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2016 - 2017 MLB Off-Season  Rating:  Rating
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 Posted: Tue Mar 14th, 2017 08:50 pm
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lobo316
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There's still three weeks to go until Zack Greinke takes the ball on Opening Day, but the Arizona Diamondbacks ace is already tired of answering questions about his stuff - or lack thereof.

Greinke, who struggled through an injury-plagued first season in the desert last year after surprisingly joining the club, has made only two Cactus League appearances this spring and has displayed a notable decline in velocity. He was roughed up by Mexico's World Baseball Classic squad in an exhibition game last week; during that start, his fastball topped out at 89.5 mph, according to Nick Piecoro of AZCentral.com.

On Monday, Greinke pitched to Arizona's minor leaguers and did top 90 mph three times in his first inning - but failed to hit that number again the rest of the way. Following the outing, in which he allowed just a pair of hits in five innings of work, the former Cy Young winner became defensive when asked if he was concerned about the declining velocity.

"I don't know," Greinke said after Monday's outing, according to Piecoro. "I mean, the first time, it's an interesting story. I'm not going to answer velocity questions every time the whole season. I mean, you've got to pick and choose your times you ask me about that."

The velocity issues, despite Greinke's advancing age, have not gone unnoticed around baseball. One scout who watched his outing against Mexico told Piecoro that the 33-year-old's "stuff has taken a dip even since last year." The D-Backs seem to see things differently, though, as pitching coach Mike Butcher noted in his positive assessment of Greinke's spring.

"To be honest with you, I think he's right where he needs to be at this point in spring training," Butcher said. "I think by the time we get to where we need to be, he's going to be where he needs to be."

Greinke, the NL Cy Young runner-up in 2015, is looking to rebound from what was a career-worst 2016 campaign for the disappointing Diamondbacks.

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 Posted: Tue Mar 14th, 2017 08:50 pm
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The New York Mets are using spring training to get Jay Bruce acquainted with a different position.

Bruce, an outfielder by trade, will shift to the infield for Tuesday's Grapefruit League contest against the Houston Astros and play first base for the first time this spring.

Today's first baseman for the Mets, Jay Bruce. pic.twitter.com/pxvYqwhbbB

— Mike Puma (@NYPost_Mets) March 14, 2017
Bruce has made just three appearances at first base during his nine-year career, and none since 2014.

Earlier this spring, manager Terry Collins revealed he planned to give Bruce reps at first in order to make him a viable left-handed option for the position, given incumbent Lucas Duda's injury troubles. Back issues limited Duda to only 47 games last year and made first base a weak spot for much of 2016.

"Just because Lucas has had some injury issues, I think we've probably got to have Jay do some work over there," Collins said in February. "Not push it on him, because he still is going to play the outfield. But we have just got to make sure we have another option there, especially if something happens to Lucas where we've got a left-handed bat that can go over there."

Bruce was acquired at last year's trade deadline, but struggled down the stretch for the Queens side. Although his club option was exercised early in the winter, the 29-year-old was the subject of trade rumors this winter thanks to the team's glut of outfielders.

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 Posted: Tue Mar 14th, 2017 08:51 pm
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Jeurys Familia has only pitched 2 1/3 innings for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic thus far, and it appears that's already too much for the New York Mets.

Despite general manager Sandy Alderson and manager Terry Collins publicly saying they're OK with how much the 27-year-old has thrown, two sources within the Mets organization told Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News they weren't thrilled to see Familia appear Sunday with the Dominicans up by seven runs against Colombia.

The Mets apparently sent guidelines to the Dominican team in regards to Familia's use before the tournament began, according to Ackert, and even though they've been followed, Sunday's appearance still rubbed the team the wrong way.

"It's not great," another Mets source told Ackert when asked about Familia pitching Sunday.

Collins mentioned Familia would likely have pitched a similar workload in spring training thus far, but he appeared more concerned about how long of a warmup his closer had during Sunday's contest.

"The only issue I had I wanted to know how many warmup pitches he threw in that seven-run inning," Collins said.

The Mets have apparent concerns over Familia's workload after he threw 78 2/3 innings combined between the regular and postseason last year, as well as pitching in winter ball to prepare for the WBC.

