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How these 5 teams can still win the offseason

Cards, Brewers among clubs a move or two away from winter dominance
MLB.com @RichardJustice

It would seem the Astros have already won the offseason. When the World Series winner gets better, that has to be the automatic call. In a typical offseason, we would have already shipped the big shiny trophy to Astros GM Jeff Luhnow.

Here's a preliminary ranking of the offseason winners:

It would seem the Astros have already won the offseason. When the World Series winner gets better, that has to be the automatic call. In a typical offseason, we would have already shipped the big shiny trophy to Astros GM Jeff Luhnow.

Here's a preliminary ranking of the offseason winners:

1. Astros
2. Yankees
3. Angels
4. Brewers
5. Cardinals

Honorable mention: Twins, Mets, Blue Jays, Padres, Athletics, Rockies

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

But wait, there's still time. Polls remain open. Even with Eric Hosmer (Padres) and Yu Darvish (Cubs) off the market, the list of unsigned free agents includes a bunch of difference-makers, including starters Jake Arrieta, Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb, outfielder J.D. Martinez, third baseman Mike Moustakas, first baseman Logan Morrison and closer Greg Holland.

Hot Stove Tracker

Let's run down our list, offer a modest proposal or two and check out what the final standings could look like:

Cardinals

Modest proposal: Sign Holland and Moustakas.

Bottom line: Winner, winner, chicken dinner. Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak has rebuilt his team since Opening Day 2017, and the offseason additions of left fielder Marcell Ozuna, starting pitcher Miles Mikolas and reliever Luke Gregerson have been nice finishing touches.

Even if they don't catch the Cubs in the NL Central, the Cardinals are positioned to return to the postseason. But they could make up more ground on the Cubs with another addition or two.

Brewers

Modest proposal: Sign Arrieta, trade for Rays right-hander Chris Archer.

Bottom line: The Brewers' solid offseason has included the additions of outfielders Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain, but they still could use help in the rotation, and while signing Wade Miley to a Minor League contract could pay off, Arrieta and Archer could vault Milwaukee into the top spot.

Video: Brewers, Twins vying for sign free agent Jake Arrieta

Twins

Modest proposal: Sign Lynn.

Bottom line: The Twins have already had a great offseason with the trade for right-hander Jake Odorizzi to go with the earlier additions of relievers Addison Reed and Fernando Rodney and the signing of right-hander Anibal Sanchez. But with ace Ervin Santana sidelined until May or June because of a finger injury and with their young starters still figuring things out, the Twins could go a long way toward flat-out winning the offseason with one more starting pitcher.

Yankees

Modest proposal: Sign either Moustakas or one of the available starting pitchers.

Bottom line: The Yankees have been quiet since acquiring reigning National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton in December, and that should worry the rest of baseball. GM Brian Cashman would like to trade center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury to free up payroll, and don't discount his ability to make one more acquisition and push the Astros from the top spot.

Angels

Modest proposal: Sign a starting pitcher.

Bottom line: Angels GM Billy Eppler has had a huge offseason already with the additions of Shohei Ohtani, Ian Kinsler and Zack Cozart and the re-signing of Justin Upton. If the Angels knew starters Garrett Richards, Matt Shoemaker, Tyler Skaggs and Andrew Heaney could get through the season healthy, they'd be ready to roll. But all of those pitchers have had health issues in recent seasons, so a veteran addition to the rotation would help the Angels make up more ground on the Astros in the American League West and further position them for a postseason run.

Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.

Milwaukee Brewers, New York Yankees, Minnesota Twins, St. Louis Cardinals, Los Angeles Angels

The wait is over: See Giancarlo don Pinstripes

In terms of offseason splashes, the Yankees made arguably the biggest when they acquired Giancarlo Stanton from the Marlins back in December. His new teammates were obviously excited about him joining the mix, as were Yankees fans -- while fans of other teams probably grew more fearful of the Yankees' powerful offensive attack than ever. 

The All-Non-Roster-Invitee team for 2018

MLB.com @castrovince

There were a few times in my 20s when friends of friends put me on their "invited to crash" wedding list. In other words, there was mutual agreement that I was not close enough with these particular people to be on their $75-a-plate list for the reception, but I was sort of a hired gun aimed at the open bar after, say, 8 p.m., when the formalities were over with and the fun was beginning.

This was not an uncommon practice among my circle of friends, with people on the periphery -- loose acquaintances from college, people you had just met only weeks earlier but hit it off with, etc. -- crashing parties with permission.

There were a few times in my 20s when friends of friends put me on their "invited to crash" wedding list. In other words, there was mutual agreement that I was not close enough with these particular people to be on their $75-a-plate list for the reception, but I was sort of a hired gun aimed at the open bar after, say, 8 p.m., when the formalities were over with and the fun was beginning.

This was not an uncommon practice among my circle of friends, with people on the periphery -- loose acquaintances from college, people you had just met only weeks earlier but hit it off with, etc. -- crashing parties with permission.

I'm sure reception-hall managers aren't in love with the concept, but the happy couple got to save a few bucks at a time when they were already forced to invite every aunt, uncle, cousin and neighbor under the sun, and the crasher wasn't on the hook for a gift. Mazel tov!

Throughout Spring Training camps in Florida and Arizona, there are similar arrangements every year. Non-roster invitees crash clubhouses with non-guaranteed contracts and the opportunity to win a job. So we thought it would be fun to build a roster of non-rosters.

Note that with so many free agents still lingering in the open market, this could be a year with unprecedented NRI activity in the coming weeks, so this roster is definitely subject to change. Note, too, that this roster targets guys with past big league experience who are looking to land a job, not promising youngsters who have not yet been added to their club's 40-man roster, but will be in Spring Training camp (sorry, Shohei Ohtani).

