.

“I feel really happy that my dad achieved that, that he got there because it showed how much work he did to get there,” Guerrero said through a translator, Toronto Blue Jays mental performance coach Rafael Dubois. “And right now, it’s just keep working, keep working. And I’m happy that I’m here now.”cheap official nike nfl jerseys

Here is Buffalo, where the 19-year-old made his Triple-A debut with the Blue Jays’ top affiliate Tuesday night. And he did so wearing No. 27, the same number his father, Vladimir Guerrero, had during a 16-year major league career capped by his induction on Sunday.12

Hitting third, Guerrero drove in a run with a sacrifice fly to left-center with the bases loaded in the sixth inning. The ball was headed for the gap before left fielder Adron Chambers made a diving catch.

Guerrero also walked each of his first three times up, grounded out to second and scored twice in Buffalo’s 11-8 loss.

He made two notable defensive plays at third base in the second inning.new nike nfl jerseys for sale cheap

Guerrero snagged a hard one-hopper while falling backward, and calmly threw out Joey Meneses. Aaron Altherr, the next batter, hit a high bouncer up the third baseline, which Guerrero backhanded, and he threw a one-hopper to just beat the runner.

Guerrero doesn’t expect his father to see him play in Buffalo because of various commitments with the Los Angeles Angels.

His grandmother, Altagracia Alvino, will continue living with Guerrero as she did in New Hampshire.

He flashed a toothy smile when asked about his grandmother, who cooks for him and does his laundry — “She doesn’t allow me to do it,” he said.

“If I move to China, she comes with me to China,” Guerrero said. “I always get advice from her. She’s there to support me.”

What could happen in the final 24 hours before the deadline?

As the trade deadline approaches, it’s more about quantity of moves that could be made than moves that will make you say “wow.” Once Manny Machado left Baltimore for Los Angeles, the top closers came off the market and Cole Hamels was traded from Texas to the Cubs, the market became decidedly short on pizzazz.

With less than 24 hours remaining, a slew of relievers, back-of-the-rotation starters and positional depth pieces are ready to change teams. The Twins, Blue Jays, Padres, Rays, Orioles, Tigers, Rangers, Mets and Reds are among the teams with inventory to sell and no particular reason to hang on to it.

With the understanding that things are fluid at this time of year, here’s some buzz to pass along:cheap nike nfl jerseys from china

• Chris Archer remains the big name out there, and the Padres are the team most prominently linked to him. There’s a sense among some people that Archer will still be pitching in Tampa Bay after the deadline — and that the Rays’ talks in recent days were basically one big fact-gathering mission to lay groundwork for more extensive trade talks involving Archer this winter.

“They’re in no hurry to move him because of his contract,” said an official with one club that checked in on Archer. “I think they would have to be completely overwhelmed. I just don’t see it happening.”

• Are the Giants coming or going? No one knows for sure. They’re 3-8 in their past 11 games, but the front office seems loath to declare a sell-off.11

“The Giants don’t think they’re out of it,” said one person familiar with San Francisco’s thinking. FanGraphs calculates the Giants’ odds of winning the NL West at 0.5 percent and making the playoffs at 4.5 percent, so management is a lot more optimistic than it has a right to be.

If Brian Sabean and Bobby Evans decide to selectively sell Tuesday, relievers Will Smith and Sam Dyson could generate interest. Beyond that, Andrew McCutchen’s name could surface as a trade candidate in August because of his pending free agency. Problem is, McCutchen can’t play center field anymore, and his power production has dropped off a cliff. He’s 19-for-84 with three extra-base hits and a .286 slugging percentage in July.

• The Twins are working hard to deal Brian Dozier, but potential landing spots have fallen off the board in recent days. The Diamondbacks acquired Eduardo Escobar, the Brewers picked up Mike Moustakas, and the Dodgers didn’t have much need for a second infield acquisition after they added Machado. The Phillies were looking for a more versatile infielder with the ability to play shortstop, so they went for Asdrubal Cabrera (even though the metrics and scouts seem to agree that he’s now a defensive liability at the position).cheap official nike nfl jerseys

The reported second-tier-interest teams are less-than-ideal fits. Cleveland needs a center fielder more than a second baseman. Boston is focused more on bullpen upgrades and has already acquired second baseman Ian Kinsler. And the Giants might be more motivated to sell than buy, given their place in the standings.

