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Cy Young trio to make 1st spring starts today

Kershaw, Scherzer, Greinke to debut along with four-time All-Star Bumgarner
MLB.com @DKramer_

Spring Training is in full swing, with games underway in the Cactus and Grapefruit Leagues. Many star pitchers will be on the diamond for the first time in competitive play today, and fans can catch seven games on MLB.TV.

A throng of former Cy Young Award winners will make their spring debuts today, including Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer and Zack Greinke, as well as four-time All-Star Madison Bumgarner. Here is what to watch for today (all times ET):

Spring Training is in full swing, with games underway in the Cactus and Grapefruit Leagues. Many star pitchers will be on the diamond for the first time in competitive play today, and fans can catch seven games on MLB.TV.

A throng of former Cy Young Award winners will make their spring debuts today, including Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer and Zack Greinke, as well as four-time All-Star Madison Bumgarner. Here is what to watch for today (all times ET):

Bumgarner makes start in Scottsdale: CHC@SF, 3:05 p.m., MLB.TV
Fresh off being named the Giants' Opening Day starter for the fifth consecutive year -- one shy of Juan Marichal's San Francisco-era franchise record for consecutive season-opening outings (1964-69) -- Bumgarner will embark on his 10th big league Spring Training when he takes on the Cubs in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Video: Bumgarner discusses his excitement for 2018 season

For aces of Bumgarner's caliber, this time of year is for fine-tuning and preparation for the six-month regular season (and potentially beyond, the Giants hope), though Bumgarner has established a formidable track record of production in Cactus League play. He's posted a career 3.87 ERA over 160 2/3 spring innings, including a 2.52 ERA in seven starts last year, finishing with nine strikeouts over seven innings against the Reds in his finale.

Bumgarner is coming off a 2017 regular season in which he was limited to just 17 starts after he separated his pitching shoulder in a dirt bike accident during an off-day in Colorado in April. His first career stint on the disabled list, which sidelined him three months, snapped a streak of six consecutive seasons in which the left-hander had eclipsed 200 innings.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Business as usual: LAD@SEA, 3:10 p.m., MLB.TV
Bumgarner will be part of what will assuredly be one of the best pitching matchups of Opening Day, as he's slated to face Kershaw at Dodger Stadium on March 29. Kershaw was tabbed the Dodgers' Opening Day starter for a club-record eighth time nearly two weeks ago.

Kershaw and the Dodgers' pitching staff will likely be throwing on a more gentle spring schedule after the club's deep postseason run and the shorter offseason as part of the new regular-season schedule, which begins roughly a week earlier in 2018. Aligning with a five-day throwing schedule, Kershaw tossed a 22-pitch, one-inning batting practice session on Tuesday. The three-time National League Cy Young Award winner will likely throw just one inning today against the Mariners in Peoria, Ariz., in what will be his first live outing since Game 7 of last year's World Series.

Video: Kershaw throws his first live BP of Spring Training

"With position players you have a lot more leeway; they don't need six weeks of Spring Training. Relievers are the same way; they don't need six weeks to get ready," Kershaw said. "Really, everybody's here for us, honestly. The starting pitchers need to go an inning at a time for four or five times, and that takes three or four weeks. There's not much you can do."

Here comes Mad Max: ATL@WSH, 1:05 p.m., MLB.TV
If his first bullpen session was any inclination of the intensity Scherzer brings regardless of the time of year, the Braves could expect a taxing inning or two against the two-time and reigning NL Cy Young Award winner. Scherzer, who went 50-25 with a 2.76 ERA over his first three seasons in Washington, was vibrant and deliberate in his 60-pitch bullpen at the start of camp.

"That was in my normal routine for how I get ready for the season," Scherzer said. "Sometimes, right now, this is the toughest throwing you experience as you continue to ramp up through the first bullpens, the first live BPs, the first games. There's a lot of throwing here. So for me, I always like to get on the mound, feel some fatigue and kind of work through it. I see benefits of that by the end of Spring Training."

The Braves will get the chance to evaluate one of their early evaluations to one of the five vying for the final two spots in their starting rotation when Scott Kazmir takes the hill. Kazmir, 34, was acquired from the Dodgers in a swap of contracts that returned Matt Kemp to Los Angeles. The left-hander is looking to overcome a hip ailment that limited him to 136 1/3 innings in 2016, when he compiled a 10-6 record and 4.56 ERA for the Dodgers.

Zack's back: MIL@ARI, 3:10 p.m., Gameday Audio
Following one of the most interesting offseasons of any club this winter, the 2018 Brewers, who finished just one game shy of the postseason, are likely hoping to become the '17 D-backs, who after multiple winters of roster bolstering made the playoffs for the first time since '11. These two will meet today in Scottsdale, Ariz., with Grienke facing off against an overhauled Milwaukee lineup and Jhoulys Chacin, whom the club acquired to help fortify its rotation.

Video: Outlook: Greinke to anchor D-backs' rotation

Chacin had a quietly productive year for the Padres, compiling a 3.89 ERA in 32 starts. With No. 1 starter Jimmy Nelson expected to miss a sizable portion of the regular season early, Chacin is slated to be the club's No. 3 on Opening Day.

Greinke, who played for the Brewers from 2011-12, is in the midst of what he's described as a much more accelerated camp, having already thrown five bullpen sessions. He is likely to be Arizona's Opening Day starter, but manager Torey Lovullo has yet to make that official.

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

Madison Bumgarner, Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer

Why is free agent Arrieta still unsigned?

Top remaining FA starter comes with question marks moving forward
MLB.com @mattkellyMLB

Spring Training games are in full swing, and yet, one of baseball's most impactful starters remains without a team.

Jake Arrieta has been to the top of the pitching mountain, capturing the 2015 National League Cy Young Award with a summer that evoked Bob Gibson before helping the Cubs break the longest championship drought in professional sports. Arrieta has proven his ability and his mettle in the game's biggest moments, and his league-adjusted 151 ERA+ ranks third among starters who have thrown at least 500 innings over the past three seasons. It's a resume that would typically command a substantial contract in free agency, yet the righty does not seem to be generating much enthusiasm on the market.

Spring Training games are in full swing, and yet, one of baseball's most impactful starters remains without a team.

Jake Arrieta has been to the top of the pitching mountain, capturing the 2015 National League Cy Young Award with a summer that evoked Bob Gibson before helping the Cubs break the longest championship drought in professional sports. Arrieta has proven his ability and his mettle in the game's biggest moments, and his league-adjusted 151 ERA+ ranks third among starters who have thrown at least 500 innings over the past three seasons. It's a resume that would typically command a substantial contract in free agency, yet the righty does not seem to be generating much enthusiasm on the market.

Why have teams been slow to ink Arrieta? Below is an analytical look at reasons why MLB front offices are hesitant to commit to the former Cubs ace.

