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The 19 Jews of Spring Training

By Scott Barancik, editor

With Team Israel’s surprising run at the World Baseball Championship behind us, Jewish Baseball News turns to that beloved annual rite: Spring Training.

A total of 19 Jewish players were invited to MLB Spring Training camps this year, either as part of their teams’ active roster, 40-man roster, or non-roster invitee list. Here is how they’re doing through games played March 17.

Danny Valencia (Mariners)

  • In the first Spring Training with his new team, 32-year-old Valencia is hitting .184 with 1 HR, 3 RBIs, and 5 walks in 38 at-bats. Although he’s a career .321 hitter against righties (and .246 vs. lefties), he has struggled equally against both so far.
  • Seattle has Valencia playing first base almost exclusively. Last season with Oakland, Valencia had no errors at first base, one in the outfield, and 13 at third base.

Richard Bleier (Orioles)

  • Traded to Baltimore by the Yankees last month, Bleier has performed well this Spring, delivering a 1.50 ERA across four outings and six innings overall, and yielding six hits and one walk while fanning four.
  • Bleier is among several pitchers still fighting for a spot in the Orioles’ bullpen.

Max Fried (Braves/minors)

  • A 1st-round draft pick of the San Diego Padres in 2012, Fried — who missed the entire 2015 season due to Tommy John surgery — was impressive in his first MLB Spring Training, yielding a hit and three walks in three outings (and four innings overall) while striking out five.
  • Atlanta not only has promoted Fried to Double-A but added him to the Braves’ 40-man roster, meaning he will be eligible for call-up during the regular season.

Ryan Braun (Brewers)

  • Braun has seen limited action in Spring Training, going 3-for-11 with a HR, double, three RBIs and a walk while striking out three times. Nevertheless, the 33-year-old has remained something of a lightning rod for criticism, most recently for his complaints that Spring Training lasts too long.

Kevin Pillar (Blue Jays)

  • Pillar has been hot this Spring, hitting .355 with six extra-base hits, one RBI, and a .444 on-base percentage. He’s also been batting leadoff, a privilege largely denied him in past seasons due to a dearth of walks.
  • In prior Springs, Pillar’s average has ranged from .111 to .264.

Rowdy Tellez (Blue Jays/minors)

  • A non-roster invitee with a reputation for power — he hit .297 with 23 HRs last season at Double-A — Tellez has hit .259 this Spring with no home runs, two doubles, two RBIs, four walks, and 10 strikeouts.
  • No word yet on which minor-league team Tellez will be sent to after Spring Training ends.

Brad Goldberg (White Sox/minors)

  • In addition to playing for Team Israel in the 2017 World Baseball Championship, Goldberg pitched well for Chicago during Spring Training. In four appearances and 4.2 innings overall, he delivered a 0.00 ERA and earned a save while yielding two walks a hit and striking out one.
  • Earlier this week, the White Sox sent Goldberg back to Triple-A but placed him on the Major League club’s 40-man roster. He’s likely to make his MLB debut this season.

Ian Kinsler (Tigers)

  • Normally a strong Spring Training performer — through games played March 17, his career average was .328 with 30 HRs and 117 RBIs — Kinsler has hit .263 this year, with one HR and one RBI in 19 at-bats.
  • Kinsler also has played for Team USA in the WBC, hitting .294 in 17 at-bats.

Craig Breslow (Twins/minors)

  • Breslow, who has adjusted his pitching form in a data-driven bid to revive his stalled career, earned a minor-league contract with the Twins and an invitation to Spring Training. So far, so good: in five appearances and 4.1 innings overall, Breslow has yielded no earned runs and just one hit while striking out four. On the down side, he’s walked five.
  • Breslow is likely to begin the 2017 regular season in Triple-A.

Alex Bregman (Astros)

  • In addition to playing for Team USA in the WBC, Bregman has hit .304 in Spring Training, stroking two doubles and a walk while striking out once in 23 at-bats.

Garrett Stubbs (Astros/minors)

  • A non-roster invitee who hit a combined .304 in High-A and Double-A last season, Stubbs didn’t get a chance to play with Houston this Spring due to a problem with his throwing arm. He was later assigned to minor-league camp, but manager A.J Hinch said the Astros were “excited” about Stubbs, whom he called “really good behind the plate.”

Michael Barash (Angels/minors)

  • Barash, a 2016 draft pick, was perhaps the most unlikely non-roster invitee this Spring, having topped out at Single-A his rookie season (and hitting .240 there after batting .314 in rookie-league ball). The 22-year-old catcher went a perfect 2-for-2 with the Angels, singling and doubling in two pinch-hit at-bats.

Ryan Lavarnway (Athletics/minors)

  • Despite a non-roster invite, former major leaguer Lavarnway has seen limited play during Spring Training, having instead spent his time starring for Team Israel in the WBC. The 6’4″ catcher went 2-for-3 with a double for the Athletics before joining Team Israel.

Scott Feldman (Reds)

  • Signed to a one-year deal during the offseason, the 34-year-old Feldman is 0-1 this Spring with a 4.50 ERA. In eight innings spread across the starts, he’s yielded seven hits (including 3 HRs) and two walks while striking out seven.
  • Feldman has secured a spot as a starter in Cincinnati’s rotation and might start the team’s Opening Day game.

Jared Lakind (Pittsburgh/minors)

  • A non-roster invitee, Lakind has recorded one save this Spring and held opponents scoreless over three relief appearances. He has yielded two walks and two hits over three total innings while striking out two.
  • Lakind also played for Team Israel in the WBC.

Corey Baker (Cardinals/minors)

  • A non-roster invitee, Baker made his MLB Spring Training debut before playing for Team Israel in the WBC. In a 2.2-inning relief stint, he gave up 2 hits and a hit batsman but struck out one and yielded no runs.

Ryan Sherriff (Cardinals/minors)

  • A non-roster invitee, Sherriff has made the most of his first MLB Spring Training, going 0-1 with a 1.35 in six appearances and 6.2 innings overall. The 28th-round 2011 draft pick yielded six hits and one walk while hitting one batter and striking out an impressive eight.

Joc Pederson (Dodgers)

  • In a familiar pattern, Joc Pederson is hitting .242 this Spring with both a lot of home runs (4) and a lot of strikeouts (10). But that’s not giving him credit for advances he made in 2016, his second full season in the Majors. Pederson raised his batting average 36 points last year (to .246) while reducing his strikeouts, hitting more doubles, and slightly improving his home-run frequency.

Ike Davis (Dodgers/minors)

  • Davis, a former major leaguer who signed a minor-league contract with Los Angeles during the offseason, went 2-for-2 as a non-roster invitee before joining Team Israel in the WBC. He has been assigned to the Dodgers’ Triple-A team.

Ty Kelly (Mets/minors)

  • Kelly, who played for Team Israel in the WBC but does not identify exclusively as Jewish, is 2-for-8 this Spring with two RBIs and a .500 on-base percentage. He made his MLB debut in 2016.

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Israel’s WBC roster taking shape

By Scott Barancik, editor

The roster of players set to represent Israel in the World Baseball Classic in South Korea this March is taking shape.

Team Israel general manager Peter Kurz, whose squad of former Major League and current minor-league athletes guided Israel to a qualifying-round win in September, said Tuesday that 15 ballplayers had already committed to play in the main tournament in Seoul. The list includes:

  1. Ty Kelly, IF (New York Mets)
  2. Sam Fuld, OF (free agent)
  3. Jason Marquis, P (free agent)
  4. Ike Davis, 1B (free agent)
  5. Ryan Lavarnway, C (Oakland Athletics/minors)
  6. Cody Decker, IF (Milwaukee Brewers/minors)
  7. Josh Zeid, P (free agent)
  8. Nate Freiman, 1B (free agent)
  9. Tyler Krieger, IF (Cleveland Indians/minors)
  10. Nick Rickles, C (Washington Nationals/minors)
  11. Dean Kremer, P (Los Angeles Dodgers/minors)
  12. Corey Baker, P (St. Louis Cardinals/minors)
  13. Jeremy Bleich, P (free agent)
  14. Jake Kalish, P (Kansas City Royals/minors)
  15. Alex Katz, P (Chicago White Sox/minors)

Two key additions are Ty Kelly and Sam Fuld. During the qualifiers in September, Kelly was playing for the New York Mets, while Fuld, then with the Oakland Athletics, was on the disabled list. Also new are minor leaguers Tyler Krieger and Jake Kalish.

