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3 ET: Watch Ohtani's mound debut on MLB.TV

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

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

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

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

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

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

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

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

Angels Spring Training info | Tickets

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

Video: Ohtani discusses throwing live batting practice

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

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

Video: Trout discusses riding in a golf cart with Ohtani

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

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

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

Los Angeles Angels, Shohei Ohtani

1 year ago, Judge's eye-popping HR set stage

Revisiting rookie sensation's first spring blast, rise to stardom
MLB.com @BryanHoch

TAMPA, Fla. -- The phrase "All Rise" had yet to be linked to the rookie outfielder with the hulking football build, to say nothing of a dedicated seating area that debuted at Yankee Stadium three months later, celebrating both his immense power and fan appeal.

Yet we should have known that Aaron Judge was about to accomplish special things. It was one year ago today, Feb. 24, 2017, that Judge dropped jaws with a monstrous home run that clanged off of George M. Steinbrenner Field's scoreboard in the Yankees' first home game of the spring.

TAMPA, Fla. -- The phrase "All Rise" had yet to be linked to the rookie outfielder with the hulking football build, to say nothing of a dedicated seating area that debuted at Yankee Stadium three months later, celebrating both his immense power and fan appeal.

Yet we should have known that Aaron Judge was about to accomplish special things. It was one year ago today, Feb. 24, 2017, that Judge dropped jaws with a monstrous home run that clanged off of George M. Steinbrenner Field's scoreboard in the Yankees' first home game of the spring.

Spring info | Tickets | Schedule

The fifth-inning blast off of Phillies left-hander Elniery Garcia was an appetizer for the greatness to come. MLB.com is marking the first anniversary of that moment with remembrances of that swing and the ones that followed for the reigning American League Rookie of the Year.

Judge, outfielder: "I was still thinking about my first at-bat, taking a first-pitch strike and getting behind, and eventually striking out that first at-bat. I told myself just going into it, 'Hey, if that first pitch is there, you're in a game. Compete! If he leaves it right in the middle, take a good swing at it.'"

Garcia challenged Judge with a 93-mph, first-pitch fastball, a little above belt-high. Judge was ready.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Judge: "I took a good swing, and it was a hot spring day here in Tampa, with the wind blowing out. I was able to get it off that Budweiser sign."

Phillies left fielder Tyler Goeddel and center fielder Roman Quinn hardly moved in pursuit, while catcher Andrew Knapp craned his neck for a better view. In the Yankees' dugout, most of Judge's teammates marveled.

Luis Severino, pitcher: "I was here. I've been playing with him since maybe 2014, so I'm used to seeing those kinds of homers. I wasn't that impressed for that. I've seen it before."

Tyler Wade, infielder: "When you're that strong and that big and you can connect with the ball when you haven't seen pitching in six months, and you can do that, that's pretty special."

Austin Romine, catcher: "I'm sure everybody was talking about it throughout the camp. Any time somebody hits the ball really far, everybody talks about it."

Judge: "The longest one I got here, I think I got one over the scoreboard, but I think that was in batting practice. I don't even know. The wind was blowing out, too, so it probably pushed it out a little bit."

Judge homered in his first Major League at-bat on Aug. 13, 2016, going back-to-back with Tyler Austin off the Rays' Matt Andriese, but his first taste of the big leagues produced mixed results. Judge hit .179 with 42 strikeouts in 84 at-bats before sustaining a season-ending oblique injury. Returning home to California, Judge etched ".179" atop the notes folder of his iPhone, vowing to use the digits as fuel for his winter workouts.

Video: TB@NYY: Statcast™ on Judge's 446-foot milestone homer

Greg Bird, first baseman: "Early on in spring, I would just check in with him. He would tell me, 'I'm ready. I'm good.' There was a lot of chatter last spring for him, in general. He would say, 'I'm good.' That was all I needed to hear from him."

Judge: "In the offseason, the work I was putting in, how my body was feeling -- I knew that the way my swing was feeling, we had a chance to do something special. You're never given anything, especially with the season I had before that. There were a lot of question marks. I knew I had a chance of making this team. I just wanted to go out there and prove it and give it my best shot, and just leave everything out on the table. Through all the hard work in the offseason, I felt like I had a pretty good chance of doing something."

Wade: "When I see a guy like that work so hard, I can see it progressively getting better and better throughout the spring in his at-bats. I was like, 'It's only a matter of time before it clicks,' and it did. Be yourself and just work hard. Don't let anyone outwork you. I asked him this year, 'Hey, I'm kind of in the same situation you were last year -- you came off a tough rookie year. What was your mindset?' He goes, 'Dude, just come in and work your butt off. Just stick to the process and things are going to work out.'"

The homer was one of three Judge hit in the spring of 2017, batting .333/.391/.540 in 25 games as he edged Aaron Hicks (.268/.379/.518) and was named the Yankees' Opening Day right fielder.

Video: NYY@PHI: Judge cranks opposite-field solo home run

Brian Cashman, general manager: "I'd say halfway through camp, Hicks was winning by a hair. The last two or three weeks of camp, Hicks didn't necessarily lose it as much as Judge took it. That wasn't false conversations. If Hicks wins the everyday job, then having Judge with options versus having Judge come off the bench, him coming off the bench would serve him no good. It was more like, you've got to win that everyday job or you're going to Triple-A, and he knew that."

Judge: "[Spring Training] didn't start off too well with the strikeout in the first at-bat, but just being able to make solid contact, I was happy with the swing. I felt comfortable in the box. That's all I was looking for. If I'm making consistent contact, even if they're outs or right at somebody, if I'm just making consistent contact, I'm happy."

CC Sabathia, pitcher: "He was fighting for a job. We just wanted him to feel comfortable and make the team and just be on the Opening Day roster. Everything that came after that was just amazing and not a surprise, but the icing on the top."

Romine: "Any time you look at Judge, you can see the possibility of unbelievable things. He's an unbelievable athlete. I knew his swing was in a better place, I knew he was comfortable, but no one could have predicted what he did."

Reggie Jackson, special advisor: "Our owner, Hal Steinbrenner, wanted him in the big leagues in 2017. We were going to take a chance one way or the other, and he was going to make it or fail because he was going to get a chance to play. Our owner saw to that, our general manager made sure he was there, and of course, our manager [Joe Girardi] put him on the field."

Judge's first homer of the regular season came on April 9, off the Orioles' Michael Givens. His teammates quickly learned to pay attention during batting practice, not wanting to miss the next fireworks display.

Video: NYY@BAL: Judge ties the game, fan excited over catch

Adam Warren, pitcher: "When he first got drafted [in 2013], we were in Oakland. He came out and took BP with us. The ball sounded so much different off of his bat. You're talking about hitting with a bunch of big league guys. He was just out of college. You just knew right then why he was drafted and what kind of potential he had with the power. The best part about shagging BP for a pitcher is watching him. He hits balls where you've never even thought balls will be hit."

