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

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    Greinke will get help from humidor
    February 15, 2018

    SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) Zack Greinke is beginning his third season with the Arizona Diamondbacks, and this time the right-hander will be throwing home games with baseballs that have been stored in a humidor.

    The idea is to offset the extreme dry air of the desert and make Chase Field a little less homer-friendly than it has been, and that has to be good news for pitchers (if not for hitters). The ever-cautious Greinke took a wait-and-see attitude.

    ''I don't know. I've got to see it,'' he said after throwing a spring training bullpen session on Thursday. ''My thoughts are I wish every park was neutral so everyone dealt with the same circumstances then you wouldn't have to deal with any of that stuff.''

    Chase will join Denver's Coors Field as parks that use humidor-stored baseballs.

    On the surface, it wouldn't appear Greinke would need much extra help at home. He was 13-1 at home last season with a 2.87 ERA, although he did surrender 15 home runs in 18 games. By contrast, he was 4-6 on the road with a 3.65 ERA, allowing 10 homers in 14 games.

    But he has noticed the difference, especially for a pitcher who depends on command, not power, to succeed.

    ''l know my ball moves more in most places than it does in Arizona,'' he said, ''like my two-seamer and some of my change-up.''

    Greinke has been throwing on his own. He said this was his fifth bullpen session. The idea is to get off to a faster start this spring than he did a year ago.

    ''It ended up being a good year but I was playing catch-up a little bit too much,'' he said, ''and if things didn't work out super-smooth the end of spring training I might have been a little more behind, where this year I'm trying to start early so I don't have to be lucky to get ready in time.''

    Greinke struggled in his two playoff starts last season.

    Against Colorado in the Wild Card Game, he gave up four runs on six hits in 3 2-3 innings. In the NLDS against the Los Angeles Dodgers, he went five innings, allowing three runs on four hits and walking five.

    But for the season, Greinke was a solid 17-7 with a 3.21 ERA and 215 strikeouts with 45 walks.

    ''I know the entire body of work last year for Zack was very successful,'' manager Torey Lovullo said. ''He was our No. 1, a true ace. He was a stopper every fifth day. He went out there and gave us a chance to win games. People want to focus on the two postseason games. That's just the nature of the beast. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. He'll probably tell you it wasn't his best days but I don't think it had anything to do with wearing down.''

    The 34-year-old pitcher, entering his 15th major league season, is in the third year of the six-year, $206.5 million contract he signed with Arizona, a deal that uses up a big chunk of the team's payroll.

    Greinke was the opening-day starter the past two seasons but perhaps not this year, with the emergence of left-hander Robbie Ray.

    ''Nothing is written in stone right now,'' Lovullo said. ''We're going to see how this spring plays out. I know that you guys want that answer as soon as possible. I know that Clayton Kershaw is the starter for the Dodgers on opening day. I don't' want to go that far yet. I want to wait it out and see how these guys perform.''
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    Angels sign sluggers Carter, Young
    February 18, 2018


    TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) The Los Angeles Angels have signed veteran slugger Chris Carter and longtime outfielder Chris Young.

    Carter got a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training on Sunday, while Young agreed to a one-year contract.

    Carter played for the New York Yankees last season, batting .201 with eight homers. The first baseman is only one season removed from leading the NL with 41 homers for Milwaukee in 2016.

    The 31-year-old Carter has 158 career homers, including three straight seasons with at least 24 homers for Houston.

    Young spent last season with Boston, batting .235 with 25 RBIs in 90 games. He also has played for Arizona, Oakland and the Mets and Yankees.

    The Angels traded first baseman C.J. Cron to Tampa Bay on Saturday.
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    Sano reports to Twins with many questions
    February 18, 2018


    FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) With his hulking 6-foot-4 body that's built for football and a slugger's mentality at the plate that can swiftly produce majestic drives soaring high over the wall, the presence of Miguel Sano looms larger than anyone else around the Minnesota Twins.

    This spring, so do the questions.

    Sano arrived at the team's training facility in Fort Myers, Florida, on Sunday in advance of the first full-squad workout on Monday, addressing reporters for the first time in 2018. Since his last public comments, Sano had surgery on the lower part of his left leg to address the injury that forced him out of the lineup for the last six weeks of the regular season and kept him off the AL wild card game roster.

    Then he became the subject of a Major League Baseball investigation into a freelance photographer's accusation that he grabbed and tried to kiss her after she covered an autograph signing he participated in more than two years earlier. Sano issued a statement through his agent on Dec. 28, the day Betsy Bissen posted her story on Twitter, to deny the alleged assault took place.

    Thus, despite career highs posted by Sano in 2017 with 75 runs, 28 homers and 77 RBIs in just 114 games, there's some uncertainty for the Twins about exactly what they have in Sano for the season ahead.

    ''He's a guy that likes the environment of the clubhouse and his teammates,'' Twins manager Paul Molitor said. ''He's been through a lot with the surgery and things that he's had to at least have on his mind. I think getting out there and being able to use the thing he does best as an outlet will be a little healthy. He seems really happy to be here.''

    Sano, who said he has yet to speak with MLB about the situation, could be disciplined in the form of a fine or a suspension. There's no timetable or precedent, though, so any speculation about what will happen on that front would be, well, speculation.

    ''I haven't heard anything. It's still going, the investigation right now, and I have no comment on it,'' Sano said through an interpreter.

    As for his leg, which had a rod inserted in it on Nov. 13 to help quiet the stress reaction in his shin that arose after fouling a ball off the bone on Aug. 18, Sano said he's been hitting, fielding and running without any problems this winter.

    ''Better. Really better. I worked really hard,'' Sano said in English. He added: ''Now I'm here and excited to do my job.''

    Molitor said he's ''not going to be overly urgent'' to get Sano in an exhibition game.

    ''He got behind on the conditioning this winter with the surgery, so we want to make sure we minimize his risk when we stick him out there,'' Molitor said. ''He's good with that.''

    Sano's considerable power at the plate comes in part from his considerable frame, which has frequently carried more weight on it than the Twins have preferred and didn't help his cause for healing quickly last summer. He's listed at 262 pounds but has played at weights much higher than that. General manager Thad Levine creatively referred to Sano recently has having ''generous carriage.'' Molitor also acknowledged the Twins had trouble ''getting our minds around'' how to get Sano well last year.

    ''But even when I was down here for the meetings six weeks ago, he said he was feeling really good,'' Molitor said. ''I'm encouraged by that part.''

    Chief baseball officer Derek Falvey, speaking to reporters on Sunday, made clear that the organization is serious about trying to motivate Sano to stay in ideal shape. He's eligible for salary arbitration for the first time next year, but a long-term contract likely won't materialize anytime soon with his off-the-field habits in the spotlight this spring.

    ''It wasn't an ideal offseason for him clearly from a workload or conditioning standpoint, but we're using the next few weeks to get him up to speed,'' Falvey said. ''We've got to make sure to put him in a place where he can be successful, and that requires some conditioning focus.''

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

    Giants giving OF Blanco another shot
    February 18, 2018


    SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) Something about being back with the San Francisco Giants has Gregor Blanco feeling rejuvenated.

    The veteran outfielder won two World Series rings with them and will forever be remembered by Giants fans for his diving catch that preserved former pitcher Matt Cain's perfect game in 2012.

    At 34, Blanco hopes he can still run down a ball in the outfield that same way.

    ''This is home for me. I worked really hard in the winter to show my abilities again. I worked the whole winter on my speed,'' Blanco said. ''I feel like I'm a kid again.''

    What's getting older is new again for the Giants, who have brought back World Series veterans Blanco, catcher Hector Sanchez, and - after a stint for part of last season - infielder Pablo Sandoval, who is at spring training with San Francisco for the first time in four years.

    All three players will have to compete for a major league bench spot in camp. The Giants added a third baseman in major offseason acquisition Evan Longoria, two catchers in Buster Posey and Nick Hundley ahead of Sanchez and a glut of outfielders for a backup role, including Gorkys Hernandez, Mac Williamson, Jarrett Parker and Austin Slater.

    Blanco hit .246 and stole 15 bases in 90 games for Arizona last season. He has value with his ability to play all three outfield positions, serve as pinch-runner and bat left-handed.

    ''That's why we signed him. When we bring guys in, we like to think that they're going to get an opportunity to make the club, and if not, that they give us depth at Triple-A,'' Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. ''Obviously sometimes you don't have room for somebody ... a guy like Gregor who we know very well and has really played a huge role in our past success, it's good to have him back. He's an upbeat guy, he gives us versatility, center field, right, left, wherever.''

    Blanco is with the Giants on a minor league deal, but he's been in that situation before and made a big impact in the majors.

    ''It wasn't that long ago when he was in a similar role back in 2012, trying to make the club and he made the club,'' Bochy said. ''Ended up getting a lot of playing time, ended up playing in a World Series for us.''

    Blanco is happy to be reunited with Sanchez, Sandoval and teammates from the past, having won championships in 2012 and 2014.

    ''When I got here I was really excited to see the guys,'' he said. ''This is like a family.''

    Sanchez had been away from the Giants for two years while with the White Sox and Padres, and said he's grateful to the organization for another chance. He considers Blanco and Sandoval to be like brothers to him.

    ''It's really special to back with those type of players, for real,'' Sanchez said in Spanish. ''What we accomplished before in this uniform, we know what we have done and it's so great to be back.''

    ''I think (the Giants) know the quality of players and people we are,'' Sanchez added. ''They know we will bring 100 percent to the field, that we will give everything possible to win. When you have buddies who have gone through a World Series year with you, they're like brothers, like family.''

    Blanco was asked about his memorable catch from Cain's big night. He said it continues to serve as an inspiration for him to continue his career.

    ''That reminds me to always play hard,'' he said. ''I watch that video whenever I'm down.''

    NOTES: RHP Julian Fernandez cut the index finger on his throwing hand on his locker on Sunday, causing him to miss a schedule bullpen session and possibly a couple of days. ... The Giants' position players (non-pitchers and catchers) had physicals on Sunday, with the first full-team workout set for Monday. Among those reporting was new 3B Evan Longoria, who arrived in a trade with Tampa Bay. ''It's kind of been the longest month and a half of my offseason career, just waiting to put on a new uniform and kind of get the offseason jitters out of the way,'' he said.

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

    Dodgers back to work, months after fail
    February 18, 2018


    GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) The Los Angeles Dodgers entered spring training with five consecutive NL West titles and a major league-high 473 victories in that span.

    It is not enough for a team that was so close to winning it all in 2017.

    ''You can sense the hunger in this clubhouse,'' said Enrique Hernandez, noting that the majority of the Dodgers' position players arrived days ahead of the required reporting date.

    The first full-squad workout was set for Monday.

    ''We have five straight division titles and pretty much nothing to show for it besides the National League championship. This core of position players has been together for a few years now,'' he said Sunday.

    ''I think it is a cumulative thing that has been growing for years. Getting so close to it last year and seeing the other team celebrate at our home stadium, maybe that's the last bit of fuel that we needed to make that fire burn. We're ready,'' he said.

    The Dodgers added old friend Matt Kemp to basically the same position player group that took them to a major league-most 104 victories and Game 7 of a captivating World Series against Houston last year.

    Trading deadline addition Yu Darvish signed with the Cubs, but the bulk of the rotation also returned.

    The Dodgers had an NL-best 3.38 ERA in 2017 before falling one game short of their first World Series title since the Orel Hershiser/Kirk Gibson 1988 team.

    Gibson has been invited to throw out the first pitch in the season opener this year, perhaps symbolic of the team's expectations.

    ''Last year happened,'' Hernandez said. ''There is nothing we can do about it. What we can do is try to take care of business this year and not fall one game short.''

    ''We feel like we have the team. We feel we are the team to beat in the National League. Last year we felt like we were the team to beat in all of baseball, and we were until the end. This is the same team. A little more hunger,'' he said.

    Hernandez typified manager Dave Roberts' commitment to versatility and team approach last year, when he played every position but catcher and started at six. Only two Dodgers played more than his 140 games.

    Roberts said he likes what he has seen in the first few days of camp.

    ''Outside of the kind of normal pleasantries of seeing guys you haven't seen, it's sort of business of usual, and I like that mindset. It's very workmanlike and methodical, and that's what we like our ballclub to be,'' he said.

    The Dodgers swept Arizona in the NL Division Series and beat the defending world champion Chicago Cubs in five games in the NLCS before falling to the big-hitting Astros in the Series.

    ''You can look at it and say it was a down note, or you can look at it and say look what we gained in experience. I think that's the way you have to take it,'' said left-hander Rich Hill, who tied a career high with 12 victories and figures to slot into the No. 2 spot in the rotation behind perennial Cy Young candidate Clayton Kershaw.

    ''You can't sit there and say, Poor us, we lost in the World Series.' No, it's like we gained so much more in experience playing than the 28 teams that did not get the opportunity.''

    ''So moving forward into this spring training, that's where everybody's mindset is. What do we have to do today? What do we have to do tomorrow? That's where the process ensues. The process is just one little drop in the bucket every single day, understanding that it is about today,'' he said.
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    Red Sox re-sign INF Nunez for insurance
    February 18, 2018

    FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) The Boston Red Sox have re-signed infielder Eduardo Nunez to a one-year contract with a player option for 2019, giving them another proven second baseman to fill in while Dustin Pedroia recovers from knee surgery .

    Nunez's deal was done on Sunday, the day before the Red Sox hold their first full-squad workout of spring training. He gets a guaranteed $6 million, according to multiple reports, including $4 million this season and a $2 million buyout. Nunez can reportedly exercise a $4 million option for 2019.

