MLB sets up local media group, could broadcast 17 teams Phillies prospect Painter dazzles with heat in spring debut
NEW YORK. Major League Baseball has added three executives to its new local media division, bracing for a possible broadcast takeover for 17 teams amid financial deterioration in regional sports networks Bally and AT&T SportsNet.
Doug Johnson has been hired as senior vice president and executive producer for local media, Greg Pennell as senior vice president for local media, and Kendall Burgess as vice president of local media technical operations, the commissioner’s office said Wednesday.
“These new hires are an important step in our preparation to change the MLB distribution landscape in light of the growing challenges and pressures facing regional sports networks,” MLB Chief Revenue Officer Noah Garden said in a statement.
Diamond Sports Group, a subsidiary of the Sinclair Broadcast Group that operates networks called Bally Sports, has rights to 14 major league teams and missed about $140 million in interest payments due on Feb. 15. Diamond stated that as of September 30, it has debts. $8.674 billion. The company has nearly $1 billion in rights payments, mostly to baseball teams, due in the first quarter of this year and is possibly filing for bankruptcy.
Diamond owns broadcast rights for the Arizona Diamondbacks, Atlanta Braves, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Guardians, Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals, Los Angeles Angels, Miami Marlins, Milwaukee Brewers, Minnesota Twins, St. Louis Cardinals, San Diego Padres, Tampa. Bay Rays and Texas Rangers.
Warner Bros.’s AT&T SportsNet network. Discovery told the Colorado Rockies, Houston Astros, and Pittsburgh Pirates last week that the companies don’t have the money to make scheduled payments for the rights. The networks have told the teams they have until March 31 to reclaim their broadcast rights, and if there are no deals, the networks will file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
Billy Chambers, who was Sinclair’s top financial proposition, joined MLB on February 1 in a new position as executive vice president of local media. New hires will report to Chambers.
Johnson, 55, a 27-time Emmy winner, worked for AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh and will be in charge of local MLB games. Pennell, 51, ran the day-to-day financial operations of Bally Sports Regional Networks. Burgess, 46, was Bally Sports’ vice president of technical operations.
The stage hardly looked too big for a pitcher. Andrew Painter.
The Philadelphia Phillies prospect’s fastball reached 99 mph during his spring training debut against Minnesota on Wednesday. The 19-year-old allowed one run and three hits with a strikeout in two innings, a serious first move as he attempts to crack Philadelphia’s starting rotation before his 20th birthday on April 10.
The 6’7″ Painter showed why the Phyllis holds him in such high esteem. The 13th pick in the 2021 amateur draft nearly reached 100 mph on the radar while facing Carlos Correa in the first inning, although Correa did reach an infield single.
“You know, (Correa) is pretty good at what he does,” Painter later joked to reporters. So I’m just trying to get past him.
Painter made 18 of his 29 strike shots and missed Max Kepler with a cutter at 90 miles per hour. He ran into little trouble in the second inning after missing back-to-back singles to Christian Vazquez and Nick Gordon before giving up running on a sacrificial fly. The game ended in a draw 4-4.
Catcher Phillies Garret Stubbs praised Painter’s poise, which Painter attributed in part to having played at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers the previous year while playing for the Class A Philadelphia affiliate.
“I felt like we didn’t even get to the point where he would probably get to, but he did really well,” Stubbs said. “You have seen such a repertoire. He can spin the ball. He was hitting. Obviously a really good heater, and I don’t even think today’s heater was as good as usual. So I think we have more to see from him.”
Painter came through the Philadelphia system in 2022, going 6-2 with a 1.48 ERA in 26 games split across two Class A teams and a Double-A reading.
SALE ON THE WAY TO RETURN
Pitcher Boston Red Sox Chris Sale likely to debut in the Grapefruit League next week.
The seven-time All-Star threw 43 innings in two innings of batting practice on Wednesday. Boston manager Alex Cora told reporters that Sale must get clearance to practice two or three innings in the game sometime next week.
The 33-year sale was limited to two starts last year and 11 starts from 2020 due to a host of health concerns. The sale arrived at spring training without any restrictions, though Boston is slowly picking up left-hander momentum in hopes of avoiding any setbacks.
LEMAHIER WITHOUT PAIN
Infielder New York Yankees DJ LeMahieu went 1-for-2 against Washington in his first game since he was ruled out last September with a right toe injury.