Roster spots have been offered to at least seven additional minor leaguers who played for Team Israel in September : Zach Borenstein (Arizona Diamondbacks), Brad Goldberg (Chicago White Sox), Blake Gailen (independent), Scotty Burcham (Colorado Rockies), Tyler Herron (New York Mets), R C Orlan (Washington Nationals), and Joey Wagman (Oakland Athletics). None has provided a final answer yet.

Kurz told Jewish Baseball News that Danny Valencia of the Seattle Mariners and Craig Breslow, who is seeking to return to the Major Leagues, are possible future additions to Israel’s roster. Team Israel also is pursuing Joc Pederson of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Jason Kipnis of the Cleveland Indians.

Several prominent pros politely declined Team Israel’s invitations due to injury, family commitments, Major League aspirations, or other concerns. They include Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers, Kevin Pillar and Scott Feldman of the Toronto Blue Jays, Richard Bleier of the New York Yankees, Jon Moscot of the Cincinnati Reds, and minor-league prospect and Ryan Sherriff of the St. Louis Cardinals. Sherriff played for Team Israel in the September qualifiers.

Alex Bregman of the Houston Astros and Ian Kinsler of the Detroit Tigers have committed to play for Team USA rather than Team Israel in the World Baseball Classic.

Under WBC rules, athletes can play on Team Israel as long as they are eligible for Israeli citizenship. That means having at least one Jewish grandparent or being married to someone Jewish. Nearly all the players on Israel’s roster personally identify as Jewish.

Earlier this month, eight players on the WBC roster visited Israel for a week to learn about the country, meet Israeli fans, and break ground on a new baseball stadium. MLB.com reporter Jonathan Mayo and Ironbound Films co-founder Jeremy Newberger plan to create a documentary about the trip, titled Heading Home.

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How they built Team Israel’s roster

By Sam Brief, Correspondent

In September’s qualifying round for the 2017 World Baseball Classic (WBC), Colorado Rockies prospect Scotty Burcham tallied a .455 batting average, the best on Team Israel and among the top 15 for all teams.

If not for Facebook, Burcham might never have swung a bat in Brooklyn.

Since anyone who is Jewish or has a Jewish parent, grandparent or spouse can play for Team Israel, volunteers like Alex Jacobs, a Houston Astros scout, were asked to help find such players. Jacobs often employed creative methods.

Jewish baseball fans didn't know that Colorado Rockies prospect <a href=

Scotty Burcham was Jewish until a volunteer scout for Team Israel 'discovered' him" width="300" height="290" srcset="http://www.jewishbaseballnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/burcham-300x290.jpg 300w, http://www.jewishbaseballnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/burcham-120x116.jpg 120w, http://www.jewishbaseballnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/burcham.jpg 381w" sizes="(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px" /> Jewish baseball fans didn’t know Colorado Rockies prospect Scotty Burcham was Jewish until a volunteer scout for Team Israel ‘discovered’ him

“It’s Facebook stalking,” said Jacobs, who recently was named Team Israel’s director of player personnel. “I researched Scotty Burcham, and I found his Facebook. When I research these kids, I look for their parents, and I see if their parents have any Jewish in them. His mother was from New York, I believe. So I checked one box. Then, I looked at a picture of her and thought she looked kind of Jewish.

“So I called [Team Israel manager] Jerry Weinstein and said, ‘How about Scotty Burcham?’ And he said ‘Scotty Burcham? What do you have on him?’ And I’m like, ‘He plays shortstop. He’s Jewish. His mom looks like she’s Jewish.’ So Jerry called Scotty’s manager, and the manager asked Scotty if he was Jewish, and Scotty said, ‘Yeah, I am. Why do you ask?’ And the rest is history. He played really well for us.”

Burcham filled a gaping roster hole in the middle infield and helped Team Israel win the WBC qualifiers for the first time. Israel took down Great Britain and Brazil and then crushed Great Britain, 9-1, in the championship game, to advance to the March 2017 WBC games in Seoul, South Korea.

Houston Astros scout Alex Jacobs (left) and Los Angeles Dodgers scout Jonah Rosenthal (right) volunteered to help Team Israel build its roster for the World Baseball Classic

Houston Astros scout Alex Jacobs (left) and Los Angeles Dodgers scout Jonah Rosenthal (right) volunteered to help Team Israel build its roster for the World Baseball Classic

Israel’s 28-man roster in Brooklyn included former Major League Baseball players such as Ike Davis, Jason Marquis and Josh Satin, who skipped the final game to fly to California for the birth of his child. But Israel’s Law of Return made the roster-building process unlike any other, as the team would venture outside of the database of ballplayers already identified as Jewish.

The WBC’s rules state that a player can join a country’s team if he is eligible for citizenship within that country. Per Israel’s Law of Return, citizenship can be granted to anyone who has a Jewish parent, grandparent or spouse.

“We’re looking for ballplayers who can meet the Law of Return for the land of Israel and become Israeli citizens,” said Peter Kurz, the president of the Israeli Association of Baseball. “That’s a much wider interpretation than the actual Jewish law, which says that you have to have a Jewish mother in order to be considered as a Jew. We were able to make it a little broader.”

Kurz added that Paul Goldschmidt of the Arizona Diamondbacks, whose father is Jewish, doesn’t qualify since he is devoutly Christian.

“We don’t want people who don’t feel Jewish heritage,” Kurz said.

Volunteers like Houston’s Jacobs, Jonah Rosenthal of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Guy Stevens of the Kansas City Royals, and baseball veterans Adam Gladstone and Ty Eriksen uncovered some previously-unknown gems, such as Burcham. But MLB’s rules require proof of eligibility. That was Kurz’s job. Jacobs, Rosenthal and the others gave Kurz the names, Kurz reached out to the players and proved a Jewish connection, and Weinstein managed the team.

“I would get the emails or numbers of their parents, and in almost every case, the parents were totally thrilled that their sons would compete for Team Israel,” Kurz said. “They would send in their son’s Bar Mitzvah certificate, or a birth certificate or a bris certificate. In some cases, I would need a birth certificate of the father. And in other cases, I would have to go to a grandparent.”

It wasn’t always so straightforward. For one player, a tombstone with a Jewish star had to serve as proof.

“The father went to take a picture of his mother’s tombstone, and sent it to me,” Kurz said. “That was the most extreme.”

In between identifying Jewish players and providing proof of their eligibility to MLB officials, Team Israel had to secure each player’s commitment to play. Some former MLBers, like Davis and Marquis, were tougher gets.

“I called both those guys twenty-something times before I got a return call,” Weinstein said. “Marquis had basically retired in the middle of 2015, when he was playing with the Reds. But he pitched on an alumni team in the [National Baseball Congress] World Series in Wichita, and scouts told me he pitched pretty well. So that sparked my interest in him. … He said, ‘I’m gonna check with my wife,’ then he said, ‘I’ll do it.’ He was a great teammate, and a great pitcher on the team.

“Ike Davis got his release from the Yankees, so he was hanging loose, and the timing was just right.”

Team Israel began with a list of known Jewish players maintained by Jewish Baseball News and Jewish Sports Review. Because certain positions were underrepresented, particularly in the middle infield, Weinstein asked his volunteer scouts to find unknowns.

“A lot of what we did was scouring through systems, like college rosters, to find more,” said Rosenthal, the Dodgers scout. “It was an all-hands-on-deck approach. Some of these guys we hadn’t seen. But we weren’t dealing with the biggest demographic out there. Sometimes it involved calling scouts. Sometimes it involved digging for information.” Roughly half a dozen previously-unknown players were discovered as a result of these efforts.

In March, Team Israel will head to Seoul to face off against Chinese Taipei, South Korea and the Netherlands in Pool A of the WBC, where a total of 16 teams will compete for the title of world’s best.

