stats-recaps1
Major League Baseball
MLB News Wire
  • Pirates season preview: McCutchen switch, Kang status keys
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, March 27, 2017

    There were a few surprises in training camp for the Pittsburgh Pirates, but the biggest ones came before it started.

    • Andrew McCutchen was not traded and moved from center field to right after a subpar season, and Pittsburgh was able to re-sign right-hander Ivan Nova to remain an important part of the starting rotation.

      Still, there are a lot of questions surrounding a club that missed the postseason last year after a three-year run of playoff appearances and plays in the National League Central Division with the defending Worlds Series champion Chicago Cubs and perennially strong St. Louis Cardinals.

      The most impactful news in March for the Pirates was the status of third baseman and power hitter Jung Ho Kang, who remained in South Korea and on the restricted list after a DUI arrest. It was unclear when or even if Kang would join the Pirates.

      David Freese looks to inherit third base with Kang missing. Freese is part of a movement in which manager Clint Hurdle is keen on having a lot of interchangeable parts. That is, bench players and even some starting fielders who can plug in at different spots.

      Opening Day starter Gerrit Cole, 26, was slowed by three injuries last year but will be counted on to serve as the staff ace. Nova and Jameson Taillon have locked down spots in the rotation. Chad Kuhl has a strong inside track on the No. 4 spot.

      The fifth spot, however, is up for grabs, and going into the final week of spring no one had jumped way out in front. Tyler Glasnow seemed to be coming on, but he still needed to beat out Steven Brault, Drew Hutchison and Trevor Williams. It's entirely possible that competition will bleed into the season.

      "Everybody had an opportunity to go create separation, and that hasn't really happened in my mind," Hurdle said. "They've all competed. We have our own thoughts and our own measurements that we'll use. The good part is we've got depth, and they know it."

      The bullpen returns fairly intact but Tony Watson, who inherited the closer role after stalwart Mark Melancon was traded last season, had a rough spring.

      The outfield could be more than solid after the big switcheroo, which was made to get Starling Marte's substantial skill and arm into center fielder, where former NL MVP McCutchen regressed last season. Gregory Polanco moves from right to left.

      "We went through the process as thoroughly and as respectfully as we could," Pittsburgh general manager Neal Huntington told mlb.com. "(McCutchen) wants to stay in center field, and he believes he's a center fielder, but again, I can't say this enough: Without Starling Marte, this is not a move we make."

  • A's season preview: Little change from 93-loss club
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, March 27, 2017

    The Athletics have a new slogan this season: "Rooted in Oakland."

    • Note the absence of the letter "u" -- as in "Routed in Oakland."

      That would be last year's mantra.

      Actually, the A's were pretty much routed everywhere last season. They lost 93 games, just the second time in the past 19 years the fell more than 88 times -- topped only by the 94 defeats they took in 2015.

      They fielded sloppily (third worst in the American League), pitched poorly (second worst) and hit worst of all (dead last) last season.

      And how did they respond? By jettisoning their most potent hitter, Danny Valencia, to the Seattle Mariners for -- you guessed it -- a minor league prospect.

      In fact, you might actually recognize the A's this season, which often isn't the case on Opening Day.

      However, for a team coming off a 93-loss season, familiarity is not necessarily a good thing.

      The projected rotation of Kendall Graveman, Sean Manaea, Jharel Cotton, Andrew Triggs and Raul Alcantara did a majority of the pitching before tens of thousands of empty seats in meaningless August and September games at the Coliseum last season.

      And the most recognizable A's pitcher of all, ace Sonny Gray, returns ... well, when his lat strain will allow.

      Meanwhile, a majority of the batting order -- Stephen Vogt, Ryon Healy, Khris Davis, Marcus Semien and Yonder Alonso -- won't need an introduction to A's fans this season, either.

      So, a last-place team is banking its improvement on a glorified DH/pinch hitter in right field (Matt Joyce), a one-hit World Series wonder (Rajai Davis), a third baseman no longer good enough to play for the Minnesota Twins (Trevor Plouffe) and a banished relief pitcher from across the San Francisco Bay (Santiago Casilla).

      Things are so bleak in Oakland this spring, manager Bob Melvin admitted during camp that the club's primary goal this season was to escape last place.

      With Gray already hurt, Valencia gone and arguably the worst defense in baseball, that is mighty pie-in-the-sky stuff.

  • Angels season preview: Bounce-back anticipated
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, March 27, 2017

    An enterprising screenwriter could find abundant material for an old-fashioned soap opera by studying the Los Angeles Angels' past three seasons.

    • Act One found the Angels compiling the major league's best record in 2014, only to be swept in the American League Division Series by the eventual World Series winners, the Kansas City Royals.

      In Act Two, the club recovered from the unceremonious dismissal of outfielder Josh Hamilton before the 2015 season because of a drug and alcohol relapse, the midseason firing of general manager Jerry Dipoto and a summer collapse to miss a playoff spot by one game.

      The drama intensified in Act Three, with season-ending injuries claiming five starting pitchers and two closers before the Angels won nine of their final 11 games last year to avoid finishing last in the AL West.

      However, the upcoming episode of As The Halo Turns promises to be the most intriguing yet.

      General manager Billy Eppler navigated owner Arte Moreno's financial restrictions during the offseason to fill significant holes without relinquishing significant talent. Eppler acquired outfielders Cameron Maybin and Ben Revere, second baseman Danny Espinosa, catcher Martin Maldonado and infielder Luis Valbuena while collecting pitchers off waivers.

      Maybin will become the 20th Angel to start in left field since Opening Day 2015, with Revere in reserve. Espinosa replaces the dedicated, yet overmatched, Johnny Giavotella. Maldonado brings a reputation as a superior pitch-framer. Valbuena provides missing left-handed power.

      Fangraphs.com was so impressed that it projected the Angels as a wild-card contender. Eppler agreed.

      "We have the potential to be in the playoffs," he told the Los Angeles Times.

      Eppler explained the rationale for his acquisitions.

      "In a perfect world, you have elite defense up the middle," he told Fangraphs.com. "I think everybody has noticed that the position players who have walked in the door have all been solid average, or better, defensively. That's something that is important to us."

      Espinoza and Maldonado join center fielder Mike Trout and shortstop Andrelton Simmons up the middle. Complementing Trout and Simmons on offense are designated hitter Albert Pujols, right fielder Kole Calhoun and third baseman Yunel Escobar.

      But one plot complication already has developed. Valbuena, projected to be the starting first baseman, will be out four to six weeks with a strained right hamstring. Valbuena had season-ending surgery on that muscle last August.

      Nevertheless, for Eppler's view of the club's potential to become reality, the Angels must get solid pitching.

      Indications from the starters this spring appear positive. Right-handers Garrett Richards and Matt Shoemaker are impressing after recovering from serious injuries. Richards relied on injections of stem cells and platelet-rich plasma to avoid Tommy John surgery. Shoemaker sustained a fractured skull and cranial bleeding after a batted ball hit him in the head in September, but he has been dominant in spring training.

      However, the bullpen remains a work in progress, especially after closer Huston Street strained his back March 3. Right-handers Cam Bedrosian and Andrew Bailey are competing to fill Street's role, while competition elsewhere remains wide open.

  • Astros season preview: Key newcomers join young nucleus
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, March 27, 2017

    Before the Astros stepped foot in their new spring training facility at West Palm Beach, Fla., virtually all the decisions regarding their 25-man roster were made, rendering the notion of Grapefruit League competition futile.