Velocity
This isn't surprising to those who watched Arrieta pitch the past season, but Arrieta's velocity might be the most concerning part of his profile. Below are Arrieta's dips over the past three seasons on each of his pitch types, per Statcast™ and pitch-tracking data:

Sinker (2015/ '16/ '17): 95.3 mph / 94.5 mph / 92.2 mph
Four-seam fastball: 95.1 mph / 94.2 mph / 92.1 mph
Curveball: 81.3 mph / 81.1 mph / 78.8 mph
Slider: 90.8 mph / 89.8 mph / 87.8 mph
Changeup: 89.5 mph / 89.2 mph / 87.3 mph

Arrieta essentially shelved his four-seamer last season, throwing it only 54 times after he'd averaged 629 in the prior two campaigns. That took away a pitch with a healthy 24.5 percent whiff-per-swing rate in 2015-16, as well as an offering he could tunnel alongside his changeup and breaking balls.

Arrieta's 25.7 percent whiff rate on all his pitches sat just outside the top 20 qualified MLB starters in '15 (min. 1,000 total swings induced), but slipped to 21.5 percent last season. Declining velocity is maybe the most obvious red flag for a free-agent pitcher, and it appears Arrieta will have to rely more on craft and command in the years ahead.

Video: CHC@CIN: Arrieta K's Votto to strike out the side

Contact allowed
Arrieta set the standard for missing barrels to go along with his career-high 206 strikeouts in 2015. Statcast™ considers a hard-hit ball to be one hit with a 95-mph exit velocity or greater, and Arrieta's 24.8 percent hard-hit rate in '15 is the second-lowest Statcast™ has tracked from any qualified starter over its first three years (Clayton Kershaw edged out Arrieta with a 24.5 percent rate that same season).

Arrieta was also fifth best at getting batters to "top" the ball, or drive it straight into the ground, doing so on 47.8 percent of the contact he allowed. Unfortunately, both rates declined over the past two seasons; the 32.2 percent hard-hit rate Arrieta allowed last year was essentially league average, and his topped-ball rate dipped all the way down to 35.7 percent.

The more discouraging development is that Arrieta is allowing more of the most damaging contact from hitters. Pitchers hope to avoid hard-hit balls, but they especially hope to avoid them in the air. Unfortunately for Arrieta, his rate of hard-hit line drives and fly balls allowed has climbed steadily over the first three seasons of Statcast™ data. So too has his barrel-per-batted ball rate, which measures the most ideal air balls for hitters based on their combinations of exit velocity and launch angle. More barrels inevitably mean more home runs, and Arrieta allowed a career-high 23 last summer.

Video: NLCS Gm4: Arrieta strikes out nine in Game 4 win

Age
The biggest reason why Arrieta remains unsigned could be simply be his age -- a factor general managers have clearly become warier of when evaluating free agents. History isn't on Arrieta's side as he celebrates his 32nd birthday in March. Only four of the 29 pitchers to claim Cy Young Awards in the Wild Card Era (1995 - present) did so after their age-32 season: Roger Clemens (ages 34-35, 38 and 41), R.A. Dickey (37), Roy Halladay (33) and Randy Johnson (35-38). Four is also the number of pitchers aged 33 or older who claimed league ERA titles in that span (Kevin Brown, Chris Carpenter, Clemens and Johnson).

Those are high bars to set for any pitcher, but Arrieta's comparables are not encouraging, either. The five closest pitchers to Arrieta through age 31, per Baseball-Reference's similarity scores, are Pete Vuckovich, Clay Buchholz, Jordan Zimmermann, Pat Jarvis and Tim Belcher. Of those five, only Belcher pitched in the Majors past his age-33 season (Zimmermann has struggled with injuries and Buchholz is currently beside Arrieta on the free-agent market).

Belcher, Jarvis and Vuckovich combined for a 4.90 ERA from their age-32 seasons through the ends of their careers.

Arrieta's peak three seasons ago ranks among the greatest performances in baseball history. But his next team will be paying for the future, not the past, and the data suggests that zenith is likely in the rear-view mirror.

Arrieta still possesses the skill, guile and competitiveness to retire Major League hitters, but for how long? Teams may be wondering if Arrieta could truly fulfill the value of the megacontract he's seeking.

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

Jake Arrieta

Top remaining FA starters drawing interest

Teams ready to pounce when price is right for Arrieta, Cobb, Lynn
MLB.com @jonmorosi

Yu Darvish's six-year, $126 million contract with the Cubs was supposed to clarify the starting-pitching market and create a cloudburst of signings.

Yet, two weeks have gone by and Jake Arrieta, Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb are still available.

Yu Darvish's six-year, $126 million contract with the Cubs was supposed to clarify the starting-pitching market and create a cloudburst of signings.

Yet, two weeks have gone by and Jake Arrieta, Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb are still available.

The issue isn't a lack of interest. One source said Saturday night that the Brewers, Yankees, Phillies, Rangers, Orioles and Nationals are among the teams continuing to monitor the top available starting pitchers.

The Yankees have maintained contact with Lynn throughout the offseason. In some ways, the Yanks are an even better fit for Lynn today than earlier in the month, when it seemed possible that a signing of Mike Moustakas would occupy a large percentage of the team's remaining budget for players.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

By instead acquiring Brandon Drury from the D-backs, the Yankees added a potential everyday third baseman who will earn close to the Major League minimum in 2018. Thus, the Yanks have preserved roughly $25 million in spending power for additional signings, trades and callups this year -- while still remaining under the luxury-tax threshold of $197 million.

Why is Arrieta still unsigned?

So Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has two choices: He can shop for a pitching upgrade now, when the calendar may begin exerting downward pressure on the asking prices for Arrieta, Lynn and Cobb. Or Cashman can wait until the non-waiver Trade Deadline, when he can leverage one of the top farm systems in baseball after assessing the development of 25-year-old Jordan Montgomery and the health of the team's more veteran starters.

Meanwhile, there's plenty of intrigue within the industry surrounding the Nats' plans. Washington GM Mike Rizzo sounded content with his roster in comments to MLB.com's Jamal Collier over the weekend. Right-hander A.J. Cole, 26, begins camp as the favorite to be the team's No. 5 starter, in a rotation headlined by Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Tanner Roark.

But rival club officials believe the Nationals will be opportunistic if Arrieta, Lynn or Cobb falls into their price range. With Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy and Gonzalez all beginning contract years, the team's collective urgency is extraordinarily high. The franchise is desperate to win a playoff series -- at the very least -- for the first time since relocating to Washington, D.C.

And then there is the Scott Boras factor. Boras represents Arrieta, along with six of the Nats' eight highest-paid players in 2018, according to Cot's Baseball Contracts: Scherzer, Harper, Strasburg, Anthony Rendon, Gonzalez and Matt Wieters. The longstanding relationship between team and agent could create the right circumstances for a deal.

