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Ohtani preps for Saturday debut with long HR

Halos targeting 2 innings for two-way phenom's first appearance
MLB.com @mi_guardado

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

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

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

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

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

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

Angels Spring Training info | Tickets

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

Video: Ohtani discusses throwing live batting practice

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

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

Video: Trout discusses riding in a golf cart with Ohtani

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

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

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

Los Angeles Angels, Shohei Ohtani

Troy Tulowitzki worked on his pitching mechanics during Blue Jays photo day

Getting your picture taken is often a stressful experience. You have to balance smiling too much versus not smiling enough. Maybe you're having a bad hair day or maybe the Florida humidity has taken its toll. And, what on earth are you supposed to do with your arms?

If you think that's an awkward experience, don't tell that to Troy Tulowitzki. During the Blue Jays' photo day on Thursday, he was apparently mistaken for a pitcher and asked to pose as if he were on a mound. Tulo, who has never pitched in a Major League baseball game, happily obliged:

Russell Wilson challenged Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge before Spring Training

Dressed appropriately as a Yankees fan, Seahawks quarterback filmed a short Twitter video on Thursday to let everyone know two very important things: 

Bucs acquire All-Star Dickerson from Rays

Bucs likely find starting left fielder while dealing Hudson, Gray
MLB.com @adamdberry

BRADENTON, Fla. -- The Pirates answered a significant question in their outfield on Thursday by acquiring left fielder Corey Dickerson from the Rays in exchange for reliever Daniel Hudson, Minor League infielder Tristan Gray and $1 million, according to a source.

Dickerson should become Pittsburgh's starting left fielder, joining center fielder Starling Marte and right fielder Gregory Polanco in the Bucs' post-Andrew McCutchen outfield. Dickerson, 28, hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs in 150 games and made the American League All-Star team last season.

BRADENTON, Fla. -- The Pirates answered a significant question in their outfield on Thursday by acquiring left fielder Corey Dickerson from the Rays in exchange for reliever Daniel Hudson, Minor League infielder Tristan Gray and $1 million, according to a source.

Dickerson should become Pittsburgh's starting left fielder, joining center fielder Starling Marte and right fielder Gregory Polanco in the Bucs' post-Andrew McCutchen outfield. Dickerson, 28, hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs in 150 games and made the American League All-Star team last season.

"Corey Dickerson adds a quality power threat to our lineup, as evidenced by his 60-plus extra-base hits and 20-plus home runs each of the last two seasons," general manager Neal Huntington said in a statement. "Corey is a driven player who will also add a quality presence to our clubhouse."

The Rays designated Dickerson for assignment on Saturday, and they had until Thursday to trade him. In return, Tampa Bay received Hudson, a potential setup man who struggled through an inconsistent 2017 season, along with Gray, the Pirates' 13th-round Draft pick last year who made his professional debut at second base and shortstop in Class A Short-Season ball.

Video: TB@NYY: Dickerson hammers a solo homer to right field

Dickerson enjoyed a dominant first half last season, hitting .312/.355/.548 with 17 homers in 85 games, then slumped to a .241/.282/.408 slash line with 10 homers in 65 second-half games. Still, he is a proven left-handed hitter -- with a career 119 OPS+ -- and an experienced outfielder.

PNC Park's spacious left field may be a challenge for Dickerson, who has totaled minus-eight Defensive Runs Saved in his career. But he totaled two Outs Above Average last season, according to Statcast™, with identical 85 percent expected and actual catch rates.

After hitting 51 homers over the past two years for Tampa Bay, Dickerson will add a jolt of left-handed power to a Pittsburgh lineup that ranked 29th in the Majors in home runs last season. The Pirates have added two potential left-handed power bats this offseason, even without signing a Major League free agent, by acquiring Dickerson on Thursday and third baseman Colin Moran from the Astros in last month's Gerrit Cole deal.

The move also bolsters Pittsburgh's bench, which will now include Adam Frazier. The smooth-swinging super-utility man had previously been penciled in as part of the Bucs' solution in left field. Now, he'll join a reserve group of hitters that also includes veteran infielder David Freese, super-utility man Sean Rodriguez and catcher Elias Diaz. The final spot could go to any number of candidates, including infielders Max Moroff and Jose Osuna and recently acquired outfielders Daniel Nava, Michael Saunders and Bryce Brentz.

By trading Hudson, the Pirates also cleared a spot in their crowded young bullpen. The only locks now, it seems, are closer Felipe Rivero and setup man George Kontos. That leaves five jobs available for a number of candidates, including recent acquisitions Michael Feliz and Kyle Crick, starters Steven Brault and Tyler Glasnow, out-of-options right-hander A.J. Schugel, Rule 5 Draft pick Jordan Milbrath, young relievers Dovydas Neverauskas and Edgar Santana, left-handers Josh Smoker and Jack Leathersich and a handful of non-roster invitees.

The Pirates are essentially adding $1.45 million to their payroll by adding Dickerson, who's owed $5.95 million this season with two years of club control remaining, and shedding $4.5 million of Hudson's $5.5 million salary.

Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)

Although Dickerson faded in the second half of 2017 (10 homers, .690 OPS), he was an outstanding fantasy asset prior to the All-Star break (17 homers, .903 OPS) and could help mixed-league squads this year. Owners seeking power in the final rounds can take a chance on Dickerson, who could receive regular playing time for a retooling Pirates club that still has quality bats such as Marte, Polanco and Josh Bell.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.

Pittsburgh Pirates, Tampa Bay Rays, Corey Dickerson

Phils owner weighs in on Arrieta talk, pitching

As negotiations with Boras continue, Middleton expresses confidence in front office
MLB.com @ToddZolecki

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Scott Boras is known to call an owner or two as he pursues and closes monster contracts for clients.