    • There were evaluations set to impact the fringes of the roster, but the series of offseason maneuvers executed by general manager Jeff Luhnow essentially eliminated the need for manager A.J. Hinch to stringently analyze every player in his clubhouse. The Astros knew what they were before they arrived by design.

      "This is what a team that's going into the season that's profiled to be good, that has a lot of depth, is supposed to feel like," Hinch said. "It should be hard to crack our team."

      The additions of Nori Aoki, Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann and Josh Reddick put Hinch in position to construct his batting order and defensive alignment before the club went through the paces of actually preparing for the season. The protracted, painful rebuild to contention manifested in a postseason appearance in 2015, and after a small regression last season, the Astros have made the leap to championship contender. They did so by blending the aforementioned veterans with their core of young stars who are in the throes of individual ascension.

      By letting free agents Jason Castro (Minnesota Twins), Colby Rasmus (Tampa Bay Rays) and Luis Valbuena (Los Angeles Angels) walk, the Astros showed that what they acquired instead is sufficient, and that they are eager to approach the next organizational hurdle.

      "We're going to miss the free agents that we lost, but we responded by bringing in some guys that have done some things in this game," Hinch said. "Reddick has played a lot of playoff games (21). McCann has played in some huge markets (Atlanta and New York) in some really big games. Aoki has played in the World Series (with the Royals). You can't substitute that type of experience easily."

      The Astros remain defined by their core of standout position players: second baseman Jose Altuve, center fielder George Springer and shortstop Carlos Correa. Third baseman Alex Bregman appears set to join that mix. Add Evan Gattis and Yulieski Gurriel to the fray, and Houston comes equipped with a dangerous lineup.

      The rotation isn't as intimidating. The Astros need ace left-hander Dallas Keuchel and promising right-hander Lance McCullers to rebound from injuries. The team toyed with pursuing an ace in the offseason, but offers for Rays right-hander Chris Archer and Chicago White Sox lefty Jose Quintana were ineffective. The Astros have enough talent in the minors to muster another pursuit of a frontline starter at the trade deadline should things not play out according to plan.

      That was by design, too. The team payroll is just shy of $120 million this season, the highest it has been since Luhnow arrived prior to the 2012 season. However, the Astros still have the chips necessary to acquire more veteran talent should they need it, and that is a direct reflection of how well Luhnow has managed his duties.

      "The fact that we were able to make the investments in the free agents and through the trades without giving up a lot of our farm system is a position that a lot of general managers wish they could be in, but because we started with relatively low payroll and (are) increasing every year, we've had the luxury of being able to follow that approach," Luhnow said.

      "It can't go on indefinitely. At some point, we're going to have to essentially rely on other resources to acquire players. But right now, we're in a good spot."

  • Dodgers season preview: Loaded, but ailing, roster
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, March 27, 2017

    Spring training, a time associated with hopeful optimism, began with ominous familiarity for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

    • The team that set a major league record by putting 28 players on the disabled list last year watched injuries interrupt several key contributors' development.

      Right-handers Pedro Baez, Josh Ravin and Sergio Romo dealt with thumb, groin and back injuries, respectively. A tight left hip deprived left-hander Scott Kazmir of velocity. Outfielder Trayce Thompson missed the first 10 days while recovering from back surgery.

      Shortstop Corey Seager, the National League Rookie of the Year last season, returned after missing three weeks because of a strained oblique muscle, and he expects to be ready Opening Day. Outfielder Andre Ethier, however, will join Ravin on the disabled list with his second major spring training injury in two years, a herniated disc.

      Last year, Ethier broke his right leg by fouling a ball off his shin, and he played just 16 games.

      "I've been stuck in spring training for 18 months now," Ethier told the Orange County Register. "It feels like 'Groundhog Day' all over again."

      Yet Ethier's allusion to the comedic movie bodes well for the Dodgers.

      Despite the numerous injuries last year, Los Angeles won its fourth successive National League West championship. Despite the Dodgers' physical problems so far, they should contend for a fifth.

      Seager, left-hander Clayton Kershaw, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, third baseman Justin Turner, catcher Yasmani Grandal and closer Kenley Jansen lead a talented, deep squad. Supplementing that foundation is second baseman Logan Forsythe, who replaces Chase Utley at the position and as the leadoff hitter. Forsythe, the Dodgers' only major offseason acquisition, batted .264 with 24 doubles and a .333 on-base percentage for the Tampa Bay Rays last year.

      Andrew Toles exemplifies the Dodgers' depth. Expected to be part of a platoon in left field, Toles laid outright claim to the position this spring by batting .340 and not making an error in the field through Sunday. The 24-year-old continued his success from last year, when he played at three minor league levels and hit .314 in 48 games for the Dodgers after being promoted from Triple-A Oklahoma City.

      "He's having a really good camp," manager Dave Roberts told the team's website. "For him, the at-bat quality continues to be there. He's a really good athlete, he's dynamic, and he does a lot of things to help you win a baseball game."

      Los Angeles also could receive help for the rotation from left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu, who pitched just one game in the previous two seasons because of shoulder, elbow and leg injuries. In three outings through the weekend, Ryu conceded only five hits, one run and one walk in nine innings while striking out eight and holding opponents to a .167 average.

      However, outfielder Yasiel Puig continues to pose the biggest question: Can a player whom Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully nicknamed "the Wild Horse" harness his talent? A revelation in his first two seasons, Puig's performance and attitude deteriorated so much that the Dodgers tried to trade their former All-Star before optioning him to Oklahoma City in August.

      This spring, Puig had three home runs but a .233 average through Sunday. The Dodgers scratched him from the Friday game against the Arizona Diamondbacks so he could work on his swing.

      Roberts emphasized Puig's talent while issuing an iron challenge delivered in velvet.

      "If Yasiel is going to get 600 at-bats, then the Dodgers are in a pretty good place," Roberts told the Los Angeles Times. "With the skill set of Yasiel, if he's performing and warrants being out there every night, then we're in a good place."

  • Mariners season preview: Vets provide spring stability
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, March 27, 2017

    Unlike recent years, when the Mariners spent a good part of spring training auditioning young players and trying to find the right mix, the 2017 spring provided very few answers. This year's veteran-laden team will answer most of its biggest question marks as the season wears on.

    • Will Felix Hernandez get back to being a Cy Young contender? Will Nelson Cruz and Robinson Cano continue to produce as age takes its toll? Is Yovani Gallardo ready to bounce back from the worst season of his career? Is Jarrod Dyson the answer in the leadoff spot?

      They are all legitimate questions, and only time will tell whether Seattle's most important conundrums will lead to success on the field.

      What Seattle did learn from spring training was that two of its youngest cornerstones -- first baseman Daniel Vogelbach and outfielder Mitch Haniger -- are on different timelines. Haniger was one of the hitting stars of the spring, while Vogelbach struggled enough that he was sent to Triple-A.

      "(Vogelbach) put in a lot of work," general manager Jerry Dipoto said, "but as we get closer to Opening Day, it became apparent we weren't seeing a product that is finished enough to feel great about starting the season."

      It was a markedly question-free spring, which says a lot about where this franchise is. Dipoto worked the phones all winter to make a series of under-the-radar trades that helped shore up the bullpen, add some veteran presence to the rotation and give the lineup a jolt of speed. The Mariners are expecting to play a different brand of baseball, thanks to the additions of Haniger and leadoff hitter Jarrod Dyson, but the offense is still going to revolve around Cano, Cruz and third baseman Kyle Seager.