Here are 2018's most interesting party-crashers:

Catchers (3): Miguel Montero, Nationals; Chris Gimenez, Cubs; Christian Bethancourt, Brewers

Montero, the former two-time All-Star who was ousted from the Cubs after publicly complaining about Jake Arrieta being slow to the plate, gets a chance to push young Pedro Severino for the backup job with the Nats. Gimenez will quite likely make the Cubs' Opening Day roster and be Yu Darvish's preferred backstop (despite Darvish's jokes to the contrary this week). Gimenez discussed their relationship after Darvish signed.

Video: Darvish playfully explains relationship with Gimenez

Why are we carrying three catchers? On the off chance Bethancourt hits the mound again after that failed experiment in San Diego aimed at turning him into the game's first catching-pitching hybrid. If the Brewers give him and his mid-90s fastball another crack at it, he can deepen our bullpen.

Infielders (6): Allen Craig, Padres; Danny Espinosa, Yankees; Darwin Barney, Rangers; Ryan Goins, Royals; Will Middlebrooks, Phillies; Trevor Plouffe, Rangers

Back in 2012, Craig and Middlebrooks looked like rising stars, but that feels like ages ago. Craig, affectionately known here as "The Wrench," injured his foot late in a strong 2013 season, and he's never been the same since. The '17 season was the last of a five-year, $31 million extension signed with the Cardinals, and it ended with him released from the Red Sox's Triple-A club. He'll be reporting to the Padres, for whom Middlebrooks never panned out after a 2014 trade from Boston.

Video: Padres ink Craig to Minors pact, invite him to ST

None of Espinosa, Barney or Goins provided much, if any, value to their clubs in 2017, but all three of them are not far removed from seasons in which they were worth multiple Wins Above Replacement. They can divvy up the time at second base and short.

Plouffe, who was one of the Twins' more consistent offensive contributors from 2012-15 and will be vying for a bench role with the Rangers, is our backup on the infield corners. And though he didn't make this team, Christian Colon, a former No. 4 overall Draft pick trying to make it with the Marlins, can be a non-roster invitee to our camp of non-roster invitees, if only because he delivered the game-winning RBI in the 2015 Royals' World Series clincher.

Outfielders (5): Tim Tebow, Mets; Melvin Upton Jr., Indians; Daniel Nava, Pirates; Peter Bourjos, Cubs; Eric Young Jr., Angels

Well, of course, we've got to include Tebow here. If nothing else, he can DH for us and get some butts in the stands.

But as far as guys who might actually make an impact in the big leagues this year, Upton is an interesting add for the Indians, who feel he's in a good place physically, and mentally, to perhaps fill their need for a right-handed-hitting outfielder. Young will fight for a return to the Halos after a terrific turn filling in for the injured Mike Trout last year. He had one of the most emotional moments of the 2017 season.

With Upton in right and Young in center, Nava is our left fielder after a bounceback season in Philadelphia earned him a 2018 opportunity across the state. It will be interesting to see if Bourjos, our fourth outfielder, can nail down a job with the Cubs, because his speed and defense are attractive.

Video: TB@NYY: Bourjos hits a two-run triple to left-center

Though he didn't make this roster focused on vets, Rusney Castillo, who has logged just 99 games in the big leagues, is an interesting invitee to Red Sox camp. He's owed $35.5 million over the next three years whether he makes the team or not, but Boston is likely hoping he performs well enough this spring to attract trade interest.

Starting pitchers (5): Bartolo Colon, Rangers; Derek Holland, Giants; Tyson Ross, Padres; Chris Young, Padres; Hisashi Iwakuma, Mariners

If this column serves no other purpose, making Colon the ace of a ballclub -- even a fake one -- was worthwhile. He's 44 and three wins shy of Juan Marichal's mark for the most career wins (243) by a Dominican Republic-born pitcher.

Video: Colon, Banister on competition within the rotation

A former World Series star with the Rangers, Holland is a depth add to a Giants club with some uncertainty in its rotation. He pitched to a 2.37 ERA in his first 60 2/3 innings with the White Sox in 2017 before his year imploded.

I don't know if it's good or bad that the Padres provide two-fifths of our starting rotation; I just know it was funny to see them bring back both their '07 All-Star Young and their '14 All-Star Ross. Maybe this is the year Ross, a year-plus removed from thoracic outlet syndrome surgery, puts it back together.

And we'll round out the rotation with Iwakuma, who is trying to pitch his way back onto the Mariners after last year's shoulder woes.

Because the starting-pitching market has moved at a glacial pace this offseason -- and only recently got some traction with the Darvish signing -- I would not be surprised if we start to see a lot more non-roster activity here in the coming days, or weeks. For now, Jonathon Niese (Rangers), Kris Medlen (D-backs) and Hector Santiago and TJ House (White Sox) are some other interesting names here.

Relievers (7): Francisco Rodriguez, Phillies; Jonny Venters, Rays; Ernesto Frieri, Brewers; Pat Venditte, Dodgers; Tom Wilhelmsen, Padres; Jeanmar Gomez, White Sox; Neftali Feliz, D-backs

This is always the most loaded/interesting section of the non-roster invitee realm, because it's the area where clubs basically load up on bodies and see what sticks. I'm giving my closer job to K-Rod, a guy who has consistently made the tweaks and reinventions necessary to prolong his career and has an opportunity to do so again with the Phillies.

On the "great stories" front, Venters, last seen in the big leagues in 2012, is one of the more interesting guys in any camp this year, trying to do the seemingly impossible in working his way back from a third Tommy John surgery. And wherever the switch-pitching Venditte lands, you've got to give him a hand (either one).

Frieri is five years removed from his 37-save season with the Angels, but he struck out 11.9 batters per nine innings in Triple-A last year. Gomez is just two years removed from his 37-save season with the Phillies.

I picked prospect-turned-bartender-turned-closer-turned-bounceback-candidate Wilhelmsen and former-Rookie-of-the-Year-turned-World-Series-goat Feliz to round out my 'pen, but there are plenty of other NRI names that jump off the page here, including Jacob Turner (Marlins), Vance Worley (Reds), Dustin McGowan (Rays), John Axford and Craig Breslow (Blue Jays), Bruce Rondon (White Sox), Travis Wood (Tigers) and Alexi Ogando (Indians), to name a few.