The agent can be persuasive. So how often has Phillies owner John Middleton heard from Boras recently? Middleton shaped his thumb and index finger into a circle Thursday, a couple of hours before the Phillies played an exhibition against the University of Tampa at Spectrum Field.

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Scott Boras is known to call an owner or two as he pursues and closes monster contracts for clients.

The agent can be persuasive. So how often has Phillies owner John Middleton heard from Boras recently? Middleton shaped his thumb and index finger into a circle Thursday, a couple of hours before the Phillies played an exhibition against the University of Tampa at Spectrum Field.

• Phillies' Spring Training information

Zero.

"We're pretty clear that Matt's the guy," Middleton said, referring to Phillies general manager Matt Klentak. "I think you have to do that or you cut the legs out from your general manager. Look, I don't know what I'd do if my phone rang right now and it was Scott Boras. I mean, honestly, I think what I'd say is, 'Scott, it's nice to talk to you, but I don't negotiate. Matt does. I don't want to be rude, but I'm paying the guy a lot of money.'

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"I've said this many times and I really believe it. This is no different than my company. I've told Matt and [team president] Andy [MacPhail] and everybody else, I'm going to evaluate you based on how well you do. If I sit there and I start making decisions for Matt, it's kind of hard for me to evaluate Matt, isn't it? He's got to make that decision. He's got to accept the responsibility for it. I have to give Matt the authority to do this. Does that mean we don't talk a lot? We've already talked this morning about what's happened since 5 o'clock last night."

Sources have told MLB.com that the Phillies are open to a three-year contract for free-agent right-hander Jake Arrieta, but they have been unwilling to make a six- or seven-year commitment to him, which reportedly is what Arrieta wants. In other words, little has changed between the Phillies and Boras, despite discussions throughout the offseason.

"It's hard to characterize it at this point," Middleton said about the team's chances of finding a starter before Opening Day. "It's not so remote that you'd say no, there's really no chance. But I would tell you we're not just looking at free agents. We're talking to teams about trades, because there are players that we would trade for.

"Beyond that, I would tell you, whether we get it done before the start of the season or we do it during the season, I'm hoping we're playing so damn well by early July that I get to look at Matt and say, 'Matt, we're in the hunt now. What the hell are you going to do come Trading Deadline to get us over the hump?' If we're there, my guess is Matt will probably look at everything a little bit differently, as I think he should."

The Phillies currently look at their situation like this: While they believe they will be much improved, they do not like the idea of throwing $100 million or more to a pitcher who turns 32 in a couple of weeks, even one as accomplished as Arrieta.

Video: Lidge on Phillies pitchers and outlook for the year

Starting pitching is always available. If the Phillies play as well as manager Gabe Kapler said they can, they should be able to find one later.

"I think Andy, Matt and I are completely in agreement here," Middleton said. "We want to improve the team, we're always trying to improve the team, but we've got to do it a way that makes sense now and next year. We don't want to sacrifice something significant in the future by making a short-term move. Whether it's a trade or a signing, if we get the deal we think is right, we'll do it. We'll pull the trigger. Money is zero object. No object whatsoever."

So it has to be smart money?

"We're not going to go out and do something stupid," Middleton said.

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Philadelphia Phillies

Why the Angels' 6-man rotation won't last

Eppler, Scioscia hoping to offer smooth transition for new ace Ohtani
MLB.com @williamfleitch

It is difficult to come up with a more ideal situation for using a six-man rotation than what the Los Angeles Angels currently find themselves in. They have the three major ingredients:

1. They have Shohei Ohtani, the best pitcher coming over from Japan (who was apparently driven all the way from there by Mike Trout in a golf cart), a guy who has spent his entire career pitching with what Major League teams consider an extra day's rest. As the team's primary offseason investment, Ohtani is someone for who the Angels will want to facilitate the smoothest transition possible.

It is difficult to come up with a more ideal situation for using a six-man rotation than what the Los Angeles Angels currently find themselves in. They have the three major ingredients:

1. They have Shohei Ohtani, the best pitcher coming over from Japan (who was apparently driven all the way from there by Mike Trout in a golf cart), a guy who has spent his entire career pitching with what Major League teams consider an extra day's rest. As the team's primary offseason investment, Ohtani is someone for who the Angels will want to facilitate the smoothest transition possible.

2. They have no ace, which means going to a six-man rotation won't force them to take starts away from the best pitcher on the team. More to the point: Their ace is Ohtani, the guy inspiring the idea of a six-man rotation in the first place.

3. All their other rotation members are, essentially, the same. The No. 2 pitcher is pretty much the same as the No. 6 pitcher. You neither lose nor gain anything by having any of them throw on any particular day.

Video: Ohtani impresses with first bullpen session

    If you were to invent the scenario that would lead to a team using a six-man rotation all season, this is close to the exact one you'd come up with for Los Angeles. But I'll say it right now: No matter how much they claim they're going to try it, the Angels are not going to end the season with a six-man rotation. No one ever does. I'll be surprised if they make it a month.

    The idea of a six-man rotation pops every few years, and in a vacuum, there is some logic to it. Nothing messes with a team's plans more than pitcher injuries, so, theoretically, if you can ease the burden on your starters, you can have them pitch less often. And as starters lose influence in a world of expanded bullpens, de-emphasizing the rotation by adding to it has some appeal as well.

    As Angels general manager Billy Eppler told The New York Times last year, "That's been the way the game's been trending, historically, if you look back, if it can help keep guys healthy and you're able to get a little bit more reliability out of your pitchers because of it, I'm all for it."

