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Hit Parade for Week 26

Senior Fantasy Writer
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All stats are updated through Wednesday, Sept. 18.

Catcher

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Notice I include Wilson Ramos and Salvador Perez among the no-brainers this week. That's not a mistake. Normally, I limit that tier to players started in at least 85 percent of leagues, and neither of them comes close. But seeing how the rest of the catcher position stacks up right now and knowing the way they've performed of late, with Ramos batting .315 (17 for 54) with six homers in his last 14 games and Perez batting .393 (33 for 84) with six homers in his last 24, the only way you can justify sitting them this week is if you have one of the four or five catchers I rank ahead of them.
Worth a second look: Tommy Medica, Padres
Medica's position defaulted to catcher when he got entered into our player database as a minor-leaguer oh so many years ago, but these days, he's a first baseman. And he just so happens to be the Padres' first baseman of choice down the stretch, having started eight consecutive games there. He's no first-rate prospect or anything, but he does have legitimate power, having homered twice in 30 at-bats in the majors after hitting 20 in 297 at-bats in the minors. And, to reiterate, he's a catcher-eligible player getting everyday at-bats elsewhere. Those types are almost always Fantasy gold. Oh, and the Padres have great matchups this week.
Approach with caution: Russell Martin, Pirates
Martin has been sitting more than usual recently because manager Clint Hurdle thinks he's fatigued, which might explain his .128 (11 for 86) batting average over his last 25 games. When he gets hot, he's as productive as any catcher, but now would be a curious time to roll the dice on him, especially with the Pirates facing the deep Reds rotation to close out the season.

No-brainers: Buster Posey, Mike Napoli, Carlos Santana, Yadier Molina, Wilson Ramos, Matt Wieters, Salvador Perez, Jonathan Lucroy
Advisable starts: Evan Gattis, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, A.J. Pierzynski, Brian McCann
Shaky starts: Tommy Medica, Josmil Pinto, Carlos Ruiz, Wilin Rosario (calf), Miguel Montero, Alex Avila, Russell Martin, Yan Gomes, J.P. Arencibia, Mike Zunino, Ryan Doumit
Strictly AL/NL-only: Welington Castillo, Chris Iannetta, Joe Mauer (concussion), Travis d'Arnaud, Nick Hundley, A.J. Ellis, Devin Mesoraco, Stephen Vogt, Josh Phegley, Chris Stewart, Jose Lobaton
Don't bother: Dioner Navarro, Hank Conger, Chris Herrmann, Brayan Pena, Geovany Soto, Derek Norris, Ryan Hanigan, John Buck, Erik Kratz, Kurt Suzuki, Max Stassi (concussion), John Jaso (concussion)

First base

The few players who qualify only at DH now appear alongside the first basemen so that their owners might have some context for how to approach them this week. If you see an asterisk (*) next to a player's name, it means he's DH-only and not a legitimate first baseman.
Best Five Hitting Schedules
Team Schedule
1. Rangers HOU3, LAA4
2. Padres ARI4, @SF3
3. Indians CHW2, @MIN4
4. Tigers @MIN3, @MIA3
5. White Sox TOR1, @CLE2, KC4

Oy. David Ortiz owners have gone almost all season without this year-round interleague play thing becoming an issue, so naturally, it pops up during the most crucial week of all. Granted, the Red Sox are in Colorado for only two games, but during a five-game week, that leaves Ortiz with only three opportunities to man DH. The Red Sox were willing to start him at first base in four of their previous seven games in NL parks, but that was when they weren't resting up for the playoffs. I'm not saying you can't start Ortiz this week, but weigh your options carefully.
Worth a second look: Nick Swisher, Indians
Swisher has been on fire over his last 12 games, batting .326 (10 for 55) with five homers and a 1.092 OPS, and judging by his matchups against John Danks, Hector Santiago, Andrew Albers, Pedro Hernandez, Cole De Vries and Mike Pelfrey, it's only going to continue this week. Notice the four left-handers there? Swisher is hitting .292 with a .912 OPS against lefties this year compared to .222 with a .682 OPS against righties.
Approach with caution: Victor Martinez, Tigers
While I can't fully endorse sitting Ortiz this week, I'm all about sitting Martinez. He too is a victim of unfortunate timing, with the Tigers traveling to Miami to close out the season. They did give him a couple starts at catcher the last time they were in the NL, but sticking him there for all three of those games on the eve of the playoffs would be unnecessarily risky. And even if that's what happens, Fantasy owners won't miss his production too much. He has just two extra-base hits in September, giving him a .684 OPS for the month.

