Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon

news

MLB News

Yankees, White Sox top fits for Moustakas

Slugger still on market for clubs seeking power at hot corner
MLB.com @jonmorosi

For Eric Hosmer and J.D. Martinez, the eternal offseason is over. Hosmer's eight-year, $144 million contract with the Padres became official on Tuesday. Martinez's months-long staring contest with the Red Sox yielded a five-year, $110 million pact that includes two opt-out clauses.

Meanwhile, Mike Moustakas waits.

For Eric Hosmer and J.D. Martinez, the eternal offseason is over. Hosmer's eight-year, $144 million contract with the Padres became official on Tuesday. Martinez's months-long staring contest with the Red Sox yielded a five-year, $110 million pact that includes two opt-out clauses.

Meanwhile, Mike Moustakas waits.

Like Hosmer and Martinez, Moustakas is represented by agent Scott Boras. Unlike Hosmer and Martinez, he's not sure where he'll report for Spring Training.

Moustakas, 29, appeared to enter free agency with momentum, after slugging a franchise-record 38 home runs for the Royals in 2017. But the market at third base has been unforgiving, as All-Stars available in trade (Evan Longoria) and converted shortstops (Zack Cozart) landed jobs with the Giants and Angels, respectively.

Video: Must C Classic: Moustakas hits Royals' record 37th HR

One National League executive said Monday that the Yankees and White Sox have the best chances to land Moustakas, based on current market conditions. The Royals also could re-sign Moustakas, although their front office is prepared to start rebuilding with younger players. Some within the industry see the Cardinals as a fit for Moustakas, but they appear comfortable with incumbent third baseman Jedd Gyorko, who hit 50 home runs over the past two seasons.

The White Sox want to add a long-term third baseman in the next 12 months and could seize the opportunity to sign Moustakas now, rather than pursue free agents Manny Machado and Josh Donaldson during the 2018-19 offseason. Third base is the rare position at which the White Sox haven't procured an elite prospect in trades over the past couple years.

Video: KC@NYY: Moustakas goes back-to-back with solo homer

Yankees officials believe prospect Miguel Andujar can be their third baseman of the future, but it's unclear if he'll be ready by Opening Day. Reports have suggested the Yanks may want to avoid having a young starter at both third and second base, where prospect Gleyber Torres is involved in a spring roster competition.

The Yankees also are known to be pursuing starting-pitching options, including free agent Lance Lynn. It would be difficult for them to add both a No. 2 or No. 3 starting pitcher and Moustakas for no more than $15 million combined in 2018 payroll obligations; the Yanks want to keep their spending within that budget between now and Opening Day, to preserve the flexibility to acquire players at the Trade Deadline without surpassing the $197 million luxury-tax threshold.

For Moustakas, the presence of Machado and Donaldson in next offseason's free-agent class lessens the appeal of a one-year contract -- even at a high salary. Moustakas likely won't want to compete directly with fellow All-Stars for a limited number of jobs when he's another year older.

Video: CWS@KC: Moustakas belts two HRs against the White Sox

Other Hot Stove storylines, with Grapefruit League and Cactus League schedules about to begin:

• The Hosmer signing has opened up a number of trade avenues for the Padres, now that Wil Myers is being moved to an outfield corner. Sources say the Braves have inquired about the Friars' available position players, including 26-year-old outfielder Hunter Renfroe. He hit 26 home runs for San Diego as a rookie in 2017, but he will have an uncertain outlook for '18 if Myers shifts to right field, where Renfroe started 117 games last season.

Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos is known for his aggressiveness in trades and could view Renfroe as a long-term candidate for Atlanta's outfield, with veteran right fielder Nick Markakis likely departing as a free agent after 2018. The Braves also could consider trading for Corey Dickerson, who was surprisingly designated for assignment by the Rays.

Video: Outlook: Renfroe has growing power, OBP must improve

• Despite months of speculation that a Martinez signing would prompt the Red Sox to trade outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr., sources indicated Monday night that a deal involving Bradley is not likely before Opening Day. Boston is inclined to retain its current lineup depth, at least until it's apparent how often Hanley Ramirez will be able to play first base. Ramirez started only 17 games there in 2017 due to a left shoulder injury.

• Now that Hosmer is a Padre, the Royals can pursue a lower-cost first baseman for 2018. They are intrigued by free agent Mark Reynolds, who is coming off a good defensive season for the Rockies in which he hit 30 home runs with an .839 OPS. Free agent Logan Morrison, a Kansas City native, ranked fifth in the Majors with 38 home runs last year and would welcome the chance to play for his hometown team.