    These stories about six-man rotations are almost always written in the preseason, because they're a battle plan that inevitably evaporates once they come into contact with the enemy: The season itself. The problem with a six-man rotation is obvious: It is difficult enough to come up with five quality starters, and thus exponentially more so to come up with six. What's that old football cliche? If you have two quarterbacks, you have none? If you have six starters, you probably only have five; you just don't know which five yet.

    Video: Ohtani discusses throwing live batting practice

    Look at the Angels. Their theoretical six starters are:

    1. Ohtani
    2. Garrett Richards
    3. Andrew Heaney
    4. Tyler Skaggs
    5. Matt Shoemaker
    6. Nick Tropeano, JC Ramirez or Parker Bridwell

    Again, this is a situation that would seem to lend itself to a six-man rotation. You have five clear guys; if the Angels had signed, say, Jake Arrieta rather than Ohtani, the rotation would clearly be Arrieta, Richards, Heaney, Skaggs and Shoemaker. Those five are clearly the first five. The sixth spot is a series of question marks that, theoretically, you could use a six-man rotation to figure out. Ramirez is coming off a stem-cell injection in his right elbow; Tropeano missed all last year after Tommy John surgery; Bridwell was surprisingly effective in 2017, but his peripheral stats point to big-time regression. The idea is that you can use that sixth rotation spot as the place for those three to battle it out in a relatively low-stress environment; it is, after all, just the sixth spot.

    But that's the thing about baseball: The sixth spot becomes the fifth spot quickly. Only two teams in baseball history have gone through a whole season using only five starters; last year, only one team (Cleveland) used as few as seven. The Twins had 16 pitchers start a game for them in 2017, and they made the playoffs. Before the Angels signed Ohtani, the primary concern for the team was that they didn't have enough starting pitchers. Now, you're asking them to add one more that they didn't have in the first place.

    Richards hasn't thrown more than 35 innings since 2015. Skaggs hasn't thrown more than 85 since '14. Shoemaker threw 77 2/3 last year. Heaney has thrown 27 2/3 innings since '15. And those are the guys you're counting on. Those are the five before you get into that sixth spot (and there is little evidence that six-man rotations keep pitchers healthier).

    Sure, the Angels have a lot of interchangeable pitchers, guys with talent but lacking reliability; the argument for the six-man rotation has been that you're not costing a dominant pitcher starts. But a six-man rotation is not a hedge against injury; it actually makes injuries more costly. It leaves you one extra hole to fill. And there will be holes to fill.

    These are pitchers you cannot rely upon to give you innings, and now you're taking a bullpen spot away by going to a six-man rotation. It's possible that roster spot can be offset by the two-way Ohtani, but with the trade of C.J. Cron, it actually looks like they're culling the roster to use Ohtani more, not less. You lose some of that positional flexibility if Ohtani is now playing nearly every day. They're going to need to dig into that bullpen regularly, and now they have one fewer roster spot with which to do it.

    Tweet from @Angels: .@MikeTrout enjoying the Sho. #LAASpring #ShoTime pic.twitter.com/BmXTbW8cTl

    For all the talk of a six-man rotation potentially being the future, an argument could be made in the opposite direction: It might make more sense, in an age where starters are less valuable and less workmanlike than in the past, to go to a four-man rotation. Get four guys who can get you through the lineup twice and then hand it over to a deep and specialized bullpen.

    Many studies have argued that the primary cause of pitcher injury isn't lack of rest between uses; it's overuse on the days they do pitch. If you only ask a guy to give you four or five innings every four days, rather than six or seven every five, you could, theoretically, concentrate on finding a team of swingmen and specialists. It could be easier than finding six quality starting pitchers, or maybe even five.

    Either way, a six-man rotation sounds like a wonderful idea in the lab but is highly likely to implode when exposed to the elements. Look, the Angels need to figure out a way to work Ohtani into their staff, and there are ways to do it; Fangraphs' Craig Edwards argued last week that thanks to the number of off-days, roughly two-thirds of Ohtani's starts could be made on five days' rest. But the answer to the Ohtani problem isn't to require the Halos find five other starting pitchers. They'll be lucky to find four. I'm not sure even sure they have three.

    What is almost certainly going to happen is that one of the Angels' starters will blow a gasket, and Mike Scioscia, a generally conventional manager anyway, will shrug, say he tried and go right back to the five-man rotation he, and everybody else, is used to. The Halos say they're really going to try this. I've heard that before. I'll believe it when I see it.

    Will Leitch is a columnist for MLB.com.

    Los Angeles Angels, Jake Arrieta, Parker Bridwell, C.J. Cron, Andrew Heaney, Shohei Ohtani, JC Ramirez, Garrett Richards, Matt Shoemaker, Tyler Skaggs, Nick Tropeano, Mike Trout

    Source: Chapman leaves A's camp for MRI

    Injury to third baseman's right hand not believed to be serious
    MLB.com @JaneMLB

    MESA, Ariz. -- A's third baseman Matt Chapman, missing from Thursday's workouts, was in Los Angeles for a right hand examination, a source told MLB.com.

    The infielder was experiencing soreness in the palm of his hand, prompting him to visit orthopedic hand surgeon Dr. Steven Shin for a precautionary MRI. The results are not yet known, but the A's don't believe the injury to be serious.

    MESA, Ariz. -- A's third baseman Matt Chapman, missing from Thursday's workouts, was in Los Angeles for a right hand examination, a source told MLB.com.

    The infielder was experiencing soreness in the palm of his hand, prompting him to visit orthopedic hand surgeon Dr. Steven Shin for a precautionary MRI. The results are not yet known, but the A's don't believe the injury to be serious.

    Chapman, a defensive whiz at the hot corner, hit .234 with 14 home runs and 40 RBIs in 84 games during his rookie campaign and is readying for his first full big league season.