From the standpoint of strategic spending, the acquisition of a starting pitcher now would be tantamount to finding Gonzalez's replacement one year early -- although there's optimism within the organization that right-handed prospect Erick Fedde will be a full-time member of the rotation by 2019, if not before.

Meanwhile, the Angels aren't looking seriously at free-agent starting pitchers, but they would consider free-agent closer Greg Holland at the right price.

Holland, 32, is coming off a season in which he reestablished himself as an All-Star closer and led the National League with 41 saves. Blake Parker, who has 10 career saves in the Major Leagues, currently projects to be the Halos' closer.

Jon Paul Morosi is a reporter for MLB.com and MLB Network.

Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb, Lance Lynn

Ohtani electric, erratic in Spring Training debut

Righty shows diverse repertoire, including 69-mph curve, vs. Brewers
MLB.com @mi_guardado

TEMPE, Ariz. -- It wasn't perfect, but it was a start. Two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani allowed two runs (one unearned) over 1 1/3 innings in the Angels' 6-5 win over the Brewers on Saturday at Tempe Diablo Stadium, marking his first outing in a Major League setting after spending the past five seasons starring in Japan.

Ohtani gave up two hits, including a home run to Keon Broxton to lead off the second inning, while striking out two, walking one and throwing 31 pitches in his Cactus League debut. The 23-year-old right-hander battled command issues but also showed flashes of his impressive arsenal, with a fastball that topped out at 97 mph and some nasty secondary pitches, including a 69-mph curveball.

View Full Game Coverage

TEMPE, Ariz. -- It wasn't perfect, but it was a start. Two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani allowed two runs (one unearned) over 1 1/3 innings in the Angels' 6-5 win over the Brewers on Saturday at Tempe Diablo Stadium, marking his first outing in a Major League setting after spending the past five seasons starring in Japan.

Ohtani gave up two hits, including a home run to Keon Broxton to lead off the second inning, while striking out two, walking one and throwing 31 pitches in his Cactus League debut. The 23-year-old right-hander battled command issues but also showed flashes of his impressive arsenal, with a fastball that topped out at 97 mph and some nasty secondary pitches, including a 69-mph curveball.

View Full Game Coverage

"To get him out there the first time was great," manager Mike Scioscia said. "He threw all his pitches. Some were really what we would expect them to be, and some he just lost his release point on. But it's a step forward, for sure."

Video: MIL@LAA: Scioscia on Ohtani's Cactus League debut

Ohtani has been the center of attention at Angels camp for the last two weeks and has sparked heightened coverage as he attempts to become both an impact pitcher and hitter in the Majors. Nearly 100 media members were on hand to watch his highly anticipated debut, though Ohtani has seemed relatively unaffected by the intensity of the spotlight.

"Honestly, I didn't feel a lot of nervousness," Ohtani said via interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. "I felt like I was pitching in Japan again. But it's the beginning of the year, first game of the year, and obviously I'm not at 100 percent. I'm still going to try and work my way up there."

Video: MIL@LAA: Ohtani discusses his first spring appearance

In the first inning, Ohtani gave up a leadoff double to Jonathan Villar, who opened the game by lifting a 3-1 pitch over the head of center fielder Eric Young Jr. Ohtani then struck out Nate Orf swinging before walking Ji-Man Choi to put runners on first and second.

The Brewers scored their first run of the game after Villar advanced to third on a wild pitch, then scored on a throwing error by catcher Martin Maldonado, but Ohtani stranded Choi at third by striking out Brett Phillips looking to end the inning.

Video: MLB Tonight looks at Ohtani's spring pitching debut

"Fastball, he might have to locate a little better, just because today it was a little flatter," Phillips said. "But it was coming out good. Offspeed looked really good. He definitely has a chance to be really good. I got to see it all."

After the Angels scored twice in the bottom of the first to take a 2-1 lead, Ohtani returned to the mound for the second inning, but he threw a fastball down the middle to Broxton, who crushed it to left field for a game-tying homer. Ohtani then capped his outing by inducing a flyout to left field from Nick Franklin.

Video: MIL@LAA: Broxton on HR off Ohtani, Phillips impressed

Ohtani, who had been scheduled to throw two innings, said he thought the long break in between innings might have adversely affected his performance. In Japan, pitchers are allowed to start playing catch in front of the dugout with two outs, so Ohtani said he must adjust to pitching without that routine.

"Today our offense was kind of out there for a while, so my body was getting cold," Ohtani said. "I did kind of struggle to start the second inning, so that was a good learning experience for me."

The Angels have not yet announced when Ohtani will make his debut in the Angels' lineup, though Scioscia said it will be "early next week." Ohtani will not hit the day after he pitches, so the earliest he could bat in a Cactus League game would be Monday against the Padres in Peoria.

Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com.

Los Angeles Angels, Shohei Ohtani

Yankees eyeing free-agent hurler Lynn

MLB.com

Yankees intersted in Lynn
The Yankees, looking to add to a rotation that already should stack up as one of the best in the American League, have "maintained contact" with right-hander Lance Lynn since the start of the offseason, according to MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi.

Morosi speculates the Yankees are in a better position to sign Lynn now than earlier in February, when it seemed like New York might make a run at free-agent third baseman Mike Moustakas.

Yankees intersted in Lynn
The Yankees, looking to add to a rotation that already should stack up as one of the best in the American League, have "maintained contact" with right-hander Lance Lynn since the start of the offseason, according to MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi.

Morosi speculates the Yankees are in a better position to sign Lynn now than earlier in February, when it seemed like New York might make a run at free-agent third baseman Mike Moustakas.

However, acquiring Brandon Drury from the D-backs gives the Yankees a cheaper option at the hot corner while retaining "roughly $25 million in spending power for additional signings, trades and callups" per Morosi, while staying under the $197 million luxury-tax threshold.

New York already has Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, Sonny Gray and CC Sabathia slotted into their top four rotation spots, and bringing in Lynn would give the team more time to continue developing promising youngster Jordan Montgomery, who went 9-7 with a 3.88 ERA in 29 starts in 2017.

Morosi expects Yankees general manager Brian Cashman to do one of two things: upgrade at starter now while the asking prices for Lynn, Jake Arrieta and Alex Cobb may have lessened, or wait until the non-waiver Trade Deadline to deal for a hurler as the club gears up to make a run at the World Series.

Lynn, 30, is 72-47 with a 3.38 ERA in 183 games (161 starts) across parts of six seasons with the Cardinals. He has exceeded at least 175 innings in each of his past five seasons he's pitched (he underwent Tommy John surgery in 2015 and missed all of 2016).

-- This report was first posted on Feb. 25.

