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Torres 'full go' in pursuit of Opening Day roster

Yanks' top prospect completely recovered from left elbow surgery
MLB.com @BryanHoch

TAMPA, Fla. -- Gleyber Torres will be a "full go" when Grapefruit League games begin next week, according to Yankees manager Aaron Boone, who plans to utilize the 21-year-old at second base, third base and shortstop while the Yankees evaluate his chances of making the Opening Day roster.

Rated as the Yankees' top prospect and the No. 5 prospect in all of baseball by MLB Pipeline, Torres will have no restrictions following Tommy John surgery on his left (non-throwing) elbow. He sustained a season-ending injury in June while playing for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

TAMPA, Fla. -- Gleyber Torres will be a "full go" when Grapefruit League games begin next week, according to Yankees manager Aaron Boone, who plans to utilize the 21-year-old at second base, third base and shortstop while the Yankees evaluate his chances of making the Opening Day roster.

Rated as the Yankees' top prospect and the No. 5 prospect in all of baseball by MLB Pipeline, Torres will have no restrictions following Tommy John surgery on his left (non-throwing) elbow. He sustained a season-ending injury in June while playing for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Spring Training: Info | Tickets | Schedule | Gear

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

"I feel like a little kid with a new toy," Torres said. "I'm excited to play again and just enjoy it. I don't think about if I'm going to make Opening Day or go to Scranton or go to the Minor Leagues for two weeks. I don't put in too much [thought] right now. I just want to enjoy and play the game."

Torres has been working out regularly at the team's Minor League complex, where he has resumed live batting practice and defensive drills. While conducting a nine-minute group interview in English, Torres said on Saturday that his arm now feels "100 percent," and Boone is looking forward to seeing Torres in game action.

"He's been down here for a while already," Boone said. "He's been doing everything for a while. He's completely over the injury and recovered and strong and in a good place physically."

Video: Yankees duo ready for Spring Training to begin

Though most of his professional experience has come at shortstop, Torres said he has been working on angles and turning double plays at second base, where he played 10 games last season. Torres also said he feels comfortable at third base, where he played 15 games in 2017, even though he said ground balls seem to come much faster at the hot corner.

A more significant adjustment may come on the basepaths. On June 17 at Buffalo, N.Y., while playing in his 23rd game for the RailRiders, Torres dove headfirst into home plate while attempting to score on a single to right field, colliding with catcher Raffy Lopez. Torres said he has been practicing feet-first slides and will try not to slide headfirst anymore.

"I'm going to take care of my arm," Torres said. "I want to feel comfortable."

The Yankees have two vacancies in their infield, with Miguel Andujar, Ronald Torreyes and Tyler Wade also vying for starting roles. Non-roster invitees Danny Espinosa and Jace Peterson could also have legitimate shots of breaking camp with the big league club, but none have been as celebrated in the Yanks' chain as Torres.

A potential stumbling block to seeing Torres in the Opening Day lineup is that the Yankees could delay his free agency until the offseason of 2024-25 if Torres remains in the Minors an extra 16 days. General manager Brian Cashman has said that service time will not be a consideration in evaluating Torres' roster push, and Torres said he is not concerned about the possibility of being sent down.

"The team knows everything," Torres said. "I don't want to put my mentality in that. I just want to help my team. If I get an opportunity to play the first day, of course, I will put in my 100 percent in the game. If not, I'll stay focused, I'll stay humble and we'll see what happens after that."

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

New York Yankees, Gleyber Torres

Trout, Altuve head list of Top 100 Right Now

Dynamic duo announced as top two players in MLB Network's rankings
MLB.com @JALaymance

Now that Spring Training has officially started with pitchers and catchers reporting for all 30 clubs this week, fans can ring in the new season with MLB Network's annual countdown of the game's best players.

This year's rankings were unveiled this week on MLB Network during five installments of its Top 100 Right Now series, which began Wednesday with Nos. 61-100.

Now that Spring Training has officially started with pitchers and catchers reporting for all 30 clubs this week, fans can ring in the new season with MLB Network's annual countdown of the game's best players.

This year's rankings were unveiled this week on MLB Network during five installments of its Top 100 Right Now series, which began Wednesday with Nos. 61-100.

The series concluded Friday with the revealing of Nos. 1-20. MLB Network's Greg Amsinger, Bill Ripken and Ron Darling hosted the program and analyzed the list.

1. Mike Trout, OF, Angels
Who else would be No. 1? In his seven years in the Majors, Trout has twice won the American League Most Valuable Player Award, and finished second in the voting three times.

2. Jose Altuve, 2B, Astros
The reigning AL MVP, Altuve helped the Astros win their first World Series title last fall. He has led the AL in hits in each of the past four seasons while also leading the league in batting average three times in that span.

3. Bryce Harper, OF, Nationals
The National League MVP in 2015, Harper, the top overall pick in the 2010 Draft, has been in the Majors for six years and received five All-Star nods.

Video: Bryce Harper ranks third on the Top 100 Right Now

4. Joey Votto, 1B, Reds
Votto, the NL MVP in 2010 and a five-time All-Star, is equal parts slugger and on-base machine. He has twice led the Senior Circuit in OPS.

5. Giancarlo Stanton, OF, Yankees
Stanton is set for his first season with the Yankees after leading the Majors with 59 home runs and 132 RBIs in 2017, when he was named NL MVP with the Marlins.

Video: Giancarlo Stanton ranks fifth on Top 100 Right Now

6. Clayton Kershaw, SP, Dodgers
Kershaw is the first pitcher to appear on the list, and for good reason. Since 2011, Kershaw has won three NL Cy Young Awards and the 2014 NL MVP, all while leading the NL in ERA five times.

7. Nolan Arenado, 3B, Rockies
Arenado has been the NL's Gold Glove Award winner at third base in each of his five Major League seasons, and he has had two years in which he led the league in homers, RBIs and total bases.

