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BREAKING: Red Sox part ways with Hanley

Veteran infielder designated for assignment to make room for Pedroia
MLB.com

The Red Sox designated Hanley Ramirez for assignment on Friday, making room on the roster for Dustin Pedroia, who was activated from the disabled list.

When a player is designated for assignment -- often abbreviated "DFA" -- that player is immediately removed from his club's 40-man roster, and 25-man roster if he was on that as well. Within seven days of the transaction (it was previously 10 days), the player must either be traded, released, or placed on irrevocable outright waivers.

The Red Sox designated Hanley Ramirez for assignment on Friday, making room on the roster for Dustin Pedroia, who was activated from the disabled list.

When a player is designated for assignment -- often abbreviated "DFA" -- that player is immediately removed from his club's 40-man roster, and 25-man roster if he was on that as well. Within seven days of the transaction (it was previously 10 days), the player must either be traded, released, or placed on irrevocable outright waivers.

In the midst of an 0-for-20 skid, the 34-year-old hit .254/.313/.395 with six home runs and 29 RBIs in 44 games for the Red Sox this year. In his four seasons with Boston since 2014, Hanley slashed .260/.326/.450 and garnered 78 home runs with 255 RBIs and 71 doubles.

Unless he's claimed, the Red Sox will pay about $15 million that remains on Ramirez's contract, which runs through the end of the 2018 season. It should not be assumed that the Red Sox are just going to eat the money and let Ramirez sign elsewhere. In fact, there is some recent precedent for a team DFAing an impending free agent and working out a reasonable trade. The Mets designated Matt Harvey for assignment on May 5 and then swung a deal with the Reds for catcher Devin Mesoraco a few days later. Both players are eligible for free agency this winter and have been performing well with their new clubs.

Mitch Moreland is expected to be the Red Sox full-time first baseman with some platooning from Blake Swihart.

Ramirez was the 2006 Rookie of the Year and a three-time All-Star with the Marlins. He finished second in MVP voting in 2009, hitting .342 to win the NL batting title. In that season, Ramirez had 106 RBIs and 24 home runs with 42 doubles in 151 games at shortstop. He won Silver Slugger Awards in '08 and '09 and was the Player of the Month in June of '08.

A key wrinkle to this move is a vesting option in Ramirez's contract. He signed a four-year, $88 million deal with the Red Sox prior to the 2015 season, and it carries a $22 million vesting option for 2019 if he reaches 497 plate appearances this year. Ramirez already has 195 plate appearances and was well on his way to reaching the threshold that would cause the option to vest, but by letting him go now, the Red Sox will assure that does not happen.

Ramirez hit just .163 with three home runs, 12 RBIs, four walks, two doubles and 14 strikeouts in 19 games in May.

Boston Red Sox, Hanley Ramirez

This weekend: Ohtani hits vs. Tanaka, Cole-Bauer

MLB.com @RichardJustice

To the baseball gods, we offer thanks for a moment this weekend cool enough to ripple across two continents. We've even got a proper amount of time to prepare for Shohei Ohtani the hitter vs. Masahiro Tanaka.

Some fans have looked forward to this matchup of these two stars from Japan from the moment Ohtani signed with the Angels in December. At some point, we hoped that the paths of two of the most accomplished Japanese players of our time would cross.

To the baseball gods, we offer thanks for a moment this weekend cool enough to ripple across two continents. We've even got a proper amount of time to prepare for Shohei Ohtani the hitter vs. Masahiro Tanaka.

Some fans have looked forward to this matchup of these two stars from Japan from the moment Ohtani signed with the Angels in December. At some point, we hoped that the paths of two of the most accomplished Japanese players of our time would cross.

• Up-to-the-minute standings | Weekend probable pitchers

We were excited about an Ohtani-Tanaka pitching matchup this weekend, but Ohtani's start has been pushed back. Instead, we could have something even better: Tanaka pitching to Ohtani.

Now let's keep our fingers crossed that he's in the lineup on Sunday afternoon, with a chance to take aim at Yankee Stadium's short porch in right field. That the Yankees pursued Ohtani as intensely as any team is an interesting subplot.

As we preview the weekend's storylines, this is where we begin:

Shohei Ohtani vs. Masahiro Tanaka (hopefully)

Once upon a time, Tanaka was someone against whom Ohtani could measure himself. When they faced one another in Japan in 2013, they were at different places in their careers.

Tanaka was 24 years old and on his way to a 24-0 season that helped catapult him into Yankees pinstripes the next season. Ohtani was an 18-year-old rookie who could only dream of doing the things Tanaka had.

Tanaka held Ohtani hitless in 11 at-bats and struck him out six times in 2013. But as Tanaka said last week, "There's no comparing him physically now with how he was when I pitched against him."

Five years later, Tanaka has established himself as a smart, resilient competitor who, despite some recent struggles, is on pace to pitch 200 innings and win 18 games.

As for Ohtani, 23, he's having one of the most remarkable seasons in Major League history, doing the thing virtually no one thought possible. He's not just a two-way player. He's excelling as a two-way player.

Here's what Ohtani has done:

Hitter: .319 batting average, .991 OPS, seven doubles, one triple, six home runs in 104 plate appearances -- good for nearly 1.0 WAR.

Pitcher: 4-1, 3.35 ERA, 1.066 WHIP, 11.6 K/9, seven starts, 0.9 WAR.

Video: TB@LAA: Ohtani strikes out 9 to collect his 4th win

From Statcast™:

• As a hitter, Ohtani has hit 50.8 percent of his batted balls at 95 mph or higher, 17th highest in the Majors.

• Ohtani has a 97.1-mph average fastball, the third hardest in the Majors among starters, trailing only Luis Severino (97.6) and Noah Syndergaard (97.4).

There is so much we do not know about how this is going to play out. Will fatigue catch up to Ohtani? For that matter, how will he adjust as scouting reports reveal his weaknesses? Those are discussions for another day. For now, we should all sit back and enjoy the ride.

You didn't count out the Mariners, did you?

The Mariners return home for a 10-game homestand against the Twins, Rangers and Rays after a remarkable stretch. Playing without Robinson Cano and Dee Gordon, their two most important offensive pieces, the Mariners saw their five-game winning streak end on Thursday afternoon in Oakland.

The Mariners are clearly going to be offensively challenged for a while -- Cano was suspended for 80 games after violating the league's Drug Agreement, while Gordon's fractured right toe is expected to sideline him for a couple of weeks -- but the pitching has been tremendous.

Video: SEA@OAK: Gonzales earns win with 7 shutout innings

Perhaps the most positive sign is lefty Marco Gonzales, who threw seven scoreless innings against the A's on Wednesday. As James Paxton emerges as the new staff ace, the Mariners are hopeful Felix Hernandez can get back on track and give the team a chance to push the Astros in the AL West race.

Suddenly, the Dodgers are looking a lot like the NL West favorites

Funny how things change when a team gets its best player on the field. Shortly after the Dodgers got third baseman Justin Turner back, they've played their best baseball of the season, winning six of seven and cutting their NL West deficit from 8 1/2 games to 3 1/2 as the Padres come to Dodger Stadium for a weekend series.