Bird: "I just know Judgey and know what he's capable of, and know how much work he puts in in the offseason. When he told me that he was ready, that was all I needed to know. He was confident, his work was good, he was sticking to what he knew and what he wanted to do. There's always been a lot of people helping him and around him. He's just very good at getting what he needs to get done, and saying thanks and being polite, but doing what he needs to do and taking care of his work."

Judge set a Major League rookie record by hitting 52 homers, highlighting a remarkable season that also included a winning performance at the T-Mobile Home Run Derby in July. Judge was named the unanimous AL Rookie of the Year and finished second in the MVP Award chase to the Astros' Jose Altuve.

Video: Must C Crushed: Aaron Judge hits homer number 52

Severino: "Everybody was expecting that [Judge would be successful], but nothing crazy like what he did. I think he changed a little bit with his mechanics, how he hits. I thought maybe there was a good chance for him to have a good year, but nothing crazy like what he did."

P.J. Pilittere, assistant hitting coach: "There's a million people in the organization who had a hand in helping that guy speed the process up. He's such a genuine guy. What he gives the world and the media is the truth. It is a really clear picture of who he is as a person, and that personality is infectious. He's really fun to be around."

Sabathia: "I think everybody knew what he was capable of doing, you know what I'm saying? But to have him do that throughout the whole year was amazing to watch, especially his first season."

With the December 2017 acquisition of Giancarlo Stanton, the Yankees created a tandem that has been likened to the modern-day version of Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris. Despite the star power, Judge said that he is taking the same approach that helped him be successful in 2017.

Judge: "You're always still trying to win a job. That's everyone's mindset, come in here and fight for your job, win a job. Getting a chance to be with the team all of last year, you're more familiar with things, which is a little bit easier for me. But I've still got to fight for a job or my spot, just like everybody else."

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

New York Yankees, Aaron Judge

After big scare, Poncedeleon finds way back

Cardinals right-hander in camp following recovery from fractured skull
MLB.com @JoeTrezz

JUPITER, Fla. -- The sound sent the stadium silent and Daniel Poncedeleon to the ground. Bat to ball, then ball to bone, the stuff of baseball nightmares.

Immobile on the dirt, Poncedeleon's body locked. He knew he'd been hit. The ball always seemed to find him. A year earlier, during his first Spring Training, a comebacker caught him on the foot. Later, he'd blocked a would-be base hit with his chest. The next spring, David Ortiz blasted a line drive off his butt.

JUPITER, Fla. -- The sound sent the stadium silent and Daniel Poncedeleon to the ground. Bat to ball, then ball to bone, the stuff of baseball nightmares.

Immobile on the dirt, Poncedeleon's body locked. He knew he'd been hit. The ball always seemed to find him. A year earlier, during his first Spring Training, a comebacker caught him on the foot. Later, he'd blocked a would-be base hit with his chest. The next spring, David Ortiz blasted a line drive off his butt.

"Right on the meat," Poncedeleon would say. "Didn't feel a thing."

This time, the pain would come. It lay in wait, bubbling up between his brain and dura mater, the tough outer membrane that borders the cranium. Had he been a half-second quicker, raised his glove an inch higher, the ball would have hit leather, and Poncedeleon would have smiled and shrugged. Instead, it rocketed off the bat of Victor Caratini, a Cubs catching prospect, and struck Poncedeleon flush on the right temple. His skull fractured.

In the away dugout, an idyllic Iowa afternoon turned dark. It was supposed to be a light Tuesday for the Memphis Redbirds -- the Cardinals' Triple-A affiliate -- in Des Moines to finish off a four-game, early-season series with the Iowa Cubs, their rivals in the Pacific Coast League. This was May 9, 2017, weeks into Poncedeleon's fourth season in the St. Louis system. The club tabbed the 25-year-old starter to get it through getaway day and onto the team bus. A 10-hour ride back to Tennessee loomed.

The first inning passed with little issue. In tricolored stirrups, Poncedeleon wound up and delivered his first pitch of the second, a two-seam fastball to Caratini. He'd meant for it to run toward the outside corner. It stayed middle-middle, and changed the trajectory of his life.

"I heard the crack of the bat," remembers pitcher John Brebbia, who witnessed the event from the dugout. "Then I heard what I thought was another crack of the bat. And it was [Poncedeleon]. I turned around thinking, 'What happened?' Then people started rushing the field. 'Oh,' I thought. That wasn't two baseball bats'…"

More than 8,000 fans on hand collectively gasped. Poncedeleon's teammates rushed the dugout railing in silent shock. Hopping over, Memphis head athletic trainer Scott Ensell sprinted to the foot of the mound. He knelt over Poncedeleon as a group formed around them: infielders, umpires, coaches and Caratini, all huddling helplessly, their hands on their heads.

Ensell checked for signs of awareness.

"Can you hear me?" he asked breathlessly.

Poncedeleon did not respond.

"Are you OK?!"

As the question lingered, Ensell signaled for the stadium's emergency medical services. 911 was called. Soon, sirens echoed, screaming closer as the seconds slipped away.

*******************************************

In his home in La Miranda, Calif., 1,700 miles west, Ramon Poncedeleon awoke into a nightmare. Ramon and his wife, Mary, raised four children in this suburb south of Los Angeles, where Daniel, the only son, blossomed into a three-sport high school star. He chose baseball.

"That's the sport he saw a future in," Ramon says now.

Major League teams agreed. The Rays in 2010. The Reds in 2012. The Cubs in 2013. In all, Poncedeleon was drafted four times in five years, during which he bounced between four colleges. He signed with the Cardinals after they selected him in the ninth round in 2014 out of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, on the east coast of Florida. From there, he climbed through the Cardinals' Minor League system, pitching himself into a prospect. Over 62 Minor League starts, Poncedeleon owns a 2.78 ERA.

"A few things click for him," said Bryan Eversgerd, who was the Redbirds' pitching coach at the time. "And he's helping out at the Major League level."

Ramon's job as a longshoreman required him to work overnights, which allowed him to witness Daniel's rise in the afternoon. A 7:05 p.m. CT start in Memphis became a 5:05 p.m. PT in La Miranda. Dad could check out his son before clocking in.

But an oddly early 12:05 p.m. CT start on May 9 translated to 10:05 a.m. PT. Ramon slept through the first pitch.

A call from a friend woke him up.

"Are you watching the game?" the voice on the other line asked. "I have it on ..."

"Daniel got hit."

