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Thread: 2018 MLB Spring Training Look At All Teams-Trades-Rumours-Injuries ETC. !

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    Default 2018 MLB Spring Training Look At All Teams-Trades-Rumours-Injuries ETC. !

    NL East teams at the start of spring training
    February 9, 2018

    A team-by-team look at the National League East entering spring training, including key players each club acquired and lost, and dates of the first workout for pitchers and catchers, and the full squad:

    ---

    Washington Nationals

    Manager: Dave Martinez (first season).

    2017: 97-65, first place, lost to Chicago Cubs in NLDS.

    Training Town: West Palm Beach, Florida.

    Park: The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.

    First Workout: Feb. 16/21.

    He's Here: 1B-OF Matt Adams, C Miguel Montero.

    He's Outta Here: Manager Dusty Baker, LF Jayson Werth, C Jose Lobaton, 1B-LF Adam Lind, RHP Matt Albers.

    Going campin': It's become an all-too-familiar story for the Nationals and their fans: terrific regular season, followed by quick playoff exit, followed by a managerial change. Martinez will be the latest skipper to try to lead the club to postseason success - and GM Mike Rizzo has made it clear that ownership expects nothing less than a World Series championship. Martinez has been Joe Maddon's right-hand man with the Chicago Cubs and Tampa Bay Rays and now gets his first shot in charge of a team. He replaces Baker, who lost his job after two NL East titles in two years as Washington's manager - and two one-run Game 5 defeats in the NLDS. The core of the team did not change at all, with RF Bryce Harper leading the lineup in what could be his last go-round with the team that drafted him No. 1 overall. He can become a free agent after this season and is expected to command a record-breaking contract. 2B Daniel Murphy (coming off knee surgery), 1B Ryan Zimmerman (coming off a career year of .303, 36 HRs, 108 RBIs but also 33 years old), 3B Anthony Rendon and SS Trea Turner should provide plenty of offense, while three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg anchor the rotation. The back end of the bullpen (Sean Doolittle, Ryan Madson and Brandon Kintzler) returns intact. Not much in the way of camp competition anywhere.

    ---

    Miami Marlins

    Manager: Don Mattingly (third season).

    2017: 77-85, second place.

    Training Town: Jupiter, Florida.

    Park: Roger Dean Stadium.

    First Workout: Feb. 14/19.

    He's Here: INF Starlin Castro, OF Lewis Brinson, RHP Sandy Alcantara, RHP Jorge Guzman, 1B Garrett Cooper, RHP Jacob Turner, OF-1B Scott Van Slyke, RHP Jumbo Diaz.

    He's Outta Here: RF Giancarlo Stanton, LF Marcell Ozuna, CF Christian Yelich, 2B Dee Gordon, RHP Tom Koehler, OF Ichiro Suzuki, RHP Dustin McGowan, C A.J. Ellis.

    Going campin': The perennially downtrodden Marlins reboot yet again, this time under a new ownership group led by former Yankees captain Derek Jeter. The group has already antagonized the tiny fan base by trading major league home run champion Stanton, stolen base champ Gordon, All-Star Ozuna and Yelich, netting in return Castro and prospects. Jeter says the payroll dump was necessary because budget discipline and a stronger farm system are the only path to sustained success. The Marlins haven't had a winning season since 2009, and .500 may now be at least a few more years away. Mattingly's challenge during spring training will be to find five starting pitchers and build a lineup around Castro and catcher J.T. Realmuto - although both could exit in trades for more prospects.

    ---

    Atlanta Braves

    Manager: Brian Snitker (third season).

    2017: 72-90, third place.

    Training Town: Kissimmee, Florida.

    Park: Champion Stadium.

    First Workout: Feb. 14/19.

    He's Here: RHP Brandon McCarthy, LHP Scott Kazmir, INF Charlie Culberson, OF Preston Tucker, OF Ronald Acuna, 3B Austin Riley, OF Jeff Decker, 2B Christian Colon, RHP Shane Carle.

    He's Outta Here: OF Matt Kemp, RHP R.A. Dickey, 3B Adonis Garcia, 1B Matt Adams, INF Jace Peterson, RHP Jason Motte.

    Going campin': It would be no surprise if top prospect Acuna makes a big push this spring to open the season in Atlanta. For at least a few weeks, however, Lane Adams and Preston Tucker might share the job in left field. Similarly, Johan Camargo and Rio Ruiz may lead the competition at third base, but Riley is another top prospect who could try to show this spring he's ready for the job. Julio Teheran, Mike Foltynewicz and McCarthy should have spots in the rotation, and leading contenders for the other two slots are left-handers Sean Newcomb and Luiz Gohara, plus Lucas Sims, Max Fried and Kazmir, if healthy. The Braves are concerned about a lack of power in the lineup after losing Kemp and Adams. The team might add a bat on a short-term contract. Left-hander A.J. Minter, who impressed in a late-season audition, could eventually push Arodys Vizcaino for ninth-inning work.

    ---

    New York Mets

    Manager: Mickey Callaway (first season).

    2017: 70-92, fourth place.

    Training Town: Port St. Lucie, Florida.

    Park: First Data Field.

    First Workout: Feb. 14/19.

    He's Here: 3B Todd Frazier, RF Jay Bruce, RHP Anthony Swarzak, 1B Adrian Gonzalez, C Jose Lobaton, INF-OF Ty Kelly, LHP Matt Purke, OF Zach Borenstein.

    He's Outta Here: Manager Terry Collins, LHP Josh Smoker, LHP Josh Edgin, RHP Chasen Bradford, OF Norichika Aoki, RHP Erik Goeddel, LHP Tommy Milone, OF Travis Taijeron.

    Going campin': While many teams were reluctant to spend in free agency, the Mets shopped around for sensible deals and filled a few holes with Frazier, Bruce and Swarzak. It's enough to give them hope for a bounce-back season, but their chances to contend probably depend on the 3-4-5 spots in the rotation. Can injury-plagued Steven Matz, Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler provide quality innings? If not, can Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo fill in adequately the way they did in 2016? Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard, back from a torn lat muscle, give New York a 1-2 punch to rival anyone at the top of the rotation. But the Mets are counting on Callaway, coming off an impressive stint as Cleveland's pitching coach, and new pitching instructor Dave Eiland to repair the rest of a staff that ranked 28th in the majors with a 5.01 ERA. There are three or four jobs available in a bullpen that could be solid at the back end with Jeurys Familia, AJ Ramos, Jerry Blevins and Swarzak. Bruce, Frazier and Yoenis Cespedes provide power in a plodding lineup that hopes to get All-Star slugger Michael Conforto (shoulder surgery) back in May. Until then, Brandon Nimmo and Juan Lagares figure to platoon in center field. Nimmo, a first-round draft pick who turns 25 next month, quietly made strides last season and might be ready to make an impact. New York will be looking for marked improvement from 22-year-old prospects Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith, too. Both struggled in their first taste of the majors. A slimmed-down Smith will compete at first base with the 35-year-old Gonzalez, a five-time All-Star beset by a bad back with the Dodgers last season. Also in big league camp, former star quarterback Tim Tebow as the minor league outfielder begins his second pro baseball season. It's hard to envision the Mets challenging star-studded Washington for NL East supremacy, but with better health in a weak division they could rejoin the wild-card hunt.

    ---

    Philadelphia Phillies

    Manager: Gabe Kapler (first season).

    2017: 66-96, fifth place.

    Training Town: Clearwater, Florida.

    Park: Spectrum Field.

    First Workout: Feb. 14/19.

    He's Here: 1B Carlos Santana, RHP Pat Neshek, RHP Tommy Hunter, RHP Francisco Rodriguez, INF Will Middlebrooks.

    He's Outta Here: Manager Pete Mackanin, SS Freddy Galvis, INF Andres Blanco, OF Daniel Nava, OF Hyun Soo Kim, RHP Clay Buchholz.

    Going campin': The Phillies have had five straight losing seasons and finished last three times in the past four years, but they have reason for optimism. They were 35-35 in the last 70 games after young hitters Nick Williams, Jorge Alfaro, Rhys Hoskins and J.P. Crawford joined the team. The addition of Santana bolsters a lineup that includes Odubel Herrera, Cesar Hernandez, Maikel Franco and Aaron Altherr. It could be quite formidable. Neshek and Hunter add depth in the bullpen, giving the team a potentially strong 7-8-9 setup with closer Hector Neris. The rotation lacks a proven ace but there's talent led by Aaron Nola. If a couple of starters step up and Jerad Eickhoff and Vince Velasquez return to 2016 form, it could be solid. Kapler has limited managerial experience but he's a progressive thinker who embraces analytics and sports science. It'll be interesting to see how he handles his first spring training.
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    NL Central teams at the start of spring training
    February 9, 2018

    A team-by-team look at the National League Central entering spring training, including key players each club acquired and lost, and dates of the first workout for pitchers and catchers, and the full squad:


    Chicago Cubs

    Manager: Joe Maddon (fourth season).

    2017: 92-70, first place, lost to Dodgers in NLCS.

    Training Town: Mesa, Arizona.

    Park: Sloan Park.

    First Workout: Feb. 14/19.

    He's Here: RHP Brandon Morrow, RHP Tyler Chatwood, RHP Steve Cishek, LHP Drew Smyly.

    He's Outta Here: RHP Wade Davis, C Alex Avila, C Rene Rivera.

    Going campin': Chicago is coming off three consecutive NLCS appearances, and it looked a little tired when its title defense came to an end with a lopsided playoff loss to Los Angeles last year. The bullpen was hit hard by the Dodgers in the NLCS, and the Cubs batted just .168 in 10 postseason games. The roster returns mostly intact, but the bullpen and coaching staff each has a new look. Morrow replaces Davis at closer after agreeing to a $21 million, two-year contract. Jim Hickey takes over as pitching coach, former major league outfielder Chili Davis is the new hitting coach and Brandon Hyde moves to bench coach after Dave Martinez was hired to manage the Washington Nationals. Also worth watching this spring is a new-look Kyle Schwarber, who changed his diet and workout routine over the winter in search of more consistency.

    ---

    Milwaukee Brewers

    Manager: Craig Counsell (fourth season).

    2017: 86-76, second place.

    Training Town: Phoenix.

    Park: Maryvale Baseball Park.

    First Workout: Feb. 15/20.

    He's Here: OF Lorenzo Cain, OF Christian Yelich, RHP Jhoulys Chacin, RHP Yovani Gallardo, LHP Boone Logan, RHP Matt Albers.

    He's Outta Here: 2B Neil Walker, OF Lewis Brinson, RHP Matt Garza, RHP Wily Peralta, RHP Carlos Torres, RHP Jared Hughes, RHP Anthony Swarzak.

    Going campin': The Brewers shook up the sleepy offseason market by trading for Yelich and signing Cain to an $80 million contract on back-to-back days in late January. The bold moves shifted the franchise's focus from rebuilding to contending after a surprising 2017 season that ended with Milwaukee falling one game short of the playoffs. More moves are possible after the slick-fielding additions crowded the outfield picture. Left fielder Ryan Braun will give first base a try in spring training, and could play the position sometimes depending on his comfort level. Starts are up for grabs with Jimmy Nelson possibly out until at least June as he recovers from a partially torn labrum and strained rotator cuff. Gallardo returns to the Brewers hoping to fill a spot at the back of the rotation behind Zach Davies, Chase Anderson and Chacin, with returnees including lefty Brent Suter and promising rookie Brandon Woodruff also in the running. Second base remains a question mark with Walker a free agent after being acquired in a trade with the Mets. Eric Sogard might be better suited for a utility role, though he had a penchant for getting on base. Getting the speedy Jonathan Villar to bounce back after an underwhelming 2017 season would help.

    ---

    St. Louis Cardinals

    Manager: Mike Matheny (seventh season).

    2017: 83-79, third place.

    Training Town: Jupiter, Florida.

    Park: Roger Dean Stadium.

    First Workout: Feb. 14/19.

    He's Here: LF Marcell Ozuna, RHP Miles Mikolas, RHP Luke Gregerson.

    He's Outta Here: RHP Lance Lynn, OF Stephen Piscotty, OF Randal Grichuk, RHP Seung-hwan Oh, RHP Juan Nicasio, SS Aledmys Diaz.

    Going campin': The Cardinals have had one losing season since the start of the century, but are facing immense pressure from fans after finishing behind the Cubs and Brewers in the NL Central last season. St. Louis missed the playoffs for a second straight year, the first time that's happened since 2007-08. That drought - at least by Cardinals standards - was the fuel for a busy offseason that saw them pursue NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton before coming away with Ozuna instead in a trade with the Marlins. Ozuna immediately steps in as the top power hitter for St. Louis after socking 37 home runs last season in Miami, and he'll remain in left field, where he won a Gold Glove last season. He'll be joined in the outfield by center fielder Tommy Pham, who emerged after years of injury concerns to hit 23 homes runs and steal 25 bases last season, while Dexter Fowler is moving to right. Mikolas returned from a stint in Japan and signed a two-year contract to join the rotation, which is currently without the unsigned Lynn. Gregerson enters spring training as the closer after coming over from Houston. Matheny, however, is keeping open the possibility of hard-throwing Alex Reyes moving into that role once he's fully recovered from elbow surgery that kept him out last season. St. Louis is targeting a May 1 return for Reyes, who had a 1.57 ERA and struck out 52 batters in 46 innings during his 2016 debut.

    ---

    Pittsburgh Pirates

    Manager: Clint Hurdle (eighth season).

    2017: 75-87, fourth place.

    Training Town: Bradenton, Florida.

    Park: LECOM Park.

    First Workout: Feb. 14/19.

    He's Here: 3B Colin Moran, RHP Joe Musgrove, RHP Michael Feliz, RHP Kyle Crick.

    He's Outta Here: CF Andrew McCutchen, RHP Gerrit Cole, OF John Jaso, C Chris Stewart, RHP Johnny Barbato, RHP Joaquin Benoit.

    Going campin': Pittsburgh general manager Neal Huntington says the team isn't rebuilding following consecutive losing seasons. Funny, it sure looks that way. In a span of three days in January, the Pirates sent Cole and McCutchen, two vital cogs in their run to three straight playoff appearances from 2013-15, elsewhere rather than foot the bill for their salaries. Cole, due $6.75 million this season, was shipped to Houston while five-time All-Star and 2013 NL MVP McCutchen - and his $14.75 million salary - was traded to San Francisco. McCutchen's departure leaves a spot open in the outfield, where Sean Rodriguez will likely have the inside track as prospect Austin Meadows tries to put an injury-plagued 2017 behind him. Moran has the potential to help out David Freese at third base with Jung Ho Kang not expected to return to the U.S. after missing all of 2017 due to visa issues stemming from his DUI arrest in his native Korea in 2016. There is intrigue in the starting rotation behind Ivan Nova, Jameson Taillon and Chad Kuhl. The back end of the bullpen is fine after closer Felipe Rivero signed a four-year contract, but the Pirates will need six weeks of camp to figure out who will work in front of him.

    ---

    Cincinnati Reds

    Manager: Bryan Price (fifth season).

    2017: 68-94, fifth place.

    Training Town: Goodyear, Arizona.

    Park: Goodyear Ballpark.

    First Workout: Feb. 14/19.

    He's Here: RHP Jared Hughes, RHP David Hernandez.

    He's Outta Here: SS Zack Cozart, RHP Bronson Arroyo, RHP Tim Adleman.