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

Chicago White Sox, Atlanta Braves, New York Yankees, Kansas City Royals, Logan Morrison, Mike Moustakas, Hunter Renfroe, Mark Reynolds

Darvish impresses teammates with first live BP

Right-hander says he fits in 'naturally with the team'
MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

MESA, Ariz. -- Yu Darvish and Kyle Schwarber squared off for the first time since the National League Championship Series during a live batting practice session on Tuesday. In October, Darvish was on the Dodgers, but now he and Schwarber are teammates.

"It definitely reminded me of the NLCS, but he didn't swing," Darvish said of Schwarber, who did not take a swing at any of the five pitches from the right-hander. "I hope to face him again soon in practice games."

MESA, Ariz. -- Yu Darvish and Kyle Schwarber squared off for the first time since the National League Championship Series during a live batting practice session on Tuesday. In October, Darvish was on the Dodgers, but now he and Schwarber are teammates.

"It definitely reminded me of the NLCS, but he didn't swing," Darvish said of Schwarber, who did not take a swing at any of the five pitches from the right-hander. "I hope to face him again soon in practice games."

Actually, only Willson Contreras took a swing during the 25-pitch session. It seemed the Cubs players wanted to see what their new starting pitcher could do. Darvish was OK with that.

• Spring Training: Info | Tickets | Gear

"If [Schwarber] swung, it would probably go over the fence," Darvish said of the Cubs slugger, who hit a solo home run off him in Game 3 of the NLCS last October. "It's a good thing he didn't."

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

The right-hander, who signed a six-year deal with the Cubs a week ago, said his new teammates have been very friendly.

"It seems like I fit in naturally with the team," he said.

The Cubs are pretty impressed.

"He's insane," Contreras said, referring to Darvish's pitches. "The movement he has on the baseball, on the breaking balls and the fastball command he has is crazy."

Tweet from @CarrieMuskat: #Cubs hitters waited to give Darvish fist pump after session pic.twitter.com/DgIuIe6Zrw

"It's Feb. 20 -- wow," Cubs manager Joe Maddon of Darvish's first live batting practice. "My impression from the side as an opponent has always been that when he's right on, he has this low fastball with great carry. I walk up and that's all [the hitters] are talking about. Obviously, he's feeling pretty good about himself. His delivery looks clean, the ball was coming out of his hand well.

"I know it's early, I'm certain his adrenaline was flowing a little bit, but he threw the ball great -- great with great conviction," Maddon said. "I'm more of a purist. I looked at the delivery and how the ball was reacting at home plate and it was outstanding."

Video: Maddon discusses Darvish's bullpen session

Obviously, the pitchers have an edge during the live batting practice because they've been in camp longer. Still, Maddon liked what he saw.

"It's just that he's got that low carry working already," Maddon said, before explaining, "Low carry -- when a pitcher is able to start the ball out low in the strike zone, normally as a hitter, you process that it's going to drop more and become a ball. His pitch has the rotation on it so well, it hits that plane and stays on it. Your mind thinks it's going to go below. Guys who are able to do that -- I used to catch Mark Langston and he was like that. There are certain guys who spin it low and keep the plane and those guys are tough."

Even though he did pitch an extra month because of the World Series last year, Darvish said he's treating this Spring Training like any other one. The Cubs will be careful with his Cactus League outings. Contreras has some work to do, too. How will he call seven different pitches?

"I have to figure that out," Contreras said, laughing.

Have any of the Cubs players tried to learn Japanese?

"Not one," Darvish said. "I think [former Cubs infielder Munenori] Kawasaki got them too tired learning Japanese."

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.

Chicago Cubs, Yu Darvish

J.D. deal embraced at Red Sox camp

Martinez not only brings big bat, but also veteran presence to young core
MLB.com @IanMBrowne

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The official arrival of J.D. Martinez to the Red Sox could come Wednesday, once he passes his physical. The anticipation in the clubhouse for the arrival of this offseason's premier slugger was building by the end of Tuesday's team workout.

For a team with World Series aspirations, the addition of a player who belted 45 homers in just 432 at-bats last season was a thrilling development.

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The official arrival of J.D. Martinez to the Red Sox could come Wednesday, once he passes his physical. The anticipation in the clubhouse for the arrival of this offseason's premier slugger was building by the end of Tuesday's team workout.

For a team with World Series aspirations, the addition of a player who belted 45 homers in just 432 at-bats last season was a thrilling development.

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

"It's a good bat and at least 40 homers," said Hanley Ramirez. "And we're trying to win this [thing]. This is how we can do it, to get a player like that. We've been together for three or four years training together down in Miami. We have a good relationship. He's a good hitter, and I think he's going to help us a lot."