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

Mets GM: 'I think' Tebow will play in MLB

MLB.com @AnthonyDiComo

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Those who consider Tim Tebow's baseball experiment a joke, a distraction, are officially on notice. Yes, Tebow's doubters may not disappear anytime soon. He knows that his Minor League statistics are what they are. But the Mets are no longer willing to discuss the former NFL quarterback as anything less than a legitimate prospect.

General manager Sandy Alderson on Sunday gave his most ringing endorsement yet of Tebow's status in the organization, saying: "I think he will play in the Major Leagues."

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Those who consider Tim Tebow's baseball experiment a joke, a distraction, are officially on notice. Yes, Tebow's doubters may not disappear anytime soon. He knows that his Minor League statistics are what they are. But the Mets are no longer willing to discuss the former NFL quarterback as anything less than a legitimate prospect.

General manager Sandy Alderson on Sunday gave his most ringing endorsement yet of Tebow's status in the organization, saying: "I think he will play in the Major Leagues."

"That's my guess," Alderson continued. "That's my hope. And to some extent now after a year and a half, a modest expectation."

Tweet from @Mets: .@TimTebow has arrived in camp. #Mets pic.twitter.com/vLmXxk1VRN

What began 17 months ago as a curiosity at best, a publicity stunt at worst, has evolved into something far more legitimate. Tebow reported this weekend to his first big league camp, where the Mets plan to treat him no differently than Yoenis Cespedes, Jay Bruce or any of the team's other outfielders. There is a chance that Tebow begins this year at Double-A Binghamton, just two steps from the Majors.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

So although Tebow stopped short of calling a big league promotion his expectation, he too is beginning to acknowledge its possibility.

"As an athlete, you always want to be the best you can, play at the highest level, win a championship, be the best," Tebow said. "If the best that I can be is in the bigs, that would be awesome. I believe in myself, and so I want to strive for that. But if that doesn't happen, then I won't look back and regret playing baseball, because I've already enjoyed it."

A former Heisman Trophy winner with the University of Florida and an NFL quarterback for the Broncos, Jets, Patriots and Eagles, Tebow began his Minor League journey when he signed with the Mets in September 2016. Competing in the Arizona Fall League that autumn, Tebow spent last spring in Minor League camp, though the Mets frequently borrowed him for Grapefruit League games.

Over the summer, Tebow advanced to Class A Columbia and Class A Advanced St. Lucie, hitting .226 with eight home runs in 126 games. While he never hit well enough to force his way up the Minor League ladder, Tebow showed enough marked improvement that the Mets felt comfortable pushing him to such heights.

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

That is why they invited Tebow to big league camp in Port St. Lucie, where he will compete against some of baseball's best players. Ever since the end of last season, Tebow has revamped his swing, despite spending much of his winter traveling to the Middle East and South America for foundation work.

"He benefits the Mets because of how he conducts himself," Alderson said. "He's a tremendous representative of the organization. We've been pushing him because there's a finite period of time for this to work. But his commitment to the game has been exceptional. So we're pushing him a little bit and he's here in camp not because he brings some notoriety. He's here because we want to push him a little bit. We think this is the best environment for him to get better."

Often defensive of the experiment, Alderson said Tebow was "phenomenal for Minor League Baseball last year," calling the notion that he shouldn't have a chance to compete "crazy."

Tweet from @AnthonyDiComo: Here are Tim Tebow's own thoughts on playing in the Major Leagues: pic.twitter.com/187hygMPQT

"We're going to evaluate Tim Tebow just as we would anybody else," Mets manager Mickey Callaway said. "I think Tim Tebow is here because he can potentially help us at the Major League level at some point. He wouldn't be here otherwise."

If Tebow does make it to that stage, he said, his broadcasting commitments to the SEC Network will not interfere. Tebow's other employers understand that baseball is his top priority, even if a segment of the fan base doesn't quite believe it -- and perhaps never will.

"My goal isn't about what's going to happen one day. My goal is to focus on this day," Tebow said. "I can't worry about one day if I'm going to play in the bigs or not. I got into this because I love it."

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

New York Mets, Tim Tebow

Clubs snoozing, not losing, in Spring Training

Several teams push back start times during camp to aid players' rest
MLB.com @castrovince

You snooze, you lose? Not in the modern Major League camp.

Only the sleep-deprived among us would fail to notice a brewing Spring Training trend in which multiple teams are beginning their morning workouts up to an hour later than they previously did. More teams are awakening to the idea that sleep impacts performance, and that rest is a key part of preparing for a long, grinding 162-game season.

You snooze, you lose? Not in the modern Major League camp.

Only the sleep-deprived among us would fail to notice a brewing Spring Training trend in which multiple teams are beginning their morning workouts up to an hour later than they previously did. More teams are awakening to the idea that sleep impacts performance, and that rest is a key part of preparing for a long, grinding 162-game season.

And so, they're hitting the snooze button in Yankees camp -- where this idea was first dreamed up a few years ago. They're doing it in the camps of the Rays, Cardinals, Mets, Phillies, Royals, Giants and Mariners, too.

"I'm all for it, dude," Royals left-hander Danny Duffy said. "I'm not what you [would] call a morning person anyway. I mean, 90 percent of our games are night games during the season, so who wants to get up early?"

That's a simply stated counter-argument to the old-school approach of the cracks of bats beginning shortly after the crack of dawn.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

For as long as anybody can remember, it has been typical for morning workouts to begin with a team stretch somewhere in the neighborhood of 9:30 a.m., with the full workout beginning by 10 a.m. These rituals are preceded by the anticipatory affair known as early work -- infielders taking ground balls in the 7 a.m. hour, batters hitting in the indoor cages, etc.

We in the media have long lionized those who are the first through the door and the last to leave. But, in recent years, teams in all major professional sports have been rethinking rest patterns -- in terms of in-game usage. It only stands to reason that the concept would extend to spring preparation, too.