    The 30-year-old batted a career-high .313 with 33 doubles and 12 home runs over 114 games last season between San Francisco and Boston. After being acquired by the Red Sox in a trade on July 25, Nunez made 25 of 38 starts at second base. He also hit eight homers in only 38 games for Boston.

    ''The time I was here last year was amazing,'' Nunez told reporters at the team's facility in Fort Myers, Florida. ''There was a lot of energy, and I love to win. I think that's the best thing, my first choice by far.''

    Nunez was limited by a knee injury himself down the stretch last season, appearing in only two games after Sept. 9. One of those was in the AL Division Series.

    A native of the Dominican Republic who was signed by the New York Yankees in 2004, Nunez was traded to the Minnesota Twins in 2014. There he found more playing time at his natural shortstop position and made his first All-Star team in 2016. Then he was traded to the Giants a few weeks later. Nunez has played almost as much third base as he has shortstop over his eight-year major league career. In addition to second base, he has also played left field, right field and designated hitter.

    To make room for Nunez on the 40-man roster, the Red Sox designated right-handed pitcher Ben Taylor for assignment. Taylor was on the opening day roster last season and posted a 5.19 ERA in 17 1/3 relief innings.

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

    Mets GM feels Tebow will play in majors
    February 18, 2018


    PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (AP) Tim Tebow arrived at the New York Mets spring training camp on Sunday, and the attention immediately turned to whether the quarterback who became an outfielder could make it all the way to Citi Field in the future.

    Guess what? Mets general manager Sandy Alderson votes yes.

    ''Somebody asked me if thought he'd be a major league player at some point. I think he will play in the major leagues. That's my guess,'' Alderson said.

    ''This experiment is not going to last forever, but he's made meaningful progress. We thought he would best benefit from being in major league camp - that that would accelerate his development,'' Alderson said.

    The 30-year-old Tebow has already had success on another field. A former Heisman Trophy winner and two-time national champion at Florida, he reached the NFL and threw an overtime TD pass for Denver to beat Pittsburgh in the playoffs.

    ''As an athlete, you always want to be the best you can and play at the highest level, win a championship, be the best. We don't compete to have fun, we compete to win. So you want to compete at the highest level,'' Tebow said,

    ''I view success as being able to play a game I love every day,'' he said. ''If the best that I can be is in the bigs, that would be awesome. I believe in myself and want to strive for that.''

    As for the possibility of never reaching the majors, Tebow said, ''If that doesn't happen, I won't look back and regret playing baseball because I've already enjoyed it and put so much work into it and been fun. There's a difference between what you hope for and what you view as success.''

    Tebow earned a midseason promotion from Low-A Columbia to High-A St. Lucie in late June despite hitting just .220 in 64 games in the South Atlantic League.

    With St. Lucie, he started out strong. He was hitting .303 in his first 30 games with the St. Lucie Mets before slumping and ending his Florida State League campaign with a .231 average, five homers and 29 RBIs in 62 games.

    Tebow said he learned from his first full year in baseball.

    ''For me, it was going into the offseason and knowing what I had to work on. It was my first time playing a baseball season in 12 years since my junior year of high school,'' said Tebow, who is 12 pounds lighter than last spring.

    ''It's hard to fully make changes in a season when you're competing one night, you work on it the next day and you compete the next night. It's hard for those changes to really lock in,'' he said.

    Tebow has worked to improve his swing, looking for more lift and becoming freer with his hands and more athletic. He spent a lot of time in the outfield to improve his overall defense, and focused on his baserunning.

    He has contractual college football obligations with ESPN and the SEC Network when September's roster expansion occurs, but said baseball is the top priority.

    ''ESPN has been an awesome partner and knows how much I love what I'm doing. They also know how much I like talking college football. They've supported me 100 percent in baseball, and I think they're going to do that,'' Tebow said.

    ''I'm very grateful for that. This is my focus,'' he said.

    New Mets manager Mickey Callaway said Tebow will have every opportunity to succeed.

    ''He's going to play. We want to see what he can do. The person he is, the worker he is, those are the kind of people you want around. We're going to evaluate Tim Tebow just as we would anybody else,'' the Callaway said.

    ''Tim Tebow's here because he can potentially help us at the major league level. He wouldn't be here otherwise,'' he said.

    NOTES: The club formally introduced newly acquired free agent pitcher Jason Vargas, who signed a contract on Sunday. The left-hander made two starts for the Mets in 2007 after being traded from the Marlins. Alderson said the club eyed Vargas, an All-Star with Kansas City last season who also tied for the major league lead with 18 wins, from the start. Alderson said the Mets liked his durability (180 innings in 32 starts).

    Vargas played four seasons under the tutelage of new Mets pitching coach Dave Eiland, who held the same position with the Royals.

    ''I don't think there's other pitching staffs out there that can say they have pitchers with better stuff (than the Mets), but the name of the game is health,'' said Vargas, who signed a two-year, $16 million deal plus an $8 million option for a third year.
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    Hosmer's deal leaves Padres with overstuffed outfield
    February 19, 2018


    PEORIA, Ariz. (AP) Now that San Diego's first base position is in Eric Hosmer's $144 million hands, it seems as if there are 144 million candidates for the one remaining starting spot in the Padres' outfield.

    Wil Myers will move to one of the corner spots after playing first base the previous two seasons, manager Andy Green said, and Manuel Margot remains a fixture in center field after a notable rookie season in 2017.

    That leaves the other seven holdovers who made at least 20 starts in the Padres' outfield last year - including power bat and 2013 first-round draft pick Hunter Renfroe - in the mix for final starting position and the reserve roles.

    ''He's right in the thick of that competition,'' manager Andy Green said of Renfroe, adding, ''we didn't have to have a (roster) move to cause that to happen.''

    Green mentioned Alex Dickerson, Franchy Cordero, Travis Jankowski, Matt Szczur and Jose Pirela as others in the outfield competition, noting that Pirela also could spend time in the infield.

    Renfroe slashed .231/.284/.457 with 26 homers last season but was optioned to Triple-A El Paso in mid-August to work on his ability to get on base. He drew 17 walks in his first 54 games but had only four walks in 130 plate appearances between June 29 and his demotion.

    Renfroe, who made all 117 of his outfield starts in right, again showed power when he returned. He had six homers, including a three-homer game against Arizona on Sept. 20, but walked only once in 44 plate appearances.

    ''There were definitely some positive signs, things we were encouraged by,'' Green said of what he saw when Renfroe came back.

    ''Just like every young player, there is stuff to learn and continue to grow,'' he said.

    New hitting coach Matt Stairs, assistant hitting coach Johnny Washington and new first base coach Skip Schumaker should help in the development, Green said.

    ''They are going to serve him very well,'' Green said. ''Skip Schumaker, the one thing I will tell you about him, he will be all over everybody to do it the way that is right. He was raised in that environment, coming up with Tony La Russa teams.''

    Myers, who played center field with the Padres in 2015, has begun taking flyballs and has said he is all-in about moving back to the outfield. He is under contract through 2022 after signing a six-year, $83 million deal last year.

    ''We see him as a guy who can play the corners ably at both positions,'' Green said.

    ''I'd say probably the majority of reps between those positions would be leaning toward right. We'll give him exposure to both and kind of watch and see. Listen to him, too. How he is seeing the ball in both places. Naturally he is probably a little bit more comfortable in right, but we are going to have to see about the roster composition, too,'' he said.

    Margot, a prized piece of the deal that sent Craig Kimbrel to Boston in November 2015, slashed .267/.323/.426 with 13 homers and 13 stolen bases primarily from the leadoff spot last year.

    ''My expectation is that he competes to win a Gold Glove in center field ... and anchors the outfield and continues to go about his work with a 100-runs-scored mentality,'' Green said.

    Dickerson missed all of last season, undergoing back surgery in June after rehab was ineffective. He had 10 homers in 84 games as a rookie in 2016.

    Cordero was the most valuable player and rookie of the year in the Dominican winter league after hitting .323 with 25 RBIs in 50 games with Escogido.

    Jankowski missed much of last season with a fractured foot after stealing 30 bases in 131 games in 2016.

    Szczur played on the Cubs' 2016 World Series team. Pirela hit .288 with 25 doubles in 83 games after a midseason promotion last year.

    NOTES: Hosmer and the Padres completed their $144 million, eight-year contract Monday night. The team announced the signing after Hosmer passed his physical. The first baseman, who spent his first seven major league seasons with Kansas City before becoming a free agent this winter, can opt out of the deal after five years. The contract is the largest in club history. A four-time Gold Glove winner and 2016 All-Star, Hosmer will be introduced during a news conference Tuesday morning at Padres camp.

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

    Phelps hoping for healthy season in Mariners' bullpen
    February 19, 2018

    PEORIA, Ariz. (AP) When Seattle traded for reliever David Phelps last July, Mariners manager Scott Servais believed his team was adding a player that could help the team reach the postseason.

    ''When we acquired him, first of all, I thought it was perfect, this was the piece,'' Servais said Monday.

    Seattle was contending for an AL wild-card spot and the talented righty added depth and experience to an overworked bullpen. Phelps helped Seattle go 6-1 in the first seven games he pitched in.

    That's when his season, as well as the Mariners' year, went sideways. An elbow injury sidelined him for a couple weeks in August. He returned later that month, but threw fewer than two innings before bone spurs in the same elbow ended his season. He had surgery to remove them in September.

    ''I think he was a key loss to us,'' Servais said, ''if you look at last year's season when he went down.''

    A check of the standings backs up Servais' claim. Seattle was 1 1/2 games back from a wild-card berth when Phelps first got hurt, four games back when he was lost for the season and the Mariners finished 7 1/2 games behind Minnesota for the final playoff spot. Losing Phelps meant the team had to rely more on an injury-decimated starting rotation and an exhausted bullpen.

    ''When he went down it really cut it short,'' Servais said. ''We were already a little bit short on how far we were able to stretch our starter. We were in tough spots in a number of games in that sixth inning, early seventh inning.''

    Despite being injured, Phelps, who posted a 3.12 ERA and struck out 11 in 8 2/3 innings with Seattle last year, stayed with the team through the final home stand of 2017.

    ''I only pitched in a handful of games (with Seattle), but I was able to be around the rest of the season,'' Phelps said. ''I stuck around until the last home stand just so I could get to know the guys and some of the younger pitchers, pick their brains on everything and teach them what I could. Biggest thing for me was knowing I was here, getting comfortable with the guys and building relationships.''

    Seattle traded for Phelps to bolster its bullpen and entering the 2018 season he's slotted to set up for closer Edwin Diaz. But he has started 64 games in six seasons. Phelps laughed when asked if he ever thinks about going back to starting.

    ''I think about pitching,'' he said. ''I stopped worrying about that a couple years ago. I'm just trying to be the best version of myself and everything else will take care of itself.''

    NOTES: Position players reported to camp on Monday and received physicals. Seattle's first full-squad workout will be Tuesday. . On Sunday, Servais said pitcher Erasmo Ramirez has been shut down for two weeks because of minor lat strain.

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

    Brewers star Braun ready for grounders at first base
    February 19, 2018


    PHOENIX (AP) Ryan Braun has never been a fan of spring training, but he'll have plenty of work to keep him busy this year.

    The Milwaukee left fielder reported to camp Monday to prepare for his 12th big league season. And for the first time since his rookie campaign in 2007, he'll be taking groundballs as the Brewers try to get him work at first base.

    Moving Braun became an option when Milwaukee acquired outfielders Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich in January. Their additions created a logjam in an already-crowded outfield, so to help ease the situation, general manager David Stearns and manager Craig Counsell approached Braun about potentially playing first base.

    With the Brewers trying to build off their surprising 2017 season that finished a victory short of the postseason, Braun embraced the opportunity.

    ''I don't know exactly what the plan is yet as far as how often I'll be at what position, but it's definitely something I'm looking forward to,'' Braun said. ''If I can be more versatile, it's something that should be help our team in a lot of different ways.''

    Braun hasn't played the infield since 2007, his first season in the majors. He was the NL Rookie of the Year after batting a team-best .324 with a league-leading .619 slugging percentage, but he committed 26 errors at third base and moved to left field the next season.

    Save for a two-year stint in right field, Braun has been in left ever since.

    ''I don't expect it to be easy by any means,'' he said. ''I expect it to be challenging.''

    Calf and wrist injuries limited Braun to 105 games last season and his numbers dipped, too. He batted .268 with 17 home runs and 52 RBIs, down significantly from the .305/30/91 he produced a year earlier.

    Braun didn't have to do much rehabbing work during the offseason and reported to camp with no health issues and with the Brewers poised to challenge for a postseason berth, he's ready for a new challenge.

    ''More than anything, it's rejuvenating that we're expecting to win now and we're expecting to contend,'' Braun said. ''The challenge of playing a new position . it's a challenge I'm looking forward to.''

    During his offseason workouts at Pepperdine University, Braun said he would take groundballs with Rangers third baseman Trevor Plouffe and free agent third baseman Mike Moustakas.

    ''It didn't feel as foreign to me as I expected it to,'' Braun said, adding that he plans to borrow a teammate's glove until his own are broken in and that he'll seek out others for advice on playing the new position.

    ''I'll talk to guys who have played other positions and obviously the coaches about what it takes and giving me a crash course,'' he said.

    Determining how Braun would balance time between the outfield and first base is still a work in progress. So is the plan for him during spring training. Braun has traditionally waited until late in exhibition play to take the field but could see more action this season to ease the transition.

    Even if Braun takes to the new position, the Brewers will still have plenty of questions left to answer not only in terms of their outfield rotation - which also includes Keon Broxton and Brett Phillips - but at first base, too.