Video: LAD@MIA: Turner clubs 2 doubles, tallies 5 RBIs

With Clayton Kershaw expected to return in the next couple of weeks, the Dodgers (22-27) will add to a rotation that has had a 1.43 ERA during the 6-1 stretch. Their everyday lineup still has issues, but the Dodgers are a far cry from when they were 16-26.

Here's our latest World Series preview: Braves at Red Sox

Why not? The Red Sox are as good as advertised, thanks to Mookie Betts leading baseball's second-highest-scoring offense. Meanwhile, the Braves are having the kind of turnaround season every franchise dreams of. In Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuna Jr., they have two of the most electric performers in the game. They do not have a dominant pitching staff, but they have so many high-ceiling young arms that the problem seems fixable either internally or via trade.

Are the Cubs going to get out of fourth place?

It's never about just one thing. For the Cubs, though, it's actually not all that complicated. With the Cubs' offense and bullpen performing at a high level, the rotation seems to be the area of most concern, and this weekend's series against the Giants could offer some clues.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon is handing the ball to Jose Quintana on Saturday and Yu Darvish on Sunday. Quintana is coming off a start of seven scoreless innings in Cincinnati, his best of the season. He has allowed one or zero earned runs in four of his last five starts and is headed in the right direction.

Darvish, too, has been at his best lately, coming off a six-inning, one-run performance in Cincinnati.

Gerrit Cole, Trevor Bauer and a UCLA family feud

Thank goodness for Indians right-hander Adam Plutko. In 2011, he was the No. 3 starter on a Bruins rotation headed by Cole and Bauer. This weekend, his role will be to play peacemaker and maybe stand between the two of them if somehow they'd agree to a group photo for, you know, the UCLA alumni magazine.

Video: Hinch reacts to Bauer's social media posts on Astros

Cole and Bauer do not hide the fact that they didn't like one another when both were in college. Bauer took the rivalry to another level earlier this season when he accused Astros starting pitchers of doctoring baseballs.

Specifically, he wondered how pitchers could join the Astros staff and suddenly have higher spin rates, which translates to better stuff. He said secretly applying pine tar -- which is against the rules -- would do the trick.

He did not mention Cole by name, but with Cole being the newest member of the Astros' rotation, it wouldn't take a member of the UCLA math department to figure it out.

But on Thursday, Bauer took a step toward patching things up by praising Cole. Anyway, these former Bruins will be pitching against one another on Sunday at Progressive Field when the Astros and the Indians wrap up a four-game series. Let's everyone play nice.

Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.

This might be the weirdest play of 2018

Weird outs happen a lot in baseball. Pitchers catch line drives with their stomachs and runners get thrown out at first by right fielders (or left fielders).

But during Thursday's Royals-Rangers game, we were presented with a putout straight out of the Twilight Zone.

These are the top 200 Draft prospects

MLB.com @JonathanMayo

We're getting down to crunch time.

The start of the 2018 Draft is just over a week away, with the Detroit Tigers on the clock to get things started on Monday, June 4 at 7 p.m. ET. The teams behind Detroit are eagerly waiting to see what the Tigers are going to do as they work to line up their own Draft boards.

We're getting down to crunch time.

The start of the 2018 Draft is just over a week away, with the Detroit Tigers on the clock to get things started on Monday, June 4 at 7 p.m. ET. The teams behind Detroit are eagerly waiting to see what the Tigers are going to do as they work to line up their own Draft boards.

:: 2018 Draft coverage ::

As teams worked on their boards, the MLB Pipeline staff worked to expand theirs and those efforts are reflected in the new Draft Top 200 list, an expansion and reshuffling of the Top 100 list released a month ago.

While teams have to use things like signability in determining their lists, MLB Pipeline looks only at talent and upside. The total of 200 would go into the seventh round, should they all be taken in order, deep into the second day of the Draft. Coverage of the entire Draft begins on the 4th on MLB Network and MLB.com and continues on MLB.com on June 5-6.

There are quite a few changes to the list, but not at the very top. Auburn right-hander Casey Mize, the front-runner to go No. 1 overall, remains at the top of the rankings, where he was placed when the first Top 100 came out. There is a change at No. 2, however, with Brady Singer, the Florida ace who was No. 1 on the Top 50 list put out late last fall, moving up from No. 5 to No. 2. Oregon State infielder Nick Madrigal has come back healthy and raking, cementing his spot at No. 3. The college trio is backed up by a pair of high school arms: Arizona area lefty Matthew Liberatore, holding steady at No. 4, and Florida prep right-hander Carter Stewart, who moves down from No. 2 to 5 in this expanded list.

Three of the remaining five in the Top 10 were in the same area a month ago. Georgia Tech catcher Joey Bart, who some see going as high as No. 2, and perhaps in the conversation for the top spot, moves up from ninth to sixth. Florida infielder Jonathan India, who was No. 10 on the Top 100, is now at No. 8, flipping spots with Wisconsin high school outfielder Jarred Kelenic. The final two spots in the top 10 are new names, with Wichita State corner infielder Alec Bohm going from No. 11 to 7, and SoCal prep right-hander Cole Winn shooting from No. 15 up to No. 9 overall.

Opinions on Draft prospects always vary greatly from team to team, not to mention as the Draft season wears on. Performances this spring obviously are weighed when teams line up their boards and they've helped reshape the MLB Pipeline rankings.

Biggest risers

No. 65 -- Braxton Ashcraft, RHP, Robinson HS, Waco, Tex. (+34)
Ashcraft was No. 99 on the Top 100, a high school arm more about projection than current stuff, not to mention a signability issue with his commitment to Baylor, for much of the spring. But his stock took off when his velocity spiked during his playoffs, when he was topping out at 94 mph, with much more in the tank to come.

Video: Mayo on players rising up Draft boards

No. 42 -- Alek Thomas, OF, Mount Carmel HS, Chicago (+25)
He's the son of White Sox strength and conditioning director Allen Thomas and he's super-athletic with a good feel to hit. Think Jacoby Ellsbury with a more advanced understanding of the game. His name has popped up in conversations at the end of the first round.

No. 77 -- Trey Riley, RHP, John A. Logan College, Cartersville, Ill. (+24)
Riley wasn't on the Top 100 a month ago, but has risen quickly thanks to a dominant season in the junior college ranks. Riley transferred from Oklahoma State after his freshman year, has a fastball that touches 97 mph and a plus slider that misses a ton of bats.

No. 40 -- Jake McCarthy, OF, Virginia (+20)
The younger brother of Joe McCarthy, also a Virginia product who was a fifth-round pick of the Rays in 2015, Jake is an athletic center fielder who had a big sophomore year. A broken wrist kept him out of action for much of this season, impacting his stock, but a return late, during which he's shown he's healthy and had all his tools on display, has put an up arrow back next to his name.