By the time Ramon got online, more than a dozen people surrounded what he assumed was his son. The only visible part of the young man injured on the ground were his legs. They were shaking.

Ensell's questions rattled around inside the pitcher's head, and soon, he was able to answer them.

"What's your name?"

"Daniel," he mumbled.

"What day is it?"

"Tuesday," he grunted.

Next, Ensell checked his hands and toes. Could they move? Did they have strength? Any paralysis would suggest a spinal cord injury. They wiggled, and Ensell exhaled. He cradled the pitcher's head in his hands and waited.

In the dugout, there was grave but unspoken worry. Catcher Carson Kelly began to pray. Left-hander Ryan Sherriff realized he'd probably have to pitch now, and began to wonder what he should do. Brebbia, usually a ball of energy, stood bewildered.

"It's not something I've experienced on a field before," Brebbia said. "That emotion. There has been anger, there has been joy, but there never had been fear for someone's life."

"Did my teammate," Sherriff thought, "just pass away on the field?"

As they worried, Ensell deemed Poncedeleon physically and neurologically stable. The initial period of unresponsiveness, though, meant he needed be rushed to the hospital.

Nine minutes after the pitch, Poncedeleon was carted off the field. An ambulance awaited beyond the right-field stands. With all his strength, he mustered the smallest of waves to the standing, cheering crowd. But few in his dugout saw. To a man, they wondered how to go on and what would happen next.

The pain started in the ambulance. Strapped down, his eyes now wide open, Poncedeleon felt his anxiety build. Then the pounding began.

In the front seat, Ensell called California to inform Ramon, who'd been rewinding the footage and playing it back. Then he rang Gary LaRoque, the Cardinals' director of player development.

"When we got to the hospital, it was my first inclination that something might be worse than we originally thought," Ensell said. "It became clear this was serious."

As nurses rushed him into a CT scan, Daniel began to feel sick. He tried to lift himself up, but couldn't. His vomit trailed across the hospital floor.

Then the memories get spotty. There is the CT scan. There is the doctor shaving half his head. There is the pitch, there is afterward, and there is little else.

Underneath the wound, blood leaked from Daniel's middle meningeal artery into the space between his dura mater -- which covers the brain -- and his skull. The condition is called an epidural hematoma, and without an emergency craniotomy, they typically result in death.

Ensell told Ramon doctors may have to operate. Fifteen minutes later he called again, asking for consent. Ramon granted it in something of a trance.

"The possibility of him having some brain damage … " Ramon said. "I couldn't even fathom looking up a flight."

Ramon's son-in-law made the arrangement. Los Angeles International Airport to Chicago O'Hare to Des Moines International, leaving that night.

 

*******************************************

 

The city of New Smyrna, on Florida's east coast, sits inside an inlet named for Spanish conqueror Juan Ponce de Leon. It is also where Daniel Poncedeleon relocated after college, to be with Jennifer Beatty, his girlfriend, and Casen, their 5-month-old son.

Beatty, her father Mitch and Casen settled down in the living room that afternoon to watch Daniel play.

"It's just a concussion," she told herself, when she saw. "Don't freak out."

Jennifer already planned to visit Daniel in Memphis that weekend. The tickets were booked. It would be Casen's first flight. Now she wasn't sure she should wait another minute, let alone three days.

She spent the next few hours on the phone. Josh Lucas, a right-hander who'd spend most of the year with Memphis, rushed into the clubhouse to text his wife, who texted Jennifer. Then Jennifer called Ensell. Ramon phoned Jennifer. Finally, a surgeon called. Jennifer called Ensell again, looking for some sort of answer.

"Should I change my flight?" she asked. "Do you think he'll be back on the bus?"

"Let's just see," Ensell said, "if he makes it through surgery first."

"That," Jennifer said afterward, "was when I lost it."

The Redbirds lost that day, but it didn't matter. Players filed solemnly onto the bus, their minds racing and hearts sinking. It'd been more than three hours since Daniel was wheeled away, and no update had come. So instead of hooking east onto I-235, the bus stayed north, toward Mercy Medical Center.

"Not knowing what's going on, that was probably the hardest thing," Kelly says.

The bus sat outside the hospital while surgeons removed a bone flap from Daniel's skull. For four hours, they worked to close Daniel's arterial laceration and relieve pressure from his cranial cavity.

"We tend to think about athletes as being indestructible, as being bulletproof," said Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak. "But when [Poncedeleon] is laying in the ICU, fighting for his next breath, fighting for his next day, he's in a completely different spot."

Ensell and the front office coordinated a plan. Ensell would stay in Des Moines, at least until the family arrived. The rest of the team would go. An eight-game homestand was on the schedule, two short days away. Baseball rolls on and waits for no one.

Eversgerd grew reflective back on the bus. Soon it rumbled down the prairie, out of Iowa altogether, roaring through the night like nothing happened.

"It felt like we were leaving a man in the field," Eversgerd said.

 

*******************************************

 

Ensell sat with Daniel as the sun went down, the pitcher sedated under heavy bandaging. His family arrived later, as night became morning. Ramon, Jennifer, Casen and Mitch filed in from opposite corners of the country.

They parsed through the doctor's counsel in hushed tones. Whether he would walk, whether he would talk, whether he would remember.

The nurses woke Daniel up every hour to check his strength and sodium levels, which had to be kept elevated to subdue his brain swelling. He'd groan. He'd grumble. He'd sleep.

He was the only one in the room who did.

"It was the longest 24 hours," Jennifer remembers.

The whole way to Iowa, she listened to upbeat worship music in an attempt to ease her nerves. Now, her mind oscillated between the music's message and what she saw in front of her. The dichotomy challenged her Christian faith and tested her resolve.

"Casen's whole life flashed before my eyes," Jennifer said. "What I would say to him to tell him about his dad? I really thought I was going to lose him."

Take it a day at a time, the doctors told her. This was only day one.

 

*******************************************

 

The next 48 hours brought positive signs. The family divided hospital duty into shifts, with Jennifer and Mitch pulling days and Ramon watching his son until seven the next morning. The nurses brought toys for Casen. Ensell barely left.

"It was almost like it was [Ensell's] son," Ramon said. "I owe that young man a lot of gratitude."

In between long stretches of sleep, Daniel began to respond. He recognized his family. He answered questions, whether with words or grunts or, sometimes, just blinks. His head pulsed with pain. His body sagged with fatigue, sensitive to light and to sound. The family members kept their voices down and the blinds low.

As he waited, Ramon received a call from LaRoque. Then Mozeliak. Then Memphis manager Stubby Clapp. Cardinals manager Mike Matheny rang. Ramon thanked Ensell, who'd kept the club informed.

By the third day, Daniel sat up. He ate solid food. Upright in his hospital bed, Daniel spoke to Ensell for the first time.