Unlike the qualifiers, which took place during MLB’s regular season, the WBC will take place during the offseason. Kurz and Weinstein hope to add several Major Leaguers to Israel’s roster, including Joc Pederson (who played for Israel in the 2013 WBC qualifiers), Scott Feldman, Alex Bregman, Ian Kinsler, Ryan Braun, Sam Fuld, and more. Weinstein said Kansas City Royals 3B Mike Moustakas, who is married to a Jewish woman, would be eligible if not for a recent stint on the disabled list.

However the roster pans out, volunteers like Gladstone, Jacobs and Rosenthal hope Israel’s success on the international stage will boosts its popularity within the country, which has been a consistent goal. In early January, players will head to Israel for a team trip.

“When we got that final out in Brooklyn, to know the positives that it would do for growing the game in Israel is amazing,” Gladstone said. “It’s not only the money, but also the equipment and notoriety. You felt like you accomplished something. You had a very small part in growing the game of baseball, and for providing opportunities for young kids in Israel who maybe wouldn’t have that if we didn’t win a baseball game.”

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sam brief mugSam Brief is a sophomore at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, where he is a television reporter, radio producer, play-by-play man and writer. Follow him on Twitter @sambrief and feel free to shoot him an email at briefsam@gmail.com.

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The 16 Jewish Cubs

The first Jewish Cub

The first Jewish Cub

By Scott Barancik, Editor

On September 5, 1927, Lefty Weinert tossed a 6-1, complete-game win over the St. Louis Cardinals in the first game of a doubleheader at Wrigley Field, yielding 5 hits and no earned runs.

It wasn’t just the 25-year-old southpaw’s Chicago Cubs premiere. It also marked the very first Jewish appearance in this storied franchise’s history.

Another lengthy dry spell would follow. The next Jewish Cub didn’t appear until September 7, 1942, when 23-year-old third baseman Cy Block went 2-for-4 with an RBI double in his Major League debut.

In time, the numbers grew. Through 2016, a total of 16 Jewish players had worn a Cubs uniform. The most recent: outfielder Ryan Kalish, who first played for Chicago in 2014 and earned a .444 on-base percentage in 10 plate appearances during the 2016 regular season.

 

Jewish Cubs

  1. Ryan Kalish, OF (2014, 2016)
  2. Scott Feldman, P (2013)
  3. John Grabow, P (2009-11)
  4. Sam Fuld, CF (2007, 2009-10)
  5. Jason Marquis, P (2007-08)
  6. Adam Greenberg, CF (2005)
  7. Andrew Lorraine, P (1999-2000)
  8. Jose J. Bautista, P (1993-94)
  9. Ken Holtzman, P (1965-71, 1978-79)
  10. Dave A. Roberts, P (1977-78)
  11. Steve Stone, P (1974-76)
  12. Art Shamsky, 1B (1972)
  13. Ed Mayer, P (1957-58)
  14. Hy Cohen, P (1955)
  15. Cy Block, 3B (1942, 1945-46)
  16. Lefty Weinert, P (1927-28)

The roster of Jewish Cubs is dominated by pitchers. Over the decades, a total of 11 hurlers have combined for 165 wins against 156 losses and a 4.07 ERA. Kenny Holtzman tossed two of the franchise’s 10 no-hitters and racked up 80 wins, tying him for 23rd-most in Cub history. Steve Stone, who also pitched for the White Sox, played three seasons with the Cubs before going on to earn a Cy Young Award with the Baltimore Orioles.

A partial box score from <a href=

Lefty Weinert's Chicago Cub debut on September 5, 1927 (click for full box score)" width="300" height="209" srcset="http://www.jewishbaseballnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/weinert-box-300x209.jpg 300w, http://www.jewishbaseballnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/weinert-box-120x84.jpg 120w, http://www.jewishbaseballnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/weinert-box.jpg 406w" sizes="(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px" /> A partial box score from Lefty Weinert’s Chicago Cub debut on September 5, 1927 (click image for full box score)

Pitchers are so dominant on the list that they account for 75 percent of all at-bats by Jewish Cubs — and eight of nine Jewish home runs. Position players have hit .253 with a .343 on-base percentage for the Cubs but managed just one home run in 328 combined at-bats, a solo shot by CF Sam Fuld on the last day of the 2009 regular season.

Art Shamsky burned the Cubs twice. In 1969, the outfielder hit .300 with the New York Mets to help deliver Chicago its most devastating late-season collapse. In 1972, in the twilight of his career, Shamsky managed just two hits in his only 16 at-bats as a Cub.

Ryan Kalish played for the Cubs in 2014 and 2016

Ryan Kalish played for the Cubs in 2014 and 2016

Theo Epstein, the Cubs’ president of baseball operations, assembled the roster that led to the team’s 2016 World Series triumph. There were no Jewish players in uniform during the Cubs’ playoff run, however. Kalish, who hit .368 at Triple-A in 2016, was left off the Major League roster and declared his free agency on October 11.

There was one Jewish Cub in a World Series, if only briefly. Cy Block entered Game 6 of the 1945 Series against Hank Greenberg‘s Detroit Tigers as a pinch-runner in the 9th inning with the score tied 7-7. Although he didn’t cross home plate, Chicago went on to beat Detroit 8-7 in 12 innings despite a Greenberg home run.

Detroit, of course, won Game 7, launching what would be a 70-year World Series drought for the Cubs that would finally end, gloriously, in 2016.

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bregman astros mugBy Scott Barancik, Editor

Scarcely a year after being drafted by the Houston Astros, red-hot prospect Alex Bregman is being called-up to the Majors. He is expected to make his MLB debut tonight against the Yankees in New York.

A 22-year-old shortstop from Albuquerque, NM, Bregman has made quick work of the minors. After hitting a combined .294 last season with 4 HRs and 34 RBIs in Class A and High-A ball, in 2016 he’s added power, hitting a combined .306 with 20 HRs, 61 RBIs, and a .986 OPS, second-base among all full-season minor-leaguers. Bregman walks more than he strikes out, runs the bases intelligently, can play both shortstop and third base, and has confidence to spare.

It’s no wonder Minor League Baseball recently named him the top offensive player at midseason among all pro prospects. Bregman also has shined in showcase games, falling a home run short of the cycle in the All-Star Futures Games this month and going 2-for-3 in the Texas League All-Star Game. In his first game at Triple-A, he went 4-for-5 with 3 RBIs and a walk.

“It’s a dream come true,” Bregman told MLB.com about the call-up. “And I’m ready to go work, keep my mouth shut and hopefully help contribute.”

With teammate Jose Altuve well settled at shortstop, Bregman is expected to get playing time at third base, left field, and as designated hitter. MLB.com columnist Jim Callis enthused about the LSU alum yesterday:

“Wherever he plays, Bregman is equipped to be a star. There’s no weakness in his offensive game, as he has outstanding bat speed from the right side of the plate and has complete control of the strike zone. He barrels balls consistently, and since he has made an adjustment to attack and turn on pitches on the inner half of the plate since turning pro, he could hit 25 homers per season.

Though he has elicited comparisons to Dustin Pedroia for years because he has similar size and plays with the same chip on his shoulder, Bregman has more speed and defensive versatility. He’s an average runner with excellent instincts on the bases. He’s capable of playing at least an average shortstop, and his solid arm and gift for anticipating plays could make him a plus defender at third base.”

Bregman is the second Jewish player to get a call-up this season. In May, the New York Yankees called up P Richard Bleier, who had spent, by comparison, a biblically long nine seasons in the minors.

Bregman will be the second Jewish player on Houston’s 25-man roster, joining veteran hurler Scott Feldman. Of all 1,215 players drafted in 2015, he will be the first position player (and third player overall) to reach the Majors.

The Astros play the Yankees tonight at 8:10 ET, with Houston’s Dallas Keuchel facing Michael Pineda. Houston (54-44) is in second place in the A.L. West, 2.5 games behind Texas.

 

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By Scott Barancik, editor

As baseball fans celebrate Opening Day, Jewish Baseball News is taking a look back at the 21 Jews who participated in MLB Spring Training this year.

