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First Spring Training HR: New Blue Jay Grandy

MLB.com @gregorMLB

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Curtis Granderson was in the leadoff spot for Toronto's first game of the spring on Friday, but -- despite his leadoff homer against the Phillies' Nick Pivetta -- it doesn't sound like he's a realistic candidate to hit there during the regular season.

Blue Jays manager John Gibbons had a pretty simple explanation for Granderson's spot in the order for the Grapefruit League opener: He wanted his starting left fielder to be guaranteed a couple of at-bats.

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DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Curtis Granderson was in the leadoff spot for Toronto's first game of the spring on Friday, but -- despite his leadoff homer against the Phillies' Nick Pivetta -- it doesn't sound like he's a realistic candidate to hit there during the regular season.

Blue Jays manager John Gibbons had a pretty simple explanation for Granderson's spot in the order for the Grapefruit League opener: He wanted his starting left fielder to be guaranteed a couple of at-bats.

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"The thinking was, he might get those two at-bats a little bit quicker, and he has done it before," said Gibbons, who was then asked about potential leadoff candidates. "[Devon] Travis would be a good one. Other than that, I couldn't tell you. We'll see."

Granderson has plenty of experience starting things off, with 864 career appearances as the leadoff man. The vast majority of those games came earlier in his career, but Granderson did start 34 games out of the top spot with the Mets in 2017. The 36-year-old Granderson posted a .323 on-base percentage in 147 games last season.

Travis is the clear favorite to bat leadoff in front of Josh Donaldson and Justin Smoak. The fourth-year infielder had a .291 on-base percentage in 50 games following a slow start in April, and he has a .331 OBP in 213 career games. Travis is still working his way back from last year's knee surgery, but he is expected to make his spring debut on Sunday.

Video: Granderson on Marjory Stoneman Douglas memorial caps

Paying their respects
The Blue Jays honored the victims of the recent tragedy in southern Florida by wearing Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School hats for Friday's game against the Phillies. Stoneman Douglas was the location of last week's school shooting that resulted in 17 deaths.

Granderson grew up in Chicago, but every spring for the past 14 years, he has called Florida home. Through stints with the Tigers, Yankees, Mets and now Blue Jays, Granderson knows the area well, and like many others around Major League Baseball, felt personally impacted by the tragic events.

"It's crazy something that like happened and that it's something we have to keep talking about," Granderson said. "So many people get their lives taken from them at such a young age. Who knows what the potential could have been for them? But hopefully this will help continue to shine a light on the incidents that are going on. Hopefully continue to get people to keep coming together and hopefully find ways to prevent this moving forward."

Ready for takeoff
The Orioles were the only team in Major League Baseball that stole fewer bases than the Blue Jays last season. Toronto finished the year with a paltry 53 stolen bases on the year, and while that's not expected to change a whole lot this year, there is at least one addition who might look to shake things up on the basepaths.

Right fielder Randal Grichuk is coming off a season in which he stole just six bases, but the 26-year-old has above-average speed and should have a little bit more freedom to roam in Toronto. Grichuk and Kevin Pillar are likely the only regulars with a shot at reaching double digits in steals. Granderson has swiped just 10 over the past two years combined.

"I like to think that I'm somewhat fast, and hopefully that plays a big part in my game," Grichuk said.

Up next: Right-hander Danny Barnes will take the mound when the Blue Jays travel to Lakeland, Fla., for a road game against the Tigers on Saturday afternoon. Barnes is not getting stretched out as a starter, but instead will pitch one inning before handing things off to his fellow relievers. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. ET, live on Gameday Audio.

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

Toronto Blue Jays

Rizzo moved by response to high school tragedy

Donning Stoneman Douglas cap, first baseman notes youth effort
MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

MESA, Ariz. -- Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo was wearing his high school baseball cap again on Friday, but it wasn't for the reasons he would like.

All Major League Baseball teams were wearing Marjory Stoneman Douglas caps on Friday to honor the victims killed at the Parkland, Fla., high school on Feb. 14. Rizzo, who is not scheduled to play in the Cubs' Spring Training opener against the Brewers, was wearing it for the workout on Friday. The Cubs will wear the caps again on Saturday for the home opener against the Rangers, and Rizzo will be in the lineup then.

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MESA, Ariz. -- Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo was wearing his high school baseball cap again on Friday, but it wasn't for the reasons he would like.

All Major League Baseball teams were wearing Marjory Stoneman Douglas caps on Friday to honor the victims killed at the Parkland, Fla., high school on Feb. 14. Rizzo, who is not scheduled to play in the Cubs' Spring Training opener against the Brewers, was wearing it for the workout on Friday. The Cubs will wear the caps again on Saturday for the home opener against the Rangers, and Rizzo will be in the lineup then.

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Was there much of a difference between his high school cap then and now?

"Ours were fitted," Rizzo said. "It's the same logo. Not much has really changed there over the years."

Tweet from @ARizzo44: #MSDStrong pic.twitter.com/1tcv6UzK0D

A lot changed on Feb. 14 when a gunman shot and killed 17 people at the high school. Rizzo went back to be with family and friends, and he spoke at a prayer vigil the day after the shooting.

Rizzo was impressed by the efforts by Stoneman Douglas students who have met with lawmakers this week.

"It's our future, it's our youth," Rizzo said. "It's what our country will run on in years to come. It's people who have a voice, and they're using it -- whether it's fighting for this or that. When a lot of people come together, it's amazing the power they have."

He's been approached by people who have shown their support.

"This is a big-time subject," Rizzo said. "Everyone has come out of the woodwork to show their love and support for the community I live in, the school, the kids. It's been really nice to see people come out and approach me and go out of their way. It's much appreciated."

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast.