    Going campin': The Reds lost 90 games for the third straight season, with their pitching staff the biggest problem once again. Homer Bailey, Anthony DeSclafani and Brandon Finnegan were expected to anchor the rotation, but all three missed significant time - DeSclafani the entire season - because of injuries, forcing Cincinnati to go with rookies who weren't ready for the majors. Reds starters gave up the most earned runs and homers in the NL and ranked last in ERA. Bailey, DeSclafani and Finnegan are expected to be healthy for the start of camp, and their progress will be the main focus. Luis Castillo has the edge on the No. 4 spot after a strong rookie season (3.12 ERA in 15 starts), and the fifth spot is open to competition. The bullpen also was a major issue again last season, giving up the most walks and runs in the NL. Hughes and Hernandez were signed for late-inning roles ahead of closer Raisel Iglesias. A couple of bullpen spots remain open to competition. Jose Peraza moves from second base to shortstop to replace Cozart, who signed with the Angels after his All-Star season. Catcher Devin Mesoraco is making yet another comeback - he's been severely limited the last three seasons by hip, shoulder and foot injuries.
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    NL West teams at the start of spring training
    February 9, 2018

    A team-by-team look at the National League West entering spring training, including key players each club acquired and lost, and dates of the first workout for pitchers and catchers, and the full squad:

    ---

    Los Angeles Dodgers

    Manager: Dave Roberts (third season).

    2017: 104-58, first place, lost to Houston in World Series.

    Training Town: Glendale, Arizona.

    Park: Camelback Ranch.

    First Workout: Feb. 14/19.

    He's Here: OF Matt Kemp, RHP Tom Koehler.

    He's Outta Here: 1B Adrian Gonzalez, RHP Yu Darvish, LHP Scott Kazmir, RHP Brandon McCarthy, INF Charlie Culberson, OF Curtis Granderson, 2B Chase Utley, OF Andre Ethier.

    Going campin': The Dodgers returned to the World Series for the first time since winning it in 1988, only to lose to Houston in seven games. They topped 100 wins while earning a fifth straight NL West title. Clayton Kershaw is one of the elite pitchers in the game, a seven-time All-Star and three-time Cy Young Award winner. He begins the season with 144 career victories, 21 shy of Sandy Koufax's franchise record for a left-hander. But as always, Kershaw could use some help in the rotation. The big offseason deal involved unloading Gonzalez, Culberson, Kazmir and McCarthy to Atlanta, along with $4.5 million, for Kemp, a former Dodgers star. The trade saved a large chunk of money and could help the team avoid paying luxury tax this year. That would allow the Dodgers to drop to a 20 percent tax rate if they spend big in 2019, when the free agent market is chock full of big names. Cody Bellinger is coming off a Rookie of the Year season, and Kenley Jansen remains one of the best closers in the game. Along with Corey Seager, Justin Turner, Chris Taylor and Joc Pederson, the Dodgers have the roster to make another deep playoff run.

    ---

    Arizona Diamondbacks

    Manager: Torey Lovullo (second season).

    2017: 93-69, second place, wild card, lost to Dodgers in NLDS.

    Training Town: Scottsdale, Arizona.

    Park: Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.

    First Workout: Feb. 14/19.

    He's Here: C Alex Avila, RHP Brad Boxberger, RHP Yashihisa Hirano.

    He's Outta Here: OF J.D. Martinez, RHP Fernando Rodney, RHP J.J. Hoover, LHP Jorge De La Rosa.

    Going campin': The Diamondbacks return almost intact from last season's 93-win team, with one big exception. Slugging outfielder J.D. Martinez had a record-breaking half-season at the plate after being acquired from Detroit last year and remains a free agent, but at a price too steep for the Diamondbacks. Yasmany Tomas returns from a season of injuries and appears to be the leading candidate to take back his old job in left field. The other major question mark this spring is, who is the closer? With Rodney gone, the most intriguing possibility is to move dynamic setup man Archie Bradley to the ninth inning. Other candidates are the newly acquired Boxberger - who had an AL-leading 40 saves in 2015 - and, maybe, Hirano, a closer in Japan who at 33 would be making his major league debut. The rotation returns from last year: Zack Grienke, Robbie Ray, Patrick Corbin, Taijuan Walker and Zack Godley. Shelby Miller is recovering from Tommy John surgery and it's not known when he would be ready for a big league start. The other big competition is at shortstop, where Nick Ahmed and Chris Owings return from injuries. Ketel Marte played well in their absence.

    ---

    Colorado Rockies

    Manager: Bud Black (second season).

    2017: 87-75, third place, lost to Arizona in wild-card game.

    Training Town: Scottsdale, Arizona.

    Park: Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.

    First Workout: Feb. 14/19.

    He's Here: RHP Wade Davis, RHP Bryan Shaw, C Chris Iannetta.

    He's Outta Here: OF Carlos Gonzalez, RHP Greg Holland, RHP Tyler Chatwood, C Jonathan Lucroy, 1B Mark Reynolds, RHP Pat Neshek, INF Alexi Amarista, C Ryan Hanigan.

    Going campin': The Rockies bolstered their bullpen in an effort to earn back-to-back postseason berths for the first time in franchise history. They signed Shaw ($27 million for three years), Davis ($52 million for three years) and brought back lefty Jake McGee ($27 million for three years). That's a lot of money tied up in the bullpen. They have plenty of offensive firepower with third baseman Nolan Arenado - one of the best hitters and fielders in the game - and leadoff man Charlie Blackmon, who won the NL batting title with a .331 average. Colorado is counting on bounce-back years from shortstop Trevor Story and outfielder/first baseman Ian Desmond, along with the continued maturation of a young rotation that had four rookies start a combined 93 games. Kyle Freeland, Jeff Hoffman, German Marquez and Antonio Senzatela all won at least 10 games. They still might be in the market for another first baseman and could possibly bring back Gonzalez if the terms were right. Gonzalez's charisma has long made him a clubhouse leader.

    ---

    San Diego Padres

    Manager: Andy Green (third season).

    2017: 71-91, fourth place.

    Training Town: Peoria, Arizona.

    Park: Peoria Stadium.

    First Workout: Feb. 14/19.

    He's Here: 3B Chase Headley, RHP Bryan Mitchell, SS Freddy Galvis, RHP Chris Young, RHP Tyson Ross, RHP Kazuhisa Makita.

    He's Outta Here: INF Yangervis Solarte, LHP Travis Wood, SS Erick Aybar, RHP Jhoulys Chacin, SS Jose Rondon.

    Going campin': The Padres still have an offer on the table for free agent first baseman Eric Hosmer. Barring any developments on that front, the focus will continue to be on a deep rebuild. The highlight will be the first spring training invites for several top prospects, including shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr., second baseman Luis Urias and starting pitchers Cal Quantrill, Joey Lucchesi, Jacob Nix and Eric Lauer. There might be more buzz for the 19-year-old Tatis than for any veteran on the squad. He was acquired in the James Shields salary dump in 2015, when the Padres ended their failed win-now approach and decided to focus on young players. San Diego brought back Headley, Young and Ross this offseason. Competition at several positions will be wide open.

    ---

    San Francisco Giants

    Manager: Bruce Bochy (12th season).

    2017: 64-98, fifth place.

    Training Town: Scottsdale, Arizona.

    Park: Scottsdale Stadium.

    First Workout: Feb. 14/19.

    He's Here: 3B Evan Longoria, OF Andrew McCutchen, OF Austin Jackson, OF Steven Duggar, C Hector Sanchez, 1B Kyle Jensen.

    He's Outta Here: OF Denard Span, LHP Matt Moore, RHP Matt Cain, SS Christian Arroyo, OF Michael Morse.

    Going campin': The Giants are coming off their first last-place finish in a decade and their worst season overall since 1985. They made a few high-profile moves this offseason by trading for Longoria and McCutchen to add some pop to a lineup that finished last in the majors in homers, 29th in runs and 29th in on-base percentage. Those two should also upgrade a defense that was spotty at best last season when nothing went right. Getting a healthy season out of ace Madison Bumgarner will help as well after he went 4-9 with a 3.32 ERA in 17 starts. The Giants will also need to adjust to a new coaching staff this season with Curt Young replacing longtime pitching coach Dave Righetti, and Alonzo Powell taking over as hitting coach after Hensley Meulens moved to bench coach.
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    AL East teams at the start of spring training
    February 9, 2018

    A team-by-team look at the American League East entering spring training, including key players each club acquired and lost, and dates of the first workout for pitchers and catchers, and the full squad:

    ---

    Boston Red Sox

    Manager: Alex Cora (first season).

    2017: 93-69, first place, lost to Houston in ALDS.

    Training Town: Fort Myers, Florida.

    Park: JetBlue Park.

    First Workout: Feb. 14/19.

    He's Here: Manager Alex Cora.

    He's Outta Here: Manager John Farrell, RHP Doug Fister, INF Eduardo Nunez, OF Chris Young, RHP Addison Reed, OF Rajai Davis, LHP Henry Owens, LHP Fernando Abad, RHP Blaine Boyer.

    Going campin': The Red Sox won 93 games for the second straight season and claimed the franchise's first back-to-back AL East titles. But Farrell was fired after they failed to advance in the playoffs for the fourth year in a row. They are virtually the same team as last year; boss Dave Dombrowski said he was looking for a bat with power and still might add one of the free agents remaining on the market, including J.D. Martinez, Eric Hosmer, Logan Morrison and Mike Moustakas. For now, they are relying on re-signed first baseman Mitch Moreland (.246, 22 HRs, 79 RBIs), and the hope that Hanley Ramirez (.242, 23, 62) can be more like the player he was in 2016 (.286, 30, 111). The theory behind them keeping up with the reloaded New York Yankees goes something like this: A full season of a healthy David Price, who made just 11 starts last season, will bolster a rotation that already has a quality ace in Chris Sale, plus 2016 AL Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello and All-Stars Drew Pomeranz and Steven Wright. Second baseman Dustin Pedroia (out until May) and catcher Christian Vazquez will be back from injuries, and 20-year-old third baseman Rafael Devers will be up for the full season. Jackie Bradley Jr. slumped in the second half, and there's hope that won't repeat. The bullpen, anchored by closer Craig Kimbrel, remains strong.

    ---

    New York Yankees

    Manager: Aaron Boone (first season).

    2017: 91-71, second place, wild card, lost to Houston in ALCS.

    Training Town: Tampa, Florida.

    Park: Steinbrenner Field.

    First Workout: Feb. 14/19.

    He's Here: OF Giancarlo Stanton, OF Jabari Blash, INF Danny Espinosa, LHP Wade LeBlanc, INF/OF Jace Peterson.

    He's Outta Here: Manager Joe Girardi, 2B Starlin Castro, 3B-1B Chase Headley, 3B Todd Frazier, DH Matt Holliday, LHP Jaime Garcia.

    Going campin': In what was expected to be a rebuilding year, the Yankees reached Game 7 of the ALCS led by Aaron Judge, who set a rookie record with 52 home runs. He's now united with Stanton, the big league home run leader and NL MVP who was acquired from Miami after former Yankees captain Derek Jeter took over as Marlins CEO. New York's other big move was to fire Girardi and replace him with Boone, who has never managed at any level. Unless more free agents are signed or trades executed, top prospect Gleyber Torres will get a chance to win the second base job and rookie Miguel Andujar will have the opportunity to take over at third. The rotation seems set with Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, Sonny Gray, CC Sabathia and Jordan Montgomery, but Chance Adams might be given a chance to earn a spot in spring training.

    ---

    Tampa Bay Rays

    Manager: Kevin Cash (third season).

    2017: 80-82, third place.

    Training Town: Port Charlotte, Florida.

    Park: Charlotte Sports Park.

    First Workout: Feb. 14/19.

    He's Here: OF Denard Span, OF Jake Bauers, RHP Brent Honeywell, SS Willy Adames.

    He's Outta Here: 3B Evan Longoria, RHP Alex Cobb, 1B Logan Morrison, 1B-DH Lucas Duda, RHP Brad Boxberger, RHP Steve Cishek, RHP Tommy Hunter, OF Peter Bourjos, INF Trever Plouffe, RHP Chase Whitley, RHP Sergio Romo.

    Going campin': Coming off a fourth consecutive sub-.500 finish that follows a stretch in which they made the playoffs four times in six seasons, the Rays spent the winter trimming payroll and might not be finished. Longoria, the face of the franchise, is gone and so is Cobb, one of the most reliable components of a young rotation that still has the potential to be among the best in the AL. That is, if two-time All-Star Chris Archer and another starter, Jake Odorizzi, aren't traded before opening day. Tampa Bay closer Alex Colome, an All-Star two years ago who led the league last season with 47 saves, could be a short-timer, too, for the right price. Meanwhile, the middle of the batting order will have a different look with the departures of Longoria and Morrison, who led the team with a career-best 38 home runs. Despite hitting a club-record 228 homers in 2017 - the sixth-highest total in the majors - the Rays ranked 14th in the AL and 25th in the majors in runs. Span has been the biggest offseason addition, acquired in the trade that sent Longoria to San Francisco.

    ---

    Toronto Blue Jays

    Manager: John Gibbons (sixth season of second stint, 11th overall with Blue Jays).

    2017: 76-86, fourth place.

    Training Town: Dunedin, Florida.

    Park: Dunedin Stadium.

    First Workout: Feb. 14/19.

    He's Here: OF Randal Grichuk, OF Curtis Granderson, INF Yangervis Solarte, INF Aledmys Diaz, RHP Taylor Guerrieri, INF Gift Ngoepe.

    He's Outta Here: OF Jose Bautista, RHP Dominic Leone, LHP Brett Anderson, INF Darwin Barney, RHP Leonel Campos, OF Darrell Ceciliani, RHP Taylor Cole, INF Ryan Goins, C Raffy Lopez, RHP Tom Koehler, RHP Dominic Leone, C Miguel Montero, INF Rob Refsnyder, OF Michael Saunders, RHP Bo Schultz, RHP Cesar Valdez.

    Going campin': After consecutive ALCS appearances, the Blue Jays slumped badly during an injury-ravaged 2017 season, scoring an AL-low 693 runs and finishing one game above last place. Improved health will be essential for the Blue Jays, who haven't made splashy offseason additions. Toronto's offense will be anchored by third baseman and 2015 AL MVP Josh Donaldson and first baseman Justin Smoak, who hit career-high 38 home runs last season. Donaldson, catcher Russell Martin, shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and second baseman Devon Travis were key regulars who dealt with injuries in 2017. So did right-hander Aaron Sanchez, limited to eight starts because of blister issues. The Blue Jays don't have any significant position competitions, but will use spring training to settle on a fifth starter behind right-handers Sanchez, Marcus Stroman and Marco Estrada, and lefty J.A. Happ. All-Star closer Roberto Osuna saved a career-high 39 games last year but had a career-worst 10 blown saves and acknowledged dealing with anxiety.

    ---

    Baltimore Orioles

    Manager: Buck Showalter (ninth season).

    2017: 75-87, fifth place.

    Training Town: Sarasota, Florida.

    Park: Ed Smith Stadium.

    First Workout: Feb. 14/19.

    He's Here: OF Jaycob Brugman, C Andrew Susac, INF Engelb Vielma, OF Austin Hays, LHP Nestor Cortes Jr.

    He's Outta Here: C Welington Castilo, SS J.J. Hardy, RHP Ubaldo Jimenez, LHP Wade Miley, RHP Jeremy Hellickson, RHP Chris Tillman, 1B Pedro Alvarez.

    Going campin': Coming off a disheartening last-place finish in 2017, the Orioles have plenty to accomplish this spring if they are to be a factor in the AL East. Baltimore is expected to have 35 pitchers in camp, with the main objective filling out a rotation that currently features only Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman. Showalter will also be looking closely at a new infield alignment, with Manny Machado moving from third base to shortstop and Tim Beckham shifting from short to third. The bullpen was sound until closer Zach Britton tore his Achilles tendon during the offseason, leaving Brad Brach as the front-runner to fill the void. The staff no longer will be throwing to Castillo behind the plate, so the Orioles will likely choose between Susac and promising rookie Chance Sisco as backups to Caleb Joseph, who moves into the starting lineup for the first time. Showalter also hopes to see DH Mark Trumbo and first baseman Chris Davis return to form after their lackluster performances a year ago.
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    AL Central teams at the start of spring training
    February 9, 2018

    A team-by-team look at the American League Central entering spring training, including key players each club acquired and lost, and dates of the first workout for pitchers and catchers, and the full squad:

    ---

    Cleveland Indians

    Manager: Terry Francona (sixth season).