Fifteen position players and six pitchers saw playing time, some as full-fledged team members, others as non-roster invitees, and several via short-term stints. Their stats are shown at the bottom; players who made their franchise’s Opening Day roster are shown in bold.

Following are some of the Spring’s top stories.

  • It will take a lot more for him to earn back some fans’ trust and affection, but Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun — fresh from a 65-game suspension for taking performance-enhancing drugs — dazzled, hitting .417 with nine RBIs and eight extra-base hits in 36 at-bats.
  • Ike Davis and Josh Satin both made the Mets’ Opening Day roster and will share First Base duties with Lucas Duda. But Davis — who squeaked by with a .241 average in Spring Training — is among the candidates to be sent down later this week to make room for Jon Niese.
  • Nate Freiman‘s 11 RBIs ranked eighth on the A’s, but it wasn’t enough to make the team’s Opening Day roster. Meanwhile, teammate Sam Fuld wowed his way onto the roster with four triples, 7 RBIs and a .348 on-base percentage.
  • With Boston’s Craig Breslow starting the season on the disabled list, Scott Feldman is the only Jewish pitcher to make an Opening Day roster. He also was the only Jewish starter during spring Training. As a group, Jewish pitchers went 1-and-5.
  • After missing much of the past three seasons with surgeries and injuries, former Boston Red Sox OF Ryan Kalish earned a spot on the Cubs’ Opening Day roster. Kalish hit .304 with 3 RBIs, stole 6 of 7 bases, and reached base 38.5% of the time.
  • Texas prospect Aaron Poreda earned some respect in his first MLB Spring Training since 2011. Poreda claimed one save in two chances, held opposing hitters to a .265 average, and walked just one batter over 8.1 innings.
  • Ian Kinsler, traded by Texas during the off-season for Detroit’s Cecil Fielder, outperformed “Big Daddy” with 3 HRs, 9 extra-based hits, 9 RBIs, a perfect 4-for-4 in stolen bases, a .300 average, and a .382 on-base percentage. Fielder matched Kinsler’s power (3 HRs, 9 extra-base hits, 10 RBIs) but hit .246 while striking out 16 times and drawing only two walks.
  • Ben Guez, a 27-year-old outfielder who spent part of the last four seasons with Detroit’s Triple-A club but has yet to be called up, made a brief but exciting splash in three Spring Training games. Against Toronto on 3/18/2014, Guez reached base all six times, going 3-for-3 with two doubles and three walks. His career MLB Spring Training average is a robust .529, along with a .692 on-base percentage.

 MLB Spring Training hitting, 2014

Team AB H 2B 3B HR RBI SB AVG OBP
Zach Borenstein LAA 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 NA 1.000
Ryan Braun MIL 36 15 5 0 3 9 0 .417 .500
Ike Davis NYM 29 7 2 0 2 7 0 .241 .313
Cody Decker SDP 10 3 1 0 1 4 0 .300 .417
Nate Freiman OAK 42 10 2 1 1 11 0 .238 .327
Sam Fuld OAK 59 16 1 4 1 7 1-1 .271 .348
Ben Guez DET 7 5 2 0 0 2 0-1 .714 .818
Ryan Kalish CHC 46 14 1 0 0 3 6-7 .304 .385
Ian Kinsler DET 60 18 5 1 3 9 4-4 .300 .382
Ryan Lavarnway BOS 38 11 1 0 2 5 0 .289 .357
Jake Lemmerman SDP 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .500
Joc Pederson LAD 38 7 1 0 3 6 0 .184 .311
Kevin Pillar TOR 33 5 1 1 0 4 0-1 .152 .176
Josh Satin NYM 50 13 2 0 1 4 0 .260 .333
Danny Valencia KCR 48 11 1 0 1 4 1-1 .229 .327

Notes: Zach Borenstein walked in his only plate appearance

MLB Spring Training pitching, 2014

Team W L ERA G IP H BB SO AVG WHIP
Jeremy Bleich NYY 0 0 9.00 1 1.0 2 0 0 .500 2.00
Scott Feldman HOU 0 2 5.40 4 16.2 21 2 14 .292 1.38
Aaron Poreda TEX 0 1 3.24 8 8.1 9 1 8 .265 1.20
Danny Rosenbaum WAS 0 1 2.70 3 3.1 3 2 2 .300 1.50
Jeff Urlaub OAK 1 1 8.10 4 3.1 4 2 1 .333 1.80
Josh Zeid HOU 0 0 4.15 7 8.2 12 4 12 .333 1.85

Notes: Aaron Poreda earned one save in two chances; Josh Zeid earned a save in his sole opportunity. Boston’s Craig Breslow did not play, due to injury

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Feldman signs 3-year deal with Astros

By Scott Barancik, editor

Free agent Scott Feldman has signed a 3-year, $30-million deal with the Houston Astros.

The Major Leagues’ youngest (average age: 26) and worst (111 losses) team last season, Houston was looking for a veteran presence. It found that in Scott Feldman, a 30-year-old righthander who made his MLB debut in 2005 and holds a career record of 51-56 with a 4.62 ERA.

Feldman is no stranger to Texas. The 6-foot-7-inch Hawaii native spent his first eight MLB seasons there before signing a free-agent deal with the Cubs after the 2012 season. He started 15 games for Chicago in 2013 before a mid-season trade to Baltimore, where he started an additional 15 games. All told, 2013 was one of Feldman’s best and busiest seasons. He finished the year with a 12-12 record and career bests in ERA (3.86) and strikeouts (132).

If 2013 Astros rookie Josh Zeid returns to the bullpen in 2014, as expected, it will be the first time in over a decade that two Jews have pitched on the same team. Scott Schoeneweis and Al Levine played for the world-champion Anaheim Angels in 2002.

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By Scott Barancik, editor

Ah, the off-season. That time of year when baseball fans and writers have little else to do but speculate about which players will move, and where. Ian Kinsler made a splash recently when the Texas Rangers traded him to the Milwaukee Brewers for slugger Prince Fielder. Who’s next?

We at Jewish Baseball News profess no inside information or special insight on the topic. Following is a brief update on the latest rumors.

  • Scott Feldman, a 30-year-old starter who split 2013 between the Chicago Cubs and Baltimore Orioles, is a free agent. At least one reputable website, mlbtraderumors.com, thinks the O’s will resign him. Feldman went a combined 12-12 last season with two completes games, a shutout, and a 3.86 ERA .
  • Kevin Youkilis, a 34-year-old infielder who played just 28 games for the New York Yankees last season due to injury, is a free agent. Where he’ll end up is unknown. Youkilis‘ agent told the New York Daily News that he’s “100 percent healthy” after recovering from back surgery. MLB.com’s Ian Browne says it’s unlikely he’ll return to Boston, where Youk spent the first nine years of his MLB career.
  • Jason Marquis, a 35-year-old starter who underwent Tommy John elbow surgery this season and will begin 2014 on the disabled list, is a free agent. Given uncertainty over his health, it’s possible Marquis will be offered a minor-league contract rather than a major-league one.
  • Sam Fuld, a 32-year-old outfielder with the Tampa Bay Rays, is arbitration eligible. On December 2, Fuld will find out whether the Tampa Bay Rays are going to tender a contract or set him loose as a free agent.
  • Kevin Pillar, a 24-year-old who just completed his rookie season with the Toronto Blue Jays, is not a free agent. But as Pillar departed recently to play in the Dominican Winter League, at least one observer wondered whether the Jays might be showcasing him for a possible trade.

  • Ike Davis, a 26-year-old first baseman with the New York Mets, is not a free agent. But general manager Sandy Alderson says either Davis or fellow first baseman Lucas Duda is likely to be dealt before Spring Training begins. Davis, for his part, says he wants to stay in New York.

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By Scott Barancik, editor

According to research by our friend Ron Kaplan at his excellent Kaplan’s Korner blog, Boston reliever Craig Breslow will be just the 24th Jewish player to appear in a World Series when he appears in the upcoming Red Sox-Cardinals finale.

