MLB Notes: Royals and Kevin Herrera agree to a one-year deal

MLB Notes: Royals and Kevin Herrera agree to a one-year deal

The Royals and closer Kelvin Herrera have agreed to a $5,325,000, one-year contract, avoiding arbitration with one of the top relievers in baseball.

Herrera can also earn $50,000 for making the All-Star Game, which he has done the past two seasons.

The 27-year-old right-hander is assuming the closer job after the Royals traded Wade Davis to the Chicago Cubs this offseason. But Herrera has plenty of experience in the role, saving 12 games last season when Davis was dealing with some lingering injuries.

Herrera has a 2.63 ERA over parts of six seasons, and has appeared in at least 70 games each of the past three. His strikeout-to-walk ratio last season was also the best of his career.

Kansas City has signed all of its arbitration-eligible players for this season.

Twins: Byung Ho Park taken off 40-man roster
The Minnesota Twins have designated Korean slugger Byung Ho Park for assignment following a disappointing major league debut as a designated hitter.

The move was made on Friday to clear space on the 40-man roster for right-handed reliever Matt Belisle, who finalized a $2.05 million, one-year contract after posting a career-best 1.76 ERA last season for Washington.

The 30-year-old Park batted .191 with 12 home runs and 24 RBIs in 62 games last season. The Twins paid his South Korean club, the Nexen Heroes, $12.85 million for negotiating rights to Park, who signed a $12 million, four-year contract with Minnesota.

Belisle pitched 46 innings in 2016 for the Nationals, missing seven weeks in the first half of the season with a strained calf muscle in his right leg.

Rays: Weeks, Carpenter, Rasmus agree to deals
Infielder Rickie Weeks and right-handed relievers Cory Rasmus and David Carpenter have agreed to minor league contracts with the Tampa Bay Rays.

The deals announced Friday include invitations to major league spring training.

The 34-year-old Weeks was the second overall pick in the 2003 amateur draft and is a .247 career hitter over parts of 13 big league seasons with Milwaukee, Seattle and Arizona. He batted .239 with nine homers and 27 RBIs in 108 games with the Diamondbacks last year.

Rasmus is the brother of outfielder Colby Rasmus, who also joined the Rays this offseason. In 2016, he went 0-2 with a 5.84 ERA in 19 appearances with the Los Angeles Angels.

Carpenter, 31, last pitched in the majors in 2015 with the New York Yankees and Washington Nationals.

Mets: Flores is team's first arbitration hearing since 2008
Infielder Wilmer Flores has become the first New York Mets player to go to salary arbitration since Oliver Perez in 2008.

Flores asked for a $2.2 million salary, and the Mets argued for $1.8 million during Friday's hearing. A decision is expected Saturday from arbitrators Mark Irvings, Sylvia Skratek and Robert Herzog.

Originally slated to serve as a backup last season to second baseman Neil Walker, shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, third baseman David Wright , Flores appeared in 103 games, had 335 plate appearances and saw time at all four infield positions. He hit .267, matched his career high with 16 homers and had 49 RBIs.

Flores made $526,014 last year and was eligible for arbitration for the first time.

Perez won his hearing in 2008 and made $6.5 million instead of the team's offer of $4,725,000.

Cardinals: No more smokeless tobacco
Baseball players with big wads of chewing tobacco in their cheek are now a thing of the past at Busch Stadium.

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen voted Friday to prohibit the use of smokeless tobacco products like chewing tobacco, dip and snuff at all sports venues, including Cardinals games at Busch Stadium. The measure provides no exemption for players or anyone else on the field or in the dugouts.

The bill's sponsor, Alderwoman Dionne Flowers, says it sends a message that tobacco shouldn't be associated with sports.

Busch Stadium becomes the 14th Major League Baseball venue where smokeless tobacco is banned. Last month, the city council in St. Petersburg, Florida, banned smokeless tobacco products at all organized sporting events, including Tampa Bay Rays games.

Phillies place Vince Velasquez on 60-day DL; call up reliever Yacksel Rios

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AP Images

Phillies place Vince Velasquez on 60-day DL; call up reliever Yacksel Rios

The Phillies have made a flurry of moves ahead of Tuesday's doubleheader vs. the Marlins.

Vince Velasquez (finger) is heading to the 60-day disabled list, effectively ending his season. Velasquez left his last start after just one inning on August 10 while surrendering three runs.

In 15 starts, Velasquez compiled a 5.13 ERA, while continuing to struggle with his command. The 25-year-old struck out 68 batters while walking 34 and averaged just 4.8 innings per start. 

In a corresponding move, the Phillies have called up RHP Yacksel Rios from Triple A to replace Velasquez on the 40-man roster. The 24-year-old has a combined 1.92 ERA in 37 games while splitting time between Reading and Lehigh Valley. 

Nick Pivetta was officially recalled from the minors to start Game 2 of today's doubleheader, while Zach Eflin (shoulder) was placed on the 10-day disabled list retroactive to Saturday. 

More coming...