    Should Chapman have to miss an extended period of time, it would open up an opportunity for Renato Nunez, who is out of options and seeking a bench job. He's scheduled to start at third base for Friday's Cactus League opener against the Angels. Chad Pinder could also be asked to play third.

    Jane Lee has covered the A's for MLB.com since 2010. Follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB.

    Oakland Athletics, Matt Chapman

    Yanks' spring opener to feature Stanton's debut

    Slugger will be in lineup when Bombers host Tigers on MLB.TV
    MLB.com @BryanHoch

    TAMPA, Fla. -- Giancarlo Stanton is scheduled to wear the pinstripes for the first time in a game situation on Friday, stepping up to the plate when the Yankees open their Grapefruit League slate with a 1:05 p.m. ET contest against the Tigers at George M. Steinbrenner Field, live on MLB.TV.

    Stanton has said that he expected to be somewhat out of his comfort zone early in camp, but the National League MVP Award winner seems to have hit the ground running in early drills, fitting in seamlessly while drawing crowds in a batting practice group that has included Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and Jacoby Ellsbury.

    TAMPA, Fla. -- Giancarlo Stanton is scheduled to wear the pinstripes for the first time in a game situation on Friday, stepping up to the plate when the Yankees open their Grapefruit League slate with a 1:05 p.m. ET contest against the Tigers at George M. Steinbrenner Field, live on MLB.TV.

    Stanton has said that he expected to be somewhat out of his comfort zone early in camp, but the National League MVP Award winner seems to have hit the ground running in early drills, fitting in seamlessly while drawing crowds in a batting practice group that has included Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and Jacoby Ellsbury.

    Spring info | Tickets | Schedule

    "It's more just getting used to a new place," Stanton said. "Big expectations, a bigger market. I've done the same thing for 10 years straight, same Spring Training, same organization. This is all new to me, and it's going to be a fun new ride."

    Video: Marakovits on seeing Judge, Stanton in spring camp

    Luis Cessa is scheduled to start the Grapefruit League opener, with Brett Gardner, Judge and Sanchez expected to sit out. Judge was given a half-day on Thursday as the Yanks ease him back from surgery on his left shoulder.

    :: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

    "He's been ramped up pretty good," manager Aaron Boone said of Judge. "He's doing well. Right on schedule to be ready to go in a game next week."

    Boone added that Sanchez's absence was not related to the benches-clearing incident with the Tigers last August. As for Stanton's debut, Boone said that it is "absolutely" an event that the Yankees are looking forward to.

    "There will be a little excitement with the crowd and the pinstripes and actually playing a game, and playing another team," Boone said. "I think you get some juices flowing for that."

    Happy camper

    Brandon Drury tried to block out the trade rumors as best he could over the winter, and again this spring, but when D-backs general manager Mike Hazen reported this week that a deal had been reached with the Yankees, the 25-year-old infielder was thrilled.

    Tweet from @Yankees: Judge: ���You know what they���re calling us, right...?���Drury: ���Wha- OHHHHH.��� ��\_(���)_/�� #JudgeandDrury pic.twitter.com/6LoKIQcPV5

    "I'm pumped," Drury said. "This is an unbelievable opportunity here, to come play for the New York Yankees. It's a dream come true, ever since I was a little kid. It's the team I watched growing up."

    Cheering from afar in Grants Pass, Ore., Drury counted Derek Jeter as his favorite player, though he figures to be tackling third base -- a position once handled in The Bronx by fellow Beaver State product Scott Brosius.

    "I'm much more happy to be at third," Drury said. "It's natural for me. Second base was tough to pick up. It was all right, but I'm really excited about third. ... I'm excited. I want to win a World Series. That's the goal here. We've got the guys to do it."

    Drury said that he made offseason adjustments with his swing and training, hoping to convert some of his 68 doubles over the last two seasons into homers. Drury hit .267/.317/.447 with 13 homers and 63 RBIs in 135 games for Arizona in 2017.

    "I don't feel like I've done anything like what I'm capable of the last couple of years," Drury said. "They've both been a grind. The numbers are OK, but I don't think the last two seasons is half of the player I am. I truly don't believe that. Now I've got to go out and prove it."

    Ready to go

    Spring Training game action has arrived earlier than usual, and CC Sabathia is not complaining.

    "This is weird that it's starting [Friday]," Sabathia said. "But it gives us more off-days in the season, so whatever works."

    Sabathia faced hitters for the first time in 2018 on Thursday, pitching in simulated action to a group that included Drury, Didi Gregorius, Billy McKinney and Ronald Torreyes. Sabathia was encouraged by how his changeup behaved, though he was less pleased with a few of his sliders, barking audibly on a back field.

    Video: Outlook: CC could deliver solid year in rotation

    "For me, it's just staying healthy, being out there," Sabathia said. "I think the more reps I get, everything is starting to come back. It's just being out on the mound, getting that feeling of how the ball goes into the glove, getting signs from the catcher, just different things that you need to get used to. Get my routine down. Things like that."

    He said it: "When you're playing defense, that ball comes at you quick. It's not fun playing defense [against] Stanton, and I know Judge is the same way. Those two guys going back-to-back in the order, that's a joke." -- Drury

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

    New York Yankees, Giancarlo Stanton

    Rangers emerge as favorites to sign Martinez

    Cuban outfielder becomes eligible to sign a contract March 6
    MLB.com @Sullivan_Ranger

    SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Rangers traded Minor League pitcher Miguel Medrano to the Reds on Wednesday for international bonus pool money.

    The transaction comes one day after Major League Baseball declared Cuban outfielder Julio Pablo Martinez a free agent, making him eligible to sign with a team. Martinez, 21, is a 5-foot-10 outfielder who is considered one of the better prospects to recently come out of Cuba because of his mix of speed and power.

    SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Rangers traded Minor League pitcher Miguel Medrano to the Reds on Wednesday for international bonus pool money.

    The transaction comes one day after Major League Baseball declared Cuban outfielder Julio Pablo Martinez a free agent, making him eligible to sign with a team. Martinez, 21, is a 5-foot-10 outfielder who is considered one of the better prospects to recently come out of Cuba because of his mix of speed and power.

    The Rangers have emerged as the favorite to sign Martinez and the team could sign him when the Cuban outfielder becomes eligible to sign a contract March 6, according to sources. The bonus is expected to be in the $2.7 million to $2.8 million range. The Yankees and Marlins are also considered favorites to sign Martinez.

    "From a philosophical standpoint, we want to gain flexibility and put ourselves in position when opportunity comes available," Rangers farm director Jayce Tingler said.

    Medrano, 20, pitched in the Dominican Summer League last year and was 5-1 with a 2.59 ERA in 12 games. He struck out 61 in 59 innings.

    T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.

    Texas Rangers

    Hosmer, Trout and defensive-metric dilemmas

    Eye test usually aligns with defensive stats … but not always
    MLB.com @JPosnanski

    Let's talk for a minute about defensive statistics. These tend to be pretty controversial among traditional baseball fans; people get ticked off when the numbers tell them something that conflicts with what their eyes tell them. The most famous example of this was Derek Jeter. Most people saw him as a good, possibly great, defensive shortstop, especially when he was young. The eyes saw all those awesome jump throws, the famous dive into the crowd, the famous flip play against Oakland and so on. Jeter won five Gold Gloves Awards.

    Defensive numbers, though -- all of them -- suggested Jeter was a real liability at shortstop, a defensive couch potato who lacked range and cost his team a bunch of runs every year.

    Let's talk for a minute about defensive statistics. These tend to be pretty controversial among traditional baseball fans; people get ticked off when the numbers tell them something that conflicts with what their eyes tell them. The most famous example of this was Derek Jeter. Most people saw him as a good, possibly great, defensive shortstop, especially when he was young. The eyes saw all those awesome jump throws, the famous dive into the crowd, the famous flip play against Oakland and so on. Jeter won five Gold Gloves Awards.

    Defensive numbers, though -- all of them -- suggested Jeter was a real liability at shortstop, a defensive couch potato who lacked range and cost his team a bunch of runs every year.

    Those defensive numbers made a lot of people mad. I wouldn't say it sparked an interesting argument, though, because most people who saw Jeter as a good, possibly great, defensive shortstop simply wrote off the numbers. The numbers were stupid. The numbers were ridiculous. The numbers were hurting the game. And so on.

    Video: 1996 ALCS Gm4: Jeter's diving stop robs Ripken of hit

    But here's the thing: With a few rare exceptions, advanced defensive numbers such as Fangraphs' defensive runs saved (DRS) or the now ubiquitous ultimate zone rating (UZR) actually match up very well to the eye test. We'll get to the exceptions in a minute. There is one huge exception -- I'll bet you can figure out who he is.

    Here's what we did: Our own Tom Tango produces what he calls "The fans scouting report" every year, and you can find the leaderboard here. In it, he asks fans to rank players on seven fielding categories -- reaction, acceleration, sprint speed, hands, footwork, throwing strength and throwing accuracy. Then, based on the results, Tango creates a fans scouting report which he then puts on the same run scale as the above DRS and UZR.

    So we compared them player for player from 2011-17. And in roughly 95 percent of the cases, the fans scouting report matches up stunningly well with DRS, UZR or both.

    Let's repeat that: The eye test and the defensive numbers almost always are very close. Tango and I looked at the years 2011-17 to get a larger sample size, and the agreement between eyes and digits was pretty staggering. We've been led to believe because of a few examples that the numbers and the eyes see defense in entirely different ways, and it just isn't true.

    Between 2011-17, Andrelton Simmons saved 96 runs according to you, the fans. UZR has him saving 99 runs.

    Video: LAA@SEA: Simmons lays out to make spectacular catch

    The fans have the excellent third baseman and now shortstop Manny Machado saving 80 runs defensively over that time. DRS has it at 81.

    This happened over and over. The fans and the numbers match on Yadier Molina, on Nolan Arenado, on Dustin Pedroia, on Starling Marte. It works in reverse, too. Fans see Daniel Murphy costing his team 61 defensive runs over the seven years; DRS sees him costing his team 65 runs.

    The numbers are not always that close, but in almost every case, the advanced numbers basically match up to what fans are seeing on the field. The numbers say a player is very good defensively, the fans see it the same way. The fans say a player is average defensively, the numbers see it the same way. Both almost always agree about a defender being below average.

    So what about those exceptions? What can we learn from those? (Have you figured out yet who is, by far, the big one?)

    It seems like we as fans generally underrate Mitch Moreland and Mike Napoli as first basemen. Fans rated Moreland as seven runs above average, while his DRS and UZR average out to 20 runs above average. Fans had Napoli as an average first baseman, while the defensive numbers say he saved about 15 runs with his defense. Moreland and Napoli are not particularly graceful athletes; it is quite possible that we underrate them because of that.

    Video: PHI@BOS: Moreland makes a beautiful diving stop

    Meanwhile, we generally overrate second basemen Brandon Phillips and Robinson Cano. Oh, both are good defenders by the advanced numbers -- 24 runs saved for Phillips, 25 for Cano -- but we see them as crazy good (72 for Phillips; 52 for Cano). Again, this makes perfect sense. Phillips and Cano are both so fluid and fun to watch defensively. They both make dazzling plays.

