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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 clubs -- 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.

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

Yanks' spring opener to feature Stanton's debut

Slugger will be in lineup when Bombers host Tigers on MLB.TV
MLB.com @BryanHoch

TAMPA, Fla. -- Giancarlo Stanton is scheduled to wear the pinstripes for the first time in a game situation on Friday, stepping up to the plate when the Yankees open their Grapefruit League slate with a 1:05 p.m. ET contest against the Tigers at George M. Steinbrenner Field, live on MLB.TV.

Stanton has said that he expected to be somewhat out of his comfort zone early in camp, but the National League MVP Award winner seems to have hit the ground running in early drills, fitting in seamlessly while drawing crowds in a batting practice group that has included Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and Jacoby Ellsbury.

TAMPA, Fla. -- Giancarlo Stanton is scheduled to wear the pinstripes for the first time in a game situation on Friday, stepping up to the plate when the Yankees open their Grapefruit League slate with a 1:05 p.m. ET contest against the Tigers at George M. Steinbrenner Field, live on MLB.TV.

Stanton has said that he expected to be somewhat out of his comfort zone early in camp, but the National League MVP Award winner seems to have hit the ground running in early drills, fitting in seamlessly while drawing crowds in a batting practice group that has included Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and Jacoby Ellsbury.

Spring info | Tickets | Schedule

"It's more just getting used to a new place," Stanton said. "Big expectations, a bigger market. I've done the same thing for 10 years straight, same Spring Training, same organization. This is all new to me, and it's going to be a fun new ride."

Video: Marakovits on seeing Judge, Stanton in spring camp

Luis Cessa is scheduled to start the Grapefruit League opener, with Brett Gardner, Judge and Sanchez expected to sit out. Judge was given a half-day on Thursday as the Yanks ease him back from surgery on his left shoulder.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

"He's been ramped up pretty good," manager Aaron Boone said of Judge. "He's doing well. Right on schedule to be ready to go in a game next week."

Boone added that Sanchez's absence was not related to the benches-clearing incident with the Tigers last August. As for Stanton's debut, Boone said that it is "absolutely" an event that the Yankees are looking forward to.

"There will be a little excitement with the crowd and the pinstripes and actually playing a game, and playing another team," Boone said. "I think you get some juices flowing for that."

Happy camper

Brandon Drury tried to block out the trade rumors as best he could over the winter, and again this spring, but when D-backs general manager Mike Hazen reported this week that a deal had been reached with the Yankees, the 25-year-old infielder was thrilled.

Tweet from @Yankees: Judge: ���You know what they���re calling us, right...?���Drury: ���Wha- OHHHHH.��� ��\_(���)_/�� #JudgeandDrury pic.twitter.com/6LoKIQcPV5

"I'm pumped," Drury said. "This is an unbelievable opportunity here, to come play for the New York Yankees. It's a dream come true, ever since I was a little kid. It's the team I watched growing up."

Cheering from afar in Grants Pass, Ore., Drury counted Derek Jeter as his favorite player, though he figures to be tackling third base -- a position once handled in The Bronx by fellow Beaver State product Scott Brosius.

"I'm much more happy to be at third," Drury said. "It's natural for me. Second base was tough to pick up. It was all right, but I'm really excited about third. ... I'm excited. I want to win a World Series. That's the goal here. We've got the guys to do it."

Drury said that he made offseason adjustments with his swing and training, hoping to convert some of his 68 doubles over the last two seasons into homers. Drury hit .267/.317/.447 with 13 homers and 63 RBIs in 135 games for Arizona in 2017.

"I don't feel like I've done anything like what I'm capable of the last couple of years," Drury said. "They've both been a grind. The numbers are OK, but I don't think the last two seasons is half of the player I am. I truly don't believe that. Now I've got to go out and prove it."

Ready to go

Spring Training game action has arrived earlier than usual, and CC Sabathia is not complaining.

"This is weird that it's starting [Friday]," Sabathia said. "But it gives us more off-days in the season, so whatever works."

Sabathia faced hitters for the first time in 2018 on Thursday, pitching in simulated action to a group that included Drury, Didi Gregorius, Billy McKinney and Ronald Torreyes. Sabathia was encouraged by how his changeup behaved, though he was less pleased with a few of his sliders, barking audibly on a back field.

Video: Outlook: CC could deliver solid year in rotation

"For me, it's just staying healthy, being out there," Sabathia said. "I think the more reps I get, everything is starting to come back. It's just being out on the mound, getting that feeling of how the ball goes into the glove, getting signs from the catcher, just different things that you need to get used to. Get my routine down. Things like that."