Phillies-Marlins 5 things: Let's play two; Nola tries to slow down Stanton

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Phillies-Marlins 5 things: Let's play two; Nola tries to slow down Stanton

Phillies (45-77) vs. Marlins (60-62)
Game 1 - 4:05 p.m., Game 2 - TBD on CSN; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

Let's play two!

The Phillies come back from the West Coast to play a doubleheader with the Marlins tonight. The Phils send their ace to the mound in Game 1 and he'll try to keep the best slugger in baseball in the yard.

Here are five things to know for the games.

1. Slugging it out
Giancarlo Stanton hits baseballs very hard and very far. 

The major league leader in home runs (45) has been especially hot since July 5. The numbers are just insane. In a 39-game span, he has 24 homers and 47 RBIs with a slash line of .333/.453/.908. His OPS in that span is a ridiculous 1.361. At his current pace, the 27-year-old outfielder — who just cleared waivers ... wink, wink —  is projected to hit 60 homers.

For the Phillies, their own promising young slugger has emerged. After struggling during his first few MLB games at Citizens Bank Park, left fielder (?) Rhys Hoskins had a torrid road trip in his native California. After hitting his first big league homer in San Diego, Hoskins went off. In 25 at-bats, Hoskins went 8 for 25 (.320) with five homers and eight RBIs. 

He also showed off his impressive plate discipline, walking five times with just three strikeouts. It's a small sample size, but Hoskins' minor league skills are manifesting with the big club. 

2. Ace in the deck
Aaron Nola came back down to earth in his last appearance against the Giants, but he'd been stellar his previous 10 starts. His ERA dipped below three in San Francisco before the Giants tagged him for five runs over five innings. It ended a string of 10 straight starts going six innings and allowing two runs or less for Nola. 

Nola struggled with his command last Thursday, walking three batters. It was just the third time this season Nola has walked three or more hitters in 20 starts. Overall he's 9-8 with a 3.26 ERA, but the most promising thing about Nola is the feel he's getting for his changeup and recent ability he's shown to strike people out. He has 128 strikeouts in 124 1/3 innings.

The Marlins send righty Dan Straily to the mound. The 28-year-old has been Miami's most consistent starter this season. In 25 starts, he's 7-8 with a solid 3.80 ERA in 139 2/3 innings. 

Straily isn't going to wow you with his stuff. He throws a four-seam fastball in the low 90s which he'll throw more than half the time. He'll mostly throw a slider (27.1 percent) off his fastball but will mix in his changeup (15.4) and the occasional curveball (3.4)

3. Welcome back, Nick
Coming off an impressive 11-strikeout performance against the Padres, rookie Nick Pivetta was sent down to the minors. It wasn't a performance issue. The team just needed to create roster flexibility before deciding to put Odubel Herrera on the DL.

Pivetta clearly has big-league stuff, but he's struggled with consistency and hasn't been able to give the Phils length in his starts. Even in his last outing against the Padres, he lasted just five innings, throwing 96 pitches. Pivetta has flashed plenty but he's struggled with the long ball. He's given up 19 home runs in 18 starts. Stanton and Marcell Ozuna will be licking their chops after having to face Nola in Game 1.

Conversely, the Marlins' Game 2 starter has been excellent over his last four starts. Jose Urena is 2-1 with a 1.85 ERA in 24 1/3 innings. Opponents are hitting just .211 off the 25-year-old righty in that span. Urena started the season as the Marlins' long man out of the bullpen, but his last 20 appearances have been starts.

Urena will mostly throw a mid-90s four-seam fastball but isn't a strikeout pitcher (76 punch outs in 109 1/3 innings). He'll throw his slider and changeup at about the same rate. He has a curve in his arsenal but rarely throws it.

4. Player to watch
Phillies: Since it's a doubleheader, let's pick two players. Hoskins and Nola are the obvious choices, so let's go with Nick Williams and Jorge Alfaro

Both rookies have shined at times. Williams has tapered off a tad since a hot start, collecting just one extra-base hit in his last 42 at-bats. Alfaro had a solid road trip, going 5 for 16 with his first big league homer. The free-swinging catcher has yet to walk since his call up.

Marlins: It's Stanton. How could it be anyone else? He has a legitimate chance to be the first non-PED enhanced player to hit 60 home runs since Roger Maris hit 61 in 1961. As mentioned, he's also cleared waivers and could be part of a blockbuster trade by the end of this season or this winter. Could the Phillies be one of the teams bidding for his services? Stay tuned.

5. This and that
• Phillies prospect J.P. Crawford has played the last two games at third base. A shortstop by trade, Crawford has been scorching hot since returning from an injury and could get a look at the hot corner in September.

• The reason for Crawford's possible move to third base? Maikel Franco has been in a horrendous slump. Franco is hitting just .203 in August with just one homer and four RBIs. For the season he's hitting just .224 with a paltry .277 OBP.

• Lost in Stanton's laser show is the phenomenal play of outfielder Marcell Ozuna. Ozuna has a slash line of .306/.368/.539 with 27 homers and 93 RBIs.

• The Phillies and Marlins have split eight games this season. After four games at CBP this week, they'll meet for a four-game set in Miami and a three-game series back in Philly in September.