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Sources: Red Sox have 5-year deal with J.D.

Slugger coming off career-best 45 HRs, 104 RBIs in 2017
MLB.com @IanMBrowne

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The prolonged courtship of slugger J.D. Martinez has paid off for him and the Red Sox, as MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi reported via sources that the sides have reached agreement on a five-year, $110 million contract that includes opt-outs after the second and third years of the deal.

The club hasn't announced the signing, which is pending a physical.

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The prolonged courtship of slugger J.D. Martinez has paid off for him and the Red Sox, as MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi reported via sources that the sides have reached agreement on a five-year, $110 million contract that includes opt-outs after the second and third years of the deal.

The club hasn't announced the signing, which is pending a physical.

Hot Stove Tracker

Martinez gives the Red Sox the big bat they need to supplement a lineup that finished last in the American League with 168 homers last season. Even with the lack of power, Boston still won the AL East with 93 wins for the second straight season.

It took a while, but the Red Sox have now countered the blockbuster move the Yankees made earlier this winter when they acquired Giancarlo Stanton.

Video: Castrovince, Justice on Martinez signing with Red Sox

An outfielder, Martinez is likely to get a lot of his playing time for the Red Sox at designated hitter. The club has a strong starting outfield of Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts. Despite earlier trade rumors, sources have told MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi that the Red Sox are leaning toward keeping Bradley.

Video: Browne on how Cora will use Martinez in the outfield

Hanley Ramirez, who had been slotted in as Boston's starting designated hitter, will now share time at first base with Mitch Moreland. Ramirez can also DH when Martinez plays the outfield.

Boston's lineup on March 29 for Opening Day at Tropicana Field could look something like this:

1. Mookie Betts, RF
2. Andrew Benintendi, LF
3. Xander Bogaerts, SS
4. J.D. Martinez, DH
5. Rafael Devers, 3B
6. Hanley Ramirez, 1B
7. Jackie Bradley Jr., CF
8. Eduardo Nunez, 2B
9. Christian Vazquez, C
Chris Sale, SP

As far as the Red Sox were concerned, positional alignments were a non-factor in their pursuit of Martinez. They were focused on getting his bat.

Video: MLB Tonight: Where Martinez fits in Red Sox lineup

It's easy to see why. The 30-year-old Martinez had the best season of his career in 2017, mashing 45 homers in just 432 at-bats and leading the Major Leagues with a .690 slugging percentage.

Martinez did much of his damage down the stretch last season after getting traded from the Tigers to the D-backs. Arizona was the other main suitor for Martinez.

Fenway fans will now be treated to Martinez taking aim at the inviting Green Monster with his big, right-handed swing. However, this isn't to say Martinez is a pull hitter. He has an all-field approach with plenty of power to center and right-center.

Video: J.D. Martinez reportedly agrees to deal with Red Sox

The Red Sox established Martinez as their primary target for this offseason back in November.

After Boston offered Martinez a five-year deal worth more than $100 million a few weeks back, the sides remained at a stalemate until talks finally surged forward with momentum on Monday.

Video: Must C Classic: Martinez hits four homers, plates six

Baseball's offseason has started to pick up in recent days, most notably when first baseman Eric Hosmer agreed to terms with the Padres on an eight-year deal on Saturday.

Rather than moving ahead to alternatives when negotiations were stalled with Martinez, president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski stayed focused on his top target.

It was Dombrowski who took a flyer on Martinez with the Tigers on March 24, 2014, just two days after the outfielder had been released by the Astros.

Martinez swiftly emerged into a threat for Detroit and he was the best slugger on the free-agent market this winter.

The Red Sox will have a lineup led by Martinez, Betts, Benintendi and slugging 21-year-old third baseman Devers. The club also expects talented shortstop Bogaerts to regain his form after an injury-plagued second half last season. Bradley and Ramirez are two other players who battled through injuries in 2017, and an uptick is certainly possible this season.

Combine that with a pitching staff that includes an elite ace in Chris Sale, a top closer in Craig Kimbrel and a five-time All-Star lefty coming back from an injury in David Price, and the Red Sox feel good about their chances to make a deep run in October after losing in the AL Division Series the last two years.

Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)

While replicating his astonishing 2017 pace (45 homers, 104 RBIs in 119 games) will be a tall task, Martinez can be counted on to make another run at 40-plus homers and rank among the AL leaders in RBIs as part of a talented Red Sox lineup. The slugger warrants consideration during Round 2 of 2018 drafts, within the vicinity of star sluggers such as Kris Bryant, Carlos Correa and Joey Votto. While manager Alex Cora's immediate plans for Martinez are unclear at this time, this signing could reduce the playing time available for Moreland, Ramirez and Bradley. As a result, all three can now go undrafted in shallow leagues.

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.

Boston Red Sox, J.D. Martinez

Judge, Stanton add ding, zing to first spring BP

Fans pack Steinbrenner Field as Yankees sluggers put on inaugural show
MLB.com @BryanHoch

TAMPA, Fla. -- Sixty players passed through the runway that leads from the home clubhouse to the dugout at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Monday morning, but all eyes seemed to be locked upon Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton.

Hacking at batting-practice fastballs for the first time as teammates, the headliners of last summer's Home Run Derby generated much the same sizzle as they did that memorable night in Miami, with each of their swings prompting audible reactions from an estimated crowd of about 2,000.

TAMPA, Fla. -- Sixty players passed through the runway that leads from the home clubhouse to the dugout at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Monday morning, but all eyes seemed to be locked upon Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton.

Hacking at batting-practice fastballs for the first time as teammates, the headliners of last summer's Home Run Derby generated much the same sizzle as they did that memorable night in Miami, with each of their swings prompting audible reactions from an estimated crowd of about 2,000.

• Judge-Stanton BP debut goes as expected

"The fans, the moment we touched the dirt, they were buzzing and ready for us to get in the cage," Stanton said. "That was really cool. Like nothing I've ever experienced in the spring."

Video: Stanton talks about the fans at batting practice

With the Major League home run leaders from last season batting in a group that also included Gary Sanchez and Jacoby Ellsbury, Stanton won the first pinstriped mini-Home Run Derby of 2018 during Monday's full-squad workout, cracking four blasts to Judge's two.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

More importantly, the showcase provided a sneak preview of the rock-star atmosphere that promises to follow the Yankees during the 2018 season, with Judge and Stanton shining as the team's brightest lights. The Yankees recently opted to open gates three hours early for Spring Training home games so fans won't miss a swing.

"I think they understand the buzz," manager Aaron Boone said. "They understand it's always going to be something that's talked about, certainly at home, but even when we go on the road. Frankly, I think that's a good thing, because it helps promote our sport."