"That fastball was right down the middle," he said. "But don't worry. I will pitch again."

Video: Cards pitcher Daniel Poncedeleon returns to practice

 

*******************************************

 

The Redbirds enjoyed a sensational summer. They won 91 games and the Pacific Coast League championship, graduating 18 players to the Majors along the way. Ten of those were pitchers, plucked to help boost St. Louis' bullpen.

A few more good starts in Memphis, and Daniel Poncedeleon probably would've been a part of that picture. Instead, he spent the summer far from even the sidelines. Ten days total in intensive care. More than a month in Iowa. Then two more in Florida, inactive. The swelling took weeks to dissipate. His head ached. A four-inch scar looked back at him in the mirror. It always will.

But he walked. He talked. He remembered.

There were setbacks, like the fourth day in Des Moines, when his sodium levels slipped after a transfer from the ICU. There were acts of kindness. The Iowa Cubs rented Jennifer a car. Fans sent their wishes. Caratini and his wife, Janise, visited the hospital with homemade dinner.

"I felt bad," said Caratini, who is slated to back up Willson Contreras in Chicago this season. "I don't want to hit somebody and mess with his life."

There was extra time, lots of it, for Sudoku and for bible study. There were bad jokes, Daniel wondering aloud why brain surgery didn't make him smarter. There were long stretches of boredom. There were silver linings, like a family trip to the zoo, before Daniel was cleared to fly, when he held his son and showed him tigers.

"As unfortunate as it was that this happened, it was really a blessing for our family," Jennifer says. "Daniel left [for baseball] when Casen was three months old. All the time he was able to spend with him, you saw their relationship form completely. They really bonded."

Back in Florida, Daniel says he first passed a psychiatric evaluation. Then he passed a vision test. He built up to baseball activities and was cleared on Aug. 9, three months to the day after throwing that two-seamer down the middle. He spent the rest of the year tossing at the Cardinals' spring complex, inching toward the day he'd step back on a mound for real.

"I was the only guy in rehab who wasn't hurt," he said.

In September, the Redbirds flew Poncedeleon back to Memphis for the opening game of the PCL championship series. He threw out the ceremonial first pitch. In between hugs and high-fives, he heard a constant refrain: "You're lucky."

"They told me that a lot," he said.

It's possible, Poncedeleon admits, the worst thing that can happen on a field has already happened, that he's gone through it, and come out the other end. Maybe that explains his newfound sense of calm. Back in Cardinals camp as a non-roster invitee, Poncedeleon loosens up each morning eager, not anxious, to restart his big league climb.

Six months off allowed him to build up his body, to freshen his arm, to shop for protective headgear. Standing at his locker, Poncedeleon unwraps a carbon fiber insert -- the same one Angels starter Matt Shoemaker wears -- and slots it in a gap under his cap. It covers his right temple, strapped across the scar and the dent the baseball left.

"I'm not afraid to die," he smirks. "They told me I'll always have a dent, the rest of my life. I don't care. I'm already locked down."

He and Jennifer married in a small ceremony a week before camp. Two weeks later, he'll pitch again in a game setting for the first time since last May in Iowa. He'll come out of the Cardinals' bullpen, no restrictions, no L screens, just him and the glove, and a professional hitter 60 feet, six inches away.

"I couldn't care less if he threw another pitch in his life," said Ramon, who flew in from California to support his son. The Poncedeleon party on hand this weekend will number eight, including Jennifer, Casen and Mitch. "The only concern I had was, Lord, give me my son back. Daniel's drive to return was overwhelming. He didn't have an ounce of doubt he'd be back on the mound."

"Perseverance will be part of his biography one day," Mozeliak said. "Think about it. Worst-case scenario, he could have not survived. Best-case scenario is where we are today."

The baseball broke his bones, but not his spirit. Now, true to his word, Daniel Poncedeleon will pitch again.

Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz.

St. Louis Cardinals, Daniel Poncedeleon

Cora 'not concerned' as Sox mull J.D. physical

MLB.com @IanMBrowne

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Perhaps it's only fitting that the signing that took the entire offseason and into the early portion of Spring Training to happen would have a little bit more of a delay before it becomes official.

Slugger J.D. Martinez is still expected to walk through the entrance to the Red Sox's clubhouse and put on his new uniform with the familiar No. 28 on the back in the very near future, but there was no grand entrance on Friday.

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Perhaps it's only fitting that the signing that took the entire offseason and into the early portion of Spring Training to happen would have a little bit more of a delay before it becomes official.

Slugger J.D. Martinez is still expected to walk through the entrance to the Red Sox's clubhouse and put on his new uniform with the familiar No. 28 on the back in the very near future, but there was no grand entrance on Friday.

There are procedural issues related to the physical that are still being worked through, prolonging the formal announcement of a five-year, $110 million contract that includes opt-outs after the second and third seasons. The terms of the deal were agreed to on Monday.

Spring Training: Info | Tickets | Schedule | Gear

Friday marked the third straight day the Red Sox hoped to have a news conference, but it now appears Saturday is the earliest that one will take place.

Physicals can take varying lengths of time depending on the player, and certainly, the amount of the contract.

Martinez had a right elbow injury in 2016 and a sprained Lisfranc ligament in his right foot last year. The Red Sox could be having specialists scanning images to make sure there's minimal risk of those injuries recurring.

NBC Sports reported Saturday the Red Sox are sorting through a medical matter, but one that would not have any effect on Martinez in the immediate future, though it is unclear what the issue is.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Another thing complicating matters is that most of the team's medical staff is in Boston.

Martinez, who lives in Miami, arrived in Fort Myers early Wednesday morning for his physical. His agent, Scott Boras, was also in town, as he typically likes to attend press conferences for his premium clients.

By Friday afternoon, nobody seemed to know if Martinez was still in town or if he had returned to his home in Miami.

"I have no idea," said Red Sox manager Alex Cora, who gave up his No. 28 earlier this week to free it up for Martinez.

Cora and the Red Sox went ahead with their regular business, beating the Twins, 4-3, in the Grapefruit League opener for both teams.

Video: Outlook: Martinez's power makes him dangerous slugger

Has it been hard for the new manager to spend the last few days waiting on his highly-anticipated new addition?

"We're still working and getting ready," said Cora. "That's what we can do."

Is Cora concerned about the delay in the Martinez signing becoming official?

"I'm not concerned," Cora said. "The thing I can do is do my thing. My job here is to show up every day and get 'em ready."

The Red Sox have a double locker in the clubhouse that appears to be set aside for Martinez. It is between the stalls used by two other veterans -- Dustin Pedroia and Hanley Ramirez.

As of Friday, Martinez didn't have a nameplate. But there were three boxes on a shelf inside the locker.

