MLB Notes: Cleveland Indians to host the 2019 MLB All-Star Game

MLB Notes: Cleveland Indians to host the 2019 MLB All-Star Game

Baseball's mid-summer classic is sliding back home to Cleveland in two years.

The Indians, who have been enjoying a renaissance on the field, will host the 90th All-Star Game in 2019 at Progressive Field, Commissioner Rob Manfred announced Friday as a light snow fell at the downtown ballpark.

Cleveland last hosted the event in 1997, when Indians catcher Sandy Alomar hit a go-ahead home run in the seventh inning to lead the AL to a win and earn MVP honors.

This will be the sixth time the game will be hosted by the Indians, the most among the teams.

Landing the game is another boost for the Indians, who won the pennant last year and took the Chicago Cubs to seven games before losing a dramatic World Series.

It's been a notable offseason for Cleveland, which added one of the game's elite sluggers by signing free agent Edwin Encarnacion.

Dodgers: Brandon Morrow agrees to minor-league deal
Right-hander Brandon Morrow has agreed to a minor league contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers and will report to big league spring training.

The 32-year-old was 1-0 with a 1.69 ERA in 18 relief appearances for San Diego last year, when he dealt with shoulder issues and also pitched 20 games for the Arizona League Padres, Class A Lake Elsinore, Double-A San Antonio and Triple-A El Paso.

He is 45-43 with a 4.16 ERA in 113 starts and 141 relief appearances over 10 big league seasons that included time with Seattle (2007-09), Toronto (2010-14) and the Padres (2015-16).

Morrow's agreement was announced Thursday.

Cubs: Brett Anderson agrees to 1-year deal
The World Series champion Chicago Cubs added pitching depth, finalizing a $3.5 million, one-year contract with left-hander Brett Anderson on Thursday.

Anderson, who can make an additional $6.5 million in bonuses based on starts, figures to compete with Mike Montgomery for the fifth spot in the rotation behind Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, Jake Arrieta and John Lackey. Anderson has dealt with several injuries during eight big league seasons and was limited to three starts and one relief appearance with the Los Angeles Dodgers last year.

Anderson was sidelined until August because of surgery for a bulging disk in his back and developed a blister on his pitching hand that limited him to two games in September.

He was 10-9 with a 3.69 ERA in a career-high 31 starts in 2015 helping the Dodgers win the third of four straight NL West titles.

Anderson, who turns 29 on Feb. 1, is 38-43 with a 3.86 ERA in 115 starts and 12 relief appearances with Oakland (2009-13), Colorado (2014) and the Dodgers (2015-16).

He can make $500,000 for 11 starts, $750,000 apiece for 14 and 17, $1 million each for 20, 23 and 26, and $1.5 million for 29.

Royals: Gather to celebrate and remember Ventura

The Kansas City Royals gathered together Friday to celebrate the life of pitcher Yordano Ventura, who died Sunday in a car accident in the Dominican Republic.

Manager Ned Yost told Royals teammates, coaches, executives and support staff that he has struggled since Sunday's accident to figure out how to deal with the hole the 25-year-old's death will leave. He says he believes God has a plan for everyone, and vowed the team's bond will become stronger as they lean on faith and happy memories.

Pitcher Danny Duffy promised the Royals would use memories of Ventura's competitiveness to play every game in the next season with passion.

The meeting came hours before the team's annual FanFest, where more tributes to Ventura are planned.

Best of MLB: Cardinals erupt for 9 runs during 8th inning of comeback

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Best of MLB: Cardinals erupt for 9 runs during 8th inning of comeback

CHICAGO -- Paul DeJong hit a tiebreaking two-run double in St. Louis' nine-run eighth inning, and the Cardinals cooled off the Chicago Cubs with an 11-4 victory on Friday.

Chicago carried a 3-2 lead into the eighth, looking for its seventh consecutive win. But St. Louis sent 14 batters to the plate in its highest-scoring inning of the season, taking advantage of a combined six walks by three relievers while improving to 4-4 since the All-Star break.

Carl Edwards Jr. (3-2) was pulled after the first three batters reached. Hector Rondon then walked Jedd Gyorko, tying it at 3, and DeJong followed with a drive into the ivy in right-center for a ground-rule double. The Cardinals were off and running from there.

Matt Bowman (2-3) got the final out of the seventh for the win.

The Cubs played without third baseman Kris Bryant, who sprained his left little finger on a headfirst slide on Wednesday. X-rays were negative, but Bryant is experiencing soreness and there is some concern about gripping a bat (see full recap).

Andrus' hustle gives Rangers win in 10th inning
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Elvis Andrus homered early, and then snapped a 10th-inning tie with a two-out infield single that gave the struggling Texas Rangers a 4-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday night.

