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2016 - 2017 MLB Off-Season  Rating:  Rating
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 Posted: Wed Mar 8th, 2017 09:32 pm
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lobo316
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Almost two years removed from Tommy John surgery, Texas Rangers right-hander Yu Darvish enters 2017 fully healthy with a lot to prove in the final year of his contract.

After making 17 starts last season, his first since 2014, Darvish says he can see a difference on the mound - particularly in his surgically repaired elbow.

"I think I am progressing very well this spring physically," Darvish said, according to T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com. "I have been able to build up to this point. In between innings in the games last year, I had some strange feelings in my arm when I started throwing on the mound again. This year, I don't have that kind of feeling. That's another positive."

The news should give Rangers fans hope as Darvish was one of the most dominant starters in the American League before the extended absence. From 2012-14, Darvish was first in strikeouts per nine innings (11.2) and was seventh among AL starters with a 3.17 FIP.

Alongside Cole Hamels, the club will rely heavily on Darvish in the rotation, as both starters combined to lead the Rangers in strikeouts and ERA. The right-hander will earn $11 million this year and if he stays healthy, should headline the free-agent market for starting pitchers in the offseason.

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 Posted: Wed Mar 8th, 2017 09:33 pm
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DUNEDIN, Fla. - Nearly a decade since he last pitched in the big leagues, Eric Gagne is gearing up for the World Baseball Classic - and maybe a major comeback.

The former Cy Young Award closer threw a scoreless inning Tuesday for Team Canada in a 7-1 win over the Toronto Blue Jays, consistently hitting 93 mph with his fastball.

"Nervous, didn't know what to expect, and it went well," he said. "I just didn't want to embarrass myself."

Now 41, Gagne turned a one-shot deal into this opportunity.

Out of the majors since playing for Milwaukee in 2008, Gagne started for Ottawa of the independent Can-Am League last year as part of a promotion in the team's regular-season finale. After retiring his first 12 batters, Gagne would up allowing one earned run, two hits and striking out six in five innings against Quebec.

"I know I'm ready physically and mentally, but going out there is a different story," Gagne said. "It's a great test right now to go against some major league guys and see where you're at. For me it was a really, really successful day."

Gagne relieved in the third inning against Toronto and retired Darwin Barney and Ezequiel Carrera on flyballs. After Jake Elmore walked on a 3-2 changeup and Kevin Pillar flared a single, Gagne ended the inning by getting a grounder from Melvin Upton Jr. on his 18th pitch.

"Looked like the old Gagne," Canada first baseman Freddie Freeman said. "Throwing strikes."

Gagne is among a group of pitchers with major league credentials taking the mound in the WBC, a list that includes Ryan Dempster, Bruce Chen, Jason Marquis, Chien-Ming Wang and Jair Jurrens.

Some, like Gagne, are hoping a strong WBC gets them another shot at the bigs.

Gagne won the 2003 NL Cy Young with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He went 33-26 with 187 saves in a 10-year career, including 55 saves in his prize-winning season.

The right-hander was pleased with his performance and velocity in a tuneup for the WBC.

"Maybe I'll get up a little bit," Gagne said. "For me anything above 90, if I keep the ball down with good angle, I think I'm fine."

Said Canada manager Ernie Whitt: "I was very impressed with the way the ball was coming out of his hand."

Dempster is taking a break from his job as a Chicago Cubs special assistant to play again. He and Gagne are providing guidance to the young pitchers on Canada's staff.

"Our younger players are really feeding into it," Whitt said. "They're gaining information from them, and hopefully the younger players can take what they've learned from our veteran guys."

Dempster, who last pitched in the majors four years ago, is the scheduled to start Canada's WBC opener Thursday against defending champion Dominican Republic. He turns 40 in May.

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 Posted: Wed Mar 8th, 2017 09:34 pm
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The time has come for former NFL quarterback and New York Mets farmhard Tim Tebow to make his big-league spring training debut.

Tebow will bat eighth as the team's designated hitter when it squares off against the Boston Red Sox on Wednesday.

Tim Tebow batting eighth for Mets today pic.twitter.com/zMv3ievfkm

— Anthony Rieber (@therealarieber) March 8, 2017
Last year's American League Cy Young winner, Rick Porcello, is scheduled to start the game for the Red Sox, and may be the first pitcher Tebow sees on the day.

Tebow is also expected to suit up for the Mets against the Houston Astros on Friday.

The 29-year-old hit .194 during his stint in the Arizona Fall League prior to spring training.

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 Posted: Thu Mar 9th, 2017 02:11 am
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The offseason negotiations between Jose Bautista and the Toronto Blue Jays may not have turned out the way the 36-year-old envisioned when he signed a one-year deal worth $18.5 million this past January, but it appears the Dominican doesn't have any hard feelings about the outcome.