      Cano and Cruz spent a good part of the spring playing at the World Baseball Classic, and the goal for them this spring was a clean bill of health. Seattle got that, so now the question is whether Cano (34) and Cruz (36) are still in their prime and capable of playing at an elite level for the entire season.

      "Obviously, they're a huge part of our team -- our offensive club, our leadership and all that stuff," manager Scott Servais said this spring.

      Hernandez has done what he can to answer all the questions that swirled after a frustrating 2016 season, but his solid spring won't matter if he can't get off to a good start when the real games begin. Hernandez is part of a leaky rotation that could easily fall apart if brittle starters such as Hisashi Iwakuma and James Paxton don't hold up.

      Year 2 of the Servais era brings fewer question marks, and the biggest ones involve the players with the best track records. On paper, there is plenty to like about this year's Mariners.

  • Diamondbacks season preview: Pitching, defense emphasized
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, March 27, 2017

    PHOENIX -- It was all about pitching when the Arizona Diamondbacks acquired right-handers Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller before the 2016 season, and it was all about pitching when the team faltered.

    • Some of the starting pitching concerns have been assuaged by performances this spring, although the entire staff will have to take a step forward if the team is to be a contender in the rugged NL West after posting the highest ERA in the majors last year.

      Miller and left-hander Patrick Corbin look to be returning to form, and new right-hander Taijuan Walker is showing signs that he might be ready to become a season-long rotation contributor, a step left-hander Robbie Ray took a year ago. Greinke's velocity was a touch under his normal early in the spring, but that seemed a minor issue for a veteran who uses spring training to round into form.

      The D-backs' 2016 struggles led to a front-office overhaul over the winter, and new general manager Mike Hazen and manager Torey Lovullo are doing things a little differently, with more of an emphasis on an analytics.

      "There is an overall excitement," Lovullo said. "We want to start a new business and see how it runs. The track record speaks for itself. Mike Hazen comes from a winning organization (in Boston)."

      Second baseman Jean Segura was traded to Seattle for Walker, and power-hitting catcher Welington Castillo was permitted to leave via free agency as the D-backs turned their focus to the pitch-framing side of that position.

      Segura was the only NL player with 200 hits a year ago, and Castillo set career highs in homers in 2015 and RBIs in 2016, so will be interesting to see if those losses can be offset by the return of center fielder A.J. Pollock and the position switch by Brandon Drury, who will replace Segura at second.

      Paul Goldschmidt, Jake Lamb, Yasmany Tomas and a healthy Pollock -- he fractured his right elbow last spring and played only 12 games -- are a good starting point. Advanced metrics graded Pollock as the best center fielder in the NL in 2015, and his absence was crushing. He nursed a groin injury this spring, but it was not serious.

      Drury had a strong rookie season when playing out of position in the corner outfield spots, and one major league talent evaluator has compared him to Jeff Kent at second. Right fielder David Peralta has played well this spring, his 2016 injuries a thing of the past.

      Hazen's offseason objectives were to improve the bullpen and the defense, and veterans Fernando Rodney and non-roster invitees Tom Wilhelmsen and J.J. Hoover have pitched well this spring, Rodney while with the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic. Defense was addressed when Drury was moved to second and the decided to go glove-first behind the plate.

      "I want these guys to be able to tell a really good story at the end of the year, and what that story is we're not sure," Lovullo said. "To be competitive means to focus, to be mentally tough and earn everything they get on the field. That's my expectation."

  • Rockies season preview: Expectations are elevated
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, March 27, 2017

    The Colorado Rockies are a talented team that now must turn into a good team, general manager Jeff Bridich said. It is a realistic expectation, as new manager Bud Black is taking over a club on the rise.

    • Black's hiring was the most notable move of an offseason that included three key free agent signings. The Rockies gave Ian Desmond a five-year, $70 million contract -- the largest they have ever handed a free agent position player -- with the intent of having him play first base, a position he has never played in his 1,083 career games.

      The Rockies also took steps to shore up their dreadful bullpen.

      They signed left-hander Mike Dunn to a three-year, $19 million contract -- the largest the Rockies have ever given a reliever. Colorado also signed Greg Holland, who didn't pitch last year while recovering from Tommy John surgery but whom the Rockies believe can regain his status as an elite closer. Colorado guaranteed him $7 million in a deal that includes a 2018 option.

      The Rockies enter their 25th season against a backdrop of uninspiring franchise history. Although they improved by seven wins to 75 last season, they have endured a franchise-record-tying six straight losing seasons.

      Colorado has made the postseason three times, always as a wild card, and is the only National League West club never to win the division. The Rockies also have experienced just seven winning seasons, three coming in the first five years of the franchise's existence.

      Black is the team's seventh manager and the first former pitcher. He says he looks at the game through a pitcher's eyes, which can only help the Rockies, given the pitching perils inherent in Coors Field and the fact they will have a young rotation.

      The Rockies went to spring training with four starters set and several prospects vying for the fifth spot. Chad Bettis was expected to be an anchor in the rotation, its oldest member at 27 and the team leader last year in wins (14) and innings (186). But Bettis has begun chemotherapy after a recurrence of testicular cancer. There is no timetable for his return, but he will miss at least half the season.

      In his absence, Jon Gray, 25; left-hander Tyler Anderson, 27; and Tyler Chatwood, 27; will start in a rotation where left-hander Kyle Freeland, German Marquez and Antonio Senzatela and to a lesser degree left-hander Harrison Musgrave are competing for the final two spots. Marquez pitched for the Rockies in September; the other three await their major league debuts. They have impressed Black with their talent, which he knows is fine up to a point.

      "The only thing we have to be cautious about is that it takes time for these guys to really become major league pitchers," Black said. "It happens fast for some guys, but for most it takes longer."

      The success of their rotation will go a long way toward determining whether the Rockies can make the sizeable leap needed to contend for the postseason.

      The Rockies had to deal with injuries in spring training. They will be without Desmond (broken left hand), outfielder David Dahl (rib, stress reaction) and catcher Tom Murphy (broken right forearm) for a portion of April. Left-hander Chris Rusin (right oblique strain) isn't expected to be ready on Opening Day but should return soon thereafter.

      Dahl, who was slated to start in left field after making his major league debut in late July and hitting .315 with an .859 OPS in 63 games, summed up his idle spring with an outlook the Rockies share when they contemplate the returns of him, Desmond, Murphy and Rusin before too long.

      "It's tough to sit, for sure," Dahl said, "but I suppose it's better for it to happen now instead of at midseason."

  • Rangers season preview: Expectations are high
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, March 27, 2017

    The Texas Rangers didn't open spring training as the team expected to win the American League West for a third straight year. No, despite the Rangers' pedigree, that honor goes to the Houston Astros or the Seattle Mariners.

    • However, the Rangers got out of spring training exactly what they wanted. With the exception of a sore right biceps to expected starter Andrew Cashner, a deep Texas team will open the season healthy and with what it thinks is enough depth to win the West again.

      "It's been a unique spring, with the (World Baseball Classic) and a handful of smaller injuries keeping us from seeing everyone on the field together," Texas general manager Jon Daniels said. "That makes for a little bit of a challenge in evaluating the club, as well as giving the group time to play as a unit. That said, we feel our roster is strong. The division is going to be very competitive -- every club has a case to be improved from last year. It's going to be a fun season. We've got high expectations of ourselves."

      Those expectations are helped by the fact the Rangers have arguably the best front three of any rotation in the West. Yu Darvish, who is a free agent after the season, will make his first Opening Day start in his free-agent season. Veteran Cole Hamels is also healthy and lefty Martin Perez is primed for a breakout season after winning 10 games last season and making a career-high 33 starts.