Video: Look for Martinez to be early-round fantasy option

After finishing last in the American League this past season with 168 homers, the Red Sox now have the type of impact slugger who can instantly change that.

Martinez also represents another veteran presence to help the team's talented young core.

"He's a great player," said Red Sox left fielder Andrew Benintendi. "He's proven himself. I'm just looking forward to getting to know him. I've heard he's helped out young guys throughout his years, so I'll be all ears when he comes in."

The right-handed hitting Martinez should provide the type of impact in the middle of the order the Red Sox badly missed during David Ortiz's first season of retirement last year.

"He's obviously a presence," said Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. "Having that type of presence in the lineup can make a difference and that's what he is; he's a difference-maker."

The Red Sox won the AL East with 93 wins in each of the past two seasons, but also lost both years in the Division Series. They now have the type of big bat that could help lead them to a deep October run.

"He's a force, obviously," said first baseman Mitch Moreland. "To have him kind of anchored in the middle of our lineup is only going to help us.

"It's great having him, obviously," said Bradley. "We look forward to seeing him and welcoming him with open arms, and we can't wait for him to be a part of this unit."

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

Kershaw's first live spring BP short but solid

MLB.com @kengurnick

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Yasiel Puig drew the short straw and was first to face Clayton Kershaw, as he threw live batting practice for the first time this spring. Puig was ready, swinging at the first pitch and hitting a soft liner.

"I probably should have," Kershaw said when asked if he expected Puig's ambush.

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Yasiel Puig drew the short straw and was first to face Clayton Kershaw, as he threw live batting practice for the first time this spring. Puig was ready, swinging at the first pitch and hitting a soft liner.

"I probably should have," Kershaw said when asked if he expected Puig's ambush.

Spring Training information

Otherwise, Kershaw's least-favorite Spring Training assignment was rather routine, 22 pitches, most of them tracked and taken by Puig, Chris Taylor and Andrew Toles.

If he's on a five-day schedule, Kershaw will start Sunday's exhibition game against Seattle in Peoria in the next step toward his eighth consecutive Opening Day start March 29.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Management has designed this spring's schedule with a reduced workload after last season extended into November. But for Kershaw, it's pretty much been business as usual, which he explained is a function of his specific job.

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

"Normally, I think I would throw two innings [today] and I threw one this time. And I'll probably throw one inning first time out [in a game] instead of two. So, little stuff. But ultimately, I don't think it matters, and come March 29 I don't think anybody will care where you are right now."

Kershaw said he "felt great" physically, but "the pitching side needs a little work."

Toles said he had never faced Kershaw until this workout.

"It's early and he's not on, but he's got good stuff," said Toles. "You get up for him. You have to. He's good. But it's just practice."

Kershaw said he was thankful that the Commissioner's Office had dialogue with the Players Association before announcing pace-of-play rule changes that did not include a pitch clock.

"Ultimately, I'm not sure if it's going to create a huge difference with the mound visits or not," he said. "Where the union was, as long as it doesn't change the integrity of the game, the competitiveness of the game and it's not costing people one way or the other.

"At the end of the day, we all want to play a quick game, we all want to have a crispness to it, we all want to have the best product out there for the fans. There's a crispness to it when a game is two hours and 45 minutes. It just seems like the 3 1/2-, four-hour games don't benefit anybody. Some games dictate that, but at the end of the day, I think everybody benefits from a quicker game. It's not like the union is adamantly opposed to that. We're right in lockstep with that."

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.

Los Angeles Dodgers, Clayton Kershaw

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

Buckle up: Harper set for fascinating year

MLB.com @MikeLupica

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Somehow, even in the Spring Training cluster of red jerseys on a back field on the Nationals side of The Ballpark of The Palm Beaches, with the sound of T.I. blasting out of a Sony speaker set in the green grass, the morning organizes itself around Bryce Harper, who is about to begin the most interesting potential walk year anyone has ever had in baseball. Or maybe any professional sport.

Alex Rodriguez was still just 25 when he set a record for free agents by signing a 10-year contract with the Texas Rangers for $252 million prior to the 2001 season. Now it is expected that Harper might not just break a record for himself, but become the first free agent in sports history to earn a contract of more than $400 million. Harper is 25. He will be 26 when he becomes eligible for free agency at the end of this season.

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Somehow, even in the Spring Training cluster of red jerseys on a back field on the Nationals side of The Ballpark of The Palm Beaches, with the sound of T.I. blasting out of a Sony speaker set in the green grass, the morning organizes itself around Bryce Harper, who is about to begin the most interesting potential walk year anyone has ever had in baseball. Or maybe any professional sport.