Video: Boone addresses resting players, workout times

Back in 2016, the Yankees pushed their morning workout back to 11:30 a.m., as a result of a sleep study conducted by Stanford professor Scott Kutscher -- who posited the so-simple-it-ought-not-be-revolutionary idea that the spring schedule should more closely reflect the regular-season schedule.

"These are still young men whose primary job is a nighttime job," Kutscher told the Wall Street Journal that year. "So you want to get in line with how their bodies are going to respond, and how you want to perform."

Now, the alarm is sounding later for multiple clubs.

The Cardinals conducted a sleep-efficiency study on their players last spring and decided to push both the earliest optional and mandatory report times back an hour as a result. Players aren't allowed in the clubhouse before 7 a.m., and they can arrive as late as 10:30 a.m.

"As we went through our sleep trackers last year, we found our guys were getting less than seven good hours of sleep a night," Cards manager Mike Matheny said. "That's just not enough for what we're asking them. ... For us to get that information and not do something with it -- and not do something proactive -- I think is a misuse of the information."

There are other practical reasons to push things back, as articulated by Matt Klentak, general manager of a Phillies team that has pushed its workouts back an hour.

"If your workout's beginning at 9:30, that means your early work is getting done between 7:30 and 9:30," Klentak said. "You know what happens on a humid Florida night? The field gets really wet, and it's not optimal conditions to do early work."

But it's not just about sleep itself. Some teams are taking a closer look at the volume of work that occurs within their workouts.

Video: Callaway shortens Mets' workout times for Spring

The Mets, who are no strangers to the injury bug, recently hired a "high-performance director" to oversee medical and training issues. New manager Mickey Callaway has also pushed workouts back a half-hour and shortened them.

"Before, guys were sitting around for 15 minutes before their next station," Callaway told the New York Post. "They're sitting there talking, and guys were getting hurt. The next thing you know ... you're tight and you've got to go run. I want to get on and off the field. You can't have [players] standing around; that leads to injuries."

The Twins, with new pitching coach Garvin Alston, have adjusted the throwing programs of their pitchers to be more mindful of wear and tear. They are more careful about warmup patterns prior to bullpen sessions and taking better measure of the volume of throws on a given day.

"That's one area, as an industry, where we've been a little bit less attentive," Twins executive vice president and chief baseball officer Derek Falvey said. "We think about the amount of throwing a guy would do in July, coming back from an injury or whatever it is, and we're very attentive to it. But in Spring Training, it's just this huge volume of throwing. Catch, PFP [pitchers fielding practice], ground balls, long toss, bullpen. Day off, do it all over again. If you added that up in the regular season, people would be screaming about the abuse of how much throwing [a player has] had in the game. We just have to be careful about the volume, especially early in camp."

The Spring Training schedule, centered around day games, has long been the antithesis of the regular-season schedule. But while that fundamental flaw does not appear to be close to changing anytime soon, teams are pushing back against tradition for tradition's sake by pushing back workout times and increasing the efficiency of their prep work.

Video: Estrada on how fixing sleep issues saved his season

Maybe bankers can't afford to hit the snooze button for an extra hour. But baseball players? Sure.

"There's no real downside to pushing it back," said Klentak. "It's not cutting into anybody's day, and we feel we're getting pretty productive work out of it."

You snooze, you lose? In MLB, they're hoping quite the opposite.

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.

MLB.com reporters Jeffrey Flanagan and Joe Trezza contributed to this story.

Friars on Hosmer: 'I couldn't be more excited'

San Diego clubhouse features multiple former Royals, who rave about new first baseman
MLB.com @AJCassavell

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Austin Hedges was fast asleep Saturday night, when his phone buzzed. Then it buzzed again. And then it buzzed again. He couldn't ignore it much longer.

So Hedges picked the phone up and read the news -- that the Padres had an agreement in place with free-agent first baseman Eric Hosmer, an eight-year deal as reported by MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi.

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Austin Hedges was fast asleep Saturday night, when his phone buzzed. Then it buzzed again. And then it buzzed again. He couldn't ignore it much longer.

So Hedges picked the phone up and read the news -- that the Padres had an agreement in place with free-agent first baseman Eric Hosmer, an eight-year deal as reported by MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi.

Hedges didn't get much sleep after that.

"I couldn't be more excited," Hedges said Sunday morning. "I've been excited ever since the rumor started spreading in [November] that we even had the possibility of signing him. ... Obviously, the guy puts up numbers every year, and he's a stud. But from a leadership standpoint, teammate standpoint, how he plays first base, he's the whole package. He's exactly the type of person we want here."

• Source: Padres, Hosmer agree to 8-year deal

Video: Padres reportedly sign Hosmer to eight-year deal

That sentiment rang throughout a particularly buoyant Padres clubhouse on Sunday morning.

In the eyes of reliever Matt Strahm, who spent two seasons as Hosmer's teammate in Kansas City, it won't be the last time Hosmer's presence is felt there.

"I've never seen a guy walk into a clubhouse and just change the mood like [Hosmer] would over in Kansas City," said Strahm. "He gets along with everyone, and he can relate to everyone, which is awesome. I'm really excited to have him and really excited to get the season going."

Video: Eric Hosmer's enjoyed hitting at Petco Park

No Padres player has been affected by the Hosmer signing more than Wil Myers. The club has asked Myers -- once the franchise first baseman in San Diego -- to transition to the outfield.

• Hosmer's arrival will reshape outfield, lineup

Nonetheless, Myers was among the most exhilarated Padres at the prospect of the signing, and he readily accepted the positional change. He first met Hosmer at instructional ball in the Royals' farm system in 2009. Hosmer hit third and Myers hit fourth during their brief stint together in Class A Advanced Wilmington in 2010. If it meant clearing room for Hosmer, Myers was more than willing to shift to a corner-outfield spot.

So what, exactly, is it about Hosmer that has the club so energized?

"Besides being a good player?" Myers said with a wry grin. "He's great in the clubhouse. He'll get along with anyone. ... Who he is as a person, I think he's going to fit right into what we're doing here in San Diego."