8. Kris Bryant, 3B, Cubs
Bryant has accomplished quite a bit in only three seasons. He was the 2015 NL Rookie of the Year Award winner before winning the '16 NL MVP and helping the Cubs win their first World Series title in 108 years.

9. Josh Donaldson, 3B, Blue Jays
Donaldson is still one of the best in the business at age 32. He's a three-time All-Star and won the 2015 AL MVP Award in his first season with Toronto.

10. Carlos Correa, SS, Astros
Correa figures to be a Top 10 player for years to come, as he already has won a World Series title, been an All-Star and earned the AL Rookie of the Year Award in three big league seasons since being the top pick in the 2012 Draft.

Video: MLB Network breaks down the top 10 players right now

The first group of 10 players outside the Top 10 includes the 2017 Cy Young Award winners, Max Scherzer and Corey Kluber. Scherzer has won the award in the NL in each of the past two seasons, while Kluber has won the award in the AL twice in the last four years.

11. Max Scherzer, SP, Nationals
12. Corey Kluber, SP, Indians
13. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, D-backs
14. Freddie Freeman, 1B, Braves
15. Aaron Judge, OF, Yankees
16. Charlie Blackmon, OF, Rockies
17. Francisco Lindor, SS, Indians
18. Corey Seager, SS, Dodgers
19. Mookie Betts, OF, Red Sox
20. Manny Machado, SS, Orioles

Chris Sale tops the list of players outside the Top 20, just as he topped the Majors in strikeouts in 2017. Sale is joined in this group by reigning World Series champions George Springer and Justin Verlander.

Video: MLB Network's Top 100 Players Right Now: 23-21

21. Chris Sale, SP, Red Sox
22. Jose Ramirez, 3B, Indians
23. Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Cubs
24. George Springer, OF, Astros
25. J.D. Martinez, OF, Free Agent
26. Gary Sanchez, C, Yankees
27. Buster Posey, C, Giants
28. Stephen Strasburg, SP, Nationals
29. Justin Verlander, SP, Astros
30. Cody Bellinger, 1B, Dodgers

A trio of some of the best second basemen in the big leagues -- Daniel Murphy, Brian Dozier and Robinson Cano -- headline this grouping, which also includes a pair of Dodgers stars in Justin Turner and Kenley Jansen.

Video: MLB Network's Top 100 Players Right Now: 33-32

31. Justin Turner, 3B, Dodgers
32. Marcell Ozuna, OF, Cardinals
33. Justin Upton, OF, Angels
34. Daniel Murphy, 2B, Nationals
35. Anthony Rendon, 3B, Nationals
36. Brian Dozier, 2B, Twins
37. Robinson Cano, 2B, Mariners
38. Jose Abreu, 1B, White Sox
39. Kenley Jansen, RP, Dodgers
40. Madison Bumgarner, SP, Giants

The Indians are well represented here, with a slugger, starter and reliever among the final block of the Top 50.

Video: MLB Network?s Top 100 Players Right Now: 41

41. Edwin Encarnacion, DH, Indians
42. Andrew Miller, RP, Indians
43. Luis Severino, SP, Yankees
44. Craig Kimbrel, RP, Red Sox
45. Yoenis Cespedes, OF, Mets
46. Christian Yelich, OF, Brewers
47. Trea Turner, SS, Nationals
48. Nelson Cruz, Mariners
49. Noah Syndergaard, SP, Mets
50. Carlos Carrasco, SP, Indians

Video: MLB Network's Top 100 Players Right Now: 52-49

On the other side of the Top 50, former Cy Young Award winner and D-backs ace Zack Greinke tops this group of players, which also features Adrian Beltre and his 3,048 career hits.

51. Zack Greinke, SP, D-backs
52. Jacob deGrom, SP, Mets
53. Jonathan Schoop, 2B, Orioles
54. Eric Hosmer, 1B, Free Agent
55. Adrian Beltre, 3B, Rangers
56. Andrelton Simmons, SS, Angels
57. Alex Bregman, 3B, Astros
58. Willson Contreras, C, Cubs
59. Tommy Pham, OF, Cardinals
60. Carlos Santana, 1B, Phillies

Lorenzo Cain and Yu Darvish, two players who have received the largest free-agent contracts this offseason, are among this group of 10.

Video: MLB Network's Top 100 Players Right Now: 63-61

61. Lorenzo Cain, OF, Brewers
62. Matt Carpenter, 1B, Cardinals
63. Andrew McCutchen, OF, Giants
64. Dallas Keuchel, SP, Astros
65. Aroldis Chapman, RP, Yankees
66. Kyle Hendricks, SP, Cubs
67. Yu Darvish, SP, Cubs
68. Byron Buxton, OF, Twins
69. Khris Davis, DH, Athletics
70. Josh Reddick, OF, Astros

Video: MLB Network's Top 100 Players Right Now: 71-68

Miguel Cabrera, Ryan Braun and Ryan Zimmerman may not be as good as they were a few years ago, but they're still playing well enough to safely make the Top 100, leading the way in the 71-80 rankings.

71. Miguel Cabrera, 1B, Tigers
72. Jake Arrieta, SP, Free Agent
73. Carlos Martinez, SP, Cardinals
74. Didi Gregorius, SS, Yankees
75. Ryan Zimmerman, 1B, Nationals
76. Marwin Gonzalez, Util, Astros
77. Ryan Braun, OF, Brewers
78. Andrew Benintendi, OF, Red Sox
79. Michael Conforto, OF, Mets
80. Adam Eaton, OF, Nationals

The group from 81-90 features seven players from the West divisions, now that Wade Davis and Zack Cozart signed free-agent deals with the Rockies and Angels, respectively.

