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Thread: Cnotes MLB 2019 Spring Traning News Notes and Rumors !

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    B]Bird says he's ready to regain Yanks' 1B job from Voit
    February 21, 2019
    By The Associated Press
    [/B]

    TAMPA, Fla. (AP) Greg Bird is stronger, healthier and ready to challenge Luke Voit for the New York Yankees' first-base job.

    After three injury-marred seasons, the 26-year old Bird reported to the Yankees' spring training complex in early January and checked into camp at 230 pounds, up about 20 from the end of last season.

    ''I was able to start over and get to where I needed to be, and work from the ground up,'' Bird said Thursday after homering off Masahiro Tanaka in a simulated game and adding a single against left-hander James Paxton. ''I didn't change anything. I just got back to where I needed to be.''

    Bird made his big league debut in August 2015 and hit 11 homers with 31 RBIs in 46 games. He missed 2016 after surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder, then hit .451 with eight homers during spring training in 2017 but fouled a ball off his right ankle March 30,.

    He started the season 6 for 60 and went on the disabled list May 2. Bird had surgery July 18 to remove a bone in the ankle. He returned Aug. 26 and hit .253 with eight homers and 25 RBIs in 29 games, then batted .241 three homers and six RBIs in 13 playoff games.

    But he hit poorly in spring training last year and had surgery March 27 to remove a broken spur on the outside of his right ankle. He did not play for the Yankees until May 26 and wound up with a .199 average, 11 homers and 38 RBIs over 82 games.

    Voit, acquired from St. Louis on July 28, displaced Bird and hit .333 with 14 homers and 33 RBIs in 39 games with the Yankees. General manager Brian Cashman said the job was Voit's to lose this spring training.

    ''The one thing about Greg, even last year when he was struggling at its most, he controls the strike zone,'' Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. ''His first at-bats today, that was apparent and then we saw him impact the ball as well.''

    Bird's drive off Tanaka produced a loud bang after nailing the right-center field scoreboard on a back field at Steinbrenner Field. In his next at-bat, he lined an opposite-field to left hit off Paxton. He also took a called third strike against Chad Green.

    ''It's step in the right direction,'' Bird said. ''I just want to play. That's one step closer to playing.''

    Voit had three at-bats Thursday, including a single to left against Paxton.

    Bird's homer was the lone hit off Tanaka, who struck out Miguel Andujar, Gleyber Torres and Tyler Wade over 1 2/3 innings.

    Troy Tulowitzki drove a ball off the left-field fence against Paxton.

    MR. 0

    Adam Ottavino wore No. 0, and that's exactly what he gave the hitters.

    He struck out Torres and Voit, then struck out Wade twice, both times swinging.

    ''You're watching from behind and knowing as a right-handed hitter, that's not a fun at-bat right there,'' Boone said. ''Sometimes when he executes, you're kind of like not even upset when you're out, you're just glad it's over with.''

    MORE FROM THE MOUND

    Reliever Danny Farquhar, coming back from a brain hemorrhage stemming from a ruptured aneurysm last April 20, could be ready for his first simulated game next week. . LHP CC Sabathia (heart stent and knee) is throwing at 60 feet on level ground. He is expected starting throwing off a mound around March 1.
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    Brewers' Braun aiming to build off strong finish last season
    February 21, 2019
    By The Associated Press


    PHOENIX (AP) Those days of playing every day, they're done for Ryan Braun. Most important for the longtime Milwaukee Brewers star these days is making the most of the time he's in the lineup.

    Now 35, Braun is inching closer to the downside of his career. And while he is still capable of being a game-changing presence, staying healthy and on the field on a regular basis is not nearly as easy as it was when he was 28 and just hitting his prime.

    Managing Braun's playing time to keep him fresh has been an annual challenge for Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell. He, Braun and the team's training staff try to map out a plan each year to build in scheduled rest days along the way - day games after night games, especially ahead of scheduled team off-days - to keep Braun as available as possible.

    ''We'll continue to do that this year,'' Counsell said. ''We have to just monitor usage. We have to be careful there. The point is to get the player out there when he's as close to healthy as we can get him. And we have to do that with Ryan.''

    The plan worked a year ago. The outfielder missed 16 games with two separate stints on the injured list for back soreness, but appeared in 125 games overall and started all but five of those contests.