Video: Boone reacts to Judge, Stanton taking first BP

While many of their 30 swings weren't in midseason form, Judge and Stanton each connected for notable drives. Judge cleared a grandstand during his final round, while Stanton clipped the "F" in George M. Steinbrenner Field atop the scoreboard. Judge was impressed by Stanton's drives into the wind, saying, "You can just hear it. It comes off his bat different."

Video: MLB Tonight: Judge on fan excitement in early camp

"From what I've seen so far, he's a guy that's going to go out there and do his job, get the work done," Judge said. "That's what I saw in his cages. He's preparing the right way, I saw him in the weight room going through his normal routine. He's just here to work."

• Yankees' Spring Training information

With the focus on Judge and Stanton, Sanchez's strokes were reduced to a footnote. The slugging backstop crushed several impressive drives, including one that struck a concrete pillar beyond the wall in left-center field.

Tweet from @Yankees: *Kraken bat crack* pic.twitter.com/BeCwJpWQLZ

"Gary rakes. That's what I think," Boone said. "He's special. He gets in that box, and yeah, I do think he gets overlooked. I can't wait to see what he's going to do again this year."

It was the first on-field hitting session of the year for Judge, who had arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder in November. Judge said that "nothing is holding me back," and that he never swings at max effort during batting practice.

Video: Outlook: Judge looks to follow up stellar rookie year

"My job is to barrel up the baseball as many times as I can," Judge said. "I've got to stick to my routine. It doesn't matter if there's zero people in the stands or if it's packed. I've just got to work on certain things so I can go in the game and perform."

Stanton said that the fans did not affect his workout in any way, though he joked that he was "playing pepper with the cage a little bit." Stanton said that he typically tries to hit the ball to right field, focusing on back spin and staying inside the ball rather than trying to drop jaws in the crowd.

Video: MLB Tonight: Stanton reacts to fan turnout for BP

"I know they're here for the entertainment, but we've got to get our work in, too," Stanton said. "That's my usual approach in BP. That's what got me to this point. It's not going to change."

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

New York Yankees, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton

Phillies, Arrieta having discussions

MLB.com

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

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.

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

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.

Nationals remain possible Arrieta destination
The Nationals have emerged as a suitor for some of the remaining free-agent starters on the market, including Arrieta, according to MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi.

Right-hander A.J. Cole currently projects as Washington's No. 5 starter, but he's yet to pitch a full season in the big leagues. The 26-year-old has totaled 99 2/3 innings through 22 appearances with the Nationals over the last three seasons. Cole impressed with a strong finish in 2017, posting a 3.00 ERA through his final eight games. He's out of options, so if he doesn't make the Opening Day roster, the Nationals could lose him on waivers.

Washington's No. 4 prospect Erick Fedde and veteran Edwin Jackson are also in the mix for the final rotation spot. General manager Mike Rizzo has said he's comfortable with the team's in-house options for the role.

The Nationals previously expressed interest in Arrieta at the Winter Meetings, per MLB.com's Mark Feinsand. Arrieta's agent, Scott Boras, has ties to the organization. He represents three of Washington's current rotation members -- Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez -- as well as Nats star Bryce Harper, who's entering a contract year. -- This report was first posted on Feb. 11.

Hot Stove Tracker

Teams interested in "high-salary/short-term" deal
Should Arrieta reach a stage where he feels a long-term deal may not be in sight, perhaps not at the dollar value or length he seeks, the right-hander may have a breadth of job opportunities available. There are multiple teams "very interested" in discussing a high-salary deal with Arrieta, but on a shorter term, according to a report by ESPN's Buster Olney.

Arrieta has been linked to the Twins, Brewers, Cardinals, Cubs, Phillies and Nationals, though none of those reports have manifested into anything that indicates a deal is even close to culminating.

Though he has shown flashes as one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball as recently as just three seasons ago, advanced metrics, a noticeable dip in velocity and less command of the strike zone all suggested that Arrieta possesses some potential long-term question marks. Those concerns may have prompted prospective suitors to temper their pursuit of a long-term deal with Arrieta, who was widely considered to land one of the most lucrative contracts as recently as just a year or two ago.

Though he is just five months older than Darvish and hasn't undergone major surgery like the Tommy John procedure Darvish underwent in 2015, Arrieta's market has been far more stagnant this winter, at least in the public realm. The Cubs showed far more interest in Darvish before agreeing to a five-year deal with the free-agent righty, which led USA Today's Bob Nightengale to speculate on a red flag relating to Arrieta -- essentially, if the Cubs, who nurtured Arrieta into one of the best pitchers in the game, were more interested in an external option, "What do the Cubs know about him that the rest of baseball doesn't?" -- This report was first posted on Feb. 9.

Arrieta appears ready to hold out for right deal
Arrieta, who is entering his age-32 season and is just two years removed from a historic season in 2015, finished the 2017 campaign with a 3.53 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP in 30 starts. He was among the most significant pieces of a multiyear Cubs rebuild that culminated with a championship in '16, and he has been linked to several clubs this offseason.

In January, USA Today reported that the Cubs would be willing to bring Arrieta back on a four-year, $110 million deal, though it's believed that the right-hander is seeking a longer deal and Chicago has since added Yu Darvish. The Brewers, who have fortified their lineup but are still in need of a top-of-the-rotation starter, are believed to have made a similar offer in length. CBS Chicago's Bruce Levine reported in early January that the Cardinals have also shown interest in Arrieta.

Levine reported in November that the starting point for negotiations between clubs and Boras were in the six-year, $160 million range. While it seems unlikely that Arrieta will net a contract of that figure, the highly competitive hurler appears to be willing to wait for the right offer.

The standstill market among the most high-profile free agents continues, and it's unclear if the dust will settle before next week, when pitchers and catchers report. -- This report was first posted on Jan. 3.

Jake Arrieta

MLB announces pace of play initiatives for '18

MLB.com @_dadler

Major League Baseball will implement new pace of play rules for the 2018 season, Commissioner Rob Manfred announced Monday, but there will be no pitch clock this season.

After consulting with the MLB Players Association and all 30 clubs, MLB announced its slate of rules changes, among them a limit on mound visits per game.

Major League Baseball will implement new pace of play rules for the 2018 season, Commissioner Rob Manfred announced Monday, but there will be no pitch clock this season.

After consulting with the MLB Players Association and all 30 clubs, MLB announced its slate of rules changes, among them a limit on mound visits per game.

•  Pace of play rules FAQ

A pitch clock -- giving the pitcher a certain amount of time to deliver the ball -- had been one of the major proposals considered. MLB decided to defer implementation of a pitch clock, as well as a between-batter timer, in order to give players an opportunity to respond to the new rules and positively affect pace of play throughout the 2018 season.

