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2016 - 2017 MLB Off-Season  Rating:  Rating
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 Posted: Wed Feb 15th, 2017 03:30 am
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Kansas City Royals left-hander Brian Flynn will have the start of his season delayed after suffering an injury at his home just days before reporting to spring training.

Flynn is expected to miss the next eight weeks after falling through the roof of his barn, suffering a broken rib and three non-displaced fractures in his vertebrae.

"He was working on his barn and fell through the roof," manager Ned Yost told reporters, according to Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star. "So he took a pretty good tumble, knocked himself out. So he’s going to be about eight weeks behind everybody else."

The 26-year-old appeared in 36 games for the Royals last season, posting a 2.60 ERA and 1.10 WHIP in 55 1/3 innings.

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 Posted: Wed Feb 15th, 2017 09:26 pm
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The St. Louis Cardinals' starting rotation took a major hit on Wednesday as the team announced pitching phenom Alex Reyes will undergo Tommy John surgery, according to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

General manager John Mozeliak confirmed the announcement to reporters shortly afterward.

Cardinals GM John Mozeliak addresses Alex Reyes' situation after his MRI yesterday. pic.twitter.com/reJR7RvIwK

— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) February 15, 2017
Reyes received an MRI on Tuesday after experiencing right elbow discomfort, and it was determined the 22-year-old top pitching prospect will need surgery and miss the entire 2017 season.

"When I met with him this morning you could definitely tell that he was down, disappointed," Mozeliak told Goold. "Reality of all this is something I think he had some time to deal with as well. He's eager to get it going and to proceed with his rehab."

Reyes is still expected to receive a second opinion from Dr. James Andrews, who was sent the MRI images, but Mozeliak doesn't expect the diagnosis to change.

The proposed surgery would happen Thursday, according to multiple reports, and the best-case scenario is that Reyes will be ready for the start of the 2018 season.

Reyes was signed by the Cardinals as an amateur free agent in 2012, and skyrocketed to the top of prospect charts everywhere after posting impressive strikeout rates in the minors. Entering 2017, Reyes ranked as the No. 6 prospect in all of baseball, according to MLB Pipeline.

During his big-league debut for the Cardinals last season, the flamethrower posted a 4-1 record with a 1.57 ERA across 12 appearances - five starts - striking out 52 hitters in 46 innings.

The Cardinals will likely turn to former 17-game winner Michael Wacha to fill Reyes' void in the rotation.

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 Posted: Wed Feb 15th, 2017 09:29 pm
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When position players of the Chicago Cubs report to spring camp on Feb. 17, manager Joe Maddon will have some added defensive flexibility because of some good news about Kyle Schwarber.

The 23-year-old slugger, who missed all but two games last season after tearing his ACL, has been cleared by doctors to resume catching duties behind the plate, according to multiple reports.

Schwarber, who was drafted out of Indiana as a catcher in 2014 - and came through the Cubs' minor-league system playing behind the dish and in the outfield - would serve as the team's third-string, emergency catcher behind Willson Contreras and Miguel Montero, according to ESPN's Jesse Rogers.

The Cubs plan to allow Schwarber to catch once or twice per week in spring training to prepare for the role, although he's still expected to spend most of his time playing in left field.

Schwarber has caught 21 games - 136 innings - at the big-league level, all of them in 2015.

The slugger also owns a .242/.353/.479 career slash line with 16 home runs and 43 RBIs in 71 games.

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 Posted: Wed Feb 15th, 2017 09:30 pm
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Grady Sizemore has a new job with the Cleveland Indians ahead of spring training, but it won't be on the field.

The Indians have hired the former All-Star center fielder as an advisor to the club's department of player development, with the possibility of expanding to other opportunities within the team's baseball operations, according to MLB.com's Jordan Bastian.

"I kind of just want to absorb as much as I can," Sizemore said Tuesday. "I don't know anything other than playing, so I'm going to learn a whole lot at once here, but it's fun."