Everyone around the Red Sox will feel better once there is a right-handed hitter in the fold to unpack those boxes.

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

Cy Young winner Blue was Bay Area workhorse

MLB.com

Over the course of February -- which is Black History Month -- MLB Network and MLB.com are looking back at some of the most prominent African-American players in MLB history. On Saturday, we look back on the career of former A's star Vida Blue.

Before Vida Blue began a successful 17-year career in the Majors with the A's, Giants and Royals from 1969-'86, he was drafted by the Kansas City Athletics in the second round of the 1967 MLB Draft out of De Soto High School in Mansfield, La.

Over the course of February -- which is Black History Month -- MLB Network and MLB.com are looking back at some of the most prominent African-American players in MLB history. On Saturday, we look back on the career of former A's star Vida Blue.

Before Vida Blue began a successful 17-year career in the Majors with the A's, Giants and Royals from 1969-'86, he was drafted by the Kansas City Athletics in the second round of the 1967 MLB Draft out of De Soto High School in Mansfield, La.

While Blue made his Major League debut in '69 with the A's, he started just 10 games his first two seasons. However, they weren't without some excitement. On Sept. 21, 1970, Blue got his second win of the season by tossing a no-hitter against the Twins, allowing just one walk and striking out nine batters.

It wasn't until Blue became a permanent member of the A's starting rotation in 1971 -- at the tender age of 21 -- that he had arguably one of the best seasons for a pitcher in baseball history. The left-hander went 24-8 with a 1.82 ERA, including 24 complete games and eight shutouts. Those numbers helped him win the American League Cy Young Award and AL MVP.

Blue's success as a power pitcher came from working fast and pounding the strike zone. He threw an occasional curveball to keep hitters off balance, and an above-average changeup, but his signature pitch was a blistering fastball that could dial up to 100 mph.

Blue won 20 games in '73, and along the way, became an integral member of an A's team that won three consecutive World Series championships in '72, '73 and '74. Some of his finest postseason performances were four innings of shutout relief work against the Tigers to save Game 5 of the '72 ALCS, and a complete-game shutout against the Orioles in Game 3 of the '74 ALCS.

Blue was a part of another no-hitter on Sept. 28, 1975, when he, Glenn Abbott, Paul Lindblad and Rollie Fingers combined to no-hit the California Angels.

In '77, Blue's last season with the A's, he went 14-19 with a 3.83 ERA, though he was still named to the All-Star team.

Blue moved across the Bay for the next four seasons, and became an All-Star two more times with the Giants in '80 and '81. He'd finish his career with the club in '86, going 10-10 with a 3.27 ERA.

A durable pitcher, Blue finished his career going 209-161 with a 3.27 ERA. He tossed more than 200 innings in nine separate seasons, including eight straight from '73-'80, and had double-digit wins in 11 seasons.

Quinn Roberts is a reporter for MLB.com.

Oakland Athletics, San Francisco Giants

Get pumped with 10 of the best dingers from the first day of Spring Training games

The calendar may say that it's still "officially" winter, but we know that's not true. That's because Spring Training is in full swing, with Friday giving us the first Spring Training games of the year. That means there are box scores to read! Pitcher mechanics to debate! And, most importantly, dingers to watch majestically soar over the wall. 

So, with one day of games in the books, here are 10 of those grand dingers. Think of it as the most bombastic amuse bouche for the baseball season. 

'Party Hard' at Tigers games? Andrew W.K. did

In 2001, a man in a sweaty, stained white T-shirt and white jeans emerged on the hard rock scene with a raucous anthem titled  "Party Hard" -- a song that would come to identify Andrew W.K. and everything he stood for: relentless positivity and, yes, partying. 

17 years later, he's preparing to release a new album, "You're Not Alone," filled with more blasts of uplifting rhythms, crushing riffs and his signature unending life-affirming existence. 

MLB rallies behind Parkland after tragic school shooting

MLB.com

Major League Baseball joined the nation in rallying behind the Parkland, Fla., community in the aftermath of last week's shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that killed 17 people.

All across the Grapefruit League and Cactus League, players wore Stoneman Douglas hats as teams took the field for the first Spring Training games of 2018. Signed caps will be auctioned with proceeds going toward the Broward Education Foundation, which benefits the official Stoneman Douglas Victims' Fund.

Major League Baseball joined the nation in rallying behind the Parkland, Fla., community in the aftermath of last week's shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that killed 17 people.

All across the Grapefruit League and Cactus League, players wore Stoneman Douglas hats as teams took the field for the first Spring Training games of 2018. Signed caps will be auctioned with proceeds going toward the Broward Education Foundation, which benefits the official Stoneman Douglas Victims' Fund.

Below is a closer look at how clubs and players showed support and aided in the healing process for the survivors of the tragedy:

Marlins, Cardinals host Stoneman Douglas teams
The Stoneman Douglas baseball and softball teams and their families were on hand as guests for the Marlins' and Cardinals' spring opener in Jupiter, Fla. The visit included a 17-second moment of silence before the national anthem to honor the 17 victims who lost their lives in the shooting.

"When there's tragedy, one thing you realize is communities rally around sports," said Marlins chief executive officer Derek Jeter. "I know when I was in New York playing after Sept. 11, obviously, you will never forget what happened. But at least for three hours a day, we gave people something to cheer for." More »

Video: Jeter addresses Stoneman Douglas baseball team

Astros welcome Stoneman Douglas coach
The Astros hosted Todd Fitz-Gerald, the head baseball coach at Stoneman Douglas, his two sons, one of whom is a junior at the school, and his assistant coach at camp in West Palm Beach, Fla., on Friday. Fitz-Gerald and his son were with Houston general manager Jeff Luhnow when he presented the World Series trophy at a pregame ceremony before the club's spring opener against the Nationals.

"To be out here and be able to enjoy a day with these guys, I couldn't be more thankful," Fitz-Gerald said. More »

Video: Stoneman Douglas baseball team meets with Astros

Stoneman Douglas students deliver Mets' lineup card
After a moment of silence for the victims, David Wright and a group of Stoneman Douglas students delivered the Mets' lineup card at home plate prior to New York's game against Braves.

"I'm just so thankful that Major League Baseball is with us," senior Devon Wiesenfeld said. "It's been really tough."

Video: Stoneman Douglas students speak at Mets spring game

Rizzo moved by response to high school tragedy
Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo donned a Stoneman Douglas cap Friday for the first time since he graduated from the school in 2007. Rizzo traveled back to Florida to be with family and friends last week and spoke at a prayer vigil the day after the shooting.