    Most importantly for the Brewers, Braun was at full strength down the stretch. Braun helped power them to the NL Central crown and within one win of the World Series.

    And such is the goal again in 2019. Braun reported no issues upon arriving to camp over the weekend and doesn't have a goal for games played in mind. He just wants to be ready if the Brewers find themselves in the thick of another pennant race.

    ''I know, realistically, it's unlikely I'm going to play in 155 or 160 games anymore,'' Braun said ''But the goal for most of us is to play as many of those games as close to possible at 100 percent.''

    Braun hit 20 home runs with 64 RBIs last season, but his .256 batting average and .313 on-base percentage marked career lows.

    Blaming his age would be an easy answer but a closer look at advanced metrics reveal a different story: Braun finished 20th among qualified big leaguers in average exit velocity and posted a 43 percent hard-hit ball rate, the second-highest total of his career. Even so, his batting average on balls put in play plummeted to a career-low .274.

    He hopes his tweaks will change his launch angles just enough to change his luck.

    ''You'll probably be able to recognize some subtle differences but nothing too drastic,'' Braun said. ''But it's something I hope everybody recognizes at the end of the season the end results.''

    Unlike last year, Braun won't have to worry about learning a new position this spring.

    Looking to solve what was, at the time, a glut of outfielders after acquiring Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain, the Brewers tried out Braun at first base during Cactus League play. The thought was such a move would open up playing time in the outfield for Domingo Santana or Keon Broxton, both of whom have been traded, and provide a right-handed backup to Eric Thames while also easing Braun's workload.

    That plan was shelved when Santana was demoted to Triple-A and Thames lost his starting job to Jesus Aguilar. Braun won't see much action outside of left field this spring.
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    Indians reloading bullpen after down season, departures
    February 21, 2019
    By The Associated Press


    GOODYEAR, Ariz. (AP) Dan Otero is a man of words. Not just because the steady reliever fills out crossword puzzles, but because he chooses words carefully, as in politely noting the operative word for the Indians' bullpen status is ''reconfiguration'' as opposed to ''rebuild.''

    Following an injury-plagued, sub-par 2018 performance and the loss of career saves leader Cody Allen and left-handed virtuoso Andrew Miller to free agency, the three-time defending AL Central champions are intent on improving the back end of their bullpen.

    Cleveland relievers had a 4.60 ERA last season, a substantial drop from a successful run - 2.89 in 2017, 3.45 in 2016, and 3.12 in 2015 and 2014.

    Otero is confident the corps can return to past form.

    ''We have all the pieces here to be a successful bullpen,'' he said Thursday in the clubhouse on a rare rainy day at camp. ''And most, if not everyone, was here last year at some point and in some capacity. And everyone has had prominent success in the big leagues, maybe not sustained as much as we like, but everybody has had prominent success.''

    That number includes former two-time All-Star Tyler Clippard, who agreed Wednesday to sign a minor league deal, pending a physical. Clippard's expected arrival boosts the non-roster pitcher number to 12, nine of whom have MLB relief experience.

    ''Any time you get a chance to get a major league pitcher ... it's kind of hard to not want to bring him in,'' Indians manager Terry Francona said. ''We're really excited to bring him in and get a look at him and see where it could go. He'll go right into that mix of that group competing for bullpen spots.''

    With 15 more relievers on the 40-man camp roster, evaluating the best bullpen candidates before the March 28 season opener at Minnesota will be incredibly challenging for Francona, beginning his seventh season with Cleveland.

    ''You can make some really bad mistakes with looking at ERAs, things like that,'' he said. ''For guys that have track records, it is a little easier because you can go back and say, `Is this the same guy? Is his velocity down?'''

    Francona used Otero as an example. In spring training 2016, his ERA was over 6.0, but ''every groundball found its way through the infield,'' Francona said. ''But we thought he pitched very well.''

    Otero wound up with 1.53 ERA, the best in the `pen.

    The skipper also pointed out that in spring training games, the late-inning batters - facing Francona's bullpen candidates - are often long shots to make rosters.

    ''They're facing No. 99; we don't know who they are,'' Francona said. ''That might be the biggest at-bat of their life. They're going to call home after that at-bat and tell mom and dad that they faced Tyler Clippard. It's hard. You try to see who can pitch to a scouting report.''