No. 58 -- Jeremiah Jackson, SS, St. Luke's Episcopal HS, Waco, Tex. (+20)
Jackson has one of the better offensive profiles of any prep middle infielder in this year's class, with the ability to hit for average and perhaps 15 homers annually. He's solid defensively at short, though some see a move to second base eventually. Either way, his bat should have him come off the board in the top three rounds.

Geographically speaking

Certain states are known as hotbeds for amateur baseball and it shouldn't be a surprise to see which states lead the way in terms of representation on the list.

1. Florida (28)
2. Texas (24)
3. California (21)
4. Georgia (11)

California is still third despite it being what most have called a down year talent-wise in the state. These are the only four states that reached double-digits on the Top 200. Arizona and North Carolina are next, with nine players each on the list. A total of 39 states or provinces (Ontario has two representatives) have players on the list.

Youth movement

Obviously the Draft is all about the future and young talent. But that youth comes across a variety of ages. There will be 11 players on the Top 200 who will still be 17 years old when the Draft begins. Georgia high school catcher Taj Bradley (No. 172) is the youngest on the list. He doesn't turn 18 until next March. On the other end of the spectrum is injured Oregon State right-hander Drew Rasmussen (No. 200). He is the oldest of six 22-year-olds on the list, and will turn 23 in late July.

College students do the rule the day, though by just a narrow margin. There are 105 players from four-year colleges on the Top 200, while high schoolers take up 89 spots. That leaves six on the list from the junior college ranks.

Positional breakdown

Not surprisingly, pitching leads the way (You can never have enough of it, right?). Starting with Mize at the very top, there are 85 right-handers on the list. Add in the 26 lefties and that's 111 pitchers out of the 200. In terms of position players, there are more outfielders (39) than anyone else, followed by 17 shortstops and 12 catchers. There are nine third basemen, seven first basemen and five second basemen to round out the list.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

These are the 10 most exciting players in MLB

MLB.com @RichardJustice

Mike Trout does everything well. He's that rare player who does not need to collect a hit to help his team win. Even better, Trout gets it. He understands that running down a ball in center field or throwing out a runner can impact a game as much as hitting the ball over the fence.

Also important is his attitude. He plays with a joy and energy that is captivating. To watch him play is to be reminded again and again of the greatness of this sport.

Mike Trout does everything well. He's that rare player who does not need to collect a hit to help his team win. Even better, Trout gets it. He understands that running down a ball in center field or throwing out a runner can impact a game as much as hitting the ball over the fence.

Also important is his attitude. He plays with a joy and energy that is captivating. To watch him play is to be reminded again and again of the greatness of this sport.

Get MLB.TV for just $69.99

When I set out to come up with baseball's 10 most exciting players, I used Trout as one of the gold standards. These are the players you subscribe to MLB.TV to watch.

What matters? Power certain does. Speed matters, too. That is, players who do things that bring you out of your seat and make you think, "Did he really just do that?"

Defense and baserunning matter, too.

In the end, something like this comes back to the pure pleasure of watching someone play. For pitchers, that means emotion and stuff and a raging competitive fire.

When the Braves were putting together a game-winning six-run rally in the bottom of the ninth inning Sunday, it was impossible not to look at their dugout and see all those happy players hanging onto the railing and cheering for one another.

Video: Must C Comeback: Braves score 6 in the 9th to win it

If there was a "Most Exciting Moment" for a young season, the Braves' rally would be high on the list.

After the World Series last fall, that's the sort of question I got most about the Astros: "Are they really like that? Are they that happy?"

Yes, they really were that happy. That was true in 2017, and it's also true this year.

So with all those intangibles in mind, here's one man's list of baseball's 10 most exciting players. No team is represented more than once, which took some deserving players out of the running. We'll offer a hat tip to them after the Top 10 list.

Your cards and letters -- via Twitter, e-mail, Facebook, comments below, etc., -- are welcome. Here goes:

Video: LAA@TEX: Trout knocks 441-ft. HR, thrills young fan

1. Mike Trout, Angels, CF
Many of us did not see Ted Williams or Willie Mays play. But we saw Mike Trout, and someday baseball fans who missed out will wonder if he was really that good. Yes, he was.

Video: Must C Classic: Betts slugs 3 homers to lead comeback

2. Mookie Betts, Red Sox, RF
If the season ended today, Trout would not be the American League MVP Award winner. Betts would be honored for a season in which he's putting power, speed and plate discipline on display. Did we mention his Gold Glove Award-worthy defense?

Video: NYM@ATL: Albies homers on Thor's 99.6-mph heater

3. Ozzie Albies, Braves, 2B
Word began getting around four years ago, when Albies hit .364 in Rookie League ball. He was 17 at the time, and Braves officials would say things like, "Wait until you see Albies." He's all that and then some, especially after adding power to a game that had been built primarily around speed. The 21-year-old quickly has become the happy, energetic face of the Atlanta turnaround.

Video: Must C Catch: Herrera leaps to take HR from Freeman

4. Odubel Herrera, Phillies, CF
Now that the Phillies are winning again, it's easier to appreciate all this 26-year-old All-Star brings to the table. His defense remains a work in progress, but his passion, smile and production have become the symbols of the return of competitive baseball in Philadelphia.

Video: NYY@TEX: Judge crushes homer 471 feet vs. the Rangers

5. Aaron Judge, Yankees, RF
How could a larger-than-life figure on a larger-than-life franchise not make a list like this one? Judge's size and power, combined with his humility and demeanor, make him as compelling as any player on the planet.

Video: Scherzer is fastest ever to 100 strikeouts in season

6. Max Scherzer, Nationals, RHP
His every start is an event as he piles up strikeouts, flirts with no-hitters and thoroughly entertains with all those emotions bubbling to the surface. Scherzer has 71 games of at least 10 strikeouts, five of at least 15. In four seasons with the Nationals, he has taken a no-hitter into the sixth inning 11 times (and finished two of them).

Video: Must C Classic: Hader K's 8 in 2 2/3 IP for 4th save

7. Josh Hader, Brewers, RHP
Take a look at this guy. Hader is a slightly built 6-foot-3 with a whip-like delivery and hair streaming from beneath his cap. Hader's game is simple: power. His fastball averages 94 mph, and he's terrific working the corners, then finishing off hitters with sliders. In his first full Major League season, Hader has emerged as one of baseball's most unhittable relievers, having struck out more than half the hitters he has faced.

Video: Must C Combo: Machado hits 2 HRs, flashes leather

8. Manny Machado, Orioles, SS
During Machado's six seasons at third base, Orioles fans found themselves doing something they never thought possible: they dared compare someone to Brooks Robinson. That's how electric Machado was as he almost routinely stabbed balls down the line and threw out runners while he was falling toward foul territory. Machado is back at shortstop -- where he played in the Minors -- and he is having his best offensive season.

Video: Must C Combo: Lindor's 2-HR, 2-double game

9. Francisco Lindor, Indians, SS
He joined the Indians a few days after the Astros summoned Carlos Correa to the Major Leagues, and the two of them probably will be compared to one another forever. Lindor's smile is his trademark -- and it is reflective of his attitude about pretty much everything -- but the rest of his game is pretty good, too.