No-brainers: Paul Goldschmidt, Joey Votto, Chris Davis, Prince Fielder, Matt Carpenter, Eric Hosmer, Freddie Freeman, Mark Trumbo, Adrian Gonzalez
Advisable starts: Billy Butler, Nick Swisher, Buster Posey, Mike Napoli, Carlos Santana, Brandon Belt
Shaky starts: Daniel Murphy, Kole Calhoun, Jonathan Lucroy, David Ortiz*, Michael Cuddyer (forearm), Kendrys Morales, Anthony Rizzo, Darin Ruf, Adam LaRoche, Adam Lind, Victor Martinez, Matt Adams (elbow), Adam Dunn, Justin Smoak, Daniel Nava, Brandon Moss, Justin Morneau, Chris Carter, Mitch Moreland, Tommy Medica, Chris Johnson, Logan Morrison, Yan Gomes, Todd Frazier
Strictly AL/NL-only: Lucas Duda, James Loney, Paul Konerko, Kyle Blanks, Joe Mauer (concussion), Chris Colabello, Todd Helton, Brett Wallace, Ed Lucas, Mark Reynolds, Michael Morse, Sean Halton, Daric Barton, Juan Francisco, Lyle Overbay
Don't bother: Mike Carp, Lance Berkman, Garrett Jones, Michael Young, Gaby Sanchez, Josh Satin, Allen Craig (foot), Yonder Alonso (hand), Kevin Youkilis (back)

Second base

Dan Uggla's vision may be better after LASIK surgery in mid-August, but his stroke has been slow to come around since then, even costing him his job for about a week. But after a pinch hit in Game 1 of a doubleheader Tuesday, he started the next two games, collecting a hit in each, one of them a homer. The 33-year-old is as frustrating as ever, but he can still do serious damage in a short period of time. If he keeps starting over the weekend and you have some catching up to do, you might roll the dice on him.
Worth a second look: Howie Kendrick, Angels
After initially indicating he'd come off the bench when he returned from his knee injury, the Angels have entrusted second base duties to Kendrick after all, starting him in five of their last six games. And considering he has hit .333 (7 for 21) during that stretch, rust isn't too much of a concern. The Angels don't have the most favorable matchups this week, but Kendrick was high-end before getting hurt. If you have a hole at second base, make sure you don't overlook him.
Approach with caution: Anthony Rendon, Nationals
Maybe you've gone on autopilot and haven't noticed, but after looking like a mainstay in the Nationals lineup for his first couple months as their primary second baseman, Rendon has become something significantly less than that, sitting one of three games for about a month now. In fact, he and Stephen Lombardozzi have basically alternated starts for the last week and a half. Rendon has been disappointing his owners since about the All-Star break, batting just .224 (37 for 165), and his part-time role preempts any chance of a miraculous turnaround.

No-brainers: Robinson Cano, Matt Carpenter, Dustin Pedroia, Jason Kipnis, Ian Kinsler
Advisable starts: Chase Utley, Brandon Phillips, Martin Prado, Ben Zobrist, Jose Altuve, Aaron Hill, Daniel Murphy, Brian Dozier, Jed Lowrie, Jedd Gyorko
Shaky starts: Emilio Bonifacio, Brett Lawrie, Howie Kendrick, Omar Infante, Neil Walker, Scooter Gennett, Dan Uggla, Brad Miller (hamstring)
Strictly AL/NL-only: Gordon Beckham, Brian Roberts, Anthony Rendon, Nick Franklin, Jurickson Profar, Dustin Ackley, DJ LeMahieu, Marco Scutaro (finger), Cesar Hernandez, Luis Valbuena, Alberto Callaspo, Josh Rutledge, Darwin Barney, Donovan Solano, Mark Ellis, Ryan Raburn, Ed Lucas, Elliot Johnson, Ronny Cedeno
Don't bother: Mike Aviles, Grant Green, Eric Sogard, Ryan Goins, Kolten Wong, Willie Bloomquist, Daniel Descalso, Jordy Mercer, Alexi Amarista, Stephen Lombardozzi, Omar Quintanilla