Alex Rodriguez was still just 25 when he set a record for free agents by signing a 10-year contract with the Texas Rangers for $252 million prior to the 2001 season. Now it is expected that Harper might not just break a record for himself, but become the first free agent in sports history to earn a contract of more than $400 million. Harper is 25. He will be 26 when he becomes eligible for free agency at the end of this season.

They keep breaking into the big leagues younger. It just puts them on the market sooner. This isn't about Harper being the best player in the game. He's not -- even though he is sometimes discussed as if he were LeBron -- maybe because we have known about him since he was in high school. But he is a big talent and a big, good-looking, leading-man star. And as one manager who's not going to be unhappy if Harper leaves Washington after the season, said on Tuesday, "[Harper] likes the moment and that's a good thing. Because whatever club is going to pay him, what they're going to pay him is going to expect him to like the moment."

There was another moment, back when Derek Jeter was young, when he was walking through the Yankees' clubhouse one Sunday morning. I was sitting having coffee with David Cone, who watched Jeter breeze through the room and said with a smile, "It's good being Derek."

Oh, baby, is it good being Bryce Harper these days, as he is about to be the most coveted free agent since A-Rod.

Video: Outlook: Harper one of game's most feared hitters

So here Harper was on a back field in February, playing catch with Michael A. Taylor, slowly backing up toward center field until he was long-tossing with Taylor, before all the Nationals' outfielders would begin fly-ball drills. The fans hanging over the fence out here wore red No. 34 jerseys and black No. 34 jerseys, all expected to be collector's items when this season is over -- simply because the conventional wisdom is that Harper will move on to the Cubs or the Dodgers or the Yankees or the Philles when his contract ends. So there is the sense, even as the baseball season is just beginning for him and his team in the facility off Haverhill Road, at the opposite end of the complex from where the World Series champion Astros train, that this is the beginning of an ending for Harper as well.

The day before, as Harper met with the media here, he laid down his personal ground rules for the upcoming season and the general top of his free agency.

"Just want to let you guys know I will not be discussing anything relative to 2019, at all," Harper said. "I'm focused on this year. I'm focused on winning and playing hard, like every single year. So if you guys have any questions about anything after 2018, you can call [agent Scott Boras] and he can answer you guys. So I'm not going to answer any questions. So if you guys do [ask] anything or talk about anything about that, then I'll be walking right out the door."

Apparently he was under the impression that if there was a question about free agency, and he did walk out the door, that everyone in the room would have died of heartbreak in that moment. Harper is smart not to talk about 2019 in '18, because there is nothing for him in that conversation. But on a day when he had some notes for himself on his phone, he needed to be more facile with the delete key. Or he was simply one more modern athlete in desperate need of an editor.

Video: Bryce Harper not focusing on free agency

Harper is some ballplayer. But not Mike Trout. Not Jose Altuve. If all the best young players in baseball were on one field, he might not be picked ahead of Aaron Judge, either, and perhaps not before gifted shortstops like Manny Machado or Carlos Correa or even Francisco Lindor. But he is the hot, young star with the hot bat who's about to hit the market, and that is all that is going to matter -- even as Machado hits the market at the same time.

Harper has already been an MVP once, and might have been on his way to another MVP season when he sustained a bone bruise last August. He hit 42 home runs in his MVP season in 2015, the only time in his six-year career that he has hit more than 30. He has never had 100 RBIs. It won't matter, the way the injuries that have slowed him down, won't matter, when he becomes available. But it will be great sports theater to see how he does this season as he tries to make the Nationals be more than they have ever been in October and remind people, across an entire season, the way he can hit when he is at his very best.

Once, in that MVP year, Harper looked like the most interesting man in the baseball world. Now things have changed slightly. But he is still the most interesting walk year. "I got the top spot" was one of the lyrics from T.I. in the song to which they were all listening in West Palm this morning. There are always big stakes for all the top guys in sports. None bigger than the ones for Harper. You always hear the expression about them throwing the money on the table in sports. Never quite like this.

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

Washington Nationals, Bryce Harper

Boon for Ohtani? Angels lower RF wall

MLB.com @_dadler

The Angels will lower the height of the home run boundary line in right field at Angel Stadium this season, the team announced Tuesday.

The height will be changed from 18 feet -- the top of the high wall in right field -- to eight feet.

The Angels will lower the height of the home run boundary line in right field at Angel Stadium this season, the team announced Tuesday.

The height will be changed from 18 feet -- the top of the high wall in right field -- to eight feet.