Video: MLB Network's Top 100 Players Right Now: 84-81

81. DJ LeMahieu, 2B, Rockies
82. J.T. Realmuto, C, Marlins
83. Corey Knebel, RP, Brewers
84. Wade Davis, RP, Rockies
85. Elvis Andrus, SS, Rangers
86. Chris Taylor, OF, Dodgers
87. Kyle Seager, 3B, Mariners
88. Jean Segura, SS, Mariners
89. Zack Cozart, 3B, Angels
90. Avisail Garcia, OF, White Sox

Video: MLB Network's Top 100 Players Right Now: 92-90

Bringing up the back end of the Top 100 is a young group whose oldest member, Brett Gardner, turns 35 in August. It's a group with plenty of intrigue, including Japanese two-way star Shohei Ohtani.

91. Jay Bruce, OF, Mets
92. Justin Smoak, 1B, Blue Jays
93. Brett Gardner, OF, Yankees
94. Yasiel Puig, OF, Dodgers
95. Kyle Schwarber, OF, Cubs
96. Marcus Stroman, SP, Blue Jays
97. James Paxton, SP, Mariners
98. Robbie Ray, SP, D-backs
99. Chad Green, RP, Yankees
100. Shohei Ohtani, SP/DH, Angels

Video: MLB Network's Top 100 Players Right Now: 100-99

MLB Network recently unveiled its top players at each position in a five-week program hosted by Brian Kenny, ranking players based on performance over the past two seasons and a number of offensive and defensive metrics. Now, it's bringing them all together for a composite list across all positions in baseball.

Austin Laymance is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JALaymance.

Jose Altuve, Mike Trout

Hinch: Cole only needs 'tweaks,' not overhaul

Manager adamant that offseason acquisition is among game's best pitchers
MLB.com @brianmctaggart

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Gerrit Cole has impressive credentials, which is why the Astros traded for right-hander in January. A former first-round pick, Cole won 19 games in 2015 and can throw in the upper 90s with his fastball.

Cole is a finished product whose best days are probably still ahead of him. At 27, he's not a project by any means. Sure, pitching coach Brent Strom will work his magic, but the Astros brought Cole into the fold to be a force with fellow 2017 Opening Day starters Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel from the get-go.

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Gerrit Cole has impressive credentials, which is why the Astros traded for right-hander in January. A former first-round pick, Cole won 19 games in 2015 and can throw in the upper 90s with his fastball.

Cole is a finished product whose best days are probably still ahead of him. At 27, he's not a project by any means. Sure, pitching coach Brent Strom will work his magic, but the Astros brought Cole into the fold to be a force with fellow 2017 Opening Day starters Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel from the get-go.

Spring Training: Info | Tickets | Schedule | Gear

"Gerrit Cole is pretty damn good," manager A.J. Hinch said. "He's been an effective big league pitcher. Did he give up a few home runs last year? Yeah. Did he have a slightly down season compared to his standards? Yes. That doesn't mean he can't be a top elite pitcher in the American League just given his stuff, his makeup and his ability to pitch."

Video: Cole discusses joining a championship team

Cole, the Pirates' first-round Draft pick in 2011 out of UCLA, has gone 19-22 with a 4.12 ERA over 54 starts from 206-17 after winning 19 games in '15. He finished 12-12 with a 4.26 ERA in 33 starts last year for the Pirates, allowing 55 walks and 31 homers while striking out 196 batters in 203 innings.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

In January, the Astros bolstered their rotation when they sent pitchers Joe Musgrove and Michael Feliz, infielder Colin Moran and Minor League outfielder Jason Martin to the Pirates for Cole.

Cole will immediately benefit from his environment, which includes a clubhouse full of guys who have won a World Series and want another title. It includes one of the best pitchers of his generation in Verlander, whose locker at the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches is only a few feet away. It includes veteran catcher Brian McCann, whose work with the pitching staff last year prompted pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. to anoint him as team's most valuable player.

"I'm just excited to be at a place where we have a lot of good players and we have a team mentality and it seems everybody is trying to win and seeing themselves out for the greater good for the team," Cole said. "That's all you can ask for a player."

Video: McTaggart on where Cole fits in Astros rotation

Any adjustments the Astros make figure to start with pitch usage. Last year, Cole threw 12.2 percent curveballs and 17.2 percent sliders, but he mostly fed off his 96-mph fastball. Hinch said some adjustments can be made.

"He's got upper 90s in his back pocket when needs it. He's got a good slider, he's got a good changeup," Hinch said. "He knows how to pitch. He can elevate, he can crossfire. Getting a good game plan in front of him is going to be really key for him. Is there going to be a tweak in usage? Maybe, if we need it. Make no mistake, there's not an overhaul going on. He's pretty good from the time he steps on campus, and we'll try to tweak him like we do with every player."

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.

Houston Astros, Gerrit Cole

Santana pushing cars and now Franco

First baseman hoping young slugger can emulate patient hitting approach
MLB.com @ToddZolecki

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- A couple weeks after Carlos Santana signed a three-year, $60 million contract with the Phillies in late December, he posted a video of himself pushing a white Mercedes-Benz in the Dominican Republic.

He pushed the car eight times, 120 yards each time.

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- A couple weeks after Carlos Santana signed a three-year, $60 million contract with the Phillies in late December, he posted a video of himself pushing a white Mercedes-Benz in the Dominican Republic.

He pushed the car eight times, 120 yards each time.

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"My personal trainer came up with that," Santana said through an interpreter Saturday afternoon at Spectrum Field. "He thought about it because he thought it would be a good workout for my legs, for my arms. It's a complete workout. You use every single muscle in your body. Those cars are so heavy you really need to push through."

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Next, Santana is ready to push Maikel Franco.

It is well documented how Franco and Santana have been joined at the hip since Santana signed with the Phillies. In fact, Santana told the Phillies that he wanted his locker next to Franco's in Spring Training. They could have the same setup at Citizens Bank Park.

"He's shown me that he wants to help me," Franco said.

It also is well documented that this is a big season for Franco, who posted a .690 OPS in 623 plate appearances last season. Franco ranked last out of 18 qualified third basemen in OPS and on-base percentage (.278). He ranked 17th in slugging percentage (.404).