Redbird return in play?
Lance Lynn has been nothing if not consistent in his six seasons with the Cardinals (he has posted an earned run average at or above the league-adjusted average in five of those campaigns), yet his name remains on the free-agent market.

MLB Network insider Jon Heyman speculated in a post for FanRag Sports that the Draft pick that a signing team would have to give up -- on account of the one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer Lynn rejected in November -- might be a sticking point and a reason the right-hander remains unsigned. For that reason, Heyman predicted Thursday that Lynn will eventually winding up re-signing with the Cardinals, with the Brewers, Mets, Phillies and Twins being other clear contenders for his services.

:: Free agent buzz ::

There would appear to be a potential spot on St. Louis' rotation should the Cardinals find a way to sign Lynn. Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha and Adam Wainwright figure to be reliable options, but plenty of question marks accompany Miles Mikolas (returning to the Majors after a three-year stint in Japan) and sophomore righty Luke Weaver. A reliable innings-eater like Lynn would certainly give Cardinals manager Mike Matheny some added peace of mind every fifth day. --This report was first posted on Feb. 15.

Yankees monitoring Lynn's market
With reported targets Yu Darvish and Todd Frazier now off the market, the Yankees' free-agent plans could begin to take shape. MLB.com's Jon Morosi reported Sunday that the club has kept tabs on Lance Lynn this offseason, but it's not clear if the veteran right-hander will fit into their remaining budget of about $15 million for between now and Opening Day.

Morosi noted that while the Yankees have some room before they reach the $197 million luxury-tax threshold, they would still like to maintain payroll flexibility for potential Trade Deadline moves.

The Yankees have also been linked to Rays right-hander Jake Odorizzi, a frequent subject of trade rumors this winter. The club's current rotation projects to include Masahiro Tanaka, Luis Severino, Sonny Gray, CC Sabathia and Jordan Montgomery.  -- This report was first posted on Feb. 11.

Line for Lynn appears to have gotten longer
Given the development, or lack thereof, of this year's standstill free-agent starting pitcher market, Lynn finds himself in an unenviable position of waiting for the chips to fall ahead of him.

Lynn has still yet to find a home, but a report by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Derrick Goold suggests seven to eight teams have shown interest in the right-hander.

Interestingly, Lynn's former team, the Cardinals, are not among those Goold listed. Although they extended him a qualifying offer, the Cardinals seem content for now to stick with their existing rotation.

Among those interested include the Brewers, Cubs, Mets, Nationals, Orioles, Rays and Twins.

The Brewers, Twins and Orioles have the most need for starting pitching among that group. Minnesota and Milwaukee will be without their best starters -- Ervin Santana and Jimmy Nelson -- for the beginning of the season, while Baltimore is still trying to fill three spots in its rotation left by departed free agents.

The Cubs and Nationals are looking to round out their rotations as they look to defend their respective divisions. Each has four rotation spots set but could use Lynn's durability over younger options.

Meanwhile, the Rays could be interested in Lynn if they trade fellow right-hander Jake Odorizzi. The Mets are mentioned as a potential suitor and could use stability in the rotation after injuries caused them to employ 12 starters in 2017. -- This report was first posted on Feb. 8.

Lynn engages discussions with Orioles
Desperately in need of starting pitching depth, but potentially hesitant to sign a multi-year deal for as much, the Orioles last week engaged in contract discussions with Lynn, according to MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal. However, negotiations did not advance to a serious stage. The Orioles had shown interest as early as November, per MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi.

"Agents and rival clubs say the Orioles routinely go hot and cold in discussions, making them difficult to read," Rosenthal reported.

The Orioles are in need of at least two starting pitchers to round out their rotation -- currently listed as some form of Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy, Gabriel Ynoa, Miguel Castro and Alec Asher -- and have also been linked to free agents Andrew Cashner, Jason Vargas and Chris Tillman, per Rosenthal. Orioles starters last year finished with the Majors' worst ERA (5.70) and fewest innings (846) in the American League.  -- This report was first posted on Feb. 7.

Lynn likely to sign after Darvish, Arrieta
Viewed as a respectable second-tier arm among this year's class of available starters, the reality of Lynn's case is that he may be a fallback option for clubs aspiring to sign Jake Arrieta or Yu Darvish. In that vein, Lynn could either benefit from a potential megadeal one of those bluechips would sign, thus establishing his market, or -- as has played out -- he may be hamstrung by waiting deep into the offseason to land a job.

According to a Jan. 28 report from MLB.com's Mark Feinsand, at least one Major League executive opined that neither Lynn or Alex Cobb -- a fellow free agent starting pitcher viewed in the same neighborhood of value as Lynn -- would make a prospective club feel better about losing out on Darvish or Arrieta.

"I see them both as No. 3 or 4 starters," the executive said. "Neither gets me excited, but I'd take them both on my team."

Lynn, who turns 31 in May, re-established his value last season after returning from Tommy John surgery and embodying the longevity he showed before the elbow injury. He led the National League with 33 starts reached 175 innings for the fifth time in as many as his full Major League seasons. His career 72-47 record and 3.38 ERA show an established body of work. He may not present a frontline presence that Darvish or Arrieta would, but he'd be an asset to a team seeking dependable rotation depth.

Lynn rejected a $17.4 million qualifying offer from the Cardinals, which would attach him to Draft pick compensation for whichever club signed him, dependent on the contract he signs and the acquiring club's luxury-tax status. -- This report was first posted on Jan. 28.

Lance Lynn

Source: O's ink Alvarez to Minor League deal

MLB.com @Britt_Ghiroli

SARASOTA -- The Orioles agreed to terms on Sunday with free agent Pedro Alvarez, bringing back the left-handed hitter on a Minor League deal with an invitation to big league Spring Training, a source told MLB.com.

This is Alvarez's third go-around with the O's. The 31-year-old will not be used in the outfield, like he was last season with Triple-A Norfolk. He will see some time at first base and as a designated hitter.

SARASOTA -- The Orioles agreed to terms on Sunday with free agent Pedro Alvarez, bringing back the left-handed hitter on a Minor League deal with an invitation to big league Spring Training, a source told MLB.com.

This is Alvarez's third go-around with the O's. The 31-year-old will not be used in the outfield, like he was last season with Triple-A Norfolk. He will see some time at first base and as a designated hitter.

Orioles' Spring Training info

Alvarez isn't expected to break camp with the Orioles unless there's an injury, though he does add valuable insurance and a left-handed bat, which the big league club is thin on.

Baltimore has also recently added lefty bats Alex Presley and Colby Rasmus.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Alvarez, who spent the majority of 2017 at Norfolk, played in 14 games for the Orioles and posted a .313/.353/.438 line in 32 at-bats. He was a key factor for the club in '16, playing in 109 games and hitting 22 homers with 49 RBIs.