Monumental mashing: Ranking D.C.’s record 10 All-Star Game homers

Don’t be ashamed. It’s OK to admit you like home runs. You can still go on YouTube and watch highlights of your favorite skinny dudes and slap-hitting middle infielders from the 1970s and ’80s in their too-tight pullover jerseys and beltless pants swinging at 86 mph fastballs. That brand of baseball was fun. All brands of baseball are fun.

That style of game, however, no longer exists. Not in 2018. It’s all about power hitters and power pitching. The big guys hit home runs, the little guys, the in-between guys, the middle infielders and at the 89th All-Star Game, it seemed as if everyone hit home runs, as the AL pulled out a wild 8-6 victory in 10 innings Tuesday night at Nationals Park.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

There were a record 10 home runs hit, four more than the previous mark from 1971, and as many as the previous six All-Star Games combined. Jean Segura looked like the hero and then Scooter Gennett was the hero and then a pair of Astros — Alex Bregman and George Springer — homered off a Dodgers pitcher and suddenly we flashed back to last October. All six home runs in 1971 came from future Hall of Famers; I’m guessing some of the 10 players who connected in this game will end up in Cooperstown as well, and even if you don’t like home runs, we can at least appreciate the talent we saw on display.

Here’s how crazy this game turned out: There were tying or go-ahead home runs hit in the seventh, eighth, ninth and 10th innings. The last time that happened in any regular season, postseason or All-Star Game was Aug. 7, 2002, between the Mariners and Blue Jays.12

This quote from Astros manager A.J. Hinch after the game says a lot about Bregman’s rise to All-Star status: “I’m not sure if anyone I’ve come across in the big leagues loves baseball more than Alex Bregman. It starts with that and he continues to get better.”

The 24-year-old third baseman has 20 home runs, already topping the 19 he hit last season. Before the game, Bregman had a simple explanation for his increased power output: “Pull the ball hard in the air.” Against Stripling, he took a cutter down the middle on his first pitch and then “went into battle mode and just was trying to put a line drive in play and it left the yard. It was crazy.” Yep. He hit the ball hard and hit it in the air.nike nfl jerseys cheap china

There’s also a neat tie-in between Bregman and Washington, D.C. His grandfather was general counsel for the Senators. “My dad grew up on Ted Williams’ lap,” Bregman said, referring to Williams’ stint as Senators manager. The trophy Bregman won as the game’s MVP? The Ted Williams MVP Trophy. His dad had a photo of him and Williams that Williams had signed. “I looked at that picture for 10 years growing up and our only thing, growing up, my dad always told me, ‘You’ve got to be the next guy to hit .400 in the big leagues.'”

As trade rumors whirl, Machado snaps selfie with Dodgers’ Kemp

As if having a great first half and being the trade-deadline darling weren’t enough, Machado snapped a selfie in the middle of the All-Star Game. But it was whom he took it with that made it the talk of the game.

Following a leadoff double by Matt Kemp in the bottom of the second inning, Machado moseyed over to second base, whipped out his phone and took a picture of himself and the Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

“That’s my boy,” Kemp said afterwards. “We go back. Worked out in the offseason a couple times a couple years ago. Yeah, that’s my boy.”11

Recounting their conversation about second base, Kemp shared that, “We were just talking about where we’re going to eat after the All-Star game. Just talking about food, good things like that. How’s the family, fun stuff like that, and just enjoying the All-Star game.”

In his first full season as the Baltimore Orioles’ shortstop, Machado was voted the American League starter after a first half in which he hit .315 with 24 home runs and 65 RBIs. A free agent after this season, the 26-year old slugger is widely expected to be traded before the All-Star break concludes later this week.

Asked about the rumor that Machado might be traded to the Dodgers, Kemp said, “Is he? Is that official? That’s still speculation, so I can’t say that happened already, right?”cheap nfl jerseys china nike

Machado has been at the center of trade rumors over the past weeks, and reports have surfaced that the Orioles have a deal in place. The Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies are thought to be the two main suitors for Machado’s services.

Cubs surge to top of NL at All-Star break thanks to clubhouse culture

All is right in Cubs Nation as the 2016 world champions used the final week before the All-Star break to take command of their division, and the National League, and now find themselves on top of both after a weekend sweep of the San Diego Padres.