"The adjustment to the line in right field will increase the fan experience at Angel Stadium while creating an environment that is equitable for both hitters and pitchers," Angels general manager Billy Eppler said in a statement.

The new home run boundary will be marked by a yellow line that will run along the outfield wall from the right-field side of the outfield gate in right field to the point in center field where the wall angle changes.

Angels vice president of communications Tim Mead told reporters on Tuesday that the change in the home run boundary was due to the installation of a new out-of-town scoreboard at Angel Stadium, as well as "philosophical changes."

While the Angels, of course, are about to begin their first season with left-handed-hitting Shohei Ohtani in their lineup -- who could take advantage of the lower home run height to his pull side -- the change was decided on before the team signed the Japanese two-way phenom.

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

Los Angeles Angels

New Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez celebrated his 18th birthday at Fenway Park

Arguably the biggest free agent on the market found a home on Monday, as J.D. Martinez agreed to a five-year deal with the Red Sox. Just what made the man known as Just Dingers choose Boston? The $110 million probably has something to do with it -- but little did we know, Martinez and Fenway Park go way back.

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.

Atkins confident Donaldson deal will get done

Slugger ready to focus on season amid impasse, GM continues to negotiate
Special to MLB.com

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- One day after Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson shut down contract negotiations, general manager Ross Atkins addressed the media at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium.

"I think it is 'yet,'" Atkins said. "We haven't reached a deal yet."

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- One day after Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson shut down contract negotiations, general manager Ross Atkins addressed the media at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium.

"I think it is 'yet,'" Atkins said. "We haven't reached a deal yet."

Spring Training: Info | Tickets | Gear

The 2015 American League Most Valuable Player Award winner is looking for a long-term extension with the team after batting .270/.385/.559 with 33 home runs and 78 RBIs, despite being limited to just 113 games due to a right calf injury.

"We're not in the same type of area, the same ballpark, to make a discussion moving forward," Donaldson told reporters on Monday.

Atkins believes that Donaldson and the team will still be able to reach an agreement to keep him in a Blue Jays uniform beyond this season. Shutting down negotiations will allow the two-time Silver Slugger Award winner to focus on the upcoming season, something that is in the best interest of both the player and the team.

"It's been respectful. It's been productive. It's been open," Atkins said of the talks. "We've learned a great deal about one another over the past two and a half years, and I feel good about the relationship, and I feel good about the potential for him to be here long term."

Atkins did not comment on whether they had exchanged hard figures, but said that the team had expressed how they view Donaldson's overall value as a player.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

"There's no doubt in my mind that he wants to be a Toronto Blue Jay. There's no doubt in anyone's mind," Atkins said. "It's such an interesting process with a player of his caliber because he feels a responsibility to this organization, and he feels a responsibility to the city, and he feels a responsibility to his teammates and he also feels a responsibility to the industry."

While the 32-year-old Donaldson said that he was likely headed toward free agency at the end of the 2017 season, that doesn't mean that the Blue Jays won't continue to negotiate a new deal. That's a lesson they learned from last year after negotiations stalled with then-free agent Edwin Encarnacion, who eventually landed with the Cleveland Indians. Atkins said that they would continue to try and work out a deal even if Donaldson did become a free agent.

"They understand where we were, and we understand where they are," Atkins said. "We will continue to work on it, and continue to see."

Donaldson was just one of the topics that Atkins touched upon on Tuesday. He also noted that even though the divisional-rival Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees made some major acquisitions this offseason, the organization still feels it can contend for the AL East crown.

"It's the AL East, and I think the players' reactions to that is the best in my opinion," Atkins said. "They want to be playing against the best, and to beat the best you are going to have to be playing against the best. Ultimately, we see it as a challenge we'll embrace."

Atkins also said he doesn't expect there to be any major signings by the Blue Jays from the remaining free-agent pool, and that there was a "better than 90 percent chance" that the Opening Day roster would consist of players that are already in camp. One exception could be another late addition to the bullpen.

"We have a good team," he said. "We have a very good core of leaders that have won before. There's a lot of reason to believe there could be some bounce-back from some of our players that were injured last year. We have a much, much better Triple-A team, and farm system that, in the event we do have setbacks, that we will be able to overcome them.

"It does feel good, and it feels good to be here with this group of guys, and I feel confident that we have a solid group to make a good run."

J. Scott Butherus is a contributor to MLB.com.

Toronto Blue Jays, Josh Donaldson

Waiting game: Mets won't rush eager Conforto

Club monitoring All-Star until he is fully healed from left shoulder surgery
MLB.com @AnthonyDiComo

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The box is circled on Michael Conforto's calendar: May 1, the date Mets general manager Sandy Alderson has targeted for his return from shoulder surgery. The competitor in Conforto wants to come back sooner. The realist knows it could be later.