• Hot Stove Tracker

Chris Young has seen that firsthand. Along with Hosmer, Young helped bring a World Series championship to Kansas City in 2015, and he spoke to Hosmer's immense impact on that group.

"He's one of my all-time favorite teammates," Young said. "He's a great guy, great attitude, he brings competitiveness, a fire, but also that child spirit in the clubhouse where you can relate to everyone, have fun, joke around. He has a way of connecting with everyone on the team."

Video: Chris Young on what Eric Hosmer brings to the Padres

News and notes

• Reliever Kirby Yates twisted his ankle and is being held out of fielding drills. The Padres don't view the injury as a long-term concern, and Yates was able to throw his bullpen session as scheduled on Sunday.

• Right-hander Jacob Nix, the club's No. 14 prospect, has been sidelined with "a lower-leg injury," according to Padres manager Andy Green. There's no timetable on a return, but Green said his absence was precautionary.

• Right-hander Tyson Ross faced hitters for the first time this spring on Sunday. He's drawn rave reviews for the freeness in his delivery, and Ross acknowledged he's feeling much better than he did during a pair of injury plagued seasons in 2016-17.

"Time heals all wounds," Ross said. "It took a while to recover from that [shoulder] surgery. Having a full offseason to get strong, work on throwing, mechanical work -- I feel great."

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

San Diego Padres, Eric Hosmer

Kraken tearing the cover off the ball -- literally

When Gary Sanchez steps to the plate, baseballs cower in fear -- as they should. He's smashed 53 homers over the last two years, leading all Major League catchers despite playing in far fewer games while crushing the ball as far as anyone. You know, like this one that went 493 feet -- second-longest in the Majors last year: 

Votto's offseason goal: 'I tried to get fatter'

There is no one quite like Joey Votto. While other players chase pitches out of the zone, Votto watches them float right by. When other players give baseballs to fans, Votto teases them. And when other players report to camp in the best shape of their lives, Votto shows up fatter. And he's proud of it, too. 

Dawson excited by tournament bearing his name

Formerly known as Urban Invitational, event features HBCU teams
Special to MLB.com

Andre Dawson hadn't been to New Orleans in three years.

The 6-foot-3 Hall of Famer returned Sunday to see his name plastered on shirts, programs and signs. It was Dawson's name that Major League Baseball decided to use to rebrand what was formerly known as the Urban Invitational.

Andre Dawson hadn't been to New Orleans in three years.

The 6-foot-3 Hall of Famer returned Sunday to see his name plastered on shirts, programs and signs. It was Dawson's name that Major League Baseball decided to use to rebrand what was formerly known as the Urban Invitational.

The invitational, now known as the Andre Dawson Classic, is an annual round-robin tournament set up to showcase historically black colleges and universities, broadcast live on MLB Network and MLB.com. The idea to name the tournament after Dawson was fostered by MLB senior vice president of youth programs Tony Reagins and senior director of baseball development Del Matthews.

• Andre Dawson Classic coverage

The two felt it was important to put a face on the tournament, and they wanted someone with a strong connection to HBCUs and a name that people recognized to create a new buzz around it. Dawson fit the bill as an alumnus of Florida A&M and an eight-time All-Star who won Rookie of the Year in 1977 and MVP in 1987.

Dawson called the opportunity for the tournament to be named after him "exciting" and said he didn't know what to expect originally.

"For me, it's an honor to support an HBCU program," Dawson said. "And I look at this as an opportunity to be further involved and help these individuals be empowering and later on with this opportunity become community leaders."

There was no hesitation on Dawson's part to accept the offer, and he hopes with his name, he can help the under-the-radar players of HBCUs get exposure to Major League clubs.

"There are a million kids that have hopes and aspirations of trying to get to the professional level," Dawson said. "To be a source that they can look at and know, 'Hey, if it happened to this particular individual, there's hope.'"

Hope is what Matthews and Reagins are trying to instill in African-American youth players by bringing Dawson to the forefront and attempting to increase the popularity of MLB Youth Academies that serve cities as a site of free baseball instruction.

Reagins said it is important to not forget those who paved the way for black players in the game, and that Dawson's name and legacy is a good fit for what he and his team are trying to accomplish by creating exposure and awareness for HBCUs and players involved with those teams and youth academies.

"That's important because the kids that go to this academy, they need to see people that look like them playing at a higher level so one day they're thinking, 'I can be that guy that is on TV' or 'I'm that guy to be a part of an HBCU program or a college program in general,'" said Reagins, whose job is to help expand youth participation in baseball. "For us, getting kids to college is the big win. To get to pro ball, that's icing on the cake, but we want to get our kids in college, and this why we do this tournament."

From the responses Reagins has received from the participating coaches, this year's Classic has been a success. He said coaches have told him they would like to return year after year, and that is the type of response he wants to hear.

Now his goal is to expand the reach of the Classic and make it a premier event for college baseball with the help of Dawson and MLB Network.

"Being inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame, you kind of see your career come full circle and you're rewarded with those accolades accumulated over longevity," said Dawson, who complimented MLB on the job it's doing with youth programs. "To have this kind of honor bestowed upon you amongst people that are your contemporaries or people that run the game, to me that is a little bit more important.

"This is right up there [with being inducted into the Hall of Fame]. This is something that is national now. These kids get to get national exposure, and to have my name attached to it, I'm very excited to be associated with it."

Brandon Adam is a contributor to MLB.com.

Be a GM with Yahoo Sports Fantasy Baseball

MLB.com

There truly is no offseason in baseball these days, as MLB general managers have been reshaping their clubs for the 2018 season ever since the Astros recorded the final out of the World Series last November.

And as Opening Day rapidly approaches, it's your turn to build a championship club.

There truly is no offseason in baseball these days, as MLB general managers have been reshaping their clubs for the 2018 season ever since the Astros recorded the final out of the World Series last November.

And as Opening Day rapidly approaches, it's your turn to build a championship club.