Alvarez spent his first six seasons in Pittsburgh, where he put up a .236/309/.441 slash line. Signing late is nothing new for the former first-round Draft pick out of Vanderbilt University. He didn't join the O's until March the previous two springs.

Brittany Ghiroli has covered the Orioles for MLB.com since 2010. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast.

Baltimore Orioles, Pedro Alvarez

Rivals think Nats could make move on Arrieta

MLB.com

Perhaps the best option remaining on the free-agent pitching market is Jake Arrieta, the 2015 National League Cy Young Award winner.

Nationals among top suitors for Arrieta

Perhaps the best option remaining on the free-agent pitching market is Jake Arrieta, the 2015 National League Cy Young Award winner.

Nationals among top suitors for Arrieta

The Nationals, Brewers, Yankees, Phillies, Rangers and Orioles are "among the teams continuing to monitor the top available starting pitchers," according to MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi. Arrieta fits the bill.

Per Morosi, rival executives think Washington could jump on the right-hander if his price falls to within their range. Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy and Gio Gonzalez are all entering contract years, and the Nats are pushing to win their first playoff series since the franchise moved to D.C. The timing makes sense for the club to add a high-profile arm such as Arrieta this year.

Morosi also notes the relationship between general manager Mike Rizzo and Arrieta's agent, Scott Boras, as a potential factor that could impact the veteran hurler's landing spot. Six of the Nationals' eight highest-paid players for 2018, according to Cot's Baseball Contracts, are Boras clients.

MLB Network insider Jon Heyman listed the Nationals atop Arrieta's possible landing spots when he wrote about the 2015 Cy Young Award winner earlier in the week. Heyman concedes the Nats would have to exceed the luxury tax threshold to sign Arrieta, but the team might be willing to do so with the hope of bringing a championship to Washington.

Heyman slots in the Brewers, Phillies, Cardinals, Dodgers, Orioles and Twins -- in that order -- as the next most likely clubs to sign Arrieta. Heyman adds the Cubs were in on him prior to signing Yu Darvish to a 5-year, $126 million deal and the Rangers are going "cost-efficient" this offseason, so there is a small chance "he goes to someone other than that top seven."

The 31-year-old Arrieta could be looking at a similar deal to the one Darvish signed with Chicago. He went 68-31 with a 2.73 ERA in 128 starts for the Cubs over the past five seasons.

-- This report was first posted on Feb. 25.

Phils, Arrieta far apart on contract length
Phillies owner John Middleton addressed Jake Arrieta and the starting-pitching market on Thursday, saying, "It's hard to characterize it at this point" whether the team will be able to add a starting pitcher before Opening Day.

Arrieta would of course be a huge get for the Phillies, but they might be too far apart in terms of contract length. Sources have told MLB.com's Todd Zolecki that the Phillies would be open to a three-year deal for Arrieta, but they are currently unwilling to go to the six or seven years that the right-hander wants.

As far as Philadelphia's negotiations with Arrieta, Middleton said Thursday he hasn't heard from Arrieta's agent, Scott Boras, noting that general manager Matt Klentak will be the one who negotiates any potential deal. The team and Boras have had discussions throughout the offseason, but little has changed at this point.

"It's not so remote that you'd say no, there's really no chance," Middleton said. "But I would tell you we're not just looking at free agents. We're talking to teams about trades, because there are players that we would trade for."

Even though the Phillies think they'll be much improved this season, they don't like the idea of committing $100-plus million to a 32-year-old pitcher regardless of Arrieta's talent, according to Zolecki.

"We want to improve the team, we're always trying to improve the team," Middleton said, "but we've got to do it a way that makes sense now and next year. We don't want to sacrifice something significant in the future by making a short-term move." -- This report was first posted on Feb. 22.

Phillies talking with Arrieta
The Phillies, who already made one splash signing this offseason in bringing in first baseman Carlos Santana, might be trying to add another.

Philadelphia and Jake Arrieta "are having dialogue" about a potential deal, according to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman.

Heyman notes that Phillies president Andy MacPhail, general manager Matt Klentak and director of player development Joe Jordan "love [Arrieta] from their days in Baltimore together."

Arrieta, 31, went 20-25 with a 5.46 ERA in 69 games (63 starts) for the Orioles to begin his career, but since a trade to the Cubs in 2013, he is 68-31 with a 2.73 ERA in 128 starts. He was named the National League Cy Young Award winner in 2015, when he went 22-6 with a 1.77 ERA in a career-high 33 starts and 229 innings.

The veteran right-hander has been known to be seeking a long-term contract, but according to Heyman, the Phillies "would prefer a shorter term" deal. "So there's a gap," Heyman added.

Arrieta could be seeking an offer close to the six-year, $126 million deal Yu Darvish recently signed with the Cubs. -- This report was first posted on Feb. 20.

Heyman sees Arrieta's best fit to be Brewers
The Brewers have already taken aggressive measures to bolster a roster that last year finished just one game shy of the postseason, yet their most glaring personnel deficiency -- a need for at least one top-of-the-rotation arm -- remains unaddressed. For this, and with the division-rival Cubs' signing Yu Darvish, MLB Network insider Jon Heyman predicts in a post for FanRag Sports that Arrieta's most suitable landing spot is Milwaukee.

:: Free agent buzz ::

The Brewers have already added free agent Jhoulys Chacin to complement the Opening Day rotation with Chase Anderson and Zach Davies. Jimmy Nelson, who enjoyed a breakout year in 2017 before undergoing shoulder surgery, is not expected until some time later in the first half as he returns from injury. Manager Craig Counsell said the club's current plan is to have a group of Brandon Woodruff, Brent Suter, Yovani Gallardo, Junior Guerra and Aaron Wilkerson compete for the remaining starts. Even with Nelson's return, the current contingent is projected 15th in FanGraphs WAR at the position -- well behind the Cubs and Cardinals, who the Brewers will be chasing in the National League Central.

Couple their needs at the position and owner Mark Attanasio's comments at Fanfest last month indicating that the club had financial flexibility to add to it, and a union with Arrieta appears a strong fit. The Brewers finished with an MLB-low $63 million in payroll in 2017.

"We could sign a big pitcher. If the right situation comes along, we can take advantage of that," Attanasio said.

For all of these reasons, Heyman speculates Arrieta will (eventually) sign with the Brewers. He also notes the Nationals, Phillies, Cardinals and Twins -- each of whom have been linked to Arrieta -- as other potential landing spots, but not to as strong of an extent as Milwaukee. -- This report was first posted on Feb. 15.

Arrieta market may be down to Brewers, Twins
Now that Yu Darvish has agreed to a deal with the Cubs, the free-agent picture for Arrieta is starting to crystallize. The Brewers and Twins, two teams previously linked to Darvish, now appear to be two of the favorites to land Arrieta, according to a report from MLB Network insider Jon Heyman on Sunday night. The Nationals, Phillies and Cardinals are also possible destinations for Arrieta, according to Heyman.