      As good as the top of the rotation is, the Rangers need Cashner and Tyson Ross to help soon. Cashner, who signed a one-year deal, could join the rotation in mid-April. Ross made just one start for San Diego last year before going down with a shoulder injury. He had surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome and the club hopes he can make an impact in May.

      While there may be concerns about the rotation, there are none about a bullpen filled with power arms and a deep lineup. Right-hander Sam Dyson starred in the World Baseball Classic and is coming off 38 saves in his first year as closer. There are power arms setting him up in righties Keone Kela and Matt Bush. The club could use more from the left side, with Alex Claudio the only proven commodity.

      The Rangers added to their offense by bringing back first baseman Mike Napoli for a third-straight year. He'll give Texas four players in the infield with 30-homer ability in Napoli, second baseman Rougned Odor, third baseman Adrian Beltre and catcher Jonathan Lucroy.

      Texas needs Shin-Soo Choo to stay healthy after he played in just 48 games last season. He will spend time at DH to try to stay healthy. Outfielder Nomar Mazara is poised for a breakout season after hitting 20 homers and driving in 64 as a 21-year-old rookie.

      The good thing for Texas in its bid to win the West once again is the depth it has. Jurickson Profar, Ryan Rua and Delino DeShields give the club options in the infield and outfield and all had huge springs. They just need their opportunity.

      Regardless, Daniels feels like his club once again will be in the mix.

      "There's very good balance on this team," he said. "No one unit has to carry it -- we've got a good catching tandem, a strong infield, and a number of athletic outfielders that each brings a little something different. And our pitching staff may be as talented as any we've had, top to bottom."

  • Padres season review: Team in transition
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, March 27, 2017

    The San Diego Padres are in transition.

    • Changes started last season as they traded off such talent as outfielders Matt Kemp and Melvin Upton Jr. and pitchers Andrew Cashner, Drew Pomeranz and Fernando Rodney for prospects and then invested more than $80 million in the draft and the international signing period.

      The Padres added a ton of prospects, and their farm system improved measurably.

      However, the future is a ways away, even if three of their top position-playing prospects -- catcher Austin Hedges, right fielder Hunter Renfroe and center fielder Manuel Margot -- are arriving permanently this season.

      Most of their young pitching prospects -- led by 2016 first-round draft picks Cal Quantrill and Eric Lauer -- will be starting the season at high Class A and below. Some of them won't be making their professional debuts until later this summer when the Padres field two teams in the rookie-level Arizona League.

      Help is on the way, and the Padres are optimistic. They are hoping to contend in the deep and talented National League West by 2019.

      But 2017?

      The Padres have some plusses.

      First baseman Wil Myers stayed healthy in 2016 and had a break-out season (.259 with a .336 on-base percentage; 29 doubles, 28 homers, 28 steals, 94 RBIs and 99 runs scored). Infielder Yangervis Solarte overcame personal tragedy (his wife passed away to cancer last September) and hit .286 with 15 homers and 71 RBIs in 109 games. And infielder Ryan Schimpf hit 20 homers with a .336 on-base percentage in 89 games.

      The Padres will be counting heavily on rookie Renfroe and Hedges.

      But the starting rotation was patched together with free agent signees Jhoulys Chacin, Clayton Richard, Jered Weaver and Trevor Cahill. They will join right-hander Luis Perdomo, who was a Rule 5 rookie with the Padres in 2016.

      If the Padres take a lead into the late innings, they should be in great shape. The bullpen looks to be the strongest part of the team, particularly if Carter Capps has recovered from Tommy John surgery and is able to move into the closer's role.

      "I'm liking the way the bullpen is shaping up," manager Andy Green said. "Brandon Maurer, Brad Hand and Ryan Buchter all look like they're ready to pick up where they were at the end of last season. And Craig Stammen has had a great spring.

      Getting a lead to the bullpen could be problematic.

      The Padres could be doing some things this season that typically do not signal success.

      They have been experimenting with Christian Bethancourt as a hybrid catcher-pitcher-outfielder. They have talked about carrying three Rule 5 players -- right-handed reliever Miguel Diaz, catcher Luis Torrens and infielder Allen Cordoba. And they might carry four catchers -- Hedges, Bethancourt, Torrens and Hector Sanchez.

  • Giants season preview: Counting on Melancon
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, March 27, 2017

    The San Francisco Giants ended the 2016 season totally unconvinced they weren't a better team than the Chicago Cubs.

    • One player away, they almost unanimously agreed.

      And now they believe they have him: closer Mark Melancon.

      That explains, in a nutshell, why the Giants took a relatively low profile to the 2017 offseason. Unlike many teams, they don't believe the race is for second place in the National League this season.

      History tells us there's potentially some logic to the belief. Recent history, in fact.

      If it were Melancon strolling to the mound with a 5-2 lead last Oct. 11 in Game 4 of the NL Division Series, chances are All-Star Game starter Johnny Cueto would have been pitching two days later at Wrigley Field with a chance to eliminate the Cubs for a 108th straight year.

      Instead, five members of the shaky San Francisco bullpen blew a 5-2 lead as the Cubs rallied for a 6-5 win.

      Suffice it to say, the Giants would love to be in the same position this season. They brought back all of their key pieces -- making significant changes only in left field (where the loss of Angel Pagan isn't considered a big deal) and in the bullpen (where a younger group of setup relievers will attempt to set the stage for Melancon).

      Oh, there is one other significant change: the year.

      It is 2017, an odd-numbered year that just two seasons ago seemed to doom the Giants like a rigged roulette wheel before Madison Bumgarner even toed the slab on Opening Day.

      If there was a positive to the four-run blowup in the ninth inning of the NLDS last season, it was that the mystical numbers game of even-year championships/odd-year failures was put to rest. The Giants won it all in 2010, 2012 and 2014, and they missed the playoffs in 2011, 2013 and 2015.

      In 2017, the Giants actually have a chance to win it all. Don't think they don't know it.

  • MLB roundup: Ninth-inning homers lift Blue Jays
    By The Sports Xchange / Sunday, March 26, 2017

    Closer Francisco Rodriguez gave up bases-empty homers to Alex Monsalve and Christian Lopes in the ninth inning, and Toronto Blue Jays posted a 4-3 victory over the Detroit Tigers on Sunday in Lakeland, Fla. Toronto's Ryan McBroom hit his third homer of the spring in the seventh inning.

    • Nick Castellanos had his fourth homer and eighth double for the Tigers, and Jordan Zimmermann gave up two hits and one earned run in 5 1/3 innings in the most efficient of his five spring starts.

      Red Sox 7, Twins 2

      Chris Sale gave up six hits and struck out six in five scoreless innings, and Christian Vazquez, Andrew Benintendi and Steve Selsky homered for Boston at Fort Myers, Fla. Benintendi's homer was his third. Kyle Gibson gave up four hits and struck out four in six scoreless innings for the Twins, dropping his ERA to 1.59 in seven spring starts. Eddie Rosario, just back from the World Baseball Classic, had three hits.

      Astros 5, Nationals 1

      Jake Marisnick and Marwin Gonzalez homered, Jose Altuve stole two bases, and Joe Musgrove improved to 3-0 while dropping his ERA to 2.45 in six spring starts as Houston topped Washington in West Palm Beach, Fla. Bryce Harper drove in his 11th run with a sacrifice fly for the Nationals, and Gio Gonzalez gave up six hits and five runs in five innings.

