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Pulp non-fiction: It's Grapefruit League Media Day

February 18, 2016

For the past four years, Major League Baseball has hosted a Cactus League Media Day in which the Commissioner, as well as the general manager and manager from the clubs training in Arizona, held court. This year, for the first time, the Grapefruit League will hold a similar event in

For the past four years, Major League Baseball has hosted a Cactus League Media Day in which the Commissioner, as well as the general manager and manager from the clubs training in Arizona, held court. This year, for the first time, the Grapefruit League will hold a similar event in Fort Myers, Fla., and will be on the scene.
Commissioner Rob Manfred will take the podium at 4:30 p.m. ET, and among the topics likely to be discussed are the "takeout slide" rule at second base, protective netting around home plate and the future of the designated hitter in the National League.
Spring Training: Coverage | Map | Schedule

At the conclusion of Commissioner Manfred's news conference, a number of GMs and managers from clubs training in Florida will be available to the media, and our reporters will be there to get the latest. Every club has key issues fans would like to see addressed.
Join the conversation on social media with the hashtag #MediaDayFL on Friday and #MediaDayAZ on Monday, when Commissioner Manfred will be in Arizona for Cactus League Media Day. Here's a breakdown from each of our Grapefruit League beat reporters of what they'd like to know.

First base is wide open at Houston's camp, where overall top first-base prospectA.J. Reed, former top prospect Jon Singleton, Minor Leaguer Tyler White and the versatile Matt Duffy are all battling for the starting role vacated by Chris Carter. Will the Astros be prepared to give the job to Reed to start the year? Or will they perhaps try to sign one of the handful of free agents -- such as Pedro Alvarez or Justin Morneau -- that are still on the market? -- Brian McTaggart

Blue Jays
The Blue Jays have one of the most exciting lineups in baseball, but it's the action away from the field that may prove to be the most compelling this spring. Toronto has to decide whether to extend lucrative multiyear contract offers to sluggers Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion or risk losing them to free agency at the end of the season.
Encarnacion's agent is on record as having said his client will not negotiate a deal once the regular season gets underway. Bautista hasn't made a similar demand, but realistically, some progress needs to be made in the coming weeks to provide any hope that an early extension is possible. Toronto president/CEO Mark Shapiro has said talks between all parties will be a top priority once Spring Training opens for position players next week, but the clock is ticking. -- Gregor Chisholm

Though most of the Braves' recent financial decisions have been made with an eye toward creating what should be great financial flexibility leading into the 2017 season, it appears the club still has approximately $10 million to play with for this season. Team officials have indicated these funds will be used to aid what will be a very aggressive pursuit in this year's international market. But if the team exceeds expectations during the first half, is there a chance some of the funds will be used to improve the current roster? Would this decision be influenced by the desire to give some of the club's starting-pitching prospects a chance in the Majors at some point this season?

Along those lines, much of the attention over the next few weeks will be placed on the wealth of some highly regarded prospects who will be in big league camp. Dansby Swanson, Ozhaino Albies and Sean Newcomb all seem destined to begin the season at the Minor League level. But is there a chance that a stellar performance over the next month would put either Aaron Blair or Tyrell Jenkins in position to begin the season in Atlanta's starting rotation? -- Mark Bowman

Though St. Louis enters camp with a relatively clean bill of health, the status of veteran catcher Yadier Molina will be scrutinized all spring. Molina remains in a splint following a pair of offseason surgeries to repair ligament damage in his left thumb, and he won't resume catching until early March. Hitting won't occur until even later than that. Molina hopes to have his thumb strong enough to let him play on Opening Day, but is that a realistic timeframe, and how willing are the Cards to let him push with such a target date in mind? -- Jenifer Langosch

If the Marlins are to contend, they need their top two players -- Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Fernandez -- staying on the field. Stanton, who missed more than 35 games in both 2012 and '13, was limited to just 74 games in 2015, and he still belted 27 homers and drove in 67 runs, both tops in the NL before he broke his left hamate bone on June 26. And Fernandez, the club's young ace, returned from his 2014 Tommy John surgery late last season, making 11 starts.
When healthy, both are All-Stars. What measures will Miami take to keep them both on the field? It's particularly tricky in Fernandez's case, as the club has said it wants to limit his innings to 180 or so. -- Joe Frisaro

In 2015, the Mets reached their first World Series in 16 seasons on the strength of starting pitching. They pushed their young starters to levels most of them hadn't seen before last summer, riding Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz to the NL pennant.
How that workload will affect them in 2016 remains to be seen, so what steps the front office and field staff take toward preventing fatigue -- or worse, injury -- will be a key to the season. It is perhaps the most critical issue the Mets must address this spring. -- Anthony DiComo