    Eric Thames will return as the regular starter after a streaky, but successful return to the majors. Counsell used Thames and Jesus Aguilar in a left-right platoon last season with positive results and could do the same with Thames, a left-handed hitter, and Braun.

    That would seemingly leave no room for Aguilar, who batted .249 with 16 home runs and 52 RBIs in 133 games last season but is out of minor league options.

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

    AP source: Dyson, D-backs reach 2-year, $7.5 million deal
    February 19, 2018


    SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) Speedy outfielder Jarrod Dyson and the Arizona Diamondbacks agreed to a $7.5 million, two-year contract Monday.

    Arizona announced the move shortly after the Boston Red Sox reached agreement on a $110 million, five-year deal with former Diamondbacks slugger J.D. Martinez. The right-handed-hitting outfielder had a big half-season with Arizona last year after being acquired from Detroit in a trade, and the Diamondbacks were hopeful they could work out some sort of agreement to bring him back. But in the end, he was out of Arizona's price range.

    Unlike Martinez, Dyson is no slugger. The left-handed hitter batted .251 and stole 28 bases for the Seattle Mariners last season. He had five home runs and 30 RBIs in 111 games.

    Dyson played all seven of his previous major league seasons with the Kansas City Royals.

    Diamondbacks general manager Mike Hazen has said all spring that the team's top priority was to add outfield depth, so Dyson might have been signed regardless of what happened with Martinez, who had 29 home runs and 65 RBIs in 62 games with Arizona last season.

    The Diamondbacks are set at two outfield positions, with A.J. Pollock in center and David Peralta in right or left. Martinez's spot is open. Arizona manager Torey Lovullo said Yasmany Tomas, returning from an injury-plagued season, will have to earn a job.

    The 33-year-old Dyson gives the club an option in center if Pollock becomes a free agent after this season.

    Last year, Dyson's season ended prematurely when he underwent surgery in September to repair a sports hernia.

    Dyson adds more speed to an already fast Arizona roster. Since 2012, he has been successful on 84 percent of his stolen base attempts, second in the majors to Drew Stubbs' mark of 85.3 percent. During that span, he is fifth in stolen bases with 184, behind Dee Gordon (254), Billy Hamilton (243), Jose Altuve (224) and Rajai Davis (217).

    Dyson joins Altuve and Elvis Andrus as the only players with at least 20 stolen bases in each of the last six seasons.

    To make room for Dyson on the 40-man roster, the Diamondbacks placed pitcher Shelby Miller on the 60-day disabled list. Miller is recovering from Tommy John surgery.

    The Diamondbacks said Dyson will wear No. 1. He is to be introduced to the media on Tuesday.
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    Dodgers glad to be back at work, away from World Series talk
    February 19, 2018


    GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) Justin Turner heard about it for weeks. He couldn't get away from talk about the Dodgers' seven-game loss to the Houston Astros in the 2017 World Series.

    Waiters asked Turner about it when he tried to order a meal. The Los Angeles third baseman even heard about it at a wedding. Of course, the wedding also happened to be in Houston about a week after a 5-1 loss in Game 7.

    Nevertheless, Turner began to think there was just no escape from the noise. Or the disappointment.

    Turner remembered that he just wanted the season to continue as he watched the Astros pour onto the field at Dodger Stadium to celebrate their dramatic victory on Nov. 1.

    ''I didn't want to stop playing,'' Turner said. ''It's so disappointing. That never really goes away.''

    But the game always resumes. For Turner and his teammates, there was relief in that as they began to play again Monday in their first full-squad practice at Camelback Ranch.

    ''Everybody has been talking about the World Series and that's OK,'' Turner said.

    Turner batted .322, third best in the National League last season, and went on to share co-MVP with teammate Chris Taylor in the NL Championship Series victory over the Chicago Cubs. Yet Turner struggled in the World Series with only four hits in 25 at-bats.

    ''There's not a lot left to talk about. We all dealt with it in our own way. It's just really good to get back to work,'' he said.

    Still, manager Dave Roberts couldn't ignore it in his address to the Dodgers before they went to work on a windy day in the Arizona desert.

    ''I told them to be aware of what happened and to be resilient,'' Roberts said. ''I also told them to be focused on each day and to work at putting ourselves in the same position this season that we were in last season.''

    ''It's pretty clear that the mood is good among the guys - 26 guys from last year's club and 26 guys who weren't here last year.''

    Roberts expressed confidence the Dodgers could get back to the World Series and perhaps win one more game for the championship that eluded them last fall. The key pieces - pitcher Clayton Kershaw, closer Kenley Jansen, shortstop Corey Seager, infielder and 2017 NL Rookie of the Year Cody Bellinger, outfielder Yasiel Puig and Turner - are back.

    ''We've got young guys who are only going to get better and veteran guys who are really performing at a high level,'' said Roberts, whose club plays its first spring game Friday against the Chicago White Sox. ''So, we've just got to continue to stay the course.''

    As always, however, there are questions. Seager, 23, arrived in camp after an offseason of rehabilitation for back and elbow injuries. He sprained his back sliding into second base against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NL Division Series.

    An injury to his right elbow sidelined him for a week late last season. The Dodgers decided against surgery. Instead, Seager was prescribed rehab and rest.

    ''I feel good,'' said Seager, who is confident he'll be ready for opening day on March 29 against the San Francisco Giants at Dodger Stadium. ''I did all the rehab, all that stuff. I began a throwing program in January, so I will be a little delayed with just the throwing. But the back feels good.''

    ''I've still got to throw to bases, get to a certain distance. I've only thrown 100 feet. Then we'll mix in the games. I've tried to strengthen everything around it. Everything is all right,'' he said.

    NOTES: LHP Alex Wood worked through a scheduled bullpen Monday. A sprained right ankle, sustained Thursday, had limited him. X-rays were negative. . Pitching prospect Walker Buehler, a 23-year-old right-hander, threw his first bullpen this spring Monday. Buehler, the No. 24 pick in the 2015 draft, had been feeling discomfort in his back. He's considered a potential starter. After working 88 2/3 innings in the minors last season, he joined the Dodgers on Sept 7. He appeared in eight games, allowing eight runs in 9 1/3 innings with 12 strikeouts and eight walks. . Dodgers great Maury Wills arrived in camp Monday. Wills, 85, is the club's bunting coach.

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

    AP source: Nats, Benoit agree in principle for $1M, 1 year
    February 19, 2018


    Joaquin Benoit and the Washington Nationals have agreed in principle to a major league contract that will pay the 40-year-old reliever $1 million for the 2018 season, according to a person with knowledge of the deal.

    The person told The Associated Press about the free-agent agreement, which is pending the successful completion of a physical exam, on condition of anonymity on Monday because it was not yet official.

    Benoit is a right-hander who first got to the big leagues in 2001, when he pitched in one game as a starter. He has gone on to make a total of 764 career appearances, with 709 out of the bullpen, mostly in middle relief.

    In all, Benoit is 58-49 with a 3.83 ERA, 53 saves and 1,058 strikeouts in 1,068 2-3 innings. He has spent time with eight teams in the majors, including eight years with the Texas Rangers, three with the Detroit Tigers and, most recently, a brief stint at the end of last season with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

    He began the year with the Philadelphia Phillies and went a combined 1-6 with a 4.65 ERA across 50 1/3 innings in 52 appearances with the two clubs in 2017.

    Benoit adds some playoff experience to the bullpen for the Nationals, who have won four of the past six NL East titles but then lost in the NL Division Series each time. He has pitched in 20 postseason games with the Tampa Bay Rays and Detroit Tigers, going 1-0 with a 2.82 ERA and 27 strikeouts in 22 1/3 innings.

    The Nationals' first official spring training workout for pitchers and catchers in West Palm Beach, Florida, was Friday.

    ESPN.com first reported that Benoit and the Nationals had an agreement in place.

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

    Garcia aims to build on All-Star season for White Sox
    February 19, 2018


    GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) Avisail Garcia is trying to pick up where he left off last year. So far, so good.

    The Chicago White Sox All-Star right fielder arrived early in camp to deal with his salary arbitration case, which he won. Since he was at spring training anyway, he stuck around and got some extra work in.

    ''Nothing changes. I've been doing my workouts, my routines. Hopefully I can stay healthy,'' Garcia said Monday on the first official reporting day for the full squad at Camelback Ranch. ''We play (Friday), so I got to be ready.''

    At 26, Garcia is coming off his best season, batting .330 with 18 homers and 80 RBIs. Only MVP Jose Altuve had a higher batting average in the American League.

    And an arbitration panel ruled in his favor last Wednesday. Garcia will get a raise to $6.7 million; the White Sox offered $5.85 million. He made $3 million in 2017.

    ''I'm excited,'' Garcia said of the arbitration victory. ''Nobody likes to go through it, but it's part of the business.''

    Part of the reason for his success last season was attributed to his arriving in camp in better condition. He lost 18 pounds through a combination of early workouts and changing his diet from red meat to more fish.

    Garcia says he has stayed with his routine, and wants to take his game even higher this season.

    ''I just try to improve myself, have better numbers every year,'' he said. ''You got to test yourself.''

    Since arriving from the Detroit Tigers in 2013, Garcia had been projected to be a star, but injuries and slumps kept him from realizing his potential until last season.

    Manager Rick Renteria, in his second year at the White Sox helm following one season as bench coach under Robin Ventura, has noticed how Garcia has improved.

    ''I think everybody was hopeful that at some point in his career that might happen,'' Renteria said of Garcia's breakthrough.

    ''He's come into camp full of confidence and obviously his routines have remained consistent. He has to just go out there and try not to do too much. Let the numbers take care of themselves and trust the work that he puts in, and he'll have an opportunity to continue good output and have a positive result.''

    Garcia, for his part, never lost the faith despite entering last season as a career .258 hitter.

    ''I believed,'' he said. ''I put in a lot of sacrifice. Play hard every single day.''

    As Renteria said, Garcia continued his offseason routine after experiencing his best season. The 6-foot-4 Venezuelan said he weighs 251 right now, down from 258 at this time a year ago.

    ''I lost seven more pounds. I don't get tired so fast. I feel better, sleep better, everything.''

    Garcia, along with first baseman Jose Abreu, had been mentioned in some trade rumors in the offseason as the White Sox continue to seek deals for younger players. So far nothing has come about, and as he did with the arbitration case, Garcia said he didn't let that affect his approach.

    ''I don't worry about that. I just worry about day by day,'' Garcia said.

    ''I just prepare myself for the season because rumors are always going to be there. You never know what's going to happen,'' he said.

    Perhaps even stealing more bases, as Abreu has hinted he might do this season? Abreu had three steals last year while Garcia had five.

    ''Maybe. He can do it, I can do it too. Let's see what we can do,'' Garcia said.

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


    Yo is into yoga: Cespeds tries to improve flexibility
    February 19, 2018


    PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (AP) Yo is into yoga.

    Trying to stay off the disabled list after he was hobbled by leg injuries last season, New York Mets outfielder Yoenis Cespedes took to yoga this winter.

    ''This year I did three things differently,'' Cespedes said through a translator Monday following the team's first full workout. ''I ran. Then I did weightlifting, but not so much heavy weights. And then I did yoga trying to get ready for this.''

    A two-time All-Star, Cespedes signed a $110 million, four-year contract before the 2017 season and bulked up in the weight room. He wound up on the disabled list with a left hamstring strain from April 28 until June 10 and then with a right hamstring strain from Aug. 26 through the end of the season. Cespedes hit .292 with 17 homers and 42 RBIs in 81 games.

    ''With yoga, my muscles are more flexible right now,'' he said. ''I used to work out with heavy weightlifting. I had strength, but I wasn't flexible. Now I'm flexible because of the yoga. ... The yoga has been working for me. When I showed up in the last couple of seasons down here, the lower back of my body was very tight. I haven't felt that yet.''

    The 32-year-old Cespedes is noticeably trimmer.

    ''He's had a great offseason,'' new Mets manager Mickey Callaway said. ''He's done a lot more running than he's done in the past. Everybody identified that he needed that.''

    Cespedes played a career-high 159 games in 2015 with Detroit and the Mets, helping New York reach the World Series for the first time since 2000.

    ''I want to be an MVP. That hasn't changed. Last season I was unlucky because I was hurt,'' he said. ''Injuries are unpreventable, but what I learned is to prepare more to avoid those kinds of things this season.''

    NOTES: Callaway approached Wilmer Flores about possibly playing the outfield some starting this week, and the Venezuelan infielder welcomed the opportunity. ''I learned how to play first base to be in the lineup,'' Flores said. ''If I have to do it in the outfield to get just one more game, I'll do it.'' . LHP P.J. Conlon, among the young pitchers seeking a bullpen spot, impressed when he threw changeups to lefty-hitting Jay Bruce in batting practice. ''It's kind of been my pitch for the last two seasons,'' Conlon said. ''When I started to come out of the `pen last year, I made it a goal of mine to start throwing it against lefties more.''
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    Odorizzi welcomes cost-cutting Rays deal to optimistic Twins
    February 19, 2018


    FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) Jake Odorizzi joined the Minnesota Twins just in time for their first full-squad workout of spring training.

    He had a sense he'd land with them, actually, and it was a good feeling. Leaving behind the Tampa Bay Rays teammates he'd become close friends with wasn't fun, but leaving an organization cutting salary for one coming off a postseason appearance was a welcomed trade.

    ''I'm glad to have that closure now, where I don't have to worry about it each day waking up like, `Is this could be the day I have a new team?''' Odorizzi said.

    That moment came on Saturday night, when the Rays sent the 27-year-old right-hander to the Twins for minor league shortstop Jermaine Palacios.