Third base

The David Wright owners who have survived to this point get a big boost for the final week. Their stud third baseman, out since Aug. 2 because of a strained hamstring, is expected back Friday. It's the perfect scenario, really. You'll have three days this weekend to see how much he plays and how well he performs, and assuming everything goes as expected, you'll slot him into your lineup Monday. Even without all that information available to me, I'm willing to rank him 11th at the position for Fantasy Week 26 (Sept. 23-29).
Worth a second look: Jedd Gyorko, Padres
Considering the Padres' matchups against hittable righties Brandon McCarthy, Randall Delgado, Trevor Cahill, Ryan Vogelsong and Yusmeiro Petit in a seven-game week, Chase Headley, who's batting .319 (15 for 47) with five homers in his last 14 games, would have been a fine choice for this spot as well. But I'm going with Gyorko, who's more widely available and also an option for second base. Plus, streakiness is part of the equation with him, so I feel like his .318 (14 for 44) batting average and three homers in his last 11 games are a little more telling.
Approach with caution: Chris Johnson, Braves
Since Aug. 3, when he entered the day with an NL-leading .347 batting average, Johnson is batting .283, which is still a respectable number. But his .712 OPS during that stretch is not. With just three homers, eight doubles and 24 RBI during those 41 games, he hasn't offered much for Fantasy owners, ranking 28th among third basemen in Head-to-Head leagues. The Braves' matchups are only middle-of-the-road this week, so why even bother with a guy who has been so unproductive for so long?

No-brainers: Adrian Beltre, Ryan Zimmerman, Matt Carpenter, Miguel Cabrera, Josh Donaldson, Evan Longoria, Hanley Ramirez
Advisable starts: Martin Prado, Aramis Ramirez, Kyle Seager, David Wright (hamstring), Pablo Sandoval, Chase Headley, Jedd Gyorko, Alex Rodriguez
Shaky starts: Manny Machado, Pedro Alvarez, Emilio Bonifacio, Brett Lawrie, Will Middlebrooks, Matt Dominguez, Chris Johnson, Cody Asche, Trevor Plouffe, Nolan Arenado (thumb), Mike Moustakas, Todd Frazier
Strictly AL/NL-only: David Freese, Anthony Rendon, Jurickson Profar, DJ LeMahieu, Lonnie Chisenhall, Brett Wallace, Luis Valbuena, Alberto Callaspo, Juan Uribe, Danny Valencia, Conor Gillaspie, Jose Iglesias (hand), Ed Lucas, Matt Davidson, Elliot Johnson, Marcus Semien, Juan Francisco, Adeiny Hechavarria, Donnie Murphy (wrist)
Don't bother: Josh Satin, Wilmer Flores, Michael Young, Nick Castellanos, Mike Aviles, Eric Chavez, Daniel Descalso, Alexi Amarista, Kevin Youkilis (back)

Shortstop

Worst Five Hitting Schedules
Team Schedule
1. Rockies BOS2, @LAD3
2. Cardinals WAS3, CHC3
3. Cubs PIT3, @STL3
4. Marlins PHI3, DET3
5. Dodgers @SF3, COL3
A couple of shortstops are hobbled by hamstring injuries right now, making them risky starts for the season's final week. Jean Segura is the more notable name. If he returns over the weekend, you can start him no problem, but if he doesn't, you probably shouldn't take any unnecessary risks. He is batting just .245 with a .593 OPS since the All-Star break, after all. Brad Miller has already missed four games, giving him a slightly better chance of returning over the weekend, but if he doesn't, he's not high-end enough to justify the gamble.
Worth a second look: Alexei Ramirez, White Sox
Ramirez has been hit-or-miss recently but seems to be on the upswing now, batting .455 (10 for 22) with a homer over his last six games. He's been a fairly reliable source of steals all season, so starting him isn't too much of a risk, especially in a week he's scheduled to face J.A. Happ, Jeremy Guthrie, Bruce Chen and the unproven Yordano Ventura.
Approach with caution: Junior Lake, Cubs
The occasional power surge has helped keep Lake a viable option in standard mixed leagues, but as a part-time player, starting just 10 of the Cubs' last 17 games, he can't keep it up. With Charlie Morton, Gerrit Cole, Francisco Liriano, Lance Lynn and Adam Wainwright on tap this week, he's likely to stay in his current 3-for-17 (.176) rut.

