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MLB off season thread  Rating:  Rating
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 Posted: Wed Feb 5th, 2014 09:27 pm
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lobo316
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San Diego Padres left-hander Cory Luebke needs a second reconstructive surgery on his pitching elbow, forcing him to miss the 2014 season.

An MRI taken on Luebke's elbow Friday revealed a tear in his ulnar collateral ligament, MLB.com reported. The 28-year-old also missed the 2013 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in May 2012.

"I guess the general consensus was the graft never took and that there were some problems from the get-go," Luebke told MLB.com on Tuesday night. "Kind of the way the process has gone ... the stops and starts, and every time we turned up the volume and intensity, it was never too long before we had a setback. That sort of let me know there's something going on.

"My gut feeling through the rehab process was this didn't seem right. And when we did the MRI, it was pretty clear what was going on."

Luebke, a first-round pick of the Padres in 2007 out of Ohio State, broke into the major leagues in 2010. His first full season for San Diego came a year later, when he appeared in 46 games (17 starts), going 6-10 with a 3.29 ERA while striking out 154 batters in 139.2 innings.

The following season, Luebke made five starts for the Padres, going 3-1 with a 2.61 ERA before being shut down due to the first elbow injury.

"I feel bad for him ... from 2011 through the first part of 2012, he was certainly on his way," Padres general manager Josh Byrnes told MLB.com. "This is a real setback. There's been a lot of missed time. Hopefully in a year or so, he can get back to being Cory Luebke.

"This whole thing has been a mystery."

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 Posted: Wed Feb 5th, 2014 09:32 pm
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ATLANTA (AP) The Atlanta Braves agreed to eight-year contract with first baseman Freddie Freeman that is worth about $125 million on Tuesday.

The deal was confirmed by the team on Tuesday night.

Earlier in the day, outfielder Jason Heyward and the Braves agreed to a $13.3 million, two-year contract. Heyward and Freeman had filed for salary arbitration last month.

The 24-year-old Freeman was an All-Star last year when he hit .319 with 23 homers and 109 RBIs. He matched his career high in home runs and set highs in batting average and RBIs which finishing fifth in NL MVP voting. He has topped 20 home runs in three straight seasons.

''Freddie has established himself as one of the best young talents in the game,'' Braves general manager Frank Wren said. ''We are excited to sign one of our own homegrown players to a contract that will keep him in a Braves uniform for the next eight seasons.''

Closer Craig Kimbrel is the Braves' only player left in arbitration.

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 Posted: Wed Feb 5th, 2014 09:33 pm
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SEATTLE (AP) Logan Morrison and the Seattle Mariners have reached agreement on a $1.75 million contract for the 2014 season and avoided arbitration.

The team announced the agreement on Tuesday. This season will be Morrison's first with the Mariners after being acquired in a trade with Miami during the offseason.

Morrison's deal also includes up to $375,000 in performance bonuses based on plate appearances. Morrison had requested $2.5 million and was offered $1.1 million.

Morrison has not been able to match the power he showed during the 2011 season when he hit 23 homers with 72 RBIs. Morrison had right knee surgery in September 2012 and missed the first two months of the 2013 season. He hit .242 with six homers and 36 RBIs in 85 games last year.

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 Posted: Wed Feb 5th, 2014 09:34 pm
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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) Outfielder Sam Fuld has reached agreement on a minor league contract with the Oakland Athletics that includes an invitation to big league spring training.

Assistant general manager David Forst confirmed the deal Tuesday. Fuld, 32, would receive an $800,000, one-year contract if he's added to the 40-man roster.

The two-time defending AL West champion A's have a deep outfield already, with returning starters Yoenis Cespedes in left field, Coco Crisp in center and Josh Reddick in right.

Fuld batted .199 with two home runs and 17 RBIs in 119 games for Tampa Bay last season.

Also Tuesday, Oakland promoted Farhan Zaidi to assistant general manager/director of baseball operations. The 37-year-old, an economics whiz entering his 10th season in the front office, has been director of baseball operations for the club since 2009.

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 Posted: Thu Feb 6th, 2014 01:45 am
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BALTIMORE (AP) Opening day will have a different meaning this year for Baltimore Orioles reliever Troy Patton.

When the Orioles launch the 2014 season at Camden Yards on March 31 against the defending champion Boston Red Sox, Patton will start serving the 25-game suspension he received in December for testing positive for a banned amphetamine.

Patton took Adderall, a drug commonly used to combat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, late in the 2013 season and then was given a random drug test. Because Patton did not have a therapeutic use exemption for Adderall and it was his second positive test for a banned stimulant, Baltimore's left-handed relief specialist was suspended and will lose $174,180 of his $1,275,000 salary.