    ''It's kind of a foregone thing when you're there, to a certain point. Everyone ends up leaving, whether it's time or dollars,'' Odorizzi said on Monday afternoon, after putting on his Twins uniform for the first time. ''I'm out, so I'm happy to go to be here to be on a contending team.''

    The Rays, who let several key contributors from last season become free agents before dealing cornerstone Evan Longoria in December, also designated All-Star Corey Dickerson for assignment on Saturday while acquiring first baseman C.J. Cron in a separate trade.

    The Twins, meanwhile, have added about $21 million to the 2018 payroll with Odorizzi enhancing the rotation and free agents Fernando Rodney, Addison Reed and Zach Duke boosting the bullpen. They're also paying Michael Pineda $2 million while he rehabilitates from Tommy John surgery for the chance to add him to the rotation in 2019, and they've got an agreement in place with reclamation project Anibal Sanchez for another $2.5 million this year pending a passed physical exam.

    ''You don't want a cloud hanging over spring training,'' Odorizzi said. ''Optimism is what you want. Not a dark cloud.''

    Odorizzi, who came to the Rays before the 2013 season from Kansas City with Mike Montgomery and Wil Myers in the seven-player trade that sent James Shields and Wade Davis to the Royals, logged four solid years as a starter for the Rays. He regressed last season, though, while struggling with some back trouble and posting a 4.14 ERA in 28 starts. He at least finished strong, with a 3-1 record and a 1.03 ERA in five September starts.

    Neither he nor the Twins expressed any concern about his health.

    ''This guy has upside,'' chief baseball officer Derek Falvey said. ''I think he's kind of one of those guys who's sneaky, ends up in the top of your rotation, and it might not be the big velocity or otherwise, but the way he pitches and the way he manages contact, guys don't square it up often.''

    Odorizzi was given the cubicle next to Ervin Santana, whose injury made his acquisition all the more important for a Twins team that used 16 different starting pitchers in 2017.

    Santana arrived on Monday, wearing a dark blue cast on his right hand after having surgery to remove a calcium deposit that developed around the knuckle on top of his middle finger. He said it bothered him while trying to throw a slider or a changeup in the AL wild-card game loss in New York when he gave up four runs on two homers in just two innings.

    ''There was a little bit of pain there, but I don't think about it, you know?'' Santana said. ''I'm trying to win. Now I've got it fixed.''

    Santana's contract would vest for 2019 with 200 or more innings in 2018, but he's unlikely to reach that threshold now with a return not expected until mid to late April. The Twins could decide to exercise the option themselves for $14 million or buy him out for $1 million and make him a free agent.

    ''I'm not worried about that. I don't have control,'' the 35-year-old Santana said. ''I just take my time, come back and do my job.''

    In the meantime, he's happy to have Odorizzi in the rotation.

    ''We needed that. So hopefully we're not done yet,'' Santana said.

    The only hiccup for the Twins on their first official day together as a complete team was a kidney stone that sent All-Star second baseman Brian Dozier to the urologist. Manager Paul Molitor gave the customary big-picture address to the players in the morning.

    ''I talk a lot to these guys about the mindset of what it takes to compete, what our identity as a club will look like and how I see it being shaped,'' Molitor said. ''It's kind of a broad message, but you try to set a tone as best you can.''

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

    Chipper on Braves spring competition : 'It's a free-for-all'
    February 19, 2018


    KISSIMMEE, Fla. (AP) Chipper Jones says this spring will be wide open for the Atlanta Braves.

    ''Guys need to know that this team and this organization are tired of the last few years,'' the former Braves star after Monday's first full-squad workout. ''We're a very proud organization. We went through a rough offseason with the changing of the (front office), but ... there's definitely a change in attitude. You see it in the way the coaching staff is putting together spring training.''

    The 45-year-old Jones was elected to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility this winter. His 19-year career, all with Atlanta, ended in 2012 and nearly coincided with the Braves' run of 14 straight division titles. They come into 2018 on a streak of four straight losing seasons, including last year's 72-90 mark.

    In his role as a special assistant, the star third baseman is hoping that competition for positions might spark a revival.

    ''It's a free-for-all,'' Jones said. ''There are a few people who had big league jobs last year who need to come in here and play for their spot.''

    Jones' assessment might apply to almost any player except first baseman Freddie Freeman and Gold Glove center fielder Ender Inciarte. There is also competition for two spots in the rotation after the Braves traded for right-hander Brandon McCarthy.

    ''It's a little bit about change,'' manager Brian Snitker said. ''It's a different camp, a young camp.''

    Snitker's immediate concern is getting ready for exhibition games this weekend after just a handful of workouts.

    ''We probably did more than we normally would (on the first day),'' he said. ''I don't care how good a shape they're in, it still takes a lot to get used to and you're going to get sore. That's just part of the process. We started live (batting practice) already today, which we have to do to prepare for the games. We're kind of amping things up a bit quicker than normal.''

    Much of the spring focus will be on prospects, starting with 20-year-old outfielder Ronald Acuna.

    ''He's as good a prospect as I've seen,'' Jones said. ''You've got your cornerstone guy in Freddie, and it's going to be interesting to see if (Acuna) can continue to develop as the second guy.''

    In camp as a non-roster player, Acuna is a long-shot to make the opening day roster. But after trading Matt Kemp to the Los Angeles Dodgers in a deal that brought in McCarthy, the Braves have only four roster outfielders - Inciarte, Nick Markakis, Lane Adams and Preston Tucker.

    ''The first day of spring training is like the first day of school,'' Jones said. ''You get to see all the guys again and the guys out here have something to prove. But there's really only a couple spots where you can say the team is cemented. Everywhere else is a free-for-all and I think that makes for a competitive camp. We'll see how the young guys respond to it.''

    NOTES: Veteran relief Peter Moylan was set to rejoin the Braves, according to reports. The 38-year-old right-hander, who pitched 79 times for Kansas City, will join Atlanta for a third time pending a physical. Moylan pitched for the Braves from 2006 through 2012 and again in 2015.

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

    JD Martinez, Red Sox agree to deal
    February 19, 2018

    J.D. Martinez and the Boston Red Sox have, at long last, come to an agreement.

    The slow dance between the free agent slugger and the power-deficient team wrapped up Monday when they settled on a $110 million, five-year contract.

    A person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press about the deal, speaking on condition of anonymity because it was subject to a successful physical and had not been announced. Martinez has the right to opt out of the contract early and become a free agent again.

    Speculation Martinez and the AL East champions would eventually wind up together had been swirling ever since he became a free agent last November.

    Boston was seeking to add power to a lineup that hit an AL-low 168 home runs. The 30-year-old Martinez has changed his swing to improve his launch angle and become one of the top home-run threats in the majors.

    The move helps the Red Sox counter the huge deal their biggest rivals pulled off in December. The New York Yankees, who finished two games behind Boston in the division last year, acquired NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton - who led the majors with 59 home runs - in a trade with Miami.

    Martinez hit .303 with 45 homers and 104 RBIs last year for Detroit and Arizona, which acquired him on July 18 for three prospects. He had 29 homers and 65 RBIs in 62 games with the Diamondbacks, and hit a record-tying four home runs in a game.

    Martinez started a combined 112 games in right field last year. He figures to become the primary designated hitter for the AL East champion Red Sox, which would turn Hanley Ramirez into a platoon player at first with Mitch Moreland.

    The righty-swinging Martinez, who began his big league career with Houston in 2011, has played only seven career games at Fenway Park, batting .444 (12 for 27) without an RBI. He figures to knock in plenty of runs when he takes aim at the Green Monster in left.

    Martinez was among several prominent free agents still available over the weekend. Eric Hosmer is in the process of finalizing a $144 million, eight-year deal with San Diego while third baseman Mike Moustakas and pitchers Jake Arrieta and Alex Cobb are among the stars looking for places to play.
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    Trout hopes upcoming Angels' season can match his offseason
    February 19, 2018


    TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) Mike Trout is hoping his 2018 season can match a tremendous offseason: He got married, watched his beloved Philadelphia Eagles win the Super Bowl and participated in the Angels' successful recruitment of Japanese pitcher-hitter Shohei Ohtani.

    Trout, who took part Monday in the team's first full-squad workout, said he tried to persuade Ohtani that the Angels were a good organization to play for ''and just told him that we wanted him.''

    ''You obviously want to make a good case to get him to come here. Obviously, it worked,'' he said. ''Talking to him and talking to his interpreter, I knew there was a shot. We wanted him. We got him.''

    Trout found out the Angels landed Ohtani at the rehearsal dinner for his wedding in December to Jessica Tara Cox.

    ''I called some buddies, called some of my teammates,'' said Trout, who praised Angels general manager Billy Eppler for putting in years of work to sign Ohtani. ''We were all happy.''

    Trout, who grew up in New Jersey as an Eagles fan, said that when he realized he could get tickets to the Super Bowl, he figured, ''They have a good chance of winning,'' so he told his wife, ''We should probably be a part of it.''

    ''I was fortunate enough to get a few extra tickets and make it happen,'' he said.

    But as for the highlight of the winter, ''Obviously getting married.''

    On the field, Trout will lead a team with higher expectations than in the past couple of seasons thanks to the signings of Ohtani, infielders Ian Kinsler and Zack Cozart and the return to health of several pitchers. The Angels went 80-82 last year and haven't won a postseason game since 2009.

    ''People are going to think the expectations are higher, for sure,'' the two-time AL MVP said. ''"We're trying to get to the playoffs and make a push. We have one goal: to try to win a championship. We're really excited to get this thing going.''

    Asked if the Angels' long-term prospects have an impact on how much he much he wants to remain the team, the 26-year-old outfielder replied, ''For sure.'' Trout said Eppler, owner Arte Moreno and manager Mike Scioscia ''are doing a good job to bring guys in and putting a great team out there.''

    Trout's contract runs through 2020, after which he could become a free agent. At that point, he could well become the highest-paid player in history.

    ''It's obviously cool,'' Trout said of such prospects. ''But I go out there and play. I don't think about that any of stuff. We brought in a bunch of new guys and we're trying to compete for a championship.''

    ''I'm out here just to play baseball. The other things will take care of themselves later,'' he said.

    NOTES: Newly signed Chris Young has the inside track to be the Angels' fourth outfielder. Young, 34, appeared in 90 games last season for Boston, hitting .235 with seven homers and 25 RBIs. ''Chris obviously has a veteran's presence, but he's still athletic like he was in his younger days,'' Scioscia said. ''He matches up really well against left-handed pitching. He can play all three outfield positions.'' Young, an All Star with Arizona in 2010, has a career average of .237 with 185 home runs. ''This is an opportunity to be on a winning ballclub. That's what I was looking for,'' he said. ... Joe Torre, MLB's chief baseball officer, met with Scioscia on Monday to discuss pace-of-play issues.

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

    Must-see BP: Yanks' Stanton, Judge hit together for 1st time
    February 19, 2018


    TAMPA, Fla. (AP) Giancarlo Stanton homered off the scoreboard in left-center and hit three opposite-field homers to right. Aaron Judge drove a pitch over the left-field walkway and also went deep to right.

    The New York Yankees' first full-squad batting practice of spring training drew about 2,000 fans Monday. The two sluggers took 30 swings each, and fans reacted whenever the ball was lifted into the air.

    ''The moment we touched the dirt, they're buzzing and ready for us to get into the cage and hit,'' Stanton said afterward, wearing a sleeveless shirt. ''That was really cool. Nothing like that (I had) experienced in spring.''

    Brooks Cook and his son Brody from New Port Richey positioned themselves in left field, about 375 feet from the plate.

    ''We might be too close,'' Brooks Cook said.

    Brooks Cook noted there were more than Yankees' fans in attendance.

    ''I have a friend who's a die-hard Red Sox who's coming to see them hit,'' Brooks Cook said. ''A Red Sox fan.''

    Judge set a big league rookie record with an American League-leading 52 homers last year. Stanton led the majors with 59 and was acquired in the offseason from Derek Jeter's payroll-paring Miami Marlins.

    ''That's my usual approach in BP,'' Stanton said. ''I usually just hit it to right field to make sure I get back spin, stay inside the ball and see how I feel. Let it go when I need to and get ready for the game.''

    ''I know they're here for the entertainment but we've got to get our work in, too,'' Stanton added. ''The main entertainment, this six weeks is set up for the 162-plus (games) entertainment.''

    Stanton said he is bouncing ideas off Judge.

    ''I'm new, I'm the deer in headlights here,'' Stanton said. ''I'm asking him questions, getting to know how things work here, taking in all the information I can get.''

    Judge took batting practice on a field for the first time since surgery Nov. 20 left shoulder surgery.

    ''It was good to finally get out there and get some BP in,'' Judge said. ''It's full-go. Nothing is holding me back.''

    His admiration for Stanton is clear.

    ''You can hear it. It comes off his bat different,'' Judge said.

    Yankees manager Aaron Boone admitted that he got caught up in the moment.

    ''It was exciting,'' Boone said. ''A little bit of a rush.''

    FORGOTTEN MAN?

    Gary Sanchez has been in the background despite hitting 33 homers last season. The catcher hit in the group with Stanton and Judge, and sent three balls over the fence.

    ''Gary rakes, that's what I think,'' Boone said. ''He's special. I can't wait to see what he does this year.''

    MORE JEWELRY

    Yankees general manager Brian Cashman is looking to add to his World Series ring collection.

    ''The need-another-ring is the goal,'' Cashman said. ''I need another ring. I've got rings, but there's other guys in there that don't have rings. Some have rings somewhere else. I think having a ring with an N-Y on it means more than any of the other ones out there in my opinion. So, ultimately and collectively we're going to try to find a way to get that done.''

    ''I'm not going to say World Series or bust,'' Cashman added. ''I've got too much respect for all of the teams and the players that we have to go up against.''