    As for combining the eye test with spin rates from data collecting technology Francona said, ''it's just another way of getting to the answer; you try not to guess. There is really good technology out there that we use and believe in.''

    The human element is always part of the equation, as players who are more comfortable tend to perform better. That might be the case for Adam Cimber and closer Brad Hand, who were acquired last July from San Diego.

    ''It's human nature, you're not introducing yourself to people, you are reacquainting yourself,'' Francona said.

    As Hand revealed, he made a quick adjustment, in part, because he's changed teams previously, from the Marlins to San Diego in 2016. In contrast, Cimber had only known the Padres.

    ''When you leave your first team, that's as close to family as you are ever going to get in a professional setting,'' Francona said. ''So, the first time it can be a little challenging, especially in the middle of the year.''

    While Allen and Miller left massive holes, Francona does have some reliable arms coming back he knows he can count on.

    Veteran left-hander Oliver Perez was solid during most of his 51 appearances last season after he signed in June following his release while in the minors with the Yankees. Nick Goody and Tyler Olson, two dominant relievers from 2017, might factor in with bounce back years, and Jon Edwards showed promise in brief appearances late last season.

    Edwards said he is focusing on spin efficiency, among other aspects, in spring training. Certainly, Indians relievers seek a return to past dominance.

    ''There's an eagerness among guys, including myself, to pick that up and show we can help the team win and be a stabilizer at the back part of the game,'' Edwards said.
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    This time, Red Sox 2B Pedroia is cautious on injury return
    February 21, 2019
    By The Associated Press


    FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) Dustin Pedroia's goal isn't merely to come back from his knee injury.

    He's done that before.

    The challenge for the Boston second baseman this time is to return at the right time, to stick around longer than three games, and to help the Red Sox get back to the World Series with his play, instead of by cheering them on from the dugout.

    ''The human body is on its own program, man,'' Pedroia said after working out with the other infielders on Thursday, a day before the defending champions open their exhibition schedule against Northeastern University.

    ''I'm trying to come back. Whenever it is, it is,'' he said. ''Obviously, I want to play and get back in there. But I've played in a lot of games. I understand the speed of the game and what it takes to play. We want to make sure my knee is OK.''

    A four-time All-Star and the 2008 AL MVP, Pedroia had surgery on his left knee after the 2017 season and started last year on the disabled list. He came back in May, but played just three games before going back on the DL and spending the rest of the season there.

    ''My knee couldn't handle the load,'' he said on Thursday. ''When you so something too soon, your body will say `Stop.' That's what happened.''

    Pedroia was with the team for its World Series run - the third championship of his career - and manager Alex Cora praised him for the leadership he provided from the bench. Pedroia talked about being able to enjoy the Series it more than when he was so focused on playing.

    But during the offseason he turned his attention back to rehabbing his knee.

    Cora would update reporters over the winter about texts he received from Pedroia - videos of him working out, and other progress updates that painted a picture of a guy who was eager to prove he would be ready. The Red Sox manager said if Pedroia can make it back, he would bat leadoff on opening day.

    But if Cora's goal was to get the 35-year-old motivated, he didn't need to bother.

    ''I know he always asked for more. He'll try to get five more (practice repetitions), and 10 more. And `I can sprint here and go there,''' Cora said. ''There's something about me telling him `no' - he gets it.''

    Instead, the team is trying to control the comeback and avoid a repeat of last year's false start. Cora said the question isn't whether Pedroia can make it through a workout like Thursday's, but how his knee responds on Friday.

    ''I don't try to get too excited,'' Pedroia said. ''I was really happy after the first game I played last year and three days later it was pretty bad.''

    Cora said Pedroia wasn't expected to play in Friday's exhibition game against Northeastern or in the Grapefruit League opener against the New York Yankees on Saturday. (Nor are many other veterans and everyday players who don't need the spring at-bats to get into shape or try to earn a spot on the team.)

    ''We're taking care of him,'' Cora said. ''You asked me how he feels - well, I'll tell you tomorrow. Because he can run around and do everything. Tomorrow's a big day. If he's able to show up tomorrow and there's no pain no soreness, that's a win for him and obviously it's a win for us.''