Chicago Cubs, Anthony Rizzo

Venters hoping to make historic comeback

Former Braves All-Star trying to become first pitcher to come back from 3 Tommy John surgeries
MLB.com @castrovince

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- They pulled out the jersey recently. Its resplendent red lettering and 2011 All-Star insignia are reminders of a day when the left sleeve was wrapped around an arm that was one of the most dominant relief weapons in the big leagues.

Little Wyatt Venters put the jersey on and flashed a proud smile as it hung ludicrously loose from his 6-year-old body. And that, his father will tell you, is the kind of moment that testifies to what this keep-driving-until-the-wheels-fall-off journey through four elbow surgeries, including three Tommy Johns, is all about.

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- They pulled out the jersey recently. Its resplendent red lettering and 2011 All-Star insignia are reminders of a day when the left sleeve was wrapped around an arm that was one of the most dominant relief weapons in the big leagues.

Little Wyatt Venters put the jersey on and flashed a proud smile as it hung ludicrously loose from his 6-year-old body. And that, his father will tell you, is the kind of moment that testifies to what this keep-driving-until-the-wheels-fall-off journey through four elbow surgeries, including three Tommy Johns, is all about.

As we sit here, on a hot Florida morning with the sky so blue and all that epic Spring Training optimism in the air, it has been 1,963 days since Jonny Venters last pitched in the big leagues. His most recent appearance came in the 2012 National League Wild Card Game, which doubled as Chipper Jones' final game. And Jones is now headed into the Hall of Fame this summer.

Rays' Spring Training information

That's how long it's been.

But here we sit outside the Tampa Bay Rays' clubhouse, and here's Venters, in big league gear, in a big league camp, and he's telling you that his elbow doesn't hurt. And it's enough to make you believe, because there is no easier player to root for in the game right now, especially when you think about what Venters' return would mean for Wyatt and for his little brother Walker.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

"One was little and I think one was in my wife's stomach the last time I pitched in the big leagues," Venters says with a smile. "They're 6 and 4 [years old] now. They both play baseball and are starting to understand it and what I do. One of the coolest things would be to see my boys when I'm in a big league stadium atmosphere. That would be pretty special."

There was a time when what Venters did on the mound was special. He was unhittable in the eighth, the left-handed complement to Craig Kimbrel.

Now, though, the soon-to-be 33-year-old has a chance to be a different sort of special. It's unprecedented for a three-time Tommy John recipient to make it back to the big leagues, as Venters is trying to do. But Venters is also a veteran of a fourth procedure -- a sort-of "half-Tommy John" -- that itself is also extremely unusual. And that procedure might be the one that keeps his long-burning dream of getting back to the bigs alive.

"It's been a long road," his wife, Viviana, says. "It almost doesn't seem real."

Video: 2011 ASG: Venters gets first two outs of the seventh

From anonymous to unhittable
Venters' unusual medical history begins the way, unfortunately, so many pitchers' medical histories do -- with a torn ulnar collateral ligament.

For Venters, it happened in Class A with the Braves, in late 2005. At that point, Venters was 20 years old -- just your ordinary, obscure 30th-round Draft pick out of high school (Lake Brantley High School in Altamonte Springs, Fla.) trying to pitch his way onto the radar. Tommy John surgery was an upsetting proposition but not a daunting one. Hundreds of pitchers have it, and hundreds return to a level at or nearing their norm. It was a bump in the road, not a dead end.

"It was tough, just the time of being that young and being away from the game for a year," Venters says now. "But physically, it was easier, because I was younger."

Venters came back in 2007 and eventually converted full time to reliever as he worked his way up Atlanta's Minor League system. And from the time he was summoned to the big leagues on April 17, 2010, he was a force of nature. Or rather, a freak of nature, because you just don't see many left-handers throwing 96-mph sinkers and pairing them with baffling breaking balls.

Video: ATL@LAD: Venters strikes out the side in the eighth

During the next two seasons, Venters compiled a 1.89 ERA. He struck out 27 percent of the batters he faced. Those who managed to get ahold of Venters' sinker put it on the ground 78 percent of the time. Those who had the audacity to swing at his slider swung right through it 33 percent of the time.

Want a testimonial to Venters' talent? Here's a pretty good one.

"I hated facing Venters," Giancarlo Stanton says. "He was nasty."

This is a good time to remind you that Stanton, who went 1-for-7 with three punchouts in his career off Venters, is right-handed.

So Venters was matchup hell for everybody, and his star aligned perfectly with that of righty Kimbrel, who came of age as the Braves' closer not long after his May 2010 callup, and fellow lefty Eric O'Flaherty, an Atlanta waiver claim gone right. The trio became so inextricably linked in the minds of fans (and opponents) that they came to be known as "O'Ventbrel" -- a nickname that wasn't exactly overflowing with originality but was appropriately as truncated as the innings in which they pitched.

"I say it all the time, when people refer back to that stretch of a couple years in Atlanta," Kimbrel says, "it made my job easier having those two guys in front of me, because those two guys were so nasty and so efficient. If we got to the seventh with a one-, two-, three-run lead, it was going to stay there until the ninth."

Video: Venters, Kimbrel on impressive run from 2010-2012

For Venters, the apex of the ascension was that 2011 NL All-Star nod, which came via the vote of his peers. It was a high compliment and quite an accomplishment for a non-closer, and it was deceptively easy to assume that, for Venters, it was only the beginning.

That is, until the soreness set in.

Out of the limelight, under the knife
Across the 2010 and '11 seasons and postseasons, Venters' 176 1/3 innings pitched were second among relievers only to Tyler Clippard (179 1/3). And for a time in his rookie year, he had the bad habit of throwing 50 pitches in his warmups, until teammate Billy Wagner talked him out of that.