    2017: 102-60, first place, lost to New York Yankees in ALDS.

    Training Town: Goodyear, Arizona.

    Park: Goodyear Ballpark.

    First Workout: Feb. 15/19.

    He's Here: 1B-DH Yonder Alonso, OF Melvin Upton Jr., RHP Alexi Ogando.

    He's Outta Here: 1B Carlos Santana, OF Jay Bruce, RHP Bryan Shaw, RHP Joe Smith, OF Austin Jackson, LHP Boone Logan.

    Going campin': Poised to possibly end their 70-year-old World Series title drought, the Indians, who reeled off 22 straight victories in 2017, didn't even make it back to the AL Championship Series after squandering a 2-0 playoff lead against the Yankees. Unlike last winter, when the club signed DH Edwin Encarnacion in free agency, the Indians were relatively quiet, counting on their core to carry them in `18. Cleveland's rotation, led by two-time Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber, remains the team's greatest strength and why the Indians should repeat as division champions. There will be a four-way competition between Josh Tomlin, Danny Salazar, Mike Clevinger and Ryan Merritt for two rotation spots. The loss of run producers Santana and Bruce means the Indians will need more from Jason Kipnis and Michael Brantley, two former All-Stars who have battled injuries the past two seasons. Shaw's departure will strain the bullpen, which is counting on elite lefty Andrew Miller to bounce back after he missed significant time last year with knee issues.

    ---

    Minnesota Twins

    Manager: Paul Molitor (fourth season).

    2017: 85-77, second place, lost to New York Yankees in wild-card game.

    Training Town: Fort Myers, Florida.

    Park: Hammond Stadium.

    First Workout: Feb. 14/19.

    He's Here: RHP Fernando Rodney, RHP Addison Reed, LHP Zach Duke, RHP Michael Pineda.

    He's Outta Here: RHP Matt Belisle, RHP Bartolo Colon, C Chris Gimenez, LHP Hector Santiago, LHP Glen Perkins, LHP Buddy Boshers, RHP Michael Tonkin, RHP Dillon Gee.

    Going campin': The Twins made a massive 26-win turnaround last season, earning Molitor the AL Manager of the Year award and a new contract through the 2020 season. He'll have a much stronger bullpen to work with this year, after Twins relievers ranked 22nd in the majors with a 4.40 ERA. Rodney and Reed will be the anchors, lessening the pressure on the quartet of returning 26-year-olds Taylor Rogers, Trevor Hildenberger, Tyler Duffey and Alan Busenitz. Though the Twins could still add another starting pitcher, a pursuit stalled by the free-agency logjam all around baseball, the prospects for the rotation took a hit when Ervin Santana had surgery this week on his right middle finger that will keep him out until at least mid-April. With Pineda still recovering from Tommy John surgery, RHP Phil Hughes will have another chance to overcome shoulder trouble and re-establish himself as a reliable starter. Another healed-up returner, RHP Trevor May, will be in the mix to start again after Tommy John surgery erased his 2017. The entire starting lineup and some key bench players are back, but all eyes are on third baseman Miguel Sano in his recovery from surgery on the shin that kept him out for the last six weeks of the season. Sano is also under investigation by Major League Baseball for an alleged assault against a woman who brought the accusation forward in December.

    ---

    Kansas City Royals

    Manager: Ned Yost (ninth season).

    2017: 80-82, third place.

    Training Town: Surprise, Arizona.

    Park: Surprise Stadium.

    First Workout: Feb. 14/19.

    He's Here: RHP Trevor Oaks, RHP Jesse Hahn, RHP Scott Barlow, RHP Wily Peralta.

    He's Outta Here: 1B Eric Hosmer, CF Lorenzo Cain, 3B Mike Moustakas, LHP Jason Vargas, RHP Joakim Soria, LHP Scott Alexander, DH Brandon Moss

    Going campin': The Royals could be in complete rebuilding mode after most of the core group that won two AL pennants and the 2015 World Series hit free agency. They managed to re-sign shortstop Alcides Escobar, and remained hopeful heading to spring training that some of the free agents still on the market could return. But they are also prepared for a rebuilding effort, which means young players replacing Cain (who signed with Milwaukee), Hosmer and Moustakas. The Royals will likely platoon at DH after dealing Moss and his hefty contract to Oakland late last month. They are also hoping for a big bounce-back year from left fielder Alex Gordon, who had arguably the worst season of his career. The starting rotation has jobs open, with lefty Danny Duffy and right-handers Jason Hammel and Ian Kennedy the only sure things.

    ---

    Chicago White Sox

    Manager: Rick Renteria (second season).

    2017: 67-95, fourth place.

    Training Town: Glendale, Arizona.

    Park: Camelback Ranch.

    First Workout: Feb. 14/19.

    He's Here: RHP Miguel Gonzalez, C Welington Castillo.

    He's Outta Here: C Geovany Soto, RHP Mike Pelfrey, RHP Al Alburquerque, RHP Jake Petricka, OF-2B Alen Hanson, RHP Zach Putnam.

    Going campin': For a team with five straight losing seasons and a record that ranked among baseball's worst last year, the White Sox are generating plenty of buzz. That's because they're loaded with promising young players after going all-in on a rebuild prior to last season. The moves have sparked a belief that better days are coming. Second baseman Yoan Moncada and hard-throwing pitchers Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez showed promise in the majors last season. RHP Michael Kopech, outfielder Eloy Jimenez and outfielder Luis Robert are on their way in the minors. Other players to watch include outfielder Avisail Garcia, looking to prove he's not a one-hit wonder coming off a breakout year. SS Tim Anderson hopes to bounce back from a trying season in which a close friend got shot to death. And slugger Jose Abreu, viewed as a potential trade candidate this winter, remains in the middle of the lineup. Something else to monitor: LHP Carlos Rodon's rehab. He missed the start of last season because of shoulder and biceps problems and is expected to miss the start of this season after having surgery on his pitching shoulder in September.

    ---

    Detroit Tigers

    Manager: Ron Gardenhire (first season).

    2017: 64-98, fifth place.

    Training Town: Lakeland, Florida.

    Park: Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium.

    First Workout: Feb. 14/19.

    He's Here: OF Leonys Martin, RHP Mike Fiers, OF Victor Reyes.

    He's Outta Here: Manager Brad Ausmus, 2B Ian Kinsler, RHP Anibal Sanchez, INF Andrew Romine, RHP Bruce Rondon.

    Going campin': After finishing tied for the worst record in the majors, the Tigers enter 2018 with expectations as low as they've been in a while. They still have Miguel Cabrera - coming off the worst season of his career - and a bounce-back season from him would go a long way toward helping the team at least be respectable. Right-hander Michael Fulmer (elbow) and designated hitter Victor Martinez (irregular heartbeat) both dealt with health issues last season, but they are expected to be at full strength in spring training. Keep an eye on Jeimer Candelario, a 24-year-old third baseman the Tigers acquired in a trade last season. With Candelario at third, Nicholas Castellanos is preparing to play a lot in the outfield. Left-hander Daniel Norris had a disappointing 2017 but is still just 24, and lefty Matthew Boyd showed potential late last season when he nearly threw a no-hitter.
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    AL West teams at the start of spring training
    February 9, 2018

    A team-by-team look at the American League West entering spring training, including key players each club acquired and lost, and dates of the first workout for pitchers and catchers, and the full squad:

    ---

    Houston Astros

    Manager: A.J. Hinch (fourth season).

    2017: 101-61, first place, won World Series.

    Training Town: West Palm Beach, Florida.

    Park: The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.

    First Workout: Feb. 14/19.

    He's Here: RHP Gerrit Cole, RHP Joe Smith, RHP Hector Rondon.

    He's Outta Here: DH Carlos Beltran, RHP Luke Gregerson, RHP Joe Musgrove, RHP Mike Fiers, RHP Michael Feliz, INF Colin Moran.

    Going campin': This team is basically set after retaining almost every key player from last season's championship squad. The two strongest areas are the middle infield, where shortstop Carlos Correa and second baseman Jose Altuve, last year's AL MVP, return to anchor the middle of the order. Correa hit .315 with 24 homers - both career highs - and Altuve had his finest season, hitting a career-best and major league-leading .346 with 24 homers and 81 RBIs to become the first Astros player to win an MVP award since Jeff Bagwell took the NL prize in 1994. The only issue with the rotation is a logjam of good arms. Along with Dallas Keuchel, Justin Verlander and Cole, the Astros have young star Lance McCullers, Brad Peacock, who is coming off his best season, Charlie Morton and Collin McHugh. The surplus of starters might force one of the pitchers at the back end to move into a long-relief role. Houston brought in some setup help for the bullpen, where closer Ken Giles looks to rebound from a rough postseason. There shouldn't be many surprises this spring, but seeing how the rotation shakes out and what Hinch decides to do in left field will be things to watch for while the Astros are in Florida.

    ---

    Los Angeles Angels

    Manager: Mike Scioscia (19th season).

    2017: 80-82, second place.

    Training Town: Tempe, Arizona.

    Park: Tempe Diablo Stadium.

    First Workout: Feb. 14/19.

    He's Here: RHP-DH Shohei Ohtani, 3B Zack Cozart, 2B Ian Kinsler, C Rene Rivera, OF Michael Hermosillo.

    He's Outta Here: RHP Ricky Nolasco, RHP Huston Street, RHP Andrew Bailey, RHP Jesse Chavez, 3B Yunel Escobar, RHP Bud Norris, INF Cliff Pennington, RHP Yusmeiro Petit, 2B Brandon Phillips, OF Ben Revere.

    Going campin': The Angels have reached the postseason once in the last eight years, but the arrival of Ohtani to pair with perennial MVP candidate Mike Trout makes them one of the most compelling teams in baseball. Ohtani chose to sign in December after five brilliant seasons with the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, where his 42-15 record with a 2.52 ERA and .286 batting average earned him the moniker ''the Japanese Babe Ruth.'' While he has the potential to become the kind of two-way star the sport has not seen in decades, the Angels' initial focus is on using Ohtani to shore up their pitching, which tied for 27th in quality starts last season. The Angels could use a six-man rotation after injuries decimated the team each of the last two seasons. Signing Cozart to a three-year contract and trading for Kinsler will add much-needed power in the infield for a lineup that ranked in the bottom six in home runs, slugging percentage and extra-base hits.

    ---

    Seattle Mariners

    Manager: Scott Servais (third season).

    2017: 78-84, tied for third place.

    Training Town: Peoria, Arizona.

    Park: Peoria Stadium.

    First Workout: Feb. 15/20.

    He's Here: CF Dee Gordon, 1B Ryon Healy, RHP Juan Nicasio, RHP Mike Morin, INF-OF Andrew Romine.

    He's Outta Here: OF Jarrod Dyson, LHP Drew Smyly, 1B Danny Valencia, 1B Yonder Alonso, C Carlos Ruiz, RHP Yovani Gallardo, RHP Emilio Pagan.

    Going campin': The Mariners are in a strange position. They're probably not going to be able to catch the Astros in the AL West, but they might have enough talent to contend for a wild card. It will all depend on the pitching staff and what happens in a rotation filled with question marks. Can James Paxton stay healthy? Can Mike Leake replicate what he showed last season after being traded from St. Louis? What kind of Felix Hernandez shows up for spring training? Seattle used a major league-record 40 pitchers last year and would like to avoid a repeat performance. If the Mariners can find stability on the pitching staff, the everyday lineup should be solid thanks to the additions of Gordon and Healy to go with Jean Segura, Nelson Cruz and Robinson Cano. Cruz is entering the final year of a contract he's outperformed to date. Gordon's transition to center field will be closely watched in the spring.

    ---

    Texas Rangers

    Manager: Jeff Banister (fourth season).

    2017: 78-84, tied for third place.

    Training Town: Surprise, Arizona.

    Park: Surprise Stadium.

    First Workout: Feb. 15/20.

    He's Here: LHP Mike Minor, LHP Matt Moore, RHP Doug Fister, RHP Bartolo Colon, INF Darwin Barney, LHP Jon Niese.

    He's Outta Here: 1B-DH Mike Napoli, CF Carlos Gomez, RHP Andrew Cashner, RHP Jason Grilli, RHP A.J. Griffin.

    Going campin': AL West champs in each of Banister's first two seasons, the Rangers are coming off their second losing season in nine years. Instead of spending big money in free agency to reunite with ace Yu Darvish, Texas signed Fister and Minor, and got Moore in a trade from the Giants. The 44-year-old Colon was added late on a minor league deal. With returners Cole Hamels and Martin Perez already penciled in, there could be a very left-leaning rotation. The bullpen was unreliable last year with 21 blown saves and a 4.76 ERA. Young lefty Alex Claudio had 11 saves after the All-Star break, but Texas will also look at other closer options, including a healthy Jake Diekman. Third baseman Adrian Beltre, now a member of the 3,000-hit club, is back for his 21st major league season, and 29-year-old shortstop Elvis Andrus goes into his 10th. Joey Gallo hit 41 homers while playing three positions, but could now become the primary first baseman. Delino DeShields gets another chance in center field, and prospect Willie Calhoun is among the left field options after coming over from the Dodgers in the Darvish deal last year.

    ---

    Oakland Athletics

    Manager: Bob Melvin (eighth season).

    2017: 75-87, fifth place.

    Training Town: Mesa, Arizona.

    Park: Hohokam Stadium.

    First Workout: Feb. 14/19.

    He's Here: OF Stephen Piscotty, OF Dustin Fowler, RHP Emilio Pagan, RHP Yusmeiro Petit, LHP Ryan Buchter, DH Brandon Moss.

    He's Outta Here: INF Ryon Healy, RHP Jesse Hahn, OF Jaycob Brugman.

    Going campin': The A's showed some signs of progress last year despite a third straight last-place finish. Oakland won 17 of 24 to end the season, improving the win total from 2016 by six games. The bullpen got upgraded this offseason with the additions of Pagan, Petit and Buchter. The rotation is a major question mark but the lineup has plenty of power led by Khris Davis, whose 85 homers the past two seasons are second in the majors to Giancarlo Stanton's 86. The most intriguing player this spring could be Fowler, who played one inning in the majors for the Yankees before blowing out his knee and then getting traded to Oakland for Sonny Gray. Fowler is expected to be healthy when games start later this month. The biggest question facing the franchise is finding a long-term stadium plan to replace the outdated Coliseum.
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    Healthy RHP Hahn competing for job in Royals rotation
    February 15, 2018


    SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) Jesse Hahn has changed uniforms and spring training sites in the past three weeks, but his goal remains the same: to break camp as a starting pitcher

    Hahn was working out last month at Oakland's complex in Mesa, and then was traded to Kansas City on Jan. 29 in a deal that sent Brandon Moss to the Athletics.

    ''It's my third time to be traded now, so nothing is very unexpected in this game now,'' Hahn said Thursday. ''But the timing of it and just the day it happened, I just came home from the clubhouse in Oakland and sat on my couch and got a phone call. Boom it happened so fast, so that part was a little surprising.''

    Hahn went 3-6 with a 5.30 ERA in 14 games last season with the A's. He spent time on the disabled list with a triceps strain and a pulled oblique.

    He has taken a proactive approach with the Royals' training staff to stay on the mound and off the DL.