Andrus, who homered in the first inning, hit a sharp grounder off Brad Boxberger (2-1) that forced Evan Longoria to make a diving stop. Pinch runner Delino Shields scored when the third baseman to was unable to complete the throw to first base.

Alex Claudio (2-0) pitched two innings in relief of Yu Darvish to get the win. The left-hander gave up a leadoff single to Steven Souza Jr. in the 10th, but avoided further damage by getting Adeiny Hechavarria to bunt into a double play and Mallex Smith to fly out.

Texas ended a five-game losing streak.

Rays starter Alex Cobb took a three-hitter and a 3-1 lead into the ninth, but couldn't finish off the Rangers, who erased their deficit with Joey Gallo's double and Shin-Soo Choo's 14th homer within a three-pitch span (see full recap).

Encarnacion powers Indians past former team
CLEVELAND -- Edwin Encarnacion homered and drove in four runs against his former team, and the Cleveland Indians broke open a close game with an eight-run seventh inning to rout the Toronto Blue Jays 13-3 on Friday night.

Encarnacion, who played the last six seasons with Toronto before signing a three-year, $60 million contract with Cleveland in January, hit a leadoff home run in the second, broke a 3-all tie in the fifth with a two-run double and added an RBI single in the seventh.

Encarnacion was 3 for 4 with a walk and nearly added to his total later in the seventh, but center fielder Kevin Pillar tracked down his fly ball on the warning track with two runners on.

Abraham Almonte hit a three-run homer and rookie Bradley Zimmer added a two-run single in the seventh as the Indians won for just the second time in eight games (see full recap).

With evolving changeup and 4-pitch mix, Aaron Nola raising his own ceiling

With evolving changeup and 4-pitch mix, Aaron Nola raising his own ceiling

BOX SCORE

Once upon a time, Cole Hamels was a two-pitch pitcher: fastball and changeup. The changeup was so good so consistently that it didn't matter that Hamels' curveball command was often shaky. Two very good pitches were enough.

It wasn't until Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay arrived that Hamels began incorporating a fourth pitch, the cutter, and along the way, his curveball command improved substantially. Suddenly, a two-pitch lefty had a legitimate four-pitch mix and it took him to another level.

Watching Aaron Nola dominate the Brewers in Friday night's 6-1 Phillies win (see Instant Replay), Hamels' evolution came to mind. Nola allowed one run and struck out nine over seven innings, at one point whiffing eight of nine Brewers. And he did with a four-pitch mix that included 31 sinkers, 27 fastballs, 20 changeups and 18 curveballs.

It's no longer sinker-curveball only with Nola. He's now giving his opponents more to worry about in the form of additional velocity on the fastball and a changeup that is becoming a money pitch.

"Nola was outstanding. He's been working on that changeup all year and it's really one of his better pitches right now," manager Pete Mackanin said. 

With a four-seam fastball that has been maxing out at 95 mph lately, a curveball that buckles hitters from both sides of the plate, a sinker with wicked two-seam movement and a changeup that he's beginning to feel comfortable throwing to righties and lefties alike, Nola may be making his jump to the next level before our very eyes.

"No question about it," Mackanin said. "That changeup, he threw a ton of them tonight to righties and lefties. I talked to him when we took him out of the game and he was real excited about throwing the changeup not just to lefties but to right-handers as well. If he can do that with the rest of the arsenal that he has, I expect a real good performance from him every time out."

The win made Nola 7-6 with a 3.38 ERA, which essentially means he's given up three runs every eight innings. Any team will take that from a starting pitcher. 

Over his last six starts, Nola has been lights-out — 1.70 ERA, .190 opponents' batting average, 50 strikeouts in 42 1/3 innings. Perhaps most impressively, he's held his opponents to a .118 batting average with runners in scoring position, second in the National League over that span to only Clayton Kershaw.

"My changeup ... I'm feeling consistent with it right now," Nola said. "It's evolved. I really didn't have much of a feel for my changeup [when I first came up]. It's a thing I worked on in spring training a lot this year, threw it in counts when I usually wouldn't. That's what spring training is for and I think it helped."

The changeup is a feel pitch and its success is usually dictated by the pitcher's arm angle and speed. If he throws it the same way he throws a fastball, that's where the deception of the slower speed comes into play. Nola has worked hard on those aspects of the pitch and it's clearly paying off.

Nola induced 15 swinging strikes on the night, six of them on changeups and five on curveballs. His strikeout numbers stand out because he was not billed as this kind of pitcher when he was drafted or was coming up through the Phillies' system. In the minor leagues, Nola struck out 7.6 batters per nine innings. In the majors, he's struck out 277 in 275 innings (9.1 per nine).

"I'm real happy about the way he's come along, especially after the elbow issues," Mackanin said. "He has increased velocity. His pitches are crisper. He's better now than before. It's really a nice jump for him to make."

Indeed it is. Perhaps Nola's ceiling is higher than No. 2 starter.