''It was a stupid mistake, especially having failed one prior test,'' Patton said last weekend. ''I made the mistake and now I'm just ready to deal with it.''

Patton cringes when he thinks about the Orioles opening the season without him.

''It was real frustrating because my goal every year is to run down that orange carpet,'' he said. ''That would mean I made it again, another year with the team. Missing those first few games against Boston at home is going to hurt real bad.''

The pain began when he learned of his suspension, which followed a season in which the 28-year-old went 2-0 with a 3.70 ERA in 56 games.

Although clearly repentant, Patton acknowledged he ''let down'' his teammates in their bid to get off to a good start in the highly competitive AL East. But he also wants Baltimore fans to know that Adderall is not a performance-enhancing drug.

''I don't want fans to associate the Adderall with steroids or things of that nature because it's a completely different thing,'' he said. ''People take Adderall every day for normal usage. Four times the normal percentage of people in baseball take it than in the real world. It's not something that I was doing to try to get bigger, faster, stronger. It's something I was trying to do just to have some energy and alertness.''

Patton can't return until April 29 at the earliest. He won't see much action during spring training, either.

''Why would I give him innings when he can't pitch until April something when I can use that to evaluate somebody else?'' Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. ''I'm not going to have him pitch in an intrasquad game and then there are two months before he pitches. He may not pitch a whole lot before we break camp.''

Patton insists he needs treatment for ADHD, but he can't get a prescription for Adderall because of his misstep with the drug.

''I still think I'm ADD and I would like to take Adderall but it's going to more difficult now to go through that process,'' he said. ''I know I can play without it. I have for years. It's not something that I desperately need.''

And so, Patton guarantees he won't be using it anytime soon.

''I'm not going to keep Adderall within a mile of me,'' he said. ''It's much more of a penalty next time - 80 games. I can't afford to miss half a season. It's not even going to be a question. It's no longer in my repertoire at all. It's over with.''

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 Posted: Thu Feb 6th, 2014 02:49 am
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from csnne.com:
Former Red Sox star Curt Schilling, currently an ESPN baseball analyst, announced Wednesday that he has cancer. 

"I've always believed life is about embracing the gifts and rising up to meet the challenges," Schilling said in a statement released by ESPN. "We've been presented with another challenge, as I've recently been diagnosed with cancer."

Neither Schilling, 47, nor ESPN said what type of cancer he has been diagnosed with. Nor did they make any comment on his prognosis.

"Shonda (Schilling, Curt's wife) and I want to send a sincere thank you and our appreciation to those who have called and sent prayers, and we ask that if you are so inclined, to keep the Schilling family in your prayers," Schilling said in his statement. "My father left me with a saying that I've carried my entire life and tried to pass on to our kids: 'tough times don't last, tough people do.' Over the years in Boston, the kids at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute have shown us what that means. With my incredibly talented medical team I'm ready to try and win another big game. I've been so very blessed and I feel grateful for what God has allowed my family to have and experience, and I'll embrace this fight just like the rest of them, with resolute faith and head on."

"Our thoughts are with Curt and his family during this challenging time," the network said in a statement. "His ESPN teammates wish him continued strength in his cancer fight and we look forward to welcoming him back to our baseball coverage whenever he's ready."

Schilling -- whose post-baseball career, 38 Studios video-game venture went bankrupt in 2011 and put Rhode Island taxpayers on the hook for $75 million -- recently signed a multiyear extension with ESPN. He is scheduled to join the network's Sunday Night Baseball broadcast team this season.

After a stellar career with Orioles, Astros, Phillies and Diamondbacks, Schilling joined the Red Sox in 2004 and helped lead them to their first World Series championship in 86 years. He also helped the Sox win a second World Series title in 2007, his last year as an active player. He posted a career record of 216-146 with a 3.46 ERA, and his 3,116 strikeouts are the 15th-highest total in baseball history. He also was 11-2, 2.23 in postseason play and, in addition to his two championships with the Red Sox, he was part of a World Series title team in Arizona in 2001 and was a member of Philadelphia's National League championship team in 1993.

Schilling also had health problems in 2011, when, in the aftermath of the 38 Studios bankruptcy, he suffered a heart attack. Shonda Schilling also has had cancer; she was diagnosed with stage 2 malignant melanoma in 2001.



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 Posted: Thu Feb 6th, 2014 05:59 pm
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HOUSTON -- Tracy McGrady wants to follow Michael Jordan's path to the national pastime.