He singled out the left field wall in third and played four innings at second base. More importantly, LeMahier enjoyed a painless bat for the first time since the middle of last season.
“I am thrilled with this,” LeMahier said. “Glad to continue. I felt good and expected it to stay that way.”
Last year, LeMaye only played 125 games in the regular season and missed the playoffs. He finished the season with a .261 batting average, his lowest since 2011.
“It’s great to see him on his feet,” the Yankees fielder left. Giancarlo Stanton said. “He’s a strength to us and a threat to pitchers.”
BRADLEY JUNIOR. SIGNING WITH ROYAL ROLES
Kansas City Royals sign veteran Jackie Bradley A junior to the minor leagues receives an invitation to spring training, where he will have the opportunity to earn playing time on the open field.
The Royals recently traded current center fielder Michael A. Taylor to Minnesota for pitching prospects, and Drew Waters showed up first in line to take on the job. But he has strained his oblique and is expected to miss the start of the season, leaving the royals with intriguing competition in spring training.
32-year-old Bradley has to overcome Kyle Isbelamong other young prospects to earn a starting job.
Bradley was an All-Star for eight seasons with Boston, where he was highly regarded for his defense but often fell short of expectations at the plate. He signed a two-year, $24 million contract with Milwaukee two years ago but hit just .163 and was sent back to Boston before being released and signed with Toronto.
He batted .203 with four homers and 38 RBIs in 131 games between the Red Sox and Blue Jays last season.
GUARDS ON SECURITY WITH VALERE
The Cleveland Guardians are hoping the rest will help much-touted field prospect George Valera, who left the show Tuesday with an apparent injury to his right hand.
Valera, who was runner-up in the Cleveland organization, was forced to retire during a second-inning bat after an outfield foul. During the off-season, he underwent surgery on the same arm for a fractured hamate.
Manager Terry Francona said Valera would receive treatment before the team’s medical staff considered any imaging tests.
Valera hit .250 with 24 homers and 84 RBIs in Double-A Akron and Triple-A Columbus last season. In addition, Francona said that the left-hander feeds Sam Henges deals with inflammation of the shoulder and will be evaluated weekly.
Henges became a reliable support for Francona. Last season, the 26-year-old went 3-2 with a 2.32 ERA in 57 games.
“After Sam pitched the other day, he just came in and his shoulder just wasn’t bouncing back the way he wanted,” Francona said. “They took a picture of him. He has swelling around the ligaments in his shoulder.”
RORVEDT IS ABSENT AGAIN
Reserve catcher Ben Rortvedt was out indefinitely after undergoing surgery for what Yankees manager Aaron Boone called a “posterior artery aneurysm” near his left shoulder.
The injury is the latest in a string of bad luck for Rortvedt, who came to New York as part of a trade that sent catcher Gary Sanchez to Minnesota last offseason. Rortvedt was expected to be in contention for a spot on the roster, but instead he never appeared in major league play due to oblique and knee injuries.
Early results from Major League Baseball’s decision to restrict shifts are promising.
Runs and averages in the first wave of games are up from spring training a year ago. Players were hitting .272 through February 28, averaging 11.9 points. This is compared to an average of 0.259 and 10.6 runs over the same period in 2022.
The burst of attack doesn’t seem to affect the tempo of the game, thanks in large part to the introduction of serving clocks. The average game time through February 28 was 2 hours and 39 minutes. This is less than 3:01 compared to the same segment of last spring training.
The referees are still aggressive in respecting the timing rules. Cleveland shortstop Jose Tena was called out for not engaging the pitcher with less than eight seconds left on the clock.
FIRST FOR GUSMAN
Ronald Guzman is serious about trying his hand at pitching. And the San Francisco Giants are serious about giving the veteran first baseman a shot.
Guzman, 28, delivered the ninth inning of San Francisco’s 8–5 loss to Arizona. Guzman hit a solo home run PJ Higgins but also struck out Jake Hager for three pitches. Guzman was effective, scoring eight of his 12 hitting innings.
Guzmán signed with a minor league contract with a spring training invite as a two-way player with San Francisco during the winter. The 6-foot-5 left-hander played in 246 games for the Texas and New York Yankees from 2018-22 as first baseman and designated hitter.