Familia, who's expected to receive a suspension from Major League Baseball after the WBC because of an alleged domestic violence incident, has pitched more than 77 innings in three consecutive seasons.

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 Posted: Tue Mar 14th, 2017 08:53 pm
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Manny Ramirez's newest contract made waves in January, when it was revealed the former MLB slugger would continue to play professional baseball in Japan at the ripe old age of 44.

Manny Ramírez de 44 años, jugará en la Liga de Japón 🇯🇵. @elrinconbeisbol pic.twitter.com/8K4mbVNbSr

— ALFONSO VENEGAS (@alfonsovenegasv) January 9, 2017
But it turns out the 19-year major-league veteran also has some interesting and unique perks in his new deal with the Kochi Fighting Dogs of the Shikoku Island League Plus.

In traditional Manny fashion, a stipulation of his deal makes practices optional for the former big-league outfielder, according to Alex Speier of the Boston Globe, citing a translation from Yakyudb.com. Not only can he show up to training whenever he so chooses, he'll also receive unlimited sushi while with his new team.

Of course, this is only going to help fortify the "Manny being Manny" legacy, but who of us can say we haven't tried to score infinite sushi in our own negotiations?

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 Posted: Wed Mar 15th, 2017 08:03 pm
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It would appear that back-to-back Gold Glove awards have paid off for center fielder Kevin Kiermaier.

The Tampa Bay Rays and Kiermaier reportedly agreed on a six-year, $53.5-million extension, according to USA Today's Bob Nightengale. The deal will become official once Kiermaier completes his physical.

News of an extension first came courtesy Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, who reported the club and the talented outfielder were nearing a lucrative long-term deal.

"I'm very grateful for the Rays to do this for me," Kiermaier told Topkin, though he declined further comment until the deal is official.

The 26-year-old defensive whiz has emerged as one of the Rays' most reliable performers in recent seasons. In 2015, he produced a whopping 42 defensive runs saved, and then followed that up with 25 last season despite being limited to 105 games after missing two months with a fractured hand.

Kiermaier also hit 12 home runs and stole 21 bases in 2016 - both career highs. Additionally, he's produced a team-leading 16.4 WAR since 2013 while contributing an average of 5.5 per season.

He also led MLB in defensive WAR during each of the past two seasons (five in 2015, three last season).

Kiermaier was set to earn $2.9 million in 2017 and would have been arbitration eligible for the first time in 2018. He was scheduled to become a free agent in 2020, but this new deal could keep him in Tampa Bay beyond that.

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 Posted: Wed Mar 15th, 2017 08:04 pm
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As of now, Toronto Blue Jays manager John Gibbons will enter the 2017 campaign on what would seem to be a short leash. Gibbons' contract is set to expire after this season, and he wasn't extended this winter despite having just led his team to consecutive American League Championship Series appearances.

But while Gibbons is still on a one-year deal for the moment, both sides now appear to be intent on reaching an agreement in the near future. General manager Ross Atkins even acknowledged Tuesday the sides have had some discussions this spring, and he seems confident that a resolution will come soon.

"The advantage (of getting a deal done now) is us showing a commitment to one another," Atkins told Rob Longley of the Toronto Sun. "We continue to talk about it and I'm extremely optimistic we will be working together for the foreseeable future."

Gibbons, a hire of former Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos in 2013, was inherited by Atkins and president Mark Shapiro when the executives took over in October of 2015. While that unfamiliarity with his new bosses could have hurt Gibbons' hold on the job long term, Atkins said the sides have now developed an excellent working relationship - something he'd like to see continue for the good of the club's future.

"John and I have worked well together over the (last) year and we both feel very fortunate to have established trust and respect," Atkins said. "When you come into a new situation not having those established lines of communication, then going through a year we feel that not only was a successful one but a very productive one for the two of us (is a positive).

"So looking forward, we're talking about the Blue Jays organization and not just the two of us leading it, but the two of us being a part of leading it together."

For his part, Gibbons - who also managed the Blue Jays from 2004-08 and owns the second-most wins in franchise history - isn't fretting about his long-term status being up in the air as Opening Day approaches.