In other words, Venters liked to throw. You combine all that usage with a ligament six years past its installment date, and what happened in 2012 seems obvious, in retrospect. The throbbing in Venters' left elbow would hound him after outings and didn't go away after a disabled-list stint. His numbers suffered, and he figured the feeling in his ailing arm was one he'd just have to get used to. It wasn't until the following spring of '13, when Venters took the mound in a Grapefruit League game in Lakeland, Fla., and felt a similar sensation to the one that had first put him on the shelf back in '05, that he knew what had happened.

That was Tommy John No. 2.

"I think because my first one was successful, when I had my second, I didn't worry about it not working," Venters says. "That probably worked against me. Because once I started throwing after the second one, I probably threw too much, too hard, just because that's kind of what I did the first time, and it had worked. But I was older, and it was the second surgery and I probably just didn't go at it like I should have.

"That second one was a struggle the whole time."

Video: ATL@HOU: Venters fans three in scoreless eighth

Venters missed all of 2013 and began '14 on the 60-day DL. It took him until August of that year -- 15 months, post-operation -- to proceed to so much as a live batting practice session. And just seven pitches into that session, the all-too-familiar feeling returned.

Accompanied by Viviana, Venters visited Dr. James Andrews. After reading the MRI, the doctor spent some time alone in a hallway, trying to find the right words to relay that Venters would need yet another surgery. When he did deliver the news, Viviana, who had wanted to stay strong for her husband, couldn't help but break down in tears.

"I probably should have just stayed home," she says now. "That one was pretty hard."

That was Tommy John No. 3.

How many pitchers have made it back to the big leagues after their third Tommy John? Technically, none. Though Jose Rijo and Jason Isringhausen are often cited to have had at least three Tommy Johns apiece, Jon Roegele's oft-cited Tommy John database does not recognize either pitcher as a three-time recipient of the surgery, because, for each guy, at least one of the surgeries addressed a flexor tendon tear, not a UCL tear.

Practicing at Daddy's work today!

A post shared by Viviana Venters (@vivianamventers) on

Venters has the dismal distinction of being the only guy on the list thrice. When he went under the knife that third time, he promised himself it would be the last, whether it worked or not.

It did not.

The half-Tommy John
The Braves released Venters at the end of 2014, but the Rays, knowing good left-handed relief is hard to find, signed him to a two-year deal that would give him the time he needed the recover. The goal was to have Venters back in the big leagues by the end of '16, and, for one fleeting moment in the summer of '16, it appeared possible. On June 4 of that year, Venters finally took the mound in a professional setting -- a Class A game in the Florida State League pitting the Charlotte Stone Crabs against the Tampa Tarpons. He worked a scoreless inning and got the fastball up to 94 mph.

It was a long, long way from 2012 and a long, long way from the big leagues. But it was progress.

"I was nervous. I was excited," Venters says. "It ended quick, though."

Video: NYY@ATL: Venters strikes out two in scoreless ninth

Venters was just five appearances into his rehab stint when he blew out the elbow yet again.

Surely, this had to be the final setback.

"I thought I was pretty much done," Venters says.

Beyond that whole "definition of insanity" thing is the physical reality the body can only handle so many elbow reconstructions. It is an invasive procedure that requires drilling into the bone, and doctors fear a fourth surgery involving a by-now weakened bone can cause a dangerous break.

But as unlucky as he was, Venters was fortunate in the sense that his ligament graph had, according to an evaluation from Dr. Neal ElAttrache, survived this latest injury unscathed. The way Dr. ElAttrache explains it, a person is born with a ligament layer and a tendon layer in his or her elbow, with separate stresses and strains of those two layers. For Tommy John recipients, the two layers scar together, meaning stress and strain of one layer affects the other. But in Venters' elbow, the doctor was able to clearly see that the tendon had split underneath the attachment site to the bone.

"I told him that if I could anchor some suture into the existing graph and then sew up the tendon scarred to that ligament and do it with minimal invasion to the bone," ElAttrache says, "I thought I could do this and prevent any catastrophic complications that can happen after third-time redos."

This was the most encouraging news Venters had heard in years. The procedure, which ElAttrache had previously performed on big league pitcher Shawn Kelly, wouldn't require as long a recovery time as Tommy John, and Venters had the support of his family -- and, importantly, the Rays -- to move forward.

"If you have nothing to lose, why not try again?" Viviana says. "If you can't, you can't. You come home. But the reward is so much greater than the risk of just trying. So why not?"

One last chance
So that's how we got here, to Charlotte Sports Park, where a left-hander wearing No. 49 throws his bullpen sessions and plays catch with the use of an elbow that, for the moment at least, is a source of possibility and not pain.

"It's way too soon to declare victory on this," ElAttrache says. "But he's having no pain, and he feels really good. So it's functioning every bit the way I hoped it would at this point. I know how much he wants it, and I'm just sort of living and dying with him with this."

Video: BAL@ATL: Venters tosses scoreless ninth vs. Orioles

Venters pitched 23 2/3 innings during four different Minor League levels last year, striking out 29 batters, allowing six runs and showing glimpses of the stuff he once had. He doesn't throw as hard as he once did. Venters doesn't throw as often as he once did. But he's throwing, and his confidence in his ability to get back in a big league game is growing.

"You can see the dedication with which he's gone after this," Rays vice president of baseball operations Chaim Bloom says. "And also what he does for other players around him. Every single person who comes in contact with Jonny ends up rooting for him, and he has a wonderful, positive effect on everybody around him. That makes it really easy to want to keep trying with somebody, even through some adversity."

There's an adage in baseball that as long as you are left-handed and breathing, you will always find a job. Venters is taking that notion to an unusual extreme, but he's got people in his corner across the industry.

"It sounds like he's getting pretty close," Kimbrel says. "That's exciting, as a friend and as a [former] teammate, to see him getting back in the league. It had to have been a full-family effort. I'm hoping the best for him, because I know the kind of guy he is and the kind of teammate he is."

His biggest fans! So proud of how far he has come!

A post shared by Viviana Venters (@vivianamventers) on

The recovery from three surgeries since his last big league appearance has given Venters and his family profound perspective on what it would mean to get back.

Wyatt and Walker don't yet totally grasp the distinction between the Minor Leagues and the Major Leagues (Walker recently told his dad, "I really hope you get to play for the Stone Crabs again!"), but Viviana, who gave birth to the couple's third child, daughter Evie Grace, mere weeks ago, is already vowing to bring the newly expanded family from its Gwinnett County, Ga., home to wherever the clan has to go to see Jonny pitch, should that magic moment arrive.

"This time around, we're not going to take anything for granted," Viviana says. "We'll try to travel as much as we can and take it all in, because you just never know when it's going to end. Looking back, man, we were so lucky to even get that opportunity that most people never get. I want to make sure the boys see how far he's come."

It would be the greatest comeback story in baseball this year. Thanks to that recent foray into the souvenir stash, Jonny Venters knows what it's like to see his young son wearing a Major League jersey. Soon, if the elbow allows and if all the hard work and patience is rewarded, young Wyatt might get to see his dad do the same.

Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns, listen to his podcasts and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.

Tampa Bay Rays, Jonny Venters

Source: Tigers, Liriano agree to 1-year deal

MLB.com @mattkellyMLB

The Tigers have added former All-Star pitcher Francisco Liriano to their roster, MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi reports.

Liriano's contract, first reported by FanRag Sports, is said to be a one-year, $4 million pact with an additional $1 million in incentives, though the Tigers have not confirmed the deal.

The Tigers have added former All-Star pitcher Francisco Liriano to their roster, MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi reports.

Liriano's contract, first reported by FanRag Sports, is said to be a one-year, $4 million pact with an additional $1 million in incentives, though the Tigers have not confirmed the deal.

Liriano, 34, earned his lone All-Star Game selection in 2006 with the Twins, and he once ranked among the bright up-and-coming starters in baseball due to the strength of his slider. He has struggled in recent seasons, however, recording a 5.88 ERA in 18 starts for Toronto last year before he was dealt to the Astros at the non-waiver Trade Deadline.

Liriano moved to Houston's bullpen for the stretch run, striking out 11 batters in 14 1/3 innings as a left-handed specialist, and he also appeared in all three rounds of the Astros' postseason run. The Tigers could have a potential opening in their rotation behind Michael Fulmer, Jordan Zimmermann and free-agent acquisition Mike Fiers as they begin their rebuilding process in 2018.

Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.

Detroit Tigers, Francisco Liriano

Jeter, Marlins proud to honor Stoneman Douglas

MLB.com @JoeFrisaro

JUPITER, Fla. -- In the aftermath of last week's tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the local area, state of Florida and country have rallied around the Parkland, Fla., community. On Friday, the Marlins and Cardinals joined in by hosting the school's baseball and softball teams for the Grapefruit League opener at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium.

The teams, accompanied by their families, arrived at the park around 11 a.m. ET and mingled with Marlins players, coaches, primary owner Bruce Sherman and chief executive officer Derek Jeter.

JUPITER, Fla. -- In the aftermath of last week's tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the local area, state of Florida and country have rallied around the Parkland, Fla., community. On Friday, the Marlins and Cardinals joined in by hosting the school's baseball and softball teams for the Grapefruit League opener at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium.

The teams, accompanied by their families, arrived at the park around 11 a.m. ET and mingled with Marlins players, coaches, primary owner Bruce Sherman and chief executive officer Derek Jeter.

"When there's tragedy, one thing you realize is communities rally around sports," Jeter told the gathering. "I know when I was in New York playing after Sept. 11, obviously, you will never forget what happened. But at least for three hours a day, we gave people something to cheer for. A lot of times, professional sports teams and sports teams, in general, can help distract people."

Video: Jeter addresses Stoneman Douglas baseball team

To honor the 17 people who lost their lives in the Feb. 14 shooting, there was a 17-second moment of silence before the national anthem.

In warmups, each of the 68 players in Marlins camp wore a black cap with a maroon "SD" on it. All 30 MLB clubs wore similar caps. In batting practice, they wore MSD Strong T-shirts, paying tribute to victims.

"It's really nice to see them supporting us and our school," said Jaclyn McKenna, a senior catcher on the Douglas softball team. "It impacted a lot of people. I'm glad the MLB teams are supporting us."

For the students, being around baseball is part of the healing process.

"It was honestly worse when we couldn't play baseball," Douglas outfielder Ricky Shimko said. "We didn't have baseball to watch. We didn't have baseball to play. We didn't have stuff to think about. We were just at home. Now that things are getting back to normal, teams are inviting us, like the Cardinals and the Marlins. It's great. It's helping us feel better. It's showing we're one big family."

Tweet from @MLB: Marjory Stoneman Douglas HS baseball and softball teams meet Derek Jeter and the @Marlins. #ParklandStrong pic.twitter.com/4UMbV8odN8

Parkland is about a 30-minute drive from the Marlins' Spring Training home in Jupiter.

"I hope today allows you to have a little light at the end of the tunnel," Sherman said, addressing the students and their families. "I was just talking with Derek Jeter about what we're going to try to do to help the school, both today and in our Major League ballpark. This is the most horrific thing I can ever imagine. ... I hope today gives you a few moments of levity and comfort in what's been a horrific week for you."

Manager Don Mattingly, first baseman Justin Bour and outfielder Cameron Maybin were among the many Marlins who signed autographs, took pictures and interacted with the students.

"It's not just touching one community, it's touching everybody," Mattingly said. "It's a good feeling to be able to do something. There's really no words that can help, but when you know other people are thinking about you and you're not alone, it is a nice gesture on the part of the league."

Video: Mattingly talks MLB efforts to honor Parkland victims

Shortstop Miguel Rojas has made South Florida home since 2015, settling in Broward County, not far from Parkland.

"We're going to show our support out on the field and use our brand to support South Florida and the people in Parkland," Rojas said. "I've been living in Miami now close to three years, and I feel part of this community. It's important for us to be supportive of those families and those people, because I have a son now, and I know at some point he's going to go to school."

Video: STL@MIA: Hollandsworth discusses Parkland tragedy

For their Grapefruit League opener, the Marlins also wore a special tribute patch on their jerseys.

"After that happened, this is the least we can do is to show our support," Rojas said. "It's going to be really important for us to show our support. It's really important for us to wear those jerseys and those hats. We're going to wear it with a lot of pride. To the community and South Florida, we're trying to show our support."

Tweet from @Marlins: For Parkland.#MSDStrong | #DouglasStrong pic.twitter.com/tURWRQ9KVb

Top prospect Lewis Brinson is a Coral Springs, Fla., resident, and Stoneman Douglas was his rival high school.

On Friday, Brinson proudly wore the Stoneman Douglas cap and colors.

"I'm honored to wear something like that to represent what happened," Brinson said. "Obviously, it's for a tragic cause, but it's the least we can do for the community -- to represent them, and for them to know we have their back, and to symbolize that."

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.

Miami Marlins

Take a tour around the league on Photo Day with a look at familiar faces in new uniforms

The first weeks of Spring Training offer a fun annual tradition in baseball known as Photo Day. Some of the best pictures to look at are players who changed teams -- donning their new uniforms and looking swanky. The offseason brought a number of changes, but it's especially intriguing to see these 15 players with their new clubs.

Dark-horse roster candidates for all 30 teams

MLB.com @_dadler

With the first Spring Training games being played this week, there are sure to be players who emerge with breakout performances to win an Opening Day roster spot.

There are bound to be surprises as the roster battles shake out. But while Spring Training is still in its early days, MLB.com is taking a crack at predicting just which players will be on the team come the end of camp.

With the first Spring Training games being played this week, there are sure to be players who emerge with breakout performances to win an Opening Day roster spot.

There are bound to be surprises as the roster battles shake out. But while Spring Training is still in its early days, MLB.com is taking a crack at predicting just which players will be on the team come the end of camp.

Here are dark-horse candidates to make the Opening Day roster from all 30 clubs.

American League East

Red Sox: Boston's roster will be hard to crack after the recent signings of J.D. Martinez and Eduardo Nunez, but players like Marco Hernandez could still earn a spot with the defending American League East champs. More >

Yankees: Like their archrivals, the Yankees have a loaded roster, but that doesn't mean a dark horse or two, like Tyler Austin or Tyler Wade, couldn't end up on the team. More >

Rays: The Rays have made a slew of moves this offseason, and it's created the potential for some interesting candidates to crack the roster -- including young guns like Willy Adames. More >

Video: Top Prospects: Willy Adames, SS, Rays

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Blue Jays: Toronto's chief dark-horse candidates this spring are relievers looking for a bullpen role. But there is also Ezequiel Carrera, who is trying to prove he doesn't deserve to be squeezed out of the outfield rotation. More >

Orioles: Pay attention to the O's Spring Training opener -- the guy starting it, Mike Wright Jr., just might make the team. And he's not the only one who could get a spot on a starting rotation that needs to improve. More >

AL Central

Indians: The Indians' dark-horse roster candidates are an exciting bunch featuring one of the game's top prospects in Francisco Mejia, plus a recent breakout rookie, a veteran hoping for a rebound and a Tribe cult hero. More >

Video: Francona on catching situation, Mejia's development

Twins: Minnesota has roster spots open in a few areas -- the fifth starter, the bullpen, backup catcher, bat off the bench -- and the players to fill them could be a youngster like Zack Granite or someone with more experience. More >

Royals: The rebuilding Royals will have a wide-open camp this spring. Two of their chief dark-horse candidates are former first-round Draft picks, Hunter Dozier and Kyle Zimmer, who could finally make a big league impact. More >

White Sox: The White Sox have a loaded farm system. Will elite prospects like Michael Kopech be with the big league club when Spring Training ends? Or will less-heralded prospects or veteran competitors like Hector Santiago end up making the team? More >

Tigers: Even though the Tigers are rebuilding, their roster won't be filled with all prospects, leaving players like Alexi Amarista and Jim Adduci as dark-horse candidates to win a spot. More >

AL West

Astros: The World Series champs' roster is about as loaded as they come, but Houston still has some bats that could end up on the team in a reserve role if they have a strong spring, like Tyler White or A.J. Reed. More >

Angels: Just two years ago, Chris Carter was his league's home-run champion. Now, he's a dark-horse candidate looking to make the Angels' roster, and he's not the only one. More >

Mariners: Ryon Healy's surgery to remove a bone spur from his hand on Valentine's Day has opened the door for dark horses like Mike Ford and Matt Hague to make the Mariners' roster in the corner infield. More >

Rangers: The Rangers need to fill out their pitching staff and have a number of dark-horse candidates who could fit the bill. They'll also be taking a long look at Rule 5 Draft pick Carlos Tocci. More >

A's: Every A's fan wants to see A.J. Puk. Could the top pitching prospect force their hand with a dominant spring? More >

Video: Puk on second Spring Training, working on mechanics

National League East

Nationals: Top prospect Victor Robles gave Nats fans a taste of what he could do last year, and this time, he just might be in the big leagues to start the season. More >

Marlins: All the Marlins' trades this winter mean a whole lot of roster spots are up for grabs, and they might want to see talented prospects like Zac Gallen and Braxton Lee on the field. More >

Braves: The Braves' trio of dark-horse roster candidates is led by veteran left-hander Scott Kazmir, who could be a steadying influence on a young team -- but the other two are youngsters themselves. More >

Mets: The Mets' additions of veterans during the offseason closed some of their potentially open spots, but players like Dominic Smith might still play their way onto the Opening Day roster. More >

Video: Dominic Smith makes impact with Mets in 2017

Phillies: Will the Phillies find a hidden gem in Spring Training? Their dark-horse roster candidates this year include a waiver claim (Zac Curtis), an impressive Minor Leaguer (Tom Eshelman) and a longtime Major League stalwart trying to make a comeback (Francisco Rodriguez). More >

NL Central

Cubs: The Cubs' deep and talented roster doesn't have any holes at the top, but the defending NL Central champs would be happy if a backup catcher like Victor Caratini, an extra outfielder or a bullpen arm emerged during camp. More >

Brewers: As the Brewers try to push their way into the playoffs in 2018, they could turn to a pitcher like Taylor Williams and his electric arm to help fill out their roster. More >

Cardinals: The Cardinals struck gold last year when Jose Martinez mashed his way onto the roster, and they just might have another diamond in the rough like Conner Greene or Adolis Garcia. More >

Pirates: The Pirates are trying to fill out their outfield and their bullpen, and they have a ton of candidates to slot in. Will dark horses like Jordan Luplow or Jordan Milbrath emerge to take the spots? More >

Reds: Nick Senzel would have to have an exceptional spring to break camp on the Major League roster. But he's one of the top prospects in baseball for a reason. More >

Video: Senzel on taking reps at short during Spring Training

NL West

Dodgers: The Dodgers' roster has all the makings of a powerhouse team, as usual. It'll be hard to crack their roster, but familiar faces like Trayce Thompson and Adam Liberatore just might do it. More >

D-backs: New key acquisitions Jarrod Dyson and Steven Souza Jr. will take up two D-backs roster spots, but dark-horse candidates like John Ryan Murphy and Neftali Feliz could make the team, too. More >

Rockies: As the Rockies look to make the playoffs again in a strong division, reliever Zac Rosscup and hitters Jordan Patterson and Noel Cuevas are among the dark-horse candidates to make the roster and help them do it. More >

Padres: The Padres have spring competitions all over the roster, and the dark-horse candidates to take the spots are an intriguing mix of up-and-comers, like Franchy Cordero, and throwbacks, like Tyson Ross. More >

Video: TEX@CLE: Ross tosses six solid frames

Giants: The Giants' front lines have filled in thanks to their big-ticket offseason acquisitions. But they have plenty of qualified candidates for reserve roles, like Andrew Suarez and Jarrett Parker, and Spring Training will decide the winners. More >

David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.

Red Sox still examining Martinez's physical

Special to MLB.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The official announcement of power hitter J.D. Martinez, and his much-needed bat for the middle of Boston's lineup, will have to wait at least another day.

After the 30-year-old free agent reportedly agreed to terms on a $110 million, five-year contract on Monday, he was seen walking into JetBlue Park just before 8 a.m. ET on Wednesday for his physical.

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The official announcement of power hitter J.D. Martinez, and his much-needed bat for the middle of Boston's lineup, will have to wait at least another day.

After the 30-year-old free agent reportedly agreed to terms on a $110 million, five-year contract on Monday, he was seen walking into JetBlue Park just before 8 a.m. ET on Wednesday for his physical.

Red Sox Spring Training: Info | Tickets | Schedule

A Red Sox spokesperson said that there would be no announcement Thursday because the club was still doing due diligence on Martinez's physical. The club is hopeful to make the deal official on Friday.

In the clubhouse, it looked like the spot for his locker was ready -- there was an empty one in between those of Dustin Pedroia and Hanley Ramirez.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Left-handed pitcher David Price, Martinez's former teammate in Detroit, was gushing over the work the power hitter puts in each day.

"Him and Victor [Martinez] would hit all day long," Price recalled. "Victor was the DH and J.D. was right field. They'd get to the field early, hit in the cage and go out for BP. Then when BP was over, they'd go back to the cage and be in the cage again before the game.

"He takes a lot of swings. He's always working ... turned himself into a really good hitter."

Martinez wields the type of pure power bat the Red Sox missed so much in 2017 -- David Ortiz's first year in retirement. He belted 45 homers last year in just 432 at-bats.

His hard work has paid off after he was released by the Houston Astros in 2014. In the 520 games since Houston let him go, he has produced a line of .300/.362/.574 with 128 homers and 350 RBIs.

Boston's move to get Martinez was dictated by both finishing last in the American League with just 168 homers last season, and seeing the rival Yankees acquire Major League home run king Giancarlo Stanton in a trade from the Miami Marlins during the offseason.

"We're all excited to be able to add a hitter like that, especially in this division with the Yankees making a move themselves," Price said.

It's likely ramped up the rivalry, too.

Video: Benintendi talks Martinez's arrival to Red Sox camp

"I just know both teams are going to be really good," outfielder Mookie Betts said. "It seems like the rivalry is going to be like a slugfest on both sides."

Price also felt like Martinez will fit in fine into Boston's high-volume atmosphere of media coverage of the team.

"Yeah, he's got my vote. He's different than me," the lefty said. "We didn't talk anything about baseball. Me and J.D. have continued to be friends ever since we were teammates in Detroit. We've always continued to check in on each other."

And Price even offered some advice for his friend.

"Go play baseball. Go be yourself," he said. "Go be the hitter you've been since, I think, it was 2014 when he had that breakout season in Detroit. He's a great dude, he's quiet and is going to go about his business and he's going to hit a lot of homers for us."

Ken Powtak is a contributor to MLB.com who covered the Red Sox on Wednesday.

Boston Red Sox, J.D. Martinez

Astros welcome Douglas HS coach, sons

MLB.com @brianmctaggart

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- There may never be a return to true normalcy for the students and faculty at Stoneman Douglas High School. Not after the tragedy that struck the school in nearby Parkland, Fla., last week, when 17 people were killed in a horrific shooting.

Todd Fitz-Gerald, the head baseball coach at Stoneman Douglas -- whose son, Hunter, is a junior at the school -- has kept his team close in the days following the shooting, meeting with them nearly every day and even resuming practices. There have been hugs and tears. While most of the team attended Marlins spring camp in Jupiter, Fla., on Friday, Fitz-Gerald, his two sons and his assistant coach paid a visit to Astros camp.

View Full Game Coverage

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- There may never be a return to true normalcy for the students and faculty at Stoneman Douglas High School. Not after the tragedy that struck the school in nearby Parkland, Fla., last week, when 17 people were killed in a horrific shooting.

Todd Fitz-Gerald, the head baseball coach at Stoneman Douglas -- whose son, Hunter, is a junior at the school -- has kept his team close in the days following the shooting, meeting with them nearly every day and even resuming practices. There have been hugs and tears. While most of the team attended Marlins spring camp in Jupiter, Fla., on Friday, Fitz-Gerald, his two sons and his assistant coach paid a visit to Astros camp.

View Full Game Coverage

Astros Spring Training: Info | Tickets | Schedule

In a pregame ceremony to mark the Astros' championship, general manager Jeff Luhnow raised the World Series trophy into the air on the field while flanked by Fitz-Gerald and his son. The Astros joined the rest of Major League Baseball in wearing Stoneman Douglas baseball caps for Friday's Grapefruit League action.

"To be out here and be able to enjoy a day with these guys, I couldn't be more thankful," Fitz-Gerald said. "This is what we do. I'm a baseball coach true and blue and we're a baseball family and that's how we do it."

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

The group from Stoneman Douglas spent much of the morning on a back field at Ballpark of the Palm Beaches watching live batting practice, where Astros manager A.J. Hinch talked baseball with Fitz-Gerald. Astros players, including Evan Gattis, Carlos Correa, George Springer and Brian McCann, came over to talk baseball and give support.

"I'm sure there's a lot of anger and a lot of hurt," Gattis said. "It's a sore subject. ... I'm not a parent yet, but I understand the anger surrounding it and being scared and having a kid going to school or being in the building or in the vicinity."

Video: WSH@HOU: Astros discuss wearing Stoneman Douglas hats

Hunter Fitz-Gerald, a junior who plays third base on the baseball team, was in the building when a gunman opened fire, but he wasn't injured. For the team, the following days have been about leaning on each other and drawing support from wherever they can.

"We've been telling ourselves we need to stay strong for each other," Hunter said. "And baseball gets our mind off everything, and we all love each other want to be there for each other."

Coach Fitz-Gerald, who's in his seventh season as head coach, spoke of the resiliency of the student body, which has been a champion for change in the days following the shooting. He said the school is refusing to let one individual define who it is.

"That's the bottom line," he said. "There are two ways: You can put your head between your legs and cower down or you can be strong, and our responsibility is to be strong for our community. Our baseball program has a long tradition of success and we owe it to the students, we owe to the community to represent them and give them something to be proud of."

For as much as the trip to Spring Training was about a chance put the events of last week out of mind, Fitz-Gerald soaked up some useful baseball information, too. After all, the Eagles begin their season March 2.

"It's not every day you get an opportunity to just be around the big leaguers," he said. "We're out here talking baseball and trying to pick up some things I can bring back to our guys, and talking to Springer and Jose Altuve and how he plays the bag on the double play, and talking to A.J. about some managing stuff -- me being the manager -- just trying to get some ideas about some things.

"I know it's total different levels in high school and the Major Leagues, but the fundamentals of the game don't change. You catch it, you throw it, you hit it."

The game goes on.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.

Houston Astros

Top Rays prospect faces elbow surgery

Rays righty will get 2nd opinion but expects to undergo Tommy John
MLB.com @wwchastain

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Rays top prospect Brent Honeywell has a torn ulnar collateral ligament, and Tommy John surgery has been recommended.

Honeywell threw batting practice on Thursday, but he had to leave after experiencing pain in his right forearm.

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Rays top prospect Brent Honeywell has a torn ulnar collateral ligament, and Tommy John surgery has been recommended.

Honeywell threw batting practice on Thursday, but he had to leave after experiencing pain in his right forearm.

"It's a disappointment," Honeywell said. "... I knew what I had to do to make the club. Some unfortunate things happen. I'll bounce back from it. Looking forward to helping the club whenever I get back, whenever that might be."

According to MLB Pipeline, Honeywell is MLB's No. 12 prospect.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

"It's very unfortunate," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "You feel for him more than anything -- not necessarily for us, even though it is a loss -- a guy we all had high hopes for and will continue to have high hopes for.

"I talked to him briefly yesterday. He's going to be fine. He's young. He'll bounce back. He'll work really hard to get back quick and follow what the doctors and trainers give him and make the most of it."

Honeywell noted that he shares a common belief among pitchers that Tommy John surgery is inevitable.

"I think people don't understand that," Honeywell said. "It's either going to go or it's not. It was one pitch. It was the first pitch to [Wilson] Ramos, and I felt it pop.

"... It's like my dad said, 'That's the nature of the beast.' We sign up to be pitchers. Bad things happen every now and then. There's a couple of things that you can prevent, but I don't think this is one of them. It's either going to go or it's not, the way I look at it."

Honeywell didn't need anybody to tell him what had transpired.

"Right when it happened, I knew what it was," he said.

Adding frustration to the situation was the way Honeywell was throwing the ball when the injury occurred.

"What I was throwing out there yesterday was some powerful stuff," Honeywell said. "And that's the most powerful I've been in seven pitches my whole career right there. That's what frustrates me the most."

Honeywell spent Thursday afternoon at the office of team orthopedic Koco Eaton, who confirmed Honeywell's suspicion. Though he recommended Tommy John surgery, he told Honeywell he should get a second opinion. Honeywell plans to get the second opinion, even though he's already made up his mind to have the surgery.

Honeywell said he's not exactly sure when that surgery will take place, but he added, "I want to get the show on the road. I don't want to be waiting around. I want to get it done. I want to be ready to go as quick as possible."

Due to the many off-days early in the season, the Rays plan to use a four-man rotation in April. Included in that rotation are Chris Archer, Blake Snell, Jake Faria and Nathan Eovaldi. They will expand to five pitchers in May, which could have been the starting point for Honeywell's Major League career. That won't happen now, but Cash said Honeywell has already made his mark within the organization.

"You can look at it a couple of different ways," Cash said. "I'm looking at it he's checked off a lot of boxes in his development in the last two years. It could be better now than earlier or even later once he got to the big leagues. He might not see it that way, but for what he's accomplished the last two years, he should get healthy and pick up where he left off [once he returns]."

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2004.

Tampa Bay Rays, Brent Honeywell

Puig scratched from lineup with sore hip

MLB.com @kengurnick

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Outfielder Yasiel Puig was scratched from the starting lineup of the Dodgers' Cactus League opener on Friday vs. the White Sox with mild hip discomfort.

Manager Dave Roberts said the issue is believed to be related to new shoes Puig began wearing this week.

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Outfielder Yasiel Puig was scratched from the starting lineup of the Dodgers' Cactus League opener on Friday vs. the White Sox with mild hip discomfort.

Manager Dave Roberts said the issue is believed to be related to new shoes Puig began wearing this week.

Roberts expects Puig to play on Saturday. Trayce Thompson replaced Puig in right field on Friday.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com.

Los Angeles Dodgers, Yasiel Puig

Ohtani preps for Saturday debut with long HR

Two-way phenom to face Brewers in first appearance, live on MLB.TV
MLB.com @mi_guardado

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Japanese two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani will make his highly anticipated Cactus League debut on the mound Saturday at 1:10 p.m. MT, when the Angels host the Brewers at Tempe Diablo Stadium (watch live on MLB.TV). Ohtani is expected to start and pitch around two innings, marking his first career game in a Major League environment.

"I feel like this will be a big step forward for me and my career in the Majors Leagues," Ohtani said via interpreter Ippei Mizuhara on Thursday. "I'm really happy at this point. This is going to be my first start in the States, so I'm pretty sure a lot of things aren't going to go my way, but that's OK. I just need to find what I need to adjust."

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Japanese two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani will make his highly anticipated Cactus League debut on the mound Saturday at 1:10 p.m. MT, when the Angels host the Brewers at Tempe Diablo Stadium (watch live on MLB.TV). Ohtani is expected to start and pitch around two innings, marking his first career game in a Major League environment.

"I feel like this will be a big step forward for me and my career in the Majors Leagues," Ohtani said via interpreter Ippei Mizuhara on Thursday. "I'm really happy at this point. This is going to be my first start in the States, so I'm pretty sure a lot of things aren't going to go my way, but that's OK. I just need to find what I need to adjust."

While Spring Training games tend to be inconsequential affairs this early in camp, Saturday's matchup will undoubtedly generate far more buzz given the fascination with Ohtani, who is seeking to become the Majors' first two-way star since Babe Ruth. A horde of media, mostly from Japan, has been intensely tracking Ohtani's every move this spring, and the 23-year-old's start will be broadcast live in his home country, where first pitch will be at 5:10 a.m. on Sunday.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Because he signed a Minor League deal with the Angels in December, Ohtani is technically in camp as a non-roster invitee, though he is a virtual lock to make the club's Opening Day roster. Ohtani, for his part, feels he still needs to prove that he belongs in the Angels' rotation.

Angels Spring Training info | Tickets

"Results do matter to me," Ohtani said. "I've said in the past that I need to prove that I need to earn a spot in the rotation. I just need to see where I'm at and take each step."

Video: Ohtani discusses throwing live batting practice

Ohtani threw a bullpen session on Thursday in preparation for his upcoming start and also took batting practice for the first time at Tempe Diablo Stadium. The left-handed slugger put on quite the show during his hitting session, launching a home run over the batter's eye and drawing cheers from teammates and fans alike. For perspective, the center-field wall at Tempe Diablo Stadium is 420 feet from home plate, and the batter's eye stands 30 feet high.

Ohtani followed up with another monster shot, crushing a homer over the scoreboard in right field. Ohtani, who is known for his humility, said afterward that the wind was carrying in his favor.

Video: Trout discusses riding in a golf cart with Ohtani

"Of course, the wind was another factor," Ohtani said. "I am starting to see the ball and hit the ball a little better. I'm just enjoying fooling around with my teammates. I'm just having fun out there right now."

Ohtani will not bat in a game on Saturday and Sunday, so the earliest he could make his debut in the Angels' lineup would be Monday.

Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Los Angeles Angels, Shohei Ohtani

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