From 2005-08, Sizemore, then playing for the Indians, was one of the best outfielders in the game. During the aforementioned four seasons, he slashed .281/.372/.496 and averaged 27 home runs while missing just nine out of a possible 648 games.

His MLB-best 53 doubles in 2006 marked the start of three consecutive All-Star seasons before elbow and hernia surgeries in 2009 ended his campaign early. He never matched his peak levels again, however, and Sizemore went on to play short stints with the Boston Red Sox, Philadelphia Phillies, and Tampa Bay Rays after eight seasons in Cleveland.

Though he never officially announced his retirement, Sizemore didn't play in 2016, and Indians general manager Mike Chernoff sees coaching potential in the 10-year veteran.

He's asking a lot of questions right now," Chernoff told Bastian. "So I think we want to just expose him to as much as we can. He'll be another body on the field to help with coaching with some of the numbers that we have, but also hopefully get to view spring training through a different lens, as a coach."

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 Posted: Wed Feb 15th, 2017 09:31 pm
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It was Russell Martin's belief in Mark Melancon's cutter that changed the latter's career for the better.

The new San Francisco Giants closer admitted Tuesday that after a dire 2012 season with the Boston Red Sox where he posted a 6.20 ERA in 45 innings, it was joining the backstop on the Pittsburgh Pirates the following season that completely rejuvenated his career.

"He just instilled confidence in me with that cutter; really helped me learn when to throw it, what we're looking for in hitters, how to read them," Melancon told USA Today Sports' Jorge L. Ortiz. "And then just being downright stubborn with throwing it.

"He would get mad at me if I wanted to go away from it, with reason. He was a great mentor for me."

The newly established batterymates clicked immediately in their first season together. Melancon went on to post a 1.39 ERA in 71 relief innings in 2013 - his best mark to date - and also earned the first of his three All-Star nods that season.

Though Martin left the Pirates after the 2014 season for the Toronto Blue Jays in free agency, the pairing taught Melancon the benefit of partnering with a proficient backstop. That helped convince him to sign a four-year, $62-million deal with Giants in December, where he'll get to work with one of the game's best behind the plate in Buster Posey.

"When somebody really cares about who's out on the mound and they take pride in how that guy does, that's what I've seen here with Buster," Melancon said, according to Ortiz. "He wants that guy to be so good, and he doesn't want to take credit for it. Without him it's a different story."

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 Posted: Thu Feb 16th, 2017 02:41 am
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ATLANTA - Atlanta Braves infielder Sean Rodriguez has had surgery to repair the rotator cuff in his left shoulder.

The Braves said Wednesday the procedure was performed on Tuesday by Dr. James Andrews in Gulf Springs, Fla.

General manager John Coppolella told The Associated Press that Rodriguez will miss an ''indeterminate period of time.'' Coppolella said the team ''won't rule him out for the year.'' Rodriguez throws and hits right-handed.

Rodriguez, who agreed to an $11.5-million, two-year contract with Atlanta in November, hurt his shoulder when a vehicle he was driving was rammed by a stolen police car in Miami on Jan. 28. The driver of the stolen car was killed. Rodriquez's wife, Giselle, and two of their children were hospitalized with injuries she said on her Twitter account were not life-threatening.

The Braves acquired second baseman Brandon Phillips from Cincinnati on Sunday.

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 Posted: Thu Feb 16th, 2017 02:42 am
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TAMPA, Fla. - New York Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner doesn't plan on talking with Joe Girardi about a new contract in the near future but spoke highly of the manager's performance.

Girardi is in the final season of a $16-million, four-year deal and is beginning his 10th season as Yankees manager.

"We love Joe," Steinbrenner said Wednesday after the team's first workout this year. "Look, Joe is one of many people who work in this organization that have contracts, and I treat all of them the same. I don't deal with it until the contract is close to up or is up. I'm sure we'll be talking, maybe, toward the end of the year."

General manager Brian Cashman is also in the final season of his contract.

"I think he's done great," Steinbrenner said. "The changes we made in player development the last few years, which he oversees, I think we're in a good place right now. But now we've got to prove ourselves."