    Also Thursday, reliever Ryan Brasier returned to Florida after having his infected right pinkie toe checked out in Boston. Although Brasier is a candidate for the closer role that has been open since Craig Kimbrel left as a free agent, Cora said the infection hasn't yet interfered with his timetable to get ready for the season.
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    Angels sign left-hander Jennings to minor-league deal
    February 21, 2019
    By The Associated Press


    ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) The Los Angeles Angels have signed pitcher Dan Jennings to a minor league contract with an invite to spring training.

    The left-hander appeared in 72 games last season for the Milwaukee Brewers and had a 4-5 record with a 3.22 earned run average. Jennings signed with the Brewers after being released by Tampa Bay prior to opening day.

    Jennings has made at least 50 appearances the past four seasons with the Chicago White Sox, Tampa Bay and Milwaukee.
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    Marlins begin rollout of OF Mesa
    February 21, 2019
    By The Associated Press


    JUPITER, Fla. (AP) For a franchise that has been a perennial loser, Victor Victor Mesa sounds like a winner.

    The Miami Marlins can't be sure, however, because they they've never seen Mesa play. They agreed to a $5.25 million signing bonus last October with the highly touted Cuban defector and can begin to assess the investment Saturday when their spring training season starts.

    It has been more than two years since Mesa's most recent game. The Marlins based their evaluation of him on videotape of his play in Cuba.

    ''That was the only opportunity we had, and every other major league team had,'' said Gary Denbo, vice president of player development and scouting. ''But I have a lot of confidence what we're going to see is going to be exciting.''

    Mesa, 22, left Cuba nearly a year ago to pursue a major league career and was considered the top international free agent last fall. Miami signed him and his 17-year-old brother, Victor Jr., after both tried out at Marlins Park for scouts from all 30 major league teams.

    The session stoked the Marlins' enthusiasm for the elder Mesa.

    ''He took a batting practice that would rival any of our major league players, hitting head-high line drives all around the field,'' Denbo said Thursday.

    The Marlins don't necessarily expect Mesa to do that in spring training, at least not right away. But he'll play a lot, working off the rust before heading to the minor leagues to start the regular season.

    ''We'll get him as many at-bats as we can and see him in different situations,'' manager Don Mattingly said. ''There's going to be a process, with him not playing games in a while and getting him up to speed.''

    That's something he has in abundance - speed - and he's regarded as an excellent defensive player. But the 5-foot-9, 165-pound Mesa didn't show much power in Cuba, and it's uncertain how quickly he'll adjust to big league pitching.

    Mesa has gone about his business quietly since full-squad workouts began Monday.

    ''I'm happy just to be back on the field,'' he said through an interpreter. ''I was out of the game for a long time.''

    The Mesa signings were part of a push by the Marlins to be more active on the international market under CEO Derek Jeter. He wants the Marlins to mirror their diverse city.

    A Cuban star outfielder would be good business for the attendance-challenged franchise, and Victor Victor is already accustomed to being asked when he'll reach the majors. The question was raised at a news conference after he signed, and he addressed it again after reporting for spring training.

    ''I believe the moment will come,'' he said. ''All I have to do is work hard.''

    The Marlins are rebuilding under Jeter and likely at least a couple of years from ending a playoff drought that dates to 2003. They anticipate their climb into contention will include Mesa, but have no reason to fast-track him.

    ''It will great to see how he mixes in this spring,'' president of baseball operations Michael Hill said. ''''We just want to get him on the field and get him playing, get him with our coaching staff and start that process toward getting him to the big leagues.''
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    Clark believes mean system is working
    February 21, 2019
    By The Associated Press


    TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) Players' union head Tony Clark says Adam Wainwright's comments about a possible strike were in line with widespread concern he hears from his members about a free-agent market they claim has become dysfunctional.

    Starting his tour of spring training camps, Clark said he isn't drawing conclusions about the market based on Manny Machado's $300 million, 10-year contract with the San Diego Padres, the second-highest contract in baseball history. Bryce Harper, Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel are among dozens of free agents still looking for a deal.

    ''We're glad Manny found a home. We're curious as to why it took as long as it did,'' Clark said Thursday. ''And we're also still concerned about the players that are out there that their phone isn't ringing and that they haven't had an opportunity and camps are opened up and the season's opened up and we're in a position where fans and players alike are asking `Where are we held up and what's going on?'''

    The former All-Star first baseman, who will visit all 30 teams, said the union has heard from players who have been contacted by multiple teams in a small window of time after going a long period without hearing from any clubs.

