The Upper Deck

Welcome to The Upper Deck, Baseball America’s daily look at the biggest stories around the game and some lighter fare.


Shohei Otani’s return to the mound was a much-anticipated event and not just in Japan. Half of the 30 MLB teams were represented as Japan’s top player pitched Thursday. J.J. Cooper runs down how Otani pitched and what coming to the States after this season would mean for him financially.


Tim Tebow likely won’t get called up as rosters expand today, but he’s not giving up on baseball. The Heisman Trophy-winner turned NFL quarterback-turned broadcaster-turned minor league ballplayer told reporters Thursday that he intends to play for the Mets in 2018.

Tebow is hitting .225/.300/.353 with high Class A St. Lucie with five homers and 28 RBIs in 59 games after hitting .220 in 64 games at low Class A Columbia.

“It’s still something we’re figuring out, but for me it’ll be a lot of training,” Tebow told The Associated Press. “For me it’ll be about working on training and building the muscle-memory where I can do it for two, five, seven days and continue to build a couple of weeks at a time.”

It’s unclear if the Mets will send Tebow to the elite Arizona Fall League, which Tebow would have to work out with his broadcasting schedule with the SEC Network, calling college football games.


Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who grew up a Yankees fan in the Bronx, donned a different kind of robe Thursday. Sotomayor wore a robe with the interlocking N-Y logo and sat in a section in the right field seats at Yankee Stadium dubbed the “Judge’s Chambers” for slugger Aaron Judge. Sotomayor even held an “All Rise” sign in honor of Judge.

Sotomayor brought some luck to the struggling Yanks, who broke a three-game losing streak by beating Boston 6-2.


The Blue Jays found themselves down 3-0 to the red-hot Orioles Thursday before Kendry Morales kicked it into gear. He homered in the third inning to make it 3-2, then when the O’s stretched the lead to 5-2, doubled home two runs in the fifth to tie it at 5-5. The Jays grabbed a 7-5 on Kevin Pillar’s double, but after the Orioles closed the gap to 7-6, Morales clubbed a three-run homer in the sixth to make it 10-6, then hit a third homer in the eighth to make it 11-6. In all, Morales drove in seven runs in an 11-8 win. Edwin Encarnacion and Roy Howell share the Jays’ record for RBIs in a single game with nine.


The Orioles hold out hope that righthander Pat Connaughton will play baseball for them. But the fourth-round pick in 2014 from Notre Dame won’t be doing it next season. The Trail Blazers on Thursday guaranteed the third year on his contract, meaning he’ll play for the NBA team next season. The 6-foot-5 Connaughton averaged just 2.5 points per game, but expects to have a larger role in 2017-18.

“Good for Pat,” Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette told The Baltimore Sun. “It looks like a pretty good deal for him. I have believed and maintained since the kid was in high school that his future is in Major League Baseball, but he doesn’t see it that way. It’s really his career, right?”

The Orioles gave Connaughton a $428,000 bonus to sign but knew as a two-sport athlete there was a chance he’d pick basketball.

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