New York, which missed the playoffs three of the last four years, has put its future in the hands of young players that include catcher Gary Sanchez, first baseman Greg Bird, infielder/outfielder Tyler Austin, and outfielder Aaron Judge. Pitchers Justus Sheffield and James Kaprielian, and shortstop Gleyber Torres are in the pipeline.

"This is a time of new hope, spring training, and a whole new season," Steinbrenner said. "This feels different. I mean, we've got a great crop of good young players and a good crop of veterans as well. It's a great mix."

"What hasn't changed is we're always going to field a championship-caliber team," Steinbrenner added. "If money comes off the payroll, we're going to do our best to put it back into the team as we did this year. We're always going to make sure that we've got a mix of marque veteran proven talent along with the young players."

Steinbrenner has high expectations for 2017.

"Whether or not people think we have a chance or don't have a chance, that's up to them," Steinbrenner said. "As far as these guys, they absolutely believe they a chancer and will come to play."

''It's nothing personal,'' Steinbrenner said. ''We love Dellin. He came up through the organization.''

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 Posted: Thu Feb 16th, 2017 02:43 am
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As veteran infielder Jimmy Rollins enters his 18th major-league season, he's unlikely to endure a weirder spring training than that of last year's sideshow in Chicago.

Now a member of the San Francisco Giants, Rollins reflected on his time in Chicago on Wednesday, particularity an incident that took place in March when veteran slugger Adam LaRoche announced his sudden retirement after White Sox vice president Kenny Williams restricted his 14-year-old son Drake from being around the clubhouse.

"The clubhouse (was) in disarray after that point," Rollins told Courtney Cronin of the Mercury News.

Rollins added: "Maybe my third day there and the funny part was, when Adam came in, I had just went to the bathroom, so I didn't hear anything, and I came out and they're like he's retiring, and I'm like 'Why's everybody so sad?' You celebrate a guy retiring. He's had a great career and he's made a decision. Then I found out why and then (it was) chaos."

LaRoche forfeited $13 million with his decision to retire, but was adamant he stood by his choice. The result turned a number of players against the front office - most notably Chris Sale - though Rollins notes many of the players that took exception to the decision now find themselves in new homes.

"I think just because the way it was handled, that a lot of the guys that were outspoken are no longer there," Rollins said. "There in better places if you ask me, but they're no longer there."

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 Posted: Thu Feb 16th, 2017 06:17 pm
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DUNEDIN, Fla. - Toronto Blue Jays manager John Gibbons is determined to guide his team into its third consecutive AL Championship Series. And to finally win it.

Recent flirtations with a pennant were satisfying for a franchise that failed to reach the postseason even once after winning a pair of consecutive World Series titles nearly a quarter-century ago. Gibbons wants greater satisfaction.

''Our goal is to get one step further, really,'' he said Wednesday after the first spring workout for pitchers and catchers. ''But you have to have a good team to get that far in back-to-back years, and that's what we have. A little different look this year, no doubt about that, but it's still a good, solid team.''

The most glaring difference will be the absence of Edwin Encarnacion, who hit 42 home runs and tied with David Ortiz for the league lead with 127 RBIs in his eighth and final season with the Blue Jays. Adding to the pain, the free-agent slugger landed with the Cleveland Indians, who dispatched Toronto in five games en route to the 2016 World Series.

''I don't think you ever totally replace Edwin, what he's done here,'' Gibbons said. ''But it's a business. He's gone.''

The Blue Jays anticipated the loss of that offensive production by acquiring free agent Kendrys Morales, a veteran switch-hitter who totaled 52 home runs and 199 RBIs over the past two seasons with the Kansas City Royals, who finished off the Blue Jays in the 2015 ALCS.

Toronto made a bigger splash on the open market by retaining its longtime star outfielder Jose Bautista, who failed to sweep potential suitors off their feet after contributing only 22 homers, 69 RBIs, and a .234 average in an injury-plagued season.

Gibbons is thrilled to have him back.