If he improves he could still have a future with the Phillies. If his numbers remain where they are they almost certainly will move on.

Video: Outlook: Franco has power but needs more patience

The hope is Santana, whose patience at the plate is a strength, can teach the Franco, who can be an impatient hacker.

"I'm a young guy and I have to learn about hitting," Franco said. "I'm just trying to get a lot of information from him. I'm trying to get close to him. Carlos selects a lot of good pitches. He's got a good idea [at the plate]. I'm trying to find out everything that I can do. I know he's going to help me a lot."

Phils, Abad agree to Minor League deal

Santana is on board.

"We're going to work together every single day," he said. "We're going to make sure he executes the plan he wants to follow. I know he's a guy that's very talented and he's capable of a lot. So I'm going to be there. I'm committed to helping him. I'm going to be in the cage, hitting as many balls as possible. He already told me today that he wants to follow me everywhere he goes. If I have to go to the cage he's going to go with me to hit some balls. He's committed and I'm committed, too."

Tweet from @Phillies: Ladies and gentlemen, may we present to you...@TheRealSlamtana! pic.twitter.com/2u9Z04X1f8

It is a good thing Santana committed to the Phillies when he did. Numerous big-name free agents remain available, including Jake Arrieta and Eric Hosmer. Believe it or not, Santana's $60 million deal is the fourth-largest contract this offseason.

Only Yu Darvish ($126 million), Justin Upton ($106 million) and Lorenzo Cain ($80 million) received bigger deals.

"It definitely worked out for me," he said. "I know baseball is going through a difficult time right now, with all of the free agents. But it worked out for me. I am happy. I can only speak for myself, and I am happy I did it the way I did it."

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, Maikel Franco, Carlos Santana

Don't stress about your Opening Day closer

Last seven World Series winners changed stopper during season
MLB.com @mike_petriello

Veteran right-hander Luke Gregerson is in line to be the Cardinals' closer -- right up until he's not. If that sounds harsh, it's not intended to be. He's a good pitcher, not an elite one. There's a good chance he won't remain the Cards' closer the entire season. That's a thought that bothers Cardinals fans, understandably, but here's a more relevant thought: It mostly doesn't matter.

That sounds crazy, right? Bullpens are more important than ever -- with starting pitchers throwing fewer innings -- but we've also learned that the saves role isn't as important as it once seemed. This is why you see elite relievers such as Andrew Miller, Chad Green and Chris Devenski pitching earlier in the game. A "closer" is an important part of a bullpen, but he's just one part.

Veteran right-hander Luke Gregerson is in line to be the Cardinals' closer -- right up until he's not. If that sounds harsh, it's not intended to be. He's a good pitcher, not an elite one. There's a good chance he won't remain the Cards' closer the entire season. That's a thought that bothers Cardinals fans, understandably, but here's a more relevant thought: It mostly doesn't matter.

That sounds crazy, right? Bullpens are more important than ever -- with starting pitchers throwing fewer innings -- but we've also learned that the saves role isn't as important as it once seemed. This is why you see elite relievers such as Andrew Miller, Chad Green and Chris Devenski pitching earlier in the game. A "closer" is an important part of a bullpen, but he's just one part.

We can say that with confidence because of what we've seen this decade, which is that every single one of the last seven World Series champions -- every one! -- has ended the year with a different closer than the one they started the season with. It's a good reminder that in the saves role, little goes according to plan, and that's OK.

Just look at how many different ways title winners got the job done:

2017 Astros: After Gregerson lost his job in 2016, the closer role eventually became Ken Giles' gig, and he was very, very good ... until he fell apart in October, not receiving a single save chance after blowing a lead in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series. Instead, the Astros relied on Brad Peacock, Lance McCullers Jr. and, in Game 7 of the World Series, steady starting pitcher Charlie Morton.

Video: WS2017 Gm7: Morton induces groundout to close out WS

2016 Cubs: Do you remember that Hector Rondon was really good that year? He had a 1.95 ERA and 48/5 K/BB ratio in 38 games when the Cubs traded for Aroldis Chapman, relegating Rondon to something of a second banana for the rest of the year.

2015 Royals: This was Greg Holland's job for most of the year, but he blew out his elbow in September. For most teams, that's crushing. But most teams don't have Wade Davis ready to go.

2014 Giants: Keep this one in mind, because we're going to get back to it in a minute. After Sergio Romo carried a 5.01 ERA into July, he was replaced as the closer by longtime teammate Santiago Casilla, who ended up pitching 7 1/3 scoreless innings in October.

2013 Red Sox: Boston thought it had a steady closer heading into the 2013 season, having traded for Pittsburgh's Joel Hanrahan, an All-Star the previous two seasons. (By the way, this trade cost them future All-Star Mark Melancon, though it did gain them Brock Holt, who was an All-Star in 2015.) Hanrahan threw only 7 1/3 innings before hurting his elbow and hasn't thrown another pitch in the Majors. He was replaced by Andrew Bailey, who was subsequently replaced in June by Koji Uehara -- who struck out Matt Carpenter to end the World Series.

Video: WS2013 Gm6: Koji fans Carpenter, Sox win World Series

2012 Giants: Before Casilla replaced Romo, Romo replaced Casilla, memorably getting Miguel Cabrera to strike out looking to end the World Series. But before that, they both had to replace Brian Wilson. After spending four seasons as the Giants' closer, Wilson entered 2012 as the obvious closer, but he injured his elbow after only two games and never appeared for the Giants again.

2011 Cardinals: This one gets messy. At first, it was 38-year-old Ryan Franklin, but he didn't last long. After that, at various times, it was Eduardo Sanchez, Mitchell Boggs, Fernando Salas and eventually Jason Motte, who didn't get his first save of the season until Aug. 28. Motte was outstanding in the 2011 postseason, then followed it up with a fine 42-save season in 2012.