"The timetable is fluid," Conforto said.

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The box is circled on Michael Conforto's calendar: May 1, the date Mets general manager Sandy Alderson has targeted for his return from shoulder surgery. The competitor in Conforto wants to come back sooner. The realist knows it could be later.

"The timetable is fluid," Conforto said.

Whenever Conforto returns, he wants to make sure he is at little risk of reinjuring the shoulder that spoiled his 2017 season. An All-Star despite sitting on the bench for much of April, Conforto spent much of the season as one of the Mets' few bright spots. In 109 games, he hit .279 with 27 homers and a .939 OPS. His adjusted OPS, which accounts for external factors such as ballparks, would have ranked fifth in the National League if he had enough at-bats to qualify.

Spring Training: Info | Tickets | Schedule | Gear

But Conforto dislocated his left shoulder swinging a bat Aug. 24 at Citi Field; subsequent testing revealed a capsule tear that necessitated surgery, ending his season. Team physician Dr. David Altchek told Conforto there is a 99-percent chance he will not dislocate his shoulder again, compared to much lesser odds had he not undergone surgery.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

In other words, once Conforto returns to full capacity, there should be no reason why he cannot resume his elite career arc. He just needs to heal first.

"I want to make sure that when he's back, he's back," manager Mickey Callaway said. "We want him to just go through his rehab routine, make sure we communicate with him along the way how he's feeling. Players always tell you they feel better than they probably are, so we're going to be aware of that. But we want him back and when he's ready, he's there for the rest of the season."

• Gimenez leads new Mets Top 30 Prospects list

For most of the winter, Conforto logged two hours of physical therapy daily, hoping to accelerate his timetable as much as possible. All the while, he knew that an Opening Day return was likely out of the question. It was not until this weekend that Conforto began swinging off a tee, the next step in the process of molding his shoulder back into baseball shape.

"I was willing to do whatever I could," Conforto said. "I want to be out on the field with my teammates, give us the best chance to win and be the player that I am. It's all worth it. It makes it worth it once I get in the cage like I did today and hit off the tee a little bit."

Video: Ramos asks Conforto hard questions as media member

With Conforto sidelined, the Mets will give center-field reps to Brandon Nimmo and Juan Lagares, each of whom could also replace Conforto as the Mets' leadoff hitter. Because the Mets signed Jay Bruce to a three-year deal this winter, Conforto will be the team's starting center fielder for the foreseeable future -- something he believes he can handle with aplomb, despite knowing he's "not Billy Hamilton out there."

Quite simply, the Mets don't need Conforto to be Hamilton, Willie Mays or anyone else. They just need him to be healthy.

And they're willing to wait for that.

"My energy is channeled into my rehab," Conforto said. "Every rep gets me a little bit closer to getting back out on the field. As long as I keep that fire, I think that's what's going to get me out there and be successful and be healthy."

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

New York Mets, Michael Conforto

Projections vary in tight AL East race

Unlike other divisions, Sox and Yanks too close to call
MLB.com @mike_petriello

The Red Sox are the two-time defending American League East champions, and now they've just added the best free-agent slugger of the winter, J.D. Martinez. Armed with a first-time manager in Alex Cora, they enter the spring expecting to be the division favorites, which is partially what they are by the FanGraphs projections that have them tied at the top of the East.

The Yankees made it to the seventh game of the American League Championship Series last year, and they added (via trade) the best-known slugger in the game, Giancarlo Stanton. Armed with a first-time manager in Aaron Boone, they enter the spring expecting to be the division favorites, which is exactly what they are by the Baseball Prospectus projections, by nine games, though that will drop slightly when Martinez is added.

The Red Sox are the two-time defending American League East champions, and now they've just added the best free-agent slugger of the winter, J.D. Martinez. Armed with a first-time manager in Alex Cora, they enter the spring expecting to be the division favorites, which is partially what they are by the FanGraphs projections that have them tied at the top of the East.

The Yankees made it to the seventh game of the American League Championship Series last year, and they added (via trade) the best-known slugger in the game, Giancarlo Stanton. Armed with a first-time manager in Aaron Boone, they enter the spring expecting to be the division favorites, which is exactly what they are by the Baseball Prospectus projections, by nine games, though that will drop slightly when Martinez is added.

The only correct takeaway here is that these are two extremely talented teams that ought to be in a tightly contested battle all season, ending with one of them winning the division and the other hosting a Wild Card game. But we're talking about a gap of nearly 10 wins between two of the most respected projection systems around, which is a lot. What's fueling this?