In fact, Bautista - who has played for the Blue Jays since 2008 - recently told USA Today's Bob Nightengale he wants to spend the remainder of his career in Toronto.

"If you ask me, I'd like to stay here the rest of my career," Bautista said. "You grow to love a place, and build relationships over time, and that's hard to walk away from.

"I don't think you can just leave for less. If you are going to switch teams, it has to be for a tangible added benefit. You don't say I'm going to walk away from anywhere just for a couple more bucks.

"Really, this is where I want to be as long as they'll have me.

"At the end of the day, you play only where you are wanted."

Bautista, a six-time All-Star, is an incredibly popular sports figurehead in Toronto who has made headlines for his baseball ability, as well as penchant for dramatic moments such as his epic bat flip in the 2015 playoffs, as well as being on the receiving end of a Rougned Odor punch to the face last season.

At times throughout the offseason, it appeared like Bautista may not return to the Blue Jays, which was a thought he had creeping through his mind the second his season ended last year.

"It was emotional after the last out. It was emotional in the dugout. It was emotional saying goodbye to everybody. It was emotional my last night in the city. Packing. Driving. Everything," he said.

"I mean, we're human, just because we're athletes and do this for a living, doesn't mean we're immune to feelings, you know. To say I didn't think I wouldn't be back in Toronto, I'd be lying. It was always my desire to come back, but to be honest, there were so many times during the winter when I didn't think it was going to be possible."

Bautista is among the all-time leaders in Blue Jays history in a number of categories including home runs, RBIs, hits, and plate appearances.

He owns a lifetime slash line of .261/.382/.528 with 265 home runs and 701 RBIs in a Toronto uniform.

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 Posted: Thu Mar 9th, 2017 02:15 am
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Despite winning 17 games, and leading the major leagues in innings pitched, Boston Red Sox left-hander David Price knows he disappointed fans last season after signing a seven-year, $217-million contract.

The 31-year-old starter recently discussed his first season with the Red Sox during an interview with Stan Grossfield of the Boston Globe, claiming baseball fans in Beantown don't care about him as a person, and only about how he performs on the hill.

"People in Boston don't know anything about me. The only thing I have to do is pitch good. People don't care about what I do or the type of person that I am. That doesn't matter," Price said.

"It doesn't matter to these people in Boston. I've got to go out there and earn respect by pitching well. Period. That's the only thing that's going to turn the page for me in Boston. I've got to go out there and dominate. People don't care what I do off the field."

Price said fans and media didn't take the time to learn about his charitable work, and who he is as a person.

"I have a foundation, Project One Four," Price said of the youth charity he started in his hometown of Tennessee. "That's one of the things that honestly chafed me about being in Boston - with the reporters, not one time did anybody take the time to get to know me or my foundation or anything I do away from the field?"

Price pitched to his highest ERA (3.99) since 2009 during his first season in Boston, so if he can fix that and prove he's still worthy of one of the most lucrative contracts in baseball, he may be able to change people's feelings, although he has no plans to change who he is.

"I'm going to continue to be a good person on a day-to-day basis," he said. "I'm going to continue to treat people the way I expect to be treated. I'm going to respect people. I have fun on Twitter; Boston is not going to change that. I don't care. I'm not going to change to come here and change to please people in Boston. No chance, man."

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 Posted: Thu Mar 9th, 2017 09:30 pm
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In early 2014, left-hander Sean Burnett was desperate.

Todd Zolecki of MLB.com reports that Burnett knew a second Tommy John surgery was looming and literally took matters into his own hands. Following a frustrating rehab session, Burnett went to his hotel room and propped pillows upon the bed's headboard.

"I threw the ball as hard as I could against the bed, trying to get it to pop myself," he said.

Burnett - who was told by famed Tommy John surgeon Dr. James Andrews that another UCL tear was inevitable - didn't quite pop his arm then and there, but the inevitable became a reality while pitching for the Los Angeles Angels in May. He was removed after facing Seattle's Michael Saunders and underwent his second Tommy John surgery in June after an MRI revealed the tear.

"The pain that I was in was excruciating," Burnett said. "It was kind of like a ticking time bomb that went off in Seattle."

Now 34, and having thrown only 16 MLB innings since 2013, Burnett is looking to earn a spot in the Philadelphia Phillies' bullpen. He got off to a good start, throwing two scoreless innings against the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday.

And he's no stranger to long roads to recovery.

The 34-year-old had his first Tommy John surgery after his rookie season in 2004. He turned 22 that September, and then didn't pitch in the major leagues again until 2008. Despite starting 13 games in his inaugural campaign, Burnett hasn't stepped on the mound for the first inning since.