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

    Motte returns to Cardinals, hopes to earn bullpen spot
    February 19, 2018


    JUPITER, Fla. (AP) Beard and all, a most familiar face is back in the St. Louis Cardinals clubhouse.

    ''Once I walked in, seeing the guys, seeing the coaches, it's like being back at home,'' reliever Jason Motte said Monday. ''This is where I started my career. This is where everything began.''

    After signing a minor league deal over the weekend, Motte returned to the Cardinals for the first time since 2014.

    The 35-year-old Motte began his professional career as catcher in the Cardinals' organization before making the switch to the mound. He took over the closer's role late in 2011 and was on the mound that fall, inducing a flyball from Texas' David Murphy for the final out in Game 7 of the World Series.

    ''He's been there, got some big outs for the Cardinals,'' St. Louis pitching coach Mike Maddux said.

    Motte led the National League with 42 saves for the Cardinals in 2012. An elbow injury that required ligament replacement surgery caused him to miss all of 2013.

    Upon his return, Motte posted a 4.68 ERA and didn't record a save in 29 appearances for the Cardinals before becoming a free agent.

    Since leaving St. Louis, Motte pitched for the Chicago Cubs (2015) and Colorado (2016) before spending last season with Atlanta, recording a 3.54 ERA in 46 appearances.

    Motte joins a Cardinal club whose back end of the bullpen remains a work in progress.

    St. Louis released former closer Trevor Rosenthal and allowed 2017 closer Seung-Hwan Oh to leave via free agency during the offseason. The Cardinals signed Luke Gregerson to open the season as their closer and last week signed free agent Bud Norris, who saved 19 games for the Angels last season and could factor into the Cardinals' late-inning plans.

    The Cardinals have yet to define bullpen roles this spring.

    ''I'm not here to hang out for six weeks in spring training and be like, `hey, appreciate it,''' Motte said. ''I'm here to go out and make the team, have a good year, help the team win. At the end of the day that's what we're all here for.''

    Motte now makes his home in the Memphis area, home of the Cardinals' Triple-A affiliate. Should the Cardinals ask Motte to begin the season with Memphis, he would do so.

    In nine seasons Motte owns a 27-15 record with 60 saves and a 3.30 ERA.

    St. Louis issued Motte jersey No. 30, the same number he wore during his first tenure with the club.

    ''The opportunity to put this uniform back on again is pretty awesome,'' Motte said.
    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

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    Royals hold 1st full workout with several spots up for grabs
    February 19, 2018


    SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) It wasn't so much about who was on the field for Kansas City Royals' first full-squad workout of spring training. It was more notable who wasn't there.

    Several cornerstones of the Kansas City teams that reached the World Series in 2014 and 2015 are in other camps or are still looking for places to play.

    First baseman Eric Hosmer agreed to a $144 million contract with the San Diego Padres. Center fielder Lorenzo Cain signed with the Milwaukee Brewers. Left-hander Jason Vargas, an 18-game winner in 2017, signed with the New York Mets. Third baseman Mike Moustakas, who hit a franchise-record 38 home runs last year, remains unsigned.

    The Royals clubhouse is full of young, unproven talent pursing a chance to break into the majors or prove they are everyday players.

    ''The opportunity is abundant and they know that,'' manager Ned Yost said. ''There's probably a higher level of excitement because of the new guys. I'm interested and excited to see what they bring to the table.''

    ''Normally, we'd be pretty set this time of year. We'd have a pretty good idea who the bullpen was going to be, who was going to be playing first base, center field, right field, third base. It's a little bit different this year,'' he said.

    The Royals won 80 games last season and 81 in 2016 as general manager Dayton Moore opted to keep together the core group from the championship seasons. The Royals are entering a rebuilding phase.

    ''Use whatever word you want,'' Yost said. ''What difference does it make? You can use rebuilding, restocking. The word is not important.''

    Yost said it is important is ''to teach these guys how to win.''

    Left fielder Alex Gordon, whose father died last week, was the only player on the 63-man spring training roster not in camp.

    Among those present, there was less of Jorge Soler and more of Terrance Gore.

    Soler, who was acquired from the Chicago Cubs for closer Wade Davis, reported at 226 pounds after coming in at 245 last year.

    ''I felt a little bit bigger and a little bit slower, so I wanted to get back to my previous weight,'' Soler said through a translator.

    Soler hit a disappointing .144 in 35 games last year, while spending most of the season with Triple-A Omaha.

    The speedy Gore has 21 stolen bases while been used primarily as a pinch runner in 49 big league games. He weighs 163.

    ''I've gained like four pounds, which is amazing for me because I don't gain any weight,'' Gore said. ''I've been trying to gain weight for the longest and I finally gained four pounds, so I'm pretty pumped.''

    With Hosmer absent, Yost lists his first base candidates as Cheslor Cuthbert and Hunter Dozier and non-roster invitees Frank Schwindel and Ryan O'Hearn. Cuthbert and Dozier have played mostly third and that position is also vacant with Moustakas likely not returning.

    Cuthbert has started two games at first base in the majors. Dozier, a 2013 first-round draft pick, has played in eight big league games, none at first base. Schwindel is the recipient of the 2017 George Brett Award for the best hitter in the organization. He hit a combined .329 with 23 home runs, 43 doubles and 97 RBIs with two minor league clubs last year.

    ''First base is wide open right now,'' Schwindel said. ''I'm going to have a good spring and leave them a tough decision to make on me.''

    The Royals have a plethora of challenging decisions to make in the next five weeks.

    Yost said he would like to get Soler, who is out of options, and Jorge Bonifacio, who hit 17 home runs in 113 games as a rookie, frequent playing time. One could wind up as the designated hitter.

    ''One of my focuses, right now is just to make sure I can get them 500 and 600 at-bats,'' Yost said. ''That's what I'm worried about.''

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

    Watson, Giants finalize deal that guarantees $9 million
    February 19, 2018


    SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) Left-hander Tony Watson and the San Francisco Giants have finalized a two-year contract that includes a player option for 2020, a deal that guarantees the former All-Star reliever $9 million.

    The deal announced Monday could be worth $26 million over three years, including performance bonuses. Among the performance bonuses are $2.5 million annually in 2018 and 2019 based on games finished. The deal was structured in a manner that lowers its average annual value for the luxury tax.

    The 31-year-old left-hander was 7-4 with a 3.38 ERA last year in 71 relief appearances for Pittsburgh and the Los Angeles Dodgers, who acquired him on July 31. He was 2-1 with a 2.70 ERA in 24 regular-season games with the Dodgers, then 2-0 with a 2.57 ERA in 11 postseason games.

    A 2014 All-Star, Watson pitched for the Pirates from 2011-17.

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

    Detroit's Martinez realistic entering contract's last season
    February 19, 2018


    LAKELAND, Fla. (AP) At age 39 - and fresh off a heart problem that cut his 2017 season short - Victor Martinez is grateful for the career he's had.

    He's also realistic about the future.

    ''I wish I can tell you that I feel right now like I felt when I came into the big leagues,'' the Detroit designated hitter said Monday. ''Unfortunately, I don't. I think that's what comes with age, I guess.''

    That comment will come as no surprise to anyone who has watched Martinez struggle over the past three seasons, and last year, things took a turn for the worse when he twice went on the disabled list because of an irregular heartbeat. He eventually had a surgical procedure to correct that, and he's back now to try to contribute however he can to a rebuilding Detroit team.

    ''I was in rebuilding before with the Indians,'' Martinez said. ''I don't know. I'm just trying to have fun this last year and help the way I can - these young guys, not a lot of people get the opportunity to play every day in the big leagues, so I hope they get that and take the most out of it.''

    Martinez is in the final year of his contract with Detroit. He did not say whether he expects this to be his final season, period - although he did indicate that he takes a wait-and-see approach.

    ''I'm not going to do anything different than what I have done my whole career,'' Martinez said. ''I have always taken it day by day, year by year.''

    Whenever his career ends, Martinez will have quite a resume to look back on. He enters this season with a career .298 average and 237 home runs. He finished second to Mike Trout in the 2014 American League MVP race - an impressive accomplishment for a DH. That season, Martinez set career highs with a .335 average and 32 home runs, leading Detroit to its fourth straight AL Central title.

    The Tigers gave Martinez a $68 million, four-year deal after that season, but they haven't made the playoffs since. Martinez struggled to a .245 average in 2015 before bouncing back (.289, 27 HRs) in 2016. Then last year, he hit .255 with 10 home runs in 107 games - and the concerns about his offensive numbers were nothing compared to the health issues he ended up facing.

    ''It was scary. I don't think nobody can have fun having those kind of problems, but it's all in the past,'' Martinez said. ''I think my family helped me a lot. Surgery I think helped me a lot too.''

    Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire says the team will look out for Martinez's health.

    ''He has a family, and you know what? He has to take care of himself,'' Gardenhire said. ''We're going to make sure he's healthy and this doesn't take away from his life after baseball and all those things. But, this guy's a gamer. This guy - he's got a lot of passion to hit, and I'm hoping that I get to use him for another year or two, or whatever.''

    Martinez can't be certain of how this season will go - or even how he'll do in spring training. But he can certainly appreciate the chance to be back on the field.

    ''When I came into the big leagues, I was 22, 23 years old. I used to see the veteran guys all in the hot tub. They were like, `Yeah, wait until you're 30,''' Martinez said. ''Now I know what they were talking about. It just doesn't get any easier. I'm just thankful to God give me this opportunity and be in this game for this long.''

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

    Fly Phils Fly! Eagles star Kelce center of attention at camp
    February 19, 2018


    CLEARWATER, Fla. (AP) Philadelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce got plenty of attention for his salty language during the Super Bowl celebration parade. The All-Pro says he tried to tone it down when he spoke inside the Phillies clubhouse on Monday.

    But once Kelce started his speech, he found that old habits die hard.

    ''I probably cursed a little more, actually,'' Kelce said. ''At least through the start of the speech I made an effort to not curse and then that quickly faded.''

    Wearing a red No. 62 Phillies spring training jersey, Kelce was the main guest during the first official day of team workouts.

    ''I played baseball all the way up until high school,'' Kelce said. ''I threw my elbow out when I was like 12 years old, tore the plate off my bone, I didn't play baseball after that.''

    Kelce spent a lot of time watching pitchers throw their side sessions and said there was plenty he could take away from watching them interact with catchers.

    ''Baseball is an awesome sport,'' Kelce said. ''I've just been picking up some of what goes on between the pitcher and catcher because I think there are a lot of similarities between the mental chess game going on there as there is with me and Carson (Wentz) kind of assessing defenses and stuff like that.''

    New Phillies manager Gape Kapler said that he spoke with Kelce separately and discussed the rapport Eagles players had with head coach Doug Pederson and the coaching staff.

    ''Jason and I discussed that and talked about how that communication was the two-way street,'' Kapler said. ''He shared what a good communicator coach Pederson was and how that communication was critical in establishing and maintaining trust throughout the season.''

    Kapler said he felt the message Kelce gave his players was one that will inspire them and one they needed to hear as they begin the season.

    ''I think there were 8 to 10 (things) to take away, but the No. 1 was it is OK to fall down, be fearless, get back up, be bold and do it all over again,'' Kapler said. ''Champions have stories to share and they're effective for a reason.

    ''Because they've been through the ups and downs, they've displayed courage, they've come together as units, they know what it feels like to have people count them out and then to prove people wrong,'' he said.

    Kapler said the Phillies' video production staff put together a piece for the team over the weekend that included some highlights from the other sports teams in the city, as well as some footage from the movie ''Rocky'' spliced in and some highlights of their own players.

    The relationship with the city is something Kapler wants the Phillies to embrace.

    ''We feel like we're in a partnership with the city of Philadelphia, the fans of Philadelphia and certainly the sports teams of Philadelphia,'' he said. ''You saw it today with Jason. He felt like he was a part of the Phillies family. He wore that `Be Bold' T-shirt proudly, then he put on a Phillies jersey and a Phillies cap.

    ''This is an All-Pro center on the best offensive line in football from a Super Bowl championship team. And here he was in our clubhouse today sort of backing the Phillies. I thought that was pretty remarkable,'' he said.
    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

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    Musgrove sees opportunity with trade to Pirates
    February 19, 2018


    BRADENTON, Fla. (AP) Joe Musgrove started in the All-Star Futures Games two years ago when he was a Houston Astros' prospect. Now, the Pittsburgh Pirates hope the right-hander can be a big part of their future.

    Musgrove was the centerpiece of a four-player package the Pirates acquired from the defending World Series champion Astros on Jan. 13 in a trade for right-hander Gerrit Cole.

    Three of those players are expected to be on Pittsburgh's opening-day roster - Musgrove, right-handed reliever Michael Feliz and third baseman Colin Moran - while outfielder Jason Martin is slated to begin the season at Triple-A Indianapolis.

    ''It was hard to leave the Astros,'' Musgrove said. ''From a career standpoint, though, this is a really good move for me. I feel like I fit in with what the Pirates are doing.''

    The Pirates are going out of their way not to use the word ''rebuild'' as they prepare for the 2018 season. They are, however, are at the very least retooling on the heels of back-to-back losing season that followed three straight postseason appearances.

    In addition to Cole, who won 19 games in 2015, the Pirates also dealt 2013 NL MVP Andrew McCutchen to the San Francisco Giants during the offseason.

    The 25-year-old Musgrove figures to be part of an all right-handed rotation in which 31-year-old Ivan Nova will be the elder statesmen. Jameson Taillon is 26 and Chad Kuhl and Trevor Williams are both 25.