    There are two center fielders who, compared to the defensive numbers, we pretty seriously overrate. One is, yes, Mike Trout. We as fans have him as a ridiculously awesome defensive center fielder, the best defender in the game, saving 42 runs over the seven years. The numbers have Trout much, much closer to average (4 DRS, -2.2 UZR).

    This one makes perfect sense to me. We as baseball fans want Trout to be better than he is as an outfielder, just like we as baseball fans wanted Jeter to be better than he was as a shortstop. It fits our narrative so much better. Trout is the best player in baseball, he's already one of the five best players I've ever seen, and so I want to believe he is superior in every possible way. Fans rated Trout above Lorenzo Cain. There is no possible way, looking at any numbers that you want, that Trout is as good a defender as Cain. But we want to believe.

    Video: KC@DET: Statcast™ measures Cain's four-star catch

    The other center fielder who is widely viewed as way better than his defensive numbers is Baltimore's Adam Jones. The numbers say that Jones is a burden in center field. The fans consistently rate him as about average, perhaps a touch better than average. Again, this makes sense. Jones makes some great plays. He's a wonderful player. Jones is the face of Baltimore baseball. Fans aren't saying that he's a superior outfielder; they're saying, "Eh, he's not that bad." The numbers are a bit colder.

    All of which leads us to the player who has the biggest gap between what the eyes tell us and what the numbers say. I assume you guessed him:

    Yep, it's new San Diego Padres first baseman Eric Hosmer.

    The fans have Hosmer as a great first baseman. They have him saving 28 runs over the seven-year period, which puts him in the realm of the best first basemen: Paul Goldschmidt; Anthony Rizzo; Brandon Belt and Adrian Gonzalez. The fans see Hosmer as a defensive star, and he has four American League Gold Glove Awards to match the reputation.

    But the numbers show Hosmer to be a real problem as a first basemen, one of the worst in the game, minus-21 runs by DRS (only Prince Fielder and Ryan Howard were worse) and minus-29 by UZR (nobody was worse).

    Hosmer is the only player in baseball who has such a vast gap between perception and what the numbers say. No other player has the fans seeing superstar while the defensive numbers calculate major trouble. What is it about Hosmer?

    Well, it could be the numbers are wrong. Hosmer's greatest skill, by nearly unanimous opinion, is his hands. One theory is that he's as good as anybody in baseball at saving infield errors by scooping bad throws out of the dirt -- again and again people say that he saves 20 to 50 errors a year with the slickness of his glove -- and the numbers don't pick that up.

    But is this true? Probably not. If Hosmer was really saving so many errors, wouldn't this show up in his teammates' defensive numbers? Wouldn't we be able to see this in, say, a substantially lower error total for third baseman Mike Moustakas and shortstop Alcides Escobar? But it doesn't seem like that's true. Escobar finished tied for the most in errors in the AL in 2012, when Hosmer was 22, and you would think at the top of his defensive powers, and he's been in the top five in errors two other times. Moustakas has been top five in errors as well.

    And Hosmer has been top five in errors among first basemen five times. I don't like errors as a statistic and feel lousy for using it, but errors are useful here because they are part of the eye test. People who want to say that Hosmer's advanced numbers miss something have a harder time explaining why he makes quite a few errors.

    Video: Hosmer joins Padres after finalizing eight-year deal

    There are probably other ways to pick at the numbers, but realistically I think it's much more likely that the problem is that people simply (and wildly) overrate Hosmer's defense. That just makes much more sense. For one thing, Royals fans tend to see the group of young players that finally brought a World Series to Kansas City dreamily. As mentioned above, they probably overrate Escobar defensively. They also have catcher Salvador Perez (69 runs saved) well above his advanced defensive number (27). Hosmer was the most beloved player on one of the most beloved teams in baseball this decade, so that surely plays a part in the high rating.

    And then there is Hosmer's style. He's just looks like a first baseman -- he's big, rangy, throws left-handed. When you picture a first baseman, you picture Hosmer.

    The interesting question is: Will Padres fans, who will only now get to know Hosmer, see him that same way? Or will they judge his defense more the way the numbers do?

    Joe Posnanski is a national columnist for MLB.com.

    Eric Hosmer, Mike Trout

    Under-the-radar relievers who could break out

    Who will be this season's Morrow, Knebel or Minor?
    MLB.com @mike_petriello

    A year ago, Brandon Morrow was an oft-injured non-roster invitee for the Dodgers. Chad Green was Minor League rotation depth for the Yankees. Corey Knebel was coming off a 4.68 ERA season and planning to set up for Neftali Feliz. Anthony Swarzak was a non-roster invitee coming off a 5.52 ERA. Mike Minor had thrown zero big league pitches since 2014.

    They weren't notable names, nor were they expected to play big roles. Plus, if you're really being honest with yourself, you didn't even know who Blake Parker, Kirby Yates or Tommy Kahnle were. 

    A year ago, Brandon Morrow was an oft-injured non-roster invitee for the Dodgers. Chad Green was Minor League rotation depth for the Yankees. Corey Knebel was coming off a 4.68 ERA season and planning to set up for Neftali Feliz. Anthony Swarzak was a non-roster invitee coming off a 5.52 ERA. Mike Minor had thrown zero big league pitches since 2014.

    They weren't notable names, nor were they expected to play big roles. Plus, if you're really being honest with yourself, you didn't even know who Blake Parker, Kirby Yates or Tommy Kahnle were. 

    If we'd put that list of names together in February 2017 and told you that they all would become extremely valuable relievers in the year to come, you'd probably have laughed, but that's exactly what happened. Minor, Morrow and Swarzak all signed multiyear free-agent contracts. The others had great years, several for playoff teams, and are being counted on for more in 2018.