The retired seven-time NBA All-Star is aiming to become a baseball player, and plans to try pitching for the Sugar Land Skeeters of the independent Atlantic League. That's the same team that Roger Clemens pitched for a couple of years ago.

Jordan famously played in the Chicago White Sox organization in 1994 during his first retirement from basketball, reaching the Double-A level.

"Just having a tryout for a minor league team is more fulfilling than anything I can imagine as far as baseball," McGrady told ESPN.com by phone Tuesday. "I'm just going to train as hard as I can and pursue my dream. Where this takes me, I don't know.

"I'm doing this for the love of the game. I've made money. The Atlantic League doesn't have salaries like the major leagues. So this is a kid who's trying to fulfill his dream. This isn't a gimmick. I've played baseball. I know the game of baseball. And I'm going after what I've always wanted to do."

A statement from the Skeeters says that it is a "lifelong dream" of McGrady's to play baseball.

"McGrady has demonstrated skill, determination and diligence during his training program," the statement said. "We look forward to monitoring his progress."

The 34-year-old McGrady played for several teams, including the Houston Rockets and Orlando Magic. He last played in the NBA in the 2012-13 season.

The Skeeters last made national headlines when Clemens pitched two games for them in 2012 at age 50.

McGrady made seven consecutive All-Star Games from 2001-07. The 6-foot-8 McGrady, natural right-hander, was drafted out of high school with the ninth overall pick in 1997 by the Toronto Raptors. He spent his first three seasons with the Raptors before becoming a star with the Magic. He spent four years with the Magic and led the NBA scoring in both the 2002-03 and 2003-04 seasons.

He then joined the Rockets where he teamed with Yao Ming to help Houston to three playoff appearances.

McGrady played for the Knicks, Detroit and Atlanta after a six-year stint with the Rockets and was on the Spurs' postseason roster last season. He retired with more than 18,000 points and more than 5,000 rebounds in his career.

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 Posted: Fri Feb 7th, 2014 04:00 am
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DENVER (AP) The Colorado Rockies will retire former first baseman Todd Helton's No. 17 on Aug. 17.

The club announced its promotional schedule Thursday and it includes a three-day weekend honoring Helton, who retired at the end of last season.

Helton will be honored in a ceremony on Aug. 17 before the Rockies play the Cincinnati Reds.

Also, Root Sports announced former Rockies outfielder Ryan Spilborghs will join its Rockies broadcast team this season.

Spilborghs played a key role in the Rockies' 2007 World Series run and had considered resuming his career with the Rockies on a minor league contract this season before deciding to retire and go into broadcasting. He'll be a part of the team's pregame and postgame shows.

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 Posted: Fri Feb 7th, 2014 04:02 am
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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) While much of the nation is buried in snow, glazed by ice or just plain shivering in the cold, it's time to play ball in the desert.

Spring training officially began Thursday when Arizona Diamondbacks pitchers and catchers reported, with their first workout set for Friday.

On the other side of suburban Phoenix, in Glendale, Los Angeles Dodgers pitchers and catchers report on Saturday.

Full-squad workouts for both teams begin next week.

The Diamondbacks and Dodgers get an early start because they will open the MLB season with a two-game series in Australia on March 22-23.

The rest of the teams begin workouts next week at their spring training haunts in Arizona and Florida.

Arizona's reporting date signals the beginning of preparation for a season that won't end until the World Series eight months from now.

The Diamondbacks are coming off consecutive 81-81 seasons and face the prospect, like the rest of the NL West, of trying to compete with the cash- and pitching-rich Dodgers.

Arizona wanted to add a veteran starter in the offseason and still may.

A person with knowledge of the situation said Thursday that the Diamondbacks were talking with representatives of Bronson Arroyo with the possibility of landing the 36-year-old right-hander. The person asked not to be identified because the talks had not been made public. The Dodgers and Baltimore Orioles also reportedly have interest in Arroyo.

If no changes are made, the Diamondbacks' rotation is expected to include left-handers Patrick Corbin and Wade Miley and right-handers Trevor Cahill and Brandon McCarthy. Young right-hander Randall Delgado and top minor league prospect Archie Bradley could vie for the other rotation spot.

Diamondbacks players went through informal workouts in relatively chilly weather, at least by Arizona standards, on Thursday. Temperatures were in the low 60s but were expected to rise to the high 70s over the weekend.

Kirk Gibson is entering his fourth season as manager and earlier this week got an extension of his contract, which had been set to expire this year. He said the early start to spring training will mean a larger gap between the start of full-squad workouts and the beginning of spring games.

''We'll come in on the 11th and our first game's on the 26th,'' he said. ''It gives us a challenge. We need to get our pitchers ready to be ready to go on March 22.''