To recap, the seven men who finished off those World Series wins were, in reverse chronological order: a starting pitcher, a July trade acquisition, a setup man, a setup man who had previously lost the closer role, a 38-year-old setup man, another setup man and a converted catcher who had been -- wait for it -- a setup man. Not since Wilson with the 2010 Giants have we seen an Opening Day closer be there at the end for a champion.

That's partially because attrition rates are high in that job, and it's partially because saves just don't matter. Last season had the lowest number of 30-save pitchers, 11, since MLB expanded to 30 teams in 1998. In 2015, for instance, there were 21.

As we've seen in recent seasons, MLB teams don't necessarily hold their best relievers until the ninth inning, and they don't pay for saves as much as they do talent. Another related factor: It's just not easy for a pitcher to stay in that role all year long anyway.

Though we've made it clear that saves are generally a poor way to evaluate a reliever, their opportunity-based nature makes it a decent method to look back and see who a team's closer was. Last April, we looked at each team's saves leader, making a caveat to include the Rangers' Sam Dyson, who was the team's closer but performed so poorly he didn't record a single save.

Of the 30 Opening Day closers, only 14 of them had the most saves for their teams in September. That means more than half of Major League teams had, for any number of reasons, a ninth-inning turnover. The Mets (Addison Reed), Marlins (AJ Ramos), Twins (Brandon Kintzler), White Sox (David Robertson), Pirates (Tony Watson) and Nationals (Blake Treinen) traded theirs. Others, like the Giants' Melancon, got hurt. The Brewers' Neftali Feliz lost his job. So did Francisco Rodriguez (Tigers), Dyson (Rangers) and Seung Hwan Oh (Cardinals).

This isn't to say that talented relievers don't matter. Far from it. If you're fortunate enough to have Kenley Jansen, Craig Kimbrel or Roberto Osuna, you're feeling confident about the back end of your bullpen. But if, on the other hand, you're not thrilled about Gregerson or Alex Claudio, or Brad Brach, remember that they don't have to be there all season for your year to end well. When it's not Gregerson, maybe it's Tyler Lyons or Alex Reyes. Maybe it's Alex Colome. We don't know. We don't need to.

It's a reminder, really, that key moves can and do happen. Breakouts can and do happen. We have no idea who will be closing eight months from now -- and as the last seven World Series champs have shown, that's not necessarily a problem.

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

Giants, lefty Watson agree on multiyear deal

MLB.com @sfgiantsbeat

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Giants added a much-needed left-hander to solidify their bullpen by agreeing with free agent Tony Watson on a multiyear contract.

The club confirmed the deal Saturday, though contract details were not immediately available.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Giants added a much-needed left-hander to solidify their bullpen by agreeing with free agent Tony Watson on a multiyear contract.

The club confirmed the deal Saturday, though contract details were not immediately available.

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"I couldn't be more ecstatic," said Giants closer Mark Melancon, a teammate of Watson's when both were with Pittsburgh from 2013-16. "The guy is one of the most professional people I've ever been around. I spent three-and-a-half, four years with him. There's not one negative thing that I can ever say about him."

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

The Giants' left-handed bullpen contingent had looked shaky. Steven Okert and Josh Osich have demonstrated talent but remain erratic. Will Smith is in the latter stages of recovery from Tommy John surgery, and he probably won't be ready to perform in the Majors until May. Ty Blach is able-bodied, but he'll likely will be needed in the rotation.

A National League All-Star in 2014, when he appeared in a league-high 78 games, Watson owns a career record of 33-17 with 30 saves. In 2012, one year after his rookie campaign, he began a six-season streak in which he made at least 67 appearances each year.

Watson, 32, split last season between the Pirates and Dodgers, who acquired him at the non-waiver Trade Deadline. Watson made 11 postseason relief appearances for the Dodgers, including five in a row in Games 2-6 of the World Series.

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.

San Francisco Giants, Tony Watson

LIVE: Follow the Andre Dawson Classic

Annual HBCU tournament underway in New Orleans
MLB.com

Six historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), plus the University of Illinois at Chicago and tournament co-host University of New Orleans, are squaring off this weekend in the newly dubbed Andre Dawson Classic.

The eight-team, round-robin tournament is being played at UNO's Maestri Field and the New Orleans Major League Baseball Academy through Sunday. Formerly known as the Urban Invitational, the tournament is in its 11th season.

Six historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), plus the University of Illinois at Chicago and tournament co-host University of New Orleans, are squaring off this weekend in the newly dubbed Andre Dawson Classic.

The eight-team, round-robin tournament is being played at UNO's Maestri Field and the New Orleans Major League Baseball Academy through Sunday. Formerly known as the Urban Invitational, the tournament is in its 11th season.

Fans can follow pitch-by-pitch action of every game on MLB.com's Gameday. Two of the games played today will be broadcast live on MLB Network and MLB.com.

SCHEDULE

Today
LIVE: Illinois-Chicago Flames vs. Southern Jaguars, Wesley Barrow Stadium. Gameday  | Watch live on MLB Network, MLB.com »
LIVE: Prairie View A&M Panthers vs. Alcorn State Braves, Maestri Stadium. Gameday »
7 p.m. ET: Alabama State Hornets vs. New Orleans Privateers, Wesley Barrow Stadium. Gameday  | Watch live on MLB Network, MLB.com »
7:30 p.m. ET: Arkansas-Pine Bluff Golden Lions vs. Grambling State Tigers, Maestri Stadium. Gameday »

Sunday
1 p.m. ET: Arkansas-Pine Bluff Golden Lions vs. Alabama State Hornets, Maestri Stadium. Gameday »
1 p.m. ET: Prairie View A&M Panthers vs. Illinois-Chicago Flames, Wesley Barrow Stadium. Gameday »
4 p.m. ET: Alcorn State Braves vs. Grambling State Tigers, Wesley Barrow Stadium. Gameday »
4 p.m. ET: Southern Jaguars vs. New Orleans Privateers, Maestri Stadium. Gameday »

RESULTS
Friday:
Illinois-Chicago Flames 3, Southern Jaguars 0. Gameday »
Alcorn State Braves 5, Arkansas-Pine Bluff Golden Lions 4. Gameday » 
Southern Jaguars 8, Grambling State Tigers 7. Gameday »
New Orleans Privateers 5, Illinois-Chicago Flames 4. Gameday »
Alabama State Hornets 8, Prairie View A&M Panthers 7. Gameday »

'Big picture' on Pedroia's mind during rehab

Second baseman progressing after knee surgery; no date set for return
MLB.com @IanMBrowne

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- For Dustin Pedroia, missing Opening Day -- and perhaps a few weeks after that -- will be a small price to pay for getting his career back.

