It makes sense that an unheralded fan’s 96 mph fastball could be used as a convincing sales pitch to the organization that introduced “Moneyball” into the baseball lexicon.

The Oakland Athletics signed Nathan Patterson, 23, to a minor-league contract after he hit 96 mph during a fan challenge at Coors Field in Denver last month. It wasn’t the first time the A’s got a sampling of his major-league velocity – Patterson also impressed while pitching during a fan event at the team’s Triple-A affiliate in Nashville last year.

After signing with the Athletics, Patterson thanked the team for the opportunity to play professional baseball.

Still, it’s not like Patterson just showed up to the ballpark and decided to throw 96 mph fastballs as some sort of instant baseball wunderkind. He’s been working at his craft for years.

CUBS: Ben Zobrist, who left the team three months ago to deal with a divorce, began a minor league assignment at Class A South Bend.

Zobrist has been on the restricted list since May 8.

ANGELS: Catcher Jonathan Lucroy, who returned from a concussion and broken nose Wednesday following a home-plate collision last month, was designated for assignment.

Lucroy was bowled over at home plate July 7 by Jake Marisnick of Houston. He was placed on the 10-day injured list and missed 18 games. Lucroy was 2 for 4 against Detroit in his final game with the Angels.

PIRATES: Infielder Jung Ho Kang, 32, was designated for assignment. Kang hit .169 with 10 home runs and 24 RBI in 65 games this season.

Kang signed with Pittsburgh in January 2015, becoming the first position player to jump directly from the Korean Baseball Organization to the majors. He made a splash as a rookie, finishing third in Rookie of the Year voting after hitting 15 home runs. His season ended abruptly that September when he broke his leg after getting taken out at second base by Chris Coghlan of the Chicago Cubs.

INDIANS: Right-hander Danny Salazar returned to the injured list with a strained right groin, one day after appearing in his first game in two years.

• Manager Terry Francona returned a day after missing a game because of surgery for a tear in his retina.

DODGERS: Pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu was placed on the 10-day injured list due to neck soreness. The move was made retroactive to Thursday.


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