Yahoo Sports Fantasy Baseball, the Official Fantasy Commissioner Game of MLB.com, gives you the chance to manage your own club -- or perhaps even more than one -- and build it into a fantasy powerhouse, all from the comfort of your sofa. Better yet, fantasy owners can now manage their lineups on the go with Yahoo's award-winning Fantasy App, which includes all the same features as the desktop browser.

Join Yahoo Fantasy Baseball today!

Baseball's most celebrated executives like Theo Epstein and Jeff Luhnow don't build winners on their own, of course; it takes a team to build a team. That's why Yahoo Sports Fantasy Baseball includes a host of features to make your process as easy as possible, from customized player rankings to injury updates.

Fantasy players won't need to let a busy day get in the way of their championship goals, as Yahoo Sports Fantasy Baseball will now step up to the plate to ensure your active lineup is, well, active. Owners can choose to have active players automatically started with just one tap, either for a specific day or an entire gameweek. That means your team will always be playing at full strength -- even if some of your players are riding the pine.

Video: Arenado, Bryant among top fantasy third basemen

Those ambitious enough to create their own leagues will get an assist: Yahoo is offering commissioners free access to its Fantasy Alarm Draft Book. Designed for both snake drafts and auctions, the Draft Book has an advanced tier structure that ensures you are always getting the best value. Yahoo also handles league dues and distributes winnings at the end of the season, meaning you can get back to building your perfect roster.

We know the 162-game schedule can be grueling for both big league clubs and fantasy owners. For those interested in a more abbreviated experience, Yahoo is here to help. Try Yahoo Sports Fantasy Baseball's weekly head-to-head scoring setting, which is available in private leagues that you can create or join. After the draft, all you need to do is set your lineup once a week.

The season doesn't end with the draft, of course, and oftentimes a league's winner comes from the most active owners on the trade market. That task is now simpler than ever with Yahoo Sports Fantasy Baseball's Trade Market tool, which gives players the ability to consistently track transactions made by their counterparts and help them stay ahead of the curve.

Video: Zinkie assesses the top tiers of fantasy outfielders

It's all part of the effort to grab those crucial bragging rights as champion, and Yahoo Sports Fantasy Baseball has something for everyone. Fantasy rookies can get their feet wet with Yahoo's easy-to-use interface, while seasoned vets will have all the necessary tools at their disposal to dominate. Players can take home an electronic trophy by winning a free game or earn something even bigger by prevailing in one of Yahoo Sports Fantasy Baseball's pro leagues.

It's all been set up for you. Time to play, and good luck this season.

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

With Hoz signed, can Sox gain traction on JD?

Dombrowski confident in roster, but Boston continues to pursue free-agent slugger
MLB.com @IanMBrowne

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Now that a big free-agent domino has fallen with Eric Hosmer agreeing to terms on an eight-year deal with the Padres, can the Red Sox gain some momentum in their prolonged quest to reel in slugger J.D. Martinez?

It is clearly a question worth asking, but one that Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski didn't have an answer for as of Sunday afternoon.

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Now that a big free-agent domino has fallen with Eric Hosmer agreeing to terms on an eight-year deal with the Padres, can the Red Sox gain some momentum in their prolonged quest to reel in slugger J.D. Martinez?

It is clearly a question worth asking, but one that Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski didn't have an answer for as of Sunday afternoon.

"We haven't had many free-agent conversations over the last little time period, so I can't really say there's any difference," said Dombrowski. "But it's apparent that it's starting to break. Hosmer ended up signing, or apparently agreed to terms when you look at it. [Yu] Darvish last week. There are still a lot of big-name guys out there, but there are some other guys starting to sign, so overall, it looks like it's starting to happen."

The Red Sox made Martinez a five-year offer worth at least $100 million earlier in the offseason.

Due to a seemingly limited number of suitors for Martinez -- the D-backs are the only other one that has been publicized -- the Red Sox don't want to bid against themselves.

Does Dombrowski feel the Red Sox need to acquire a big-name free agent?

"When you say it, you almost can't come up with the right answer because it seems like if I say one thing it comes out [wrong]," said Dombrowski. "I always think that our club can be better. We will always strive to make our club better. But if we went into the season with the club we have now, and it was healthy, I would feel very good about that."

Meanwhile, the players in the clubhouse are just going about their business. On Sunday, they welcomed back an old friend in Eduardo Nunez. Whether or not Martinez comes walking in some day is still anybody's guess.

"We hear about it every single day," said Red Sox left fielder Andrew Benintendi. "I don't think anybody wants to pay attention to it really. We're players. We play. That's not really what we have to worry about. Whatever happens happens. I'm sure we'll hear about it before we see somebody walk in, but we'll see what happens."

Video: Rick Porcello confident heading into 2018 season

Lowe works with Porcello
Former Red Sox right-hander Derek Lowe attended the team's workout in street clothes on Sunday and did some work in the bullpen with Rick Porcello. Lowe's signature pitch during his playing career was the sinker, which is Porcello's out pitch.

Lowe lives right down the street from where the Red Sox train in Fort Myers, but he doesn't work for the club. He is good friends with new pitching coach Dana LeVangie. Lowe first started talking sinkerballs with Porcello in January at the Red Sox' Winter Weekend in Connecticut.

"Yeah, he sunk the ball well for a long time, so just talking about different stuff, grips, trying to take any little tip that he throws my way and if it's something that works for me, I'll use it to my advantage," said Porcello. "Not everything is going to directly translate, but there's a lot of things I can learn from him and everybody. Just taking information and processing it and talking [to him] about a whole bunch of different stuff."

Another familiar face arrives on Monday, as 2007 World Series MVP Mike Lowell will be on hand to work with some of the players, including third baseman Rafael Devers.

"I'm a big believer that whoever can contribute to this program, I'm happy that they offer their services and that they're here," said manager Alex Cora. "You saw everybody's excitement. … It was amazing when D-Lowe walked in, especially with Pedro [Martinez]. He has a great relationship with Dana and reconnected with him in Connecticut at the Winter Fest, so was here. They are similar pitchers, so why not? If that's going to make Rick better, so be it."