      Cardinals 3, Marlins 0

      Mike Leake gave up seven hits, including six singles, and struck out two in six scoreless innings, and Yadier Molina and Dexter Fowler had two hits apiece, including bases-empty homers, as St. Louis topped Florida in Jupiter, Fla. Ichiro Suzuki had two of the Marlins' eight hits.

      Phillies 6, Pirates 3

      Maikel Franco hit his fifth homer of the spring and Andrew Knapp had his second in Philadelphia's five-run first inning off Pittsburgh's Josh Lindblom in Clearwater, Fla. Phillies starter Clay Buchholz gave up five hits, four walks and three earned runs in 3 1/3 innings. Pirates outfielder Jose Osuna continued his spring surge with a two-run double in the third inning. He is hitting .417 with 16 RBIs.

      Yankees 7, Rays 4

      Aaron Hicks hit his third homer of the spring and Ruben Tejada hit his first for New York in a win over Tampa Bay at Tampa, Fla. Bryan Mitchell, a candidate for one of two open spots in the Yankees' rotation, gave up six hits and three runs in three innings. Brad Miller had two singles and two RBIs for the Rays, and Mallex Smith had his fourth stolen base of the spring.

      Orioles 2, Blue Jays 1

      Third baseman Chris Johnson had two hits and an RBI, and Jayson Aquino gave up one run and struck out four in four innings during his first Grapefruit League start as Baltimore topped Toronto in Dunedin, Fla. Aquino previously made five spring relief appearances. Blue Jays lefty Francisco Liriano gave up two hits and one run and struck out seven in 4 2/3 innings.

      Mets 8, Braves 2

      Jose Reyes had three hits, including a triple, and Matt Harvey gave up two runs in six innings in his most effective start as New York beat Atlanta in Port St. Lucie, Fla. Yoenis Cespedes had a single and is hitting .395. Tyler Flowers and Emilio Bonifacio had two hits apiece for the Braves. Atlanta's Matt Wisler gave up eight hits and two runs in five innings during his second spring start.

      Indians 6, Diamondbacks 5

      Michael Brantley hit his first homer of the spring, and Chris Colabello hit his third in a five-run first inning off Robbie Ray, who gave up all six runs. Colabello had three hits and Yan Gomes added two.

      Arizona's David Peralta had two hits and his second homer, and Yasmany Tomas doubled in his first major league game since March 5, returning from an oblique injury. Trevor Bauer gave up three runs and seven hits while striking out eight in five innings.

      Rangers 3, Dodgers 2

      Cole Hamels gave up one run in five innings and Mike Napoli hit his second homer of the spring as Texas beat Los Angeles in Surprise, Ariz. Hamels gave up two hits and struck out two. Dodgers left-hander Scott Kazmir allowed three runs on three hits and five walks in three innings during his third spring start after missing time because of a hip injury. Kazmir appears to have fallen out of the running for a spot in the rotation.

      White Sox 4, Giants 3

      Melky Cabrera had two hits and James Shields gave up three runs in five innings for the White Sox, who scored two runs in the last of the ninth to walk off the Giants in Glendale, Ariz. Eduardo Nunez had a hit and two RBIs, and Ty Blach, a contender for the final rotation spot, gave up two runs in six innings.

      A's 11, Brewers 1

      Catcher Bruce Maxwell hit two homers and Jharel Cotton struck out seven and gave up one run in 5 2/3 innings as Oakland beat Milwaukee in Phoenix. Frankie Montas continued a strong spring with two scoreless innings in relief. Ryan Braun homered off Cotton for the Brewers' only run. Matt Garza gave up five runs and five hits in 2 1/3 innings.

      Cubs (ss) 22, Reds (ss) 4

      Albert Almora hit two homers and drove in five runs, and Anthony Rizzo led off the last of the first inning with his third homer of the spring in a split-squad game in Las Vegas. Rookie Bijan Rademacher had three hits, including a grand slam, after replacing Kyle Schwarber as a pinch runner in the first inning. Schwarber played the previous two games and was scheduled to have only one plate appearance.

      Mariners 7, Reds (ss) 6

      Rookie Tyler Motter hit his third homer of the spring and Mitch Hainger had his 10th double as Seattle beat Cincinnati in a split-squad game in Goodyear, Ariz. Mariners starter Drew Smyly gave up five runs and six hits in four innings. Jose Peraza led off the last of the first inning with his first spring homer, and Desmond Jennings and Reds right-hander Rookie Davis also homered off Smyly.

      Padres (ss) 9, Cubs (ss) 4

      Jabari Blash had three hits, including his sixth homer of the spring, and drove in four runs as San Diego topped Chicago in a split-squad game at Mesa, Ariz. Trevor Cahill gave up two hits and two unearned runs while striking out eight in five innings to earn the win. Javier Baez had a double and two RBIs for the Cubs.

      Royals 8, Angels 7

      Paulo Orlando, in contention for a starting spot in right field, hit his third homer and Brandon Moss hit his second off Los Angeles starter J.C. Ramirez as Kansas City won at Tempe, Ariz. Mike Trout had two hits and Albert Pujols drove in two runs for the Angels. Jason Hammel, named the Royals' No. 3 starter, gave up eight hits and seven runs in six innings.

      Rockies 4, Padres (ss) 1

      Tyler Chatwood gave up one run and struck out seven in six innings, and Nolan Arenado and Mark Reynolds homered for Colorado in a win over San Diego at Peoria, Ariz. Wil Myers had two of the Padres' seven hits. Jarred Cosart got only two outs, giving up three hits -- including Arenado's two-run homer -- and two walks before being pulled in the first inning.

  • MLB notebook: Nats' Strasburg named Opening Day starter
    By The Sports Xchange / Sunday, March 26, 2017

    Right-hander Stephen Strasburg will get the Opening Day start for the Washington Nationals, manager Dusty Baker announced Sunday.

    • Washington opens the season on April 3 at Nationals Park against the Miami Marlins.

      Strasburg is scheduled to make his next spring start on Wednesday.

      "I know you guys can count," Baker told reporters Sunday. "Yeah, he's slated to start Opening Day."

      It will be the 28-year-old Strasburg's fourth Opening Day start but his first since 2014. In his previous starts to open the season from 2012-14, he struck out 18 in 20 innings while leading the Nationals to wins in all three games.

      Right-hander Max Scherzer was the Nationals' Opening Day starter the previous two seasons but the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner missed time this spring because of a stress fracture in his right ring finger. Scherzer is expected to start the third game of the season on April 6 against the Marlins.

      --New York Mets left-hander Steven Matz has been scratched from his Monday start because of tenderness and irritation in his left elbow.

      Matz, 25, was scheduled to pitch in a minor league game at the Mets' complex in Port St. Lucie, Fla., to start the final week of spring training. The Mets open the season at home on April 3 against the Atlanta Braves.

      "There's a little irritation, and he's got to work that out," Mets general manager Sandy Alderson told reporters Sunday. "We don't think it's anything significant, but it bothers him on extension. He won't pitch tomorrow, and we'll see where that takes him over the next four or five days."

      Matz, who underwent Tommy John surgery earlier in his career, was reassured by doctors that he has no ligament damage in the elbow.

      --Tampa Bay Rays right-hander Alex Cobb was scratched from his Sunday start due to left lower back tightness.

      Cobb, 29, was scheduled to pitch in a minor league spring training game at Tampa, Fla.

      "Probably won't know anything until (Monday) when Cobb comes in and see how he feels," Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said before the Rays played the New York Yankees. "To my knowledge he could have pitched today."

