From Comcast SportsNetCLEVELAND (AP) -- The Cleveland Indians may have found a boost for their stagnant offense.The team has reached agreement on a 1.25 million, one-year contract with free agent outfielder Johnny Damon, a person familiar with the deal said Thursday. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the Indians had not yet announced the agreement.Damon is 277 hits from 3,000 and was looking to catch on with a team to prolong his career.Damon needs hits to reach the milestone. The Indians simply need hits.Agent Scott Boras has worked out a deal with Indians general manager Chris Antonetti, who has been looking for a player to help a Cleveland team off to a 1-4 start and batting just .176 -- worst in the majors. Damon can play both left and center field and will give manager Manny Acta another option in his lineup and outfield until Grady Sizemore returns from the disabled list.Sizemore, who underwent minor back surgery last month, is not eligible to come off the 60-day disabled list until June 3. Damon could provide a stopgap, or if he produces, the Indians may want to keep him for the entire season.The 38-year-old Damon, who confirmed the deal was near completion earlier in a text message to the AP, can make another 1.4 million in performance bonuses based on plate appearances..Now that the agreement is in place, Damon, who can play left field or center, must pass a physical. And although he's in excellent shape, Damon will likely need some time to get ready to play after not going to training camp. He hasn't faced major league pitching since last season.Damon played with Tampa Bay -- his sixth AL team -- in 2011. He batted .261 with 16 homers and 73 RBIs in 150 games, 135 as the club's designated hitter. The Indians are Damon's fourth team in four years.The Indians need someone to ignite their lineup.Cleveland went 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position during a 10-6 loss to the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday. The Indians set a season-high for runs and hits but didn't get any in the clutch.Afterward, Acta said he wasn't concerned about the slow start."Five games is not going to make me panic about my bullpen, my offense, defense or anything like that," Acta said. "We have to give it a little more time."The Indians traveled to Kansas City on Thursday night. They begin a three-game series against the Royals on Friday.Antonetti has been looking for offensive help this spring. He recently had talks with the Los Angeles Angels about a trade for Bobby Abreu but a deal never materialized.A career .286 hitter, Damon has also played for Kansas City, Oakland, Boston, the New York Yankees and Detroit. One of baseball's good guys, Damon's presence alone in Cleveland's clubhouse will benefit the young Indians, who can learn from his work ethic seek advice as they did last season when slugger Jim Thome returned to the Indians.He will start with a minor league contract and get the big league deal when he is added to the 40-man roster.In addition to his base salary, Damon would get 100,000 each for 100 plate appearances, 200 plate appearances and each additional 25 up until 500.
PITTSBURGH — The Cubs have so much going for them, all this blue-chip talent, a clubhouse mix of young players and grizzled veterans, arguably the best manager in the game, an impactful coaching staff and a front office that blends scouting and analytics as well as anyone.
So, no, John Lackey is not at all surprised by the way this clicked into place, 101 wins and counting for the machine built with October in mind.
“Not really,” Lackey said after Tuesday night’s 6-4 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates. “I had some pretty good offers from other people, and I chose this one for a reason. It’s all here.”
But to win the World Series — and get the jewelry Lackey talks about — you still need some luck, good health and the guts to perform in those Big Boy Games. That reality of randomness and matchups made a pregame announcement some 250 miles away from PNC Park so telling.
Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos tore the ACL in his right knee, ending his MVP-caliber season. The National League East champions will lose a .307 hitter with 22-homer power from the middle of their lineup and a veteran presence for a playoff rotation that will likely be without injured ace Stephen Strasburg (right elbow) in the first round.
“That’s a tough one when you lose your catcher, a guy who’s that significant for the pitching staff,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “Think about the pitching staff — it’s so different when you know the guy back there is your guy and he knows what’s going on. The communication’s different. The trust factor, all that stuff is different.”
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Within that big-picture context, the Cubs survived as Lackey limited the checked-out Pirates (77-80) to one run across five innings in his fifth start since recovering from a strained right shoulder and coming off the disabled list. Maddon then used six different relievers — staying away from Pedro Strop, Hector Rondon and Aroldis Chapman — during a three-hour, 49-minute game that felt more like the Cactus League.
After defecting from the 100-win St. Louis Cardinals team the Cubs bounced out of last year’s playoffs, Lackey finished the regular season at 11-8 with a 3.35 ERA and 188 1/3 innings.
“I’m going to get to 200,” Lackey said.
Beyond wins and losses, Lackey called this season his career best in terms of “those numbers that they’ve made up in the last few years” like WHIP (1.04) and opponents’ OPS (.646) and whatever. And, no, he doesn’t know his WAR, either: “Not even close.”
Yes, the Cubs got the old-school attitude they wanted when they signed Lackey to a two-year, $32 million deal before the winter meetings. For all the talk about the pitching deficit and the New York Mets after their young guns swept the Cubs out of last year’s NL Championship Series, the Cubs are getting their money’s worth with a guy who will turn 38 in October.
The amazing Mets have lost three of those frontline starters — Matt Harvey (thoracic outlet syndrome), Jacob deGrom (nerve damage in his right elbow) and Steven Matz (bone spur in his left elbow) — and are still holding onto the first wild-card spot, which says something about this playoff field.
This doesn’t guarantee anything in October, but the Cubs are just about as close to full strength as they could reasonably hope now. Instead of the silence that would have come with losing an irreplaceable player like Ramos, the sound system in the postgame clubhouse blasted Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre and Notorious B.I.G. after their 101st win.
“Yeah, we lost Dexter (Fowler) for a bit,” Maddon said. “We lost (Kyle) Schwarber all year. Otherwise, when a couple pitchers got banged up, whether you’re talking about Rondon or Strop, I don’t think that our injuries have been as magnified because we’ve covered them pretty well.
“We still had our moments, like everybody else has. But when you get to right now, we’re getting well, and hopefully that trend continues. But to lose somebody of that magnitude for them, that’s got to be difficult.”