“I think in some regards, people look at us in a less than [favorable light] only because of what the Red Sox and Yankees have done,” Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon said before the team’s 7-4 win on Sunday.cheap nike nfl jerseys from china “Otherwise we’ve done pretty nice work.”

It should come as no surprise they’re in the playoff hunt again but the journey to the top of the standings — at the symbolic halfway point of the season — didn’t go exactly as scripted.

The Cubs poured a huge amount of resources into their starting staff over the past 12 months but other than Sunday’s winner, Jon Lester, the rotation was the weak link in the first half — if the sixth-ranked ERA in the league can be considered a weak link. Instead, a maturing offense and deeper-than-thought bullpen carried the load.10

In fact, their offense might be the envy of the NL before it’s all said and done. They rank first in every major category except for home runs — but they think that’s a good thing. It means they’re getting the job done in other ways — more entertaining ways, in fact. Ways that could come in handy in October.

“In general, MLB is looking for this,” Maddon stated emphatically. “They’re looking for more action in the game. They’re looking for the ball to be put in play. You can have it both ways. You can.”

Maddon is referencing perhaps the most important statistic for his team in the first half, though it might be the least sexy. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, the Cubs rank first in opposite-field hits in the NL and second in baseball after ending last season ranked 19th in that category. In their fourth season together as position players, they’ve finally understood the message Maddon has been preaching.nfl cheap nike jerseys

“The best way I can describe it is, for the last several years, every hitter has been trying to hit every pitch they see for a home run, which is impossible,” he said. “Thus you get this big swing-and-miss. Pitchers throw homers.”

That last line has resonated with his hitters the most. It’s usually the opposing pitcher who determines the outcome of the at-bat. If he gives a player a cookie to hit, then it’s his job to put it in the seats, but if the pitch hits the corner then putting the ball into the opposite field — or laying off a borderline one — is the winning move. The Cubs finally get it.

Happy, not satisfied: Yankees know they have to improve from big first half

Regardless of whether the New York Yankees would have won Sunday’s first-half finale at Progressive Field, to a man, the postgame clubhouse refrain still would have been the same.

We’re good, but not yet good enough.

This is a team, nearly 30 games above .500 entering the All-Star break, that is mostly pleased with the way it performed throughout the earliest stages of the season. But the self-aware bunch also knows it can — and must — be even better if it wants to close the second half as a division champ and World Series winner.

“We’re not satisfied at all in that room,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said.nfl nike jerseys cheap china

The 4½ games his team trails the rival Boston Red Sox in the American League East are part of the reason why.

“I’m pleased with the way we played in the first half,” outfielder Brett Gardner said Sunday following New York’s 5-2 loss to the Cleveland Indians, “but I’m not pleased that we’re not in first place in the division.

“So we’ve got some work to do.”8

That’s the common sentiment among the 62-33 Yankees: that once they return to action at home Friday, hosting another Subway Series against the crosstown rival Mets, there is work to be done.

It’s work that spans the entire team. The Yankees believe no one area is as strong as it can be at this point, nor is one part of the roster infinitely superior to any other.

“We can pitch a little better, we can play a little better defense, and we’re capable of scoring more runs,” Gardner said. “It’s easy to sit here and nitpick and try and see what we could’ve maybe done different or to see how we could be better, but ultimately we have to be better if we want to win the division and get to where we want to be at, which is win a World Series.”

Starting pitching has been among the list of Yankees bugaboos since the season began. With a distinct drop-off in consistency behind the likes of ace Luis Severino and vet CC Sabathia, questions about the Yankees’ rotation have persisted.

The easiest and most discussed solution to address some of New York’s starting woes is to add a veteran pitcher before the trade deadline.cheap nike nfl jerseys from china

Since near the start of June, the Yankees have been doing their due diligence in making phone calls with other big-league teams to see what it might take to get a trade partner. Although there have been conversations regarding trades for position players such as Baltimore’s Manny Machado, New York’s primary focus from the start has been to get more arms for their shaky staff’s postseason run.

Might we see a deal that shores up the Yankees’ rotation within the next two weeks? Boone couldn’t say with 100 percent certainty as he began his All-Star break on Sunday. Still, he has full faith in the behind-the-scenes work general manager Brian Cashman and others are doing.

Aroldis Chapman to skip All-Star Game due to knee tendinitis

New York Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman has pulled out of the All-Star Game, saying Friday it was a difficult decision but that he wants to rest because of left knee tendinitis.