Per Heyman, the Brewers could be the most logical fit, and Milwaukee has "been in touch" with Arrieta. The Brewers have made some big splashes already this offseason, signing Lorenzo Cain and trading for Christian Yelich, but ace Jimmy Nelson is recovering from right shoulder surgery and their rotation could use a boost, especially if they want to keep pace with the improved Cubs.

The Nationals, meanwhile, are looking to make a deep postseason run, and Arrieta could take an already strong rotation to the next level. General manager Mike Rizzo reportedly loves the idea of adding someone like Arrieta, but Washington is also concerned with remaining below the luxury-tax threshold.

The Phillies are an up-and-coming young team, but they've also already signed Carlos Santana and could look to bolster their pitching staff, too. As Heyman notes, Phillies president Andy MacPhail, general manager Matt Klentak and director of player development Joe Jordan were all Orioles executives when Baltimore drafted Arrieta.

Video: Do Nationals make sense as a destination for Arrieta

According to Heyman, the Twins had appeared to favor Darvish and were focused on him, so an Arrieta-Twins pact might come as a surprise. But they do need pitching with Ervin Santana set to miss time while recovering from right middle finger surgery; the best fit might just be someone like Lance Lynn or Alex Cobb instead of Arrieta.

Looking to get back to the postseason amid a competitive NL Central, St. Louis can afford Arrieta, but improving its bullpen has been a higher priority than its rotation. Addressing that need, the club has reached a deal with free-agent reliever Bud Norris, a source told MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal on Monday morning. -- This report was first posted on Feb. 12.

Jake Arrieta

Angels among suitors in play for Holland

MLB.com

Among the high-profile Major Leaguers still unsigned is reliever Greg Holland, who's coming off a successful 2017 campaign as the Rockies' closer.

Angels could be in play for Holland
The Angels, who upgraded their pitching staff when they signed Japanese phenom Shohei Ohtani in December, aren't seriously considering any other free-agent starters. However, MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi reports the club would consider Holland "at the right price."

Among the high-profile Major Leaguers still unsigned is reliever Greg Holland, who's coming off a successful 2017 campaign as the Rockies' closer.

Angels could be in play for Holland
The Angels, who upgraded their pitching staff when they signed Japanese phenom Shohei Ohtani in December, aren't seriously considering any other free-agent starters. However, MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi reports the club would consider Holland "at the right price."

Los Angeles currently has Blake Parker, owner of 10 career Major League saves, projected as its closer. Holland, coming off a year in which he locked down a National League-best 41 saves, would likely be a significant improvement.

Holland, 32, flourished after signing a one-year deal with the Rockies prior to 2017, striking out 70 batters in 57 1/3 innings for Colorado in his return from Tommy John surgery. He was selected to the All-Star Game for the first time since making back-to-back appearances as a member of the Royals in '13-14.

Holland would be a welcomed addition to a bullpen that ranked 11th in the Majors last season with a 3.92 ERA. -- This report was first posted on Feb. 25.

Holland's landing spot may be guessing game, but Cubs seem a strong fit
With the Rockies well out of Holland's picture, having signed free agent Wade Davis, could Davis' former team -- now seemingly in need of a closer -- be the most logical fit for Holland? MLB Network insider Jon Heyman believes so.

In a post for FanRag Sports, Heyman admits that Holland's market remains a "guessing game" given the multitude of clubs with needs at closer. The Cubs' plan, for now, is to have Brandon Morrow handle the ninth inning for the revamped bullpen, which also includes new additions Steve Cishek, Dario Alvarez, Cory Mazzoni and Randy Rosario. However, MLB.com's Carrie Muskat reported in January that the Cubs were likely done adding relievers, particularly with young pitchers in the system that could contribute such as Dillon Maples and Rob Zastryzny. Chicago also signed the market's top starter, Yu Darvish, to a $126 million deal last weekend, thus potentially limiting their financial flexibility.

Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein shouldn't be counted out, though, when it comes to creative ways to land pieces he believes are essential. Davis delivered 32 saves last year, and Holland led the National League with 41. Morrow enjoyed a nice bounce-back year with the Dodgers, and pitched in all but one of their 15 postseason games. But he did so as a setup man to Kenley Jansen -- not as the closer.

For a Cubs club that has reached the NL Championship Series three straight years and showing no signs or plans of regression, fortifying the ninth inning may be a chief objective, as Heyman notes.

Other clubs Heyman predicts as possibilities include the Cardinals (to whom Holland has been strongly linked), Phillies (widely viewed as a potential dark horse in the NL), Angels (who have re-tooled their roster but still have a void at closer) and Astros (who retained Ken Giles, their 34-save closer from '17). -- This report was first posted on Feb. 15.

Cardinals a fit for Holland?
The premier free agent reliever on the market is still looking for a new home, and the Cardinals are still in the market for bullpen help.

:: Free agent buzz ::

It's possible Holland's resurgence in 2017 could help him land the closer role in St. Louis were the two sides to link up, MLB.com's Richard Justice speculates.

The Cardinals brought in right-hander Luke Gregerson this offseason on a two-year deal, and while he has closed games for the Astros in 2015 and 2016, Holland racked up 41 saves for Colorado last year.

St. Louis is trying to replace former flamethrower Trevor Rosenthal, and Holland's 11 strikeouts per nine innings and 3.61 ERA last season bested Gregerson's numbers (10.3 K/9, 4.57 ERA).

Holland reportedly turned down a three-year offer to return to the Rockies before they signed Wade Davis. The 32-year-old is two years removed from Tommy John surgery, so he comes with some risk, but he -- paired with Gregerson and young fireballer Alex Reyes, who is recovering from Tommy John himself -- could form a formidable trio in the back end of the Cardinals' bullpen. -- This report was first posted on Feb. 14.

Return to Rockies not in cards for Holland
A return to Colorado seemed to be a logical fit for Holland this offseason, but earlier this month, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported that Holland rejected the Rockies' offer of three years and $52 million. That's the same offer that Wade Davis eventually accepted to become Colorado's new closer, which gives him the highest average annual value of any reliever.

Hot Stove Tracker

The free-agent landscape continues to move at a glacial pace, particularly at the top with marquee players like Holland. The Rockies represented the most obvious fit, given Holland's close relationship with pitching coach Steve Foster and the level of comfort he felt with the club in his return from Tommy John surgery. With Colorado seemingly out of the picture, there is no clear alternate front-runner for the former All-Star -- particularly one who would offer the historic deal Holland is looking for. The Cardinals could be a fit as they look to fill out the back end of their bullpen, while the rival Cubs could look to replace Davis with his former Royals teammate.