He said it: "When you're playing defense, that ball comes at you quick. It's not fun playing defense [against] Stanton, and I know Judge is the same way. Those two guys going back-to-back in the order, that's a joke." -- Drury

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.

New York Yankees, Giancarlo Stanton

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

Troy Tulowitzki worked on his pitching mechanics during Blue Jays photo day

Getting your picture taken is often a stressful experience. You have to balance smiling too much versus not smiling enough. Maybe you're having a bad hair day or maybe the Florida humidity has taken its toll. And, what on earth are you supposed to do with your arms?

If you think that's an awkward experience, don't tell that to Troy Tulowitzki. During the Blue Jays' photo day on Thursday, he was apparently mistaken for a pitcher and asked to pose as if he were on a mound. Tulo, who has never pitched in a Major League baseball game, happily obliged:

Female umpire works plate during Tigers win

Jen Pawol is one of two women umpiring in pro ball
MLB.com @MannyOnMLB

One of two women umpiring in professional baseball was behind home plate for the Tigers' 6-1 exhibition victory over Florida Southern University in Lakeland, Fla., on Thursday.

Jen Pawol worked a game involving a Major League team for the first time in her career, which has spanned 11 years, most recently in the Short Season Class A New York-Penn League last year.

One of two women umpiring in professional baseball was behind home plate for the Tigers' 6-1 exhibition victory over Florida Southern University in Lakeland, Fla., on Thursday.

Jen Pawol worked a game involving a Major League team for the first time in her career, which has spanned 11 years, most recently in the Short Season Class A New York-Penn League last year.

"Unbelievable," the 41-year-old Pawol told the Detroit News. "Just really excited now that I got through it. It took like three-years' worth of professional work to get here. I went out there pretty confident, and I feel pretty good how the day went."

Pawol was discovered at an MLB umpire camp in Cincinnati back in 2015. Prior to that, she had been umpiring Division I college baseball for a decade. In 2016, she debuted in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, becoming the seventh woman to ever umpire in organized baseball, and first since Ria Cortesio in 2007. Emma Charlesworth-Seiler also joined the GCL as an umpire last season.

Last September, Pawol was approached by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum about donating some gear to the Diamond Dreams exhibit, celebrating the history of women in baseball. She donated the only mask she had ever used in her entire career to that point, as well as the cap she wore during her tryout at the MLB Umpire Training School.

"I was very overwhelmed," she said. "I presented the mask. I gave it a kiss before I gave it away. I didn't realize how attached I'd gotten to my gear. I was trying to hold back how I was feeling and look cool. To be accepted into the history of baseball is such an accomplishment, and I'm so thankful for it."

Pawol, a native of Binghamton, N.Y., about an hour and a half drive from Cooperstown, continues to make history each time she takes the field.

"It's interesting to us that Jen is continuing to work her way up," said Erik Strohl, vice president for exhibitions and collections at the Hall of Fame. "We want to keep that exhibit as fresh as possible to remind people that this is an ongoing story. It's about women trying to make gains in the game of baseball. Being a cultural, as well as a sports institution, it's important for us to cover those stories."

Manny Randhawa is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. Follow him on Twitter at @MannyOnMLB.

Russell Wilson challenged Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge before Spring Training

Dressed appropriately as a Yankees fan, Seahawks quarterback filmed a short Twitter video on Thursday to let everyone know two very important things: 

Tebow time: Former QB still has eyes set on MLB

MLB.com @MikeLupica

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- This was not long before Tim Tebow went outside for batting practice and hit a ball to a storage-shed roof, or perhaps Fort Pierce.

For now, Tebow is in a side room off the Mets' clubhouse, a 30-year old Minor Leaguer in big league camp, a guy who once was one of the greatest college football players of all time, a former NFL quarterback and, oh by the way, still one of the most famous athletes on the planet. High profile, even in the low Minors.

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- This was not long before Tim Tebow went outside for batting practice and hit a ball to a storage-shed roof, or perhaps Fort Pierce.

For now, Tebow is in a side room off the Mets' clubhouse, a 30-year old Minor Leaguer in big league camp, a guy who once was one of the greatest college football players of all time, a former NFL quarterback and, oh by the way, still one of the most famous athletes on the planet. High profile, even in the low Minors.

It was supposed to be a big publicity stunt -- the Mets signing Tebow, giving him this chance. But he is still here, grinding away, persistent in the thought that this crazy story ends up with him at Citi Field someday, after a full year of bus rides from one Minor League town to the next.