"Everyone has come out of the woodwork to show their love and support for the community I live in, the school, the kids," he said. "It's been really nice to see people come out and approach me and go out of their way. It's much appreciated." More »

Video: Rizzo discusses Stoneman Douglas tragedy, students

Chad Thornburg is a reporter for MLB.com based in Los Angeles.

Reds sign veteran lefty Perez to Minors deal

MLB.com @m_sheldon

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- As Spring Training camps opened two weeks ago and players reported, veteran left-handed reliever Oliver Perez could only remain home and wait for a call. When it finally came, Perez wasted no time.

In a deal that appeared to come together quickly, the Reds signed Perez to a Minor League contract on Saturday and brought him into camp as a non-roster player. The 36-year-old will compete for a bullpen spot as a situational reliever.

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- As Spring Training camps opened two weeks ago and players reported, veteran left-handed reliever Oliver Perez could only remain home and wait for a call. When it finally came, Perez wasted no time.

In a deal that appeared to come together quickly, the Reds signed Perez to a Minor League contract on Saturday and brought him into camp as a non-roster player. The 36-year-old will compete for a bullpen spot as a situational reliever.

If he makes the team, Perez will earn $1.25 million this season, with an additional $500,000 possible in performance bonuses. He can opt out of his contract at the end of camp if he does not make the club.

"I've been around the league. Sometimes it's quick. Sometimes it takes long," said Perez, a native of Mexico who makes his home in the Phoenix area. "I am excited to wear a new uniform."

Spring info | Tickets | Schedule

Represented by agent Scott Boras, Perez noted that the Reds were the first team to call about signing him.

"I want to be there, because normally the first team that calls [is] the team that wants you," Perez said. "I like to be with a new team, because it's fresh air and I'm excited to be here."

A veteran of 15 Major League seasons, initially as a starter, Perez had been with the Nationals the previous two years. In 2017, he posted a 4.64 ERA in 50 appearances and 33 innings.

From 2002-10, Perez was mostly a starter for the Padres, Pirates and Mets. Following his release from New York, he spent '11 in the Minors and Mexican League and worked to convert to a reliever. In '12, he joined the Mariners' bullpen.

Over the past six seasons in bullpens for Seattle, Arizona, Houston and Washington, Perez posted a 3.74 ERA and 1.34 WHIP. For his career, lefty hitters have batted .231 against him, compared to .249 for right-handed hitters. Last season, lefties batted .227 compared to .283 for righties.

Video: WSH@LAD: Perez strikes out Grandal to secure the save

"We don't have a lot of left-handed relief depth - at least not of the experienced nature," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "[Perez] has a track record of being very, very tough on left-handed hitters. He's been durable. He found niche for himself in the left-handed relief role.

"We love the competition to come out of camp with our best possible team in every realm. I'm looking forward to him coming out and showing what he's got to contribute and seeing if he's one of our best seven or eight relievers coming out of camp."

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Cincinnati currently has one lefty locked into a bullpen spot in Wandy Peralta. Cody Reed, a left-handed starting pitcher prospect, is competing as a reliever in camp as well. Price generally uses his southpaw relievers against hitters on both sides of the plate, so it would be rare for the manager to use Perez exclusively vs. lefty batters.

The Reds already upgraded their bullpen in the offseason with the free-agent signings of Jared Hughes and David Hernandez to two-year big league contracts.

Perez passed his physical and was already in camp to work out with the club. He will wear No. 31.

"I've seen that just by watching the Nationals play, that he still has plenty of stuff," Price said. "And now he has the experience and savvy of a true left-handed reliever."

Although a late signing, Perez is ready to jump right in and get to work.

"I played winter ball. I want to do whatever I can to show what I've got," Perez said.

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Cincinnati Reds, Oliver Perez

Late addition? Best fits for 5 notable free agents

MLB.com @castrovince

It took all winter and a little bit of spring, but we've finally achieved something resembling momentum in the free-agent marketplace. I speak on behalf of the more than 60 still-unsigned players when I say: Let's keep it going!

Here are five free-agent fits that still make sense at this late stage.

It took all winter and a little bit of spring, but we've finally achieved something resembling momentum in the free-agent marketplace. I speak on behalf of the more than 60 still-unsigned players when I say: Let's keep it going!

Here are five free-agent fits that still make sense at this late stage.

1. Jake Arrieta to the Nationals

There is a strong argument in favor of teams like the Phillies, Brewers or Twins signing Arrieta to take a step forward and elevate their stature. There is an equally strong argument that, given his diminished velocity and the increased home run rate we saw from Arrieta last year, it's dangerous to assume he can step into the ace role for an up-and-coming club.

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But with the Nationals, it's not about being in the front of the line; it's about lengthening an already October-caliber rotation and reducing the susceptibility to injury risk (Max Scherzer has thrown more innings than anybody in baseball since the start of 2013, and Stephen Strasburg has just two seasons of 30 starts or more) on a team that needs to win right now. (A multi-year deal with Arrieta also provides cushion for Gio Gonzalez's upcoming free agency.)

If we go by FanGraphs' Wins Above Replacement projections, Arrieta is a 2.3-win upgrade over potential fifth starter A.J. Cole. Before you even get to the strong relationship between Arrieta's agent, Scott Boras, and the Nats' ownership, this is a clear contender with ample incentive to maximize their 2018 effort, especially given Bryce Harper's pending free agency. Speaking of which, the possible departures of Harper and Daniel Murphy mean there could be considerable money coming off the books after '18. And the Nats are already in luxury-tax territory, so while paying an extra 30 cents on every dollar for a player like Arrieta isn't ideal, it's not like it would prevent the club from resetting the penalty. The payroll, as calculated for luxury-tax purposes (average annual value of player contracts, as opposed to 2018 value), already works out to around $199 million, with the threshold set at $197 million.

Video: Outlook: Arrieta still excels but is no longer an ace

2. Carlos Gonzalez back to the Rockies

The game of outfield musical chairs has not been kind to CarGo. When the D-backs traded for Steven Souza Jr., that took away a really nice potential landing spot for him to have a bounceback season on a one-year deal. And then the Rays filled their newfound outfield hole with a different Carlos -- Carlos Gomez.

So I'm circling back to the Rox here. General manager Jeff Bridich spoke with MLB Network Radio this week about how there's "a lot of trust and a lot of respect" between Colorado and CarGo after nine years together. And while his 2017 (.262/.339/.423 slash, 87 OPS+) has cratered his market, there were some positive signs and strides in the September stretch run (.377/.484/.766), and there was obviously quite a bit of track record that preceded that awful walk year.