Video: Must C Classic: Springer's historic six-hit effort

10. George Springer, Astros, CF
He symbolizes everything the Astros have accomplished these past four seasons. Springer does that by playing 100 mph all the time, from defense in the outfield to running the bases to hitting cannonball shots out of the park. Perhaps the greatest tribute to his contribution was Astros manager AJ Hinch asking Springer to stay with the club even when he was on the disabled list. Hinch thought Springer's presence would not be a small thing.

ALSO DESERVING OF MENTION: Tommy Pham, Cardinals, CF; Jorge Alfaro, Phillies, C; Shohei Ohtani, Angels, RHP/DH; Andrelton Simmons, Angels, SS; Justin Verlander, Astros, RHP; Bryce Harper, Nationals, RF; Ronald Acuna, Jr., Braves, LF; Giancarlo Stanton, Yankees, DH.

Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.

Mock Draft: College players in demand

MLB.com @JimCallisMLB

This first-round projection looks an awful lot like my previous one from two weeks ago, with only the fourth and fifth picks flipping among the first nine. And it closely resembles Jonathan Mayo's predictions from last week, with our first seven selections matching.

This first-round projection looks an awful lot like my previous one from two weeks ago, with only the fourth and fifth picks flipping among the first nine. And it closely resembles Jonathan Mayo's predictions from last week, with our first seven selections matching.

:: 2018 Draft coverage ::

That's not to say the top of the Draft is locking into place. While Auburn right-hander Casey Mize remains the front-runner to go No. 1 overall, the Tigers still are considering four alternatives. It continues to look like college players will monopolize the first six picks, and clubs are busy scurrying from conference tournament to conference tournament this week to evaluate them, and others who will fit later in the first round.

Further complicating matters is the high school pitching. It's plentiful, with at least 11 legitimate first-round candidates, but it's also a demographic that scares a lot of clubs because of the risk involved. All 11 won't go in the first round, several will go lower than where their talent alone will dictate and three of them (Mason Denaburg, Ethan Hankins, Mike Vasil) missed time this spring with physical ailments.

Ten days away from the start of the Draft, here's our best guess as to how the first round plays out:

1. Tigers: Casey Mize, RHP, Auburn

Mize's last two regular-season starts were his worst of the year, but his combination of stuff and precision is still unparalleled in this Draft. Georgia Tech catcher Joey Bart appears to be Plan B, and Detroit also is keeping tabs on Wichita State third baseman Alec Bohm, Wisconsin high school outfielder Jarred Kelenic and Florida right-hander Brady Singer.

2. Giants: Joey Bart, C, Georgia Tech

Mize and Bart, easily the best catcher available, likely will go 1-2 or 2-1. If San Francisco decides to take a deep discount to save extra money for later picks, it could cut a deal with California high school right-hander Cole Winn.

Video: Draft Report: Joey Bart, College catcher

3. Phillies: Alec Bohm, 3B, Wichita State

All of the teams in the top four are doing their due diligence on Bohm, the consensus best college position player in terms of hitting for both average and power. Philadelphia almost certainly will take a college performer, with Oregon State second baseman Nick Madrigal and Singer the other leading candidates.

4. White Sox: Brady Singer, RHP, Florida

If the top three picks unfold as expected, Chicago will choose between Kelenic, Madrigal, Singer and South Alabama outfielder Travis Swaggerty. MLB Pipeline's No. 1-rated prospect entering the year, Singer would be the best fit for the White Sox current needs, not that need will drive a choice this high.

5. Reds: Nick Madrigal, 2B, Oregon State

Cincinnati would pounce on Bart or Singer. If that's not an option, the choice will come down to Madigral, Arizona prep left-hander Matthew Liberatore and Jonathan India. Madrigal is the best hitter in the Draft, just like Nick Senzel was when the Reds made him the No. 2 overall pick in 2016.

Video: Draft Report: Nick Madrigal, College 2B/SS

6. Mets: Jonathan India, 3B, Florida

Unless one of the five selections above unexpectedly drops, New York will consider India, Kelenic, Liberatore and Swaggerty. The Mets are leaning college and that probably means India, who had a breakout season as the Southeastern Conference player of the year.

7. Padres: Matthew Liberatore, LHP, Mountain Ridge HS (Glendale, Ariz.)

The run on collegians figures to stop here, though San Diego does like Swaggerty. The Padres are expected to choose from the top tier of high school arms: Liberatore, right-hander Carter Stewart (Florida), left-hander Ryan Weathers (Tennessee) and Winn. Liberatore is the consensus top prep pitching prospect, but all four guys are in play.

8. Braves: Nolan Gorman, 3B, O'Connor HS (Phoenix)

Atlanta is associated with mostly high schoolers. The Braves appear to prefer Gorman -- the best power hitter in the Draft, but also a bit of a polarizing prospect who might slide into the mid-teens if he doesn't go here -- to Kelenic. The prep pitchers also will be in play, starting with Weathers.

Video: Draft Report: Nolan Gorman, High School 3B

9. Athletics: Travis Swaggerty, OF, South Alabama

Oakland looks destined to take a position player, though Liberatore could change that. Swaggerty has some of the best all-around tools in the college ranks and gets the nod over Kelenic and Gorman.

10. Pirates: Grayson Rodriguez, RHP, Central Heights HS (Nacogdoches, Texas)

Rodriguez has more helium than any first-rounder right now, which could vault him all the way into the top 10 to a club focusing on high school arms. Stewart, Weathers and Winn also are in Pittsburgh's mix.

11. Orioles: Cole Winn, RHP, Orange (Calif.) Lutheran HS

Baltimore is targeting the same prep pitchers as Pittsburgh. If the Orioles go for a college arm, this could be the high-water mark for Stetson right-hander Logan Gilbert.

12. Blue Jays: Jarred Kelenic, OF, Waukesha (Wis.) West HS

Every Draft has a guy who seems to be considered by several teams, but doesn't quite make it to their top choice, and this year that may be Kelenic. The best high school hitter available, he may not be able to overcome the preference for collegians at the top or for prep arms right ahead of Toronto. If he's gone, the Blue Jays are on more prep bats such as Gorman, outfielder/wide receiver Jordyn Adams (North Carolina) and others who could drop into the 20s if they don't go 12 or 13: shortstop Xavier Edwards (Florida), third baseman Jordan Groshans (Texas) and catcher Noah Naylor (Canada).

Video: Draft Report: Jarred Kelenic, High School outfielder

13. Marlins: Triston Casas, 1B, American Heritage School (Plantation, Fla.)

Miami is pursuing a lot of the same high school bats as Toronto, as well as two more in Casas, who has power to rival Gorman's, and outfielder Connor Scott (Florida).

14. Mariners: Ryan Rolison, LHP, Mississippi

After sliding out of the top 10 and possibly into the 20s, Rolison reversed course with a strong outing Wednesday at the SEC tournament. The best bet is that Seattle takes him or one of the other college arms on the second tier behind Mize and Singer: Gilbert, Florida right-hander Jackson Kowar and South Florida left-hander Shane McClanahan. The Mariners likely would take one of the college hitters projected above here and possibly Oregon State outfielder Trevor Larnach.