    ''Just little things I need to be able to maintain and work through,'' Hahn said. ''It's a long season, just minor setbacks. I've overcome all those injuries. I just want to overcome all of them before they start to happen, control them before they happen. Just little things like that I hope to prevent this year.''

    ''I've had some health issues over the past couple of years. There are things I'm doing in my routine to keep myself healthy for the longevity of my career.''

    Hahn has a mid-90 mile per hour fastball, but major injuries have set him back. In his final start at Virginia Tech he suffered an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery. That did not prevent the Tampa Bay Rays from picking him in the sixth round in 2010, although he was projected to be drafted much higher.

    He missed the 2011 season and broke his foot in 2012. The Rays traded Hahn to San Diego in January 2014. He won seven games in his first nine starts with the Padres, who traded him to Oakland after the season.

    Left-hander Danny Duffy and veteran right-handers Ian Kennedy and Jason Hammel front the Kansas City rotation. Nathan Karns, who is coming off surgery that limited him to eight starts last season, and Jakob Junis, who won nine games as a rookie, are other rotation candidates. Hahn, a 28-year-old right-hander who is out of options, and Wily Peralta, a free agent signee who started with Milwaukee, are other rotation candidates.

    Manager Ned Yost said they would not rule out moving a starter to the bullpen. The Royals converted Wade Davis and Luke Hochevar from starters to successful relievers in the past.

    ''I'm competing for a starting spot,'' Hahn said. ''That's what I would like to do. That's what I work for, but it's still up in the air. I've never relieved. Starting is just comfortable for me, something I've done my whole life. I like the routine, the mental preparation for it. Like I go home during the offseason, I work on things that are specifically for starting. That's kind of where I am right now. I'm here to help the team win, whatever my role is.''
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    Harrison wants to win, no matter what team he's playing on
    February 18, 2018


    BRADENTON, Fla. (AP) Josh Harrison is still with the Pittsburgh Pirates, and his feelings aren't much different than they were a month ago.

    Harrison spoke to reporters Sunday, the day before the first workout for Pittsburgh's full squad. The 30-year-old second baseman told The Athletic last month that if the Pirates don't expect to contend in the next couple years, maybe he should be traded. Harrison says his statement was ''from the heart'' - but he can't dwell on it.

    Pittsburgh traded outfielder Andrew McCutchen and right-hander Gerrit Cole this offseason, a retooling that inspired little confidence in the team's short-term ability to contend. Harrison says players don't need to be told everything the front office is planning, but he always wants to feel like his team is committed to winning.

    ***************************

    Rajai Davis back with Indians with big memory of huge homer
    February 18, 2018


    GOODYEAR, Ariz. (AP) The bat Rajai Davis used to hit one of the biggest home runs in Cleveland Indians history is nicely displayed in his office. The moment is deeply engraved in his memory.

    Now the 37-year-old outfielder who hit that game-tying homer late in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series is back in the Indians spring training clubhouse after a season away.

    ''I just want to be able to deliver now, and I want to be able to help us win a World Series,'' Davis said Sunday, a day after signing a minor league deal. ''That's my goal, that's my mission, and I'm going to do everything in my ability in preparing to do that.''

    In that Game 7 two seasons ago, Davis hit a two-run homer with two outs in the eighth inning off Cubs closer Aroldis Chapman. But the Indians then lost that season-ending game in 10 innings.

    Davis led the American League with 43 stolen bases in 134 games in 2016. He had a reunion with Oakland in free agency last year before being traded midseason to Boston, hitting a combined .235 with 29 stolen bases in 117 games. He is a career .264 hitter with 394 steals since his 2006 big league debut with Pittsburgh.

    ''You get to really see the kind of energy he brings,'' catcher Yan Gomes said. ''He brings a smile to the ballclub every day, and he brings in a lot of experience, a big threat on the bases. ... Really excited to have him back here.''

    General manager Mike Chernoff said the ''emotional tie'' that the Indians will always have with Davis was an important part of the deal. But the GM was quick to say that it was also about what Davis did consistently in Cleveland in his only previous season there.

    ''This is a guy that's a great presence in the clubhouse, who added a lot of complementary skills to the team and got a lot of playing time that year, was able to step in and fill a big role for us,'' Chernoff said. ''It means a lot both in the potential of what he can do on the field as he competes for that spot, but also what he means for the guys in the clubhouse here.''

    Describing himself as energized, healthy and ready to go, Davis said he's focused on what he needs to do to prepare to help the Indians in whatever way he can, and not focused on having to win a roster spot. Melvin Upton Jr. is also a veteran right-handed outfielder in camp on a minor league deal. Cleveland lost outfielder Austin Jackson to free agency and All-Star Michael Brantley has been limited by injury problems the last two years.

    Davis said there were conversations all offseason about returning to Cleveland, but acknowledged that it was a challenge waiting out a slow-moving free agent market.

    ''I knew I was going to go somewhere. I'm just glad it was here,'' Davis said. ''I'm just glad that it worked out where I was able to come back here, and have the opportunity that they're giving me.''

    ********************

    Astros closer Giles working to ensure he's around to finish
    February 18, 2018


    WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) Houston manager A. J. Hinch elected to give the Astros a shortened work schedule Sunday, the day before for position players report for workouts.

    Closer Ken Giles was having none of it.

    ''I don't take light days,'' Giles said. ''That's the thing with me. I don't like taking short break days. I always go out there with a mindset of getting something done. I set a goal for myself and I'm going to go do it.''

    Sunday work for most of the Astros pitchers and catchers involved little more than stretching.

    Many weren't on the field for more than an hour.

    ''This will be as close to an off-day as we get when we actually still show up,'' Hinch said. ''We have some long days coming ahead.''

    Giles, however, went through his normal program of full long toss along with additional throwing off flat ground.

    ''I'm going to probably go in the gym right now when no one's in there,'' Giles said after many of the Astros had already headed home for the day.

    Many of the World Series champion Astros are trying to counterbalance any lingering effects of an offseason condensed because of their long 2017 postseason run by easing into 2018. That's not the case with Giles.

    He's trying to ward off the fatigue that spoiled his performance in the postseason by working even harder in the offseason and spring.

    Though still somewhat slight of stature, the 6-foot-2 righty added muscle mass between November and February. He's already seeing that pay off with increased stamina.

    ''I want to finish it this year,'' Giles said.

    Featuring a 100 mph fastball, Giles had 34 saves for the Astros last season, posting a 2.30 ERA while striking out 11.9 batters per nine innings.

    The regular season success soon yielded to postseason misery.

    Giles allowed two runs in three innings against Boston in the AL Division Series. He surrendered three more runs, taking the loss in Game 4 of the League Championship series against the Yankees.

    In the World Series, Giles only made two appearances, allowing five runs against the Los Angeles Dodgers. He entered Game 4 in the ninth with the game tied at 1 and allowed all three batters he faced to reach base. Giles took the loss and did not appear again in the series.

    Leading 5-1 entering the ninth inning of Game 7, Hinch elected to send Charlie Morton, normally a starter, back to the mound for his fourth inning of relief on the night. Three outs later, Houston celebrated.

    ''We won as a team,'' Giles said. ''We all got a ring, that's all that matters. We won the title and now we're the team to beat and now everybody's ready to come get us and now we're ready for them to come get us.''

    And Giles is ready to be that reliable ninth inning guy again.

    ''I'm not going to try to be someone who I'm not,'' Giles said. ''I'm a guy that throws hard and has a good slider, and that's what I'm going to stick to. That's why I'm so successful.''
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    Reports: Hosmer, Padres agree to 8-year, $144 million deal
    February 18, 2018


    Free-agent first baseman Eric Hosmer has agreed to an eight-year, $144 million deal with the San Diego Padres, according to published reports Saturday night.

    The 28-year-old, two-time Gold Glove winner hit a career-high .318 and matched his best from the previous season with 25 homers, and drove in 94 runs and scored 98 for the Royals last season. He also had a career-best .385 on-base percentage.

    Hosmer was among the top free agents in the offseason that remained unsigned into the start of spring training. Right-hander Yu Darvish signed with the Chicago Cubs earlier this month, but Jake Arrieta and outfielder J.D. Martinez are still without contracts.

    Hosmer's deal was first reported by the San Diego Union-Tribune.

    He is the latest addition by the Padres this offseason. Previously, they re-acquired third baseman Chase Headley from the New York Yankees and got shortstop Freddy Galvis from the Philadelphia Phillies.

    *************************

    Rays send P Odorizzi to Twins for prospect
    February 17, 2018


    MINNEAPOLIS (AP) The Minnesota Twins acquired right-handed pitcher Jake Odorizzi from the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday night for minor league infielder Jermaine Palacios, securing some needed depth for their rotation after missing out on several free agents.

    The 27-year-old Odorizzi will join his third major league team in the Twins, who won't have right-hander Ervin Santana for the first several weeks of the regular season while he recovers from surgery on his middle finger. Kyle Gibson, Jose Berrios and Adalberto Mejia are the only other returning pitchers who made more than 10 starts for the Twins in 2017.

    Phil Hughes is also in the mix, recovering from a second thoracic outlet surgery on his ribs in as many years, but the Twins were concerned enough about their lack of proven candidates to make the trade for Odorizzi. They've also, according to multiple reports, reached an agreement with right-hander Anibal Sanchez, who has made 262 starts for the Tigers and Marlins over the last 12 seasons.

    For the Rays in 2017, Odorizzi went 10-8 with a 4.14 ERA and 127 strikeouts in 143 1/3 innings over 28 starts. He pitched a career-best 187 2/3 innings over 33 starts in 2016, posting a 3.69 ERA. Odorizzi was drafted by Milwaukee 32nd overall in 2008. He made his debut with Kansas City in 2012 before being dealt to Tampa Bay the next season. He's 40-38 with a 3.83 ERA in 705 1/3 major league innings.

    The 21-year-old Palacios has a .290 career average over four minor league seasons. He finished last year with Class A Fort Myers. To make room for Odorizzi on the 40-man roster, the Twins transferred right-handed pitcher Michael Pineda to the 60-day disabled list.

    **************************

    Rays add 1B Cron; designate OF Dickerson
    February 17, 2018


    PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. (AP) The Tampa Bay Rays have acquired first baseman C.J. Cron from the Los Angeles Angels and designated outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster.

    The 28-year-old Cron was acquired Saturday night in exchange for a player to be named. He appeared in 100 games with 92 starts last season, hitting .248 with 16 homers and 56 RBIs.

    Dickerson was the AL's starting designated hitter in last year's All-Star Game. His production dipped after the All-Star break, however the 28-year-old still posted career highs in several categories, including runs (84), hits (166) and home runs (27).

    The Rays acquired Dickerson from Colorado in January 2016. He batted .265 with 51 homers and 132 RBIs in two years with Tampa Bay. He's a .280 career hitter with 90 homers and 256 RBIs over parts of five seasons with the Rockies and Rays.

    The Rays also traded right-handed pitcher Jake Odorizzi to the Minnesota Twins for minor league infielder Jermaine Palacios.

    The 27-year-old Odorizzi moves to his third major league team.

    For the Rays in 2017, Odorizzi went 10-8 with a 4.14 ERA and 127 strikeouts in 143 1/3 innings over 28 starts. He pitched a career-best 187 2/3 innings over 33 starts in 2016, posting a 3.69 ERA. Odorizzi was drafted by Milwaukee 32nd overall in 2008. He made his debut with Kansas City in 2012 before being dealt to Tampa Bay the next season.

    The 21-year-old Palacios has a .290 career average over four minor league seasons. He finished last year with Class A Fort Myers.
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    Mariners LHP Paxton aims for repeat performance, only longer
    February 17, 2018


    PEORIA, Ariz. (AP) If people want to say James Paxton is a pitch away from landing on the disabled list, the Seattle Mariners lefty won't argue with them.

    Injuries to his fingers, forearm, elbow, pectoral muscle and back muscle have forced Paxton to miss significant chunks of each of the past four seasons.

    ''What am I going to do, go sit in a corner and cry about people telling me I'm going to get hurt?'' Paxton said Saturday at the Peoria Sports Complex. ''That doesn't help me at all. I'm going to go out and try to do everything I can to get better and find a way to stay healthy.''

    That includes an overhaul of his diet after learning during the offseason that cow's milk causes inflammation in his body. Eliminating dairy hasn't been easy, said Paxton, who makes his offseason home in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

    ''It's all about limiting the amount of inflammation your body experiences after starts and in between them,'' Paxton said. ''If I can find more of those little things that can add up to me staying healthy, that's the goal.''

    Mariners manager Scott Servais understands the nuanced approach Paxton and other athletes are taking. He pointed out quarterback Tom Brady excelling in the NFL as a 40-year-old as an example of players paying more attention to their bodies, diet and training regimens in an attempt to compete at peak condition and extend a playing career.

    ''These guys are smart,'' Servais said. ''They look at this stuff. What are these athletes doing? How is he still performing at age 40? I'm sure Paxton would love to be pitching when he's 40. If this can somehow extend the window, why not?''

    For now, Paxton simply wants to hit a nice, round number.

    ''I'm looking to get closer to that 200-inning range,'' he said. ''That's the goal for this year - don't miss any starts and get to that 200-inning benchmark.''

    If Paxton can duplicate his performance last year over an injury-free season in 2018, he'll be recognized as one of the top pitchers in baseball.

    When he was healthy in 2017, Paxton was Seattle's best pitcher, going 12-5, with a 2.98 ERA and averaging more than a strikeout per inning. The 29-year threw a career-high 136 innings.

    ''I think I had the best results of my career last season,'' he said. ''If I can stay on the field for the entire year and do what I did, I think I'll have a pretty good season.''

    NOTES: Mariners ace Felix Hernandez threw his first bullpen session of spring training. The 31-year-old right-hander tossed 27 pitches. ''I threw everything,'' he said. ''Curveball, changeup, sinker, one slider.''

    ***************************

    White Sox banking on youth, confidence on the mound
    February 17, 2018


    GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez made it to the Chicago White Sox roster last season. Top prospect Michael Kopech figures to land sometime this summer. Former first-round picks Carlos Rodon and Carson Fulmer remain in the mix.

    With James Shields' contract expiring after this season, it won't be long until youth is served throughout Chicago's rotation.

    It starts with Giolito and Lopez, both of whom came to the White Sox from Washington in the Adam Eaton trade following the 2016 season.

    Both excelled at Triple-A Charlotte before earning late-season promotions. Each pitcher went 3-3 in limited rotation duty, Giolito having a 2.38 ERA in seven starts and Lopez with a 4.72 ERA in eight starts.

    Manager Rick Renteria has noticed a difference between the duo's demeanor a year ago and today.

    ''Their confidence is pretty high. They have a quiet confidence about them, a belief that they belong here,'' Renteria said Saturday.

    That wasn't always the case for Giolito, a first-round selection in 2012 who sailed through the minors until being hit hard in four starts for Washington in 2016, when he had a 6.75 ERA.

    Over the course of his 2017 season at Charlotte, the 23-year-old right-hander figured out how to believe in himself again, and carried it over to his big league return.

    ''It started in spring training last year, really trying to improve myself,'' Giolito said. ''I just wanted to relax, have fun with it, stop putting so much pressure on myself and enjoy the game and enjoy the process of getting better.

    ''Once I started buying into that I started stringing together good starts, built confidence and was able to go out and trust whatever I had that day,'' he said.

    Like Giolito, Lopez had some big league time with the Nationals in 2016, but took a big step forward last season in Chicago.

    ''I feel happy and proud. Now I have a spot. The trade was great for my career because I now have this opportunity,'' Lopez said through a translator.

    ''I learned hitters are looking for a specific pitch in a specific spot, you have to adjust your plan to get the result that you want. It was a good learning process for me last year,'' he said.