The Nationals' bullpen underwent a near complete overhaul during the offseason, with one notable exception -- Jonathan Papelbon, who is still currently slated to serve as the team's closer. His arrival at Spring Training will be one to watch closely. It will be the veteran's first days in a Nats uniform since he grabbed Bryce Harper by the throat near the end of last season. Harper has said the incident is in the past, but fans have not been so easy to forgive.
Washington's bullpen is far from set, with quite a few jobs on the line, roles unsettled and a possible trade of Papelbon. -- Jamal Collier

The biggest question for Baltimore heading into Spring Training centers on its rotation. Can the Orioles' starters take a step forward? While the club remains optimistic it will sign free-agent righty Yovani Gallardo, Baltimore will still need guys like Chris Tillman and Kevin Gausman to reach a new level. The O's rotation ranked among the American League's worst in ERA last year and lost its best starter in Wei-Yin Chen, who signed with Miami. -- Brittany Ghiroli

Only 18 out of 65 players in Phillies camp this year opened last year's Spring Training with the team.
Many of the new faces in camp this year include some of the organization's top prospects. Philadelphia has seven players on MLBPipeline's Top 100 Prospects List, and six are at Bright House Field. Could they join the Phils before the end of the season? Or will the club take things more slowly knowing it has a long rebuild to come? -- Todd Zolecki

Coming off a 98-win season and a relatively quiet offseason, the Pirates are facing two major questions this spring. First, will third baseman Jung Ho Kang be ready for Opening Day? If not, when will the NL Rookie of the Year Award finalist be back in the Bucs' lineup?
Taking a bigger-picture view of their situation, the Pirates will also be asked all year if they did enough this offseason to keep up with the Cubs and Cardinals in the NL Central. Following Pittsburgh's first workout on Friday, manager Clint Hurdle will address the media for the first time this spring to discuss Kang's status and how the skipper feels about the club heading into the 2016 season. -- Adam Berry

Rays fans are hoping to see the team improve its offense. The final two months of the 2015 season saw the club improve at the plate, due primarily to the fact its hitters were more aggressive. Tampa Bay then traded for Logan Morrison, Brad Miller and Corey Dickerson to bolster its lineup. However, Morrison and Miller have never quite lived up to their potential, and Dickerson has done most of his damage in the thin air of Coors Field, sparking skepticism about his ability to sustain his offensive numbers. Can the club continue to employ the offensive approach it used down the stretch? And will there be any more moves to supplement the offseason trades? -- Bill Chastain

Red Sox
The Red Sox got perhaps the prize of the starting-pitching market over the ofseason when they signed David Price, but plenty of fans aren't sure if the club has enough in its rotation beyond the ace left-hander to be a championship-caliber team. Clay Buchholz is prone to injury and slumps, Rick Porcello struggled mightily in his first season with Boston (4.92 ERA), 22-year-old lefty Eduardo Rodriguez carries both upside and risk, and hard-throwing righty Joe Kelly can be an enigma who isn't exactly known for his durability.
What does president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski say to fans who are worried about this issue? -- Ian Browne

While Al Avila begins his first Spring Training as the Tigers' general manager coming off one of the most active offseasons of any team in baseball, one of the questions he's likely to face will be his evaluation of the club's bullpen, which underwent a makeover with the additions of new closer Francisco Rodriguez, setup man Mark Lowe and lefty Justin Wilson.
Avila added to the bunch on Thursday by signing former Mets fireballer Bobby Parnell to a deal with a non-roster invite, and the righty's chances of grabbing one of two open spots could come up. Hard-throwing youngster Bruce Rondon faces lingering questions about his chances at redemption following a mid-September trip home and an offseason brawl in winter ball. Avila has also hinted at the possibility of carrying a prospect or two, such as top prospect Michael Fulmer or potential future closer Joe Jimenez. -- Jason Beck

For Minnesota, one of the biggest questions heading into Spring Training is about the vision of former AL MVP Award winner Joe Mauer. Mauer has seen his numbers decline offensively over the last two years and recently said he has had trouble seeing the ball during day games since he sustained a concussion in 2013. Mauer is set to try wearing sunglasses during afternoon games this spring to see if it helps.
Twins general manager Terry Ryan and manager Paul Molitor will be on hand at Grapefruit League Media Day to discuss their knowledge of Mauer's vision problems and what they expect from the three-time batting champion in 2016. -- Rhett Bollinger

The highest-profile issue that the Yanks will handle this spring concerns new closer Aroldis Chapman, who is awaiting word from Major League Baseball on whether he will face discipline following a domestic incident involving his girlfriend. Chapman allegedly fired eight gunshots into his garage during an Oct. 8 incident at the pitcher's Davie, Fla., home.
While there were no criminal charges following investigations by the Davie Police Department and the Office of the State Attorney, citing conflicting accounts and insufficient evidence, it remains to be seen how the Yankees plan to handle this sensitive issue with their fan base. The incident also has on-field implications for the club, which must prepare for the possibility that Chapman could miss a significant portion of time if suspended. -- Bryan Hoch