15. Rangers: Carter Stewart, RHP, Eau Gallie HS (Melbourne, Fla.)

With a fastball that reaches 98 mph and a super-spin curveball, Stewart shouldn't last 15 picks, but high school right-handers often last longer than they should. If he's gone, Winn or Weathers also would be attractive.

Video: Draft Report: Carter Stewart, High School pitcher

16. Rays: Connor Scott, OF, Plant HS (Tampa)

Tampa Bay is another club in the market for high school bats. The Rays have three first-round choices and the second-largest bonus pool at $12,415,600, so they're in great position to make a run at Adams, who is signed to play football at North Carolina, where his father Deke is a defensive line coach. Or they could take another speedy outfielder in Scott and save their cash for later picks.

17. Angels: Ryan Weathers, LHP, Loretto (Tenn.) HS

College arms such as Gilbert, Kowar and McClanahan would be tempting, but Weathers would be hard to pass up. Los Angeles also has shown interest in Adams and Georgia prep right-hander Ethan Hankins, MLB Pipeline's top-rated high school prospect, until he battled a muscular issue in the area of his pitching shoulder.

18. Royals: Jordyn Adams, OF, Green Hope HS (Cary, N.C.)

Kansas City can match Tampa Bay's three first-rounders and has the largest bonus pool at $12,781,900. If the Royals want Adams, they probably have to take him here to ensure they get him. The same is true of Groshans, whom they have covered heavily. One of the top-tier high school arms would be hard to pass up if they got to 18.

19. Cardinals: Logan Gilbert, RHP, Stetson

Unless some of the first tier of prep pitchers lasts longer than expected, the second tier of college arms should start to come off the board around here. St. Louis gets mentioned mostly with pitchers ...

20. Twins: Jackson Kowar, RHP, Florida

... as does Minnesota, which wouldn't be adverse to a high school arm, but figures to be mostly looking at collegians. The Twins also are monitoring a number of high school shortstops such as Edwards, Jeremiah Jackson (Alabama) and Osiris Johnson (California) -- but apparently not the more expensive Brice Turang (California).

21. Brewers: Shane McClanahan, LHP, South Florida

A lefty who can hit 100 mph and mix in a plus changeup, McClanahan looked to be solidly in the 6-12 range until he started scuffling with his control and command over his last six starts. Falling this far might be a bit extreme. Milwaukee isn't wed to any particular demographic and is one of several landing spots for Larnach in the 20s.

Video: Draft Report: Shane McClanahan, College pitcher

22. Rockies: Cole Wilcox, RHP, Heritage HS (Ringgold, Ga.)

Wilcox has the potential for three plus pitches and isn't far behind the top group of high school pitchers. Colorado also has been tied to another Georgia prepster, switch-hitting and switch-throwing catcher Anthony Seigler.

23. Yankees: Brice Turang, SS, Santiago HS (Corona, Calif.)

Turang was mentioned as a candidate to go No. 1 overall entering last summer, and while he hasn't lived up to those expectations, he's still a talented shortstop in a Draft thin at that position. A variety of high school position players get mentioned with New York, including Adams, Casas, Edwards and outfielder Mike Siani (Pennsylvania).

24. Cubs: Trevor Larnach, OF, Oregon State

Chicago has had a lot of success taking the best college bat available in the first round, which would make Larnach a fit. The Cubs would love for one of the prime college or high school arms to get to No. 24. They're also the peak for players such as Indiana high school outfielder Nick Schnell or Stanford shortstop Nico Hoerner, though this would be a bit high for both.

25. D-backs: Steele Walker, OF, Oklahoma

A year after taking an accomplished college bat in Pavin Smith at No. 7, Arizona could go the same route with Walker. Other college position player options include Clemson first baseman Seth Beer, Duke outfielder Griffin Conine, Missouri State shortstop Jeremy Eierman, Larnach and Virginia outfielder Jake McCarthy. It's no secret that the D-backs love prep shortstop Matt McLain, but No. 25 is rich for him.

Video: Draft Report: Steele Walker, College outfielder

26. Red Sox: Jordan Groshans, 3B, Magnolia (Texas) HS

Unless someone with a higher ceiling slides, Boston could grab one of the better all-around high school bats in Groshans. The Red Sox probably would consider several of the college position players mentioned with the D-backs above.

27. Nationals: Mason Denaburg, RHP, Merritt Island (Fla.) HS

Washington has had a lot of success buying low on pitchers with physical questions such as Lucas Giolito (first round, 2012), Erick Fedde (first round, 2014) and Jesus Luzardo (third round, 2016). That makes it an obvious target for Denaburg (biceps tendintis), Hankins and Massachusetts high school right-hander Mike Vasil (elbow soreness). Back on the mound Tuesday, Denaburg struck out Casas twice and showed the same upper-first-round form he displayed before getting sidelined.

28. Astros: Alek Thomas, OF, Mount Carmel HS (Chicago)

A run of high school outfielders should start around here. Adams and Scott won't last much longer if they haven't been taken, while Parker Meadows (Georgia), Schnell, Siani and Thomas may not get to pick No. 40. Naylor and Seigler are two non-outfield possibilities.

Video: Draft Report: Alek Thomas, HS outfielder

29. Indians: Noah Naylor, C, St. Joan of Arc Catholic SS (Mississauga, Ont.)

Cleveland has two selections toward the end of the first round and could double up on prep bats unless one of the premium high school arms makes his way to No. 29. Besides Naylor, the Indians also are watching the outfield group mentioned with the Astros, plus Edwards and Georgia high school catchers Will Banfield and Seigler.

30. Dodgers: Jameson Hannah, OF, Dallas Baptist

An outfielder is a good guess for Los Angeles, whether it be sweet-swinging collegians Hannah or Walker or one of the high schoolers.

31. Rays: Ethan Hankins, RHP, Forsyth Central HS (Cumming, Ga.)

Hankins does have a clean MRI and could go much higher than this, though only Kansas City can match Tampa Bay's ability to pay him. If the Rays take a pitcher at 18 and Adams is still on the board, he'd be an obvious choice.

Video: Draft Report: Ethan Hankins, High School pitcher

32. Rays: Seth Beer, 1B, Clemson

Scouts either love Beer's track record of production or hate his all-bat profile and lack of success with wood bats. He'll go in the first round somewhere and there's buzz that he could land in the top 20, but he's a total wild card.

33. Royals: Anthony Seigler, C, Cartersville (Ga.) HS

Groshans would be the guy if he gets this far, which probably won't happen. Seigler has the up-the-middle athleticism Kansas City covets. The Royals also could take a shortstop such as Oregon State's Cadyn Grenier or Jackson.