It's important to remember that projection systems aren't predictions and aren't intended to be, and they can't predict every unexpected breakout or injury or in-season trade acquisition. Nor should we really want every projection system to say the exact same thing, because that wouldn't be interesting, but you'd expect them to say mostly the same thing. The good teams are likely to be good, and the rebuilding teams probably aren't. That's why there's a pretty decent correlation between preseason projections and end-of-season win totals, and you don't see this kind of disagreement in any of the other five divisions.

Video: Ian Browne discusses J.D. Martinez signing

In both systems, and most likely in most fan predictions, Cleveland and Houston are slated to take the other two AL divisions, and once again, the Dodgers, Cubs and Nationals look to be the class of the NL. The biggest disagreement between the two sites is four games, coming in the NL Central (where one sees the Cubs as four games better than the Cardinals and one saying eight games) and AL West (12 games or 16 games, take your pick).

Four games isn't a lot, when looking ahead. Seven or eight or nine games is. Where do they disagree? We looked at the 74 players who have a depth-chart entry at both sites, and we found the biggest outliers. For many players, they do agree. FanGraphs projects Aaron Judge for 4.1 WAR, while BP says 3.9, which is basically identical. Both sites have Tommy Kahnle at 1.1 WAR, and Eduardo Nunez at 0.9 WAR. (Two WAR, as a reminder, is league-average, and four is star-level.)

There are a few differences, of course; there has to be for this gap. Baseball Prospectus likes Dellin Betances (+2.2) far more than FanGraphs does (+1.2), as well as Chris Sale (+6.2 vs. +5.4). FanGraphs has Steven Wright as being below average but pitchable (+0.8), while BP has him as being a disaster (-1.1).

But we're looking for the biggest discrepancies, and the five below are the largest. Which side do you take?

Jackie Bradley Jr., +2.4 wins (BP 1.0, FG 3.2)

The biggest disagreement comes with Boston's center fielder, and it's probably not hard to see why. As if it wasn't hard enough that his biggest value comes on defense (fielding being traditionally the hardest to quantify), Bradley has been wildly inconsistent at the plate. He was terrible in 2014, above average in 2015 and 2016, and below average in 2017. Compound that by a tale of two halves in 2017, with a strong first half (.280/.363/.490, 122 wRC+) followed by a miserable second half (.204/.277/.302, 51 wRC+).

So, you'd expect some disagreement, but this is extreme. They both expect a slight rebound at the plate, which is fair (though FanGraphs is more optimistic), but the difference is that BP viewed his defense as a net negative. The right answer here is probably "in the middle," but given that Statcast™ showed Bradley to be one of the best outfielders in baseball last year, we'll take the higher end of this disagreement.

Giancarlo Stanton, +2.4 wins (BP 3.9, FG 6.3)

BP, quite reasonably, takes the more conservative view here, because although Stanton did have a monster year, it was also the first time since 2014 he'd taken 500 plate appearances. We're talking about a difference of 100 points of projected slugging here, from BP's .558 to FG's .665. Considering that even last year he slugged "just" .631, and that was a career high, the lower end of this feels more appropriate -- though again, "the middle" is probably right.

Video: Stanton reacts to first BP session with Judge of '18

Xander Bogaerts, +2.2 wins (BP 1.4, FG 3.4)

Entering play on July 6, Bogaerts was hitting .308/.363/.455 (114 wRC+), which is more or less the exact line he'd had in 2015 and 2016. Then he was hit by a pitch, played through the injury and hit just .232/.321/.340 (74 wRC+) the remainder of the season. If he does that all year, then the 1.4 projection is probably right. But we saw two excellent seasons in 2015 and 2016, and we were going to see another one before the injury. Bogaerts hasn't quite become Francisco Lindor or Carlos Correa, yet an above-average season seems more than realistic. Take the high number.

David Price, +1.5 wins (BP 2.1, FG 3.6)

You know the Price story by now: A good Boston debut followed by an injury-plagued 2017 that ended with some strong postseason bullpen work. Price claims he's feeling good and ready to excel, and he'll need to be; both sites have him putting up under 2 wins in 2018. That makes the hesitancy here warranted, though he's never failed to perform when he's on the mound. We'll cautiously take the high number, knowing he could return to the disabled list at any time.

Dustin Pedroia, +1.4 wins (BP 1.4, FG 2.5)

The two sites don't disagree on his performance all that much, which makes sense because he's been around for so long. One sees a .351 OBP, the other a .358. One sees a .391 slugging, the other a .413.