    Not far behind Giolito and Lopez is Kopech. The biggest power arm in camp at Camelback Ranch and one of the top prospects in baseball, Kopech has also had to learn to adjust after a 50-game drug suspension in July 2015 and a broken hand at 2016 spring training with the Boston Red Sox.

    Still just 21, Kopech rebounded with a big season, striking out 172 in 134 1/3 innings over 22 starts at Double-A Birmingham and three more at Charlotte.

    Along the road back, Kopech discovered meditation was a key to preparing for each start.

    ''It was definitely the toughest thing I've had to do,'' he said of the suspension. ''But I became more mindful as an athlete and an even harder worker. For me, that span of not playing really put things into perspective.''

    ''I was doing it before every start, then I realized how beneficial it was for me personally, and I kept doing it through the offseason.''

    Beyond Shields and veterans Hector Santiago and Miguel Gonzalez, who are back with the White Sox to help with the innings load until Kopech and friends are ready, the White Sox still have Rodon and Fulmer.

    Rodon, at 25 the old hand among the next generation, never really got going last season. After missing spring training because of an arm issue, the left-hander only made 12 starts, posting a 4.15 ERA before being shelved in September. He had shoulder surgery, but is on a throwing program and hopes to be back sometime in the first half of the season.

    He, too, has had to learn patience.

    ''I kind of know what to expect now,'' Rodon said. ''I maybe forced the issue and went a little too quick last year.''

    So far, Rodon said, ''Everything's free and easy'' with his program.

    Fulmer struggled in his big league debut in 2016, just over a year after being drafted in the first round. But a trip to the minors last year helped and he also made a strong return to Chicago, going 3-1 with a 3.86 ERA in five starts.

    He figures to be in the rotation at least until Rodon returns or Kopech is promoted, but says he will be ready for whatever role he's asked to fill as his confidence also gained from a year ago.

    ''That was the thing I needed to make that jump,'' he said. ''It's going to be nice to build off that.''

    Rodon, in his fourth spring training camp, is impressed by what he has seen from his fellow pitchers.

    ''All these guys are pretty mature,'' he said. ''This is a really good group of guys. It's going to be awesome.''

    **************************

    Buster Posey, new SF teammate Andrew McCutchen go way back
    February 17, 2018


    SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) Buster Posey recalls watching Andrew McCutchen in awe.

    They were 17, spending a few weeks together as teammates on a junior Olympic team in Taiwan.

    McCutchen remembers Posey's immense popularity - swarmed at every single stop. Cheered when on the bus, or when fans just thought he was on the bus.

    ''The one thing that I remember is all the Taiwanese natives really loved Buster Posey. I don't know why,'' McCutchen said, chuckling. ''But they'd be doing the whole roll call of the team and they'd say Buster Posey and everybody would go crazy in Taiwan. We'd get on buses, we'd be on the bus waiting to leave, fans would be coming up, `Buster Posey, Buster Posey,' like, `He's not on the bus.' But I know he's a very likable guy, so I'd always joke with him about that in the times playing against him.

    ''I said, `You ever know or wonder why they liked you so much? He said, `Honestly, I don't know.'''

    Now, more than a decade later as early 30-somethings, they're teammates again with the San Francisco Giants. And McCutchen kind of understands it now. He thinks Posey is pretty cool.

    McCutchen considers the star catcher San Francisco's go-to guy.

    ''I look at Posey as the captain. I look at him as the jefe,'' McCutchen said, using the Spanish word for boss.

    Grinning and chatting up his new teammates, McCutchen is already at it shagging flyballs in right field and taking his cuts in the covered batting cage.

    He arrived at Scottsdale Stadium on Wednesday, well ahead of position players' reporting day Sunday and then the first full-squad workout Monday.

    ''I just remember watching him and Justin Upton and thinking they were just a notch above everybody else at that age,'' Posey said. ''And obviously both of them did have a meteoric rise to the big leagues. Even then they were men playing with boys back then.''

    McCutchen is no longer the face of his franchise the way he had been as a beloved member of the Pirates, and new third baseman Evan Longoria is in the same situation after departing Tampa Bay in the December trade that brought him to the Bay Area.

    They are two key acquisitions the Giants are counting on to get them contending again following a 98-loss season and last place in the NL West.

    ''That's what an offseason can bring, a new hope when you add players like this,'' said manager Bruce Bochy, who is moving Hunter Pence from right to left field.

    McCutchen insists he will be just fine without the weight of an organization, an entire city, on his sturdy shoulders.

    ''I never introduced myself as Andrew McCutchen Pirates face of the franchise,'' he said matter-of-factly. ''I was just being myself, I was trying to be true to myself and that's all I tried to do every single day. It is important. It is something that is very humbling to have that but it just shows that I'm doing my part and I'm doing what I expected playing the game of baseball.''

    A few things McCutchen has made clear: Don't count on him growing back those dreadlocks he cut off for charity. They took nine years to perfect last time. His son, Steel, was not named after Pittsburgh's ''Steel City'' nickname but rather just the choice of a ''strong,'' masculine moniker. The outfielder appreciates San Francisco's cream-colored uniforms. ''That was always something I would say to a lot of guys when I would come here, `Man, the cream, that cream on those uniforms is so nice as opposed to stark white.' It's awesome.''

    McCutchen wanted to wear No. 24 when he broke into the big leagues to honor Ken Griffey Jr. but settled for 22 when teammate Tom Gorzelanny - ''Who has 24 as a pitcher?'' McCutchen cracked - had 24.

    He will gladly accept triples at pitcher-friendly AT&T Park and work his legs by sprinting the bases, saying, ''I may lose who knows how many homers.''

    ''I may come off as a guy who doesn't say a whole lot and kind of goes about my business, likes to smile a lot. I'm very silly,'' he said. ''At the end of the day, I like to have a lot of fun, so just look forward to that.''

    McCutchen, the 2013 NL MVP, batted .279 with 28 home runs and 88 RBIs in 156 games last year with the Pirates. He has played at least 153 games in each of the past three seasons and seven of the last eight since his rookie year of 2009.

    ''As you have probably seen already, he's got a lot of energy,'' Bochy said. ''He's got a personality that I think is just going to fit on this club nicely.''
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    Gibbons says RHP Sanchez key part of Blue Jays rotation
    February 17, 2018


    DUNEDIN, Fla. (AP) To have a healthy chance at a playoff spot this season, Blue Jays manager John Gibbons figures Toronto needs a totally healed Aaron Sanchez.

    Sanchez was an All-Star in 2016 when he went 15-2 with an American League-leading 3.00 ERA. But blisters on the middle finger of his pitching hand caused four stints on the disabled list last year.

    The right-hander finished 1-3 with a 4.25 ERA and didn't pitch after July 19 last year.

    ''Sanchie, that was a big piece that was missing,'' Gibbons said. ''He's coming off the year he won the ERA title. So it's vital that he pitches for us this year, I think, if we're going to do anything. Hopefully it doesn't flare up again on him.''

    Sanchez threw 34 pitches Saturday during his second bullpen session.

    ''Looks good, feeling good,'' Gibbons said. ''No signs at all of the blister. For a guy who really, basically, missed the whole year, he looks pretty sharp to me.''

    Sanchez is part of a rotation that includes Marcus Stroman, Marco Estrada, J.A. Happ and newly acquired Jaime Garcia, who agreed Thursday to a one-year contract that guaranteed him $10 million.

    ''The injury bug got us in the rotation last year,'' Gibbons said. ''I stack us up with anybody.''

    Toronto used a club-record 14 starters last season en route to a 76-86 record and fourth-place finish in the AL East. Only Stroman and Estrada made 30 starts.

    ''I think it's one of the best in baseball,'' Garcia said of the Blue Jays' rotation. ''It's extremely talented. You've got anywhere from some of the younger best pitchers in the game to a couple guys that have been around like myself that compete.''

    Garcia threw his first bullpen session since arriving in camp Saturday.

    FIXING THINGS

    Estrada worked during the offseason on his changeup and is pleased with the progress.

    The right-hander felt like he had been slowing his arm speed at times when throwing the pitch.

    ''I threw a lot more changeups, I don't want to lose the feel of that pitch,'' Estrada said. ''I struggled with it a little bit last year and I kind of need that pitch. So I stayed on it and feels good right now coming out.''

    ***********************

    Cubs newcomer Morrow set to close in revamped bullpen
    February 17, 2018


    MESA, Ariz. (AP) Brandon Morrow has pitched in just about every role during his 11 seasons in the majors.

    Except as a full-time closer for a championship contender.

    That will change this year, as Morrow is expected to fill the spot for the Chicago Cubs. He is the most prominent addition to a revamped bullpen that saw the departures of Wade Davis, last year's closer, and Hector Rondon, who held the role in 2015 and part of the World Series-winning season of 2016.

    Another key addition is side-arming Steve Cishek, who signed a two-year deal after a season in which he had a 2.01 ERA in 49 appearances for Seattle and Tampa Bay. He allowed a tiny .148 opposing batting average by right-handed batters.

    They join holdovers Carl Edwards Jr. (2.98 ERA in 73 appearances), Pedro Strop (5-4, 2.83 ERA) and Brian Duensing, who signed a two-year deal after his solid 2017 (2.74 ERA in 68 appearances). They also are hoping for improvement from Justin Wilson (4-4, 3.41 with Detroit and the Cubs).

    In his new role, Morrow can call on the experience he has gained in a career that includes 113 big league starts, mostly with Toronto from 2009-13.

    He could be overwhelming at times, such as his one-hitter vs. Tampa in 2010, when he struck out 17.

    ''I've never seen anything so dominant in my life,'' says Joe Maddon, then the Rays' manager and now Morrow's manager with the Cubs.

    Morrow has only 18 career saves.

    In 2017, the right-hander had a big year for the pennant-winning Los Angeles Dodgers, going 6-0 with a 2.06 ERA in 45 games. He struck out 50 and walked just nine in 43 2-3 innings.

    In the postseason, he appeared 14 times. Morrow pitched in all seven World Series games in the loss to Houston, with an 8.44 ERA.

    ''He pitched a lot of innings last year,'' Maddon says. ''It's going to be wise to be patient regarding not putting him out there too many times in a row, make sure he gets rest, watch pitch count, watch number of innings, during spring training not pushing him too hard.''

    He pitched four scoreless innings against the Cubs in the NL Championship Series. And that ''helped open my eyes'' to the possibility of signing with them.

    ''I hadn't played a lot of Wrigley. It was cool to get out there in those situations,'' he said.

    Over the years, ''I've pitched in pretty much every role there is. Over the years, a lot of experience to pull from.''

    Morrow, 33, closed a bit for Seattle as a youngster, but, ''I wasn't necessarily prepared for that as far as command and ability to go out on a daily basis and really compete. My stuff was there, and I was getting by on that.''

    ''I consider myself a much better pitcher now. All the experience has prepared me well,'' he said.

    ''Obviously, the ninth inning is really important mentally for the team. Blown saves are tough mentally. If you lose a game in the third, it's not the same as losing a game in the ninth. Having somebody who can be consistent in that role is important,'' he said.

    Morrow's presence will mean Edwards, who has closer's stuff (94 strikeouts in 66 innings) will have to wait for his chance for the ninth-inning role.

    ''As of now, I just want to do what I did last year,'' Edwards said.

    ''We have a lot of veteran guys. Anybody on this team can close a game. Morrow is a great guy. I am looking forward to picking his brain. I'll just wait for my turn. No rush,'' he said.

    Maddon says he likes his bullpen because, ''The lefties can get out right-handed hitters and the righties can get out left-handed hitters. Cishek also provides maybe this one weapon that I don't have that we've had: a righty that can just dominate righties.''

    Morrow and Cishek join a bullpen with a fun-loving reputation. The evidence: the dance routines last season whenever the Cubs did something big.

    Says Cishek, ''Bullpens usually have character to them. As far as the dancing.I might have to get some lessons by opening day.''

    Says Morrow, ''I keep getting asked about my dancing. We'll see. I might be the awkward one in the corner.''

    ****************************

    Cubs newcomer Morrow set to close in revamped bullpen
    February 17, 2018


    MESA, Ariz. (AP) Brandon Morrow has pitched in just about every role during his 11 seasons in the majors.

    Except as a full-time closer for a championship contender.

    That will change this year, as Morrow is expected to fill the spot for the Chicago Cubs. He is the most prominent addition to a revamped bullpen that saw the departures of Wade Davis, last year's closer, and Hector Rondon, who held the role in 2015 and part of the World Series-winning season of 2016.

    Another key addition is side-arming Steve Cishek, who signed a two-year deal after a season in which he had a 2.01 ERA in 49 appearances for Seattle and Tampa Bay. He allowed a tiny .148 opposing batting average by right-handed batters.

    They join holdovers Carl Edwards Jr. (2.98 ERA in 73 appearances), Pedro Strop (5-4, 2.83 ERA) and Brian Duensing, who signed a two-year deal after his solid 2017 (2.74 ERA in 68 appearances). They also are hoping for improvement from Justin Wilson (4-4, 3.41 with Detroit and the Cubs).

    In his new role, Morrow can call on the experience he has gained in a career that includes 113 big league starts, mostly with Toronto from 2009-13.

    He could be overwhelming at times, such as his one-hitter vs. Tampa in 2010, when he struck out 17.

    ''I've never seen anything so dominant in my life,'' says Joe Maddon, then the Rays' manager and now Morrow's manager with the Cubs.

    Morrow has only 18 career saves.

    In 2017, the right-hander had a big year for the pennant-winning Los Angeles Dodgers, going 6-0 with a 2.06 ERA in 45 games. He struck out 50 and walked just nine in 43 2-3 innings.

    In the postseason, he appeared 14 times. Morrow pitched in all seven World Series games in the loss to Houston, with an 8.44 ERA.

    ''He pitched a lot of innings last year,'' Maddon says. ''It's going to be wise to be patient regarding not putting him out there too many times in a row, make sure he gets rest, watch pitch count, watch number of innings, during spring training not pushing him too hard.''

    He pitched four scoreless innings against the Cubs in the NL Championship Series. And that ''helped open my eyes'' to the possibility of signing with them.

    ''I hadn't played a lot of Wrigley. It was cool to get out there in those situations,'' he said.

    Over the years, ''I've pitched in pretty much every role there is. Over the years, a lot of experience to pull from.''

    Morrow, 33, closed a bit for Seattle as a youngster, but, ''I wasn't necessarily prepared for that as far as command and ability to go out on a daily basis and really compete. My stuff was there, and I was getting by on that.''

    ''I consider myself a much better pitcher now. All the experience has prepared me well,'' he said.

    ''Obviously, the ninth inning is really important mentally for the team. Blown saves are tough mentally. If you lose a game in the third, it's not the same as losing a game in the ninth. Having somebody who can be consistent in that role is important,'' he said.

    Morrow's presence will mean Edwards, who has closer's stuff (94 strikeouts in 66 innings) will have to wait for his chance for the ninth-inning role.

    ''As of now, I just want to do what I did last year,'' Edwards said.

    ''We have a lot of veteran guys. Anybody on this team can close a game. Morrow is a great guy. I am looking forward to picking his brain. I'll just wait for my turn. No rush,'' he said.

    Maddon says he likes his bullpen because, ''The lefties can get out right-handed hitters and the righties can get out left-handed hitters. Cishek also provides maybe this one weapon that I don't have that we've had: a righty that can just dominate righties.''

    Morrow and Cishek join a bullpen with a fun-loving reputation. The evidence: the dance routines last season whenever the Cubs did something big.

    Says Cishek, ''Bullpens usually have character to them. As far as the dancing.I might have to get some lessons by opening day.''