Employing his effective fastball-slider combination, the 31-year-old Holland paced the National League with 41 saves in 2017 while posting a 3.61 ERA over 57 1/3 innings. The righty was an integral part of Kansas City's back-to-back American League pennant winners in 2014-15, teaming with Davis and Kelvin Herrera to form one of the most dominant bullpens in recent memory. -- This report was first posted on Feb. 7.

Greg Holland

Smith (strained quad) among injured Mets

First baseman set for MRI; Lagares, Bruce, Tebow also on shelf
MLB.com @AnthonyDiComo

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Dominic Smith suffered a strained right quad and will undergo a MRI on Monday, the Mets announced on Sunday, making him one of several Mets forced out of game action early in Grapefruit League play.

Juan Lagares also has a strained left hamstring and Tim Tebow has a sprained left ankle. Both are day to day. The Mets previously announced that Jay Bruce is not ready to make his spring debut due to plantar fasciitis in his left foot.

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Dominic Smith suffered a strained right quad and will undergo a MRI on Monday, the Mets announced on Sunday, making him one of several Mets forced out of game action early in Grapefruit League play.

Juan Lagares also has a strained left hamstring and Tim Tebow has a sprained left ankle. Both are day to day. The Mets previously announced that Jay Bruce is not ready to make his spring debut due to plantar fasciitis in his left foot.

Smith, who is trying to win a roster spot this spring, missed the Mets' first Grapefruit League game after showing up late to the team complex. He played the following day, appearing on the Mets' injury report for the first time Sunday morning.

Tebow was nursing a minor ankle injury during the middle of last week, but he participated in workouts as recently as Friday, when he took live batting practice against Matt Harvey. He has yet to appear in a Grapefruit League game.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo, Instagram and Facebook.

New York Mets, Jay Bruce, Juan Lagares, Dominic Smith, Tim Tebow

The latest on key position battles

Broxton wows with homer vs. Ohtani; Newcomb fans Correa, Gurriel
MLB.com @DKramer_

Much is made at this time of year about positional uncertainty. Spring Training presents prospects with the chance to accelerate their path to the big leagues, and veterans to solidify their roles. With games just barely underway in the Cactus and Grapefruit Leagues, for some the long winter's personnel shuffling has left an unclear picture of who will contribute where.

Here is a glance at some noteworthy performances from Saturday by those competing for position or roster spots this spring.

Much is made at this time of year about positional uncertainty. Spring Training presents prospects with the chance to accelerate their path to the big leagues, and veterans to solidify their roles. With games just barely underway in the Cactus and Grapefruit Leagues, for some the long winter's personnel shuffling has left an unclear picture of who will contribute where.

Here is a glance at some noteworthy performances from Saturday by those competing for position or roster spots this spring.

Keon Broxton, Brewers, OF
Following its acquisition of Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain, Milwaukee finds itself with a retooled outfield and limited space for incumbent center fielder Broxton.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Broxton made an early impression Saturday against the Angels by homering off two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani in the much-anticipated -- and otherwise impressive -- debut by the Japanese superstar. Broxton unleashed the line drive over the left-field wall to lead off the second inning.

To account for their outfield surplus, the Brewers are experimenting with Ryan Braun at first base this spring. Right fielder Domingo Santana's 30 home runs last season will almost assuredly keep him in his current post, should the club not trade him for much-needed depth in their starting rotation. Because Broxton has one Minor League option left, the Brewers could have him start the season in Triple-A, barring injury attrition within the outfield.

Dominic Smith, Mets, 1B
Following a lapse that stirred new Mets manager Mickey Callaway, first-base prospect Smith was benched from a game he was slated to start Friday for showing up late to the club's complex in Port St. Lucie, Fla. Smith took accountability for his tardiness. A day later, Smith went 1-for-1 and was hit by a pitch in the Mets' 10-5 loss to the Cardinals. He also made an athletic stretch to scoop a low throw and nab Jose Martinez on an infield groundout.

Smith, 22, is already facing an uphill climb to become the Mets' everyday first baseman. After the club traded Lucas Duda last July, Smith made a 49-game debut, in what was essentially an audition for the 2018 job, but struggled to a .198/.262/.395 slash line that, in part, prompted the Mets to trade for veteran Adrian Gonzalez. The Mets' No. 7 prospect, Peter Alonso, who started in place of Smith on Friday, is also vying for at-bats this spring.

The ambitious Smith has an outside chance at making the club's 25-man roster.

Video: STL@NYM: Smith stretches to retire Martinez at first

Sean Newcomb, Braves, SP
While Newcomb clearly has an upper hand among five Braves starters vying for the club's final two rotation spots, management has made it clear it wants the young southpaw to avoid complacency.

Newcomb allowed an unearned run during his one inning against the top of the loaded Astros lineup. Brian McCann grounded into a forceout that scored Marwin Gonzalez, who had reached third on a fielding error. Newcomb needed two batters to settle in, after surrendering a first-pitch, leadoff double to Gonzalez and walking Jose Altuve on four pitches. He then punched out Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel looking on three straight pitches each.

Newcomb, 24, showed flashes of promise as a rookie in 2017, beginning his career with a 1.48 ERA over his first four starts last June. A rough outing on July 4 -- against the Astros -- ignited a two-month stretch in which the Braves lost nine of his following 11 starts. He finished the season 4-9 with a 4.32 ERA.

General manager Alex Anthopoulos and manager Brian Snitker have said that only Julio Teheran, Mike Foltynewicz and Brandon McCarthy are sure locks for the Opening Day rotation, with left-handers Newcomb, Luiz Gohara, Max Fried and Scott Kazmir, and right-hander Lucas Sims competing for the final two spots.

Video: Bowman breaks down Braves' rotation, infield in 2018

Tom Murphy, Rockies, C
A postseason club that last season leaned on Trade Deadline acquisition Jonathan Lucroy to help guide its young starters, Colorado is hoping its young catching tandem of Murphy and Tony Wolters can take a step toward weightier contributions in 2018. Of the two, Murphy has more upside with his bat -- last spring, teammates said he was the strongest player on the team -- but he struggled to exploit it during a 1-for-24 showing in 12 big league games.

Murphy went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts on Saturday against the Reds before being lifted for prospect Anthony Bemboom. This could be a revealing spring for Murphy, whose 2017 campaign was largely a wash after he suffered a broken right forearm and wrist last March.

Though the young catching depth has shown upside, particularly Wolters -- who hit .300 through the first two months of '17 before fatigue caught up with him -- the Rockies signed veteran Chris Iannetta to be the primary catcher and provide stability. Iannetta and Murphy both hit right-handed, while Wolters hits left, thus creating more of a disadvantage for Murphy to potentially platoon against lefty pitching.

Bud Norris, Cardinals, RP
One of the chief unknowns for the postseason-hopeful Cardinals this spring is the ninth inning. Manager Mike Matheny has been deliberately vague about who will close, so when the club signed journeyman Norris -- who has started, relieved and closed -- intrigue piqued.