Video: Cora discusses the offseason and rivalry with Yankees

Big day on Monday
Monday's first full-squad workout will be an exciting day for Cora, who will address the team before they take the field. Traditionally, members of ownership and the front office also speak to the players.

"Yeah, I'm more prepared for this one than the one with pitchers and catchers," said Cora. "But there's a lot of people that are going to be here tomorrow. I know how big that first day is, not only for the baseball team, but for the players and the organization. I'm looking forward to that.

"It's an opportunity to, not that you have to make a statement; they know what's at stake. But to get some points across. I'm glad that everybody is here. It's going to be a tough day, schedule-wise. We're going to be all over the place. That's what it's all about now. Now we go."

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

Boston Red Sox

Zobrist: 'The hunger is back' in Cubs' WS chase

Veteran opts not to offer advice to Astros on avoiding championship hangover
MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

MESA, Ariz. -- Ben Zobrist played on back-to-back championship teams with the Royals in 2015 and the Cubs in '16. Any advice for the Astros on how to deal with a World Series hangover this season?

"No," Zobrist said laughing, "and if they did [ask], I would tell them all the wrong things because we need to beat them this year."

MESA, Ariz. -- Ben Zobrist played on back-to-back championship teams with the Royals in 2015 and the Cubs in '16. Any advice for the Astros on how to deal with a World Series hangover this season?

"No," Zobrist said laughing, "and if they did [ask], I would tell them all the wrong things because we need to beat them this year."

Zobrist, 36, called last season one of the toughest in his career.

"It's hard to put into words the impact that the kind of championship that 2016 has on a team," Zobrist said Sunday, "because I don't think anybody has had to deal with that in baseball when you're talking about how much pressure was on our team and getting to that Game 7 and win that championship that hasn't been done in 108 years.

Spring Training: Info | Tickets | Schedule | Gear

"I think everybody was pretty satisfied as far as Cubs Nation goes -- at least for a little bit. As players, you have to find a way to turn it back on. It's not easy to do. From the top to the bottom, it was a difficult road to get everybody back to the same frame of mind, the same hunger that we had in '16. We just weren't ourselves the whole first half of last year."

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

The Cubs did scuffle at the start of last season, coming in 5 1/2 games behind the Brewers at the All-Star break. They rallied to win the National League Central and reach the NL Championship Series, but lost in five games to the Dodgers.

"We were trying," Zobrist said of last season. "There was a lot of effort going into it. I think we just struggled to figure it out and try to get back to the same place of mind, and I think there was a lot of fatigue -- mental and emotional fatigue more than physical -- for a lot of guys at the early part of last season."

This year is different, Zobrist said.

"I can tell you this, the hunger is back for this team and we're excited to get back at it and prove that we're the best team again," he said.

Worth noting

• First baseman Anthony Rizzo was expected in camp on Monday for the first full-squad workout. Rizzo had returned to his hometown of Parkland, Fla., to be with family and friends after a shooting at his former high school in which 17 people were killed.

"He's a special guy, and some of the things he's gone through and their community has gone through the last couple days, I'm looking forward to giving him a big hug and welcoming him back," Zobrist said of Rizzo.

"He needs hugs. We give a lot of hugs around here. We're a tight-knit group. He'll be excited to get back into the game. That's one of the best things about baseball is that it helps everybody move on from difficult things that happen."

Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts, president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer were expected to address the players.

• The Cubs used 11 different leadoff men last season. Zobrist is one of the candidates to do so this year, but the Cubs also could continue to rotate players.

"I'm very comfortable with moving that around based on guys who get on base often," manager Joe Maddon said Sunday. "That's the whole point. When you can combine that with a guy who has high on-base and can hit homers, too, that's even more attractive. We have a lot of guys who are capable."

Video: CHC@MIL: Zobrist provides insurance with two-run jack

• Maddon is well aware of the potential for criticism on social media when he expresses his opinion on topics such as gun control.

"It's going to happen," he said. "Everybody has a voice these days. Whenever you sit in this seat and talk into the camera every day, and if you ask me my opinion, of course people are going to disagree with it. I expect that. I kind of enjoy it. I don't mind any of that. If I say something, I want to be committed and believe what I say to you guys first. If I'm uncertain, I'll tell you I'm uncertain. But to be disagreed with by people anonymously typing messages in the basement or off their phone in the bathroom, I don't worry about stuff like that. It's part of our culture right now."

One thing Maddon will emphasize in camp is using the phone to actually talk to people. He wants to hear the nuance in their voice.

• The Cubs made two roster moves on Sunday. Outfielder Charcer Burks was added to big league camp as a non-roster invitee. Burks, 22, batted .270 last season at Double-A Tennessee and also played in the Arizona Fall League.

The Cubs released right-handed pitcher Williams Perez, a non-roster invitee. Perez, 26, had pitched for the Braves in 2015 and '16. Last season, he was 7-10 with a 5.01 ERA in 23 starts with Triple-A Iowa.

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

Chicago Cubs, Ben Zobrist

Bryce's brother trying to make a name for himself

Bryan, older brother of Bryce, eyes spot in bullpen
MLB.com @JamalCollier

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- It's as if Bryan Harper has been soaking it all in through these first few days of what is his first full Major League camp. He has spent his time in the Nationals clubhouse, keeping mostly to himself, watching and observing.

"It's been exciting," Harper said. "When you come to a new locker room you always just want to blend in. Not bring too much attention to yourself."

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- It's as if Bryan Harper has been soaking it all in through these first few days of what is his first full Major League camp. He has spent his time in the Nationals clubhouse, keeping mostly to himself, watching and observing.

"It's been exciting," Harper said. "When you come to a new locker room you always just want to blend in. Not bring too much attention to yourself."

Spring Training: Info | Tickets | Gear

Of course, blending in is not an easy task for someone who is 6-foot-5 and carries the same last name as the Nationals' biggest star, Bryce. Finally healthy after undergoing Tommy John surgery late in the 2016 season, the elder Harper was re-signed by the Nationals this winter and invited to big league Spring Training for the first time in his career.