If this has just been some kind of celebrity hustle on Tebow's part, an effort to keep himself in the spotlight, you have to say he made it pretty hard for the spotlight to follow him around.

Tweet from @AnthonyDiComo: Your daily Tim Tebow update: He just hit the roof of a storage shed beyond the right-center field fence during BP. His power is legitimate. pic.twitter.com/vlmMLWE5D7

I asked him Thursday morning what the longest bus ride was.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

"Columbia, S.C., [where he began his season with the Class A Fireflies] to Lakewood, N.J.," Tebow said. "Thirteen hours. Or maybe it was closer to 15. Two stops."

Tebow grinned.

"Then, there were the nights in places like Lexington [Ky.], when it would be a 3 1/2-hour festival on their version of the jumbotron of the worst interceptions I ever threw," Tebow said. "That was always fun."

Tebow is the most famous Minor League baseball player since Michael Jordan played for the Birmingham Barons 20 years ago. And by the way? Mets general manager Sandy Alderson was running the A's when Jordan was about to go to Birmingham, the Double-A affiliate of the White Sox. Alderson said Thursday that before that happened, he called David Falk, Jordan's agent, and offered Jordan a spot with the A's.

"Obviously, [Tebow] isn't that," Alderson said. "These are different people and different stories. But my thinking at the time on Michael went something like this: 'Why the heck not? What if he could actually do it?'"

Jordan gave up baseball after one season in Birmingham. Tebow, who hit .226 with eight home runs and 52 RBIs for Columbia and Class A Advanced Port St. Lucie, is still here, in big league camp, likely on his way to Double-A Binghamton this season.

I asked Tebow if he ever asked himself what he was doing when he was on the road from South Carolina to New Jersey.

"Oh, sure, those thoughts creep in," Tebow said. "And then, you know, you've got to be mentally tough and spiritually tough. Being physically tough, that's actually the easiest part of it for me. But then I adjust back to the reason I'm on the bus, and the reason I'm doing this. That's because I love it, because I'm passionate about it.

Video: Tim Tebow looks back at the 2017 season

"It's why I pride myself on being one of the first ones here in the morning, and one of the last ones to leave. From the start, I've focused on the process, and not what I want the end result to be, which means playing in the big leagues someday."

Tebow is a big brand. A huge brand. He runs a foundation that does good, important and kind work all around the world. He has written one bestselling book and is working on another. He has 4.75 million Twitter followers. He really is the most famous .226 hitter on the planet.

But Tebow does not quit. He still thinks he can outwork everybody. Of course, this is still a crazy longshot for him. But why would anybody not root for it to somehow pay off? Why would anybody think him taking this shot, still dreaming his dreams, but willing to fail, isn't cool?

"I know people want to put a timetable on this," Tebow said, his Spring Training day about to begin, a baseball about to be hit out of sight. "But I don't. I honestly feel as if I'm getting better. I still love the process."

Video: Tebow hits walk-off homer for St. Lucie Mets

I asked Tebow if he looks back now and wishes he had focused on baseball as a kid instead of football.

"I could never say that," Tebow said. "Even though [former Florida football coach] Urban [Meyer] did have more than a few conversations about me playing baseball. But the football experience for me was such a blessing. It gave me such an incredible platform to do the things I've been able to do off the field."

"Look," Alderson said, "this is a guy who's hosted more than 200 proms around the world for kids with special needs. So obviously, we've realized from the start that this wasn't just another Minor League ballplayer. But what I have seen from him as a ballplayer is a quality individual, once great at another sport, who's now great at the commitment to trying to succeed in this sport."

The Mets' GM paused, then said, "This whole thing is genuine with Tim Tebow. Maybe people have a difficult time processing that because they've become too conditioned to people in this world not being genuine."

Alderson said that Tebow isn't taking someone else's spot in big league camp. He says that obviously the track for Tebow, fast or otherwise, is going to be different because he is now 30 years old, and will turn 31 in August.

When I asked Tebow how he sees himself as a better hitter than he was a year ago, he said, "I feel as if I have a freer and more athletic swing than I did. I have a better understanding of technique, even though I understand that the variables will change as the pressure and level of competition rise. The main goal for me is that when I do make an effective change in my swing, I lock it in and am able to take it into games with me."

The Mets' Grapefruit League season starts on Friday, when they host the Braves at 1:10 p.m. ET. Tebow, a former big football star, will get the chance to show he belongs. And then, he will likely be on his way to Double-A.