The scar on Pedroia's surgically-repaired left knee was there for all to see as he held court with the media on Saturday morning. For Pedroia, it serves as a reminder that the injury that pained him for all of last season is gone, and he will be able to enjoy the game again once he gets back.

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- For Dustin Pedroia, missing Opening Day -- and perhaps a few weeks after that -- will be a small price to pay for getting his career back.

The scar on Pedroia's surgically-repaired left knee was there for all to see as he held court with the media on Saturday morning. For Pedroia, it serves as a reminder that the injury that pained him for all of last season is gone, and he will be able to enjoy the game again once he gets back.

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For the first time in Pedroia's career, he is looking at the big picture. He will follow the plan carefully, as outlined in his rehab.

Usually, Pedroia sets the tone at Spring Training from the very first workout. This year, he is confined to doing his work indoors on a weighted treadmill.

"I'm still excited and ready to go," Pedroia said. "It's just, they kind of have to make sure we look at the big picture and make sure I'm healthy through the remainder of my career, and I appreciate that from them. I kind of haven't taken that stance before, so it's been great."

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This will be the first time since Mark Loretta in 2006 that the Red Sox have had someone not named Pedroia play second base on Opening Day. Eduardo Nunez is likely to hold down second base for Boston in the interim, assuming he passes the physical necessary to complete his one-year contract.

Does Pedroia have a target date for returning? One reporter suggested May 15.

"Honestly, we haven't really set any dates like that," Pedroia said. "It's kind of monitored on a week-to-week thing. If I continue to make strides in one area, then I could do more. So far, the whole thing, I haven't had any setbacks. I've added more weight to each time I do an exercise, and it's been great."

Video: HOU@BOS Gm4: Pedroia gets the out with a sliding stop

Though Pedroia didn't make excuses for his diminished play down the stretch last season, it was clear to anyone who watched how hobbled he was. He now acknowledges how hard it was to go out there at far less than 100 percent.

"I don't feel that [pain] anymore," Pedroia said. "I think that's why the decision to have the surgery was important. If I didn't, then yeah, there would be kind of an issue. The way it's worked out, it was the best decision I could have made. My knee doesn't hurt. Last year, waking up and walking around was painful. It's not fun to live your life like that."

Pedroia acknowledged being down before the start of the American League Division Series against the Astros, confiding in teammate Xander Bogaerts at the time that he didn't envision being able to do much with his bat unless the pitch was right down the middle. He went 2-for-16 as the Red Sox lost in four games.

What gets Pedroia through his monotonous rehab exercises is the knowledge that he will feel like himself again when he returns.

The surgery Pedroia had was a cartilage restoration procedure.

"Having the surgery, I could tell immediately that I was feeling better. Not one time did I have any pain in the entire process. Now it's just building strength and getting back to being athletic and things like that, and your body picks that up quick."

Given the pounding the 34-year-old Pedroia takes on a daily basis playing second base, he asked the doctors before the surgery what it would be like once he plays again.

Video: Browne on Pedroia's health entering 2018 season

"I said, 'Listen man, I don't know if you've seen me play, I land on my legs about 100 times a game.'" Pedroia said. "He goes, 'Oh, I understand. What we're going to do is, it's going to basically give you tread on your tire and you can go crazy again. It's just a matter of building strength around it and doing the things that you've always done. You're just going to have cartilage now.'"

That was all Pedroia needed to hear before deciding to go ahead with it.

"I'm not worried about other areas of anything else," said Pedroia. "I take care of myself pretty good with the flexibility, things like that. This was just a thing that I had to get fixed, and now that it's fixed, I don't envision anything being a problem."

What is next for Pedroia?

"I'm on one of those weighted treadmill things at 80 percent weight. Next week, I go up for seven minutes," said Pedroia. "The week after, I'm supposed to go for 10 minutes. And then the week after that, I'm off that treadmill and running regular without the weight taken off. I'm ahead of schedule, so now it's just continuing with the process of it, and we'll go from there."

At some point in the not-too-distant future, the process will lead Pedroia back to his home at second base.

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

Boston Red Sox, Dustin Pedroia

Machado ponders future in Baltimore, at short

MLB.com @Britt_Ghiroli

SARASOTA -- Shortly before 9 a.m. ET on Saturday, Manny Machado entered the Orioles' clubhouse at Ed Smith Stadium. All eyes were on him, sporting a new haircut and a huge smile as he went locker to locker, exchanging hugs and pleasantries with teammates new and old.

It has been a whirlwind offseason for Machado, whose named swirled in trade rumors since December's Winter Meetings. The headlines continued at last month's FanFest, when the team -- still listening to potential offers for the All-Star -- announced he would officially move to shortstop, a year away from free agency.

SARASOTA -- Shortly before 9 a.m. ET on Saturday, Manny Machado entered the Orioles' clubhouse at Ed Smith Stadium. All eyes were on him, sporting a new haircut and a huge smile as he went locker to locker, exchanging hugs and pleasantries with teammates new and old.