"I've got peace of mind," the 54-year-old said. "I've made a good living to this point. I enjoy my job. Everybody likes security, there's no doubt.

"I think we'll get something soon. Definitely."

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 Posted: Wed Mar 15th, 2017 08:07 pm
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The Washington Nationals have officially parted ways with veteran catcher Derek Norris, handing the 28-year-old his unconditional release Wednesday morning, the team announced.

Acquired by the Nationals in a December trade with the San Diego Padres, Norris - tabbed to be Washington's everyday catcher until the club signed Matt Wieters last month - will receive one-sixth of the $4.2-million salary he had agreed to in January with the reigning National League East champions.

"He handled it like a professional," manager Dusty Baker told MASN's Mark Zuckerman. "He handled it like a man."

Now free to sign with any team, Norris is already generating interest from the Tampa Bay Rays, according to ESPN's Buster Olney, who reported Wednesday that the club continues to have conversations about him.

Norris, an All-Star in 2014, regressed significantly last season, posting career-worsts in WAR (-0.4), on-base percentage (.255), batting average (.186), slugging percentage (.328), and strikeout rate (30.3 percent).

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 Posted: Wed Mar 15th, 2017 08:09 pm
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Once a phenom-in-waiting, Mark Appel has yet to make his major-league debut. Now he'll have to wait a little longer, as the 25-year-old right-hander was optioned to minor-league camp on Tuesday, Todd Zolecki of MLB.com reports.

Appel was drafted first overall by the Houston Astros in the 2013 MLB draft, just ahead of Kris Bryant. Now, he's playing the waiting game in addition to baseball, and he's trying to weather the storm.

"I've had times when I've been antsy, but there's a lot of patience with me," Appel said. "I've experienced a lot of things. I've experienced times of just pitching really poorly. I've had times when I've been injured and there have been setbacks - last year was obviously a big one for me. I think in that sense, there's always the hope and the dream and the goal of getting to the big leagues, but you can't do it overnight."

The former Stanford star had surgery in June 2016 to remove a bone spur from his right elbow, ending his season. Prior to that, he made eight starts at Triple-A, registering a 4.46 ERA in 38.1 innings. He struggled with command, walking 4.70 batters per nine innings. He sees his success coming through a balance of mental and physical strength.

"The mentality of pitching and really just having confidence and not trying to throw a strike but knowing you're going to throw a strike," Appel said. "There's kind of a difference in knowing it in your head and kind of believing it in every fiber of your body. It makes a difference when you're on the mound."

It was an unfortunate debut for his new organization. He was included in a December 2015 trade sending reliever Ken Giles to the Astros. Listed as the Phillies 20th-best prospect by MLB.com, his absence doesn't have a firm timeline. Even if the newly acquired Clay Buchholz doesn't work out in the rotation, there are several options ahead of him at the moment.

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 Posted: Thu Mar 16th, 2017 01:32 am
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Adrian Gonzalez has had it with the World Baseball Classic.

After openly blasting the tournament's tie-breaker system that controversially denied Mexico a spot in the second round, the Los Angeles Dodgers star returned to spring training and immediately delivered another blistering indictment of the tournament, declaring to reporters that he'll never take part in the WBC again.

"It's good to be the hell out of that tournament," Gonzalez said, according to Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times.

"They're trying to be the World Cup," he continued. "But they're not even the Little League World Series."

Gonzalez - a four-time WBC participant - took issue with how his country was eliminated in the opening round. The Mexicans believed their win over Venezuela in their final game clinched a berth in the second round, only to discover after the game that the tie-breaker of runs allowed per inning played actually sent them home.

Venezuela and Italy - who, like Mexico, both finished Pool D with 1-2 records - ended up playing a tie-breaker game for the second-round berth; Mexico was not only sent home, but now must re-qualify for the 2021 WBC after finishing in last place.

Gonzalez openly vented his frustration on Twitter after the loss while Mexico filed a protest that was later denied. He sent multiple tweets to official league accounts claiming the organizers broke their own rules, then said Wednesday that he even contacted MLB to give them a piece of his mind.

Gonzalez said he harangued MLB brass. He said he told them, "You have no integrity. Everything you guys are doing is a bunch of BS."