      Cash said he does not expect the issue to disrupt the Rays' season-opening pitching plans as Cobb is slated to pitch the third game on April 5 against the New York Yankees.

      --The New York Yankees released Jonathon Niese, ending the left-hander's bid to secure a position in the bullpen.

      Niese, who signed a minor league contract with the club on Feb. 20, was attempting to return from season-ending surgery to repair a meniscus tear in his left knee in August.

      The 30-year-old allowed three runs on five hits in six innings for a 4.50 ERA in six Grapefruit League appearances.

      --Former major league reliever Todd Frohwirth died Sunday from complications with stomach cancer. He was 54.

      Frohwirth pitched nine big-league seasons, including three (1991-93) with the Baltimore Orioles.

      The Orioles announced they will honor Frohwirth with a moment of silence prior to Monday's exhibition game against the Boston Red Sox.

      "He was a special member of the Orioles family," Baltimore manager Buck Showalter told reporters. "One of our best scouts and a great human being. He's been a big contributor here."

      Frohwirth spent four seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies (1987-90) and one each with the Red Sox (1994) and the then-California Angels (1996).

  • Yankees release LHP Niese
    By The Sports Xchange / Sunday, March 26, 2017

    The New York Yankees on Sunday released Jonathon Niese, ending the left-hander's bid to secure a position in the bullpen.

    • Niese, who signed a minor-league contract with the club on Feb. 20, was attempting to return from season-ending surgery to repair a meniscus tear in his left knee in August.

      The 30-year-old allowed three runs on five hits in six innings for a 4.50 ERA in six Grapefruit League appearances.

      Niese spent the first eight seasons of his career with the New York Mets before he was dealt to the Pittsburgh Pirates in December 2015 in exchange for second baseman Neil Walker.

      His time in Pittsburgh was a disappointment. Niese went 8-6 with a 4.91 ERA in 23 games (18 starts), losing his spot in the rotation at midseason in 2016.

      Niese was dealt back to the Mets on Aug. 1 in exchange for reliever Antonio Bastardo and cash. He went 0-1 with an 11.45 ERA in six games (two starts) for New York, then underwent season-ending left knee surgery on Aug. 25.

      In 211 career games (197 starts), Niese has a 69-68 record with a 4.07 ERA.

  • Former MLB reliever Frohwirth dies
    By The Sports Xchange / Sunday, March 26, 2017

    Former major league reliever Todd Frohwirth died Sunday from complications with stomach cancer. He was 54.

    • Frohwirth pitched nine big-league seasons, including three (1991-93) with the Baltimore Orioles.

      The Orioles announced they will honor Frohwirth with a moment of silence prior to Monday's exhibition game against the Boston Red Sox.

      "He was a special member of the Orioles family," Baltimore manager Buck Showalter told reporters. "One of our best scouts and a great human being. He's been a big contributor here."

      Frohwirth spent four seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies (1987-90) and one each with the Red Sox (1994) and the then-California Angels (1996).

      Frohwirth, a sidearming right-hander, went 20-19 with a 3.60 ERA in 284 career appearances (all in relief).

      He made 186 of those appearances for the Orioles.Frohwirth enjoyed his best campaign in 1991 when he went 7-3 with a 1.87 ERA, and he compiled a 2.46 ERA the following season.

  • Rays RHP Cobb dealing with back issue
    By The Sports Xchange / Sunday, March 26, 2017

    Tampa Bay Rays right-hander Alex Cobb was scratched from his Sunday start due to left lower back tightness.

    • Cobb was scheduled to pitch in a minor league spring training game at Tampa, Fla.

      "Probably won't know anything until (Monday) when Cobb comes in and see how he feels," Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said before the Rays played the New York Yankees. "To my knowledge he could have pitched today."

      Cash said he does not expect the issue to disrupt the Rays' season-opening pitching plans as Cobb is slated to pitch the third game on April 5 against the New York Yankees.

      "I don't think it changes anything," Cash said.

      Cobb said via text to the Tampa Bay Times that he "definitely could have pitched today" and "this is really nothing."

      The 29-year-old Cobb returned from Tommy John surgery late last season, going 1-2 with a 8.59 ERA over 22 innings in five starts. For his career, all with the Rays, he is 36-25 with a 3.44 ERA in 86 starts.

  • Strasburg named Nationals' Opening Day starter
    By The Sports Xchange / Sunday, March 26, 2017

    Right-hander Stephen Strasburg will get the Opening Day start for the Washington Nationals, manager Dusty Baker announced Sunday.

    • Washington opens the season on April 3 at Nationals Park against the Miami Marlins.

      Strasburg is scheduled to make his next spring start on Wednesday.

      "I know you guys can count," Baker told reporters Sunday. "Yeah, he's slated to start Opening Day."

      It will be the 28-year-old Strasburg's fourth Opening Day start but his first since 2014. In his previous starts to open the season from 2012-14, he struck out 18 in 20 innings while leading the Nationals to wins in all three games.

      "It's Game 1 of 162 and hopefully some change," Strasburg said Sunday. "So I'll go out there and hopefully get this season started on the right foot."

      Strasburg won his first 13 decisions in 2016 but a partially torn tendon in his forearm caused his seventh trip to the disabled list and limited him to 24 starts. He finished his seventh major league season with a 15-4 record and 3.60 ERA in 147 2/3 innings.

      Right-hander Max Scherzer was the Nationals' Opening Day starter the previous two seasons but the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner missed time this spring because of a stress fracture in his right ring finger.

      Scherzer is expected to start the third game of the season on April 6 against the Marlins.

      "Hey, that's like having two No. 1's," Baker said. "Opening Day is Opening Day. There's nothing better. And then you hope that day No. 2 and No. 3 is not a drop-off in attendance and excitement."

  • Mets LHP Matz to miss start due to elbow tenderness
    By The Sports Xchange / Sunday, March 26, 2017

    New York Mets left-hander Steven Matz has been scratched from his Monday start because of tenderness and irritation in his left elbow.

    • Matz, 25, was scheduled to pitch in a minor league game at the Mets' complex in Port St. Lucie, Fla., to start the final week of spring training. The Mets open the season at home on April 3 against the Atlanta Braves.

      "There's a little irritation, and he's got to work that out," Mets general manager Sandy Alderson told reporters Sunday. "We don't think it's anything significant, but it bothers him on extension. He won't pitch tomorrow, and we'll see where that takes him over the next four or five days."

      Matz, who underwent Tommy John surgery earlier in his career, was reassured by doctors that he has no ligament damage in the elbow.

      Matz said he felt tenderness before his last outing on Wednesday when he gave up five runs and eight hits in four innings against the Miami Marlins. He is 1-1 with a 4.26 ERA in four starts this spring.

      "I talked to the doctor right away just to see his thoughts," said Matz, who had a bone spur removed from his elbow after a shoulder issue ended his 2016 season. "He just said this stuff can happen when you're coming back from surgery."

      Matz was 9-8 with a 3.40 ERA in 22 starts over 132 1/3 innings last season before being shut down in September.

  • White Sox's Rodon to have specialist evaluate arm issue
    By The Sports Xchange / Saturday, March 25, 2017

    Chicago White Sox left-hander Carlos Rodon will get a second opinion Monday on tightness in his left biceps despite an MRI exam on Friday that came back clean.

    • Rodon, who will see Los Angeles-based specialist Neal ElAttrache, is expected to start the season on the disabled list.