    ''The idea that there is radio silence for as long as it is and then suddenly the phone rings, all in on one day and that rings from multiple teams, is something we're interested in looking into,'' Clark said.

    Major league front offices are using analytics and models to determine the worth of free agents more than ever before, but that hasn't stopped some of baseball's biggest names from criticizing the decision-making process that left some players out in the cold at the start of spring training.

    Washington ace Max Scherzer said there are too many teams trying not to win, and all the rebuilding ''poisons the game.'' Houston right-hander Justin Verlander thinks the current economic approach pursued by some teams will continue to drive away fans.

    ''I mean there's things that look kind of weird that teams are doing, but I mean I guess that's stuff we're trying to straighten out,'' Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons said. ''We come here trying to win every game, so I'm just hoping everybody does the same.''

    Baseball's labor contract runs until December 2021. The union has proposed major economic changes, such as expanding the designated hitter to the National League and adding rules to the amateur draft to discourage rebuilding. Management appears willing to discuss changes as part of an extension to the collective bargaining agreement.

    Wainwright said a strike is coming if nothing changes, and the St. Louis right-hander wondered aloud to InsideSTL.com about the possibility of players walking out in the middle of the upcoming season. Clark said players will honor the current contract, but he understood Wainwright's perspective.

    ''The comment that Adam offered suggests the seriousness of what we're seeing and the concern that guys have about where the industry is and where it's going,'' Clark said.

    The union is having ongoing talks with MLB about its concerns. Management wants to install a pitch clock this year and proposed limits on the use of relief pitchers.

    ''There's dialogue about a pitch clock, but it's not at the forefront of the conversation because guys wholeheartedly believe that that's not the issue that we have,'' Clark said. ''The issues that we have go far beyond saving a few seconds on any one night in any one game.''
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    Howard joins ESPN's 'Baseball Tonight'
    February 21, 2019
    By The Associated Press


    BRISTOL, Conn. (AP) Former Philadelphia Phillies slugger Ryan Howard has joined ESPN as an analyst on ''Baseball Tonight.''

    The network said Thursday that Howard will start in early March. He also will appear on other television and radio formats at ESPN.

    Howard was a three-time All-Star and the 2006 NL MVP. The first baseman spent his entire career with the Phillies, helped them win the 2008 World Series and played his last big league game in 2016.

    The 39-year-old Howard was the NL Rookie of the Year and hit 382 home runs in 13 seasons.
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    Saturday’s 6-pack

    Hitters who knocked in highest %age of runners in from 2nd base LY (min, 200 PA)

    1) Escobar, Min 26-94 (26.7%)

    2) L. Garcia, CWS 14-51 (27.5%)

    3) Peralta, Az 24-92 (26.1%)

    4) Cave, Minn 15-58 (25.9%)

    5) Prado, Mia 8-31 (25.8%)

    6) White, Hous 13-51 (25.5%)

    Quote of the Day
    “Nothing’s certainly changed on our end. We’ve moved on. As I said back then and we had to. There was no way we could wait around. Bryce, I’m sure he will make his decision hopefully in the next few days, but we’ve filled out our roster and like I said, we wish him nothing but the best.”
    Washington Nationals’ owner Mark Lerner

    Saturday’s quiz
    If you’re watching a college basketball game in the Galen Center, which college campus are you on?

    Friday’s quiz
    Gene Bartow replaced John Wooden as the basketball coach at UCLA; his son Murry is the interim coach at UCLA this season.

    Thursday’s quiz
    Whit Merrifield led the major leagues in stolen bases last year, with 45.


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

    Saturday’s List of 13: Clearing out a cluttered mind……


    13) Wrestling icon Ric Flair had a surprise 70th birthday thrown for him in Atlanta last night; guests included Charles Barkley, Todd Gurley, Evander Holyfield, Dennis Rodman and Brad Nessler, as well as the expected stars from the world of pro wrestling. Flair has overcome some physical issues in the last year. Great to see that he is doing well now.

    12) UCLA 68, Oregon State 67— I had no dog in this fight Thursday night, but the boxscore made me laugh. I’m guessing Beavers’ coach Wayne Tinkle wasn’t amused:

    Foul shots: Oregon State 1-3, UCLA 16-28. In a one-point game.