34. Royals: Mike Vasil, RHP, Boston College HS (Boston)

Kansas City figures to take at least one pitcher with its three first-rounders. Vasil looked healthy while touching 95 mph on Tuesday. The Royals also could grab high school right-handers J.T. Ginn (Mississippi) or Kumar Rocker (Georgia), who have first-round arms and will command those type of bonuses even if they slide into the second round.

35. Indians: Xavier Edwards, SS, North Broward Prep (Coconut Creek, Fla.)

The high demand for shortstops and the relatively short supply makes it increasingly unlikely that Edwards and his all-around skills make it out of the first round.

Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

MLB reveals plans for Memorial Day donations

Royalties from apparel to provide support for those who've lost military loved ones
MLB.com @DKramer_

Major League Baseball is adjusting the way it recognizes Memorial Day this season -- specifically in how it distributes charitable contributions -- in an effort to lend its financial support to those who have been directly affected by the loss of a military loved one.

MLB announced on Friday that 100 percent of all royalties earned through the sales of on-field apparel on Memorial Day will be given to the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors and the Folds of Honor Foundation, for a minimum $500,000 collective donation.

Major League Baseball is adjusting the way it recognizes Memorial Day this season -- specifically in how it distributes charitable contributions -- in an effort to lend its financial support to those who have been directly affected by the loss of a military loved one.

MLB announced on Friday that 100 percent of all royalties earned through the sales of on-field apparel on Memorial Day will be given to the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors and the Folds of Honor Foundation, for a minimum $500,000 collective donation.

"For the first time in 2018, we are donating our royalties to two specific charities that really follow the true meaning of Memorial Day," said Melanie LeGrande, MLB's vice president of social responsibility. "They are working with families that are grieving the loss of a military loved one. So it's appropriate and we're proud to support their efforts."

Previously, MLB's Memorial Day royalties funded the Welcome Back Veterans program, which provides services to assist the mental health needs of veterans and their families. Roughly $30 million in grants have been made through WBV since it was founded in 2008, largely supporting Centers of Excellence -- treatment venues that are internationally recognized for aiding veterans and providing research for post-traumatic stress disorder.

The essence in this year's shift is largely rooted in MLB relaying the meaning of the holiday: remembering those who died in active military service.

TAPS, which has assisted more than 75,000 families since 1994, operates as a peer-based initiative that provides emotional support to those affected by losing a loved one while serving, and Folds of Honor, founded in 2007, lends its hand by providing educational scholarships.

"In the past, we supported our Welcome Back Veterans initiative, and that really was focused on mental health and resilience for military families," LeGrande said. "We've decided to move forward in a different direction. It doesn't mean that we won't be supporting grants that are in that focused area, but for this particular holiday, we plan to make some positive changes to align them with the spirit of Memorial Day."

All teams on Monday will wear commemorative apparel that include caps, uniforms and socks with camouflage designs. For all U.S.-based teams, New Era's specially designed cap will feature a side patch that includes five stars to showcase the five branches of the U.S. Armed Forces. The Blue Jays' caps will include four maple leafs to commemorate the Canadian armed forces. All Majestic jerseys will have matching sleeve patches and green twill that would otherwise fill as the club's normal color, as will the socks.

Additionally, on Monday -- as has been the case since 1997 -- the National Moment of Remembrance will be recognized at 3 p.m. local time at all ballparks, with in-game action and pregame ceremonies being paused to observe an extended moment of silence in honor of those who have given their lives in service to the country.

Daniel Kramer is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. Follow him on Twitter at @DKramer_.

Usher a real buzzkill for tie-dyed Jaso

With his long dreads, philosophical outlook on losing streaks and plans to spend his post-playing days sailing the world on his boat, it's safe to say there aren't many -- if any -- ballplayers like John Jaso. He made that more than obvious during the Rays' 6-3 victory over the Red Sox on Thursday night. 

Looking every bit like a retired, Jimmy Buffett- and Phish-listening dude in a tie-dyed tank top and (we assume) flip-flops, Jaso tried to head toward the field to speak to his former teammates and coaches. Only problem: An usher stopped him because ballplayers tend not to look so ... relaxed. 

Let's get weird: These bizarre records could fall

Welcome to In Short Order, a weekly look at all the baseball that I like and can't stop obsessing over. We'll mostly live at the edges of the game; at the intersection of the weird, the fun and the esoteric. Oh yeah, and hair.

What is the best part of the regular season (other than games almost every minute of every day)? Stats, baby. They are what help us make sense of the 162-game season. 

On May 25, 1951, a 20-year-old named Willie Mays made his debut with the New York Giants

On Friday, May 25, 1951, the New York Giants beat the Philadelphia Phillies, 8-5, at Shibe Park. It was a solid win for the Giants, but it was also so much more than that.

The little guys are taking over baseball

Revolution started with Pedroia, continues with Altuve, others
MLB.com @JPosnanski

Not so long ago, I would know the names and up-to-the-minute stats of every little guy in baseball.

Well, check that. It was a long time ago, when I was the shortest kid in class, when the other kids were constantly coming up with new short jokes to try out on me, when they would start singing Randy Newman's lyric "Short people got no reason to live."

Not so long ago, I would know the names and up-to-the-minute stats of every little guy in baseball.

Well, check that. It was a long time ago, when I was the shortest kid in class, when the other kids were constantly coming up with new short jokes to try out on me, when they would start singing Randy Newman's lyric "Short people got no reason to live."

In those days, the main little guys in baseball were Cincinnati's Joe Morgan and Kansas City's Freddie Patek. Morgan was a 5-foot-7 whirlwind. There wasn't anybody in baseball like him. There had really never been anyone quite like him. No little guy had ever blended such power with speed, defensive excellence and extraordinary plate discipline -- you could argue that his 1975 season was the best for any non-Barry Bonds season in the expansion era.

But Patek was even more my guy, in part because he was even smaller -- Patek was listed at 5-foot-5, 148 pounds -- but even more because he was what I imagined a little guy in baseball to be. Morgan was a freak, a once-in-a-100-years kind of player. But Patek did what little guys could do. He played fantastic defense. He stole bases. He didn't hit home runs -- though, bizarrely, he once had a three-homer game at Fenway Park -- but he played his heart out. Patek was all heart.

Video: Joe Morgan's 8 Great Moments - No. 1

Patek and Morgan -- along with other good players like Al Bumbry, Davey Lopes and, a little later, Hall of Famers Tim Raines and Kirby Puckett -- provided that wonderful reminder that you don't have to be big to be a successful baseball player. Baseball is not like football or basketball. You could find a way to play, even to excel, no matter your size. That was such an inspirational thought for all the shortest kids in class everywhere.

And then, this happened: Some of those inspired kids grew up.

And now, baseball belongs to the little guys.

Sure, there are the giants like Aaron Judge and the Greek Gods like Giancarlo Stanton and perfect baseball players like Mike Trout, but look around. In a time when everyone across the sports landscape is getting bigger, when baseball itself has become about blazing fastballs and long home runs, some of the most dynamic and thrilling players in the game are 5-foot-9 or less.