Norris, who saved 19 games for the Angels last year, pitched the fourth and fifth innings Saturday, giving up two earned runs on three hits -- including a homer to Mets prospect Luis Guillorme -- and striking out one.

Norris is vying for high-leverage innings, but is likely down the depth chart from free-agent acquisition Luke Gregerson, who saved 15 games for the Astros in 2016. Left-hander Tyler Lyons is also believed to be strongly considered, should Gregerson struggle. Other high-velocity options include Conner Greene and Dominic Leone, in addition to Alex Reyes, who is returning from Tommy John surgery and viewed as a dark horse for the role, having come up as a starter.

Video: Rosenthal reports Norris agrees to deal with Cards

Ronald Acuna, Braves, OF
Acuna, MLB Pipeline's No. 2 overall prospect, is in his first (and likely final) big league Spring Training as a full-time Minor Leaguer, though it's believed that he could propel his path to the Majors with a strong showing in Grapefruit League play.

On Saturday, he didn't get off to the start he'd hoped for, going hitless in three at-bats against the Astros with two strikeouts, and perhaps tempering the lofty ambition he's projected. However, he did pull a number of towering home runs during batting practice at the Astros' complex, showcasing his power potential.

Video: ATL@HOU: Acuna retires Kemp to end the 2nd

"Everything felt the same," Acuna said. "My focus was to go out there and give it my all and give my best effort. The results weren't there, but tomorrow is another day. I'll get after it again."

Acuna, 20, started on Saturday in center field, though he will likely slot into a corner spot when he cracks the Major League roster, as center is occupied by reigning Gold Glove Award winner Ender Inciarte. Lane Adams is currently slated to start in left, and Nick Markakis in right.

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

Yankees ecstatic about Florial's potential

Club high on 20-year-old prospect who will likely start year at Class A Advanced
MLB.com @BryanHoch

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Faces beam when Estevan Florial's name is mentioned around the Yankees' talent evaluators, and as the 20-year-old phenom settles into his first Major League Spring Training, manager Aaron Boone said that it is already apparent why the center fielder is held in high regard.

Ranked as the Yankees' No. 3 prospect by MLB Pipeline and the No. 44 prospect in all of baseball, Florial ripped a stand-up sixth-inning triple to right-center field in Saturday's 4-1 Grapefruit League victory over the Pirates at LECOM Park.

View Full Game Coverage

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Faces beam when Estevan Florial's name is mentioned around the Yankees' talent evaluators, and as the 20-year-old phenom settles into his first Major League Spring Training, manager Aaron Boone said that it is already apparent why the center fielder is held in high regard.

Ranked as the Yankees' No. 3 prospect by MLB Pipeline and the No. 44 prospect in all of baseball, Florial ripped a stand-up sixth-inning triple to right-center field in Saturday's 4-1 Grapefruit League victory over the Pirates at LECOM Park.

View Full Game Coverage

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

"He's one of those guys that I'm really excited to see these first couple of weeks, because he's going to get some opportunities to play," Boone said. "He's going to log some at-bats. We just want to get him as comfortable as possible. When we see him do that, even though that [triple] was the first one, it's not a surprise to us. The talent is real."

Florial hit .298/.372/.479 with 23 doubles, 13 homers and 57 RBIs in 110 games for Class A Charleston and Class A Advanced Tampa last year, and he wants to cut down on his strikeouts after fanning 148 times in 420 at-bats. He is expected to begin the season in the Florida State League.

Boone said that Florial's spring experience alongside established big leaguers should prove beneficial.

"There's just kind of a calm, a grace to the way he plays the game," Boone said. "There's no panic, really. Then you watch him ... he looks the part. He's someone me and the coaches get excited, like, 'Oh, Flo is going in.' You just get excited to see what he can do."

Gift of grab
Clint Frazier wowed the crowd with a leaping grab in left field that ended the second inning on Saturday, fighting the wind to rob Ryan Lavarnway of an extra-base hit. Frazier tumbled to the warning track and said that he banged his head into a chain-link fence covering the scoreboard.

"I've just got to make it look a little bit easier from here on out," Frazier said. "That way, I can have people trust in me whenever the ball is hit to me."

Video: NYY@PIT: Frazier makes a great jumping grab in left

Frazier hit the ball hard in both at-bats Saturday, lining out to left field in the first inning and singling up the middle in the fourth before being picked off. Frazier said that he made adjustments to remove a hitch and limit the movement of his swing over the offseason.

"This is the best I've felt, as far as kind of being aware of what my body is doing and how it is supposed to do it," Frazier said. "In the past, I just tried to muscle everything. I created a lot of moving parts to hit the ball harder. I struck out a lot and I fouled off a lot of balls last year. I needed something to change."

Bumper stickers
Hitting coaches Marcus Thames and P.J. Pilittere have been repeating several key catchphrases to players early in camp, one of which concerns urging aggressiveness in the strike zone while laying off borderline pitches. Last season, the Yankees led the Majors in homers (241) and paced the American League in walks (616) while ranking 12th in the Majors in strikeouts (1,386).

"I want us to be obsessed with controlling the strike zone. That's one of our bumper stickers, if you will," Boone said. "And I know Marcus and P.J. are really driving that message home with our guys. We want to be great at that, because we feel like if we do that with our slug potential when you're controlling the strike zone, that's a dangerous combination."

Boone was asked what some of his other "bumper stickers" have been.

"I've got a lot. I'll unveil them as we go," Boone said. "You'll hear me repeat myself a little bit."

Bombers bits
• After singling in his first at-bat during his Yankees debut, Brandon Drury was plunked in the left hand by a pitch in the third inning. Drury remained in the game and said that he had treatment, but X-rays were not necessary.

Video: Hoch on the Yankees landing Drury in trade

Billy McKinney cracked a go-ahead three-run homer in the ninth inning. McKinney also played five innings at first base as he looks to provide depth behind Greg Bird and Tyler Austin.

• Infielder Thairo Estrada has resumed training on an elliptical machine as he recovers from a gunshot wound to his right thigh, sustained during a late January robbery attempt in Venezuela. Estrada is unlikely to be ready to begin the Minor League season.

• Right-hander Albert Abreu is recovering well from appendix surgery performed on March 7, Boone said. Rated as the Yankees' No. 7 prospect by MLB Pipeline, Abreu has been playing catch at the Yankees' complex.

Up next
The Yankees are on the road Sunday, visiting the Phillies in Clearwater, Fla., at 1:05 p.m. ET, and the game can be seen on MLB.TV and MLB Network. Left-hander Jordan Montgomery will start for New York opposite right-hander Aaron Nola for Philadelphia. The Yankees' lineup is scheduled to include Bird, Gleyber Torres, Jacoby Ellsbury and Aaron Hicks.

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

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