    11) Texas Longhorns have suspended their leading scorer, Kerwin Roach, indefinitely. The senior guard is averaging 15 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game.

    10) Congrats to Belmont coach Rick Byrd, who won his 800th career game Thursday night when his Bruins spanked Eastern Illinois 99-58.

    9) North Carolina’s win over Duke Wednesday had a Nielsen-reported audience of 4,343,000 viewers, making it the most-viewed weeknight college hoop game in ESPN’s history.

    8) Zion Williamson isn’t expected to play Saturday night in Syracuse.

    7) XFL starts play next spring; they’re trying to create interest by dragging out their announcements of who will be coaching in which cities.

    Bob Stoops is going to coach the Dallas team; Pep Hamilton the Washington DC team, and now comes word that former Seahawks QB Jim Zorn will coach the Seattle team. Zorn coached the Redskins for two years, in 2008-09.

    6) Utility guy Marwin Gonzalez signed with the Minnesota Twins on a two-year, $21M deal.

    5) Big week in San Diego; Manny Machado, the Aztecs beat Nevada and now this. Santa Clara grad transfer KJ Feagin cancelled all his other visits and has committed to San Diego State. Good get for Jim Dutcher.

    4) Over the length of his 10-year contract, Manny Machado will pay around $39.9M in income taxes to the state of California, $158M total in federal, state and payroll taxes.

    3) Iowa men’s basketball play-by-play announcer Gary Dolphin was suspended for the rest of the Hawkeyes’ season after referring to Maryland’s Bruno Fernando as “King Kong” during Tuesday’s game.

    Fernando, who had 11 points and 11 rebounds in the game, was born in Angola, a Southern African nation bordering the Atlantic Ocean.

    2) Remember when the Bears missed the field goal at end of their playoff loss to the Eagles? When the new league year starts next month, Chicago will cut that kicker, Cody Parkey.

    1) Friday would’ve been my father’s 93rd birthday; he passed away in May of 2015, leaving behind the perfect example of how to be a good person.

    Happy birthday, dad. We miss you.
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    Suzuki starts likely last spring opener
    February 22, 2019
    By The Associated Press


    PEORIA, Ariz. (AP) Ichiro Suzuki still felt the nerves of competition at age 45.

    Suzuki started what may be his final spring training with a two-run, two-out single in the third inning Friday of the Seattle Mariners' opening 8-1 win over the Oakland Athletics.

    Batting seventh and playing left field, Suzuki fouled out in the second inning against Liam Hendriks and singled in the third off left-hander Ryan Buchter. Suzuki then was replaced by a pinch runner. He did not have any chances in the field.

    ''Of course you have nerves, but this was one I hadn't experienced before, the nerves that I had today,'' Suzuki said through an interpreter. ''I'm just glad the first day's out of the way.''

    The Cactus League opener, delayed a day by Thursday's rainout, was between the teams that meet in the season's opening series on March 20-21 in Tokyo.

    A 10-time All-Star who won the AL Rookie of the Year and MVP awards in 2001, Suzuki spent his first 12 major league seasons in Seattle, went on to play for the New York Yankees and Miami. then returned last season. He hit .205 in 44 at-bats before moving to a front-office role in early May.

    It long appeared Suzuki's goal was to play in the opening series in Japan, where he won seven Pacific League batting titles with Orix. He had a .311 career average in the North American major leagues with 3,089 hits in 18 seasons.
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    Reds begin quest to fill center field
    February 22, 2019
    By The Associated Press


    GOODYEAR, Ariz. (AP) The Cincinnati Reds begin their search for a center fielder this weekend when they open spring training play. They have some intriguing options to replace Billy Hamilton, including the rare combination of a reliever who also plays the outfield.

    Hamilton, who was among the NL's top defensive center fielders, struggled to hit and has signed with the Royals. Right fielder Scott Schebler is the leading candidate to move to center, where he played 16 games last season, but first-year manager David Bell is exploring some other options. He could try rookie Nick Senzel at the spot, or let newcomers Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp get some time there.

    He's also getting reliever Michael Lorenzen ready to both pitch and play center field during spring training games, an unusual arrangement that has required changing his daily workout routine.

    Lorenzen was accustomed to it at Cal State Fullerton, where he played center and sometimes closed games. The Reds drafted him as a pitcher in 2013. He has lobbied for a dual role in the major leagues.