It has been a whirlwind offseason for Machado, whose named swirled in trade rumors since December's Winter Meetings. The headlines continued at last month's FanFest, when the team -- still listening to potential offers for the All-Star -- announced he would officially move to shortstop, a year away from free agency.

"[Shortstop is] where my heart has always been," Machado said of the move, which will shift Tim Beckham over to third base. "It's my natural position. It's where I think I can [best help the team]. ... I know a lot of the talk has been, 'Oh, is he going to be worth more there? More money.' It's not about the money. It's not about going out there and signing a 20-year deal.

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"This is where my heart has always been, this is what I've wanted to do. This is what I've always wanted to do. This is what I came into this world to do -- to play shortstop at the big league level. Finally, [manager] Buck [Showalter] and the Baltimore organization are giving me the opportunity to go out there and do what I can at that position and show myself. That's been my dream all along. I'm really looking forward to it."

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

In his new position, Machado will pair up for a lethal double play combo with close friend, second baseman Jonathan Schoop. The pair aren't totally foreign with that as Machado -- who got 43 starts there in '16 -- has some idea what to expect from filling in for former teammate J.J. Hardy.

"I think the challenges of playing Major League shortstop is up his alley for this year. He needs a new challenge, I think. I think he prospers off of that," Showalter said. "I think he really is engaged, not that he got bored at third base, but I feel good that he had a month or so for us at shortstop to really remind him, and Bobby [Dickerson has been] showing him some of the tape and been talking to him about the total engagement you need to have at shortstop in order to play that position again.

"He was a shortstop we moved to third base because we had one of the best shortstops in the game. Anybody we play at third base is not going to be Manny. Nobody. And I've seen them all. There's some good ones, but he's the best one. Of course, I'm biased. But he has a chance to be that same guy at shortstop. He's capable of making plays that nobody else will be able to make there."

Machado reiterated there was nothing new, as far as he knows, regarding his camp and the Orioles potentially reaching an agreement on a new deal beyond this season. It's been almost a foregone conclusion that Baltimore won't be able to afford the young superstar -- who could command a record deal in free agency, though Machado doesn't want that to be a distraction.

"You know what, it shouldn't be a distraction. I don't work in the front office. I'm not an agent. I play baseball," Machado said. "That's the only thing I know how to do. It's the only thing I really know how to do, to be honest -- just go out there, play baseball and answer the questions I need to answer and go about my business. My job is to go out there and produce -- and if I don't do that, none of the other stuff will come with it."

Video: MLB Tonight: Machado's move to shortstop

There was a time, the 25-year-old admits, when the trade rumors were flying, that the thought of him leaving his teammates crossed his mind.

"At one point, it was kind of a little sad. Thank God, nothing went down -- and I was able to come back and see my guys that I've been with for seven years. It's just going to be a great experience that I went through at that time -- a learning experience this whole offseason -- that I'm putting in the back of my mind going forward [while] getting ready for this year."

To that end, Machado's offseason routine has changed considerably from his days at third base. He said he's added more plyometrics to his routine, less heavy lifting and a lot more resistance and flexibility work. He started making changes after the '16 season while preparing for his stint with Team Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic last spring. Machado -- who ended up playing more third base than shortstop for that team -- still uses that bag, with his spring equipment unloaded from it on Saturday morning.

"This game's about playing 162 games, not just three months or four months out of the year," Machado said. "I did change [my routine] a lot and I'm going to continue doing what I've been doing in the offseason [up] to now."

It's a grind Machado plans on enduring for the foreseeable future. If he does hit the free-agent market as expected, he wants to continue playing shortstop.

"Once I do it this year, it's not something that's just switching off," he said. "I'm making the transition. Hopefully, I want to stay there and continue doing it. This is where my heart has always been. [I'm] finally getting an opportunity to do it for a full season. I'm looking forward to it, and hopefully I can continue playing [short] for a long time."

Brittany Ghiroli has covered the Orioles for MLB.com since 2010. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast.

Baltimore Orioles, Manny Machado

Sources: Rangers' deal with Oh called off

MLB.com @Sullivan_Ranger

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- A potential deal between the Rangers and reliever Seung Hwan Oh has fallen through, sources said Saturday.

The Rangers were reportedly in an agreement with Oh on a contract just before coming to Spring Training. But the deal was pending a physical and never was completed. Sources said the Rangers have ended the negotiations and aren't expected to sign Oh.

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- A potential deal between the Rangers and reliever Seung Hwan Oh has fallen through, sources said Saturday.

The Rangers were reportedly in an agreement with Oh on a contract just before coming to Spring Training. But the deal was pending a physical and never was completed. Sources said the Rangers have ended the negotiations and aren't expected to sign Oh.

Rangers officials declined to comment but they are still in the market for pitching help. They are still without an identified closer, although Alex Claudio finished last season in that role for the Rangers, as did Mike Minor for the Royals. Matt Bush, Jake Diekman, Keone Kela and non-roster invite Kevin Jepsen are all candidates to varying degrees. Tony Barnette and Chris Martin were both closers in Japan.

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, Seung Hwan Oh

Long road ahead: Wright hopeful, but realistic

Injured Mets captain says desire is still there to make a comeback
MLB.com @AnthonyDiComo

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- David Wright sat, cross-armed in the Mets' dugout, swaddled head to toe in Mets gear. Around him, about two dozen media members strained forward with cellphones and boom mics, asking anything and everything about Wright's path back to the Majors. An update on his status. Goals for his future. Thoughts on retirement.

"I probably have a lot of the same questions that you're asking me, and a lot of people are asking of me, because I just don't know," Wright said at one point during a 21-minute press conference. "I'd love to play again. But my body's got to hold up and it's going to have to cooperate with me a little bit."

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- David Wright sat, cross-armed in the Mets' dugout, swaddled head to toe in Mets gear. Around him, about two dozen media members strained forward with cellphones and boom mics, asking anything and everything about Wright's path back to the Majors. An update on his status. Goals for his future. Thoughts on retirement.