“Definitely a tough decision,” Chapman said through an interpreter. “It’s an honor to be selected to an All-Star Game. Your peers vote for you, the managers, fans and all that. And anytime you have an opportunity like that, you want to participate.

“But at the end of the day, it was the smart decision for me to help me recover and get ready for the second half, one that’s going to be very demanding and very exciting.”cheap nfl nike jerseys china

Houston Astros right-hander Charlie Morton (11-2) has been named to the American League All-Star team to replace him.9

Chapman, among the AL leaders with 25 saves and a 1.38 ERA, said a week off would be good for him to be fresh for the second half.

“It was the right decision to take at this time, rest and get ready for what we have coming up,” Chapman said.cheap nike nfl jersey

The left-hander is still available Friday night and for the rest of the Yankees’ series against the Indians in Cleveland.

Chapman said after pitching Thursday night’s ninth inning in the Yankeess’ 7-4 win that his ailing knee actually felt good and that the discomfort he has been feeling in recent weeks was about the same as it has been.

Will Justus Sheffield shore up the Yankees’ rotation — or be trade bait?

A first-round pick in 2014 from Tennessee, the left-handed starting pitcher has climbed the ranks in the Yankees organization and become a possible piece of the puzzle as New York reportedly tries to land Machado from the O’s.

On Wednesday alone, there were conflicting reports as to whether Sheffield, a Triple-A starter, was part of a trade package the Yankees offered the Orioles in exchange for their superstar shortstop.

With Baltimore in need of young starting pitching it can rebuild around, Sheffield would be a slam-dunk addition. But the Yankees like Sheffield’s trajectory and are looking for starting pitching themselves, so bringing him to the Bronx sooner rather than later makes some sense.cheap nike nfl jerseys from china

Potential trade partners will get an up-close look at Sheffield during Sunday’s Futures Game at Nationals Park. An annual exhibition that offers an early look at the next crop of rising major league stars, the Futures Game has helped launch some big league careers. Last year, current MLB regulars Ronald Acuna Jr., Rhys Hoskins and Rafael Devers competed in the game.

One of the Yankees’ most venerable active pitchers is already singing the praises of his team’s lone Futures Game rep.11

“What I saw during spring training,” CC Sabathia said of Sheffield, “he could pitch in the big leagues and be a great starter.”

Based off the reports he has heard about Sheffield’s most recent performances for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, Sabathia believes it won’t be long before the player he considers a little brother is on a big league roster.

And Sabathia would be happiest if Sheffield came up in pinstripes.

“I hope that he gets up here soon,” Sabathia said. “If his stuff is there … it would give us a boost, for sure.”

Sheffield — who was traded to New York at the 2016 deadline as part of a move that sent reliever Andrew Miller to eventual AL champion Cleveland — has a 4-5 record and 2.44 ERA in 16 starts between Double-A and Triple-A this season. He opened the year with the Yankees at spring training: In 5 1/3 innings across three spring appearances, he allowed six hits and seven runs and struck out four.

Although the numbers weren’t impressive, something caught Sabathia’s attention.nfl cheap nike jerseys

“Just electric stuff. His slider wipes off the table. His fastball is good,” Sabathia said. “He’s just got to get the command down.”

Sheffield’s command and control have appeared to improve as of late. He’s lasting deeper into games, allowing fewer runs and giving up fewer walks. He had one three-walk game since June 14 after four such outings in his previous seven starts, and he has surrendered just two runs in his past 18 1/3 innings — a span of three starts.

Cubs assessing needs while waiting for Darvish’s return

“It’s been a good couple days for him, but he’s still in that strengthening mode,” Epstein said Friday before the Cubs played the Cincinnati Reds.

“Anytime you stop like that [rehabbing] and go for another opinion, you want to see some progress. We’re happy with the last few days, for sure.”

Darvish, 31, was on his way to returning, but a rehab start in the minors followed by a bullpen session didn’t go well, as he felt pain in his elbow. The Cubs say an end-of-the-month return is possible, but they won’t put a timetable on it until he’s throwing again.

His status affects the Cubs’ trade needs, at least a little bit, according to Epstein. The team is already in the market for a reliever or two, but could a starter be on its wish list as well? And would Chicago have the wherewithal to acquire one who could start a potential playoff game?cheap new nike nfl jerseys

“There is no way we’re going to go out and acquire starters the caliber of a locked-in Kyle Hendricks or a locked-in Jose Quintana and guys like that,” Epstein said. “The majority of our answers lie within.”