The Rockies have clear questions on their outfield corners, with Ian Desmond coming off a frustrating first year with the club, Gerardo Parra nursing a broken hand and David Dahl coming off a lost year due to injury. They've also got rookie Ryan McMahon penciled in at first base. The Rockies typically rank high in the Majors in run production as a product of where they play, but when you adjust for league and park factors, they had the fourth-lowest Weighted Runs Created Plus mark (87) in baseball last year. They still need another bat, and while returning Mark Reynolds or adding Logan Morrison are options at first, I'd rather take my chances on a CarGo comeback. He's projected by FanGraphs at 1.2 WAR this year, with the Rockies' current right-field setup projected at minus-0.1 (worse than every club but the Marlins).

Video: Outlook: CarGo could rebound after a tough 2017

3. Greg Holland to the Angels

The oft-cited clear landing spot for Holland is the Cardinals, but their recent organizational history of stumbling into closing solutions makes me doubt it happens. (There is some industry thought that trade acquisition Dominic Leone could be the guy who stumbles into the role this year.)

But as good as we might feel about the Angels' offseason acquisitions of Shohei Ohtani, Ian Kinsler and Zack Cozart, not many among us could honestly assert unshakable confidence in the overall state of the pitching staff. I don't blame the Halos for taking a wait-and-see approach with their starting staff, because there is so much upside in the arms of Ohtani, Garrett Richards, Andrew Heaney, etc., if they're all simultaneously healthy. The bullpen, though, lost two important pieces of surprising 2017 importance in Yusmeiro Petit and Bud Norris (the latter of whom went to the Cards) and is projected by FanGraphs to finish in MLB's lower-third in the WAR tally.

It says here that, even if the Angels sign Holland, Blake Parker is perhaps more likely to occupy the ninth inning the better part of the year, but that doesn't mean the Angels shouldn't be trying to augment an area that currently reads as a weakness on a club otherwise built to climb up the American League West standings.

Video: Outlook: Holland can build on a great bounceback 2017

4. Mike Moustakas to the Braves

Moustakas' offseason was quiet before the Yankees -- an oft-rumored landing spot -- added Brandon Drury this week. So much for all that "pillow talk" -- the thought of Moose taking a one-year "pillow" deal to bash homers in the Bronx and potentially score a better deal next offseason.

Whether for one year or otherwise, Moose's options are pretty limited. The White Sox and Cardinals are speculative fits, but the former is in rebuild and the latter has prioritized versatility. Yes, the Braves are in rebuild, too, but I'm marking them down as the best fit for Moustakas because I feel better about their 2018 ceiling given the base of Freddie Freeman and Julio Teheran, the upside of Ronald Acuna and all the young talent in their rotation picture. I recently wrote that while the Braves' floor is low, their ceiling is high, and signing Moustakas would shore up what is projected to be the worst third-base situation in baseball (0.6 WAR) and lend a little more credence to the idea that the Braves could be a frisky club in the National League Wild Card race, a la the Brewers a year ago.

Video: Outlook: Moustakas provides power bat at third base

5. Alex Cobb to the Twins

Twins chief baseball officer Derek Falvey said he hasn't turned off his phone in the wake of the Jake Odorizzi and Anibal Sanchez acquisitions, nor should he. Maybe the Twins, who made instant analytical leaps with Falvey's arrival prior to 2017, can fix the issues that have led to a 6.09 ERA over the last two seasons for Sanchez, but, contrary to some reporting out there, his $2.5 million contract for this year is not guaranteed. And while the swap for Odorizzi was nice, it's still not enough to dramatically improve the outlook for a rotation that will be without Ervin Santana for at least the first month of the season.

The Twins know they're second in the AL Central pecking order right now, but their young offense (which scored the most runs in the Majors in the second half last season) has them smelling blood. The possibility that the Indians, who used only seven starting pitchers last season, have trouble repeating a relative run of good health in the rotation is real. And anyway, the Twins could stand to improve their projection in the Wild Card realm. They don't have major financial obligations on the books aside from the $13.2 million owed to Phil Hughes in 2019, so they could do a Cobb contract that gets him something a little bit better than the three years, $38 million Tyler Chatwood got from the Cubs. (In this market at this stage, that might be as good as it gets for Cobb.)

Video: BOS@TB: Cobb hurls a gem against the Red Sox

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

Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb, Carlos Gonzalez, Greg Holland, Mike Moustakas

PHENOM ALERT: Teen Tatis goes deep

Top prospect is youngest player in any big league camp
MLB.com @AJCassavell

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Fernando Tatis Jr. is the youngest player in any big league camp this spring. During Friday's Cactus League opener, he wasted no time proving he belongs.

Ranked by MLB Pipeline as the game's No. 8 overall prospect, Tatis mashed an opposite-field home run in his second at-bat of Spring Training. He fell behind against Mariners right-hander Shawn Armstrong, before swatting a 1-2 fastball over the fence in the bottom of the eighth.

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PEORIA, Ariz. -- Fernando Tatis Jr. is the youngest player in any big league camp this spring. During Friday's Cactus League opener, he wasted no time proving he belongs.

Ranked by MLB Pipeline as the game's No. 8 overall prospect, Tatis mashed an opposite-field home run in his second at-bat of Spring Training. He fell behind against Mariners right-hander Shawn Armstrong, before swatting a 1-2 fastball over the fence in the bottom of the eighth.

View Full Game Coverage

The swing was smooth and easy, yet the ball jumped off his bat and carried over the right-field bullpen. Said one member of the team's front office: "That's just what he does."

The Padres didn't threaten offensively after that, and they would lose the opener, 3-2. But it was Tatis who stole the show with the team's first homer of spring.

Padres Spring Training: Info | Tickets | Schedule

"I'm just trying to show off what we've got," Tatis said. "I'm trying prove to these guys that I don't care about my age, I'm just trying to make the team."

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Tatis, who turned 19 in January, is destined to start the year in the Minors, though it's possible he could earn a late-season callup. Last year, he set a franchise record with 21 homers for Class A Fort Wayne before finishing the year with Double-A San Antonio.

Many in the Padres' organization view Tatis as their shortstop of the future. The job will be open next offseason, when Freddy Galvis hits free agency. If Tatis continues his rapid ascent, it could be his position to lose.

"His demeanor's been outstanding early in camp," said Padres manager Andy Green. "I don't think he's been fazed by anything. He looks comfortable on a baseball field. ... The power is real. All you have to do is watch batting practice to know that."

It's no coincidence that Tatis has been paired with veteran hitters during BP. On Tuesday, he and fellow top prospect Luis Urias were part of a group that also featured Eric Hosmer and Chase Headley -- 18 years of experience between them.

"Guys like that, you just ask questions a lot," Tatis said. "You try to learn what focus they have and their approach."

It's an immense source of pride for Tatis that he uses the whole field to hit for both power and average. Between two levels last season, Tatis batted .278/.379/.498.