"I probably have a lot of the same questions that you're asking me, and a lot of people are asking of me, because I just don't know," Wright said at one point during a 21-minute press conference. "I'd love to play again. But my body's got to hold up and it's going to have to cooperate with me a little bit."

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For much of the last decade, but most particularly in the last three years, that body has betrayed him. Since doctors diagnosed Wright with spinal stenosis in 2015, he has undergone neck, shoulder and back surgeries. He has not played in 21 months. He has appeared in just 75 games the past three seasons.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Amid that backdrop, Wright offered optimism that he will be able to return to the field, and realism that it might never happen.

More than anything, he expressed a desire to keep trying.

"It would be easy if I didn't have that drive to get back out there," Wright said. "If I didn't love what I did, that would certainly make things easier. But I do love what I do. … When it's all said and done, I want to be able to say I did everything I could. If it works, that's obviously the goal. And if it doesn't work, then I'll rest easy knowing I gave it my best shot.

Mets notebook: Conforto a welcome sight

"When you're used to doing something your entire life and it's taken away from you, it's definitely frustrating. Every day I'm reminded when I come in, I see everybody else getting their uniforms, going out there and doing the things I love to do, and I'm stuck in the training room doing rehab stuff. Frustration's an understatement."

At age 35, his last full, healthy season now six years behind him, Wright understands that he may ultimately fall short of his goals. That is why he did not complain when the Mets signed Todd Frazier, a fellow third baseman, to a two-year contract this winter. To the contrary, Wright reached out to Frazier to pre-empt any awkwardness, saying Saturday that the Mets are a better team if both of them are healthy.

Video: Callaway discusses Wright's leadership

A day earlier, Wright walked into new manager Mickey Callaway's office to ask how he could help as a leader. Still the captain, Wright attended as many games at Citi Field last year as his rehab schedule allowed, but typically kept himself confined to back rooms.

"Everybody knows who David Wright is and the kind of leader that he is," Callaway said. "I told him … 'I want you as present as possible. I want you to be around the guys.' We need his leadership."

If nothing else, such engagement will help Wright connect to an evolving roster. The toughest part of the past few years, he says, has been feeling absent from the team's successes and failures.

"I've had a hard time with it, certainly," Wright said. "But I guess you do what you can do, and you do everything in your power. The biggest thing is I don't want, when it's all said and done, to say, 'Man, I wish I would have done this,' or, 'I wish I would have done that.' You do it and then it's out of your control. I challenge myself every day to be the best rehab patient that I possibly can be."

For now, that means a continual slog of physical therapy and rehab exercises, though Wright hopes to begin a running program soon. If baseball activities follow, he'll be thrilled. If game action occurs after that, even better.

If none of that happens, then none of that happens. It won't stop him from trying.

"I guess baby steps," Wright said, "are still steps in the right direction."

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

New York Mets, David Wright

J-Up happy he re-upped with close-knit Angels

MLB.com @mi_guardado

TEMPE, Ariz. -- When Justin Upton hit free agency two years ago, he languished on the market until mid-January before signing a six-year, $132.75 million deal with the Tigers. He could have tested the open market again this winter by exercising the opt-out clause in his contract, but he decided against it, preferring to sign a five-year, $106 million extension with the Angels, who acquired him from Detroit in an Aug. 31 trade last year.

Upton's decision proved prudent, as the activity on the free-agent market has unfolded at a remarkably sluggish pace this winter. Many prominent free agents, including Eric Hosmer, J.D. Martinez, Jake Arrieta and Mike Moustakas, remain unsigned, even with Spring Training underway for all 30 clubs.

TEMPE, Ariz. -- When Justin Upton hit free agency two years ago, he languished on the market until mid-January before signing a six-year, $132.75 million deal with the Tigers. He could have tested the open market again this winter by exercising the opt-out clause in his contract, but he decided against it, preferring to sign a five-year, $106 million extension with the Angels, who acquired him from Detroit in an Aug. 31 trade last year.

Upton's decision proved prudent, as the activity on the free-agent market has unfolded at a remarkably sluggish pace this winter. Many prominent free agents, including Eric Hosmer, J.D. Martinez, Jake Arrieta and Mike Moustakas, remain unsigned, even with Spring Training underway for all 30 clubs.

Video: Justin Upton is the No. 3 left fielder right now

"It hasn't been an enjoyable process for those guys," Upton said Saturday after reporting to Angels camp. "The fact that I avoided it ... in hindsight, I'm glad I did. I kind of got a taste of it two years ago when I was a free agent. I kind of understood the way the trend was going. At the end of the day, if you can avoid it, avoid it, because things are definitely different and they're changing."

The 30-year-old left fielder said he returned home after the regular season ended and gave himself a week to "digest everything" before sitting down with his wife to discuss their future in Southern California.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

"She was happy with our month there, and at that point, we decided to explore if there was an opportunity for me to come back," Upton said. "At the end of the day, we got it done."

Upton, who posted an .887 OPS with seven home runs over 27 games with the Angels in 2017, cited the camaraderie of the clubhouse as one of the reasons why he decided to stay in Anaheim.

"You spend half of your year with a group of guys," Upton said. "I enjoyed the vibe of the clubhouse, how much fun the guys have playing the game. That's what you want to be part of. You want to be in the clubhouse, be on the field with these guys every day. That's what you look for."

Video: Kinsler persuaded by Upton, Ohtani signing

Upton said he is looking forward to welcoming his good friend and former Tigers teammate Ian Kinsler into the fold as well. In December, Upton's endorsement of the Angels helped convince Kinsler to waive his limited no-trade clause and accept a trade to Anaheim.

"I was excited," Upton said. "He's a guy that brings a lot of energy to the clubhouse and a good veteran presence. I thought he'd be a good fit here, and when we finally did get him, I enjoyed the move. I think the guys in here will, too."

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

Los Angeles Angels, Justin Upton