    ''Just in the first few days of spring training, I could see the talent here,'' Musgrove said. ''There are a lot of good young arms. I'm excited to be a part of it. I think it's going to be fun to grow with the rest of the guys in the rotation.''

    The Pirates are confident Musgrove has room for improvement after spending parts of the past two seasons with the Astros. The 6-foot-5, 265-pounder compiled an 11-12 record and 4.56 ERA in 49 games, including 25 starts.

    ''He profiles as everything we look for when it comes to drafting pitchers,'' Pittsburgh general manager Neal Huntington said. ''He has a big frame, he's durable, he has a power sinker. There is a lot to like about Joe and it was just two years ago that he graduated (to the major leagues) as a top-40 prospect.''

    Musgrove started for the United States in the 2015 Futures Game at San Diego, a major honor for someone who grew up in suburban El Cajon, California. He made his major league debut two weeks later with the Astros.

    Last year, Musgrove made seven relief appearances in the postseason for Houston and was the winning pitcher in Game 5 of the World Series when the Astros outlasted the Los Angeles Dodgers 13-12 in 10 innings.

    Meanwhile, the Pirates haven't been to the World Series since 1979. Their chances of ending that 39-year drought this season don't appear promising as they play in a strong NL Central that includes the two-time defending division champion Chicago Cubs along with the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals.

    That doesn't dampen Musgrove's enthusiasm.

    ''In Houston, we had a core of good young players then it all came together for us and you saw what happened last year,'' he said. ''There is a lot of young talent here, too, and what really impresses me is the atmosphere in the clubhouse. I got the sense very quickly this is a close-knit group, which is we had in Houston, and it makes it easy for someone new like me to acclimate myself. I feel really good to be here.''

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

    Harper focused on 2018, not future
    February 19, 2018


    WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) Bryce Harper is focusing on his immediate future. But don't bother asking him about plans beyond this year.


    ''If you guys do talk anything about that, I'll be walking right out the door,'' he said Monday.

    Everyoe around baseball knows the Washington Nationals slugger could be part of a huge free agent class after the coming season. But if teams are saving money by passing on currently available players in hopes of signing a big star next year, that doesn't sound like the best way to impress Harper.

    ''I think if I'm an organization or a team I want the best players on my team,'' Harper said. ''My fans deserve that, the players deserve that.''

    Harper, Manny Machado, Josh Donaldson, Charlie Blackmon and potentially Clayton Kershaw could be free agents next offseason.

    Some within the industry suggest this market is slow because teams have their eyes on 2019 - pitchers Jake Arrieta and Alex Cobb and third baseman Mike Moustakas are among the players looking for work with spring training already underway. Slugger J.D. Martinez and the Red Sox reached agreement on a $110 million, five-year deal late Monday afternoon.

    ''I'm not sure what people are thinking or anything like that, but if I'm a fan base or I'm a team and you're trying to lose ballgames to get the No, 1 pick, I'll take a Jayson Werth or anybody like that over a first round pick any day of the week,'' Harper said.

    A five-time All-Star and 2015 MVP, Harper addressed the media on Monday for the first time this spring. He made a point of telling reporters he wouldn't discuss anything beyond the 2018 season.

    Harper said the knee injury that limited him late last season is no longer a concern. He didn't dwell on Washington's loss to the Cubs in a five-game NL Division Series.

    ''They beat us and that was it,'' Harper said.

    The NL East champs three of the past four seasons, the Nationals have yet to win a playoff series since relocating to Washington in 2005.

    Harper pointed to the career of former Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino, who reached the Super Bowl as a rookie but never returned, as proof that he won't take any playoff appearance for granted.

    ''You always want to get there and get there and get there because you might never get back,'' Harper said.

    Washington is once again well positioned for a playoff run. In Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, the Nationals have arguably the best 1-2 pitching combination in the National League. With Ryan Zimmerman, Daniel Murphy, Anthony Rendon and Harper in the middle of the lineup, Washington's bats have plenty of thump.

    ''We're expected to win,'' Harper said. ''That's how it is. We're expected to win the East. We're expected to possibly win the pennant and expected to possibly win the World Series. I think as a team we're going to try to do the best we can and do everything possible to win ballgames. We've just got to take it one game at a time and win the East first.''

    Harper believes new Nationals manager Dave Martinez brings something new to the Washington dugout. Joe Maddon's bench coach with Tampa and the Chicago Cubs for the past 10 seasons, Martinez has a modern approach.

    ''He's going to bring an analytic side to the game that we haven't seen before,'' Harper said. ''He's going to bring a little bit more of a front-office stat-kind-of-thing to the team as well. I think that's great. I think baseball's turning to that side a lot more.''

    Martinez doesn't need much in the way of advance metrics to understand what he has in Harper.

    Only 25, Harper already has 150 homers in his six major league seasons. The outfielder hit .319 with 29 home runs and 87 RBIs in 111 games last year.

    ''I saw him hit in the cage the other day,'' Martinez said. ''He's a different character - very intense - and he's looking forward to the 2018 season. That's his concern. He wants to stay healthy all year and if he does that he's going to put up some big numbers.''

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

    Tillman, O's agree to $3M, 1-year deal
    February 19, 2018


    SARASOTA, Fla. (AP) A person familiar with the negotiations says pitcher Chris Tillman and the Baltimore Orioles have agreed to a $3 million, one-year contract.

    The deal includes performance bonuses, the person told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Monday because the deal had not yet been announced.

    Tillman was 1-7 with a 7.84 ERA in 19 starts and five relief appearances last year. He would be the second starter added by the Orioles in the past week after right-hander Andrew Cashner.

    Tillman likely would join right-handers Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman and Cashner in the rotation.

    The 29-year-old right-hander lives in Sarasota and had been working out at the Orioles' facility before spring training. Manager Buck Showalter watched Tillman throw and was impressed.

    Tillman began last season on the disabled list with right shoulder stiffness.

    ''Better than he did last year at this time. I think he's got the chance to pitch well for somebody this year,'' Showalter said. ''A lot of the challenges he had last year - this time last year - aren't there. Somebody's going to reap the benefits.''

    Tillman's is 73-55 with a 4.43 ERA in nine major league seasons, all with the Orioles. He won 16 games in both 2013 and 2016.

    ''He's a guy when he's healthy you can bank on him giving you 200 innings and keeping his ERA between a 3 and a 4,'' Gausman said. ''That in the AL East is always going to be very valuable.'

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

    Beltre still the big name for Rangers
    February 19, 2018


    SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) Adrian Beltre would bring in some big-time free agents if he was making those kinds of decisions for the Texas Rangers. The veteran third baseman just wants to win a World Series before the end of his career.

    While there have been no such marquee additions for the Rangers, the newest member of the 3,000-hit club said after arriving at spring training Monday that he's not unhappy and still believes the Rangers can compete for a postseason spot.

    ''Obviously we can be better, especially with the free agents out there that are still not signed,'' Beltre said. ''There is no doubt that I would like to win and have the best chance to win. ... If it was my option, I would like to add some other people and make the roster even stronger.''

    Going into his 21st big league season, when he will turn 39 just more than a week after opening day, Beltre's primary focus is to win a World Series . He has been there only once, in his first year with the Rangers in 2011, when they lost in seven games to St. Louis after twice being within a strike of clinching the title in Game 6.

    Beltre was limited to 94 games last year because of calf and hamstring issues, his fewest games since 77 during his rookie season with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1998. He missed the first 51 games last year because of issues he was dealing with even before getting to camp.

    He got to camp this year lighter and feeling good.

    ''I'm scary good,'' he said. ''I want to make sure I'm 100 percent mentally and physically ready to go.''

    When slugger Joey Gallo walked by and told him he got small, Beltre quipped that he had on a big shirt.

    As Beltre was ending a 15-minute session with media, manager Jeff Banister came by and the two shared a big hug.

    ''Spring training has started, but spring training begins when AB walks in the door,'' Banister said.

    General manager Daniels said throughout the offseason that the Rangers weren't going to be in play for top-tier free agents, and thus the highest-priced ones. He knows that would have been different had Beltre got to be in the GM role.

    ''He probably would have made some different moves this winter. I think he would have addressed some different things,'' Daniels said last month.

    There was no expensive reunion with Yu Darvish. Shohei Ohtani, the two-way player from Japan, signed with the AL West rival Los Angeles Angels.

    The most significant additions were pitchers Doug Fister, Mike Minor, Matt Moore and Bartolo Colon, a 44-year-old right-hander also going into his 21st season - ''It's just nice to have somebody older than me on the team,'' Beltre said.

    Daniels and Beltre had several conversations throughout the offseason.

    ''He has been honest with me. He let me know kind of the way they were going this year,'' Beltre said. ''He let me know it was going to be a little different. Did I want to hear that? Probably not.''

    At the same time, Beltre conceded that he doesn't have to write the checks for expensive free agents.

    Beltre, now with 3,048 career hits and 462 home runs , is going into the last season of his contract. He said he hasn't thought about an extension yet, though it sounds like he could play beyond this season.

    ''I assume, yes, but I don't know,'' he said. ''Things could change one day to the next. I don't want to tell you 100 percent yes or 100 percent no. It's going to be year by year. After the year is over I will decide what is next.''

    Would such a decision by swayed by a World Series title, either with the Rangers or another team?

    ''That would probably make it easier for me to go home. No doubt,'' he said. ''If I would go 100 percent if we win the World Series, I can't say that right now. But that would make it easier.''
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    Moreland, Red Sox gird for Stanton, Judge, grid-like Yankees
    February 19, 2018


    FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) As soon as Giancarlo Stanton touched down with their main rivals, the Boston Red Sox were eager to take on New York - the Yankees, or maybe even the Jets and Giants.

    ''They're fielding a football team out there is kind of what I was thinking,'' Red Sox first baseman Mitch Moreland said. ''They're running a two tight-end set. They've got some big boys over there.''

    The 6-foot-6 Stanton, who topped the majors in home runs and was the NL MVP last team, joins a lineup with 6-7 Aaron Judge, the AL homer leader. The Yankees got Stanton in a trade with the Miami Marlins in December.

    ''Job well done,'' Red Sox owner John Henry said Monday on the first day of full-squad workouts.

    Entering last season's camp, Boston was tabbed as the AL East favorite after landing one of the biggest prizes in ace lefty Chris Sale during the winter meetings. That prompted Yankees general manager Brian Cashman to reference another sport: ''Boston's like the Golden State Warriors now in baseball,'' he said.

    The Red Sox went on to win their second straight division title. Hours after Henry spoke, word spread that Boston had reached agreement with slugger J.D. Martinez on a $110 million, five-year contract.

    ''We're not conceding first place to anybody,'' chairman Tom Werner said, earlier in the day.

    ''I think it's good for the rivalry. The Yankees have a very strong team and we have a very strong team, too,'' he said. ''If we're healthy, I think we have the best pitching staff; starting pitching, ending with (Craig) Kimbrel. I think we've got the best pitching staff in the American League.''

    Some players say they're looking forward to the challenge that might spice up the rivalry.

    ''It doesn't matter who you're facing,'' reliever Matt Barnes said. ''You've got a guy who was the MVP and a guy that hit 50 home runs or however many Judge hit. You start throwing balls ... and missing spots, it doesn't matter, it's the big leagues. They're going to hit balls in the gap and balls over the fence.''

    But the right-hander paused, glanced a few lockers to his right and offered what defense the Red Sox might have against the Yankees' added power. Boston is counting on strong pitching in Sale and two former AL Cy Young winners - David Price and Rick Porcello, and solid closer work from Kimbrel to go along with a bounce-back year by knuckleballer Steven Wright, a 2016 All-Star.

    ''This starting staff is two Cy Young winners and Chris Sale, and two more All-Stars,'' Barnes said.

    Center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. said the Yankees' addition brings another test.

    ''I'm always excited to compete against some of the best players in the world. That's what we all signed up for,' he said. ''Is this team good enough? Only time will tell.''

    Said Henry: ''We're defending American League East champions and I feel like we've done what we needed to do to improve this team. I think we have the right team.''

    NOTES: Former Red Sox players Pedro Martinez, Derek Lowe and Mike Lowell were all working with players. ''The main thing is you learn from them,'' star Hanley Ramirez said. ''Those guys are champions. We want to talk to them and see what their mentality is.'' . Rookie manager Alex Cora said Mookie Betts will be batting leadoff again. ''I've been doing it my whole life, so it's nothing new,'' Betts said. . Moreland joked that it was like the first day of school.

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

    Joey Votto eager for Reds to turn corner
    February 19, 2018


    GOODYEAR, Ariz. (AP) Joey Votto had one of his best seasons - good enough for second in the National League MVP voting - but Cincinnati lost more than 90 games yet again. The first baseman is yearning for the Reds to get back to a level when he's playing for more than acclaim.

    Votto and the rest of the Reds position players reported ahead of their first full-squad workout Monday. He's got six years left on a $251.5 million, 12-year deal agreed to in 2012, when Cincinnati was in the midst of a resurgence. He envisioned a run of playoff-caliber seasons in Cincinnati when he committed long-term.

    The Reds made three playoff appearances between 2010-13 and won a pair of NL Central titles. After failing to get past the first round of the playoffs, they fired manager Dusty Baker, traded away the rest of their stars and started a long, painful rebuild that's not close to finished.

    Votto is the last remaining link, still playing at a high level at age 34. He finished two points behind Giancarlo Stanton in the MVP voting after batting .320 with 36 homers, 100 RBIs and 134 walks in 162 games. Votto won the award in 2010.

    Despite his enormous contributions, the Reds finished last in the NL Central again, losing more than 90 games for the third straight season. They're looking at another season relying on young players to emerge and start a turnaround.