The New Haven, Conn., native is expected to be a key piece of Boston’s pitching puzzle. Breslow finished the 2013 regular season with a 5-2 record and a 1.81 ERA across 61 games.

The other active Major Leaguers with World Series experience are Scott Feldman (Texas Rangers, 2011), Ian Kinsler (Texas Rangers, 2010-11), Kevin Youkilis (Boston Red Sox, 2007), and Jason Marquis (St. Louis Cardinals, 2004).

Two Jewish players have been named MVP of a World Series. Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Larry Sherry had a hand in all four Dodger victories over the Chicago White Sox in 1959, earning two wins and two saves on the strength of a 0.71 ERA. Just 23 at the time, he also went a nifty 2-for-4 at the plate. Sherry’s teammate, a kid named Koufax, pitched excellently in the series but lost his only decision, a 1-0 squeaker to the Sox. Still, Sandy went on to be named World Series MVP twice, in 1963 and 1965.

Another Dodger, Steve Yeager, was named co-MVP of the 1981 World Series. He converted to Judaism after his playing career ended.

See Kaplan’s article for a complete list of World Series veterans and how each one performed.

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By Scott Barancik, editor

For some Jewish baseball fans, Yom Kippur isn’t just the holiest day on the calendar. It’s also a litmus test of a ballplayer’s commitment to Judaism.

That’s not so true here at Jewish Baseball News, a secular website that holds no grudge against a ballplayer for choosing to swing a bat during the High Holidays (although we take pride when a player like Sandy Koufax or Shawn Green elects to pray rather than play).

Some players find ways to bridge the gap. Consider reliever Craig Breslow, who told Boston’s Jewish Journal:

“In previous years, I have participated in online Passover seders and High Holy Day services, and have fasted as best as I could, even on game days. ‘Typically, I try to observe the holidays in a way that is meaningful to me and indicative of my commitment to Judaism, but also honors and acknowledges the commitment that I have made to my teammates.”

So without further ado, here’s a breakdown of who played last night, and who didn’t.

Played

Six Jewish major leaguers played last night, and five of them emerged victorious:

  1. Nate Freiman, Oakland A’s.Went 1-for-2. Result: defeated the Texas Rangers.
  2. Ian Kinsler, Texas Rangers. Went 0-for-2 but drew three walks, drove in a run, and scored 2 more. Result: lost to the Oakland A’s.
  3. Danny Valencia, Baltimore Orioles. Went 1-for-4 with an RBI single. Result: defeated the Toronto Blue Jays.
  4. Craig Breslow, Boston Red Sox. Of the three batters faced, struck out one, walked another, and gave up a two-run double, leading to a blown save. Result: defeated the New York Yankees.
  5. Josh Zeid, Houston Astros. Pitched a scoreless 8th inning, giving up a walk and a hit but no runs, and earning a hold. Result: defeated the Los Angeles Angels.
  6. Sam Fuld, Tampa Bay Rays. Was brought in as a defensive replacement in the 9th inning. Result: defeated the Minnesota Twins.

Did not play, for one reason or another 

Four major leaguers didn’t play last night even though their teams did, and three of the teams won anyway. With the exception of Baltimore’s Scott Feldman, Baylawsuits doesn’t know whether it was the players’ decision not to play or their managers’.

  1. Scott Feldman, Baltimore Orioles. A member of the team’s starting rotation, he’d pitched 2 days earlier. Result: defeated the Toronto Blue Jays.
  2. Ryan Lavarnway, Boston Red Sox. A back-up catcher, he hasn’t played since Sept. 7. Result: defeated the New York Yankees.
  3. Kevin Pillar, Toronto Blue Jays. A back-up outfielder, he’d started seven of his team’s past 10 games and played part of one other. Result: lost to the Baltimore Orioles.
  4. Josh Satin, New York Mets. A versatile infielder, he’d started six of his team’s past 10 games and played parts of two others. Result: defeated the Miami Marlins.

Unable to play

Four players were on the disabled list, and one was on suspension for violating baseball’s anti-drug policy.

  1. Ike Davis, New York Mets. On disabled list.
  2. Ryan Kalish, Boston Red Sox. On disabled list.
  3. Jason Marquis, San Diego Padres. On disabled list.
  4. Kevin Youkilis, New York Yankees. On disabled list.
  5. Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers. Suspended.

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Danny Valencia celebrates in the dugout after his 3rd-inning home run (Rob Carr/Getty Images via MLB.com)

Danny Valencia is greeted in the dugout after his 3rd-inning home run (Rob Carr/Getty Images via MLB.com)

By Scott Barancik, editor

The surging Baltimore Orioles needed a solid start from Scott Feldman on Friday (9/6/2013) to advance their playoff hopes, but the 30-year-old right-hander gave them even more.

In the 127th start of his nine-year MLB career, Feldman pitched his first-ever shutout and second complete game as the O’s beat the Chicago White Sox 4-0 (see video). He needed just 106 pitches to win, giving up 5 hits and one walk while striking out three. Feldman is 3-1 with a 1.30 ERA in his last four starts.

According to MLB.com, the shutout was Baltimore’s first in nearly 15 months.

Half of Feldman’s run support came from DH Danny Valencia, whose solo home run and RBI single gave the O’s their first two runs. The home run was Valencia’ 7th in just 98 at-bats this season.

Both men are relative newcomers to Charm City. The 6-foot-7-inch Feldman was acquired from the Chicago Cubs in a July trade, and Valencia from the Boston Red Sox in the off-season.

 

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Ian Kinsler races home on a single, shortly after recording his record-setting 163rd stolen base (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Ian Kinsler races home on a single shortly after recording his record-setting 163rd stolen base (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

By Scott Barancik, editor

Ian Kinsler became the career leader in stolen bases among Jewish players Monday night (7/22/2013) with his 163rd theft in 200 attempts (box score).

The 31-year-old Texas Ranger drew a first-inning walk off of New York Yankees pitcher Ivan Nova, promptly stole second off of catcher Chris Stewart, and then scored on a single by Adrian Beltre. The steal nudged Kinsler ahead of retired slugger Shawn Green, who dropped to 2nd on the career leader list (see below).


[table “21” not found /]


Kinsler climbed the career leader list with relative efficiency, reaching the top spot in his 8th MLB season (compared to Green’s 15th), his 4,502th plate appearance (Green had 7,963), and his 200th attempted steal (Green attempted 214), giving him a success rate of 81.5 percent (Green’s was an admirable 75.7 percent) .

Although there is video of Kinsler stealing his record-tying 162nd base — he tied the record on July 13 — MLB.com did not post video of the 163rd theft. By coincidence, Kinsler’s 162nd stolen base made him the Texas Rangers’ career leader.

Kinsler had attempted to steal his 162nd base on July 8 against former teammate (and fellow Jew) Scott Feldman, but Orioles catcher Matt Wieters tossed him out. The Arizona State alum had spent a month on the disabled list earlier this season.

Kinsler is one of only a dozen players in MLB history to twice hit 30 HRs and steal 30 bases in the same season (2009, 2011), making him a two-time member of the “30/30 club.”

Year Tm AB HR RBI SB CS
2006 TEX 423 14 55 11 4
2007 TEX 483 20 61 23 2
2008 TEX 518 18 71 26 2
2009 TEX 566 31 86 31 5
2010 TEX 391 9 45 15 5
2011 TEX 620 32 77 30 4
2012 TEX 655 19 72 21 9
2013 TEX 285 9 36 6 6
8 Yrs 3941 152 503 163 37
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/23/2013.


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http://mlb.mlb.com/team/player.jsp?player_id=444857#gameType='R'&sectionType=career&statType=2&season=2013&level='ALL'

(milb.com)

By Scott Barancik, editor

The Orioles obtained Scott Feldman from the Chicago Cubs today in a bid to improve Baltimore’s starting rotation.

A 6-foot-7-inch righthander who spent 8 years with the Texas Rangers, Feldman‘s 2013 debut with Chicago was shaping up to be his best season yet. Along with a 7-6 record — no small accomplishment on a team that’s 35-and-45 overall — the 30-year-old hurler had a 3.46 ERA so far, on pace for a career best.