    Says Morrow, ''I keep getting asked about my dancing. We'll see. I might be the awkward one in the corner.''
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    A's center fielder Fowler making progress from knee surgery
    February 17, 2018


    MESA, Ariz. (AP) Athletics center fielder Dustin Fowler has begun doing sliding work at spring training to test his surgically repaired right knee ahead of Oakland's full-squad workouts beginning next week.

    On June 29, Fowler had not even had his first at-bat for the New York Yankees when a freak injury in the bottom of the first inning of his major league debut at Chicago ended his year. He needed emergency surgery.

    Already in Arizona working ahead of most position players, he is set to return to Chicago to be re-examined next Thursday by the doctor who performed his procedure to formally clear him for live action. That means he will likely miss at least the first couple of Cactus League games.

    Manager Bob Melvin said Fowler will then be worked in slowly - the staff and medical department had this in mind all along - likely with just two at-bats initially, not much different from what veteran players do early on when games start. While Melvin typically would use younger players a little longer in exhibition games, it will be a cautious approach with Fowler.

    ''He won't be too far behind,'' Melvin said Saturday. ''The plan all along was to kind of ease him in anyway. It's not like we're going to run him out there for nine innings. It's not like we're going to right away throw him in back-to-back games.''

    The A's traded away ace Sonny Gray at last summer's deadline and acquired the 23-year-old Fowler. Oakland still hopes he will be ready and healthy to be their starting center fielder for opening day.

    He never even got to hit in his debut that day, having been on deck when the top of the first inning ended. Then, running at full speed, the right fielder crashed into the low corner wall at Chicago's Guaranteed Rate Field chasing Jose Abreu's two-out foul. He suffered an open rupture of the patellar tendon in his right knee when it hit a metal box used for Wi-Fi, and he was carted off for immediate surgery to repair the damage and close the wound.

    In December, Fowler sued the White Sox and the state agency that runs the ballpark.

    With some young players, Melvin uses them in consecutive games. Not Fowler. Not yet.

    ''Not a guy we'd probably run out there two or three days in a row,'' Melvin said. ''But I take the lead from our training staff on stuff like that.''

    ***************************

    Orioles' Machado ready to play shortstop
    February 17, 2018


    SARASOTA, Fla. (AP) Manny Machado reported to the Baltimore Orioles' spring training camp on Saturday and was ready to move - to shortstop, that is.

    As far as whether he'll end up on another team anytime soon, the All-Star says he isn't concentrating on that.

    The 25-year-old was the subject of much trade talk over the offseason. Baltimore made it known that Machado, who is eligible for free agency following this season, could be available for the right price.

    The Orioles didn't find an acceptable trade partner, and now Machado, who has played third base for nearly all his major league career, will shift to shortstop, the position he grew up playing, at his request.

    ''At one point, it was kind of a little sad,'' Machado said. ''Thank God nothing went down and I was able to come back and see my guys that I've been with for seven years. It's just going to be a great experience that I went through at that time -a learning experience this whole offseason- that I'm putting in the back of my mind going forward getting ready for this year.''

    Machado was converted to third base when Baltimore called him up to the major leagues in August 2012.

    Because the Orioles' longtime shortstop J.J. Hardy became a free agent after last season, Machado made it be known that he'd like to play short again.

    ''It's my natural position, that's where I think I can be the best,'' Machado said. ''I know a lot of the talk has been (about) `Oh, is he going to be worth more there? More money.' It's not about the money. It's not about going out there and signing a 20-year deal. This is where my heart has always been, this is what I want to do, this is what I've always wanted to do.

    ''This is what I came into this world to do was to play shortstop at the big league level. Finally (manager Buck Showalter) and the Baltimore organization are giving me the opportunity to go out there and do what I can at that position and show myself,'' he said.

    Machado, a three-time All-Star third baseman, has won two Gold Gloves there. Last season, he hit .259 with 33 home runs and 95 RBIs.

    He's likely to be one of the most sought-after of all free agents next offseason, and could again be the subject of trade talks if the Orioles have a poor start to the season.

    ''It shouldn't be a distraction,'' Machado said. ''I don't work in the front office. I'm not an agent. I play baseball. That's the only thing I know how to do. It's the only thing I really know how to do, to be honest - just go out there, play baseball and answer the questions I need to answer and go about my business.''

    There haven't been any extension talks between Machado and Baltimore for several years, but says he'd like to remain.

    ''I hope. Everybody hopes,'' Machado said. ''This is all I know. It's a great organization that I've always played for and gave me an opportunity to come up here and play in the big leagues, but at the same time, there are some things that are out of my jurisdiction, out of my hands. What I can do is go out there and give them the best season I can and see what happens.''

    ****************************

    Mets' Wright will give 'best shot' on playing this season
    February 17, 2018


    PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (AP) The big question surrounding David Wright is one that even he can't answer.

    Can he play this season?

    ''I'm going to give it my best shot, certainly,'' the New York Mets captain and third baseman said Saturday from the dugout of the team's training complex. ''I probably have a lot of the same questions you're asking me and a lot of people are asking of me. I just don't know. It's certainly been an uphill climb for me.

    ''To honestly answer your question, I just don't know. I'd love to play, but my body's got to hold up and have to cooperate with me a little bit.''

    The 35-year-old Wright calls his health the ''biggest hurdle.'' The medical update to the media suggests no immediate expectation of him being penciled into new manager Mickey Callaway's lineup anytime soon.

    ''I'm still in the rehab process,'' he said. ''But I feel like as far as getting further and further along, we're at the point now where we can begin to try to ramp it up a little bit more.''

    The seven-time All-Star has been in constant communication with the doctors who performed his back and shoulder surgeries.

    ''We want to make sure that when we progress to these steps that's it's not going to do anything that will kind of set us back. So for now we're in the rehab process,'' he said. ''I guess baby steps are still steps in the right direction.''

    Wright's shoulder pain from three Florida State League games last August led him to shut himself down. He had shoulder surgery Sept. 5 to fix his right rotator cuff. The next month he had a laminotomy to remove a bony layer over his spinal canal to treat nerve compression.

    He is close to his playing weight but his offseason workouts haven't allowed him to put on any muscle. He hasn't been running, choosing instead to focus on the areas on which he's had surgery. He alternates his daily workouts - shoulder work one day, back exercises the next.

    Wright says third base is in good shape without him. Recently acquired Todd Frazier, Jose Reyes, Asdrubal Cabrera and Wilmer Flores give the Mets quality options.

    And he likes the opportunity of playing with Frazier.

    ''We're certainly a very good team without me, he said. ''My mindset is we'll be a better team with both of us out there.''

    He also understands the team's decision to bring in Frazier from the Yankees.

    ''They've got to do what's best for them,'' Wright said. ''I understand that - when you don't play for as long as I haven't, and we've had a bit of a void there. This team is in a position to compete. They need to do what's best for them.

    ''I don't blame them one bit. This organization has always treated me with the utmost respect. This is a family environment.''

    So Wright will take time to get in shape before the baseball work intensifies.

    ''These things need time and they need rehab. You don't know until you try it out. I hate to simplify it, but if my body cooperates, then I can't wait to get back out there,'' he said. ''And if it doesn't, we'll try to figure something else out.''
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    Hungry for more: Correa, tight-knit Astros talking dynasty
    February 17, 2018


    WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) Soon as George Springer and his World Series MVP trophy arrived at Houston Astros camp, the All-Star leadoff hitter began knocking balls over the fence in batting practice.

    Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman picked up right where they left off, too, silky smooth fielding grounders on the left side of the infield.

    ''Brings back some pretty good memories,'' Bregman said.

    Bet it sure does.

    Coming off a championship and with all that young talent in place, no wonder this tight-knit ''family'' is talking openly about the D-word.

    ''We don't want to be just a team that people are going to remember for one year,'' Correa said. ''We want to be able to build a dynasty here, to win two, three years in a row if we can do that. We have the team to do it, it's just upon us to put in the work.''

    For several of Houston's twenty-something stars, their work together started again on Friday. And as far as they're concerned, there's no reason it can't be fun.

    After reporting to spring training three days before the first scheduled full-squad workout, Springer jumped in the cage and quickly drove one a long way out.

    So much for needing a few swings to warm up.

    ''I don't know. It's Day One. You don't think you're going to square one up out there and I did,'' he said later. ''I might as well have stopped for the day. You want to end on a high note.''

    So as teammates hooted and hollered, the 28-year-old outfielder feigned being all finished.

    Show over.

    ''We mess around all the time,'' Correa said. ''Today I guess we were picking on Springer.''

    Last fall, Springer picked on Los Angeles Dodgers pitching, batting .379 with five homers, three doubles and seven RBIs as Houston won a back-and-forth World Series in seven exhilarating games.

    This spring, his MVP trophy will take up residence at the club's 2-year-old training complex, along with all the photos from the 2017 title run hanging on the walls.

    ''Yeah, it's special. I think it's more special because of what our team was able to do,'' Springer said. ''You can't win that without the team having to win something first. So I'm happy about it, I'm proud of it, but I'm more happy about the world champion stuff that's up around here now.''

    Springer was hardly the only Astros player making everything look easy Friday.

    The 23-year-old Correa, who batted .315 with 24 homers and 84 RBIs in just 109 games last season, smiled as he took grounders at shortstop and snapped off accurate throws from his back foot.

    To his right was Bregman, the confident third baseman who compiled an .827 OPS in his first full major league season. He turns 24 next month.

    ''They're all so talented,'' veteran catcher Brian McCann said. ''The sky's the limit for all of `em because they're going to continue to learn. ... It's a scary thought.''

    Not to mention second baseman Jose Altuve, a three-time batting champion and the reigning AL MVP at age 27.

    ''We're as strong as it gets top to bottom,'' McCann said. ''A lot of these guys came up together and it is - it's a big reason for our success. Everyone's pulling in the same direction and everyone knows how special this group is and we want to make the most of it.''

    Just about all the key pieces from last season are back. But the Astros didn't rest on their laurels this winter, acquiring former Pirates ace Gerrit Cole in a trade and adding Joe Smith and Hector Rondon to the bullpen.

    ''Now, we're the hunted,'' Bregman said. ''I think everybody in this clubhouse every day when they wake up is still chasing something. We want to be great. We want to be a great team and not just for one year, but for a lot of years, and we have the opportunity to do that.''

    Cole joins an outstanding group of starters that includes Cy Young Award winners Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander, who was obtained from Detroit last Aug. 31.

    Lance McCullers, Brad Peacock, Charlie Morton and Collin McHugh are nothing to sneeze at, either.

    ''I've always wanted to have a star-laden rotation,'' Keuchel said. ''It's got a chance to be one of the best, I think, ever.''

    Correa thinks this team is even better than last year's edition.

    ''We won 100 games and we didn't have Justin for a whole year, Lance was hurt for quite a bit, Keuchel was hurt for quite a bit, Springer was hurt for quite a bit and I was out for two months. If you put that in perspective and you put that team healthy for a whole year, it can be really scary,'' he said.

    Correa said he enjoyed the offseason but missed spending time with his teammates.

    ''We're like family, so who doesn't like to be around family?'' he explained.

    A family that's beginning to grow up - quickly. Springer recently got married, and fans all across the country watched Correa get engaged on national television immediately after the World Series finale at Dodger Stadium.

    Bregman said he started getting recognized in public more often.

    ''I think we became a lot closer. Shoot, our families are closer now. They traveled to every game, so it's one big, giant family,'' he said. ''We learned a lot, man. We experienced a lot.''

    Now, other clubs around the majors are attempting to model the Astros' rebuild.

    The next challenge? Trying to become the first team since the 1998-2000 New York Yankees to repeat as World Series champs.

    ''It's hard to win one, let alone two,'' Springer said. ''We kind of have the recipe for it. We understand what it's going to take. ... We can't go out there and settle for one.''

    Correa insisted that won't happen.

    ''We've had the feeling of winning the championship. It was great, but we had the feeling of losing in the playoffs, too, in 2015, and we don't want to experience that again,'' he said. ''We'll never forget that feeling. To see guys across the clubhouse literally crying because of that loss, we don't want to experience that again, so we're still hungry. We want to do more.''

    **********************

    Brewers counting on another top season Knebel, bullpen
    February 16, 2018


    PHOENIX (AP) The Milwaukee Brewers are counting on another top season from closer Corey Knebel to anchor a bullpen that was one of the National League's best last season.

    ''That was our biggest strength,'' Brewers manager Craig Counsell said.

    Milwaukee ranked among the NL's top five in ERA (3.83), strikeouts (615) and victories (27). Knebel had 39 saves in 45 chances, a 1.78 ERA and 126 batters in 76 innings - an average of 14.92 strikeouts per nine innings.

    ''I'm just going to try and do the same thing,'' Knebel said.

    Left-hander Josh Hader will again work out of the bullpen. A starter through the minors, he had a 2.08 ERA in 35 relief appearances during his first big league season.

    With emerging ace Jimmy Nelson out indefinitely while recovering from shoulder surgery, the Brewers debated whether Hader should return to the rotation before keeping him in the `pen for the season's start.

    ''I'm excited,'' Hader said. ''I'm excited where we're going.''

    Right-hander Jacob Barnes began the season as an effective setup man but faltered midway through. Anthony Swarzak was acquired from the Chicago White Sox in July, pitched well and left to sign with the New York Mets.

    Milwaukee bolstered its bullpen by adding left-handers Boone Logan and Wade Miley, and right-hander Matt Albers.

    ''Getting these new arms, guys who've had success, and putting them with the guys we're bringing back, all those guys are going to be big for us this year,'' Knebel said.

    Milwaukee was third among NL teams in innings by relievers with 572 2/3, partly because starters struggled early in the season. Relievers also were a factor in the Brewers' stretch run - which finished one win short of forcing a playoff for the second wild card.

    ''They did a fantastic job in September,'' Counsell said.

    Notes: Miley threw his first bullpen session after passing a physical. ... INF Nick Franklin also arrived a day after he agreed to a minor league deal. Franklin made 89 appearances for Milwaukee last season, batting .195 with two doubles, a triple and two home runs, then was traded to the Los Angeles Angels on June 30. He is expected to start the season at Triple-A Colorado Springs.

    *****************************

    At 25, Franco facing pivotal season for Phillies
    February 16, 2018


    CLEARWATER, Fla. (AP) By the end of the 2017 season Philadelphia Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco had lost his role as the team's cleanup hitter and was spending as much time on the bench as he was in the lineup.

    Franco, 25, knew something had to change and he arrived to camp early 10 pounds lighter and motivated to regain the form earlier in his career.

    ''This is an important year, it's going to be really important for me,'' Franco said. ''After 2017 I decided that I had to work harder and get better and do what I could to help my team. I feel very good, I've been working hard and I'm excited for this team and I need to just keep it up and get betting every day.''

    Franco saw his average dip to .230 last year with a .281 on-base percentage. He didn't improve on his power numbers or his walks and eventually lost some playing time to September call-ups.

    Manager Gabe Kapler went to the Dominican Republic in the offseason and met with Franco to emphasize how important he was to the team. The message resonated and Franco worked with personal trainer to improve his conditioning.

    ''(Kapler) played baseball, too, and he was able to explain to me what I had to do,'' Franco said. ''He supports me, he told me the right ways to get better and I appreciate that.''

    Franco admits that at times he had the wrong mental approach at the plate and it led to some overaggressive swings and poor at-bats.

    ''I needed to relax more, just play my game the right way,'' he said. ''Try not to force the situation, be overaggressive and control my emotions more. Just have fun. Sometimes you try to do too much and that's the part that I want to calm down.''

    Franco's efforts to improve his body and his overall approach haven't gone unnoticed by Kapler.

    ''He looks great and seemingly he feels really good about himself, which is a huge plus for us,'' Kapler said. ''I think this year is big for Franco but I think it's been for all of us. Specifically he should be focused on the step right in front of him. That's not to say April, May, June aren't important but today's workout and (tomorrow's) workout are the ones most consequential right now.''