"I am pleased that we were able to reach an understanding with the Players Association to take concrete steps to address pace of play with the cooperation of players," Manfred said in a statement. "My strong preference is to continue to have ongoing dialogue with players on this topic to find mutually acceptable solutions."

New phone lines connecting the video review rooms and the dugout will be installed and monitored, limiting the ability of teams to steal signs, which is viewed as a contributing factor to the increasing number of mound visits. Rules governing when players can and cannot leave the batter's box between pitches, instituted during the 2017 season, remain in effect.

•  Players, managers react to new rules

"Players were involved in the pace of game discussion from Day 1, and are committed to playing a crisp and exciting brand of baseball for the fans, but they remain concerned about rule changes that could alter the outcome of games and the fabric of the game itself -- now or in the future," said Tony Clark, the MLBPA executive director.

Here is a breakdown of the new rules:

• Mound visits: Mound visits will be limited to six per team per nine innings. Teams will receive an additional visit for every extra inning played. Any manager, coach or player visit to the mound will count as a mound visit. Visits to the mound to clean cleats in rainy weather, to check on an injury or potential injury or after the announcement of an offensive substitution are excepted. Also, normal communication between player and pitcher that do not require either to vacate their position on the field do not count as a visit. If a team is out of visits, the umpire will have discretion to grant a visit at the catcher's request if he believes there has been a cross-up between the pitcher and catcher.

Video: Hot Stove on mound visits regarding pace of play

• Between-inning breaks: As has been the case since the start of the 2016 season, a timer will count down between innings from 2:05 for breaks in locally televised games, from 2:25 in nationally televised games and from 2:55 for tiebreaker and postseason games. The difference now is that at the 25-second mark, the umpire will signal for the final warmup pitch and the pitcher must throw it before the clock hits 20. The batter will be announced at the 20-second mark and the pitcher must begin his windup to throw the first pitch of the inning within the five seconds before the clock hits zero. Another important change is that a pitcher is no longer guaranteed eight warmup pitches between innings. However, he can take as many as he wants within the countdown parameters noted above. The timer will start on the last out of the inning, unless the pitcher is on base, on deck or at bat, in which case the timer shall begin when the pitcher leaves the dugout for the mound. If the final out of the inning is subject to replay, the timer begins when the umpire signals the out.

• Timing of pitcher changes: The timing clock -- as listed above -- also applies to pitching changes, and it will begin as soon as the relief pitcher crosses the warning track.

Video: Hot Stove on batter's box rule, replay review changes

• Instant replay: All club video review rooms will now receive direct slow-motion camera angles in order to speed up challenges and the resulting review. New phone lines will connect the rooms to the dugout and will be monitored to prevent their use for sign stealing.

Summary of 2018 Rule Changes

I) Mound Visits 
1. Number
A. 2018 Championship Season. Mound visits without a pitching change shall be limited to six (6) per team, per nine innings. For any extra-innings played, each Club shall be entitled to one additional non-pitching change mound visit per inning.  
B. OBR 5.10(l). Official Baseball Rule 5.10(l), which governs mound visits by a manager or coach, remains in effect (i.e., a pitcher must be removed on the second visit by a manager/coach in an inning). 

2. Definition of Mound Visit. A manager or coach trip to the mound to meet with the pitcher shall constitute a visit. A player leaving his position to confer with the pitcher, including a pitcher leaving the mound to confer with another player, shall also constitute a mound visit, regardless of where the visit occurs or the length of the visit, except that the following shall not constitute mound visits:
A. Discussions between pitchers and position player(s) that (i) occur between batters in the normal course of play and do not require either the position player(s) or the pitcher to relocate;
B. Visits by position players to the mound to clean spikes in rainy conditions;
C. Visits to the mound due to an injury or potential injury of the pitcher; and
D. Visits to the mound after the announcement of an offensive substitution.

3. Cross-Up in Signs. In the event a team has exhausted its allotment of mound visits in a game (or extra inning) and the home plate umpire determines that the catcher and pitcher did not have a shared understanding of the location or type of pitch that had been signaled by the catcher (otherwise referred to as a "cross-up"), the home plate umpire may, upon request of the catcher, allow the catcher to make a brief mound visit. Any mound visit resulting from a cross-up prior to a team exhausting its allotted number of visits shall count against a team's total number of allotted mound visits.

II) Inning Breaks and Pitching Changes
1. Time of Break. The timer will count down from 2:05 for breaks in locally televised championship season games, from 2:25 for breaks in nationally televised championship season games, and from 2:55 for tie-breaker and postseason games as follows: 

Time Remaining | Required Action
25 seconds: 
Umpire signals pitcher to complete last warmup pitch.
20 seconds: Batter's announced and must leave on-deck circle, batter walk-up music shall begin, and pitcher shall complete last warmup pitch.
0 seconds: Pitcher must begin motion to deliver first pitch.

A. The pitcher may take as many warm-up pitches as he desires, but regardless of how many warm-up pitches he has thrown, he must deliver his final warm-up pitch at least 20 seconds prior to the end of an inning break or pitching change. OBR 5:07 will be revised to reflect that pitcher is not guaranteed eight warm-up pitches. 
B. The umpire shall signal for the last warm-up pitch at 25 seconds, unless a special circumstance (as described below) applies. 
C. The batter must leave the on-deck circle and proceed directly to the batter's box when the pitcher throws his final warm-up pitch.  
D. The pitcher must begin his motion for the first pitch as soon as the batter steps into the box and is alert to the pitcher; provided, however, the pitcher cannot begin his motion for the first pitch more than five seconds prior to the end of an inning break or pitching change so that television is ensured to be back from commercial break. 

2. Special Circumstances. A Player will be excused from following the time limits set forth above if the umpire determines that any of the following special circumstances are present:  
A. There is a delay in normal warm-up activities during the inning break due to no fault of the Players (e.g., injury or other medical emergency, equipment issues, playing field or grounds crew issues);
B. The umpire believes the pitcher is at a legitimate risk of injury if he does not receive additional time to throw warm-up pitches; 
C. The umpire believes the batter is at a legitimate risk of injury if he does not receive additional time to enter the batter's box; 
D. Any other special circumstances which, in the umpire's judgment, warrant allowing the pitcher to throw after the deadline. 

3. Start of Timer for Inning Breaks
A. Last Out of Inning. The timer shall start on the last out of an inning for an inning break.   
B. Close Plays/Replay Review. The Field Timing Coordinator shall delay the start of the timer if the final out of the inning is a close play that may be reviewed by instant replay. If the final out of the inning is determined in instant replay, the timer shall start as soon as the out is signaled by the umpire.  
C. Pitcher or Catcher On Base/On Deck. If a pitcher ends an inning on base, on deck, or at bat, the timer shall reset when the pitcher leaves the dugout for the mound. If a catcher ends the inning on base, on deck, or at bat, the timer will reset when the catcher enters the dugout (and another catcher must begin warming up the pitcher). 
 