    ''Just pitching doesn't seem natural to me,'' Lorenzen said.

    Bell wants Lorenzen to get ready to pitch during the first half of camp, then will use him in the outfield in the later games and see what happens.

    ''We will have him pitch an inning and stay in the game (in the outfield),'' Bell said. ''It's exciting. I have to slow myself down. I think it's cool that he's preparing himself the way he is.''

    Instead of doing conditioning work with the other pitchers, Lorenzen will be working out with the outfielders more often.

    ''We've come up with a pretty good plan,'' Lorenzen said. ''It's them trusting that I'm a good enough athlete to maybe not do all the (pitchers') conditioning. Running down balls in the outfield is conditioning.''

    Bell's other intriguing option is Senzel, who played third base at Tennessee. The Reds had him work out in the outfield in the offseason, getting the 23-year-old ready to try a new position.

    ''It is a challenging position,'' Senzel said ''You're covering a lot of ground. You have to cover the gaps.''

    Bell thinks that Senzel's speed will give him good range in the outfield. The challenge will be learning the nuances of the position. One of Senzel's biggest challenges will be learning to communicate with the other outfielders when the ball's in the air, something he's never done in his career.

    ''I'm going to be learning it in the big leagues,'' he said. ''I think that puts a more challenging aspect on it.''

    GRAY SCRATCHED

    Sonny Gray was scratched from his planned start against the Indians on Saturday because of a sore pitching elbow. He expects to resume throwing next week and Tanner Roark, acquired from Washington, will start in his place.

    ''It is nothing I'm overly worried about. I've dealt with this in the past,'' Gray said Friday. ''I'll start throwing in a couple of days. I wanted to go out there and throw the first game of spring but it was everyone's decision not to push it.''

    Gray, a 29-year-old right-hander, was acquired from the New York Yankees last month and agreed to a $38 million, four-year contract with the Reds.
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    Cards' Fowler hopes to increase production
    February 22, 2019
    By The Associated Press


    JUPITER, Fla. (AP) Dexter Fowler is taking the best piece of hitting advice he has ever received and applying it to his entire spring training approach.

    ''Have a short memory,'' Fowler said.

    Fowler had a 2018 worth forgetting.

    A career .262 hitter with an on-base percentage of .360, Fowler hit only .180 with an on-base percentage below .300 while battling nagging injuries much of the year. A foul ball that broke his foot ended Fowler's season in early August, limiting him to 90 games - his lowest single-season total since the year he broke into the big leagues.

    ''You learn from it and move on,'' Fowler said.

    Now 32, Fowler is entering the third season of a five-year, $82 million contract. An All-Star with Chicago in 2016 when he posted a .393 on-base percentage to help lead the Cubs to their first World Series title in more than a century, Fowler scored 186 runs during a two-year stint with Chicago prior to joining St. Louis.

    Cardinals manager Mike Shildt is seeing a rejuvenated, more upbeat Fowler compared to the player who struggled last season.

    ''With Dexter, I want that million-dollar smile to be more consistent,'' Shildt said. ''I want him to appreciate and enjoy what he's doing and get back to a place that he's coming from, that he has a lot of records from, and that's a place of success - not only individually but in team settings.''

    Jose Martinez, not Fowler, will start in right field on Saturday when the Cardinals open preseason play against the Miami Marlins. Left fielder Marcel Ozuna, working his way back from offseason shoulder surgery, will be the designated hitter in the opener and isn't expected to play the field for the first couple of weeks.

    Fowler will make his Grapefruit League debut on Sunday, and Shildt has already announced that Fowler will hit second in the lineup, between Matt Carpenter and Paul Goldschmidt.

    ''From an on-base standpoint he's one of the elite on-base guys in the league,'' Carpenter said of Fowler. ''Obviously he's a great base runner. If you can put what I do and what he does in front of guys like Paul Goldshmidt and Marcel Ozuna it's a recipe, potentially, for a ton of runs.''

    Carpenter has reached base at no less than a .374 clip in five of the past six seasons. Goldshmidt has driven in at least 110 runs three times during his career. Ozuna drove in 124 runs in 2017 with the Marlins.

    Unlike previous seasons, Fowler most frequently hit in the sixth or seventh spot last season.