      "It just felt like a lot of tightness," Rodon told reporters Saturday. "I could lift my arm above my head and throw with something on it, but not with the normal stuff I usually have. That's why I was a little concerned. But I guess I could kind of tell.

      "I'm not a doctor, but you know your body. It's your body, so you know it the best. It didn't feel like anything was damaged -- to me, at least. But it was good to know nothing was really messed up in there."

      Rodon made his first exhibition start March 19, pitching five scoreless innings against the Los Angeles Angels and allowing one hit and one walk while striking out five.

      General manager Rick Hahn said Rodon felt tightness in his upper left biceps Thursday and was examined by team doctors. Hahn said while "it appears there is nothing structural," the team wants to cautious.

      The 24-year-old Rodon is 18-16 with a 3.90 ERA in 54 appearances (51 starts) during parts of two seasons with the White Sox.

  • MLB notebook: Rangers' Darvish gets Opening Day nod
    By The Sports Xchange / Saturday, March 25, 2017

    Right-hander Yu Darvish will be the Opening Day starter for the Texas Rangers, manager Jeff Banister announced Saturday.

    • Darvish, 30, will face the Cleveland Indians on April 3 at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas, becoming the ninth different Opening Day starter for the Rangers in the past nine years.

      It will be the first Opening Day start for Darvish with the Rangers, although he did it five times in Japan. He was named the Opening Day starter in 2014 but was sidelined by neck stiffness and started the season on the disabled list.

      "We feel he is in a great place," Banister said from spring training in Surprise, Ariz. "We have one of the best pitchers in all of baseball opening the season for us. Physically and mentally, he's just in a tremendous position. He knows what he means to this club. You look at him and see a mentally focused and driven human being to who wants to be the best pitcher on the planet."

      Darvish is heading into his first full season since undergoing Tommy John surgery on March 17, 2015. He was 7-5 with a 3.41 ERA in 17 starts last season.

      --The Rangers reached an agreement with second baseman Rougned Odor on a six-year, $49.5 million extension, according to multiple media reports.

      The deal also includes an option for a seventh year.

      Odor, 23, was not eligible for arbitration this offseason. He already agreed to a $563,180 contract for 2017.

      Odor, who played for Venezuela during the World Baseball Classic, hit .271 with 33 home runs, 88 RBIs, 89 runs and 14 stolen bases in 150 games last season.

      --Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost officially named left-hander Danny Duffy to be his Opening Day starter.

      Duffy, 28, will make his first Opening Day start when the Royals travel to Minnesota to face Twins on April 3.

      Yost also announced Saturday that the full rotation would be Duffy, right-hander Ian Kennedy, righty Jason Hammel, left-hander Jason Vargas and right-hander Nathan Karns.

      Duffy just returned from the World Baseball Classic on Friday with a gold medal for Team USA. He became the ace of the staff in 2016 after starting the season in the bullpen. He was 12-3 with a 3.51 ERA in 42 appearances (26 starts).

      --Starting pitcher David Price of the Boston Red Sox reported improved strength in his ailing left arm.

      Price, who has not thrown off a mound since experiencing pain and swelling after throwing a simulated game on Feb. 28, played catch on Saturday.

      "It felt good, it felt normal," Price told reporters in Fort Myers, Fla. "It was a good day."

      Boston manager John Farrell noted that the strength level in Price's arm matched the level at which he arrived at training camp.

      "We felt like he was improved to the point of initiating more throwing," Farrell said. "(It's) just to get the arm moving with a ball in flight, and we'll continue in this phase for a period of time."

      The 31-year-old Price will begin the season on the disabled list and Farrell acknowledged there is no timetable for ratcheting up the left-hander's throwing program.

      --Even though Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Colby Rasmus has been playing in spring training games as a designated hitter, he expects to begin the season on the disabled list.

      Rasmus told the Tampa Bay Times that he still cannot run well enough to play in the field because he has considerable discomfort as a result of the hip and core muscle repair surgery he underwent.

      "We've been trying to progress up to that point, but it's probably looking like I'm going to start on the DL," Rasmus told the newspaper. "It's not nothing major but I don't feel that I'm ready to run something down in the gap for nine innings. I've been doing a lot of outfield work and it feels pretty good, but I don't think I'm quite to that point yet."

      Rasmus, 30, signed a one-year deal with the Rays as a free agent in January after hitting .206 with 15 home runs for the Houston Astros last season.

  • Rays OF Rasmus expects to start season on DL
    By The Sports Xchange / Saturday, March 25, 2017

    Even though Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Colby Rasmus has been playing in spring training games as a designated hitter, he said on Saturday that he expects to begin the season on the disabled list.

    • Rasmus told the Tampa Bay Times that he still cannot run well enough to play in the field because he has considerable discomfort as a result of the hip and core muscle repair surgery he underwent.

      "We've been trying to progress up to that point, but it's probably looking like I'm going to start on the DL," Rasmus told the Times. "It's not nothing major but I don't feel that I'm ready to run something down in the gap for nine innings.

      "I've been doing a lot of outfield work and it feels pretty good, but I don't think I'm quite to that point yet."

      Rasmus might miss only six games.

      "We'll just have to see how it goes day by day," he said. "I had hoped that I would be able to maybe DH, but that's not what they're looking for me to do."

      With Rasmus' status uncertain, outfielder Mallex Smith probably will make the Opening Day roster, and he might be the starter in left field.

      Rasmus, 30, signed a one-year deal with the Rays as a free agent in January after hitting .206 with 15 home runs for the Houston Astros last season.

  • MLB roundup: Sandoval homers, continues strong spring for Red Sox
    By The Sports Xchange / Saturday, March 25, 2017

    Pablo Sandoval hit a three-run home run off Blake Snell as a split squad of Boston Red Sox beat the Tampa Bay Rays, 7-5, in Port Charlotte Fla. Sandoval, who is trying to win the Red Sox third base job, hit his fourth home run of the spring and is batting .353. Snell continued his rocky spring by allowing four runs and six hits in 4 2/3 innings to raise his ERA to 6.16.

    • Mets 3, Braves 0

      Rafael Montero continued strong spring by allowing four hits in five innings as New York blanked Atlanta in Kissimmee, Fla. Montero lowered his spring ERA to 1.96 while Michael Conforto homered for the Mets. Atlanta's R.A. Dickey allowed two runs and seven hits in six innings.

      Yankees 6, Blue Jays 5

      Pete Kozma hit the game-winning single in the bottom of the ninth inning as New York capitalized on four Toronto errors in Tampa Fla. Greg Bird hit his seventh home run of the spring for New York. Ryan Goins and Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit home runs off Yankees' starter Adam Warren.

      Pirates 5, Tigers 4

      Adam Frazier and Austin Meadows hit solo home runs in the bottom of the eighth inning and Pittsburgh edged Detroit in Bradenton, Fla. Tyler Collins hit a three-run home run for Detroit. Anibal Sanchez pitched six hitless innings before Jose Osuna ended Detroit's no-hit bid with a single in the seventh.

      Phillies 3, Red Sox 3 (ss)

      Chris Coghlan hit a sacrifice fly in the top of the ninth and Philadelphia tied a split Boston squad in Fort Myers, Fla. Jackie Bradley Jr. homered for Boston, while Coghlan also added another sacrifice fly. Boston's Kyle Kendrick continued his case to be the fifth starter spot by allowing two runs and eight hits in six innings.

      Marlins 1, Cardinals 0

      Derek Dietrich's RBI double in the fourth inning accounted for the run in Miami's victory over St. Louis in Jupiter, Fla. St. Louis used six pitchers as Lance Lynn pitched a hitless first inning. Miami's Justin Nicolino allowed three hits in five innings.