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Harper, a 28-year-old left-handed reliever, had been pushing his way toward a potential spot in the Majors before his injury. In 2016, he posted a 2.18 ERA in 40 appearances and could have been a candidate for a September callup. Then, he was sidelined for the entire 2017 season, rehabbing.

"A grind. It was a grind," Harper said. "I felt like it made me better, not just health-wise but mentally. Because you got to be mentally tough to get through surgeries."

Harper has thrown two bullpen sessions since camp officially began and said he feels great. He has been encouraged by the way his arm has responded the day after throwing.

"His arm strength's good and his command is getting better," pitching coach Derek Lilliquist said. "He's got a nice breaking ball. His fastball's got some good shape to it. We've just got to get him into games and get him comfortable."

Nationals notebook: Glover dealing with sore shoulder

Harper is perhaps a long shot to make the Nationals' Opening Day bullpen. Aside from closer Sean Doolittle, Harper is behind Sammy Solis, Enny Romero and Matt Grace on the left-handed reliever depth chart. But there could be some opportunity for him to crack this roster. Solis has had trouble staying healthy, and Romero and Grace have battled consistency.

As Bryce prepares for what could be his final season in Washington before his highly anticipated free agency, Bryan has the chance to make the Nats' Major League roster and play on the same team with his younger brother -- something they both dreamed about growing up.

The two brothers are close to each other and talk almost daily during the season. But they have taken very different paths to this point. They were drafted a year apart, with Bryce going first overall in 2010 and then beginning his rapid ascent through the Nats organization. Bryan's path has been a little less direct ever since he was selected in the 30th round of the 2011 Draft.

"We are a lot different," Bryan said. "I'm a left-handed pitcher. He's the outfielder and hitter. We're completely opposite guys."

The two Harpers last shared a field together during Bryce's Minor League rehab stint with Double-A Harrisburg in 2015 and last played on the same team while they were at the College of Southern Nevada in 2010. At some point this spring, they are likely to do so again, and perhaps they will soon in the Majors.

"I think the biggest goal is just to make the big leagues," Bryan said. "Obviously playing with Bryce is a positive, but I've got some other really good friends in here that are like brothers. Spencer Kieboom -- I was in his wedding. That's huge for me, too. It's going to be an exciting year, hopefully I can help this team win."

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

Washington Nationals

Get ready: Judge, Stanton hit together Monday

Reigning AL Rookie of the Year will sit out early spring games as precaution
MLB.com @BryanHoch

TAMPA, Fla. -- The greatest show on dirt could enjoy its opening act Monday, when Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton are expected to hit in the same batting practice group during the Yankees' first full-squad workout of the spring.

"That's the plan," Judge said. "We'll see once we get in if that's still the plan, but I'm supposed to be full-go on the field with all of the guys. I'm looking forward to that."

TAMPA, Fla. -- The greatest show on dirt could enjoy its opening act Monday, when Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton are expected to hit in the same batting practice group during the Yankees' first full-squad workout of the spring.

"That's the plan," Judge said. "We'll see once we get in if that's still the plan, but I'm supposed to be full-go on the field with all of the guys. I'm looking forward to that."

Check out first images of Stanton in pinstripes

Manager Aaron Boone said that while Judge has been cleared to participate in on-field hitting drills, he will be held out of the Yankees' earliest Grapefruit League games as a precaution. Judge had arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder in November.

Yankees Spring Training information

Judge has been working out in the batting cages and in the weight room, having recently been cleared to resume shoulder presses and overhead movements. He has also taken fly balls with outfield coach Reggie Willits, and said that he does not have an issue with the slower pace of his spring.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

"I understand it. It's all part of it," Judge said. "This process right here doesn't matter. What's important is being ready for Opening Day, so if I take a couple days here slow and miss a couple games or miss some activities, I don't mind that. I'd rather not miss any games when it starts to count."

Judge's batting practice sessions became must-see events last season, beginning in Spring Training, when he dented the left-field scoreboard numerous times and cleared it at least once. Judge said that he, Stanton and Gary Sanchez will probably have some enjoyable competitions.

"There's always some of that, even with the groups that we had before," Judge said. "Gary and I would get into it a little bit. We're just having some fun. We'll usually have about one round where we'll all kind of see how far we can hit it. There will be a little back and forth."

Spring in his step

Sanchez spent part of his winter focusing on improving his flexibility, which he hopes will help him be a more complete contributor. Boone said that while he believes Sanchez's defensive issues have been overstated at times, the manager has been excited by the early form that Sanchez has shown in drills with coaches Josh Bard and Jason Brown.

Sanchez is already tearing the cover off the ball

"I know we talk about the offense and all the things in the past, but I think he's going to turn into a great all-around player and one of the leaders on our team right away," Boone said. "The work he's doing right now with Brownie, with Bard, each and every day, I think is preparing him to be an impact on both sides of the ball. That's our expectation. He's going to impact the game in a positive way on both sides of the ball."

Video: Outlook: Sanchez might be game's best hitting catcher

Boone said that critics may be overlooking a "remarkable" start to the 25-year-old Sanchez's career. In 177 games, Sanchez has hit .283/.353/.567 with 53 home runs and 132 RBIs, including a 33-homer campaign in 2017 that shattered a record for Yankees catchers shared by Yogi Berra and Jorge Posada (30).

"When you're a young catcher trying to lead a playoff-caliber club, there's a lot that goes into that," Boone said. "There's a lot to that position, not just the physical part of catching and throwing and hitting, but also developing and learning to call a game and developing relationships with pitchers. It's a lot. Being a Major League catcher is a lot. I look at it more as a positive start to things for him and I think there's a lot more in there."

They said it

"It's good for the fans. They want to see their home team hit some batting practice at their home field. That'll be good for the kids, too. I know a lot of kids like to come out and watch some guys hit some home runs. It'll be a good opportunity for everybody." -- Judge, on the Yankees opening gates three hours early for spring home games

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

New York Yankees, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton