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2016 - 2017 MLB Off-Season  Rating:  Rating
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 Posted: Wed Mar 22nd, 2017 01:56 am
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lobo316



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The Texas Rangers announced Tuesday they've signed catcher Robinson Chirinos to a one-year contract extension that will keep him in Arlington through the 2018 season and includes a club option in 2019.

Chirinos will earn $2.25 million in 2018, while the 2019 option is worth $2.375 million and includes escalator clauses based on at-bats, according to Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Chirinos, who's about to begin his fifth season in Texas, was the team's starting catcher until it acquired Jonathan Lucroy last July. The 32-year-old will continue to serve as Lucroy's backup in 2017.

"We're in a pretty good situation where we have a front-line catcher backing up a front-line catcher," manager Jeff Banister told Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News.

Last season, Chirinos appeared in 57 games for the Rangers and hit .224/.314/.483 with nine homers, despite missing most of the season's first two months with a broken arm. He was the Rangers' primary catcher in 2015, appearing in 78 games and hitting 10 home runs to help them to an AL West title.

In 261 career games with the Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays, Chirinos owns a career slash line of .230/.303/.423 with 33 home runs, 101 RBIs, and 196 strikeouts.

Earlier this winter the Venezuelan avoided arbitration with the Rangers by agreeing to a $1.95-million contract for 2017.

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 Posted: Wed Mar 22nd, 2017 01:58 am
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lobo316



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The Seattle Mariners couldn't have been too thrilled watching their young closer, Edwin Diaz, pitch two innings for Puerto Rico in the country's dramatic semifinal win over the Netherlands at the World Baseball Classic.

But if the Mariners are concerned about Diaz overexerting his electric right arm, they aren't showing it publicly, as Diaz told Jon Morosi of MLB Network on Tuesday that the team gave him permission to pitch in Wednesday's WBC final despite Monday's lengthy outing.

Diaz "pleaded" with the Mariners to let him pitch the final, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today. They agreed, but are only letting manager Edwin Rodriguez use him for one inning, Nightengale added.

The 22-year-old, who recorded 18 saves for the Mariners as a rookie last year after being called up in June, entered Monday's game in the 10th inning and proceeded to strike out the side on just 15 pitches - all of which exceeded 90 mph. He then returned for the 11th and needed just four pitches to dispose of the Dutch hitters (helped in part by the tournament's special extra-inning rules), setting up Puerto Rico's walk-off win in the bottom half.

"I gave everything," Diaz told MLB.com's Greg Johns after the game. "I want to give everything for my country, give them joy. I (saw) this game like it was the last game. Being able to represent my country is an honor. It's a pride. When I was younger, I saw the games, but now I'm living them."

Diaz has pitched 5 1/3 innings for Puerto Rico in the WBC, posting a 3.38 ERA, nine strikeouts, and two saves.

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 Posted: Wed Mar 22nd, 2017 01:58 am
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lobo316



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Major League Baseball's home run king is coming back to the Bay Area.

The San Francisco Giants announced Tuesday they've hired Barry Bonds to join their front office as a special assistant to chief executive officer Larry Baer.

According to the release, Bonds will represent the Giants at various community and organizational events in San Francisco, while also attending the team's spring training in Arizona from March 22-28. He will also work with young players in the Giants' minor-league system.

"I am excited to be back home with the Giants and join the team in an official capacity," Bonds said. "San Francisco has always been my home and the Giants will always be my family. I look forward to spending time with the team, young players in the system, as well as the Bay Area community."

The 52-year-old spent 2016 as the hitting coach of the Miami Marlins. He was relieved of his duties this past October after just one season on the job.

During his 22-year career, Bonds won seven National League MVPs and recorded a .298/.444/.607 slash line with 762 home runs, 1,996 RBIs, and 514 stolen bases.

He also owns baseball's single-season record for home runs, hitting 73 in 2001.

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 Posted: Wed Mar 22nd, 2017 01:59 am
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Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier was diagnosed Tuesday with a mild herniated disc in his back, manager Dave Roberts said, and will be shut down from baseball activity for the next 7-10 days, reports MLB.com's Ken Gurnick.

Ethier, who was sent for an MRI after being scratched from Sunday's exhibition game against Japan, received an epidural to alleviate the discomfort in his lower back, Roberts added, though he wouldn't speculate on the 34-year-old's status for Opening Day.

Roberts did note, however, that Ethier's injury isn't as severe as the herniated disc that sidelined ace Clayton Kershaw for more than two months in 2016.

Limited to just 16 games last year after fracturing his tibia in March, Ethier, a two-time All-Star, had been swinging the bat well in spring training before hurting his back, going 6-for-12 (.500) with one home run, one double, and six walks in eight Cactus League games.

Heading into the last guaranteed year of a six-year, $95.95-million extension, Ethier is expected to compete for playing time in a crowded outfield that's also set to feature Joc Pederson, Yasiel Puig, Andrew Toles, Franklin Gutierrez, and Trayce Thompson.

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 Posted: Thu Mar 23rd, 2017 01:05 am
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Pizza is a staple for many, but Cleveland Indians right-hander Carlos Carrasco took eating the popular Italian flatbread to a new level during his first spring training with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2004.

In a piece for The Players' Tribune, Carrasco - who ate pizza literally every day for dinner - explained that his ridiculous habit was due to the fact that he couldn't speak enough English to order anything else.

During my first spring training, I ate Domino’s pizza every day for dinner.

I’m not exaggerating. I had Domino’s every … single … day. It was the only thing I knew how to order.

So for 90 days, I ate pizza. I ordered it so much that the Domino’s near our facility ended up giving me one month of free pizza as a reward for being their best customer.

Aside from eating pizza and playing baseball, I didn’t do very much, though. For those first few years in the U.S., I didn’t really talk to many of my teammates. Not because I didn’t want to, but because I didn’t know how.

The 30-year-old Carrasco is now a member of a formidable starting rotation in Cleveland, which he helped lead to a World Series appearance last season.

He's currently taking things slow in spring training after having an MRI on his elbow - which came back clean - and is expected to make a start on March 24.

Carrasco owned an 11-8 record with a 3.32 ERA and 1.15 WHIP for the Indians last season.

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 Posted: Thu Mar 23rd, 2017 01:06 am
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Adam Wainwright's four-year reign as the Opening Day starter for the St. Louis Cardinals has come to an end.

The Cardinals will instead send Carlos Martinez to the hill against the Chicago Cubs on April 2, according to manager Mike Matheny, reports Frank Cusumano of KSDK Sports.

Martinez led the Cardinals in wins (16), ERA among qualified starters (3.04), and strikeouts (174) last season.

He's only made one appearance for the Cardinals this spring, but pitched well for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic, posting a 1.13 ERA and striking out eight during eight innings of work.

Over the course of his four-year MLB career, Martinez owns a 34-21 record with a 3.32 ERA in 140 appearances, 68 of which have been starts.

Wainwright will get the start for Game 2 of the Cubs series, according to MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch.

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 Posted: Thu Mar 23rd, 2017 01:12 am
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What appeared to be inevitable at the first-base position for the New York Yankees became a reality Wednesday when manager Joe Girardi named Greg Bird as the team's starting first baseman, according to ESPN's Andrew Marchand.

The 24-year-old, who missed the entire 2016 season while recovering from labrum surgery, had some competition in camp from power-hitting Chris Carter and Tyler Austin, but his torrid spring slash line of .421/.500/.947 with four home runs has apparently separated him from the pack.

Bird is one in a group of promising young players - along with Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge - expected to lead the Yankees' latest regime.

Bird made his major-league debut in 2015, hitting .261/.343/.529 with 11 home runs and 31 RBIs in 46 games before succumbing to shoulder surgery the following offseason.

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 Posted: Thu Mar 23rd, 2017 03:00 am
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JUPITER, Fla. - Saying his finger finally feels normal, Nationals ace Max Scherzer proclaimed himself healed following his first Grapefruit League start of the spring, a 6-1 Washington loss to St. Louis.

"It's behind me now," Scherzer said Wednesday.

A stress fracture in the knuckle of the ring finger on his pitching hand slowed Scherzer's development this spring and caused him to grip his fastball with the middle three fingers on to instead of the usual index and middle fingers as a means to avoid pain.

Last week, in a minor league game, Scherzer mixed some two-finger fastballs in with the three finger heaters. Against the Cardinals, all fastballs were of the two-finger variety.

"I'm basically on pace to start the regular season on time," Scherzer said. "I really shouldn't miss a turn in the rotation. Considering where I was at coming into spring training, to not have to go to the DL, that's a huge feat."

The 32-year-old Scherzer will make two more starts before the regular season begins, but the NL Cy Young award winner won't be the Nationals' opening day starter.

"Right now we've kind of got Max slated as the No. 3 starter," manager Dusty Baker said. "He's No. 3 because that's how his turn worked out with giving him more time."

A two-time opening day starter, Scherzer not getting the ball on opening day isn't a big concern for Scherzer.

"I'm more disappointed that I didn't get a chance to pitch in the (World Baseball Classic)," he said.

Pitching Wednesday on five days' rest, Scherzer limited the Cardinals to two runs on five hits in 4 2/3 innings, throwing 49 of his 73 pitches for strikes. His fastball consistently resided in the 92-94 mph range, though he did hit 95 mph on the ballpark video board's radar gun.

He struck out four while walking one and was able to control all his pitches, something he wasn't able to do in the minor league game last week.

"That was such a joy to see Max throw the ball like that," Baker said.

Scherzer allowed his first run in the first inning when Matt Carpenter's sacrifice fly brought home Greg Garcia, who had tripled one batter earlier. He was already out of the game when the second earned run scored. Joe Nathan allowed a single to Dexter Fowler that drove in Kolten Wong, a runner inherited from Scherzer.

"I was fatigued and that's a good thing in spring training when you are pitching through fatigue into those last 10-15 pitches," Scherzer said.

Scherzer also had a couple of opportunities to show that the finger injury didn't hurt his defensive play. In the first inning, he lost a foot race with Stephen Piscotty while trying to cover first base, but he wheeled around quickly and fired home to catch Johnny Peralta trying to score from second.

In the following inning he applied the tag to Kolten Wong at third base on a putout scored 2-6-5-6-1. Wong had been in a rundown after being caught off second base.

"That's a great first outing," Scherzer said.

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 Posted: Fri Mar 24th, 2017 03:11 am
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Commissioner Rob Manfred doesn't believe the experimental extra-innings rule that debuted at the World Baseball Classic will ever finds its way to the majors.

"I don't see us having an extra innings truncated rule in the near future," Manfred said told MLB Network on Wednesday prior to the WBC final.

The experimental change was developed in order to prevent games from playing well after the allotted nine innings. It starts in the 11th inning with runners on first and second base, with the two baserunners coming from the two previous outs in the batting order from the 10th inning.

Fans and players got their first look at the rule in Round 1 with Japan scoring two runs in the 11th inning to beat the Netherlands 8-6. Three games in total advanced to the 11th inning, with the new rule creating enough offense that a winning team was decided before advancing to the 12th.

During a tournament where pitch-count limits are used, having the extra-innings rule makes sense, but the rule drew criticism when the tournament advanced to the semifinals. Puerto Rico knocked off the Netherlands 4-3 in the 11th, in what many believed cheapened the experience of what had been an entertaining game.

Manfred said he's happy to have watched how the rule played out during real games, despite not being a supporter.

"That's why you experiment with things in the minors, and World Baseball Classic," Manfred said.

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 Posted: Fri Mar 24th, 2017 03:12 am
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If this doesn't make Raisel Iglesias invest in a bath mat, nothing will.

The Cincinnati Reds right-hander has been sidelined for a little over a week after complaining of a sore elbow, and it's left his status for Opening Day in some doubt. But as Iglesias revealed Thursday, his injury did not stem from throwing a baseball.

Iglesias told Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer that he was injured taking a fall in the shower three weeks ago. The 27-year-old also said he hurt his hips during the tumble, and received anti-inflammatory shots for soreness in both areas.

"It happens," Iglesias told Buchanan through his interpreter. "I was taking a shower and did a bad move and tried hold with my left, but I couldn't get anything with my right on the opposite. I couldn't get anything. It happens. It's a small shower there."

An MRI on Wednesday revealed only a bone bruise, and no structural damage. While the Reds are optimistic in the long-term, the fact that Iglesias hasn't started throwing again - he's scheduled to begin on Sunday, according to manager Bryan Price - may force him to begin the season on the sidelines.

"The good news is that it doesn't look like it's going to be a huge setback or there are any structural issues at all," Price told the Enquirer's C. Trent Rosecrans on Wednesday. "The negative is that he's going to have four more days off before he begins to throw again and we'll have to see how comfortable we are by Opening Day or maybe before that."

Iglesias was the Reds' Opening Day starter in 2016, but made just five starts before landing on the disabled list for two months and then finishing the season in the bullpen. In 37 total appearances, the Cuban native posted a 2.53 ERA and struck out 83 batters to just 26 walks.

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 Posted: Fri Mar 24th, 2017 03:13 am
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Boston Red Sox skipper John Farrell said Thursday that Sandy Leon will remain as the starting catcher.

The Red Sox already seemed committed to starting Leon at catcher, and Farrell once again drilled the point home to Rob Bradford of WEEI. Leon was working with Rick Porcello - the pitcher tabbed with Opening Day duties - prior to Thursday's spring training game. Farrell wanted to make sure that the two remained battery mates leading up to the start of the season.

"I think I've said many times over that if we're opening tomorrow Sandy Leon is going to be the catcher, and that hasn't changed," Farrell said, according to Bradford.

The 28-year-old Leon had a breakout campaign in 2016, making 200 plate appearances for the first time in his career. Over 78 games, Leon managed an impressive .310/.369/.476 slash line. There is some worry that 2016 will be an outlier year though, with Leon's BABIP of .392 indicating he might have been the beneficiary of some luck.

While it's Leon's job to start the season, there are plenty of options if he falters early. Blake Swihart seems to be the catcher most ready to inherit the duties. The 24-year-old has played parts of the last two seasons with the Red Sox, generating a .714 OPS over 383 career plate appearances.

Christian Vazquez is also a viable option beyond Leon. While he hasn't shown a substantial ability to hit in the majors, Vazquez's defensive acumen has been valued by scouts for years.

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 Posted: Fri Mar 24th, 2017 03:13 am
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Turnover on the Oakland Athletics pitching staff is nothing new.

The Athletics announced right-hander Kendall Graveman as their Opening Day starter, according to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle.

Graveman is the 10th different pitcher to be named Oakland's Opening Day starter over the past 11 seasons. Only Sonny Gray has opened multiple seasons over that time.

Graveman was acquired alongside Brett Lawrie and Franklin Barreto in the deal that sent third baseman Josh Donaldson to the Toronto Blue Jays in 2014.

The 26-year-old started 31 games for the Athletics in 2016, posting a 10-11 record with a 4.11 ERA and 1.30 WHIP over 186 innings. Graveman only struck out 108 batters, relying more on contact than an overpowering pitching arsenal.

Following Graveman, left-hander Sean Manaea and right-hander Jharel Cotton will round out the top three of Oakland's rotation to start the season. The team's fourth and fifth starters have yet to be announced.

Former ace Gray is progressing, but is still poised to start the season on the disabled list due to a lat injury.

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 Posted: Fri Mar 24th, 2017 03:15 am
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In what might not be entirely surprising, the Pittsburgh Pirates will almost certainly be without third baseman Jung Ho Kang on Opening Day, according to Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Kang recently received an eight-month sentence for DUI and was suspended for two years, though he elected to appeal the decision. His legal problems and lack of work visa have delayed his arrival to camp. He has not played in a spring training game.

Pirates GM Neal Huntington expects Kang to join the team eventually, but is unsure on the exact date. He did not express concern about his team, however, entering the regular season without the infielder.

"We’re to a point in time where it’s unrealistic to think Jung Ho’s going to be ready for opening day," Huntington said. "We remain optimistic we’re going to get him here hopefully sooner than later. Now the challenge is if we don’t, if it takes some time, we’ve built this club and feel good about the guys we have here."

In two seasons with the Pirates, Kang has hit .273 with 36 home runs in 229 games. His name has also appeared in the news for multiple non-baseball related issues like the DUI charges, his third since 2009, and an ongoing investigation related to an alleged 2016 sexual assault, though no charges have been laid against him.

Third baseman - and former World Series hero - David Freese is expected to start the season as the Pirates' third baseman with infielders Phil Gosselin and Alen Hanson potentially backing him up until Kang joins the team.

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 Posted: Fri Mar 24th, 2017 03:16 am
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Looks like a platoon is off the table for now.

Dan Vogelbach was poised to be either the Seattle Mariners' starting first baseman or part of a lefty-righty platoon with newly acquired Danny Valencia to start the season. Now, he'll have to wait as he's been optioned to Triple-A Tacoma, according to Greg Johns of MLB.com.

Vogelbach struggled throughout spring training, hitting only .228 with one home run and three doubles. He also struck out 19 times in 57 at-bats, leading all Mariners.

Valencia, despite his own struggles at the plate this spring, will be the primary first baseman to start the season. Valencia slashed .287/.346/.446 with 17 home runs in 130 games with the Oakland Athletics in 2016.

Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said Vogelbach needs to work on his game at Triple-A, but is facing a comparable trajectory to Mike Zunino and James Paxton. Both players spent time in the minors in 2016 before getting a longer crack at the big-league roster.

The 24-year-old Vogelbach retained his rookie status after going 1-for-13 in eight games from mid-September onward. His propensity to strike out may be the biggest concern as he struck out in six of his 13 at-bats.

His minor-league numbers were much more encouraging. Vogelbach was acquired July 20 in a deal that sent pitcher Mike Montgomery to the Chicago Cubs. Between his two clubs at Triple-A, Vogelbach hit .292 with 23 home runs, striking out 101 times compared to 97 walks for an impressive strikeout-to-walk ratio.

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 Posted: Fri Mar 24th, 2017 03:17 am
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The Los Angeles Angels announced that infielder Luis Valbuena will be out for four-to-six weeks with a hamstring strain.

Valbuena was pulled from Wednesday's spring training game citing hamstring tightness. The 31-year-old third baseman had hamstring surgery on the same leg last August and an MRI on Thursday confirmed that Valbuena had a Grade 1 strain.

Valbuena signed a two-year deal worth $15 million with the Angels this past offseason that includes a mutual option for 2019. In 342 plate appearances last year with the Astros, Valbuena posted an .816 OPS.

The injury to Valbuena settles a pretty crowded infield situation for the Angels. In all likelihood, this makes C.J. Cron the everyday first baseman and Yunel Escobar the everyday third baseman heading into the season.

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