4. Start of Timer for Pitching Changes
A. Pitcher Crosses Warning Track. The pitching change timer shall begin as soon as the relief pitcher crosses the warning track (or foul line for on-field bullpens) to enter the game. In the case of a pitching change that occurs during an inning break, the timer shall reset if previously started as soon as the relief pitcher crosses the warning track (or foul line for on-field bullpens).  
B. Relief Pitchers Must Promptly Leave Bullpen. Relief pitchers shall leave the bullpen promptly following an appropriate signal by their manager or coach. During the playing of God Bless America, or any other extended inning event previously approved by the Office of the Commissioner, the timer will begin at the conclusion of the song or event. 
 
5. Enforcement. Umpires shall direct players and enforce the inning break and pitching change time limits on the field. Players who consistently or flagrantly violate the time limits will be subject to progressive discipline for just cause by the Office of the Commissioner pursuant to Article XI(C) of the Basic Agreement.

III. Batter's Box Rule
The batter's box rule that was in effect during the 2017 season will remain in effect during the 2018 season.

IV. Video Replay Review
The following adjustments will be made to the video replay technology:
A. Install capability for all Club video review rooms to receive direct slow motion camera angles for the 2018 championship season; 
B. Install new phone lines connecting the video review rooms and the dugout, and monitor the communications over those lines to prevent their use for sign-stealing.

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

Trout drops everything to watch Ohtani hit

Mike Trout reported to Spring Training leaving a very successful offseason behind him. His favorite team won the Super Bowl, he improved his meteorology knowledge, he exchanged vows with his bride, Jessica, and he got the news his team would acquire two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani. And now that he has arrived in Arizona, he finally witnessed Ohtani at work.

Hosmer to honor Yordano, wear No. 30 in SD

MLB.com @DKramer_

The memory of his close friend and fallen former teammate, Yordano Ventura, remains embedded in Eric Hosmer. When Ventura was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic in February of last year, the tragedy shook Hosmer and the Royals organization.

Though Hosmer has left Kansas City and since signed an eight-year, $144 million contract with the Padres, he will bring an homage to Ventura with him -- Hosmer plans to don No. 30, the number Ventura wore when they were Royals teammates.

The memory of his close friend and fallen former teammate, Yordano Ventura, remains embedded in Eric Hosmer. When Ventura was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic in February of last year, the tragedy shook Hosmer and the Royals organization.

Though Hosmer has left Kansas City and since signed an eight-year, $144 million contract with the Padres, he will bring an homage to Ventura with him -- Hosmer plans to don No. 30, the number Ventura wore when they were Royals teammates.

Hosmer was known to have a close relationship with Ventura, and the first baseman was even seen to be a mentor to the young pitcher. Hosmer spoke on behalf of the Royals organization in a pregame ceremony remembering Ventura ahead of Kansas City's home opener last year, its first home game since Ventura had been killed at the age of just 25. Hosmer also wore an arm band reading "Ace 30" during the World Baseball Classic to pay tribute to Ventura.

Video: OAK@KC: Royals have a moment of silence for Ventura

Hosmer had previously worn No. 35, which was retired by the Padres in recognition of former Cy Young Award winner Randy Jones, who pitched for the club from 1973-80.

Hosmer will officially be introduced at a news conference on Tuesday at Padres camp in Peoria, Ariz., at 8 a.m. PT.

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

San Diego Padres, Eric Hosmer

Hall of Famer Cepeda hospitalized in Bay Area

MLB.com

Hall of Famer Orlando Cepeda was rushed to a Bay Area hospital on Monday night.

A Giants spokesperson had no information on Cepeda's condition or possible illness, but said his family was arriving at the hospital.

Hall of Famer Orlando Cepeda was rushed to a Bay Area hospital on Monday night.

A Giants spokesperson had no information on Cepeda's condition or possible illness, but said his family was arriving at the hospital.

The 80-year-old made a public appearance in January to celebrate the 80th birthday of Willie McCovey at AT&T Park.

Cepeda broke into the Majors in 1958 as a first baseman with San Francisco and became one of the preeminent hitters of his era. An 11-time All-Star, Cepeda won a World Series and the National League MVP Award with the Cardinals in 1967.

Video: Cepeda discusses breaking barriers for Puerto Rico

Quinn Roberts is a reporter for MLB.com.

San Francisco Giants, St. Louis Cardinals

Felix, Yadi lead select group in it for long haul

With Hosmer leaving KC, here's a look at players who have stuck with one club
MLB.com @williamfleitch

Over the weekend, Eric Hosmer agreed to a big honking eight-year, $144 million contract with the Padres, a team eager to show it's ready to contend in the near future, for better or for worse. Hosmer is many things, a four-time Gold Glove Award winner, a one-time All-Star, a World Series champion, but more than anything else, he has been a Royal.

Hosmer, along with Salvador Perez, is the physical avatar of one of the two most successful eras in Royals history. He started out as the superstar prospect who pointed to a better future, then became the slightly disappointing young player once he reached the Majors, to the leader of a team that won a World Series, to a legitimate top-shelf down-ballot American League MVP Award candidate, to ultimately the most Royal thing of all: A free agent who left town.

Over the weekend, Eric Hosmer agreed to a big honking eight-year, $144 million contract with the Padres, a team eager to show it's ready to contend in the near future, for better or for worse. Hosmer is many things, a four-time Gold Glove Award winner, a one-time All-Star, a World Series champion, but more than anything else, he has been a Royal.

Hosmer, along with Salvador Perez, is the physical avatar of one of the two most successful eras in Royals history. He started out as the superstar prospect who pointed to a better future, then became the slightly disappointing young player once he reached the Majors, to the leader of a team that won a World Series, to a legitimate top-shelf down-ballot American League MVP Award candidate, to ultimately the most Royal thing of all: A free agent who left town.

Hosmer played seven years in Kansas City, and he is among the all-time franchise leaders in several categories, from homers (eighth) to RBIs (eighth) to hits (ninth) to games played (11th). (It is worth noting that he's not in the top 25 in all-time Royals bWAR, even though current and recent Royals like Alex Gordon, eighth, Lorenzo Cain, 13th, and Perez, 21st, all are).

Video: Butera, Duffy and Herrera react to Hosmer departure

Had Hosmer re-signed with the Royals, like many suspected he would, he likely would have moved into the top five, and maybe even the top two (he wasn't catching George Brett in anything) in almost every Royals career category. He would have been Mr. Royal, the representation of this era of Royals baseball in a way similar to the way Brett was in the 1980s.

