Pirates trade for Mets lefty Smoker

NEW YORK — Left-hander Josh Smoker has been traded from the New York Mets to the Pittsburgh Pirates for minor league left-hander Daniel Zamora and cash.

The swap was announced Wednesday, five days after Smoker was designated for assignment to clear a roster spot after the Mets re-signed free agent infielder Jose Reyes.

Smoker was 3-0 with a 4.70 ERA for the Mets as a rookie in 2016, then went 1-2 with a 5.11 ERA and 68 strikeouts in 56 1/3 innings over 54 relief appearances last year. He was sidelined from June 14 to July 10 with a strained left shoulder and had a 2.63 ERA in 32 games following his return.

Smoker, who turned 29 in November, enters games to Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water.”

The 24-year-old Zamora, who attended Stony Brook on Long Island, was 2-4 with nine saves and a 1.76 ERA last year from Class A Bradenton and Double-A Altoona, striking out 63 in 56 1/3 innings. He was a Florida State League All-Star.

D-backs sign Avila

PHOENIX — A person with knowledge of the agreement says catcher Alex Avila has signed a two-year, $8.25 million contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The person asked to remain anonymous because the signing has not been officially announced by the team.

The 31-year-old Avila fills a roster spot vacated by catcher Chris Iannetta, who signed with Colorado after spending last season sharing the Arizona catching duties.

Last season, Avila hit .264 with 14 home runs and 49 RBIs with the Detroit Tigers and Chicago Cubs. He is a career .243 hitter in nine major league seasons and is the son of Tigers general manager Al Avila.

Avila joins Jeff Mathis and Chris Herrmann as the team’s catchers going into spring training.

Gamble dead at 68

NEW YORK — Oscar Gamble, an outfielder who hit 200 home runs over 17 major league seasons and was famous during his playing days for an Afro that spilled out of his helmet, died Wednesday of a rare tumor of the jaw. He was 68.

His second wife, Lovell Woods Gamble, said he was diagnosed with a benign tumor, ameloblastoma, about nine years ago. It became ameloblastic carcinoma in 2016 and he had the first of several operations that August. Gamble, who lived in Montgomery, Alabama, entered UAB Hospital in Birmingham on Jan. 22 and died there early Wednesday. His wife said he never chewed tobacco.

A left-handed hitter known for the crouch in his batting stance, Gamble had a .265 batting average and 666 RBIs while playing for seven big league teams.

Hall of Fame reliever Goose Goosage remembered Gamble insisting that Yankees bat boys sprint out so Gamble could hand over his lumber before circling the bases on home runs.

“He’s just one of the funniest guys that I’ve even been around, even professional comedians,” Gossage said. “We all knew he was going through some tough times, and it’s kind of frustrating just to have to sit back and watch one of your close friends go through what he went through.”

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