After the long trip to Australia, the Diamondbacks and Dodgers will come back to Arizona to complete spring training before their stateside regular-season openers.

''The season's going to be a little longer, `' Gibson said, ''but if you look at the other people that have played abroad early, I think there's 10 teams that went and five of them have went to postseason play.''

Even though it's an early start to spring training, McCarthy said players are more than ready to get back at it.

''In the last month is when you start to hit that boredom point,'' he said. ''You're done with the offseason, you're sick of your loved ones, you want to get out of your house. Now it turns real and you kind of get back to work.''

The other significant addition to the Diamondbacks pitching staff is Addison Reed, The 25-year-old right-hander had 69 saves the last two seasons with the Chicago White Sox, 40 last year. Arizona acquired him from the White Sox for third baseman Matt Davidson.

Reed hasn't been anointed the Arizona closer yet, though, facing competition from the likes of J.J. Putz, David Hernandez and Brad Zeigler.

''Obviously everybody knows that I want to close. It's the only thing I've ever wanted to do,'' Reed said, ''but I'm here and whatever they have me do is what I'll do and I'll be happy to. As long as I'm out there throwing, I'll be a happy guy.''

McCarthy said that a core group of Arizona players plans to take a bigger leadership role in the coming year.

''I think there's a group of guys here that know exactly what they want,'' he said. ''Last year I think we were kind of getting there but we didn't have that true leadership that really came through. It's the one thing I've seen just in talking to guys so far, that here's an idea of exactly what we want and I think we know how to implement that now.

''You're going to see a clubhouse of guys that go out of their way to get things the way they want it, to set an attitude the way they want it.''

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 Posted: Fri Feb 7th, 2014 04:03 am
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CHICAGO (AP) The Chicago Cubs have agreed to a $2.3 million, one-year contract with second baseman Darwin Barney, avoiding arbitration.

A Gold Glove winner in 2012, Barney committed just four errors with a .993 fielding percentage last season. But he also batted .208.

The agreement leaves pitcher Jeff Samardzija as the team's only remaining player in arbitration.

Chicago also announced Thursday that its home game against Washington scheduled for Sunday, June 29, has been moved up a day to ease potential congestion with the annual Pride Parade. The Cubs and Nationals will play a day-night doubleheader on June 28.

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 Posted: Fri Feb 7th, 2014 04:04 am
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) Veteran infielder Wilson Betemit is among five players agreeing to minor contracts with the Tampa Bay Rays.

The team said Thursday that Betemit, outfielders Justin Christian and Jeremy Moore, catcher Eddy Rodriguez and right-handed pitcher Juan Sandoval also received invitations to major league spring training.

The 32-year-old Betemit is a .267 career hitter who has played parts of 11 seasons with the Braves, Dodgers, Yankees, White Sox, Royals, Tigers and Orioles.

Christian has spent portions of three seasons with the Yankees and Giants. Moore appeared in eight games for the Angels three years ago, and Rodriguez played in two games with the Padres in 2012.

Sandoval was in spring training with the Rays a year ago, then split last season between Double-A Montgomery and Triple-A Durham.

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 Posted: Fri Feb 7th, 2014 04:05 am
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BALTIMORE (AP) The Baltimore Orioles have signed right-hander Evan Meek to a minor league contract with an invitation to major league spring training.

Meek pitched 12 innings over 12 games with Pittsburgh last season. The 30-year-old spent five years with the Pirates, going 7-7 with a 3.34 ERA in 156 appearances out of the bullpen.

Meek's best season was in 2010, when he went 5-4 with a 2.14 ERA and four saves in 70 games.

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 Posted: Fri Feb 7th, 2014 04:05 am
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HOUSTON (AP) The Houston Astros have signed right-handed pitcher Jerome Williams to a one-year deal.

Financial terms weren't disclosed Thursday.

The 32-year-old journeyman is a veteran of eight major league seasons. Last season, with the Los Angeles Angels, he was 9-10 with a 4.57 ERA in 37 appearances, including 25 starts. He finished with a 4-0 record in five starts last September.

Williams had been with the Angels since 2011. Previously, he pitched for the San Francisco Giants, Chicago Cubs and Washington Nationals.

To make room on the roster for Williams, the Astros designated infielder Brett Wallace for assignment. The 27-year-old infielder appeared in 79 games with the Astros last season, hitting 14 doubles and 13 home runs and driving home 36 runs. He spent parts of his last four seasons with Houston.

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 Posted: Fri Feb 7th, 2014 04:07 am
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Mike Moustakas walked through the empty ballroom with such a confident swagger that it was hard to believe the Royals third baseman was coming off one of the toughest seasons of his career.

