texas rangers

Nate Jones, longest tenured White Sox player, traded to Rangers for minor league pitchers

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USA TODAY

Nate Jones, longest tenured White Sox player, traded to Rangers for minor league pitchers

Of all the White Sox relievers discussed as potential trade candidates ahead of Wednesday's deadline, none of them was Nate Jones.

But that's who got dealt Wednesday, just a few hours before the deadline, with the White Sox shipping their longest tenured player to the Texas Rangers, along with international signing money, in exchange for a pair of minor league arms: Ray Castro and Joseph Jarneski.

Making the deal so curious is the fact that Jones is out for the year while recovering from forearm surgery. But the Rangers are taking a flier on a guy with a club option for the 2020 season and a mutual option for the 2021 season.

A member of the White Sox organization since 2007 and a member of the big league team since 2012, Jones' tenure was often dictated by injuries, as only three times in those eight major league seasons did he complete a full campaign. When he was healthy, he was terrific, as evidenced by the 2.29 ERA and 10.2 K/9 he put up during a healthy 2016 season. But since, he made only 57 relief appearances combined during the 2017, 2018 and 2019 campaigns.

As for the two right-handed pitchers the White Sox acquired, neither has pitched above rookie ball yet. The 22-year-old Castro has a 2.02 ERA in the Dominican Summer League, and that's where he'll stay as he joins the White Sox. The 19-year-old Jarneski has a 1.62 ERA in the Arizona Rookie League, and he'll stay there upon joining the White Sox. Castro was signed as an international free agent in 2016, while Jarneski was a 12th-round draft pick in 2017.

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Nationals to become latest MLB team to extend protective netting down foul lines

Nationals to become latest MLB team to extend protective netting down foul lines

Another MLB team will soon extend the protective netting in its home ballpark. 

Thursday, Nationals owner Mark Lerner announced that the Nationals will extend the protective netting at Nationals Park further down the foul lines. The netting will be installed during the All-Star break, according to Lerner's press release. 

Ahead of the 2018 season, all 30 MLB teams extended the protective netting in their home ballparks to reach the outfield end of both dugouts. However, the White Sox announced on Tuesday that they will extend netting at Guaranteed Rate Field to reach both foul poles, becoming the first MLB team to do so.

Extended netting has become a widely-discussed topic across baseball this season. In a game between the Cubs and Astros on May 29, a four-year old fan was struck by a foul ball line drive hit by Cubs outfielder Albert Almora Jr. The fan was rushed to the hospital following the incident and players from both teams were visibly shaken afterwards.

Almora spoke out about the need to protect fans several days later.

"I hope this never happens again, so whatever the league has to do to make that happen," Almora said at Busch Stadium on May 31 ahead of a Cubs-Cardinals game. "I don't think any kid that goes to a baseball game with their parents or whoever should worry about making it out unhealthy or whatever the case may be. I don't think that should ever cross their mind. 

"Whatever the league needs to do to do that, that should be in place."

Lerner referenced the fan in Houston specifically in the Nationals' announcement on Thursday.

"Over the past few weeks, we have seen several fans injured by bats and balls leaving the field of play at other stadiums," Lerner said. "I could not help but become emotional last month watching the Astros-Cubs game when a four-year-old little girl was hit by a line drive.

"I can’t imagine what her parents must have felt in that moment. And to see the raw emotion and concern from Albert Almora Jr. was heartbreaking. Further extending the netting at Nationals Park will provide additional protection for our fans."

Although only the White Sox and Nationals have announced plans for further extended netting this season, more teams will likely follow suit. In fact, the Rangers will extend the netting at their new ballpark next season to a similar area as the Nationals.

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Cole Hamels refuses to take the easy way out after tough loss

Cole Hamels refuses to take the easy way out after tough loss

ARLINGTON, Texas — Roughly a half-hour after the Cubs were handed their second straight loss Sunday evening, Cole Hamels stood at his locker and faced the music.

He was presented an opportunity to at least partially blame home plate umpire James Hoye for the big fourth inning that helped swing the game in the Rangers favor, but Hamels didn't take it.

Instead of blaming the questionable calls, the 35-year-old veteran was accountable and took responsibility for the loss.

With a runner on first, two out and the Cubs holding a 4-1 lead, Hamels walked Logan Forsythe on a full count pitch that was somehow called a ball (left image below) and then wound up walking Jeff Mathis with another curious call mixed in:

That loaded the bases for Rangers leadoff hitter Delino DeShields, who battled to a full count and then took Hamels deep to left for a go-ahead grand slam.

Hamels wasn't about to let Hoye shoulder the blame.

"I don't think that really needs to be the focus," Hamels said. "When you're able to pitch and you get guys out, you have to be able to establish strikes and you have to be consistent and you have to keep attacking the zone. I got to the bottom of the order and I let it get away from me. 

"In that situation with Delino, it was coming down to — you don't want to walk a guy. It's something that we focused on a lot during spring — not doing it and making guys earn the base. Obviously Delino did, but it was falling behind and not executing when I needed to. 

"The situation can change. When you attack down in the zone, you give yourself a better chance to get groundballs, especially with the type of hitters they had. You can get some groundballs here. I wasn't able to do that. When you build momentum for them, that's when the mistakes happen and that's when they capitalize."

DeShields' grand slam gave the Rangers a 5-4 lead and while the Cubs bounced back a couple innings later, the bullpen was hit hard again and the Cubs wound up on the wrong end of an 11-10 rubber match.

Many Cubs fans will point to the bullpen imploding as the main culprit, and that's fair to do so. But Hamels was focusing on his own lack of execution in the fourth inning, unable to hold a 4-0 lead his offense had given him.

"It's the disappointment of letting that inning get away from itself," Hamels said. "I can't walk guys. ... Sooner or later, I finally had to throw a pitch down the middle because I'm not about to walk a guy in in a bases-loaded situation. Delino obviously knew what he was looking for and he executed and came away the victor. I have to not put myself in that situation where I have to then come with something that's pretty predictable."

So it wasn't the egregious missed call where Hoye gave Forsythe a free pass instead of an inning-ending strikeout?

"You can't focus on it like that's what dictated the game," Hamels said. "It's the fact that those 3 walks pretty much moved the lineup, gave them momentum and obviously created a big inning for them."

The Cubs scored 28 runs in the three games in Texas, but come away with only 1 win. They plated 16 runs in the last two contests and wound up 0-2.

That's not the way this team wanted to start out the season after a tough finish to the 2018 campaign and all the talk of "urgency" and "edge" this winter. 

Still, the offense was a big takeaway, and that's where Hamels kept bringing the focus back to.

"The amount of times we fell behind in the game and we climbed right back, you have to give them credit because they fought tooth and nail to get runs," Hamels said. "They got guys on, they were starting off the inning with a guy on and no outs. We were able to manufacture [runs]. 

"I think that's a real good positive we're taking away from this week is knowing that these guys are going to come out and they're gonna put up runs. For us pitchers, it's basically to get those shutdown innings. When we're able to establish that and get into a sort of rhythm, these games are going to be pretty entertaining for us and they're gonna come out more on our side."