Let me make the case that this current little-guy revolution began with Dustin Pedroia. He's listed at 5-foot-9, though that seems more like an inside joke than anything else. A few years ago, a baseball insider insisted that Pedroia is actually the shortest baseball player of the expansion era.

Video: BOS@BAL: Pedroia hits a two-run double the other way

Pedroia's size scared scouts. He was a huge star in college at Arizona State -- so good that Ian Kinsler had to transfer out -- but he was not taken until the second round of the 2004 Draft. One scout said that he begged his team to take Pedroia in the first round, but simply couldn't get them to see beyond his height.

That's how it used to go with scouting. Little guys were viewed as limited. But we know what happened with Pedroia: He was unlimited. He went to the Red Sox, won the American League Rookie of the Year Award, then followed that up by winning the AL Most Valuable Player Award. He is a .300 hitter, he has led the league in doubles, he's been a good baserunner and a Gold Glove fielder. If he can have a few more healthy seasons -- he's 33 and just now coming off the disabled list -- he will have a viable Hall of Fame case.

Then came Jose Altuve. He is listed at 5-foot-6, though that too is probably exaggerated. Few believed in him when he was in the Minors, even after he started crushing the ball. Scouts were worried about that size. Altuve says that one of the turning points for him happened when he heard about the all-around brilliance of Morgan.

Video: Must C Clutch: Altuve leads Astros rally in the 8th

"It gave me hope," Altuve said. "I thought, 'If I can get a chance, I can show them that I can play.'"

Everything comes around.

When Altuve got the chance, he did a pretty good impression of Morgan. Well, he does it differently from Morgan, but the overall effect is the same. Altuve has led the AL in hits each of the last four seasons (and he is again this year). He has added power to his game -- 24 homers each of the last two years -- and when combined with his speed and defense and everything else, well, it led to him winning the AL MVP last year.

Video: BOS@TB: Betts launches his league-leading 16th HR

This year's AL MVP could very well be Boston's 5-foot-9 outfielder, Mookie Betts, who at the moment leads the Majors in runs, hits, doubles, homers, batting average and slugging percentage. Betts might be the guy to finally challenge Trout's supremacy. He was somewhat overlooked when the Red Sox took him in the fifth round of the 2011 Draft.

It's actually a bit baffling how these little guys are becoming such forces around MLB. As a 20-year-old in Double-A, Cleveland's Jose Ramirez slugged .349 in 2013. He was getting the bat knocked out of his hands. That, combined with his slight 5-foot-9 frame, scared off everybody. Just three years later, as a 23-year-old in Cleveland, he was an MVP candidate. Last year, he led the Majors with 56 doubles, and he added 29 homers. This year, his 14 homers is among the leaders.

Video: CLE@CHC: Ramirez belts 3-run jack to the open scoring

Atlanta's Ozzie Albies is 5-foot-8 and also has 14 homers. At 21, he is the youngest of the group and, unlike the rest, he was a huge prospect, which might show that scouts are not seeing player height as a liability the way they might have before. Still, few saw this kind of stunning power coming this fast, and that, along with Albies' speed and energy, has Braves fans dreaming big.

The thing that strikes you about Betts, Ramirez, Altuve and Albies is how many things they do well. They are more Joe Morgan than Freddie Patek.

Video: ATL@PHI: Albies belts a solo homer to right in 3rd

And now, the little-guy revolution even moves to the upcoming Draft, where Oregon State's 5-foot-7 second baseman Nick Madrigal might be a top-5 pick. As MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince wrote, no player 5-foot-8 or shorter has been taken in the top 20 in the Draft. We might be getting to the point where scouts will start preferring the little guys.

Baseball is becoming what I always dreamed it would be.

Joe Posnanski is a national columnist for MLB.com.

Ozzie Albies, Jose Altuve, Mookie Betts, Jose Ramirez

Bregman, Marisnick power Astros' win with HRs

Third baseman, center fielder hit 3-run shots; Morton moves to 7-0
Special to MLB.com

CLEVELAND -- After falling into an early hole, the Astros were able to power their way back against the Indians on Thursday at Progressive Field.

Perhaps the team's hottest hitter -- Alex Bregman -- and the newest player to the active roster -- Jake Marisnick -- clubbed three-run homers in back-to-back innings to help Houston pull away en route to an 8-2 win in the series opener. That provided more than enough offense to help starter Charlie Morton move to 7-0, with the seven wins tied for the Major League lead.

View Full Game Coverage

CLEVELAND -- After falling into an early hole, the Astros were able to power their way back against the Indians on Thursday at Progressive Field.

Perhaps the team's hottest hitter -- Alex Bregman -- and the newest player to the active roster -- Jake Marisnick -- clubbed three-run homers in back-to-back innings to help Houston pull away en route to an 8-2 win in the series opener. That provided more than enough offense to help starter Charlie Morton move to 7-0, with the seven wins tied for the Major League lead.

View Full Game Coverage

"It never feels easy, especially against a good team," Astros manager AJ Hinch said. "For us to put up back-to-back big innings is tough for them to come back. It's a nice way to start a long series, and we've got a long battle ahead with some of their strong pitching we're about to face."

Video: HOU@CLE: Correa, Bregman, Marisnick lift Astros

The Indians took an early 2-0 lead on Michael Brantley's third-inning two-run single, but the Astros started their first rally with two outs in the fifth. Tony Kemp reached after being hit in the right elbow, and George Springer walked.

Bregman worked a 2-2 count, and after seeing three straight fastballs from Indians starter Mike Clevinger, he clubbed a hanging slider a projected 385 feet, according to Statcast™, over the left-field fence. The ball came off his bat at 98.8 mph and registered as the game's first barrel.

Thursday was Bregman's first four-RBI game of the season and his first overall since May 14, 2017, when he hit a grand slam at Yankee Stadium. It also extending his hitting streak to eight, tying his season best, during which he has slashed .379/.471/.724.

Video: HOU@CLE: Bregman drives in Springer with a double

"That's one of the things that this offense does a very good job of -- swinging at good pitches to hit," Bregman said. "When we did tonight, we drove in runs, and it was special to see."

The Astros continued their hot hitting in the sixth, with Carlos Correa singling to right field and Yuli Gurriel singling to left with one out to end Clevinger's night. Pinch-hitter Max Stassi then singled home Correa, which brought up Marisnick, who had just been recalled from Triple-A Fresno on Wednesday.

Facing Neil Ramirez, Marisnick also worked a 2-2 count and barreled a fastball over the plate a projected 421 feet to center field. The ball left Marisnick's bat at 108 mph -- good for a 99 percent hit probability -- and gave the Astros a 7-2 lead.

Video: HOU@CLE: Marisnick crushes a 3-run home run to center

"That's the special thing about this offense, they can kill you one through nine," Bregman said. "The guys come in off the bench, Stassi came in with a really special at-bat."

Video: HOU@CLE: Stassi knocks an RBI single to left field

Bregman came through once again later in the sixth with an RBI double to extend the lead to six.