— Andy McCullough (@McCulloughTimes) March 15, 2017
The 34-year-old's change of heart marks a sudden shift for a man who's not only represented Mexico at all four editions of the WBC to date, but who had some harsh words for players from all countries who chose not to participate just one week ago.

"I just don't see why you wouldn't want to represent your country. I don't get that part of it," Gonzalez told ESPN's Doug Padilla last Thursday. "You can be half-assing it in spring training, or you can be playing meaningful games.

"I guess people just enjoy their routine and comfort of not having to compete at that time of the year, so they don't do it. But I don't see why you wouldn't want to do it."

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 Posted: Thu Mar 16th, 2017 07:49 pm
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Jays being cheap again





Scott Boras isn't pleased with the Toronto Blue Jays.

The agent believes his client, starting pitcher Aaron Sanchez deserved a substantial raise. Instead, Sanchez's contract was renewed for the major-league minimum $535,000 for 2017. Boras considers the move unfair and inadequate based on Sanchez's performance, Shi Davidi of Sportsnet reports.

The Blue Jays have a policy of renewing pre-arbitration contracts at the minimum if an offered raise is rejected. Sanchez will not be eligible for arbitration until 2018. Boras sees the renewal as a punishment.

"They offered him a very small raise above the minimum, which is not commensurate to his performance peers," Boras said. "Some teams have very low payment standards but they say if you renew we understand, but you still keep the money we’re giving you. Toronto is so rigid, they not only have a very antiquated or substandard policy compared to the other teams for extraordinary performance, but if you don’t accept what that low standard is, they then have the poison pill of saying, you get paid the minimum. It’s the harshest treatment in baseball that any club could provide for a player. That’s why few teams have such a policy."

Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins sees the situation differently. The Blue Jays offered Sanchez a raise, and Sanchez turned it down. The result was based on a longstanding team policy.

"This is a policy that was put in place 10 years ago," Atkins said. "I don’t see it as punitive, we don’t see it as punitive because it’s your choice to not accept the higher number."

Sanchez, 24, was arguably the most impressive pitcher in the Blue Jays' rotation. He went 15-2 with a 3.00 ERA, striking out 161 batters in a career-high 192 innings. And despite pitching many of his games in hitter-friendly ballparks like Rogers Centre, he limited opponents to only 15 home runs.

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 Posted: Fri Mar 17th, 2017 01:08 am
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He (almost) gone.

Longtime Chicago White Sox broadcaster Ken "Hawk" Harrelson revealed to Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun-Times Thursday that he plans to significantly reduce his schedule following the 2017 season, making this year the likely final full-time go-around for the former player and South Side icon.

As he did last season, Harrelson will only call White Sox road games in 2017, out of a desire to spend more time with his family.

The 75-year-old, both beloved and derided in all corners of baseball for his "homer" style and openly displaying his unabashed love for the White Sox on the air, is under contract with the club through 2020. Harrelson hinted that he could fulfill the end of his current deal by working in other roles with the club after this season - perhaps as a team ambassador of some sort - while only making an occasional cameo appearance in the booth.

"I didn't say I wanted to broadcast four more years," Harrelson told Van Schouwen. "The main thing is I just want to be in baseball four more years, not necessarily broadcasting."

Harrelson, who started his baseball career as a minor-league player in 1959, made his big-league debut with the Kansas City Athletics in 1963. If he reaches the 2020 season under contract to the White Sox in some capacity, he'll become one of a select few men to have worked in baseball for eight decades - a list that Harrelson noted includes the likes of Vin Scully and Don Zimmer.

Harrelson made one All-Star team during his nine-year playing career, and was a member of the pennant-winning "Impossible Dream" Boston Red Sox in 1967. After starting his broadcasting career in Boston he moved to the White Sox booth in 1982, and - with the exception of an ill-fated stint as White Sox general manager in 1986, and two years (1987-88) calling New York Yankees games - has remained their voice ever since.

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 Posted: Fri Mar 17th, 2017 01:13 am
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Toronto Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins delivered some lousy news Thursday, telling reporters that outfielder Dalton Pompey - vying for a spot on the active roster this spring - has been shut down due to a concussion sustained last week at the World Baseball Classic, according to Arash Madani of Sportsnet.