Which is precisely why Baltimore traded for Feldman. Although the O’s are 11 games above .500 and a mere 2.5 games behind the first-place Boston Red Sox in the highly competitive American League East, the team’s 4.43 ERA is second worst among the A.L.’s 15 teams, and its starting rotation’s ERA is even higher.

“He’s a proven veteran starting pitcher, and he should help stabilize our rotation in the second half of the season,” Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette told MLB.com.  Feldman is expected to get his first start for the O’s tomorrow night (7/3/2013) against the Chicago White Sox.

Feldman’s career pitching stats

Year Tm Lg W L ERA G IP H ER BB SO WHIP
2005 TEX AL 0 1 0.96 8 9.1 9 1 2 4 1.179
2006 TEX AL 0 2 3.92 36 41.1 42 18 10 30 1.258
2007 TEX AL 1 2 5.77 29 39.0 44 25 32 19 1.949
2008 TEX AL 6 8 5.29 28 151.1 161 89 56 74 1.434
2009 TEX AL 17 8 4.08 34 189.2 178 86 65 113 1.281
2010 TEX AL 7 11 5.48 29 141.1 181 86 45 75 1.599
2011 TEX AL 2 1 3.94 11 32.0 25 14 10 22 1.094
2012 TEX AL 6 11 5.09 29 123.2 139 70 32 96 1.383
2013 CHC NL 7 6 3.46 15 91.0 79 35 25 67 1.143
9 Yrs 46 50 4.66 219 818.2 858 424 277 500 1.386
162 Game Avg. 9 10 4.66 44 166 174 86 56 101 1.386
TEX (8 yrs) 39 44 4.81 204 727.2 779 389 252 433 1.417
CHC (1 yr) 7 6 3.46 15 91.0 79 35 25 67 1.143
AL (8 yrs) 39 44 4.81 204 727.2 779 389 252 433 1.417
NL (1 yr) 7 6 3.46 15 91.0 79 35 25 67 1.143
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/2/2013.

In exchange for Feldman and catcher Steve Clevenger, the O’s sent two pitchers — starter Jake Arrieta and reliever Pedro Strop — to Chicago plus $338,000 in international signing-slot bonuses. Clevenger and Arrieta were assigned to their respective Triple-A teams after the trade.

Baltimore has one other Jewish player on its roster, DH Danny Valencia. Duquette, though not Jewish, was instrumental in the formation of the now-defunct Israel Baseball League, serving as director of baseball operations during its lone season.

It’s a shame Feldman won’t get to bat regularly anymore. So far this season, his first and only in the N.L., he had one HR, 2 doubles, and 8 RBIs in 34 at-bats.

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By Scott Barancik, editor

We try to give you the news in bite-sized pieces via Facebook, Twitter, and our new ‘Bunts’ column, shown on the top-left corner of the Jewish Baseball News home page. But sometimes there’s more than a mouthful of news to deliver. Today is one of those days.

So what’s new?

Kinsler's crazy slide (buzzfeed.com)

Kinsler’s crazy slide (buzzfeed.com)

  • Ian Kinsler is back. Out since May 16 due to a rib-cage injury, the three-time All-star went 0-for-4 with a walk Saturday (6/15/2013) as the Texas Rangers lost to the Toronto Blue Jays 6-1. Kinsler initially was hurt when a ball struck his chest while he was sliding into a base, and the pain intensified when he was hit with a pitch. Or at least that’s the official story. Here is a Buzzfeed.com video of Kinsler in what it describes as “the worst baseball slide of the season, by a mile” — followed by possibly the best smile by a player in an embarrassing situation.
  • Even as Kinsler was returning from the disabled list, Ryan Braun and Kevin Youkilis were going on it. Milwaukee’s Braun is out with an inflamed nerve in his right hand, while the Yankees’ Youkilis was hobbled with a lumbar strain. Get well soon, boys.
  • Scott Feldman was dominant Saturday in the Chicago Cubs’ 5-2 win over the New York Mets (see video). In a 7-inning performance, Feldman gave up just one run on two hits and a walk while striking out six. He also helped himself with this two-run single. Feldman is 6-5 this season with one complete game and a 3.05 ERA; he’s struck out 60 batters and walked only 21 over 79.2 innings.
  • Feldman’s hit was no fluke. As you can see in this table, the 6-foot-7-inch righty leads all MLB pitchers this season with 8 RBIs, thanks in part to a HR and two doubles.
  • Also triumphant Saturday (6/15/2013) was San Diego’s Jason Marquis, who raised his season record to 9-2 with a 6-4 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks (see video). Marquis‘ nine wins are tied for second most in the National League.
  • Congratulations to St. Louis Cardinals prospect Corey Baker, who was promoted to Double-A on Friday (6/15/2013). Baker — who was selected in the 49th round of the 2011 amateur draft — started the 2013 season at Single-A, moved up to A-Advanced, and spent only four games there before being picked up by the Springfield Cardinals (AA). Even after being roughed-up in his first start with Springfield, Baker’s overall ERA this season is 2.66 with a 1-2 record, 2 saves, 37 strikeouts, and only seven walks across 44 innings.
  • Los Angeles Angels prospect Zach Borenstein continues to pummel International League (A-advanced) pitchers. In a breakout third pro season, the left-handed hitter ranks first in total bases (146), second in HRs (16/tie) and slugging percentage (.613), third in RBIs (50/tie), and fourth in batting average (.315) and on-base plus slugging (.970). And Borenstein shows no signs of slowing down: in the past 10 games, he’s hit .400 with 2 HRs, 2 doubles, 2 triples, 2 walks, and 9 RBIs.

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Feldman pitches best game of career

xxxxx hugs Dioner xxx after his first complete-game win (MLB.com)

Scott Feldman hugs Dioner Navarro after earning the first complete-game win of his nine-year MLB career (MLB.com)

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By Scott Barancik, editor

During his nine years in the majors, Scott Feldman has never pitched a complete game. He has struck out more than 7 batters only once, an 11-strikeout performance with the Texas Rangers, back in 2009.

That is, until Wednesday night (5/1/2013).

In perhaps the most dominant performance of his career, the 30-year-old Chicago Cub struck out 12 batters and retired 18 in a row early on to cap a 6-2, complete-game victory over the San Diego Padres at Wrigley Field (see video). Feldman not only limited the Padres to two earned runs on three hits and one walk, he helped his own cause by smashing an RBI double into the right-field corner (see video). It was just his second double and second RBI in 29 MLB at-bats.

Despite his towering height, the 6-foot-7-inch right hander has never been a strikeout artist. Wednesday night’s dozen matched his total output from all four prior starts this season.

Feldman debuted with the Rangers in 2005 and stayed in Texas until joining the Cubs this season. Wednesday’s complete-game win improved his record to 2-3 with a 3.34 ERA.

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By Scott Barancik/Jewish Baseball News

With the regular season now underway, we’re taking a quick look back at how Jewish players performed in spring training.

The sheer number who played was impressive: a total of at least 24 Jews — 18 position players and six pitchers — got on the field for at least one MLB game this spring.

BATTING

Collectively,  position players hit .255 with 14 HRs and 64 RBIs in 384 at-bats (see table below). Several stood out:

  • Kevin Youkilis had an eye-popping debut with the New York Yankees. He led all Jewish players (as well as all Yankees) with 6 HRs, 6 doubles and 14 RBIs in just 50 at-bats, along with an .800 slugging percentage and a 1.139 OPS (on-base plus slugging).
  • New York Mets prospect Josh Satin made the most of his 16 plate appearances, cobbling together 3 singles, 2 doubles, 5 walks, and 3 RBIs to amass a .455 batting average and .647 on-base percentage.
  • Ike Davis, another Met, showed great poise at the plate, hitting .327 with 4 doubles, 1 HR, and 4 RBIs. Davis’s 9 walks boosted his on-base percentage to a healthy .431.
  • Danny Valencia lost his fight for a spot on the Baltimore Orioles’ opening-day roster but made a good impression on his new team, hitting .323 with 1 HR, 4 RBIs, and a .417 on-base percentage.
  • Maxx Tissenbaum, a 21-year-old San Diego Padres prospect with one minor-league season under his belt, knocked in 3 runs in just 4 at-bats.
  • St. Louis Cardinals prospect Adam Ehrlich walked in both of his plate appearances, St. Louis Cardinals prospect Charlie Cutler singled in his only appearance of the spring, and San Diego Padres prospect Cody Decker went 3-for-6 with a double.