The difference is in playing time, as BP has a conservative 423 plate-appearance estimate, and FG has him down for 595. Given the uncertain timing of Pedroia's return from knee surgery, it's probably fair to take the under on this one.

The answer here isn't that either site is "right" or "wrong," of course. Projection systems do pretty well for themselves, but they can't tell the future. What you can say for sure is that of the six division races, this is going to be the one that's the most difficult to call. The experts won't be able to come to consensus and neither, apparently, will the computers. Just like every year, the Red Sox and Yankees are the class of the East. It's too close to call. Again.

Mike Petriello is an analyst for MLB.com and the host of the Statcast podcast.

Jimenez adjusting to MLB life in spring camp

White Sox prospect drawing comparisons to his country's greats
Special to MLB.com

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- There are high hopes for White Sox top prospect Eloy Jimenez as the outfielder sets out on a path paved by some of his heroes from his home in the Dominican Republic.

Jimenez, ranked as the club's No. 1 prospect and No. 5 overall in baseball by MLB Pipleline, already has two SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game appearances under his belt, and he was the key prospect in the 2017 trade that sent Jose Quintana to the Cubs.

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- There are high hopes for White Sox top prospect Eloy Jimenez as the outfielder sets out on a path paved by some of his heroes from his home in the Dominican Republic.

Jimenez, ranked as the club's No. 1 prospect and No. 5 overall in baseball by MLB Pipleline, already has two SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game appearances under his belt, and he was the key prospect in the 2017 trade that sent Jose Quintana to the Cubs.

White Sox Spring Training: Info | Tickets | Schedule

He's slashed .302/.350/.498 in three seasons of professional ball, capped by an 18-game stint at Double-A Birmingham -- his third team of 2017 -- where Jimenez hit .353 (24-for-68).

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

"It has been wonderful," Jimenez said through an interpreter on Tuesday of his experience in White Sox camp. "I've been out there with my teammates, trying to get to know each other, trying to be involved in the things that the team is doing. I feel very comfortable."

Jimenez is already being compared to hitters like White Sox powerhouses Jose Abreu and Avisail Garcia, but he shucks off the comparison for the time being.

"I haven't seen them hitting," Jimenez said, deflecting the chance to put himself in their company.

But the 21-year-old Jimenez eagerly spoke of the influence of other Dominican players he grew up watching, including Sammy Sosa, Manny Ramirez, and Vladimir Guerrero.

"[Sosa] had a very good influence on us [Dominicans], especially me," Jimenez said. "Not just him, but guys like Manny and Vladdy. They were examples for us. Now, we're just trying to emulate what they did in the Majors."

And then there's the comparison that means the most -- putting him in a category with David Ortiz. Showing maturity beyond his years in the game, Jimenez focuses on his national pride more than on what the comparison says about his own prowess at the plate.

"It's very special for me to be compared with someone who did great things in baseball and for the sport," Jimenez said of Ortiz. "He represents us as a Dominican in a very good way, so I feel proud when people make those comparisons."

Video: White Sox OF prospect Luis Robert on Spring Training

White Sox manager Rick Renteria got to see Jimenez take batting practice on Tuesday, along with another outfield prospect, Luis Robert, 20, from Cuba, who is ranked as the club's No. 3 prospect and No. 23 in baseball by MLB Pipeline.

"They're tracking, they look good," Renteria said. "All of them are settling in. It's the first few days of light BP, with pitchers BP. They don't look uncomfortable."

Add fellow Dominican Micker Adolfo, 21, to the mix, and it's a trio some envision as the outfield of the future on Chicago's South Side.

"Just a few minutes ago when we were taking BP, we were talking about it," Jimenez said with a broad smile. "Micker and Luis said, 'Can you imagine if we had the opportunity one day to play together in the Majors, right, left and center field? The three of us together and having the opportunity to bring a championship to this team?' I think that's a dream for us, and we're trying to work hard for that."

Jimenez could be forgiven for letting what he hears about himself get to his head, but he's keeping himself grounded and waiting for his time.

"[My dad] says, 'You know what? Just control the things that you can control -- work hard and do the things that you need to do to get better,'" Jimenez said. "That's my key."

That, and a confidence at the plate that belies his lack of big league experience.

"Every day that I'm going out on the field. I try to enjoy every second," Jimenez said. "That's probably why my confidence is high every time I'm on the field. If I try to put pressure on myself, I'm not going to enjoy the game. I try to relax and enjoy the game."

Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com.

Chicago White Sox, Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert

Padres' bright future attracted Hosmer

Direction of franchise was important factor in 1B signing 8-year deal
MLB.com @AJCassavell