But Hosmer didn't, because players of course rarely do anymore. It has become an article of faith that the days of Stan Musial and Carl Yastrzemski and Cal Ripken, Hall of Famers staying with the same franchises their entire careers, are long in the past, though it is worth noting that Chipper Jones, Alan Trammell, Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Barry Larkin, Jim Rice, Tony Gwynn and Ripken have all been inducted in the last decade. (And Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter are coming in the next few years.) But certainly finding guys who stay with one team their whole career are few and far between. You'd be surprised how few players have even made it deep into their second contract with one team.

So, today, we look at the longest-tenured active careers with one team, for both pitchers and hitters. It can be a little tricky for pitchers, because, due to injuries, sometimes pitchers can play for one franchise for a decade without actually, you know, pitching all that much. So we'll look at the top 10 in career innings pitched for one team for pitchers (which eliminated some relievers, but not all), and total games played for hitters. Hosmer had a chance to top the latter list someday. But that opportunity ended this weekend. He'll have to buy his own beers in Kansas City from now on. (Thanks to Baseball Reference's Play Index for the research help.)

PITCHERS

10. Dallas Keuchel, Astros, 984 2/3 innings (debuted in 2012)
Keuchel had a 5.21 ERA in his first two seasons over 38 starts before turning it on in 2014 and then winning the AL Cy Young Award in '15. It feels like he just got here, another reason it's so amazing to see him in the top 10 already. (No. 11 on this list is Chris Archer, by the way.)

Video: Keuchel discusses pitching again in Spring Training

9. Julio Teheran, Braves, 1,009 2/3 innings (debuted in 2011)
Teheran first appeared in Atlanta when he was 20, which is why it feels like he's been around forever even though he only turned 27 a couple of weeks ago. For what it's worth, Greg Maddux didn't even get to Atlanta until he was 27.

8. Corey Kluber, Indians, 1,091 innings (debuted in 2011)
Kluber has now thrown more than 203 innings a season for four consecutive seasons, and that's not even counting the postseason. He didn't make his first start for Cleveland until he was Teheran's age. The Indians have Kluber under contract through 2021, when he will be 34.

7. Stephen Strasburg, Nationals, 1,099 2/3 innings (debuted in 2010)
It's a little disconcerting seeing Strasburg on this list, isn't it? It seems like just yesterday that he was the phenom who was going to change the sport. Also, so much of his career has been about reducing his innings. But here he is. The Nationals will be paying Strasburg through 2030, by the way.

Video: Strasburg is the No. 5 starting pitcher right now

6. Chris Tillman, Orioles, 1,118 1/3 innings (debuted in 2009)
A free agent this offseason, news broke Monday that Tillman is returning to the O's on a one-year deal, according to multiple sources. Considering he had a 7.84 ERA last season, perhaps he should consider himself fortunate to be pitching in 2018 at all.

5. Homer Bailey, Reds, 1,124 innings (debuted in 2007)
There is a special slot on this list for Bailey, who is here because of the rarely used "they can't get rid of his contract, so let's call it 'longevity'" principle. The Reds are hoping Bailey can "lead' their rotation, which might be asking a lot of a guy who hasn't had an ERA under 5.56 since 2014. They owe him $49 million over the next two seasons (counting a $5 million buyout after 2019), so, suffice it to say, Cincinnati fans will still be seeing plenty of the Christian Bale doppleganger for a while.

4. Madison Bumgarner, Giants, 1,508 2/3 innings (debuted in 2009)
Now we're getting somewhere. The final four pitchers on this list are all staples, the faces of their franchises for a decade now. Bumgarner finally had the injury season in 2017 many had feared, but because of a bike crash rather than wear and tear. He is somehow still only 28.

Video: Bumgarner discusses his excitement for 2018 season

3. Adam Wainwright, Cardinals, 1,891 2/3 innings (debuted in 2005)
Wainwright has had the two worst seasons of his career the past two years, and there has been enough worry about him that he felt compelled to have a news conference last week saying he'd no longer be taking retirement questions. The Cardinals still want him to hold a spot in the rotation or, failing that, at least the chance to bow out gracefully. Wainwright will remain beloved no matter what happens: Clinching a World Series your rookie season as a closer and then becoming an ace over the next few years will do that.

2. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers, 1,935 innings (debuted in 2008)
Kershaw is about 400 innings behind Sandy Koufax, and he's now almost the same age Koufax was when he retired. (He'll turn 30 a month from today.) Whether he passes Koufax depends entirely on whether or not he re-signs with the Dodgers at the end of the year. Kershaw may have a few outside suitors.

1. Felix Hernandez, Mariners, 2,502 1/3 innings (debuted in 2005)
It was the worst year of King Felix's career, though his strikeouts crept up a tick, maybe a positive sign moving forward? The Mariners are not asking too much from Hernandez anymore; they'd just like him to have a smile on his face again.(Pssst: A playoff appearance might help that.)

HITTERS

10. Brett Gardner, Yankees, 1,218 games (debuted in 2008)
Usually you have to be a Hall of Famer for a Yankee to make this list, but Gardner has proven just handy enough to stick around for a decade now. It probably ends this season: He's a free agent after the World Series. (No. 11 on the list is Freddie Freeman, by the way.)

Video: Outlook: Gardner is productive but may not match 2017

9. Elvis Andrus, Rangers, 1,379 games (debuted in 2009)
How have we gotten so impossibly old that baby-faced Andrus is a grizzled veteran now? We're going to blink and Rougned Odor is going to be 53.

8. Alex Gordon, Royals, 1,412 games (debuted in 2007)
Gordon holds the Bailey spot on this list, a guy who's going to remain here not because of his play, but because of his dreadful contract. It's possible the Royals had Gordon in mind when deciding not to give Hosmer that eighth year.

7. Joey Votto, Reds, 1,430 games (debuted in 2007)
Votto maybe had his best season in 2017 and would have been this scribe's choice for the National League MVP Award. If the Reds haven't traded Votto already, they certainly aren't going to now. His contract could go all the way through 2024, when he'll be 40 and probably still getting on base in half his at-bats.

Video: Votto on gaining weight, creating winning culture

6. Ryan Braun, Brewers, 1,458 (debuted in 2007)
Braun was expected to be trade bait at the non-waiver Trade Deadline last season, but the Brewers ended up in a pennant chase, so they needed him. He could have been a Milwaukee legend if it hadn't been for, well, you know, but even with all the outside unpleasantness, the Brewers have gotten a great deal on his contract, and he's still cheap for the next three years. Braun may end up retiring a Brewer after all?

5. Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox, 1,503 games (debuted in 2006)
A moment to remember players who dropped out of the top 12 last year: Andre Ethier (whom the Dodgers aren't bringing back), Evan Longoria (traded to San Francisco) and Andrew McCutchen (ditto). Laser Show is going to play second base for the Red Sox until he dies, and probably a little while after that.

4. Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals, 1,552 games (debuted in 2005)
It's funny to think that when Zimmerman was a prospect, we all referred to him as "a player in the Expos' organization." He never wore Montreal garb, sadly, but he did hit a career high in homers last year.

Video: Outlook: Zimmerman may have trouble repeating '17

3. David Wright, Mets, 1,583 games (debuted in 2004)
Included because he's under contact and wants to come back. Wright hasn't made it into a game since May 27, 2016. The Mets insurers are rooting for him to come back, and so should you.

2. Joe Mauer, Twins, 1,731 games (debuted in 2004)
Mauer's mammoth contract finally expires after this year, and while it might not have been the most efficient spending of cash, the guy is still productive and useful. Paul Molitor thinks he's "going to be a lifelong Twin," but that might be optimistic. Amazing stat: Mauer has played in 14 postseason games and lost 13 of them.

1. Yadier Molina, Cardinals, 1,747 games (debuted in 2004)
It really is remarkable that the top guy on this list is an everyday catcher. Carson Kelly is knocking on his door, but Yadi is signed through 2020 and remains the most beloved Cardinal since Ozzie Smith. Molina will be allowed to play as long as he wants in one capacity or another. He's 18th in all-time games caught; if he catches 130 this year (and he's only been under that once in the last decade), he'll pass Lance Parrish for 12th.

Video: Outlook: Molina could continue power surge

Will Leitch is a columnist for MLB.com.

D-backs sign speedy Dyson to 2-year deal

Moments after news of J.D. signing with Red Sox, Arizona inks outfielder
MLB.com @SteveGilbertMLB

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Not long after word began coming out that J.D. Martinez had signed a five-year deal with the Red Sox on Monday, so too did the news that the D-backs had agreed to terms with Jarrod Dyson on a two-year contract.

A baseball source has confirmed the deal is worth $7.5 million, and a source told MLB.com's Mark Feinsand that Dyson's deal includes performance bonuses each year: $50,000 at 100 and 125 games played; and $50,000 each at 350, 400 and 450 plate appearances.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Not long after word began coming out that J.D. Martinez had signed a five-year deal with the Red Sox on Monday, so too did the news that the D-backs had agreed to terms with Jarrod Dyson on a two-year contract.

A baseball source has confirmed the deal is worth $7.5 million, and a source told MLB.com's Mark Feinsand that Dyson's deal includes performance bonuses each year: $50,000 at 100 and 125 games played; and $50,000 each at 350, 400 and 450 plate appearances.

In a corresponding move, the D-backs placed pitcher Shelby Miller (Tommy John surgery rehab) on the 60-day disabled list.

The timing of the news was somewhat coincidental, but another source indicated that the club had planned on signing Dyson regardless of whether Martinez returned. The source also said the D-backs are continuing to pursue additional outfield help.

Dyson, 33, spent the 2017 season with Seattle, batting .251/.324/.350 with five homers, 30 RBIs and 28 stolen bases in 111 games. Dyson spent the first seven years of his career in Kansas City before being dealt to the Mariners in January 2017.

Video: BAL@SEA: Dyson throws out Machado for double play

A Martinez return to Arizona had been viewed as a long shot given the type of contract the slugger was looking for, combined with the fact that the D-backs already projected to open the season with a record payroll of nearly $130 million.

However, with Martinez unsigned as camps opened along with news that Martinez's agent and D-backs managing general partner Ken Kendrick had met multiple times during the offseason, there remained a sliver of hope for D-backs fans.

The D-backs were believed to have explored shorter-term contracts with Martinez, who eventually accepted a five-year deal with the Red Sox, according to MLB.com's Jon Morosi.

Tweet from @ArchieBradley7: Guess we got JD after all!!!! Please give a warm @Dbacks welcome to @mrzoombiya #letsgoo

Outfield help has been the one area of need the D-backs had not yet addressed during the offseason.

The prospect of losing Martinez and outfielder Gregor Blanco to free agency left Arizona with A.J. Pollock, David Peralta and Yasmany Tomas as likely starters, with Jeremy Hazelbaker and Socrates Brito being the only other two outfielders on its 40-man roster.

While D-backs GM Mike Hazen was asked throughout the offseason about the possibility of bringing back Martinez, he continued to say that the team was "engaged in the entire outfield market" in search for help.

"They have so many different possibilities that they're looking at, be it trade or free agency," D-backs team president and CEO Derrick Hall said of Hazen while meeting with reporters on Monday morning before any of the news broke. "He wants to improve this team even more. He's looking at areas where we could improve, and he's focused on outfield at this time, so we'll see what happens."

Steve Gilbert has covered the D-backs for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB.

Arizona Diamondbacks, Jarrod Dyson

5 under-the-radar breakout hitters for 2018

MLB.com @mattkellyMLB

Breakout hitters can come from anywhere. They can be heralded youngsters like Cody Bellinger or Aaron Judge (each were once ranked among MLB Pipeline's top 50 prospects), or they can be late bloomers like Cardinals outfielder Jose Martinez, who just put up some of the best contact metrics in baseball as a 28-year-old rookie.

The point is that identifying the next hot-shot hitter is an inexact science. Looking specifically at batted-ball samples from their cups of coffee last season, here's a look at five young hitters to get acquainted with before Opening Day.

Breakout hitters can come from anywhere. They can be heralded youngsters like Cody Bellinger or Aaron Judge (each were once ranked among MLB Pipeline's top 50 prospects), or they can be late bloomers like Cardinals outfielder Jose Martinez, who just put up some of the best contact metrics in baseball as a 28-year-old rookie.

The point is that identifying the next hot-shot hitter is an inexact science. Looking specifically at batted-ball samples from their cups of coffee last season, here's a look at five young hitters to get acquainted with before Opening Day.

Teoscar Hernandez, OF, Blue Jays
It appears unlikely free agent Jose Bautista will be back in Toronto, and Hernandez figures to have as decent a chance as Ezequiel Carrera, Curtis Granderson and Steve Pearce to see playing time in left field. The Blue Jays acquired Hernandez from the Astros in a non-waiver Trade Deadline deal for Francisco Liriano, and Hernandez proceeded to crush eight home runs and six doubles, and compile a .908 OPS, over 26 games with Toronto. He also hit some majestic homers, including a 108.8-mph blast off Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka last Sept. 22.