No-brainers: Ian Desmond, Jose Reyes, Elvis Andrus, Hanley Ramirez, Troy Tulowitzki, Ben Zobrist
Advisable starts: Brian Dozier, Jed Lowrie, J.J. Hardy, Alexei Ramirez, Jonathan Villar
Shaky starts: Erick Aybar, Asdrubal Cabrera, Jean Segura (hamstring), Andrelton Simmons (neck), Jimmy Rollins, Brad Miller (hamstring), Starlin Castro, Alcides Escobar, Stephen Drew, Yunel Escobar, Junior Lake, Zack Cozart
Strictly AL/NL-only: Nick Franklin, Jurickson Profar, Marco Scutaro (finger), Billy Hamilton, Brandon Crawford, Josh Rutledge, Jose Iglesias (hand), Ed Lucas, Elliot Johnson, Xander Bogaerts, Marcus Semien, Ronny Cedeno, Chris Owings, Adeiny Hechavarria, Eduardo Nunez
Don't bother: Mike Aviles, Didi Gregorius, Eric Sogard, Willie Bloomquist, Daniel Descalso, Jordy Mercer, Pete Kozma, Omar Quintanilla, Dee Gordon, Pedro Florimon

Outfield

A trio of injured studs made their returns in the last few days. Of them, Matt Kemp might actually be the most trustworthy in Fantasy given his 4-for-4 performance in his first game back. Domonic Brown also appeared to shake off the rust with two doubles Wednesday, but consistency has been as much an issue as health for him this season. And then there's Starling Marte, who the Pirates had been using as a pinch runner and defensive replacement before his sprained hand allowed him back in the lineup Tuesday. But going a whole month without meaningful at-bats and then leaving again for the birth of his child Thursday probably makes him to risky to use for this crucial final week, unless steals are your primary concern.
Worth a second look: Will Venable, Padres and Angel Pagan, Giants
After a torrid start to the second half, Venable has hit a little bit of a lull here in September, batting .220 (9 for 41) with just two extra-base hits (including a homer) in his last 10 games. But the Padres' matchups this week should get him back on track. Not only are they facing six righties, all but guaranteeing he'll stay in the lineup, but most are hittable types like Brandon McCarthy, Randall Delgado, Trevor Cahill, Ryan Vogelsong and Yusmeiro Petit. And even with the lull, Venable is still the 13th-best outfielder in Head-to-Head leagues in the second half. Pagan hasn't had any sort of lull since returning from a three-month DL stint for a hamstring injury, batting .359 (23 for 64) with five doubles, two triples, a homer and three steals in 17 games. He was an advisable starter more often than not before getting hurt, so if you're struggling to fill that last outfield spot, check to see if he's available.
Approach with caution: Michael Cuddyer, Rockies and Curtis Granderson, Yankees
Cuddyer hasn't slowed down all that much since the All-Star break, batting .333, but he's only the 31st-best outfielder in Head-to-Head leagues during that stretch. Part of that's because he has missed time with injuries, which doesn't really help his case with him nursing one now. Even if the swelling in his forearm goes down enough for him to play most of Fantasy Week 26 (Sept. 23-29), the Rockies are one of only two teams playing five games and have some scary matchups against Jake Peavy, John Lackey, Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu. Likewise, Granderson has been less productive than his numbers might indicate since returning from the DL Aug. 2, ranking 41st among outfielders in Head-to-Head leagues. And though his splits are actually a little better against lefties than righties this season, four in one week will still be a challenge for him, especially when three are Matt Moore, David Price and Brett Oberholtzer. He's the big-name play, sure, but in most leagues, you can do better.