    So who will be next to break out? Here are some candidates to look out for in the coming season.

    The former starters
    Adam Morgan, Phillies
    Tyler Lyons, Cardinals
    Tom Koehler, Dodgers

    As with Andrew Miller, Wade Davis, Brad Hand, Swarzak, Morrow and so many others before them, a good way to find a pitcher who can succeed in relief is to look for those who couldn't keep it together in the rotation, either due to health, repertoire or stamina.

    Morgan was a formerly well-regarded prospect who missed all of 2014 after rotator cuff surgery, then he arrived in the big leagues with below-average velocity, throwing fastballs at 89.6 mph in '15 and 91.4 in '16. That didn't cut it; he had a 5.37 ERA working almost exclusively as a starter. In '17, Morgan became a reliever, and he started throwing 95, though the larger change was that he threw the fastball less and his good slider and changeup more. He ended up with a 63/18 K/BB in 54 2/3 innings, and by one major Statcast™ metric, he was a Top 20 reliever in the second half.

    Video: ARI@PHI: Morgan whiffs Descalso, side in the 8th

    Lyons has been kicking around the bigs with the Cardinals since 2013, usually as a sixth starter and swingman, and then he missed the end of '16 and start of '17  after knee surgery. When he returned, he was quietly very good, throwing his slider 51 percent of the time -- more than any regular lefty aside from Miller -- and striking out 68 in 54 innings with a 2.83 ERA.

    Koehler was not good in 2017. There's no getting around a 6.69 ERA, which he had for Toronto and Miami, or a career 4.39 mark. But when Koehler arrived in Toronto, the Blue Jays made him a reliever, and he was much better. In 12 relief innings, he struck out 11 with a 3.00 ERA, flashing improved velocity and throwing more than 80 percent fastballs and curves after doing so just 60 percent as a starter. The Dodgers took a chance on Koehler with a one-year deal in hopes of him becoming the next Morrow.

    The import
    Chris Martin, Rangers

    You probably don't remember Martin putting up a 6.19 ERA in 40 games for the 2014 Rockies and '15 Yankees, but that's OK; we don't either. Martin spent the past two years in Japan, and the numbers in 92 games were stunning: a 1.12 ERA in 88 1/3 innings. Of the 190 pitchers who threw 50 innings in Japan over the past two years, Martin had the second-largest gap between strikeout rate and walk rate. That was good enough for Texas, which signed him to a two-year deal in December.

    The traded relievers you didn't notice were already good
    Emilio Pagan, A's
    Dominic Leone, Cardinals

    Both pitchers were involved in trades this offseason, which tells you that their new teams saw something they liked. The A's picked up Pagan from Seattle for Ryon Healy, just one of a trio of new Oakland relievers, along with Ryan Buchter and Yusmeiro Petit, which is part of why we find the A's so interesting this year. Leone came to St. Louis from Toronto in the Randal Grichuk deal.

    Pagan struck out 56 in 50 1/3 innings and did so with so many weak flies and popups that he was a Top 12 reliever by the primary Statcast™ quality-of-contact metric. Leone whiffed 81 in 70 1/3 with a 2.56 ERA; Buchter had a 2.89 ERA while striking out a batter per inning and finishing in the Top 30 by the same metric.

    None of them are big names. None are All-Stars. That could change this year.

    Video: BAL@TOR: Leone fans Trumbo for his first MLB save

    The 28-year-old rookie
    Kevin Shackelford, Reds

    A 4.30 ERA from a pitcher who will be 29 in April and spent parts of eight years in the Minors before making it to the big leagues doesn't exactly scream "stardom," but that's exactly who we're looking for. Shackelford piled up some big numbers in his 30 2/3 innings, striking out 38, after putting up a 1.53 ERA and nearly 12 whiffs per nine innings in Triple-A. A few bad early games inflated the ERA, but when looking at his quality of contact, he was more like Chris Devenski or Cody Allen -- in a much smaller sample, of course.

    The former high pick who just needs to stay healthy
    A.J. Minter, Braves

    Minter was a second-round pick in 2015, but he's thrown only 74 professional innings due to Tommy John surgery, a separate elbow strain and a groin strain. During the rare times he's been on the mound, however, he's been phenomenal, using his 96-mph fastball to whiff 77 in 59 Minor League innings. Minter then put up ridiculous numbers in a brief Major League stint last year: In 15 innings, he whiffed 26 and walked just one. Last year, 607 pitchers threw 10 innings or more. Only one had a higher strikeout percentage: Craig Kimbrel. That'll work.

    Video: SEA@ATL: Minter earns his first Major League K

    The mid-season 2017 callups you definitely don't know
    Drew Steckenrider, Marlins
    Trevor Hildenberger, Twins

    Did you know Steckenrider struck out 54 in 34 2/3 innings, a Top 15 rate among relievers with 30 innings? Like some others on this list, he entered the pros as a starter, then missed a full year due to Tommy John surgery. In 2015, Steckenrider's final year as a starter in the Minors, he struck out seven per nine innings. Then in '16, his first year as a reliever, he whiffed 12 per nine innings. That carried over in the big leagues, and Steckenrider fits the profile of a dominant reliever in so many ways, from velocity (95.6 mph) to simplifying to a fastball/slider repertoire.

    The sidearming Hildenberger has always been a reliever, but his calling card has been outstanding control. In 171 2/3 Minor League innings, he struck out 200 and walked just 26. Hildenberger doesn't throw hard -- just 88.8 mph, actually -- but because he gets grounders, misses bats and doesn't walk anyone, the outcomes have been good. He's also on that same Top 30 list, per Statcast™ quality-of-contact metrics.