Hernandez's contact was as encouraging as his slash line. Check out where he ranked among all MLB hitters in terms of barrels -- or balls hit with the most ideal combinations of exit velocity and launch angle -- per ball in play:

Highest rate of barrels per ball in play in 2017 (minimum 50 balls in play)
1. Aaron Judge: 25.4 percent
2. Joey Gallo: 21.7 percent
3. J.D. Martinez: 19.5 percent
4. Giancarlo Stanton: 17.4 percent
5. Khris Davis: 17.2 percent
6. Teoscar Hernandez: 17.0 percent

One can't ignore that Hernandez also struck out 36 times and drew only six walks in his 95 plate appearances, but he could take over a corner spot for Toronto if he maintains even most of that raw power.

Video: HOU@TEX: Robinson skies a solo homer to upper deck

Drew Robinson, OF, Rangers
Robinson grew plenty familiar with the shuttle down I-35 between Arlington and Round Rock, taking three assignments to Triple-A during his rookie campaign. The 25-year-old had his struggles against right-handed pitching, batting .202, but he also showed a knack for elevating with power.

Robinson barreled up nine of the 65 balls he put in play, for a 13.9 percent rate that sandwiched him between Josh Donaldson and Nelson Cruz. The Las Vegas native knocked 11 extra-base hits in 107 at-bats while manning left field, second base and third base, and his combination of power and versatility should at least net him a utility role for Texas. There's potential for more if Robinson can improve his contact.

Lane Adams, OF, Braves
Adams wasn't far behind Robinson, barreling nine of his 74 balls in play to give him a rate commensurate with Bellinger and Michael Conforto. He also shuttled back and forth to Triple-A Gwinnett, appearing in both a Minor League and Major League game in the same day last June. Adams clubbed 10 extra-base hits in 109 at-bats, while hitting .275, and his contact was effective, producing a .421 expected weighted on-base average (xwOBA, an advanced Statcast™ metric that examines walks, strikeouts and quality of contact) that put him on par with Paul DeJong, Eric Thames and Marcell Ozuna.

Video: ATL@MIA: Lane Adams hits a three-run jack off Straily

Adams, like Robinson, will need to cut down on his strikeouts. But after eight strong seasons in the Minors, he appears to have the inside track on Atlanta's left-field spot for Opening Day.

Francisco Mejia, C, Indians
Mejia likely tops this list in name recognition as the Indians' No. 1 prospect and the Majors' top catching prospect, according to MLB Pipeline. Mejia has always been known as a bat-first catcher, but he's hit for a high average at every level, nonetheless. Strikeouts have also never been an issue for Mejia, unlike the other names on this list.

The most exciting part of Mejia's 2017 season was the career-high 14 home runs he hit for Double-A Akron, and that new-found power traveled with him to Cleveland last September. Mejia's pop didn't show up in his slash line (he slugged .154 in 11 big league games), but it was evident in his contact. In fact, out of nearly 700 Major Leaguers who put at least 10 balls in play last season, only two (Kirk Nieuwenhuis and the mighty Judge) averaged a higher exit velocity than Mejia at 94.4 mph.

Video: Top Prospects: Francisco Mejia, C, Indians

We're talking about only 11 batted balls for Mejia, but raw exit velocity doesn't need a large sample size. It's an elite skill, and Mejia could develop into a dangerous all-around plate threat if he combines that power with his inherent bat-to-ball skills. Mejia's work at third base in the Arizona Fall League could give him another avenue onto the Indians' roster, and his bat could break into Terry Francona's lineup sooner than later.

Luke Voit, OF, Cardinals
Voit has plenty of local support as a St. Louis native, but he faces stiff competition at first base in Matt Carpenter and Martinez. If Voit can sustain the type of contact he made in 62 games last summer, however, he could be hard to keep on the bench.

Video: CHC@STL: Voit cranks solo HR to straightaway center

Voit recorded exit velocities of 95 mph or higher -- the Statcast™ baseline for hard contact -- on 43.4 percent of his balls in play, ranking him 25th among more than 450 MLB players who compiled at least 50 batted-ball events in 2017. Ranked just above Voit on that list were marquee names like Rhys Hoskins, Christian Yelich, Bellinger and his new teammate, Ozuna.

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

Lane Adams, Teoscar Hernandez, Francisco Mejia, Drew Robinson, Luke Voit

Bryce: 'I'm focused on this year,' not free agency

Harper wants to see Nationals fulfill postseason promise in 2018
MLB.com @JamalCollier

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Before he began his first press conference of the spring, Bryce Harper sat down at the table, adjusted his hat and then pulled out his phone. He had prepared a statement to read to the jam-packed room, ready to cut off the questions he knew would be coming.

Harper said he would not be answering any questions about his future beyond the 2018 season, when his highly anticipated free agency is set to begin. He directed all inquiries to his agent, Scott Boras, and threatened to walk out of the room if asked about his impending free agency.

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Before he began his first press conference of the spring, Bryce Harper sat down at the table, adjusted his hat and then pulled out his phone. He had prepared a statement to read to the jam-packed room, ready to cut off the questions he knew would be coming.

Harper said he would not be answering any questions about his future beyond the 2018 season, when his highly anticipated free agency is set to begin. He directed all inquiries to his agent, Scott Boras, and threatened to walk out of the room if asked about his impending free agency.

Spring Training: Info | Tickets | Schedule | Gear

"I will not be discussing anything relative to 2019, at all," Harper said Monday afternoon. "I'm focused on this year. I'm focused on winning and playing hard, like every single year."

Harper's impending free agency will be one of the biggest storylines throughout all of MLB this season. He will headline perhaps the biggest free-agent class in baseball history, which will include stars such as Manny Machado, Josh Donaldson and potentially even Clayton Kershaw. Harper is expected to be the biggest prize considering his rare combination of talent, accomplishments and youth. He will turn just 26 years old this October, but is already a five-time All-Star, former Rookie of the Year and the National League Most Valuable Player Award winner.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Rarely do players in their prime at that age hit the open market, so some predict Harper could command the largest contract in baseball history as a result -- even topping the 13-year, $325 million pact Giancarlo Stanton signed with Miami in 2014.

However, Harper still has one season left on his contract in Washington, and he intends to stay focused on that.

"I just think every single year I go in, I have my same goals, I have my same plans. And that's to win," Harper said. "That's to be prepared to focus on every single day and do the things I can to help this team win."

Video: Bryce Harper on stacked Nats lineup, rotation

Harper proved again last season that he is one of the sport's most dynamic players when he stays on the field. In 111 games last year, he belted 29 home runs with a 1.008 OPS and was worth 4.8 Wins Above Replacement, according to FanGraphs. But a bone bruise and hyperextended left knee caused Harper to miss about a month, only to return just in time for the postseason. Aside from a mammoth home run in Game 2 of the NL Division Series against the Cubs, Harper struggled to find his timing for much of that playoff series.