"I can handle the buses," Tebow said.

Mike Lupica is a columnist for MLB.com. He also writes for the New York Daily News.

New York Mets, Tim Tebow

Hosmer, Trout and defensive-metric dilemmas

Eye test usually aligns with defensive stats … but not always
MLB.com @JPosnanski

Let's talk for a minute about defensive statistics. These tend to be pretty controversial among traditional baseball fans; people get ticked off when the numbers tell them something that conflicts with what their eyes tell them. The most famous example of this was Derek Jeter. Most people saw him as a good, possibly great, defensive shortstop, especially when he was young. The eyes saw all those awesome jump throws, the famous dive into the crowd, the famous flip play against Oakland and so on. Jeter won five Gold Gloves Awards.

Defensive numbers, though -- all of them -- suggested Jeter was a real liability at shortstop, a defensive couch potato who lacked range and cost his team a bunch of runs every year.

Let's talk for a minute about defensive statistics. These tend to be pretty controversial among traditional baseball fans; people get ticked off when the numbers tell them something that conflicts with what their eyes tell them. The most famous example of this was Derek Jeter. Most people saw him as a good, possibly great, defensive shortstop, especially when he was young. The eyes saw all those awesome jump throws, the famous dive into the crowd, the famous flip play against Oakland and so on. Jeter won five Gold Gloves Awards.

Defensive numbers, though -- all of them -- suggested Jeter was a real liability at shortstop, a defensive couch potato who lacked range and cost his team a bunch of runs every year.

Those defensive numbers made a lot of people mad. I wouldn't say it sparked an interesting argument, though, because most people who saw Jeter as a good, possibly great, defensive shortstop simply wrote off the numbers. The numbers were stupid. The numbers were ridiculous. The numbers were hurting the game. And so on.

Video: 1996 ALCS Gm4: Jeter's diving stop robs Ripken of hit

But here's the thing: With a few rare exceptions, advanced defensive numbers such as Fangraphs' defensive runs saved (DRS) or the now ubiquitous ultimate zone rating (UZR) actually match up very well to the eye test. We'll get to the exceptions in a minute. There is one huge exception -- I'll bet you can figure out who he is.

Here's what we did: Our own Tom Tango produces what he calls "The fans scouting report" every year, and you can find the leaderboard here. In it, he asks fans to rank players on seven fielding categories -- reaction, acceleration, sprint speed, hands, footwork, throwing strength and throwing accuracy. Then, based on the results, Tango creates a fans scouting report which he then puts on the same run scale as the above DRS and UZR.

So we compared them player for player from 2011-17. And in roughly 95 percent of the cases, the fans scouting report matches up stunningly well with DRS, UZR or both.

Let's repeat that: The eye test and the defensive numbers almost always are very close. Tango and I looked at the years 2011-17 to get a larger sample size, and the agreement between eyes and digits was pretty staggering. We've been led to believe because of a few examples that the numbers and the eyes see defense in entirely different ways, and it just isn't true.

Between 2011-17, Andrelton Simmons saved 96 runs according to you, the fans. UZR has him saving 99 runs.

Video: LAA@SEA: Simmons lays out to make spectacular catch

The fans have the excellent third baseman and now shortstop Manny Machado saving 80 runs defensively over that time. DRS has it at 81.

This happened over and over. The fans and the numbers match on Yadier Molina, on Nolan Arenado, on Dustin Pedroia, on Starling Marte. It works in reverse, too. Fans see Daniel Murphy costing his team 61 defensive runs over the seven years; DRS sees him costing his team 65 runs.

The numbers are not always that close, but in almost every case, the advanced numbers basically match up to what fans are seeing on the field. The numbers say a player is very good defensively, the fans see it the same way. The fans say a player is average defensively, the numbers see it the same way. Both almost always agree about a defender being below average.

So what about those exceptions? What can we learn from those? (Have you figured out yet who is, by far, the big one?)

It seems like we as fans generally underrate Mitch Moreland and Mike Napoli as first basemen. Fans rated Moreland as seven runs above average, while his DRS and UZR average out to 20 runs above average. Fans had Napoli as an average first baseman, while the defensive numbers say he saved about 15 runs with his defense. Moreland and Napoli are not particularly graceful athletes; it is quite possible that we underrate them because of that.

