MLB Notes: Michael Young retires; Chen re-signs

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MLB Notes: Michael Young retires; Chen re-signs

After 14 big-league seasons, seven All-Star Game appearances and two trips to the World Series, former Texas Rangers infielder Michael Young has decided to retire.

Young spent 13 seasons with the Rangers and part of 2013 with the Phillies and Dodgers. He was acquired in a trade by the Phillies in December of 2012 and then sent to Los Angeles in a post-deadline deal where he contributed to the Dodgers’ playoff run.

Young was the MVP of the 2006 All-Star Game in Pittsburgh where his two-out, two-run triple off Trevor Hoffman won it for the American League. He also won the American League batting title in 2005, hit over .300 in seven seasons and is one of 190 players in the history of the game to retire with a .300 batting average or higher.

In 1,970 regular season games, Young got 2,375 hits, 185 homers and 1,030 RBIs. He reached the 1,000-RBI plateau with the Phillies last summer.

With the Rangers, Young went to the World Series in 2010 and 2011 and had four postseason berths — three with Texas and one with the Dodgers.

Selected in the fifth round of the 1997 draft by the Toronto Blue Jays, Young was part of one of the most lopsided trades in recent history. In a deadline deal in 2000, the Blue Jays sent Young and pitcher Darwin Cubillan to Texas for pitcher Esteban Loaiza.

Young went on to become one of the most popular Rangers in the history of the franchise, while Loaiza went 25-28 with a 4.96 ERA over three seasons in Toronto.

The Rangers issued a statement following the news of Young’s retirement:

“The Texas Rangers want to congratulate Michael Young on his outstanding Major League career. For 12 seasons in a Rangers uniform, he was a standout performer on the field and the consummate role model in the community.

“Michael is a leader, and he demonstrated those skills every day of the season, year in and year out. We are proud to say that Michael Young is this franchise's all-time leader in games, at bats, runs, hits, doubles, triples and total bases. He excelled at multiple positions and came through in the clutch.

“When Texas advanced to postseason play in 2010 after an 11-year drought, teammates and fans everywhere were especially happy that Michael had reached the playoffs. And he was an integral performer in those Rangers' back-to-back World Series runs.

“The Rangers wish Michael, his wife, Cristina, and sons Mateo, Emilio, and Antonio the very best as they enter a new chapter in their lives. And we want them to know there will always be a place for the Youngs in the Texas Rangers family.”

Chen re-signs with Kansas City
While one short-time Phillie was calling it a career, another was signing on for another season.

Left-handed pitcher Bruce Chen, 36, who spent parts of the 2000 and 2001 seasons with the Phillies, signed a one-year deal worth $4.25 million with the Kansas City Royals.

Chen’s deal pays a base salary of $3.25 million with a $5.5 million mutual option for 2015 with a $1 million buyout. The deal also includes incentives where Chen could earn 125,000 for each start between 16 and 25 in 2014.

Chen has pitched for 10 different teams over 15 seasons, though he has spent the last five pitching for the Royals. In 2013 Chen went 9-4 with a 3.27 ERA in 34 appearances. He tossed three complete games and won his first five decisions a year ago. In 2012, Chen led the American League with 34 starts.

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.