Final hitting stats, 2013 MLB Spring Training

 TEAMGABHHRRBIAVGOBP
Ryan BraunMIL1023636.261.357
Charlie CutlerSTL111001.0001.000
Ike DavisNYM21551815.327.431
Cody DeckerSD26300.500.500
Adam EhrlichSTL30000-1.000
Nate Freiman*HOU/OAK25541319.241.268
Sam FuldTB820514.250.286
Adam GreenbergBAL21000.000.000
Ben GuezDET11000.000.000
Ian KinslerTEX24631419.222.292
Ryan LavarnwayBOS1644606.136.188
Jake LemmermanSTL11000.000.000
Joc PedersonLAD710101.100.182
Kevin PillarTOR79100.111.111
Josh SatinNYM1211503.455.647
Maxx TissenbaumSD44103.250.400
Danny ValenciaBAL17311014.323.417
Kevin YoukilisNYY185014614.280.339
* Now with Oakland A's
Source: Jewish Baseball News collection of data from MLB.com, baseball-reference.com, and cbssports.com.

 

PITCHING

Among the six Jewish pitchers who played in at least one spring training game (see below), these ones stood out:

  • Houston Astros prospect Josh Zeid went 1-0 with a 1.50 ERA in six relief appearances, held opposing players to a .235 batting average, and drew 3.33 times as many groundouts as flyouts.
  • San Diego Padres veteran Jason Marquis went 1-1 with a 3.74 ERA in six starts and held opponents to a .239 batting average.
  • Toronto Blue Jays prospect Michael Schwimer earned a 3.00 ERA in three relief appearances and limited opposing teams to a .182 batting average.
  • Scott Feldman stood out for less desirable reasons. The newly-minted Chicago Cub went 0-3 with an 11.25 ERA, gave up nearly 2 hits per inning, yielded 7 HRs, and got lit up by opposing batters to the tune of a .396 average.

Final pitching stats, 2013 MLB Spring Training

  TEAMWLERAGIPHBBSO
1Jeremy BleichNYY000.0010.1000
2Scott FeldmanCHC0311.25620.038617
3Jason MarquisSD113.74621.2211515
4Danny Rosenbaum*COL214.5068.0930
5Michael SchwimerTOR003.0033.0224
6Josh ZeidHOU101.5066.0442
* Now with Washington Nationals
Source: Jewish Baseball News collection of data from MLB.com, baseball-reference.com, and cbssports.com.

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By Scott Barancik/Jewish Baseball News

It’s been a busy off-season so far for Jewish ballplayers.

The Boston Red Sox recently dealt 3B Danny Valencia to the Baltimore Orioles for cash. Though the 28-year-old Valencia had a tough 2012 season with the Red Sox, Minnesota Twins, and their respective AAA teams, the Orioles reportedly are interested in using him against left-handed pitchers, against whom he has a career MLB batting average of .316.

The Chicago Cubs signed free agent Scott Feldman to a one-year, $6-million deal. Chicago plans to add the 6-foot-6-inch, 29-year-old southpaw to its starting rotation. Feldman had been with the Texas Rangers since the franchise drafted him in 2005.

Earlier this week, the New York Yankees offered 3B Kevin Youkilis a one-year, $12-million contract. Acquired midseason in 2012 by the Chicago White Sox, the 33-year-old infielder spent years as a Yankee killer while starring for the rival Boston Red Sox. No word yet on whether he will accept the offer.

The Colorado Rockies stole pitching prospect Danny Rosenbaum from the Washington Nationals, which had left him unprotected in the Rule 5 draft. The third overall pick in that draft, Rosenbaum spent 2012 with the Harrisburg Senators (AA), where he went a disappointing 8-10 with a 3.94 ERA. The 25-year-old lefty had posted ERAs of 1.95, 2.25, and 2.52 from 2009-11.

Also taken in the Rule 5 draft was former San Diego Padres prospect Nate Freiman, A 6’7″ slugger who led the Texas League in RBIs in 2012 and starred for Team Israel in the World Baseball Classic qualifiers, Freiman was nabbed by the Houston Astros.

Under draft rules, the Rockies and Astros must keep Rosenbaum and Freiman on their respective Major League rosters for the entire 2013 season. If they don’t, they must offer the players back to their former teams for a trivial cash sum. Thus there’s a decent chance both players will make their MLB debut sometime in 2013.

Jewish Baseball News wishes to thank contributing writer Zev Ben Avigdor and TheGreatRabbino.com‘s Jeremy Fine for keeping us posted on player transactions.

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Good news Monday (8/13/2012)

By Scott Barancik/Jewish Baseball News

Mondays bite. But you can bite back:

  • Scott Feldman‘s winning streak ended Friday (8/10/2012) with a 6-2 loss to the Detroit Tigers, but what a streak it was. After losing his first six decisions of the season and amassing a 6.50 ERA, the 6-foot-6-inch Texas Ranger won the next six with a 2.81 ERA.
  • Jason Marquis took a no-hitter into the 7th inning Saturday (8/11/2012) in a 5-0 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates (see video). The 33-year-old San Diego Padre ended up with a 2-hit, complete-game shutout and has won five of his last six starts. Interestingly, the resurgent Marquis matched the Pirates’ offensive output by going 2-for-4 at the plate. His .276 batting average is third best this season among MLB pitchers with at least 20 at-bats.
  • Jeremy Schaffer, picked by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 18th round of this year’s amateur draft, already is putting up big numbers. The 22-year-old first baseman out of Tulane University leads the Appalachian rookie league with 41 RBIs in just 179 at-bats.
  • The Kevin Youkilis trade just got a little worse for the Boston Red Sox. Not only has Youk been hitting the ball a ton for the Chicago White Sox — since arriving in late June, he’s hit .252 with 10 HRs, 29 RBIs, a .371 on-base percentage, and an .875 OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) in 139 at-bats — but his successor at third base, rookie phenom Will Middlebrooks, just suffered a season-ending wrist injury. Coincidence of the day? Middlebrooks’ temporary replacement is recently-acquired 3B Danny Valencia.
  • On Sunday (8/12/2012), Houston Astros prospect Ben Orloff celebrated his recent promotion to the Corpus Christi Hooks (AA) with a 5-for-5 performance. The 25-year-old shortstop doubled, tripled, and drove in 4 runs en route to a 20-9 thrashing of the Springfield Cardinals.
  • Four in one month? That’s how many Jews the Boston Red Sox recently added to their roster. The quartet included Valencia (see above), reliever Craig Breslow, C Ryan Lavarnway, and LF Ryan Kalish, who has since returned to AAA.
  • Just weeks after putting together a 3-HR game, Joc Pederson powered the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes (A-advanced) to an 11-9 win over the Modesto Nuts. Pederson — ranked the Los Angeles Dodgers’ No.3 prospect by MLB.com — went 3-for-5 with a HR, two doubles, and 5 RBIs.
  • Keep a close eye on Jack Marder. Already ranked the Seattle Mariners’ No. 15 prospect in just his second year of pro ball, the High Desert Mavericks (A-advanced) catcher is batting .363 with 10 HRs, 24 doubles (including three on 7/31/2012), 4 triples, 55 RBIs, 16 stolen bases, and an OPS of 1.019 in only 273 at-bats. Marder is hitting a blistering .413 with runners in scoring position and recently added second base and the outfield to his fielding repertoire. It’s a shame that he may have too few at-bats to qualify for the California League batting crown.
  • As Jewish Baseball News correspondent Zev Ben Avigdor points out on his minor-league Twitter feed, New York Mets prospect Josh Satin is on fire. The 27-year-old first baseman has hit .444 (16-for-36) in the past 10 games, with 2 HRs, six doubles, 4 walks, and 10 RBIs.
  • Next season will mark the 40th anniversary of MLB’s designated hitter rule, and first-ever DH Ron Blomberg already is getting some love for his historic role.
  • Sam Fuld loves going horizontal for fly balls, but the Tampa Bay Ray won’t be leaping tall buildings anytime soon. “Super Sam” told the Tampa Bay Times he’s scared of heights, “mainly bridges, tops of buildings, mountains.” He also revealed his favorite television show (Seinfeld) and said he has a “man crush” on actor Matt Damon — another diminutive but athletic Ivy Leaguer.