Or that he was carrying the weight of a franchise on his shoulders.

Once considered a cornerstone of Kansas City's future, Moustakas struggled so mightily last season that he was nearly sent to the minors. His playing time decreased and he became a liability at the plate, even as the Royals contended in September for the first time in a decade.

Now, with most of their key pieces back and a few significant acquisitions, the Royals are eager to take the next step by making the postseason for the first time since 1985. And if they have any hope of dethroning Detroit in the AL Central, or even challenging for a wild-card berth, Moustakas knows that he's going to have to be more productive than a year ago.

''That's why I worked so hard this offseason,'' he said.

First, Moustakas spent a couple months playing winter ball in Venezuela. Then, he returned to the U.S. and resumed working with Royals hitting coach Pedro Grifol in Arizona. Along the way, he also managed to drop about 10 pounds, becoming faster, stronger and more flexible.

Oh, and he also managed to get married.

Suffice to say, it wasn't a very restful offseason. But Moustakas is confident all the work will pay off with a big bounce-back year, which is why he walked through a ballroom during the club's annual FanFest with a pronounced bounce to his step.

''I worked on all sorts of things, my swing, pitch selection, different situations,'' Moustakas said. ''All sorts of things we could work on out there, as opposed to going into spring training to start from ground zero. I was able to get a jump on everything.''

That's exactly what the Royals were hoping he would do.

''Look, we've got to count on all of our young guys getting better,'' general manager Dayton Moore said. ''We have to count on Moose, and we expect Moose to have a much better year.''

Moustakas made the decision to play winter ball late last season, when the former first-round pick was lugging along a .233 average. He knew that there were things he could do to restore the club's confidence in him - and his faith in himself - and that the best way to do both was to keep playing competitive games for as long as possible.

He wound up joining the Cardenales de Lara, which happened to be managed by Grifol, allowing Moustakas a chance to work closely with his hitting coach even while in Venezuela.

The fields were a little rough. The bounces were often wacky. The crowds were passionate, if a bit small. The food, well, Moustakas jokes that it's one of the reasons he lost all that weight.

But the progress he made was unmistakable.

''I took about 300 swings every day before the game,'' he said. ''We tried to adjust a few things, but nothing too crazy, still the same swing, still try to drive the ball and do some damage. I was able to put solid contact on most every swing I took.''

That was a welcomed improvement over last season, when he got into a nasty habit of trying to pull everything to right field. The result was usually weakly hit balls scooped up by the second baseman that reached first long before Moustakas did.

''The first three or four games in Venezuela, I didn't do so well,'' Moustakas said. ''I didn't trust the process. I didn't trust what we were doing, and I went back to my old ways. But then I was like, `You know what? I'm here. Let's just do it.' And it almost clicked.''

First baseman Eric Hosmer, one of his closest friends, said the changes have been obvious.

''I saw him about a month ago in California and he's in great shape,'' Hosmer said. ''He's really done everything he could this offseason to put him in a position to succeed.''

The Royals are counting on that to put them in a position to succeed, too.

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 Posted: Fri Feb 7th, 2014 08:23 pm
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SEATTLE (AP) The Seattle Mariners' wallet is still open.

They reached agreement Thursday on a $14 million, two-year deal with reliever Fernando Rodney, according to a person familiar with the deal.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the agreement was subject to a physical. The deal, first reported by ESPN, also includes performance bonuses.

The agreement with Rodney is general manager Jack Zduriencik's latest splurge in a busy offseason. Seattle's big splash was the signing of second baseman Robinson Cano to a $240 million, 10-year contract, but the team followed with deals for Corey Hart, Logan Morrison and John Buck

Rodney had 37 saves for Tampa Bay last season, appearing in 68 games. He saved 85 games in two seasons for the Rays and will be reunited with new Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon. The pair was together in Detroit where Rodney pitched from 2002-09 and was one of the top relievers in baseball. After two down seasons with the Los Angeles Angels, Rodney revitalized his career with an All-Star season for the Rays in 2012 and another solid campaign in 2013. Rodney had a career-best 48 saves and a 0.60 ERA with the Rays in 2012.

Rodney will go into spring training with the chance to claim the closer role for the Mariners. It was a position of inconsistency a year ago with Tom Wilhelmsen starting the season as the Mariners closer before struggles led to Danny Farquhar getting an opportunity. Wilhelmsen finished with 24 saves but none after July 28 when he was sent down to Triple-A Tacoma and appeared in eight games. Farquhar took over as Seattle's closer in August and had 16 saves.

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