''It's always good for us if he's around,'' he said. ''I think he's going to have a big year. He's one of the most motivated guys I've ever been around, and I'm sure he'll be extra motivated, knowing him.''

It won't be difficult for anyone in the Toronto clubhouse to become familiar with outgoing left-handed relief pitcher J.P. Howell, another free-agent acquisition with World Series aspirations.

''That's the dream, that's the goal and that's the vision,'' he said. ''That's the only place we're going to look.''

Right-hander Aaron Sanchez also has high hopes as part of a solid starting rotation that also includes the likes of Marcus Stroman, J.A. Happ, Marco Estrada, and Francisco Liriano.

''I think everybody in this clubhouse is driven,'' he said. ''We got to the same spot twice and unfortunately came out on the losing side, so I think that's one of the humps that this whole organization is trying to overcome. It's World Series for us or it's very disappointing for us.''

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 Posted: Thu Feb 16th, 2017 06:18 pm
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Having not appeared in a major-league game since May 9 of last season, the Cleveland Indians aren't going to rush outfielder Michael Brantley back from multiple injuries.

The 29-year-old is not expected to play in the Indians' Cactus League game on Feb. 25, and is still without a firm timetable for his return. Manager Terry Francona said Brantley is doing everything he can to get back to full health and that the club isn't going to tamper with his recovery.

"He's following the protocols the medical people put in place," Francona said, according to ESPN's Jerry Crasnick.

"By all accounts, he's doing everything. This kid has worked his (expletive) off. We just need to be patient and allow him to try to get to the point where he can not only come back, but stay back.

"After not having him for a whole year, he deserves to do it right. He's worked so hard, and to have him back will be so nice. We're going to do it right so he can have his best chance to be successful."

Brantley was limited to only 11 games last season. He had surgery on his non-throwing shoulder, which led to a second surgery in August due to chronic bicep tendinitis.

The Indians are hoping he can return for the regular season but if not, have internal options to compete for playing time including Austin Jackson, Abraham Almonte, and Brandon Guyer. Although, Jackson is expected to miss the next 10 days to two weeks rehabbing from a knee injury suffered June 9.

When healthy, Brantley has proven to be an electric contributor. From 2012-2015, he contributed 15.9 WAR - four wins on average per season - and was third in AL MVP voting in 2014.

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 Posted: Thu Feb 16th, 2017 06:20 pm
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One of the Toronto Blue Jays' new bullpen additions hasn't always been welcomed with open arms by the team's faithful.

When asked what led him to sign a one-year, $3-million deal in Toronto, 33-year-old J.P. Howell mentioned the Blue Jays passionate - and sometimes vulgar - fan base as one of the primary reasons.

"I've always loved it there," Howell said, according to Gregor Chisolm of MLB.com. "I love the fans, the people, it gets rowdy. It's tough being an opponent in there. They're pretty cutthroat, they do their research. I'd love to be a home guy there. I want them to do that, keep it up, keep breaking them down.

"They say some personal things. They know Google, they check it out. They definitely do. It's interesting going there. I don't want to say it's a hockey vibe, but it's a rowdy vibe."

The left-hander has experience pitching in the American League, including in the AL East as a member of the Tampa Bay Rays from 2006-2012. Although he was on the receiving end of some nasty cat calls, it didn't seem to affect his decision to sign north of the border.

"(The comments are) all rated R," Howell said. "A lot of them. Plenty of them. They get to you and it makes it a little wavy out there. It makes you a little emotional and that's what we want. We want those guys to feel it."

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 Posted: Thu Feb 16th, 2017 09:14 pm
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The Toronto Blue Jays have reportedly added some much-needed rotation depth, agreeing Thursday to a deal with veteran right-hander Mat Latos, sources told Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith.

Once considered among the top starters in the National League, Latos has struggled mightily of late, with injuries and declining velocity contributing to a 4.93 ERA (79 ERA+) in just 186 1/3 innings since the start of 2015. This past season, after stumbling through forgettable stints with the Miami Marlins, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Los Angeles Angels in 2015, Latos bounced from the Chicago White Sox to the Washington Nationals, putting up a 4.89 ERA (83 ERA+) with a career-worst 1.49 WHIP and 5.32 fielding independent pitching in 12 starts and five relief appearances.

Still, the Blue Jays opened spring training this week with little depth behind their rotation of Aaron Sanchez, Marcus Stroman, Marco Estrada, J.A. Happ, and Francisco Liriano. Latos, who has yet to pitch at Rogers Centre since debuting with the San Diego Padres in 2009, will now join Lucas Harrell, Mike Bolsinger, and possibly Joe Biagini as a potential replacement should one of Toronto's starters - none of whom spent time on the disabled list in 2016 - get hurt.

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 Posted: Fri Feb 17th, 2017 01:53 am
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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - NL Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer is dealing with pain from a broken knuckle on his pitching hand that arose late last year, and Washington Nationals manager Dusty Baker says the team is making plans in case his ace isn't ready for opening day.

Scherzer says Thursday, the first day of official workouts for Washington's pitchers and catchers at spring training, that he began throwing a baseball this week with a modified grip.

He says the injury to the bottom knuckle on his ring finger is ''essentially healed,'' but bothers him when he throws.

Scherzer wouldn't give a timetable for when he would be ready.

Baker says he wouldn't want to rush Scherzer, ''because you're thinking about the long haul.''

Washington's opener is April 3.

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 Posted: Fri Feb 17th, 2017 01:55 am
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Not even a week into spring training, New York Mets manager Terry Collins already knows who he wants on the mound for Opening Day, tabbing right-hander Noah Syndergaard for his club's April 3 opener against the Atlanta Braves at Citi Field.

"Easiest (decision) I've made in a while," Collins told reporters Thursday, according to MLB.com's Anthony DiComo.

Syndergaard - who's poised to become the Mets' seventh different Opening Day starter in as many seasons - emerged in 2016 as the ace of a team rife with talented pitchers. The 24-year-old finished third among qualified starters in ERA (2.60) and strikeout rate (29.3 percent), while tying Clayton Kershaw for the MLB lead in WAR (6.5).

"It's just a huge honor," Syndergaard said. "It's something I've been working for ever since I was with the Mets, to be the Opening Day starter at one point. I'm extremely thrilled that Terry instills that kind of confidence in me, so I'm going to go out there and get the job done."

On Sunday, as he held court with the media for the first time this spring, Syndergaard said he added 17 pounds of muscle in the offseason with the hopes of throwing harder in 2017. Last year, Syndergaard's average fastball velocity of 97.9 miles per hour led all qualified starters.

"I always want to throw harder and continue to make the game easier," Syndergaard said, per Newsday's Marc Carig. "I felt like last year, from my rookie season, my velocity jumped up ... I’m always going to be trying to raise that kind of bar."

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 Posted: Fri Feb 17th, 2017 01:56 am
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It's not always sunny in Philadelphia, at least not for Chris Christie.

The 55th governor of New Jersey wants everyone to know he isn't a fan of the Philadelphia Phillies and their faithful.

"The Phillies suck. Let's just start with that," Christie said Wednesday on SNY TV, according to Enrico Campitelli of CSN Philly. "They're from Philadelphia. They're an awful team. They're an angry, bitter fan base and it's not safe for civilized people to go to Citizens Bank Park if you want to root for the other team. Ya gotta believe what? Ya gotta believe we're awful people."

It wasn't the first time the governor blasted Philadelphia sports fans. Christie, who cheers for the Dallas Cowboys but was born and raised in Newark, N.J., didn't hold back on his hate for the Philadelphia Eagles in a January interview on WFAN's "Boomer and Carton" radio show.

"They're interested," Christie said, according to Andrew Porter of CBS Philly. "But the hostility, I will tell you, that I take for being a Cowboys fan, and this is what I say to Giants fans all the time, and Eagles fans. Now Eagles fans I can understand it from a little more because the Eagles do suck and they've sucked for a long time. And their fans are generally angry, awful people."

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