    ADDING UMPIRES TO THE MIX

    Kapler has brought in umpires to create more game-like situations for the pitchers and catchers during bullpen sessions. He credited the team's catcher's receiver's coach, Craig Driver, for the idea and says the idea has been well received by the players.

    ''We went around specifically to our veteran pitchers and guys that have been with us for a while asked them what they thought about this,'' Kapler said. ''And this is totally optional. So if you don't like an umpire back there or you're not ready and it doesn't feel right to you right now, let us know and we'll move them out of the way.''

    Kapler said that the umpires, who are being brought in from different minor leagues, will also be part of live batting practice during workouts.

    ''I'm really excited about that because historically we've had catchers or coaches calling balls and strikes,'' he said. ''And inherently catchers are going to be biased because they want the drill to move along quickly and coaches are like `we're old and don't have the best looks, we're not as close to the plate and don't have the experience.'

    ''Umpires are better than we think. It's not an easy job and I respect the work that they do.''
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    Iannetta back with Rockies for 1st time since 2011
    February 16, 2018

    SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) A contributing member of the Colorado Rockies during their best seasons a decade ago, Chris Iannetta rejoined them with a reprise in mind.

    Iannetta was a second-year reserve when the Rockies made their only World Series appearance in 2007 and was the starting catcher for a Colorado team that won a franchise-record 92 games in 2009.

    When the Rockies sought a veteran to help guide their young pitching staff this season, Iannetta was more than ready to return to the team that dealt him to the Los Angeles Angels after the 2011 season.

    ''Some of the most fun I've had in baseball were over those years, and some of the worst times I've had in baseball were over those years,'' Iannetta said. ''Any time a team trades you away or you decide to leave, you don't really think about that being an option again. But very early in the offseason they reached out, and I was excited to potentially come back. I thought it would be a cool scenario.''

    Now 33, Iannetta agreed to an $8.5 million, two-year contract. He had his best offensive seasons with the Rockies in 2008-09, with 34 homers and 99 RBIs in 622 plate appearances.

    He hit .254 with 17 homers and 43 RBIs in 316 plate appearances for Arizona last year as part of a platoon with Jeff Mathis. Iannetta had a career-high .511 slugging percentage, and his .865 OPS was the second-highest of his career and the highest among National League catchers with at least 310 plate appearances.

    Colorado opened last season with young catchers and later supplemented them with Ryan Hanigan and Jonathan Lucroy. The veteran presence helped.

    ''I think everybody realized what that meant to our pitching staff, and that a stable veteran presence with experience would be a great thing for our staff,'' Colorado manager Bud Black said.

    Iannetta's pitch framing skills, ranked second in the majors by statcorner.com in 2015, graded as neutral last season - which is an upgrade for the Rockies group.

    Iannetta said his offensive last year benefited from hitting coach Dave Magadan and assistant hitting coach) Tim Laker.

    ''Tim made some suggestions in my swing that really helped out,'' he said ''And it was an environment where the team was a great group of guys. Everyone was pulling for each other.''

    Just like the good old days of Rock-tober.

    Colorado won 11 straight games and 13 of its final 14 in 2007 to force a tiebreaker playoff for the NL wild card, beat San Diego in 13 innings, then swept Philadelphia in the Division Series and Arizona in the World Series. The Rockies then got swept by Boston.

    Iannetta's three-run homer in a 13-0 victory over Florida on Sept.16 began that streak.

    ''It was a crazy run. A crazy situation,'' Iannetta said. ''I use that as an example with a lot of teams I've played on as to what could be possible, what happens when you guys get together and pull in the same direction.''

    *************************

    Twins turn to inexperienced pitchers to fill rotation holes
    February 16, 2018

    FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) The Minnesota Twins have holes in their rotation and inexperience pitchers might fill them.

    After a stagnant free-agent market this offseason that has carried over into the first week of camp, the Twins have been unable to land any of their top targets. Most recently left-handers Jason Vargas, who signed with the New York Mets on Friday and Jamie Garcia, who signed with the Blue Jays on Thursday.

    With no outside additions, Aaron Slegers, Stephen Gonsalves, Felix Jorge and Fernando Romero will all have an opportunity to showcase themselves in big league camp. Any other season, this group would all be destined for the team's Triple-A affiliate to start the season in Rochester. This season, however, there is a chance that one or more of them breaks camp in the rotation.

    ''I know there's a ton of free agents still out there so I'm going about my business like I'll be in Triple-A to start,'' Gonsalves said. ''But it definitely could be an opportunity.''

    While talented, this group still has parts of their game that needs some refinement: Gonsalves is working on consistency with his curveball. The 6-foot-10 Slegers had trouble repeating his delivery. Jorge needs to keep the ball in the ballpark and Romero hasn't started a game above the Double-A level. The trick for the Twins will be balancing development with the immediate needs.

    ''When the needs are imminent and you have to fill them, sometime you don't always have the luxury of making sure a guy, in your own mind, is totally ready to fill that spot,'' Twins manager Paul Molitor said. ''It's going to happen.''

    The Twins had a recent success story filling a spot in their big league rotation with a young pitcher who might have needed a little more time in the minors in Jose Berrios, although it did come with some growing pains. After a brutal debut in 2016 in which he went 3-7 with an 8.02 ERA in 14 starts, Berrios had a breakout season in 2017, going 14-8 with a 3.89 ERA. At age 23, Berrios is in line to be this year's Opening Day starter.

    Molitor said he sees the merit to building up depth at Triple-A to allow prospects time to develop, but the idea is to win now.

    ''When we call down there, we are going to see who's the best guy to give us a chance right now and it might be the guy that, OK, maybe he's not ready, but he is our best chance,'' he said. ''You have to prioritize for the guy that might help you win a game in the short term, especially when it's with pitching.''

    Slegers, 25, would appear to be the front-runner of this group after making his ML debut in 2017. Like Berrios, Slegers' career had a rocky start going 0-1 with a 6.46 ERA in his three late-season starts. He struck out nine and walked six in 15 1/3 innings. Now in his second big league spring training camp, the Indiana native has gotten some of those nerves out of the way.

    ''I got a lot of those firsts out of the way last year like my first spring training camp, my first start,'' Slegers said. ''Now I feel much more comfortable.''

    Gonsalves, 23, is the team's top-rated pitching prospect and fourth overall, according to Baseball America. He breezed through the minors, going 41-17 with a 2.39 ERA over six stops. Gonsalves would like to make a good impression early, but said he is trying to ''dial back'' from year's past so that he is fresh when he is called upon.

    ''I'm trying not to come out too hot,'' Gonsalves said. ''I want to be stay healthy through the entire season.''

    Jorge, 24, is in a similar position as Slegers having made his ML debut in 2017. He allowed nine runs in 7 2/3 innings thanks to four home runs. He went 10-3 with a 3.54 ERA in his 22 starts at Double-A last season. Romero, the team's No. 6 overall prospect, could also see some time in the Minnesota rotation at some point this year after compiling a 2.85 ERA over his five minor league stops.

    At the very least, the group should give the Twins depth throughout the season and possibly avoid being in a similar situation next spring.

    ''It's probably a little hollow when you tell them it's more important to be on the roster in September than it is in April but I try to give them the understanding that they want to try and be a piece that is establishing a postseason run,'' Molitor said.

    *************************

    Reds hoping Homer Bailey can stay healthy, lead rotation
    February 16, 2018


    GOODYEAR, Ariz. (AP) Homer Bailey went an entire offseason without surgery or rehabilitation sessions, the most encouraging sign for a Cincinnati Reds team that needs him to get back to the front of the rotation after three years of injuries.

    ''I finally had a normal winter, you might say,'' Bailey said.

    The 31-year-old pitcher was expected to be a cornerstone of the staff when he got a $105 million, six-year deal before the 2014 season. Instead, he's pitched in only 26 games and gone 8-13 in the last three years while recovering from an operation to repair a tendon in his right forearm, Tommy John surgery and a procedure to remove bone spurs from the right elbow last February.

    Bailey makes $21 million this year and $23 million in 2018, second only to Joey Votto on the club's payroll. The Reds are encouraged Bailey has no medical problems as spring training gets underway, a major improvement from the last two years.

    ''Last season I had surgery the week before I reported,'' Bailey said. ''The winter before that I was barely throwing at all. So this was a different change of pace.''

    He was activated on June 24 and struggled with his control, going 6-9 with a 6.43 ERA. He got better as the season wound down, finally getting his fastball to go where he intended.

    ''If you're not sharp, it's going to be a long day no matter what stuff you're featuring,'' he said.

    Bailey threw no-hitters at Pittsburgh in 2012 and the following season against the Giants at Great American Ball Park, dominating with a fastball that has yet to return to peak form.

    ''His other pitches are accessory pitches because he pitches off his fastball,'' manager Bryan Price said. ''We remember the no-hitters when he was throwing 97 or 98 mph in the last three innings and blowing fastballs past hitters.''

    Cincinnati is counting on Bailey, Anthony DeSclafani and left-hander Brandon Finnegan to stay healthy. They were limited to a combined 22 starts last season. DeSclafani missed the entire season with a sore elbow. Finnegan had a back problem and separated his shoulder midway through the season.

    The Reds ended up using young starters who weren't ready for the majors. The Reds allowed the most homers in the majors and were last in the NL in runs, walks and ERA at 5.17.

    Luis Castillo made the best impression of the rookies and is slotted for the fourth spot in the rotation. The fifth spot is open to competition.

    ***************************

    Slimmed-down Pujols ready for more action at 1st base
    February 16, 2018


    TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) Albert Pujols is slim, trim and ready to dust off his first-baseman's mitt.

    The 38-year-old former MVP is looking to reverse a downward-trending career, in part by contributing more in the field now that he has shaken off injuries. The Angels are hoping Pujols can share the designated hitter's role with Japanese sensation Shohei Ohtani.

    Pujols said he shed 13 to 15 pounds, and looks in noticeably better shape - though he won't say how much he weighs. That's between him and his trainers, he said. Unlike the previous two winters when he was limited because of foot surgeries, Pujols was able to work out this offseason.

    ''It's good to have a normal offseason where I don't have to go to physical therapy. Just get yourself in a gym and get yourself ready for spring training,'' he said Friday. ''I'm in better shape for sure.''

    Pujols has four more seasons left on a 10-year deal the Angels gave him to lure him away from St. Louis as a free agent. He is set to make $27 million in 2018.

    Last season, Pujols was the designated hitter in 142 games and played first in six games. In 2016, he was the DH in 123 games and played 28 at first. He said playing more at first ''would be great. But that wasn't my motivation. My main thing was I'm healthy. I want to get back to my workouts.''

    The slugger said he focused on flexibility and agility more than on lifting substantial amounts of weight.

    Manager Mike Scioscia declined to put a number on how many games he envisions Pujols playing at first.

    ''There's no doubt he can play first base enough to give us some versatility in some lineups,'' Scioscia said. ''I know he loves to play first base. We're a better team when he plays first base. He's a terrific first baseman.''

    The 10-time All Star sounded a bit irritated when his 2017 season was brought up. He hit 23 homers and had 101 RBIs, but his average was .241 and his OPS was a career-worst .672.

    ''That was last year. That's the number you guys focus on (batting average), and you don't care about anything else,'' Pujols said. ''"This is a new year for me. I don't even remember what happened last year.''

    Whether the Angels make the postseason is what counts, he said.

    ''Everybody in this locker room was disappointed that we were so close, but we didn't get to the postseason. That to me is more important than anything else,'' he said.

    Pujols also declined to talk about playing with pain in recent years.

    ''I don't need to talk about that. Everybody plans with pain. I don't put excuses on how I'm hitting,'' he said.

    Pujols lightened up considerably when the subject turned to Ohtani, the rookie pitcher-hitter. The two took batting practice together in Orange County last week.

    ''I gave him a couple words of wisdom.I know it's going to be a little bit different with the language barrier,'' Pujols said. ''But I told him that he knows how to play baseball. He just needs to go out and play.

    ''Hopefully he can do great on both sides, because if he can help us with his bat, too, it will be awesome because we don't have many lefties in our starting lineup.

    NOTES: Ohtani is scheduled to throw to hitters on a practice field Saturday. After watching him throw a bullpen session, Scioscia said, ''We're very impressed with his arm. He's what we would expect right now.'' The manager recently confirmed Ohtani will stick to pitching and the DH role and will not play in the outfield .. Pujols is 32 hits shy of 3,000 for his career. ''It's awesome. I know it's there. I'm not going to ignore it, but I don't play for that. I play to put rings on my fingers, I haven't had one in seven years. Hopefully, this is the year we can get one.''
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    Hanley Ramirez looks for TB12 return
    February 16, 2018


    FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) Coming off a career-worst batting average and sizeable drop in production, Red Sox DH Hanley Ramirez turned to a new offseason workout routine - he's following Patriots star quarterback Tom Brady's TB12 method.

    The 34-year-old Ramirez felt like entering the later stages of his career that it was time to make a change. For him, who better to follow than a 40-year-old QB that just captured his third MVP award.

    ''I went on the Tom Brady side,'' said Ramirez, who reported on Friday, a few days before full-squad workouts begin. ''I think it's 100 percent everything he says in the book, the work he does, makes sense.''

    Fighting through a left shoulder injury last season that he had to be surgically repaired during offseason, Ramirez couldn't wait to spend the winter concentrating on Brady's workout guidelines.

    ''I started doing that last year at the end of the season a little bit - with the bands,'' Ramirez said. ''I think I was feeling a little better. I was waiting for the offseason to start 100 percent.''

    Signed to an $88-million, four-year contract as a free agent before 2015, Ramirez didn't hide from how poor he felt he hit last season.

    ''That was terrible,'' he said when asked about his .242 average. ''RBIs. RBIs. That's how you win games.''

    He said the injury greatly affected his power - just 23 homers with 62 RBIs after putting up 30/111 the year before.

    ''Literally, I was hitting with one arm last year and hit 23,'' he said. ''I should hit 30.''

    Entering the final year of his contract, Ramirez has a $22-million option for 2019 that will kick-in with 497 plate appearances. He figures if he hits, he'll play.

    ''You've got to just do your job,'' he said. ''If you don't do your job, they're going to find somebody else to do it.''

    The Red Sox are hoping the changes Ramirez made from Brady's ideas will show that he's still a big bat in the middle of a lineup severely lacking for power last season. Boston finished last in the AL with 168 homers.

    ''When healthy, Hanley Ramirez is a difference-maker,'' first-year manager Alex Cora said.

    Cora noticed the change in Ramirez's look, too. The slugger said he lost 15 pounds.

    ''I saw him today,'' Cora said. ''He looks a lot different than what I saw the last two years. The last two years he reminded me a lot about (former NFL linebacker) Ray Lewis - with how big he was.''

    Ramirez even spent time discussing his new diet and exercise regime with some of his teammates.

    ''Yeah, that's what he was talking about - him and a couple other guys,'' outfielder Mookie Betts said.

    When asked if Betts planned a similar change, he smiled and said: ''If it keeps me around until I'm 40, maybe.''

    But Ramirez knows his change in weight and attitude toward his body won't dictate playing time. That'll only depend on his production.

    ''I know that I'm going to hit and they're going to find a place to put me in the lineup,'' said. ''No doubt. I know I can get 30 RBIs, 100 homers.''

    NOTES:
    The Red Sox pitchers and catchers had a light day with the team's annual charity golf tournament in the afternoon. When asked what's best about his golf game, Betts smiled and said: ''I'm not sure I have a strength.'' . Cora said top three pitchers Chris Sale, David Price and Rick Porcello will start getting most of their game work later in camp. ''Don't expect them to pitch against BC or Northeastern,'' he said. . Boston begins games with a college doubleheader against Boston College and the Huskies on Thursday.