    ''It's been on my mind that we're starting to get to the point where people are tired of this stretch of ball,'' Votto said. ''I think something has to start changing and going in a different direction. I'm going to do my part to aid that change.''

    When Votto signed what was then the longest guaranteed deal in major league history, there were questions about whether he could maintain excellence into his 30s. He's done it while the team traded away the rest of its stars, stockpiling prospects that have yet to produce at the major league level.

    ''We definitely have to get better collectively,'' Votto said. ''Guys need to get better, guys need to grow, guys need to come out of nowhere. We need lots of help all the way around. Hopefully, that happens sooner than later. I think there is potentially a light at the end of the tunnel.''

    Votto will get paid $25 million each of the next six seasons. There's also a club option for 2024 at $20 million with a $7 million buyout, so the Reds owe him $157 million on the remainder of his deal. They've declined to spend money in free agency to make the roster around him more competitive. Shortstop Zack Cozart was allowed to leave as a free agent after his All-Star season.

    Votto has never complained about the front office's decisions or the slow pace of the rebuilding movement.

    ''As far as making a signing during the offseason, I don't feel any sort of way about that,'' Votto said. ''Frankly, I don't think I'd ever feel that sort of way about that because it's not my place.''

    Votto became the first Reds player to start all 162 games in a non-strike year since Pete Rose in 1975. He played in all but 38 1/3 of Cincinnati's innings. After the season, he spent a lot of time relaxing, saying he ''felt like I needed it.''

    ''I tried to get fatter and I succeeded at that apparently,'' Votto said after taking his physical. ''We did all the tests and I'm fatter.''

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

    Alex Presley, Orioles agree to minor league contract
    February 19, 2018


    SARASOTA, Fla. (AP) Alex Presley and the Baltimore Orioles have agreed to a minor league contract, and the outfielder will report to major league spring training.

    The 32-year-old has a .263 average in eight seasons with Pittsburgh, Minnesota, Houston, Milwaukee and Detroit. He hit .314 with three home runs and 20 RBIs in 71 games for the Tigers in 2017.

    Presley plays all three outfield positions. He stole five bases without being thrown out last season.

    Baltimore, which announced the deal Monday, had been in the market for a left-handed hitting outfielder. Presley will compete with Jaycob Brugman, acquired from Oakland last November.

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

    Jeter's blueprint begins to take shape
    February 19, 2018


    JUPITER, Fla. (AP) At 6-foot-3, Miami Marlins outfield prospect Monte Harrison was surprised he stood eye to eye with new CEO Derek Jeter the first time they met last week.

    ''I was expecting him to be a little shorter. I can see why he played 20 years,'' Harrison said. ''I never get star-struck, but when I saw him I was like, `Wow, this is the real deal.'''

    The impact of Jeter's formidable presence was on full display Monday when the Marlins took the field for their first full-squad spring training workout. Of the 68 players in camp, 29 are new to the organization following a flurry of offseason trades Jeter swung to reduce payroll and rebuild a weak farm system.

    The heavy roster turnover transformed the start of camp into a meet and greet. Holdover shortstop Miguel Rojas said he arrived a week early to get a jump on introductory handshakes.

    Absent was half of last year's everyday lineup, including National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton. While Jeter and his players are anxious to turn the page, questions persist about whether he broke up a team on the cusp of contending after going 77-85 in 2017.

    Down the road at the Washington Nationals camp, slugger Bryce Harper said Monday he was shocked the Marlins traded their entire outfield, perhaps the best in the majors.

    ''I thought they were a great team,'' Harper said. ''They just had to add a couple more pitchers and they would have been pretty damn good.''

    Instead of spending more, Jeter cut payroll by about $50 million to less than $70 million. And so the Marlins - who have endured a succession of dismantlings since their most recent playoff season in 2003 - begin yet another makeover.

    New majority owner Bruce Sherman joined Jeter to watch the first full-squad workout. Speaking publicly for the first time since the sale of the team in October, Sherman fully endorsed the new direction.

    ''From my perspective, I think the management team has made all the right moves,'' Sherman said. ''I've been involved in every decision. I support every decision. I know our partners support every decision.

    ''I realize the fans are disappointed at some of the trades we made. But I've seen a change. People understand we're building something for the future that is sustainable.''

    Jeter met with the team before the workout and said his message was that the Marlins are creating a first-class organization, and that starts with the players.

    ''We're going to have the right people on the field who understand it's a privilege to wear a major league uniform, a privilege to wear a Marlins uniform,'' Jeter said. ''This is something we're building. It's going to take a lot of work. Today is the beginning.''

    Veteran players who weren't part of the offseason exodus expressed support for Jeter's reboot.

    ''I feel we're building something here,'' Rojas said. ''It's something we needed to do, and I'm all in.''

    Newcomer Starlin Castro, whose contract made him a subject of trade speculation after Miami acquired him, said he wants to be part of the long-term plan. Castro was with the Chicago Cubs when they improved from 61 wins to 97 in a three-year span.

    He is owed $10 million this year and $11 million in 2019, and his deal includes a $16 million team option for 2020 with a $1 million buyout.

    ''I'm not going to be a negative guy, a bad guy on the team,'' Castro said. ''In Chicago they came fast. The same thing I feel can happen here, faster than people think.''

    There was even more enthusiasm among the young newcomers in the clubhouse. Outfielder Lewis Brinson, acquired in the trade that sent outfielder Christian Yelich to Milwaukee, grew up in South Florida a Marlins fan and was excited to be assigned the uniform number of his favorite player, retired outfielder Juan Pierre.

    ''My jersey was in my locker, and it looked good,'' Brinson said before the workout. ''I'm about to go take a picture of it now.''

    Brinson has a strong chance to make the opening day lineup after hitting .331 with 13 homers in 2017 for Triple-A Colorado Springs.

    Harrison, also acquired in the Yelich trade, might be a year or more away - as reflected by his uniform number 93. But when he first met the new CEO last week, Harrison was encouraged to discover he's on Jeter's radar.

    ''He said, `Hey, Monte, how you doing?''' Harrison said with a laugh. ''I'm like, `Oh, you know my name? I feel special.'''
    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

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    Giants Johnny Cueto takes his fitness to Camelback Mountain
    February 21, 2018


    PHOENIX (AP) ''Va-mannnn-os!'' echoes down from high above the humongous boulders in an area aptly named Echo Canyon.

    ''Let's go!''

    It's Giants pitcher Johnny Cueto shouting as he powers up Camelback Mountain. Far more than just a leisurely hike in the Arizona desert, and hours after his formal day is done at Scottsdale Stadium, this is a bonus workout to boost his fitness and prepare for the grind of another baseball season.

    In each of his three springs with San Francisco, the exuberant pitcher has picked a rental home near Camelback, on a different side of the idyllic landmark every year to be close to his favorite hiking terrain.

    ''I like to be by the mountain and I like to be near the stadium,'' he explains.

    As he hits the trail one day last week dressed in all black including a long-sleeve Giants workout shirt, Cueto skips up the initial stairs with his Latin American-influenced Reggaeton music blaring through the large headphones covering his ears. With a hillside of cacti and rocks across a large canyon, Cueto briefly stops and offers, ''Wow, it's nice, beautiful.'' He takes off again moments later.

    Part way up, he grabs a tree branch and pauses to admire another picturesque sight looking down on the Valley of the Sun. Several people along the way notice him. But Cueto is focused on his challenging task of getting to the top.

    ''You know who that is? Johnny Cueto!'' Zack Shepard, who's from Cincinnati and now living in Arizona, informs his hiking group.

    ''Hey, Johnny Cueto, we love you!'' one woman yells after her son recognizes the righty-hander as a former Royals star.

    At the top, after a handful of short breaks for photo opportunities to update the 212,000 followers of his uber-popular Instagram account, Cueto takes a seat to catch his breath, beads of sweat dripping from his face. He asks how long it took - almost 50 minutes.

    Then, he stands again and strikes several Christ the Redeemer-like poses, arms reached out as far as possible to his sides, as he looks in every direction to admire the various views.

    ''I will probably feel it tomorrow,'' he says. ''Going down is easier for me. I pick the big rocks to step on.''

    The 32-year-old Cueto is one of the club's best pitchers and biggest personalities, practically dancing on the mound as his dreadlocks sway. He is ready for a healthy season after missing time in 2017 and making only 25 starts.

    His committed, intense fitness regimen has been an example to younger players whether he intends it to be or not, and he insists he doesn't. He might be seen on the field early in the mornings getting his body ready or running bleachers.

    Once he descends Camelback, a spectacular sunset greets him at the bottom as he takes a seat near the parking lot. Then Cueto begins the short jog home, sprinting up that final hill to his house as darkness sets in. Some days, he sprints that hill 10 times.

    He will repeat this trek three or four more times before the Giants leave their spring headquarters.

    Cueto stretches for a minute.

    ''Loosen up my legs,'' he says. ''A good workout today.''

    A dinner of rice soon beckons.
    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

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    Outfielder Maybin signs 1-year contract with Marlins
    February 21, 2018


    JUPITER, Fla. (AP) Veteran outfielder Cameron Maybin had to correct himself Wednesday as he talked about rejoining the team that first made him an everyday player.

    He said he was happy to be back with the Florida Marlins before noting a name change since he left.

    ''It has been a while - what, about 10 years, I think,'' Maybin said.

    He actually departed after the 2010 season. The franchise became the Miami Marlins two years later, and now Maybin's back. The well-traveled 11-year veteran signed a one-year contract and gives the young, rebuilding Marlins much-needed experience.

    ''I'm excited about what I can bring back as a little older player,'' Maybin said. ''I'm here to help lead in the right direction and create a culture of togetherness.''

    For Maybin, the deal carries the risk of taking him from first to worst. He helped the Houston Astros win the 2017 World Series as a reserve outfielder, and now he joins a team rebooting after a payroll purge by new CEO Derek Jeter.

    But Maybin, 30, said the opportunity to play every day appealed to him. He can play all three outfield positions, and along with flexibility he gives the Marlins veteran stability.

    ''When you look at how we're constructed, there is a lot of youth,'' president of baseball operations Michael Hill said. ''It's nice to mix in an element of guys who have been through the battles and can help the young guys develop.''

    The previous time Maybin came to the Marlins, they were in the midst of another payroll-reducing makeover. He was acquired before the 2008 season along with left-handed pitching prospects Dontrelle Willis and Andrew Miller in a seven-player deal that sent slugger Miguel Cabrera to the Detroit Tigers.

    ''I was a kid,'' Maybin said. ''It's something I'll never forget, being a part of something so big.''

    He spent three years with Florida, and is a .255 career hitter in 11 seasons with six teams. Last year he batted only .228 for the Angels and Astros, but he had 33 steals to rank second in the American League.

    While he's a little rusty regarding the Marlins' name, their spring training site hasn't changed since he left. And so he arrived in plenty of time for Wednesday's workout with his old, new team.

    ''I drove right in, no directions, no GPS,'' he said. ''It's like I never left. Pretty cool.''

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

    Orioles bring back Chris Tillman to rotation
    February 21, 2018


    SARASOTA, Fla. (AP) The Baltimore Orioles signed pitcher Chris Tillman to a $3 million, one-year contract that includes performance bonuses.

    Tillman was 1-7 with a 7.84 ERA in 19 starts and five relief appearances last year. He is the second starter added by the Orioles in the past week after right-hander Andrew Cashner.

    Tillman likely will join right-handers Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman and Cashner in the rotation.

    The 29-year-old right-hander lives in Sarasota and had been working out at the Orioles' facility before spring training. Manager Buck Showalter watched Tillman throw and was impressed.

    Tillman began last season on the disabled list with right shoulder stiffness.

    To make room for Tillman on the 40-man roster, the Orioles designated outfielder Jaycob Brugman for assignment.

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

    Drury dealt to Yankees, Souza to D'backs
    February 20, 2018


    SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) The Arizona Diamondbacks sent infielder Brandon Drury to the New York Yankees and received outfielder Steven Souza Jr. from the Tampa Bay Rays in a three-team trade Tuesday that included five players plus two to be named later.

    The deal was announced one day after former Diamondbacks slugger J.D. Martinez agreed to a $110 million, five-year contract with Boston, pending a physical. Arizona has moved quickly to fill that hole in the outfield, signing speedy Jarrod Dyson to a $7.5 million, two-year contract on Monday before trading for Souza.

    Souza will be the starter at one corner outfield position, with Dyson subbing at all three spots.

    Drury gives the Yankees a new option at third base or second base, where New York was projected to start a pair of rookies.

    Top pitching prospect Anthony Banda goes from Arizona to the Rays, who also get minor league second baseman Nick Solak from the Yankees and two players to be named from the Diamondbacks. Minor league right-hander Taylor Widener moves from New York to Arizona.

    Drury played mostly second base for Arizona but came up through the minors as a third baseman and could fill that spot for the Yankees, who have top prospect Gleyber Torres penciled in at second. Another prospect, Miguel Andujar, was a leading candidate at third.

    New York traded All-Star second baseman Starlin Castro to Miami this offseason in the blockbuster deal for slugger Giancarlo Stanton. Chase Headley was sent to San Diego in a cost-cutting swap, and fellow third baseman Todd Frazier signed with the crosstown Mets as a free agent.

    The 25-year-old Drury also has experience in the corner outfield spots, but the Yankees are well stocked there.

    Souza helps fill a power void in Arizona's outfield created by Martinez's departure. Martinez had 29 home runs and 65 RBIs in 62 games with Arizona last season after being acquired from Detroit, but the Diamondbacks knew it was a long shot they'd be able to afford to retain him.

    Drury hit .267 with 13 home runs and 63 RBIs in 135 games for Arizona last season. To make room for him on the 40-man roster, the Yankees designated outfielder Jabari Blash for assignment.