He did excel in the bullpen, however, becoming a mainstay with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Washington Nationals, tossing between 56.2 and 63 innings every year from 2008-12. His career started crumbling in 2013 and he fell off the map again in 2014.

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 Posted: Thu Mar 9th, 2017 09:31 pm
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The Oakland Athletics will be without their top starting pitcher, Sonny Gray, for the next three weeks after manager Bob Melvin told Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle the 27-year-old strained his lat.

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 Posted: Thu Mar 9th, 2017 09:33 pm
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SURPRISE, Ariz. - New Texas Rangers starter Andrew Cashner has been shut down from throwing for the second time this spring because of soreness in his right upper biceps.

Rangers assistant general manager Mike Daly said Thursday that Cashner had a setback when trying to ramp up his throwing again.

Cashner had resumed throwing after an MRI and exam last week by team physician Dr. Keith Meister showed nothing significant in the biceps. The right-hander then had a couple of days of light throwing without issues, but the biceps started bothering him again when the intensity increased.

Cashner, a Texas native who was a first-round draft pick out of TCU in 2008, was 5-11 with a 5.25 ERA in 28 games last season combined with San Diego and Miami.

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 Posted: Thu Mar 9th, 2017 09:35 pm
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Jenny from the block meet Alex from Miami by way of the Dominican Republic and Washington Heights, New York.

Former Yankees slugger and generally handsome individual, Alex Rodriguez, has reportedly entered a romantic relationship with pop singer and movie star Jennifer Lopez.

Citing an anonymous source, Emily Smith and Ian Mohr of Page Six report the two have been dating for some time.

"They have been seeing each other for a few months, and were together in LA this past weekend," the anonymous source said. "They are really into each other because they have so much in common - from their Latin roots, to their love of New York, and their kids."

Lopez - who recently denied dating rapper Drake - and her potential new beau Rodriguez can't escape the public eye. Rodriguez was apparently spotted backstage at a recent concert during Lopez's shows in Las Vegas. Both celebrities have been linked to a wide variety of romantic dalliances throughout their heavily publicized careers.

Adding fuel to the fire is the fact that Lopez recently liked an Instagram post announcing Rodriguez was joining FOX Sports as a baseball analyst for the 2017 season.

Neither party's representatives have elected to comment on the speculation.

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 Posted: Fri Mar 10th, 2017 02:03 am
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The Chicago Cubs announced Thursday they have agreed to contract terms with 25 of the players on the 40-man roster who aren't yet eligible for salary arbitration, including reigning National League MVP Kris Bryant, whose reported $1.05-million salary for 2017 marks a new record for pre-arb players.

Bryant, who earned $652,000 last season after making the league-minimum as the NL Rookie of the Year in 2015, breaks the record previously held by Los Angeles Angels superstar Mike Trout. Following a successive second-place finish in AL MVP voting in 2013, Trout agreed to a then-record $1-million salary for the 2014 campaign. (Players with less than three years of major-league experience have no say in their salary figures, which are determined by the organization).

Only two seasons into his career, Bryant, 25, has already established himself as one of the game's premier players, having led his league in WAR (8.4) in 2016 while smashing 39 homers with a .939 OPS (149 wRC+) in 155 regular-season games for the eventual World Series champions.

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 Posted: Fri Mar 10th, 2017 07:07 pm
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Since coming to the New York Mets in a trade from the Detroit Tigers in 2015, Yoenis Cespedes has become a highly revered superstar, earned a lucrative long-term contract, and helped lead the team to two consecutive postseason appearances, but the Cuban wants more.

The 31-year-old, who is off to a scorching start this spring (.526, 3 HR, 1.579 OPS) wants to become the first Mets player in major league history to win the MVP award.

"That’s what I want," Cespedes told the New York Post through a translator. "The first thing is to stay healthy, but these are things that I’ve always thought about. It’s any ballplayer’s dream."

Cespedes has been incredibly productive during his time in the Big Apple, hitting .282/.348/.554 with 48 home runs and 130 RBIs in 189 games, which earned him a four-year, $110-million contract in November.

Although the money is nice and will allow the eccentric Cespedes to maintain the style and flash that give him the character baseball fans adore, Mets hitting coach Kevin Long knows the outfielder with the bright personality is capable of putting together an MVP season.

"That is the goal," Long told the Post. "That’s what he is shooting for. He’s determined to be the best player on the field."

During 132 games last season, Cespedes posted the highest OPS of his career (.884), which included 31 home runs and 86 RBIs, but if he continues to hit throughout the regular season like he has thus far in spring, he may be on the right track toward an MVP award.