Video: PHI@BOS: Moreland makes a beautiful diving stop

Meanwhile, we generally overrate second basemen Brandon Phillips and Robinson Cano. Oh, both are good defenders by the advanced numbers -- 24 runs saved for Phillips, 25 for Cano -- but we see them as crazy good (72 for Phillips; 52 for Cano). Again, this makes perfect sense. Phillips and Cano are both so fluid and fun to watch defensively. They both make dazzling plays.

There are two center fielders who, compared to the defensive numbers, we pretty seriously overrate. One is, yes, Mike Trout. We as fans have him as a ridiculously awesome defensive center fielder, the best defender in the game, saving 42 runs over the seven years. The numbers have Trout much, much closer to average (4 DRS, -2.2 UZR).

This one makes perfect sense to me. We as baseball fans want Trout to be better than he is as an outfielder, just like we as baseball fans wanted Jeter to be better than he was as a shortstop. It fits our narrative so much better. Trout is the best player in baseball, he's already one of the five best players I've ever seen, and so I want to believe he is superior in every possible way. Fans rated Trout above Lorenzo Cain. There is no possible way, looking at any numbers that you want, that Trout is as good a defender as Cain. But we want to believe.

Video: KC@DET: Statcast™ measures Cain's four-star catch

The other center fielder who is widely viewed as way better than his defensive numbers is Baltimore's Adam Jones. The numbers say that Jones is a burden in center field. The fans consistently rate him as about average, perhaps a touch better than average. Again, this makes sense. Jones makes some great plays. He's a wonderful player. Jones is the face of Baltimore baseball. Fans aren't saying that he's a superior outfielder; they're saying, "Eh, he's not that bad." The numbers are a bit colder.

All of which leads us to the player who has the biggest gap between what the eyes tell us and what the numbers say. I assume you guessed him:

Yep, it's new San Diego Padres first baseman Eric Hosmer.

The fans have Hosmer as a great first baseman. They have him saving 28 runs over the seven-year period, which puts him in the realm of the best first basemen: Paul Goldschmidt; Anthony Rizzo; Brandon Belt and Adrian Gonzalez. The fans see Hosmer as a defensive star, and he has four American League Gold Glove Awards to match the reputation.

But the numbers show Hosmer to be a real problem as a first basemen, one of the worst in the game, minus-21 runs by DRS (only Prince Fielder and Ryan Howard were worse) and minus-29 by UZR (nobody was worse).

Hosmer is the only player in baseball who has such a vast gap between perception and what the numbers say. No other player has the fans seeing superstar while the defensive numbers calculate major trouble. What is it about Hosmer?

Well, it could be the numbers are wrong. Hosmer's greatest skill, by nearly unanimous opinion, is his hands. One theory is that he's as good as anybody in baseball at saving infield errors by scooping bad throws out of the dirt -- again and again people say that he saves 20 to 50 errors a year with the slickness of his glove -- and the numbers don't pick that up.

But is this true? Probably not. If Hosmer was really saving so many errors, wouldn't this show up in his teammates' defensive numbers? Wouldn't we be able to see this in, say, a substantially lower error total for third baseman Mike Moustakas and shortstop Alcides Escobar? But it doesn't seem like that's true. Escobar finished tied for the most in errors in the AL in 2012, when Hosmer was 22, and you would think at the top of his defensive powers, and he's been in the top five in errors two other times. Moustakas has been top five in errors as well.

And Hosmer has been top five in errors among first basemen five times. I don't like errors as a statistic and feel lousy for using it, but errors are useful here because they are part of the eye test. People who want to say that Hosmer's advanced numbers miss something have a harder time explaining why he makes quite a few errors.

Video: Hosmer joins Padres after finalizing eight-year deal

There are probably other ways to pick at the numbers, but realistically I think it's much more likely that the problem is that people simply (and wildly) overrate Hosmer's defense. That just makes much more sense. For one thing, Royals fans tend to see the group of young players that finally brought a World Series to Kansas City dreamily. As mentioned above, they probably overrate Escobar defensively. They also have catcher Salvador Perez (69 runs saved) well above his advanced defensive number (27). Hosmer was the most beloved player on one of the most beloved teams in baseball this decade, so that surely plays a part in the high rating.

And then there is Hosmer's style. He's just looks like a first baseman -- he's big, rangy, throws left-handed. When you picture a first baseman, you picture Hosmer.

The interesting question is: Will Padres fans, who will only now get to know Hosmer, see him that same way? Or will they judge his defense more the way the numbers do?

Joe Posnanski is a national columnist for MLB.com.