No-brainers: Mike Trout, Andrew McCutchen, Chris Davis, Adam Jones, Shin-Soo Choo, Matt Carpenter, Jayson Werth, Yasiel Puig, Jay Bruce, Hunter Pence, Alex Gordon, Matt Holliday, Alfonso Soriano, Mark Trumbo, Giancarlo Stanton, Justin Upton, Alex Rios
Advisable starts: Matt Kemp, Bryce Harper, Coco Crisp, Martin Prado, Ben Zobrist, Wil Myers, Nick Swisher, Yoenis Cespedes, Shane Victorino (thumb), Austin Jackson, Will Venable, Carlos Gomez, Carlos Beltran, Josh Hamilton, Marlon Byrd
Shaky starts: Alejandro De Aza, Torii Hunter, Angel Pagan, Kole Calhoun, Domonic Brown, Desmond Jennings, Michael Bourn, Leonys Martin, Starling Marte, Michael Cuddyer (forearm), Adam Eaton, Denard Span, Colby Rasmus, Curtis Granderson, Christian Yelich, Eric Young, Emilio Bonifacio, Evan Gattis, Norichika Aoki, Darin Ruf, Carl Crawford, Gerardo Parra, Michael Brantley, Daniel Nava, Nick Markakis, Brandon Moss, Andre Ethier (ankle), Dayan Viciedo, Josh Reddick, Chris Carter, Khris Davis, Rajai Davis, Nate McLouth, Junior Lake, Josh Willingham, Logan Morrison
Strictly AL/NL-only: L.J. Hoes, Avisail Garcia, Jon Jay, Moises Sierra, Charlie Blackmon, Dexter Fowler, Jordan Schafer, Jonny Gomes, Dustin Ackley, Ryan Ludwick, Jarrod Dyson, Corey Dickerson, Justin Ruggiano, Raul Ibanez, Nate Schierholtz, Lucas Duda, Kyle Blanks, Brian Bogusevic, Juan Lagares, J.B. Shuck, Cesar Hernandez, Ryan Raburn, Abraham Almonte, Ichiro Suzuki, Ryan Doumit, Oswaldo Arcia, Jose Tabata, Matt Joyce, Chris Colabello, Alex Presley, B.J. Upton, Chris Denorfia, Chris Young, Lorenzo Cain, David Murphy, Drew Stubbs, Anthony Gose, Mike Carp, A.J. Pollock, Gregor Blanco, Seth Smith, Jackie Bradley, Michael Morse, Sean Halton, Andy Dirks, David Lough, Franklin Gutierrez
Don't bother: Caleb Gindl, Trevor Crowe, Grant Green, Nick Castellanos, Mike Aviles, Garrett Jones, Jake Marisnick, Michael Saunders, Stephen Lombardozzi, Alexi Amarista, Justin Maxwell, Jacoby Ellsbury (foot), Allen Craig (foot), Brett Gardner (oblique), Robbie Grossman (oblique)

The Hit Parade is your guide to setting your lineup for the upcoming scoring period. Looking at matchups for the week ahead and considering other factors such as streaks, injuries and lineup changes, we sort all Fantasy-relevant hitters at each position into five categories: "no-brainers," "advisable starts," "shaky starts," "strictly AL/NL-only" and "don't bother."

These designations rate each player's Fantasy value for the current week only and have no bearing on his value for the season as a whole. Injuries are shown in parentheses.

Any players not appearing on these lists are presumed to be below "don't bother" status and are obvious sits in Fantasy.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Scott White at @CBSScottWhite . You can also e-mail us at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
Report: Padres have discussed Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12/21/2014) The Padres have discussed a trade for Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels, according to the Daily News

Newly-acquired outfielder Wil Myers would be used as the centerpiece in the deal. By bringing in Myers, Matt Kemp and Justin Upton, San Diego has a glut of talent in the outfield. While it seems strange that the team would turn around and deal Myers, he would be the type of talent the Phillies are said to be seeking for Hamels. Philadelphia reportedly wants two or three "premium" prospects for Hamels. 

The 30-year-old Hamels posted a 2.46 ERA over 204 2/3 innings last season. He's owed $90 million over the next four seasons. 