      Nationals 4, Astros 1

      Tanner Roark returned from the World Baseball Classic and pitched 5 1/3 innings in Washington's victory over Houston in West Palm Beach, Fla. Roark allowed one run and three hits while striking out five. Houston's Lance McCullers Jr. allowed four runs and six hits in 3 1/3 innings.

      Royals 1, Brewers 0 (10 innings)

      Raul Mondesi Jr. homered with one out in the bottom of the 10th inning to lift Kansas City by Milwaukee at Surprise, Ariz. Mondesi hit his third spring home run when he sent a full-count offering from Rob Scahill over the center field wall. Five Kansas City pitchers combined on a three-hitter, including starter Ian Kennedy, who fanned seven in six innings. Milwaukee's Wily Peralta allowed three hits in 5 2/3 innings.

      Angels 7, Diamondbacks 4

      Albert Pujols and Carlos Perez hit two-run home runs off Taijuan Walker and Los Angeles beat Arizona at Tempe, Ariz. Angels starter Tyler Skaggs allowed one run and four hits in four innings. Walker was tagged for six runs (three earned) and eight hits in 4 2/3 innings.

      White Sox 10, Indians 7

      Danny Hayes hit a grand slam with two outs in the top of the ninth inning and Chicago rallied past Cleveland at Goodyear, Ariz. Jacob May, Cody Asche, Jose Abreu, Everth Cabrera and Nicky Delmonico hit the other home runs for Chicago. Carlos Santana hit a two-run home run and Bradley Zimmer had a two-run triple for the Indians.

      Rockies 7, Cubs 4 (ss)

      Mark Reynolds and Dustin Garneau drove in two runs apiece and Colorado beat a split Chicago squad at Scottsdale, Ariz. Carlos Gonzalez had two hits and Trevor Story had an RBI for the Rockies. Jason Hayward, who is batting .152, hit a two-run home run for Chicago.

      Cubs 11 (ss), Reds 7

      Kris Bryant hit one of four home runs for a split Chicago squad in a victory over a split Cincinnati squad at Las Vegas, Nev. Prospect Ian Happ, Chesny Young and Victor Caratini also homered for the defending world champions. Arismendy Alcantara and Joe Hudson homered for Cincinnati.

      Reds 11 (ss), Athletics 6 (ss)

      Ryan Raburn capped a six-run second inning as a split Cincinnati squad beat a split Oakland squad in Mesa, Ariz. Jose Peraza and Zack Cozart also drove in runs for Cincinnati, which totaled 15 hits. Rajai Davis homered off Reds starter Amir Garrett, who allowed six runs and seven hits in five innings.

      Dodgers 11, Athletics 6 (ss)

      Andrew Toles continued his strong spring with a fourth-inning grand slam and Los Angeles knocked of a split Oakland squad at Glendale, Ariz. Justin Turner had three hits, including a solo home run for the Dodgers. Matt Chapman and Josh Rodriguez homered for Oakland.

      Mariners 3, Rangers 1

      Ben Gamel drove in two runs and Seattle edged Texas at Peoria, Ariz. Taylor Motter homered for Seattle while starter Dillon Overton allowed a run and four hits in six innings. Ryan Rua homered for Texas.

      Orioles 6, Twins 3

      Chris Davis homered and Baltimore beat Minnesota at Sarasota, Fla. J.J. Hardy and Jonathan Schoop also hit home runs for the Orioles. Tommy Field and Niko Goodrum homered for Minnesota.

      Giants 8, Padres 7

      Jae-gyun Hwang hit the game-winning single with one out in the bottom of the ninth to lift San Francisco past San Diego at Scottsdale, Ariz. Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford hit their first home runs of the spring for the Giants. Cory Spangenberg, Erick Aybar and Jamie Romak homered for San Diego.

  • Royals tab Duffy for Opening Day
    By The Sports Xchange / Saturday, March 25, 2017

    Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost officially named left-hander Danny Duffy to be his Opening Day starter.

    • Duffy, 28, will make his first Opening Day start when the Royals travel to Minnesota to face Twins on April 3.

      Yost also announced Saturday that the full rotation would be Duffy, right-hander Ian Kennedy, righty Jason Hammel, left-hander Jason Vargas and right-hander Nathan Karns.

      "With what Danny did last year and this spring, we feel he has earned this," Yost said from spring training in Surprise, Ariz. "We knew this was the direction we were going to go weeks before we even showed up at spring training."

      Duffy just returned from the World Baseball Classic on Friday with a gold medal for Team USA.

      "This week hasn't sucked, man," Duffy said, smiling. "Been a lot of fun. Obviously, it means a lot to get this start. I've worked really hard to get to this point. I'm really honored. There's five of us capable of doing this, and the fact that they chose me means a lot. Very humbled by it."

      Duffy became the ace of the staff in 2016 after starting the season in the bullpen. He was 12-3 with a 3.51 ERA in 42 appearances (26 starts).

  • Darvish gets Opening Day nod for Rangers
    By The Sports Xchange / Saturday, March 25, 2017

    Right-hander Yu Darvish will be the Opening Day starter for the Texas Rangers, manager Jeff Banister announced Saturday.

    • Darvish, 30, will face the Cleveland Indians on April 3 at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas, becoming the ninth different Opening Day starter for the Rangers in the past nine years.

      It will be the first Opening Day start for Darvish with the Rangers, although he did it five times in Japan. He was named the Opening Day starter in 2014 but was sidelined by neck stiffness and started the season on the disabled list.

      "We feel he is in a great place," Banister said from spring training in Surprise, Ariz. "We have one of the best pitchers in all of baseball opening the season for us. Physically and mentally, he's just in a tremendous position. He knows what he means to this club. You look at him and see a mentally focused and driven human being to who wants to be the best pitcher on the planet."

      Darvish has made four starts in the Cactus League this spring, recording a 2.84 ERA while holding opponents to a .216 batting average.

      "I've had a very good spring training," Darvish said Friday after he pitched in a minor league game and allowed one earned run in six innings. "I am confident for the season and can't wait to get started."

      Darvish is heading into his first full season since undergoing Tommy John surgery on March 17, 2015. He was 7-5 with a 3.41 ERA in 17 starts last season.

  • Ailing Red Sox LHP Price says arm is stronger
    By The Sports Xchange / Saturday, March 25, 2017

    Starting pitcher David Price of the Boston Red Sox reported improved strength in his ailing left arm.

    • Price, who has not thrown off a mound since experiencing pain and swelling after throwing a simulated game on Feb. 28, played catch on Saturday.

      "It felt good, it felt normal," Price told reporters in Fort Myers, Fla. "It was a good day."

      Boston manager John Farrell noted that the strength level in Price's arm matched the level at which he arrived at training camp.

      "We felt like he was improved to the point of initiating more throwing," Farrell said. "(It's) just to get the arm moving with a ball in flight, and we'll continue in this phase for a period of time."

      The 31-year-old Price will begin the season on the disabled list and Farrell acknowledged there is no timetable for ratcheting up the left-hander's throwing program.

      Price plans to travel with the team at the start of the regular season, as there are no plans for him to remain in extended spring training.

      Instead, he will head out to one of the team's minor-league affiliates when he is ready to begin a rehab assignment.

      In 2016, Price posted a 17-9 record with a 3.99 ERA and 228 strikeouts over 230 innings -- his first of a seven-year, $217 million contract with the Red Sox.