    ''I'm accustomed to being in the top of the lineup,'' Fowler said. ''I've always been a guy who's tried to get on base.''
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    Ace Kershaw shut down by Dodgers
    February 22, 2019
    By The Associated Press


    GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw has been shut down indefinitely after telling manager Dave Roberts that he ''didn't feel right'' after two discouraging outings on the mound.

    Kershaw worked out indoors at Camelback Ranch on Friday, but didn't play catch. Roberts wouldn't speculate on the left-hander's next bullpen session.

    "Just going to take a few days. It's just best if I do that," Kershaw told reporters. ''I'm not going to get another chance to do this during the season. It feels like it's a good time. Hopefully be playing catch, if not this weekend, by the first of next week.''

    Kershaw told Roberts he wasn't feeling right after throwing live batting practice Monday and a bullpen session on Wednesday.

    Roberts was unclear as to what exactly is going on with the three-time NL Cy Young Award winner, but the manager told reporters in Arizona "no one is alarmed or worried about it."

    Kershaw has dealt with back injuries the last three seasons and a left shoulder injury last year.

    Roberts said Kershaw could be going through a so-called ''dead-arm stage,'' which can affect pitchers in spring training.

    ''There's plenty of time for him to get his `pens in and build up,'' the manager said. ''He holds himself to a high standard. He really wasn't pleased with how he felt. It's sort of a day-to-day thing.''

    Kershaw signed a $93 million, three-year contract in November and was named the opening day starter for the ninth consecutive year earlier this week. He turns 31 next month.

    He had a 2.73 ERA last year.

    Notes: LHP Rich Hill will start the Dodgers' Cactus League opener on Saturday against the Chicago White Sox. Last year, Hill was 11-5 with a 3.66 ERA. At 38, he is the fourth-oldest active player in the majors. ... RHP Walker Buehler tossed his second official bullpen on Friday. ... RHP Joe Kelly tossed live batting practice to non-roster invitees Gavin Lux and Cameron Perkins. ... Tom Lasorda, the 91-year-old Hall of Fame manager, arrived at camp on Friday.
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    Santana, White Sox agree to minor deal
    February 22, 2019
    By The Associated Press


    PEORIA, Ariz. (AP) The Chicago White Sox have added another option to their competition for an opening in their rotation, agreeing to a minor league contract with veteran right-hander Ervin Santana on Friday.

    A person familiar with the situation confirmed the deal to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the agreement is pending a successful physical. If added to the 40-man roster, Santana would get a one-year contract paying $4.3 million while in the major leagues.

    Carlos Rodon, Reynaldo Lopez, Ivan Nova, and Lucas Giolito are projected for Chicago's rotation, and Santana joins a group competing for the fifth spot that also includes Manny Banuelos and Dylan Covey.

    Santana made just five appearances with Minnesota last season after he had surgery on his right middle finger two weeks before spring training. The Twins declined Santana's $14 million option in October and paid him a $1 million buyout.

    Over the 2016 and 2017 seasons, Santana went 23-19 in 63 starts with a 3.32 ERA, seven complete games and four shutouts.

    The 36-year-old Santana broke into the majors in 2005 with the Los Angeles Angels. The two-time All-Star is 149-125 with a 4.06 ERA in 384 career games with the Angels, Royals, Braves and Twins.
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    Indians sign veteran RHP Clippard
    February 23, 2019
    By The Associated Press

    GOODYEAR, Ariz. (AP) The Indians officially signed former All-Star reliever Tyler Clippard, who brings experience and durability to their revamped bullpen.

    Clippard received a minor league contract and roster invitation from the Indians. If he makes the 40-man roster, Clippard would receive a $2.5 million salary while in the majors. The sides reached agreement earlier in the week and finalized the deal Saturday.

    The 34-year-old right-hander spent last season with Toronto. He finished fourth in the AL with 73 appearances and posted a 3.67 ERA.

    Clippard enters 2019 ranked sixth among current relievers with 698 career games. Clippard has also pitched for both New York teams, Houston, the White Sox, Arizona, Oakland and Washington.

    He's 52-46 with a 3.16 ERA since 2007. Clippard has also never been on the injured list in 12 years.

    The Indians are reconfiguring their bullpen this season after choosing not to re-sign career saves leader Cody Allen or elite lefty Andrew Miller.
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