Scott Boras: Matt Wieters will be ready by opening day
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12/21/2014) Orioles catcher Matt Wieters will be ready by opening day, according to his agent, Scott Boras. 

Wieters underwent Tommy John surgery is June, and is working his way back from the injury. It's unclear if Wieters will be able to catch full-time at the beginning of the year, or if he'll have to be worked in slowly. Manager Buck Showalter recently told reporters he wasn't sure Wieters would be ready by opening day, but he expected him to good shortly after. Wieters hit .308/.339/.500 over 104 at-bats before having surgery. 


Report: James Shields seeking $110 million
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12/21/2014) Free-agent pitcher James Shields is reportedly seeking a contract worth about $110 million, according to the Boston Globe

That type of deal would be similar to the one signed by Cole Hamels back in 2012. It's believed the 33-year-old Shields could receive a five-year deal. Both the Giants and Red Sox are involved with Shields, and the Yankees have been mentioned as another suitor. Shields posted a 3.21 ERA over 227 innings last season. He's exceeded 200 innings pitched in each of the last eight years.


Chase Utley staying put in Philly
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12/21/2014) The Phillies will enter the season with Chase Utley, according to the Daily News. 

With Jimmy Rollins gone, some have expected the team to entertain dealing Utley. As of right now, that's not going to happen. "I've had some dialogue with Wolfie [agent Joel Wolfe] but frankly, he doesn't want to go anywhere," general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "He wants to honor his contract and that's how we have to perceive it." 

Amaro admitted that the team needs to listen to any offer for the 36-year-old Utley, but doesn't perceive Utley changing his mind at this time. Utley hit .270/.339/.407 in 589 at-bats last season.


Giants' Sabean: No plans to talk to Max Scherzer
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/20/2014) Giants general manager Brian Sabean said that the Giants have not talked to free-agent pitcher Max Scherzer and have no plans to do so, the Mercury News reports.

Scherzer is the biggest name on the pitching market and could be seeking a deal north of the $155-million pact signed by Cubs pitcher Jon Lester. His price tag may not be feasible for the Giants' budget. The 2013 AL Cy Young winner went 18-5 with a 3.15 ERA and 252:63 K:BB ratio in 220 1/3 innings with the Tigers in 2014.


Report: Nick Hundley has two-year offer, unlikely to rejoin Orioles
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/20/2014) Free-agent catcher Nick Hundley has a two-year offer on the table from an unidentified team, making him unlikely to return to the Orioles, masnsports.com reports.

The Orioles declined a $5-million option on Hundley for the 2015 season but had interest in bringing him back into the fold at a lesser salary. He hit .243/.273/.358 with six home runs and 22 RBI in 218 at-bats between Baltimore and San Diego in 2014.


Report: Phillies could join Asdrubal Cabrera market
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/20/2014) The Phillies could become involved in the market for free-agent infielder Asdrubal Cabrera, ESPN.com reports.

The Phillies traded their longtime starter at shortstop to the Dodgers this offseason and will be looking to fill that hole in the infield. However, the team will have to shed some additional payroll in order to make a run at the infielder, according to the report. Cabrera hit .241/.307/.387 with 14 home runs, 61 RBI and 10 stolen bases in 553 at-bats between Cleveland and Washington in 2014.


Rangers release Ben Rowen
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/20/2014) The Rangers have released relief pitcher Ben Rowen . Rowen, who was designated for assignment earlier in the week, posted a 4.15 ERA in 8 2/3 innings with the Rangers in 2014 as well as a 3.45 ERA and 31:9 K:BB ratio in 47 innings with Triple-A Round Rock.

Nationals sign Mark Minicozzi to minor-league deal
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/20/2014) The Nationals have signed infielder Mark Minicozzi to a minor-league deal.

Minicozzi, 31, hit .298/.400/.470 with 12 home runs and 62 RBI in 315 at-bats with Triple-A San Jose in 2014. He has yet to appear in a regular-season game in the majors.


Indians sign pitcher Scott Downs to minor-league contract
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(12/20/2014) The Indians announced they signed pitcher Scott Downs to a minor-league contract Saturday.

Downs also received a non-roster invite to MLB camp.


 
 
 
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