Have any good news about Jewish athletes? Send it to sbarancik@jewishbaseballnews.com.

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Good news Monday (7/30/2012)

By Scott Barancik/Jewish Baseball News

It’s not easy to muster a smile on Mondays, but here are a few good reasons:

  • There are only three possible explanations for pitcher Scott Feldman‘s recent dominance: a pact with the devil, alien body-snatching, or performance-enhancing drugs. Through July 4, the Texas Ranger had a 2-6 record and a 6.11 ERA, while opposing batters were hitting him at a .285 clip. But the 29-year-old Hawaii native has strangled his past 3 opponents, giving up just one earned run in 17 innings (an ERA of 0.53) while striking out 10 and walking zero. The performance has boosted his record to 5-6 and slimmed his ERA to 4.76.
  • Sam Fuld is back. After spending the first three months of the season on the disabled list, the scrappy Tampa Bay Rays outfielder returned to the field with a vengeance last week (7/24/2012). In five games since returning, Fuld went 6-for-16 (.375) with 2 doubles and 2 RBIs, and the slumping Rays won three of five.
  • Los Angeles Dodgers prospect Joc Pederson is surging. A 20-year-old outfielder with the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes (A-advanced), Pederson has hit .333 in his past 10 games, including 3 HRs, 11 RBIs, 3 stolen bases, and a .429 on-base percentage. The Palo Alto, Calif. native was an 11th-round pick out of high school in the 2010 draft. At the beginning of this season, MLB.com ranked him the Dodgers’ No. 4 prospect.
  • Baltimore Orioles prospect Robbie Widlansky is among Eastern League leaders in several offensive categories. A 27-year-old outfielder/DH with the Bowie Baysox (AA), Widlansky is hitting.301 with 6 HRs, 62 RBIs (3rd highest), 9 stolen bases, and an on-base percentage of .396 (4th).
  • Think the Chicago White Sox are happy they acquired 3B Kevin Youkilis? Check out this MLB.com compilation video titled “The Youk Effect.”
  • One of Israel’s few home-grown baseball stars is a 6’4″, 33-year-old pitcher whose day job is booking musicians for the City Winery in New York City. The Wall Street Journal has a terrific profile on Shlomo Lipetz and the challenges  he faced learning baseball in Tel Aviv after relatives first exposed him to the sport in a 1986 visit to Shea Stadium.
  • Ike Davis had a 3-HR game for the first time in his career on Saturday (7/28/2012). The Arizona native homered in his first three at-bats (see video) and added a single to go 4-for-4 in a 6-3 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks in Phoenix. After an anemic start this season, Davis is tied for 6th place in the National League with 20 HRs, is third among N.L. first basemen with 60 RBIs, and has raised his batting average to .213. He has six HRs in his past 10 games.
  • According to our friends at Jewish Sports Review, a total of 13 Jewish players were selected in the 2012 amateur draft. We’ll publish the full list, along with short bios, very soon.
  • Adam Greenberg is vying for a spot on on Team Israel, which will be competing in a qualifying round for the World Baseball Classic in September. The 31-year-old former Chicago Cub is best known, unfortunately, for getting hit in the head by pitcher Valerio de los Santos during his first and only Major League at-bat, in 2005. Greenberg’s career was derailed by the resulting concussion and vertigo. But the 5’9″ fireplug has grit. He singled off de los Santos when he next faced him, in a 2011 independent-league game, and you can see both at-bats in this video profile by ESPN. Good luck, Adam!
  • Nearly 3 months after being demoted to AAA, Danny Valencia has returned to the Minnesota Twins. The 27-year-old third baseman immediately chipped in with an RBI double and two runs scored in a 12-5 win over the Cleveland Indians on Saturday (7/28/2012). His stay is likely to be short, as regular 3B Trevor Plouffe is suffering only from a bruised right thumb.
  • Congratulations to U.S. women’s gymnastics captain Aly Raisman, a tribe member who advanced to the Olympics’ all-around finals with a terrific floor exercise she performed to the tune of Hava Nagila on Sunday night (7/29/2012).

Have any good news about Jewish athletes? Send it to sbarancik@jewishbaseballnews.com.

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Good news Monday (7/2/2012)

By Scott Barancik/Jewish Baseball News

Get ready to kvell, brothers and sisters. It’s Good news Monday!

  • San Diego Padres prospect Nate Freiman won the Texas League Home Run Derby last Thursday (6/28/2012). A 6’7″ first baseman with the San Antonio Missions (AA), Freiman’s first swing of the contest reportedly was “the sweetest.” He launched a shot that not only struck the scoreboard but hit the “i” in “Freiman.”
  • Talk about cleaning up your own mess. When Augusta GreenJackets (A) reliever Andrew Berger entered Friday’s (6/29/2012) game against the Savannah Sand Gnats in the 7th inning, he promptly gave up a single and double. But the 24-year-old San Francisco Giants prospect didn’t lose hope. Instead, Berger struck out the side, knocked down the Sand Gnats in order the following inning (one of them by strikeout), and struck out the side again in the 9th.
  • Texas Rangers reliever Scott Feldman and his wife hosted a softball game at Rangers Ballpark yesterday (7/1/2012) for  injured soldiers. The couple previously has hosted families of deployed soldiers as well as patients from a local veterans’ hospital.
  • Baseball fans voted two Jewish players into next week’s All-Star game. Texas Rangers 2B Ian Kinsler, who also played in 2008 and 2010, will be the back-up to New York Yankees 2B Robinson Cano on the A.L. squad. On the opposing team, Milwaukee Brewers LF Ryan Braun was chosen for the 5th consecutive year, this time as a reserve player.
  • Today is the deadline for Team Israel to turn in its 50-player roster for the World Baseball Classic qualifiers in September. According to a person involved in the process, the roster includes players who have committed to play (including player/coaches Shawn Green and Gabe Kapler) as well as players who the team wants who have not yet committed.
  • Boston Red Sox prospect Ryan Lavarnway had a heck of a June. A catcher with the Pawtucket Red Sox (AAA), the Yale University alum erupted with a .405 batting average, 4 HRs, 18 RBIs, 10 doubles, a .469 on-base percentage, and an OPS (on-base plus slugging) of 1.136.
  • New York Mets prospect Josh Satin probably wishes he could play against the Durham Bulls every day of the season. As Jewish Baseball News writer Zev Ben Avigdor pointed out in his Twitter feed, the Buffalo Bisons (AAA) first baseman was on fire during a recent 4-game series against the Bulls, going 10-for-14 with 2 HRs, 4 RBIs and 4 walks.
  • When Tampa Bay Rays OF Sam Fuld had surgery on his right wrist during Spring Training, doctors predicted he wouldn’t return to the lineup before August. But after taking batting practice Friday (6/29/2012), his first time doing so since March, Fuld was optomistic. “I think we can be looking at the end of this homestand,” he said.
  • New York Yankees prospect Jeremy Bleich, who hadn’t pitched a shoulder injury sidelined him in 2010, is back. In three short appearances with the rookie-league GCL Yankees, the 25-year-old Stanford alum is 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA. Bleich has given up 3 hits and one walk in 5-and-2/3 innings while striking out 7.
  • In case you missed it, here is a clip of President Barack Obama, a Chicago native, teasing Boston Red Sox fans for trading Kevin Youkilis to the Chicago White Sox. Judging from the boos, the joke was too soon.

Have any good news about Jewish athletes? Send it to sbarancik@jewishbaseballnews.com.

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