Although ranked fifth in ERA in the National League, the Cubs’ rotation has underachieved, outside of Jon Lester. It’s 12th in innings pitched and first in walks, although most of that damage is due to Tyler Chatwood, who leads the league in free passes.60

Either way, Epstein all but ruled out acquiring a bat, meaning that early-season Manny Machado rumors were highly misplaced. The Cubs rank first in every important offensive category in the NL, including runs scored.

“On the position-player front, right now, there is not a lot we would want to go get, honestly,” Epstein said. “Not a lot of roster spots to fit guys in, and we have guys we have to sit on a given day we want to get at-bats for. It’s not like we’re actively looking to add on the position-player side.”

One of those players sitting is former MVP, Kris Bryant. He’s been out close to two weeks with a sore shoulder but is feeling better after a hitting session Friday, according to Epstein. He could be activated or sent out for a rehab assignment soon.

The Cubs’ biggest current need is a left-hander for their bullpen, as former swingman Mike Montgomery is entrenched in the rotation while Brian Duensing has struggled and is on the disabled list. Former Tigers closer Justin Wilson has also been unreliable since coming over in a July trade last year.cheap youth nfl jerseys

“Almost every contender is looking to add another reliever or two from each side,” Epstein said. “The way it looks right now isn’t necessarily the way it looks for the remainder of the season.”

Has Matt Harvey made himself into a quality trade target?

“It’s a good sign that I can go out and not feel great and kind of be out of whack and still limit damage,” Harvey said. “But today was definitely a struggle and I’m happy to get through it.”

It’s no small point. By the end of Harveys’ tenure with the New York Mets, those small struggles tended to turn into raging dumpster fires. When you look at where Harvey was by the time the Mets designated him for assignment back in May, cheap nfl nike jerseys free shipping routine outings such as the one Saturday have to be looked at as positive data points.

For one thing, it was the fourth straight outing in which Harvey pitched into at least the sixth inning and he hasn’t given up more than three runs in any of his past five outings. Over his 11 starts for the Reds, Harvey is 4-3 with a 3.79 ERA. He has struck out 6.7 batters per nine innings and has whiffed over three batters for every one he has walked. From a results standpoint, Saturday’s performance was an ebb in his momentum. But only an ebb.

“He was laboring a little bit,” Reds manager Jim Riggleman said. “But he made the necessary pitches to minimize the damage. Kept that one inning to two runs. He put us right where we wanted to be.”

Under the hood, things look even more promising for Harvey’s revival than his overall Cincinnati stat line. First, there’s those past five outings: He’s 3-1 and would be 4-1 if not for the Reds’ bullpen meltdown Saturday. His ERA is 2.48. The strikeout rate is still more of that of a finesse pitcher (6.2), but his strikeouts-to-walks ratio is up to four and he hasn’t given up a home run in a month. The trend is good.59

“I do think that his slider has been better as the season has gone along, from the time that he joined us,” Riggleman said. “And as good as he’s throwing the ball, he’s more pitching now and really using the slider to get the strikeout. He wasn’t striking people out that first month.”

The results are solid, to be sure. No, they aren’t Harvey circa 2013, when he struck out more than a batter per inning and had the lowest home run rate in the National League. That guy had Tommy John surgery in 2014 and a procedure for thoracic outlet syndrome in 2016. This guy, though, is at least revving up his stuff to the point where we can believe he used to be the other guy, the one with the catchy superhero nickname.

“I am healthy,” Harvey said. “Definitely. Feeling healthy. I’m two years out from surgery now, so it’s been a lot of work to get to where I am now, but everything feels good.”

Much of Harvey’s velocity is back and, seemingly, it’s not going anywhere. His fastball has been sitting at 93-94 mph for each of these past five starts, and in each of them he has topped out at over 96. The bite on his slider is better — his six highest scores for average break length have come over his past six starts. As a result, Harvey’s chase rates are up, he’s getting more swinging strikes overall, he has stayed in the zone more consistently and stayed far more efficient with his pitch counts.cheap new nike nfl jerseys

“I’ve been doing that for five or six starts,” Harvey said when asked about his improved stuff. “That’s what happens when you feel good and everything is coming out fine.”