Video: Tatis Jr. is named the top Padres prospect

"I don't just want to be a pull hitter or something like that," Tatis said. "I want to hit the ball to every part of the field -- that way I can get more hits and hit more for average."

Tatis came to San Diego in the 2016 trade that sent James Shields to the White Sox. Quickly, he began to prove himself in the Padres' system, doing so as one of the youngest players everywhere he played.

Tatis has drawn early comparisons to Manny Machado, and it shows in his body type. The Padres have pumped the brakes on that comparison, however. Expectations are already lofty enough.

There are questions regarding whether Tatis will stick at shortstop. (In his five innings there Friday, the Mariners hit no balls his way.) Almost no one questions his bat.

"He's good," Green said. "And we know it."

Video: Tatis Jr. named Padres' Pipeline hitter of the year

On Friday, Tatis paired with Urias in the middle of the Padres' infield. Urias got in on the fun, launching a double off the right-center-field wall. It might not be long before the duo anchors the middle infield at Petco Park.

"They're going to push as hard as they can to be here as quick as they can," Green said. "We want them to do that. I think it's our job to tap the brakes and take our time with them if we think they need more time and seasoning. They're clearly dynamic baseball players, and we're excited to have them."

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.

San Diego Padres, Fernando Tatis Jr.

Reds receive custom 'new toys' on Glove Day

MLB.com @m_sheldon

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- It was a chilly Saturday morning outside the Reds' Spring Training complex but that didn't matter to the players who wanted to stop and visit with the representatives from Wilson Gloves before going inside where it was warm.

Reds players that use Wilson include starting pitcher Homer Bailey, shortstop Jose Peraza, outfielder Phillip Ervin, reliever Kevin Quackenbush and top prospect Nick Senzel.

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- It was a chilly Saturday morning outside the Reds' Spring Training complex but that didn't matter to the players who wanted to stop and visit with the representatives from Wilson Gloves before going inside where it was warm.

Reds players that use Wilson include starting pitcher Homer Bailey, shortstop Jose Peraza, outfielder Phillip Ervin, reliever Kevin Quackenbush and top prospect Nick Senzel.

Reds Spring Training info

"I always love the new gloves," Ervin said. "It's like a new little toy for me. I get to break it in, play with it and custom mold it how I want."

Senzel, rated by MLB Pipeline as the Reds' No. 1 prospect, needed new gloves to help make his switch from third base to shortstop. He had an 11.75 inch model A2000 for his original position but went to 11.5 inches for shortstop. The smaller glove makes it easier to get the ball out faster and make throws.

"It's just exciting to get a new glove every year," Senzel said. "You look forward to coming to Spring Training, you get all of these gifts and presents. Glove Day is the most exciting day, I think. You get a couple of gloves, including your customized one. It's a cool experience for all of us."

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Wilson lets the players customize their gloves, including the embroidered names stitched on the side. Senzel chose "JS Family MS," with the initials representing his father, Jeff, and sister, Madison. The three have the same inscription tattooed on their wrists.

Ervin's model from last year appropriately has "I got it," stitched on it, since he's an outfielder. This year, he chose "Stay hungry," as he tries to make Cincinnati's 25-man roster.

However, Ervin's new glove won't get pressed into game service soon.

"I use the one I got last year," Ervin said. "I'll probably break it in the whole year before bringing it in [a game]. I usually use the one I got the year before so I can break it how I want it to be."

Senzel also doesn't rush new gloves into games.

"It takes a little bit," Senzel said. "Obviously I want to try and break them in quick. It will take a while."

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Cincinnati Reds

Kemp clobbers one in first game back with LA

Veteran returns determined to win LF job with Dodgers
MLB.com @kengurnick

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- It was just like old times for Matt Kemp on Friday, batting fifth in the Dodgers' lineup, fans making the drive from Los Angeles to welcome him back, a 2-for-2 day at the plate with a three-run homer bringing the media back to his locker postgame.

"Y'all act like I've been gone forever," Kemp said with satisfaction. "That was exciting for me."

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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- It was just like old times for Matt Kemp on Friday, batting fifth in the Dodgers' lineup, fans making the drive from Los Angeles to welcome him back, a 2-for-2 day at the plate with a three-run homer bringing the media back to his locker postgame.

"Y'all act like I've been gone forever," Kemp said with satisfaction. "That was exciting for me."

View Full Game Coverage

He's been gone for three years, but he's back. And for disbelievers who think Kemp can't play anymore because he let his body go, that looks like old news. He's fit and hungry to prove them wrong.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

For those who think he can't play defense, Kemp couldn't wait to remind reporters: "I caught my first fly ball today. We're doing good."

"He looks like he's moving around really well," manager Dave Roberts said of Kemp's defense. "That's something we challenged him with. He's very aware that this is a very good club with a lot of good players. He's here to compete, and it's something he welcomes."

Dodgers Spring Training info

It's only one game into the Cactus League season -- a 13-5 win over the White Sox -- but left field could be Kemp's job to lose, not that there aren't other right-handed options. Enrique Hernandez, who figures to lose the most at-bats if Kemp breaks with the club, also homered on Friday.

Trayce Thompson, out of options and healthy again, had two hits and drove in a run.

With Yasiel Puig resting a sore hip, Roberts batted Kemp behind Cody Bellinger, who had an RBI single.

Video: CWS@LAD: Bellinger smacks an RBI single to right

Whatever clubhouse friction existed when Kemp was dealt to San Diego three years ago, it's gone now as teammates envision the damage that can be done by a lineup lengthened with another 20-plus homer bat.

"You see his offensive numbers the past few years are still pretty special," said Justin Turner, who had one of four Dodgers homers. "So, you throw that bat in the middle of the lineup, that run production is pretty impressive. It will be nice to have another right-handed bat in the lineup. Obviously, today you see the impact he can have in a game."

Video: CWS@LAD: Dodgers hit four homers in first spring game

Kemp's defensive metrics plunged as his weight rose, but he already has trimmed down. And he sounds determined to improve the metrics as well, even though he admits left has always been the toughest of the three outfield spots for him.

"For sure, getting early work in, everything feels good, being in shape and feeling good, it's going to make playing defense a little bit easier," Kemp said. "I was naturally a right fielder, they moved me to center. Left field has been a challenge, but as I've gotten more reps, I get a little more comfortable out there every time."

The Dodgers feel they can help Kemp with analytics-driven positioning. He met with outfield coach George Lombard on Friday and expects to use positioning cards for reminders when the season starts.

"We talked a bit about where he wants me to play," Kemp said. "It's harder in Spring Training with guys you don't know. It's a lot easier during the season with the information we get."

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001. Listen to his podcast.

Los Angeles Dodgers, Matt Kemp