Eric Hosmer, Mike Trout

Bucs acquire All-Star Dickerson from Rays

Bucs likely find starting left fielder while dealing Hudson, Gray
MLB.com @adamdberry

BRADENTON, Fla. -- The Pirates answered a significant question in their outfield on Thursday by acquiring left fielder Corey Dickerson from the Rays in exchange for reliever Daniel Hudson, Minor League infielder Tristan Gray and $1 million, according to a source.

Dickerson will be Pittsburgh's primary left fielder, general manager Neal Huntington said, joining center fielder Starling Marte and right fielder Gregory Polanco in the Bucs' new-look outfield. Dickerson, 28, hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs in 150 games and made the American League All-Star team last season.

BRADENTON, Fla. -- The Pirates answered a significant question in their outfield on Thursday by acquiring left fielder Corey Dickerson from the Rays in exchange for reliever Daniel Hudson, Minor League infielder Tristan Gray and $1 million, according to a source.

Dickerson will be Pittsburgh's primary left fielder, general manager Neal Huntington said, joining center fielder Starling Marte and right fielder Gregory Polanco in the Bucs' new-look outfield. Dickerson, 28, hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs in 150 games and made the American League All-Star team last season.

"Corey Dickerson adds a quality power threat to our lineup, as evidenced by his 60-plus extra-base hits and 20-plus home runs each of the last two seasons," general manager Neal Huntington said in a statement. "Corey is a driven player who will also add a quality presence to our clubhouse."

The Rays designated Dickerson for assignment on Saturday, and they had until Thursday to trade him. As soon as he became available, the Pirates took notice.

"We thought he would be a good fit for us," Huntington said.

Video: TB@NYY: Dickerson hammers a solo homer to right field

In return, Pittsburgh parted with Hudson, a potential setup man coming off an inconsistent season, along with Gray, who made his professional debut at second base and shortstop in Class A Short-Season ball. Huntington said the Pirates were reluctant to part with Hudson and Gray, their 13th-round Draft pick last year, but felt Dickerson was worth it.

Dickerson enjoyed a dominant first half last season, hitting .312/.355/.548 with 17 homers in 85 games, then slumped to a .241/.282/.408 slash line with 10 homers in 65 second-half games. Still, he is a proven left-handed hitter -- with a career 119 OPS+ -- and an experienced outfielder.

"We look forward to finding out how we can help him get closer to where he was in the first half," Huntington said. "Overall, a very productive player the last few years in the big leagues."

PNC Park's spacious left field may be a challenge for Dickerson, but the Pirates believe he can handle it. He has totaled minus-eight Defensive Runs Saved in his career. But he totaled two Outs Above Average last season, according to Statcast™, with identical 85 percent expected and actual catch rates. Huntington pointed to Dickerson's work last offseason, when he dropped 25 pounds, and cited reports that he's in even better shape this spring.

"We recognize it's a big left field. We've talked repeatedly about wanting two center fielders out there," Huntington said. "But we do think Corey's going to be able to come in and be an offensive weapon for us and play solid defense."

After hitting 51 homers over the past two years for Tampa Bay, Dickerson will add a jolt of left-handed power to a Pittsburgh lineup that ranked 29th in the Majors in home runs last season. The Pirates have added two potential left-handed power bats this offseason, even without signing a Major League free agent, by acquiring Dickerson on Thursday and third baseman Colin Moran from the Astros last month.

The move also bolsters Pittsburgh's bench, which will now include veteran infielder David Freese, super-utility men Sean Rodriguez and Adam Frazier and catcher Elias Diaz. The final spot could go to any number of candidates, including infielders Max Moroff and Jose Osuna and recently acquired outfielders Daniel Nava, Michael Saunders and Bryce Brentz.

"We feel we've given Clint [Hurdle] arguably one of the stronger benches we've had in a while, if not in our time here or his time here, with quality young players behind that in Triple-A," Huntington said.

By trading Hudson, the Pirates also cleared a spot in their crowded young bullpen. There could be as many as five jobs available behind closer Felipe Rivero and setup man George Kontos, and the list of candidates includes recent acquisitions Michael Feliz and Kyle Crick, starters Steven Brault and Tyler Glasnow, out-of-options right-hander A.J. Schugel, Rule 5 Draft pick Jordan Milbrath, young relievers Dovydas Neverauskas and Edgar Santana and left-handers Josh Smoker and Jack Leathersich, among others.

"We felt that we were dealing from an area of strength," Huntington said. "The bullpen is the most volatile and most challenging part of a club to build, but we do feel like we have a number of arms that could pitch at the Major League level effectively and could pitch in meaningful roles."

Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)

Although Dickerson faded in the second half of 2017 (10 homers, .690 OPS), he was an outstanding fantasy asset prior to the All-Star break (17 homers, .903 OPS) and could help mixed-league squads this year. Owners seeking power in the final rounds can take a chance on Dickerson, who could receive regular playing time for a retooling Pirates club that still has quality bats such as Marte, Polanco and Josh Bell.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.

Pittsburgh Pirates, Tampa Bay Rays, Corey Dickerson

Why the Angels' 6-man rotation won't last

Eppler, Scioscia hoping to offer smooth transition for new ace Ohtani
MLB.com @williamfleitch

It is difficult to come up with a more ideal situation for using a six-man rotation than what the Los Angeles Angels currently find themselves in. They have the three major ingredients:

1. They have Shohei Ohtani, the best pitcher coming over from Japan (who was apparently driven all the way from there by Mike Trout in a golf cart), a guy who has spent his entire career pitching with what Major League teams consider an extra day's rest. As the team's primary offseason investment, Ohtani is someone for whom the Angels will want to facilitate the smoothest transition possible.

It is difficult to come up with a more ideal situation for using a six-man rotation than what the Los Angeles Angels currently find themselves in. They have the three major ingredients:

1. They have Shohei Ohtani, the best pitcher coming over from Japan (who was apparently driven all the way from there by Mike Trout in a golf cart), a guy who has spent his entire career pitching with what Major League teams consider an extra day's rest. As the team's primary offseason investment, Ohtani is someone for whom the Angels will want to facilitate the smoothest transition possible.

2. They have no ace, which means going to a six-man rotation won't force them to take starts away from the best pitcher on the team. More to the point: Their ace is Ohtani, the guy inspiring the idea of a six-man rotation in the first place.

3. All their other rotation members are, essentially, the same. The No. 2 pitcher is pretty much the same as the No. 6 pitcher. You neither lose nor gain anything by having any of them throw on any particular day.

Video: Ohtani impresses with first bullpen session

    If you were to invent the scenario that would lead to a team using a six-man rotation all season, this is close to the exact one you'd come up with for Los Angeles. But I'll say it right now: No matter how much they claim they're going to try it, the Angels are not going to end the season with a six-man rotation. No one ever does. I'll be surprised if they make it a month.

    The idea of a six-man rotation pops every few years, and in a vacuum, there is some logic to it. Nothing messes with a team's plans more than pitcher injuries, so, theoretically, if you can ease the burden on your starters, you can have them pitch less often. And as starters lose influence in a world of expanded bullpens, de-emphasizing the rotation by adding to it has some appeal as well.

    As Angels general manager Billy Eppler told The New York Times last year, "That's been the way the game's been trending, historically, if you look back, if it can help keep guys healthy and you're able to get a little bit more reliability out of your pitchers because of it, I'm all for it."

    These stories about six-man rotations are almost always written in the preseason, because they're a battle plan that inevitably evaporates once they come into contact with the enemy: The season itself. The problem with a six-man rotation is obvious: It is difficult enough to come up with five quality starters, and thus exponentially more so to come up with six. What's that old football cliche? If you have two quarterbacks, you have none? If you have six starters, you probably only have five; you just don't know which five yet.

    Video: Ohtani discusses throwing live batting practice

    Look at the Angels. Their theoretical six starters are:

    1. Ohtani
    2. Garrett Richards
    3. Andrew Heaney
    4. Tyler Skaggs
    5. Matt Shoemaker
    6. Nick Tropeano, JC Ramirez or Parker Bridwell

    Again, this is a situation that would seem to lend itself to a six-man rotation. You have five clear guys; if the Angels had signed, say, Jake Arrieta rather than Ohtani, the rotation would clearly be Arrieta, Richards, Heaney, Skaggs and Shoemaker. Those five are clearly the first five. The sixth spot is a series of question marks that, theoretically, you could use a six-man rotation to figure out. Ramirez is coming off a stem-cell injection in his right elbow; Tropeano missed all last year after Tommy John surgery; Bridwell was surprisingly effective in 2017, but his peripheral stats point to big-time regression. The idea is that you can use that sixth rotation spot as the place for those three to battle it out in a relatively low-stress environment; it is, after all, just the sixth spot.