    Souza, 28, batted .239 with a career-high 30 home runs and 78 RBIs last year. He had a .351 on-base percentage and .810 OPS.

    Drury was the odd man out in a crowded middle infield for Arizona. Chris Owings or Ketel Marte could shift to second from shortstop, where Nick Ahmed also is back from injury. Daniel Descalso can play all the infield positions, plus the outfield.

    Drury came to Arizona from Atlanta as part of the Justin Upton trade in 2013 and worked his way up through the Diamondbacks' minor league system. He isn't eligible for arbitration until next year.

    Banda, 24, made his major league debut last season, going 2-3 with a 5.96 ERA in eight appearances, four starts. The left-hander was 8-7 with a 5.39 ERA in 22 starts for Triple-A Reno last year.

    The 23-year-old Solak split last season between Class A Tampa and Double-A Trenton, batting .297 with 12 homers and 53 RBIs.

    Widener, 23, will be a non-roster invitee to Diamondbacks spring training. He was 7-8 with a 3.39 ERA in 21 starts for Class A Tampa last season and advanced to Double-A Trenton, where he was 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA in two relief appearances. He threw the final five innings of a no-hitter against Binghamton on Sept. 8.

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

    Nats 2B Murphy may not be ready for opener
    February 20, 2018

    WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) Washington Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy isn't sure his surgically repaired right knee will be ready in time for opening day.

    Murphy underwent an operation to repair cartilage shortly after last season, a procedure than included micro-fracture surgery.

    ''I'm excited about the progress,'' he said. ''The work has been good.''

    When the knee began bothering him in August, Murphy attributed the issues to normal late-season aches and pains.

    That changed during the NL Division Series against the Chicago Cubs when his knee buckled once while he was swinging and another time when he fielded a practice grounder between innings.

    ''I was like, this may be a little bit more significant than I thought,'' said Murphy, who can become a free agent after this season.

    Doctors told him recovery time would be four to six months, and the 32-year-old Murphy already has full range of motion in his knee. Now he's working on strengthening the knee.

    Murphy ran on the treadmill Tuesday at about 60 percent weight load. He's also started some baseball activities, taking grounders on his knees and playing catch. He has yet to swing a bat this spring.

    If there is a timetable for Murphy's debut in Grapefruit League games, he wouldn't divulge it.

    ''You only want to come off the DL once,'' Murphy said. ''I don't want to start playing games and then have to stop. I think that's the mindset we're taking now.''

    In years past, Murphy hasn't needed many at-bats to prepare for the season.

    Injuries limited him to 10 spring training at-bats in 2013 and 17 in 2015, seasons when he hit .286 and .281, respectively. Grapefruit League plate appearances were also scare for Murphy last year, when he went hitless in six at-bats as a member of Team USA during the World Baseball Classic and had only a handful more once returning to the Nationals.

    He went on to hit .322 with 23 homers and 93 RBIs.

    A three-time All-Star who finished second in 2016 NL MVP voting, Murphy didn't reveal a target number of at-bats he thinks he needs prior to opening day.

    ''I think I've done years where I've had 20,'' he said. ''I did one year where I think I led the Grapefruit League in at-bats with100. Probably in between six and 100.''

    Murphy's surgery is rare among baseball players, but he is consulting with Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner about what to expect throughout the rehab process.

    Turner underwent the same procedure in 2015. He and Murphy were teammates with the New York Mets from 2010-13.

    The Nationals took a step forward on another injury front Tuesday when outfielder Adam Eaton participated in live batting practice, which new manager Dave Martinez dubbed ''a good surprise.''

    Eaton tore his ACL in April and missed the remainder of the season. The team's projected leadoff hitter batted .297 in 23 games prior to the injury.

    ''His progressions are great,'' Martinez said. ''He worked out with the outfielders. He felt really a part of the team today, taking BP and everything, so we'll see where it goes.''
    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

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    McCullers back on mound with new rules
    February 20, 2018


    WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) When last seen, Lance McCullers plunked four Los Angeles Dodgers during the first three innings of Game 7 of the World Series.

    On Tuesday, a few hours before his first live bullpen session of the spring with the Houston Astros, the game within a game between pitcher and hitter was still much on his mind.

    With baseball imposing new pace of play rules - one of which limits mound visits to six per game - McCullers took a moment during his workout to tweet:

    ''You think I want to break rhythm and tempo during a game to talk about signs behind my glove? No, It's a necessary reaction to an issue we, as pitchers and catcher, are facing. I guess enforcing the integrity by hitting batters is better than an extra 4 minutes to discuss signs.''

    Brush-back pitches have long been a pitcher's remedy against sign stealing, as have mound visits by the catcher to change sign sequences.

    ''Do you think that I call (catcher Brian) McCann out to the mound to ask how his day's going? I know how it's going,'' said McCullers, who deleted the tweet after talking with the media, saying such conversations offered a better platform to explain his thinking than Twitter did.

    ''Players are dedicated to making the game more crisp. We're dedicated to making it a better product, but at the same time we're also dedicated to making sure the fans get the best quality product in the field that they can.''

    McCullers didn't need any meetings with McCann on Tuesday. He kept the live bullpen session simple: fastballs and change-ups only.

    ''If he would have started a game today, with his live bullpen, he would have thrown a no-hitter,'' McCann said. ''That's how good he was out there. And he didn't throw a breaking ball today.''

    That breaking ball, which mixes the speed of a curve with the increased velocity of a slider, is McCullers' out pitch. He threw 24 consecutive breaking balls against the Yankees in a four-inning save to close Game 7 of the ALCS.

    Entering spring last season McCullers told himself not to throw the pitch too early in spring, but once games started he let his competitive side get the better of him.

    ''I couldn't control myself,'' he said. ''I had to throw it. Now I literally have not thrown it, so it's not even an option.''

    The 24-year-old right-hander hopes to make it through his first two Grapefruit League outings throwing only fastballs and change-ups.

    After breaking his no-early-breaking-ball vow last spring, McCullers raced to a 7-1 start through mid June and an All-Star selection before a back injury all but wrecked the second half of his season. He didn't win another regular-season game all year.

    ''I was hindering the ability of the club to become the team that we wanted to be,'' McCullers said. ''I was going out there. I wouldn't make it through the fourth and fifth inning because I was just pitching through too much pain.''

    McCullers began the postseason pitching out of the bullpen before starting in one of his two appearances against the Yankees. He started twice against the Dodgers in the World Series, earning the Game 3 win after allowing three runs on four hits in 5 1/3 innings.

    ''He can pitch in any game you ask,'' manager A. J. Hinch said. ''We asked him to start Game 7 of the World Series. I think that tells you what we think of him and how much we trust him.''

    As good as McCullers is, Houston doesn't need him to be the ace - not with Dallas Keuchel, Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Charlie Morton slotted ahead of him in the rotation.

    ''You can call him an ace, you can call him anything you want,'' Hinch said. ''The day he pitches is the day that we expect to win. And I think that's the most respect you can give to a starting pitcher.''

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

    Rangers hungry to top AL West again
    February 20, 2018


    SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) The Texas Rangers are famished for success after a down 2017.

    After winning back-to-back AL West championships, the Rangers went from winning 97 games in 2016 to a 78-84 record last season and finishing 23 games behind the Houston Astros.

    ''Hungry dogs run faster,'' Rangers manager Jeff Banister said Tuesday, the first day of the club's full-squad workout. ''That may be a T-shirt.''

    Pitchers, by design, did not throw batting practice for the initial day with position players on the field.

    Shortstop Elvis Andrus was unable to make it through the first day, leaving early with back spasms. Left-hander Matt Moore, who had been slowed by a tender right knee, was cleared to participate in pitcher's fielding practice. Left-hander Martin Perez, who suffered a broken right arm in a December incident with a bull on his Venezuelan ranch, is improving.

    ''He's throwing only,'' assistant general manager Jayce Tingler said. ''He's progressing, just more precautionary. He's right on pace.''

    The preseason forecasts are the Rangers will not be able to keep pace with the Astros and the Los Angeles Angels, who won the winter sweepstakes in signing Japanese two-way star Shohel Ohtani.

    ''Outside expectations are not anything we judge ourselves on really,'' Banister said. ''It's what our internal expectations are. We play well in that underdog position. We've shown that.

    ''When you go through some adverse times you can look at last year and think of different moments and how we responded to them. I think the excitement is there's a group of guys in there that can't want to respond to what they encountered last year,'' he said.

    The new-look Rangers will have Joey Gallo starting at first base with Mike Napoli gone and Delino DeShields replacing Carlos Gomez in center.

    ''Joey Gallo, there's a lot of excitement there, just the power potential, but the ability to improve on the command of the strike zone and the athleticism he has on the field,'' Banister said.

    Gallo hit 41 home runs last season, while playing mostly at third base with Adrian Beltre restricted to 94 games because of injuries. Gallo also struck out 196 times, which ranked second in the American League.

    DeShields played mostly left in 2017, but is shifting to center this year.

    ''We're going to get a really good look at who he is in center field,'' Banister said. ''We know what he does for us offensively. Just look at the stats, the runs scored per game when he's in the game and the winning percentage.''

    Banister said Ryan Rua, Drew Robinson and Willie Calhoun, who was acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Yu Darvish trade, are the left field candidates.

    The Rangers need a bounce back year from Rougned Odor, who hit a pitiful .204 last season. It was all or nothing for Odor, who had 30 home runs, but struck out 162 times. Odor also committed a major-league high 19 errors by a second baseman.

    ''Rougned Odor is primed and ready to get back to status of play he's accustomed to and improve on that,'' Banister said.

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

    Angels call on Kinsler for offensive punch
    February 20, 2018


    TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) The Los Angeles Angels are trying to fill a hole at second base that's dragged down their offense the past couple of years.

    Enter Ian Kinsler.

    Kinsler is part of a revamped Angels' infield that will include Zack Cozart, an All-Star last year in Cincinnati, at third base while usual designated hitter Albert Pujols is expected to get more time in the field at first base.

    The Angels' second base position has been one of the least productive in baseball the past two years.

    In 2016, the Angels went with Johnny Giavotella and Cliff Pennington; the pair combined for a minus-1.6 WAR, among the worst in baseball.

    In 2017, the Angels went with slick-fielding Danny Espinosa at second. But he hit just .162 in 77 games and had 91 strikeouts in 228 at-bats. They also tried Pennington and Kaleb Cowart.

    The position produced such miniscule combined numbers as a .206 average, 14 homers and a .274 OBP. They acquired veteran Brandon Phillips late to try to push them to a wild-card spot but fell short.

    So the Angels gave up two minor league prospects in swinging a trade with Detroit, where Kinsler had an off-year, batting .236 with 22 homers, 52 RBIs and a .725 OPS. But he is a four-time All Star with 234 career homers and a .273 batting average, and won an AL Gold Glove in 2016.

    Kinsler also has plenty of experience playing for championship-contending teams from his years with Texas.

    ''Ian is a winner,'' manager Mike Scioscia said. ''He's a gamer. He brings an intensity that's going to be good for all of our guys.''

    ''He's a talented, experienced player. He runs the bases very well. He knows his way around the league,'' he said.

    The Angels, Kinsler said, are ''pretty comparable'' to his Rangers' teams in that, ''This lineup is extremely deep.''

    ''Defensively, this should be the best team I've played on. That's going to be a lot of fun, try to save the pitchers some pitches and some outs,'' he said.

    Kinsler has the advantage of working with Andrelton Simmons, one of baseball's best defensive shortstops, on plays up the middle.

    ''He makes it look easy,'' Kinsler said. ''It's a lot of fun to play with a guy like that.''

    NOTES: The Angels are lowering the home-run height in right field from 18 feet to 8 feet. Angels officials said the new marker makes the park more ''equitable. Tim Mead, the team's vice president for communications, said the new home-run boundary was made in part because of a new out-of-town scoreboard but also because of ''philosophical changes.'' The Angels, of course, are introducing Japanese pitcher-slugger Shohei Ohtani this season. He is a right-handed pitcher but a left-handed batter. ... Scioscia and pitcher Matt Shoemaker, the Angels' representative to the players' union, said they are OK with limitations on mound visits designed to speed up the game. Shoemaker indicated that mound visits will now focus more on strategy; visits designed to calm a pitcher during a rough inning may be sacrificed. ... Scioscia sounded more enthusiastic about the potential to speed the game by emphasizing a reduction in time between innings. ''When I played, if you made the last out, you had to hurry to get your (catching) equipment on if you wanted to throw the ball to second base. Now it seems like some things have gotten away from us.''... With the Angels going with a six-man pitching rotation, they will have seven pitchers in the bullpen, leaving a small bench for position players, Scioscia indicated. This will be somewhat offset by Ohtani both pitching and hitting, he said. ''Our roster is going to be unique,'' he said.
    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

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    FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 23
    GAME TIME(ET) PICK UNITS


    MIN at BOS 01:05 PM
    MIN +105

    WAS at HOU 01:05 PM
    WAS +100
    U 8.5

    DET at NYY 01:05 PM
    DET +130
    U 8.5

    STL at MIA 01:05 PM
    STL -105
    U 8.5

    PHI at TOR 01:07 PM
    PHI -105

    ATL at NYM 01:10 PM
    ATL -105

    CIN at CLE 03:05 PM
    CLE -152
    O 9.5

    CHW at LAD 03:05 PM
    LAD -156
    U 9.5

    LAA at OAK 03:05 PM
    OAK -120
    U 9.5

    ARI at COL 03:10 PM
    COL -111
    U 9.5

    SEA at SD 03:10 PM
    SD -111
    U 9.5


    ALL OPINIONS THRU SPRING TRAINING
    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

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