The knee did not hinder him at all this offseason, however, and Harper showed up to camp appearing to have gained a few more pounds of muscle. Rangers outfielder Joey Gallo has worked out with Harper for years in the offseason and said Harper was "as focused as he's ever seen him" this winter. It's similar to a year ago, when Harper arrived to camp having added a few pounds of muscle and then played like an MVP candidate for the season's first half before his injury.

Video: Bryce Harper talks health, mindset for 2018

"Stay healthy. That's all I want to do," Harper said. "If I stay healthy, I can be one of the best players in the game."

The Nationals are hopeful for more of the same this season.

Along with Harper's contract status, the Nats have a few other prominent players with expiring contracts, meaning 2018 might be Washington's final chance to win the World Series with its current core. Harper has been a key contributor to the Nationals' teams that have won four division titles in six seasons, even as a few members of the rest of the cast have moved on recently.

"I think I've been lucky enough to play for a great team," Harper said. "We've gotten to the playoffs numerous times. You look at a young guy like [Dan Marino] that gets there their first year and never gets back. It's tough. You always want to get there and get there and get there, because you might never get back.

"Every single year you come in here and try to win ballgames and do the things you can to help this team win. We all want to come together and pull on the same rope. We do it every single year. We're expected to win. That's how it is. You always have that pressure, you always have that pressure to win and everything like that. But we've got a great team, and we've been so close."

This could be the final time Harper arrives to the Nationals' complex in West Palm Beach for Spring Training. And if so, his focus remains on this final season, and he does not want to look to anything beyond.

Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

Washington Nationals, Bryce Harper

The new pace of play rules, explained

MLB.com @castrovince

Coming off a 2017 season that saw the highest average game time (3 hours, 5 minutes) in history, Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association had much discussion prior to Spring Training on how to speed things up. On Monday, Commissioner Rob Manfred announced some rule changes aimed at pace of play.

Here's everything you need to know about those changes:

Coming off a 2017 season that saw the highest average game time (3 hours, 5 minutes) in history, Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association had much discussion prior to Spring Training on how to speed things up. On Monday, Commissioner Rob Manfred announced some rule changes aimed at pace of play.

Here's everything you need to know about those changes:

What's different?

There will be limits on mound visits, the length of time between innings and during pitching changes.

MLB announces pace of play initiatives for '18

But what about the pitch clock?

Despite many rumblings about the potential implementation of a pitch clock, that change will not be made for 2018.

How many mound visits are allowed?

Six per team per nine innings. If a game goes to extra innings, each team will receive one additional non-pitching-change mound visit per inning. Note, too, that the prior rule that a pitcher must be removed on the second visit by a manager or coach in a given inning remains in effect.

Video: Hot Stove on batter's box rule, replay review changes

OK, so what qualifies as a "mound visit"?

This is important, because it's not just a manager or coach visit to the mound to meet with the pitcher. It is also a player leaving his position to confer with the pitcher or a pitcher leaving the mound to confer with another player, regardless of where the visit occurs or the length of the visit.

That said, there are interactions that don't qualify as mound visits, including:

• If the visit is made due to an injury (or potential injury) to the pitcher
• If the pitcher and position player interact between batters without relocating
• If a position player goes to the mound to clean his spikes in rainy conditions
• If the visit is made immediately after the announcement of an offensive substitution

• Players, managers react to changes

Are there any instances in which a team will get extra mound visits?

Just one. If a team has used up all of its mound visits but a home-plate umpire determines that the pitcher and catcher did not have a shared understanding of the location or type of pitch that had been signaled (in other words, if the two were "crossed up"), the umpire may, upon request of the catcher, allow the catcher to make a brief mound visit.

Note that the "cross-up" situation applies to a team's allotment of six visits per nine innings if the team has not already exhausted its allotment.

Video: Changes to inning breaks in pace of play initiative

How long will the breaks between innings and pitching changes be?

As has been the case since the start of the 2016 season, the breaks will be as follows: two minutes and five seconds for locally broadcast games and 2:25 for national televised games. For tiebreaker and postseason games it will be 2:55. Previously, the between-innings break was 2:25 for locally broadcast games and 2:45 for nationally broadcast games.

When does the inning break begin?

On the final out of the inning, unless that out is a close play that may be reviewed (in which case the timer will begin as soon as the umpire signals an out) or unless the pitcher ends the inning on base, on-deck or at-bat (in which case the timer will begin when the pitcher leaves the dugout for the mound) or the catcher ends the inning on base, on-deck or at-bat (in which case the timer will reset when the catcher enters the dugout and another catcher must begin warming up the pitcher).

During the playing of "God Bless America" or any other extended-inning event previously approved by the Office of the Commissioner, the timer will begin at the conclusion of the song or event.

When does the pitching-change break begin?

As soon as the relief pitcher crosses the warning track (or foul line for on-field bullpens).

How will the time limitations be implemented?

With 25 seconds left on the timer, the umpire will signal to the pitcher to complete his last warmup pitch, which must be delivered before the clock strikes 20. At 20 seconds, the batter will be announced and must leave the on-deck circle. At zero seconds, the pitcher must began his motion to deliver the first pitch of the inning. (Even if everybody is ready, the pitcher cannot deliver the first pitch more than five seconds before the end of the timer, so that the broadcast is ensured to be back from commercial break.)

There are a few special circumstances in which the break will be extended, including:

• A delay in normal warmup activities through no fault of the players, such as an injury or medical emergency, equipment issues or playing field or grounds crew issues
• The umpire believes the pitcher is at legitimate risk of injury if he does not receive additional time to throw warmup pitches
• The umpire believes the batter is at risk of injury if he does not receive additional time to enter the batter's box
• Any other circumstances in which, in the umpire's judgment, more time is needed

So are pitchers still guaranteed eight warmup pitches?

Nope. They can throw as many warmup pitches as they are able in the allotted time, but the eight-pitch guarantee has been removed from the rule book.

What happens to those who break the rules?

Monday's announcement promises "progressive discipline" for players who consistently or flagrantly violate the time limits.

Will we see the pitch clock added in 2019?

It's still possible. The Commissioner's Office will monitor how much these changes impact the average time and the pace of games, and it is still possible that the pitch clock is imposed, with or without agreement from the MLB Players' Association, in future seasons.

MLB and the MLBPA have agreed to meet during the 2018 season to continue to discuss pace of play.

What about the batter's box rule installed in 2015?

This rule -- which requires hitters to keep at least one foot in the box between pitches -- is still in effect, though enforcement in recent seasons has not exactly been strict. It is possible that the increased attention on pace of play leads to increased enforcement.

What about the time it takes for replay reviews?

MLB is installing capability for all club video review rooms to receive direct slow-motion camera angles in an effort to expedite that process.

Any other changes?

New phone lines will be installed connecting the video review rooms and the dugout. MLB will monitor communication on those lines to prevent their use for sign-stealing.

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