Pompey, who missed about three weeks in 2016 after suffering a concussion while playing for Triple-A Buffalo, was put through Major League Baseball's concussion protocol after exiting Team Canada's first-round loss to Colombia on Saturday with mild dizziness - the result of a wonky headfirst slide into second base. He'll have to clear the protocol before he can return.

On Monday, a day after being omitted from the lineup in Canada's final game of the tournament, the 24-year-old Mississauga, Ontario, native fired off this cryptic tweet:

Why do we fall?

So we can learn to pick ourselves up...

— Dalton Pompey (@DaltonPompey) March 13, 2017
Pompey, who arrived at spring training eyeing a left-field platoon job with the Blue Jays in 2017, impressed in camp before leaving for the WBC, managing a .919 OPS with one home run and a pair of walks in four Grapefruit League games.

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 Posted: Fri Mar 17th, 2017 01:16 am
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Alex Dickerson won't be hitting home runs into the upper deck for the next little while after the San Diego Padres outfielder was diagnosed with a disc protrusion in his back, reports Dennis Lin of the San Diego-Union Tribune.

The 26-year-old won't need surgery, but is scheduled to miss three-to-four weeks, at which time he'll be re-evaluated, according to Lin.

Dickerson hasn't appeared in a spring training game since March 11 because of the injury, which he first noticed at the beginning of camp.

During the 2016 campaign with the Padres, Dickerson, the former third-round draft choice of the Pittsburgh Pirates, hit .257/.333/.455 with 10 home runs and 37 RBIs in 285 plate appearances, which included an upper-deck shot against the Toronto Blue Jays in July.

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 Posted: Fri Mar 17th, 2017 01:18 am
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NEW YORK - Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar has been hired by Major League Baseball as a special consultant and tasked with focusing on youth development in Puerto Rico.

The 49-year-old, inducted to the Hall in 2011, is to serve as an ambassador at events and development initiatives on the island, including youth clinics and tournaments. MLB has been concerned about the drop in Puerto Rican big leaguers: the 17 on opening day last year were the most on opening day since 20 in 2011 but down from a record 53 during the 2001 season.

A member of Toronto's World Series championship teams in 1992 and '93, Alomar was a 12-time All-Star during a big-league career that spanned 1988-2004 with San Diego, the Blue Jays, Baltimore, Cleveland, the New York Mets, the Chicago White Sox, and Arizona.

He was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, and his father, Sandy, and brother, Sandy Jr., were also major leaguers.

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 Posted: Fri Mar 17th, 2017 01:21 am
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Gleyber Torres is making one heck of a first impression on the New York Yankees.

Torres, baseball's No. 3 overall prospect according to MLB Pipeline, instantly became the Yankees' top prospect when he was acquired from the Chicago Cubs last July for Aroldis Chapman. But not even the New York hype machine could have predicted his remarkable performance this spring. The 20-year-old infielder has turned heads in Tampa, hitting .478/.480/1.043 with two homers, five doubles, and a triple in 14 Grapefruit League games.

But it's the young Venezuelan's maturity level that's left manager Joe Girardi particularly impressed. On Wednesday, Girardi went so far as to compare Torres' maturity to that of Venezuelan baseball legend Miguel Cabrera, whom he managed during his one season with the Florida Marlins.

"When I had (Miguel), he was incredible," Girardi said, according to Mike Mazzeo of the New York Daily News. "He was (23) when I had him in the big leagues, and he'd already been there for like nine years. At that age, Miguel was really mature."

"He's 20," Girardi said of Torres. "And you wouldn't know it."

As a 20-year-old rookie with the 2003 Marlins, Miggy posted a .793 OPS and smacked 12 homers in 87 games, then played a key role in their run to a shocking World Series championship; he finished fifth in National League Rookie of the Year voting, and even got a few down-ballot MVP votes.

Young Torres will have to wait a little bit if he wants to try and match his countryman's stellar age-20 campaign - general manager Brian Cashman confirmed to Mazzeo that he'll still be starting 2017 in the minors - but it's quite clear the Yankees believe they have a future superstar on their hands.

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