    **********************

    Bud Norris, Cardinals finalize $3 million, 1-year contract
    February 16, 2018


    JUPITER, Fla. (AP) Pitcher Bud Norris and the St. Louis Cardinals finalized a $3 million, one-year contract on Wednesday as the team started spring training workouts.

    The 32-year-old right-hander led the Los Angeles Angels with 19 saves in 23 chances last season. He went 2-6 with a 4.23 ERA in three starts and 57 relief appearances, striking out 74 in 62 innings.

    He is 68-84 with a 4.49 ERA over nine major league seasons, making 188 starts and 103 relief appearances with Houston (2009-13), Baltimore (2013-15), San Diego (2015), Atlanta (2016), the Los Angeles Dodgers (2016) and the Angels.

    He can earn additional performance bonuses: $250,000 each for five, 10, 15 and 20 starts, and $200,000 apiece for 40, 50 and 60 relief appearances.

    To clear a roster spot, right-hander Rowan Wick was designated for assignment.

    ********************

    Volquez returns to Rangers on minor deal
    February 16, 2018


    SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) Edinson Volquez has agreed to a minor league contract with the Texas Rangers, returning to his original team with a chance to be a candidate for the rotation in 2019.

    The 34-year-old Volquez will not pitch this season while recovering from ligament reconstruction surgery on his right elbow last August.

    The minor league agreement announced by the Rangers on Friday includes an invitation to major league spring training. It covers the 2018 and 2019 seasons.

    Volquez has a 93-87 career record in 276 games for seven teams. He made his MLB debut for the Rangers at age 22 on Aug. 30, 2005, and was traded to Cincinnati after the 2007 season in the deal that sent slugger Josh Hamilton to Texas. He has also pitched for San Diego, the Los Angeles Dodgers, Pittsburgh Kansas City and Miami.

    In his first season for the Reds, Volquez went 17-6 and was an All-Star. He was a 13-game winner for the Royals when they won the World Series in 2015, and threw a no-hitter for Miami last season.

    ***************************

    P Fiers eager for a chance with Tigers
    February 16, 2018


    LAKELAND, Fla. (AP) Mike Fiers has thrown a no-hitter and pitched for a World Series champion.

    He's also experienced the other end of the baseball spectrum, so the 32-year-old right-hander tries not to take anything for granted.

    ''I've got to be very thankful for everyone that's given me a chance,'' Fiers said Friday. ''And definitely Detroit this year, giving me another opportunity to start and really show my ability out there on the field.''

    Fiers signed with the Tigers in December after an eventful two-plus seasons in Houston. In 2015, shortly after being traded from Milwaukee to the Astros, Fiers pitched a no-hitter . He was still with Houston last year when the Astros won the World Series, but he was left off the roster during the postseason, and the team eventually let him go. He caught on with the rebuilding Tigers as one of Detroit's few significant offseason additions.

    ''The biggest thing is just an organization wanting me to play for them. I think that goes a long way,'' Fiers said. ''When I was with Milwaukee, they drafted me, but Houston trading for me said a lot. Then when they ended up feeling I didn't help them anymore, a team like Detroit was right away trying to get me - and felt like I could help this team.''

    Fiers was 26 when he made his big league debut in 2011 with the Brewers. He went 9-10 with a 3.74 ERA the following year, averaging more than a strikeout per inning, and he was effective for a good portion of his tenure with Milwaukee before being traded to Houston.

    His no-hitter against the Los Angeles Dodgers came less than a month after that deal, but his numbers were nothing special with the Astros. He went 11-8 with a 4.48 ERA in 2016 and 8-10 with a 5.22 ERA last year. Houston added Justin Verlander last August, and Fiers didn't pitch much after that.

    Winning the championship was a highlight, obviously, but the end of the season was still a little bittersweet.

    ''To be left off the roster, it definitely hurts, but you can't complain too much,'' Fiers said. ''Ended up winning the World Series, which is definitely a big accomplishment, because being with that team all year, I felt like I got them to the point of being in the playoffs - taking the ball every fifth day, and picking the guys up when we had a lot of injuries.''

    That's what the Tigers want from Fiers - reliability and professionalism. Detroit finished tied for the worst record in the majors last year, and its rotation is a question mark beyond right-hander Michael Fulmer. Jordan Zimmermann can provide veteran leadership but has struggled to stay healthy, and lefties Daniel Norris and Matthew Boyd have had their ups and downs.

    Fiers came to the Tigers with a $6 million, one-year contract.

    ''He's a veteran. He knows how to pitch. He's not going to blow you away with anything, but he really knows how to locate the ball,'' Detroit manager Ron Gardenhire said. ''He's deceptive and the whole package. He's a guy that can eat up innings, he can do a lot of those things.''

    Fiers has made at least 28 starts with at least 150 innings in each of the past three seasons, so if he stays healthy, he could take some of the pressure off the rest of the staff - and be an effective mentor.

    ''He's really important to the mindset of these younger pitchers, and the thought processes of how you pitch. He's able to pitch with less than that top velocity,'' Gardenhire said. ''That's important, to have a guy around, and these guys can sit and watch him throw the ball and locate the baseball, and they'll understand it.''

    *******************

    Mets, Vargas agree to $16M, 2-year deal
    February 16, 2018


    Turns out, the New York Mets were ready and willing to spend this winter. More than just a few bucks, too.

    All-Star pitcher Jason Vargas and the Mets agreed to a $16 million, two-year contract Friday, adding depth to a New York rotation that's been riddled by injuries the past two seasons.

    The deal is pending a physical, a person familiar with the agreement said, speaking on condition of anonymity because it had not been announced.

    Another person familiar with the contract said it includes an $8 million club option for 2020 with a $2 million buyout, and Vargas can earn up to $1.5 million each year in performance bonuses. That person also spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal was pending a physical and had not been announced.

    Vargas went 18-11 with a 4.16 ERA for Kansas City last season, making his first All-Star team and tying for the major league lead in wins. He faded in the second half, however, and the 35-year-old lefty had been among more than 85 free agents seeking a job as spring training opened this week.

    While other teams have been reluctant to shop, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson, perhaps sensing an opportunity for bargains, got busy filling holes and adding pieces late in the offseason. He signed free agent right fielder Jay Bruce, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, third baseman Todd Frazier and infielder Jose Reyes before rounding out the haul with Vargas.

    Coming off a 70-92 season that followed consecutive playoff appearances, New York also signed reliever Anthony Swarzak to a $14 million, two-year contract in December.

    All told, the Mets have guaranteed a little more than $88 million to free agents this offseason, after ownership was criticized by fans early on for being stingy.

    Vargas, traded by the Mets to Seattle in December 2008, could be in camp with New York by Monday. He would join a gifted but fragile rotation that includes three other All-Stars in Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and former ace Matt Harvey, who can become a free agent after this season.

    Harvey, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler, in particular, have spent much of the past two years on the disabled list. Even when they did pitch last season, they mostly struggled.

    Vargas would give the Mets another accomplished starter, this one a soft-tossing lefty to go with all their power arms. He also would be reunited with new pitching coach Dave Eiland, who held the same job in Kansas City, where Vargas compiled a 34-23 record over the past four years.

    New manager Mickey Callaway has expressed interest in using a six-man rotation at times. Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo and Rafael Montero also provide insurance.

    Syndergaard, deGrom, Harvey, Matz and Wheeler were all fully healthy when camp opened this week, the Mets said.

    The move also means five of New York's top six starters have undergone Tommy John surgery at some point in their professional careers. Vargas had his left elbow ligament replaced in 2015 and made just three starts in 2016 before throwing 179 2/3 innings over 32 outings last season.

    Before getting injured, Vargas was 5-2 with a 3.98 ERA in nine starts for the 2015 Royals team that beat the Mets in the World Series. He did not pitch in the playoffs that year, but went 1-0 with a 3.52 ERA over three postseason starts for Kansas City in 2014.

    Vargas is 85-81 with a 4.17 ERA in 12 big league seasons with the Marlins, Mets, Mariners, Angels and Royals. He surpassed 192 innings each year from 2010-12 and threw 187 in 2014.

    The left-hander made two starts for the Mets in 2007, going 0-1 with a 12.19 ERA. He missed the 2008 season because of a torn labrum in his hip.

    Vargas was 12-3 with a 2.22 ERA after winning his seventh straight start on June 30 last year. His ERA rose to 4.23 when he lost his fourth in a row on Sept. 5, but then he won four of his final five outings.

    With the Mets, Vargas would get $250,000 each for 160, 170, 180, 190, 200 and 210 innings pitched. The contract also includes a $250,000 assignment bonus if he's traded.

    The agreement was first reported by FanRag Sports, and the contract terms were first reported by MLB.com.

    ***************************

    Nationals' Scherzer comes out firing
    February 15, 2018


    WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) Long after the other pitchers in his group were finished, Max Scherzer was the only one left on a bullpen mound, still firing away and working hard on specific game situations.

    ''Got two more hitters,'' he called out to Washington catcher Miguel Montero.

    ''One more righty. ... Little too much plate. ... I'll throw a change-up off that.''

    In a voluntary workout Thursday, a day before the Nationals formally open spring training, the three-time Cy Young Award winner charged out of the gate and threw a whopping 60 pitches - about twice as many as other Washington starters.

    ''Does he know he gets one day off?'' before his next bullpen, All-Star reliever Brandon Kintzler asked.

    Bemused teammates and coaches, some cracking wry smiles, watched as Scherzer grunted during his delivery and worked up a sweat under the Florida sun while other pitchers waited their turn.

    ''Complete game? February?'' reliever Shawn Kelley chided before Scherzer offered to let him walk through.

    ''No, I'm just watching the show,'' Kelley said, and then leaned in to grab the ear of new manager Dave Martinez: ''Good luck trying to get him to use his defense.''

    Hey, whatever it takes to finally get Washington over that playoff hump.

    A new father this season, the 33-year-old Scherzer downplayed the intensity of his session, calling it ''standard'' for a starter because it was his fifth one since arriving early at camp.

    ''Throwing 60-pitch `pens, that should be easy - and it is easy. I'm using my normal routine of how I get ready for the season,'' he said. ''There's a lot of throwing here, so for me I always like to get on the mound, feel some fatigue and kind of work through it. I feel like I see the benefits on that by the end of spring training.''

    Still, his teammates took notice. Kintzler said it was tough enough just playing catch with Scherzer - ''I thought Max was going to kill me today'' - because of how much his ball moves.

    And later: ''They're going to move him to the last group so we don't have to wait.''

    ''Max is a little different than the rest of us,'' lefty Gio Gonzalez said, explaining that Scherzer probably wanted to work on certain things already because he'll likely start the first Grapefruit League game next Friday.

    ''It was impressive to watch, though,'' Gonzalez added. ''Still got the hump in that fastball.''

    There are plenty of impressive things about the Nationals, a talent-laden team that's been unable to advance in October.

    Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Gonzalez ran 1-3-6 in NL Cy Young Award voting last year. Bryce Harper was the 2015 NL MVP, second baseman Daniel Murphy was runner-up the following season. Anthony Rendon, Ryan Zimmerman and speedy Trea Turner, among others, round out a dangerous lineup.

    ''We can play with anybody,'' Scherzer said.

    And yet, despite winning four NL East titles in the past six years, Washington has been bounced in the Division Series every time. Three of those bitter defeats came in a decisive Game 5, the last two by one excruciating run.

    ''It's fuel for the fire - the naysayers, the doubters. People think that we're cursed now `cause someone said it one time. Spreads like wildfire, which is stupid,'' pitcher Tanner Roark said. ''It's annoying.''

    ''But the main objective is to win a World Series. Not make it to the World Series, not get past the first round, it's to win a World Series,'' he added. ''That's the only thing that matters to me.''

    Some will say the Nationals better do it this year because Harper, Murphy and Gonzalez can become free agents next fall. Harper is expected to seek a record contract, so this could be his final season with the club that drafted him No. 1 overall in 2010.

    ''I think you enter into every season with a sense of urgency,'' Murphy insisted.

    Most of last year's 97-65 team, which won a weak division by 20 games, returns intact - although the coaching staff is different after manager Dusty Baker was let go.

    Scherzer said he couldn't recall being on a club with less turnover in the offseason, and Martinez implemented a ''circle of trust'' among the Nationals as he huddled his team outside for Thursday's workout.

    ''You've got to be in the circle of trust to talk about the circle of trust,'' Strasburg said, drawing laughs from reporters. ''I guess it's like `Fight Club' or something like that.''

    ''I think we're under the radar a little bit,'' he added. ''I think that you get this feeling (from outsiders) that this is like our bubble, this is our window. ... Our talent is there. So as long as we don't go out there and beat ourselves on a regular basis, we're going to be OK.''

    ********************

    Dodgers confident Koehler will help fill bullpen void
    February 15, 2018


    GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) The Los Angeles Dodgers are confident the free-agent acquisition of Tom Koehler will help fill a bullpen void left by Brandon Morrow's jump to the Chicago Cubs.

    For Koehler, it's a move that represents a transition that began last season, first in Miami and then in Toronto. That's when the starter began to re-invent himself as a reliever. More important, perhaps, that's also when the right-hander showed that maybe he had the ability to complete the move. Call it a career change-up.

    Koehler, a starter with mixed results from 2014 through 2016 with the Marlins, is as confident as the Dodgers are about his chances at succeeding in the bullpen. For him and the club, it's about fit and philosophy.

    The Dodgers was known last year for its versatility late in the season and throughout the National League playoffs before a melting down against Houston in the seven-game World Series.

    ''They have a blueprint,'' said Koehler, who signed a one-year contract with the Dodgers on Dec. 20. ''They've been successful with it. Coming here was an easy sell. You have to come around and realize that maybe the starting days are behind you. You have to accept that. Above all, I just want to win.''

    In Koehler, the Dodgers see the potential to do what Kenta Maeda did within one season last year. Maeda almost made the transition from starter to reliever look easy. As spring training begins at Camelback Ranch and Yu Darvish with Morrow on the Cubs roster, Maeda is again pegged to start.

    ''For us, Koehler is a guy who has long been on our radar as a reliever conversion candidate,'' said Dodgers President-of-Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman, who also moved to shore up the bullpen by acquiring left-hander Scott Alexander from Kansas City in a three-team trade on Jane. 4. ''He's got a really good curve ball.

    ''If you look at his stuff and make some small tweaks here and there, and he's going in shorter bursts, there is real upside.''

    The promise began to mount after the Marlins traded Koehler to the Blue Jay on August 17. Koehler, a 96-game start with a 3.81 ERA for Miami from 2014 through 2016, was 1-5 with 7.92 ERA when the Marlins shipped him to Toronto in 2017. He made on start for the Blue Jays, allowing one run, and striking out seven over five innings in a 2-0 loss to Tampa Bay on August 24.

    Next stop: The bullpen. Koehler delivered 14 appearances. He finished the Toronto part of his 2017 season with 2.65 ERA, including 18 strikeouts over 17 innings of work. The numbers say he was effective enough to be a solid reliever.

    ''I've watched guys come here, guys who have been successful starters in the major leagues, then make the transition and become successful relievers,'' Koehler said. ''I'm not going to say I'm going to do what those guys did. Time will tell.

    But they have a plan that has worked and they feel that I fit into that very well.''

    Notes: Still no official word Thursday on whether veteran infielder Chase Utley has signed, but cleats, mail an uniform and mail are waiting for him in a clubhouse dressing stall. ''Cleats are in his locker,'' Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. ''I assume we'll see (No.) 26) here soon.'' Outfielder Yasiel Puig has been in camp for a couple of days. Sunday is the reporting date for position players, who are scheduled for their first formal practice at Camelback Ranch on Monday.
    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

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