    But that's the thing about baseball: The sixth spot becomes the fifth spot quickly. Only two teams in baseball history have gone through a whole season using only five starters; last year, only one team (Cleveland) used as few as seven. The Twins had 16 pitchers start a game for them in 2017, and they made the playoffs. Before the Angels signed Ohtani, the primary concern for the team was that they didn't have enough starting pitchers. Now, you're asking them to add one more that they didn't have in the first place.

    Richards hasn't thrown more than 35 innings since 2015. Skaggs hasn't thrown more than 85 since '14. Shoemaker threw 77 2/3 last year. Heaney has thrown 27 2/3 innings since '15. And those are the guys you're counting on. Those are the five before you get into that sixth spot (and there is little evidence that six-man rotations keep pitchers healthier).

    Sure, the Angels have a lot of interchangeable pitchers, guys with talent but lacking reliability; the argument for the six-man rotation has been that you're not costing a dominant pitcher starts. But a six-man rotation is not a hedge against injury; it actually makes injuries more costly. It leaves you one extra hole to fill. And there will be holes to fill.

    These are pitchers you cannot rely upon to give you innings, and now you're taking a bullpen spot away by going to a six-man rotation. It's possible that roster spot can be offset by the two-way Ohtani, but with the trade of C.J. Cron, it actually looks like they're culling the roster to use Ohtani more, not less. You lose some of that positional flexibility if Ohtani is now playing nearly every day. They're going to need to dig into that bullpen regularly, and now they have one fewer roster spot with which to do it.

    Tweet from @Angels: .@MikeTrout enjoying the Sho. #LAASpring #ShoTime pic.twitter.com/BmXTbW8cTl

    For all the talk of a six-man rotation potentially being the future, an argument could be made in the opposite direction: It might make more sense, in an age where starters are less valuable and less workmanlike than in the past, to go to a four-man rotation. Get four guys who can get you through the lineup twice and then hand it over to a deep and specialized bullpen.

    Many studies have argued that the primary cause of pitcher injury isn't lack of rest between uses; it's overuse on the days they do pitch. If you only ask a guy to give you four or five innings every four days, rather than six or seven every five, you could, theoretically, concentrate on finding a team of swingmen and specialists. It could be easier than finding six quality starting pitchers, or maybe even five.

    Either way, a six-man rotation sounds like a wonderful idea in the lab but is highly likely to implode when exposed to the elements. Look, the Angels need to figure out a way to work Ohtani into their staff, and there are ways to do it; Fangraphs' Craig Edwards argued last week that thanks to the number of off-days, roughly two-thirds of Ohtani's starts could be made on five days' rest. But the answer to the Ohtani problem isn't to require the Halos find five other starting pitchers. They'll be lucky to find four. I'm not sure even sure they have three.

    What is almost certainly going to happen is that one of the Angels' starters will blow a gasket, and Mike Scioscia, a generally conventional manager anyway, will shrug, say he tried and go right back to the five-man rotation he, and everybody else, is used to. The Halos say they're really going to try this. I've heard that before. I'll believe it when I see it.

    Will Leitch is a columnist for MLB.com.

    Los Angeles Angels, Jake Arrieta, Parker Bridwell, C.J. Cron, Andrew Heaney, Shohei Ohtani, JC Ramirez, Garrett Richards, Matt Shoemaker, Tyler Skaggs, Nick Tropeano, Mike Trout

    Phils owner weighs in on Arrieta talk, pitching

    As negotiations with Boras continue, Middleton expresses confidence in front office
    MLB.com @ToddZolecki

    CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Scott Boras is known to call an owner or two as he pursues and closes monster contracts for clients.

    The agent can be persuasive. So how often has Phillies owner John Middleton heard from Boras recently? Middleton shaped his thumb and index finger into a circle Thursday, a couple of hours before the Phillies played an exhibition against the University of Tampa at Spectrum Field.

    CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Scott Boras is known to call an owner or two as he pursues and closes monster contracts for clients.

    The agent can be persuasive. So how often has Phillies owner John Middleton heard from Boras recently? Middleton shaped his thumb and index finger into a circle Thursday, a couple of hours before the Phillies played an exhibition against the University of Tampa at Spectrum Field.

    • Phillies' Spring Training information

    Zero.

    "We're pretty clear that Matt's the guy," Middleton said, referring to Phillies general manager Matt Klentak. "I think you have to do that or you cut the legs out from your general manager. Look, I don't know what I'd do if my phone rang right now and it was Scott Boras. I mean, honestly, I think what I'd say is, 'Scott, it's nice to talk to you, but I don't negotiate. Matt does. I don't want to be rude, but I'm paying the guy a lot of money.'

    :: Spri