    Video: CWS@MIN: Hildenberger fans Anderson, side in 8t

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

    Yelich to debut as Crew readies for split openers

    Suter to start at home vs. Cubs; Wilkerson lines up vs. Giants on road
    MLB.com @AdamMcCalvy

    PHOENIX -- Christian Yelich will make his unofficial Brewers debut on Friday against the Cubs at Maryvale Baseball Park, and that's just the first half of Milwaukee's busy Cactus League Opening Day.

    While Yelich plays behind Brewers starter Brent Suter against the Cubs at 2:05 p.m. CT on FS Wisconsin and MLB.TV, Aaron Wilkerson will pitch for another Brewers split-squad across town in Scottsdale against the Giants at 2:05 p.m. on Gameday Audio. It's a lot of baseball for Day 1, especially considering the Brewers just had their first full-squad workout on Tuesday.

    PHOENIX -- Christian Yelich will make his unofficial Brewers debut on Friday against the Cubs at Maryvale Baseball Park, and that's just the first half of Milwaukee's busy Cactus League Opening Day.

    While Yelich plays behind Brewers starter Brent Suter against the Cubs at 2:05 p.m. CT on FS Wisconsin and MLB.TV, Aaron Wilkerson will pitch for another Brewers split-squad across town in Scottsdale against the Giants at 2:05 p.m. on Gameday Audio. It's a lot of baseball for Day 1, especially considering the Brewers just had their first full-squad workout on Tuesday.

    "It's coming in fast, but it's always nice to get the games rolling and get things started," Yelich said.

    Spring Training: Info | Tickets | Schedule | Gear

    All around baseball, regulars will ease into the game schedule. Suter and Wilkerson are only expected to work an inning or two apiece, and Yelich and the position players typically call it a day after an at-bat or two. Ryan Braun, who typically doesn't play Spring Training games until at least a week in, won't play Friday as he continues to get reps in workouts at first base.

    "The schedule's been a little different this year, and we're starting out with a lot of action, but we're ready to get going," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "We're putting the finishing touches on what we'd like to do with the position players. You take it slow at first, and then we'll get into it as we go."

    :: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

    All 30 teams will wear caps Friday from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., where 17 people were shot and killed last week. The school is Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo's alma mater, though it appears he is not scheduled to play against the Brewers. Kyle Schwarber and Ian Happ are expected to make the trip, however, and left-hander Michael Roth will start for Chicago.

    Parkland is just north of Miami, where Yelich spent his first five Major League seasons before a January trade to the Brewers.

    "I think it's important to show the community, the people there, that we're with them," he said. "That tragedy is such a sad story. You also heard a lot of good that came out of it, too, people helping other people, and doing some heroic things. Some of those victims went out doing something to save others' lives. It's nice that Major League Baseball is going to show that community that we're all with them."

    Tweet from @AdamMcCalvy: The Brewers and all of MLB will wear these caps Friday from Marjory Stoneman Douglas HS. ���I think it���s important to show the community, the people there, that we���re with them,��� said Christian Yelich, who played the past five years down the road in Miami. pic.twitter.com/GhHo2HXQoG

    Said Suter: "I think it's a great thing to do, honor the victims and just be a catalyst for whatever change needs to happen. If baseball can be a part of that, it's a great thing."

    Friday's start marks the beginning of Suter's bid for a spot in the Opening Day rotation. Wilkerson is another candidate, along with Junior Guerra, Yovani Gallardo, Brandon Woodruff and Wade Miley.

    "It's an exciting day," Suter said. "We had Day 1 [of full-squad workouts] the other day, and now this is the next step. Our rivals are coming in, and that's a great way to start the season."

    Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.

    Milwaukee Brewers, Christian Yelich

    Rays' No. 1 prospect Honeywell strains forearm

    Right-hander walks off mound, will undergo further evaluation
    MLB.com @wwchastain

    PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Right-hander Brent Honeywell, the Rays' No. 1 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, was forced to leave Thursday's workout after throwing approximately 10 pitches during a batting practice session. According to manager Kevin Cash, Honeywell strained his right forearm and will be further evaluated.

    Honeywell released a pitch, grimaced and cursed out loud, then walked off the mound and headed for the clubhouse accompanied by a trainer.

    PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Right-hander Brent Honeywell, the Rays' No. 1 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, was forced to leave Thursday's workout after throwing approximately 10 pitches during a batting practice session. According to manager Kevin Cash, Honeywell strained his right forearm and will be further evaluated.

    Honeywell released a pitch, grimaced and cursed out loud, then walked off the mound and headed for the clubhouse accompanied by a trainer.

    Rays Spring Training: Info | Tickets | Schedule

    Honeywell was not available for comment.

    Catcher Jesus Sucre watched from the side as Honeywell faced Wilson Ramos.

    :: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

    "He was throwing pretty good, he was throwing perfect," Sucre said. "He threw a changeup first pitch to Wilson. Next pitch [was a fastball and] he was screaming."

    Cash called the situation unfortunate.

    "We'll let the doctors and trainers get a look at him," said Cash, who was hitting ground balls on another field. "I wasn't there, but I heard he was very frustrated, and rightfully so. He worked hard this offseason. Other than that we don't know anything. We'll wait until some feedback comes."

    According to MLB Pipeline, Honeywell is MLB's No. 12 prospect.

    Video: Outlook: Honeywell soon to be a part of Rays rotation

    "I think his talent kind of speaks for itself, what he's done the last two years," Cash said. "Coming up through the system, and really kind of put himself on the map a little bit at the Future's Game the way he performed.

    "It's frustrating, whether he's going to miss a week, or a month or whatever it is. It's frustrating for any young pitcher that was coming here competing and wanting to put his best foot forward and make a good showing for himself."

    Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2004.

    Tampa Bay Rays, Brent Honeywell