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
After Brantley's two-run single, Morton calmed down in a hurry -- he only faced 10 batters over his final three scoreless frames. He nearly ran into trouble in the fourth when he gave up a leadoff hit to Melky Cabrera, but Cabrera was tagged out at second trying to extend the single into a double. Morton walked the following batter but coaxed a double-play ball out of Roberto Perez to end the frame. He finished with five strikeouts in six innings.

Video: HOU@CLE: Springer cuts down Melky at second in 4th

"Having my breaking ball and throwing my breaking ball for strikes [was key]," Morton said. "That allows me to get back in counts. Even in the sixth inning there, I couldn't throw my fastball for a strike. I didn't know where the ball was going, and that's been a theme for me this year. I'm really not throwing the ball where I want to, but my secondary stuff has been good."

Video: HOU@CLE: Altuve tags runner, throws to first for DP

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Kemp has hit a cool .389 since being recalled but showed just how valuable he can be in the field in the seventh inning. The left fielder was shaded well toward center with left-hander Jason Kipnis at the plate, but Kipnis sent a fly ball to the left-field corner. Still, Kemp was able to cover 103 feet in 5.6 seconds and made a spectacular leaping grab for the first out of the inning. The ball had a 31 percent catch probability, and it was his first four-star catch of the season.

"If it lands on the grass or it lands on the track, we've got a chance to catch it," Hinch said. "We have great range out there, especially this configuration of the outfield. It's one of the things we're comfortable with. As he was tracking it, I felt like if it was going to not get off the wall, he was going to catch it." More >

Video: HOU@CLE: Kemp crashes into wall as he makes the grab

HE SAID IT
"George called it before the at-bat, which I give him credit. Now he calls a lot that may not work out that way, but we have to give props to Springer and obviously to Jake for just a good night." -- Hinch, on Marisnick's home run

UP NEXT
In a battle of American League Cy Young Award winners, Astros lefty Dallas Keuchel will take on Indians ace Corey Kluber on Friday at 6:10 p.m. CT at Progressive Field. Keuchel gave up four runs on six hits over five innings against the Indians in his last start Saturday, losing to Kluber in Houston. He gave up one homer, walked two and struck out three.

Ben Weinrib is a contributor to MLB.com.

Houston Astros, Alex Bregman, Jake Marisnick, Charlie Morton

Rays to start 3 relievers in series vs. Orioles

Romo, Stanek, then Romo again to open this weekend's games
MLB.com @wwchastain

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays will be making an early call to the bullpen for this weekend's games against the Orioles at Tropicana Field.

Veteran reliever Sergio Romo is slated to start Friday and Sunday, while Ryne Stanek, a reliever with less wear on the tires, will start Saturday's game.

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays will be making an early call to the bullpen for this weekend's games against the Orioles at Tropicana Field.

Veteran reliever Sergio Romo is slated to start Friday and Sunday, while Ryne Stanek, a reliever with less wear on the tires, will start Saturday's game.

This won't be the first time the Rays have used their unconventional and wildly intriguing "opener" strategy -- Romo started back-to-back games against the Angels last weekend, yet they're taking it to a more accelerated level.

Reaction to Rays' strategy: 'Complicated,' 'weird'

"Look, it worked," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "Not commiting that it's going to work. ... Going through [the Orioles'] lineup is somewhat similar to the Angels in that they're very heavy righty. They have Chris Davis hitting fourth or fifth in there, that's the lone lefty that hits up at the top most of the time. It should stack up similarly to what we did in Anaheim. And hopefully we have some similar success."

Baltimore boasts a right-handed heavy lineup at the top, which makes such matchups favorable and conducive for the unorthhodox strategy. Trey Mancini, Adam Jones, Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop were the Orioles' one through four hitters on Thursday against the White Sox.

The opener strategy drew significant attention across MLB, with many opposing players, managers, scouts and front-office personnel chiming in on its unique approach -- and, perhaps notably, because it proved effective.

Romo, an 11-year veteran, has bought into the opener concept -- one that has been explored in many analytical circles in recent years but never employed purposefully in a Major League game until last weekend. When Romo started on consecutive days, he became the first pitcher to do so since Zack Greinke in 2012, who made those starts largely due to an ejection quirk.

Romo threw 2 1/3 innings in his two starts, with six strikeouts, two walks and zero hits among the nine batters he faced. He began the first outing by striking out Zack Cozart, Mike Trout and Justin Upton - all right-handed hitters -- in order. Cozart said that he disapporved of the strategy because it thwarted his pre-at-bat approach.

"Look we're not trying to do anything that's cute, we're trying to do something that will work and be right for us to win games," Cash said. "Saying that, I know Sergio has done it twice now, and looks like he's probably on scheduled to do it two more times. Stanek is going to get an opportunity to do it."

Video: ATL@TB: Stanek K's Bautista to strand two runners

Stanek averages 97.9 mph on his four-seam fastball, among the highest in the Majors, though the right-hander has surrendered six homers in 21 outings, which has contributted to a 5.85 ERA.

"He's started before," Cash said. "Look, we think he's a talented pitcher. And it hasn't gone that easy for him up at the Major League level. Maybe a different look can help him. And we see a lot of guys change their lineup around, and stick a struggling guy up and hitting leadoff.

"There are some similarities, some thought to that. But every decision we make is to do our best to win that game that night. And we think this is going to help us."

Cash allowed that a similar scenario might play out if they played a predominantly left-handed team.

"In theory we have Yarbs [Ryan Yarbrough] and [Anthony] Banda, who are in the rotation, they could start," Cash said. "Or you could see a guy like Johnny Venters come in there and start and hopefully get three to six outs."

As for dealing with the pushback from the baseball world about what they are doing ...

"I'm sensitive to it, because I care, but we have to do what we think is right," Cash said. "As long as our players are understanding and we're doing a good job communicating with them, that's really all we can ask for."

The club entered the season with limited rotational depth with just four starters, and announced early in Spring Training that they planned to relegate the fifth day for the bullpen when the schedule dictated. Their rotation became even further depleted on Wednesday when right-hander Jake Faria was placed on the 10-day disabled list with a left oblique strain.

Medical matters:
Nathan Eovaldi (loose bodies in right elbow) made a rehab start for Triple-A Durham on Wednesday night against Gwinnett. The right-hander allowed eight earned runs in four innings. The rehab start was his fourth, and should put him in line for a start with the Rays next week in Oakland.

Eovaldi is "good," Cash said. "I know he got hit a little bit, but health-wise, he was 100 percent, which is always good to hear. Velo was up. Just one of those nights. I think he had some strikeouts, but he also gave up a bunch of hits. We'll get through tonight's game and probably insert him [into the rotation] on Monday or Tuesday once we get on the road."

Carlos Gomez (right groin strain) ran on Thursday and Cash said the veteran outfielder looked fine.

"Took some outfield work, looked fine," Cash said. "He's going to go to play extended [spring training], play right field, five, six innings. And also get six or seven at-bats, then see how he comes in Saturday. Most likely we're looking at closer to Sunday [to activate him]. Just see how he responds."

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005.

Tampa Bay Rays, Sergio Romo, Ryne Stanek