"It is hard not to be excited about Cespedes," Long said. "I have told him, ‘The only person who can get Cespedes out is Cespedes.’ When he swings at good pitches, he’s just special and he is so much better at laying off of that high pitch. He understands the impact of his swing and what pitchers are doing with him now. He is stronger and in better shape than any other time in his life."

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 Posted: Fri Mar 10th, 2017 07:29 pm
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this is a YUGE upset


Italy sends 7 men to the plate to walk off a winner against Mexico! #WBC2017 🇮🇹⚾🇮🇹 pic.twitter.com/ZrFhxUMdIY
— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) March 10, 2017
Italy rallied to score five runs in the bottom of the ninth inning Thursday to record a stunning 10-9 upset over Mexico in its Pool D opener.
Mexican reliever Roberto Osuna was handed the ball at Estadio Charros de Jalisco in the ninth with a 9-5 lead. He was ultimately charged with five runs (four earned) off three hits and a walk to take the loss.


With the bases loaded and no outs, clinging to a 9-7 lead, Mexico replaced Osuna with Oliver PerezBrandon Nimmo hit a hard line drive to right field thatAlex Verdugo failed to catch to make it 9-8. John Andreoli followed with a single through the infield to drive in the game-tying and game-winning runs and complete the comeback.

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 Posted: Sat Mar 11th, 2017 02:32 am
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Just when it appeared Chad Bettis' battle with cancer was moving in the right direction, the Colorado Rockies pitcher revealed some bad news on Friday.

Bettis provided a health update on social media, where he announced he would begin a regimen of chemotherapy after he learned earlier this week that his testicular cancer had unexpectedly spread.

"During my routine health checkup last week, my oncologist believed that he had seen inflamed lymph nodes and ordered an immediate biopsy. I learned this week that my testicular cancer has unexpectedly spread, and I will begin a regimen of chemotherapy in the very near future," Bettis wrote. "Although my blood tumor markers remain at normal levels, it's clear that I need to be aggressive in my fight against this illness. Without being proactive, we wouldn't have caught this.

"I am committed to beating this cancer. My family and I are grateful for the support of the Major League Baseball Players Association, the Rockies organization and you, the fans."

Bettis told MLB.com's Thomas Harding the cure rate is in the 90th percentile, his timeline is broad, and he'd like to pitch this year.

The news comes a month after the pitcher was given some good news following testicular cancer surgery three months earlier.

"Today was a big day for me; it was a clean bill of health," Bettis explained to MLB.com's Thomas Harding in February. "I got the blood work back from the doctor, met with him today, and he said my tumor markers are not detectable."

Bettis was diagnosed with testicular cancer in November after he discovered a lump the size of a "grain of rice."

The 14-game winner from a season ago had returned to a normal throwing program and made a spring start for the Rockies on March 5, tossing two innings against the Milwaukee Brewers.

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 Posted: Sat Mar 11th, 2017 02:33 am
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The Tampa Bay Rays added some bullpen depth Friday, claiming right-hander Jumbo Diaz off waivers from the Cincinnati Reds, the team announced.

Diaz, who turned 33 last month, was designated for assignment last week after the Reds claimed Christian Walker off waivers from the Atlanta Braves.

To accommodate Diaz on the 40-man roster, the Rays transferred newly signed right-hander Nathan Eovaldi to the 60-day disabled list.

In 45 relief appearances with the Reds last year, Diaz managed a career-best 3.14 ERA (137 ERA+) with a 1.28 WHIP, notching 37 strikeouts while allowing eight home runs in 43 innings (1.7 per nine). Since making his MLB debut in 2014, the 6-foot-4, 280-pound Dominican owns a 3.65 ERA in 142 appearances, most of them coming in low-leverage situations.

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 Posted: Sat Mar 11th, 2017 02:34 am
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In addition to a World Series championship, Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon got a little extra walking-around money.

Thanks to the title, Maddon is set to receive an additional $1 million per season in the final three years of his current contract, reports Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun Times.

Maddon initially signed a five-year, $25-million deal in 2014. The annual bonus - which he said he wasn't even aware of until reporters told him about it Thursday - ties him with San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Angels skippers Bruce Bochy and Mike Scioscia as baseball's highest-paid managers.

"Honestly, when this all came about, my first thought was the more you could make, the more you could give back," Maddon said. "That's pretty much the concept I've been working from since I've been here."

In two seasons with the Cubs, Maddon has helped lead the squad to a 200-123 record, two postseason berths, and the North Side's first World Series championship in 108 years.

Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer has no regrets about including the clause in Maddon's deal.

"I think with an escalator of that type, it's the kind of escalator you hope you're paying," Hoyer said. "I'm glad we are."

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