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Michael Saunders‘ recovery from a torn meniscus is “kind of a miracle,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons told reporters, including Mark Zwolinski of the Toronto Star. Saunders is already back to baseball activities in camp less than two weeks after deciding to have the injured cartilage removed completely. It was originally thought that the injury would sideline Saunders for the first half of the season, but he now has a shot at the Opening Day lineup and, at worst, should be back on the field by mid-April. Here’s some more from around the AL East…
- Orioles right-hander Darren O’Day said the club has yet to discuss a new contract with him, MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko reports. While O’Day said he’d enjoy staying in Baltimore, he also noted that team will have a lot of other business to handle, as O’Day is one of 11 Orioles who will be free agents after the season.
- “Pitching and defense is how we build this team and it’s going to be the way we continue to succeed,” Rays GM Matt Silverman told Steve Phillips and Todd Hollandsworth of MLB Network Radio interview (audio link), though Silverman also believes the lineup is “much more balanced…and much more formidable 1-through-9.” This balance, Silverman feels, will help Tampa string together more big innings and have more luck scoring runs. “A lot of it [the scoring problems] had to do with situational stuff and things that not necessarily were flukish, but things that we thought would revert back to the mean. We put a lot of guys on base, we just didn’t get them home,” Silverman said.
- Phillips and Hollandsworth also interviewed Evan Longoria during their visit to the Rays‘ camp (audio link), and the third baseman said that he’s hoping to finish his career in a Tampa Bay uniform. Longoria’s contract with the club runs through 2022, which would be his age-36 season, plus the Rays have a club option on his services for 2023. While Longoria expressed his desire to be a one-franchise guy, he did hint that this would be contingent on the Rays continuing to be a winner. “From the beginning, I really wanted to be one of…those rare guys who get to spend their whole career in one place,” Longoria said. “I’ve been lucky enough to be on good teams and that’s really what makes guys want to stay places….For as long as that’s happening, I’m happy being here.”
- Estimates on how long Chris Capuano will be sidelined with his strained right quad range from “at least the first week or two of the season” (as the southpaw told MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch) to all of April. Yankees manager Joe Girardi told reporters, including ESPN New York’s Andrew Marchand that Capuano “is not going to do anything, at least for a couple of weeks. Nothing. The problem is we are so early in the process, you are almost going to have to start over.”
- As has been reported, Chris Young‘s contract with the Royals has a $675K base and can reach $6MM via incentives. Per Heyman, Young has $1MM available in roster bonuses, $2.25MM available for games started (capping at 29 starts) and $2.075MM available for total innings pitched (which run up to 140 innings).
- Everth Cabrera‘s deal with the Orioles, which pays him $2.4MM and can reach $3MM in total, awards him $75K for reaching each of 250, 300, 350, 400, 425, 450, 475 and 500 plate appearances, according to Heyman.
- Dustin McGowan signed a Major League deal with the Dodgers that guarantees him just the MLB minimum ($507.5K), but per Heyman, he’ll receive a $1MM roster bonus for spending as little as one day on the active roster. As was previously reported, he can earn $1.5MM worth of incentives via appearances and innings pitched, maxing out at 60 appearances and 60 innings.
Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy spoke with MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko about the extension he signed last October, explaining that he told agent Mike Seal he enjoyed Baltimore and wanted to remain there due to the club’s winning ways. Wondering where he was going to play the 2015 season did weigh on him throughout the season, Hardy said, and he was happy to agree to terms on a deal to keep him with the O’s. However, Hardy also discussed the departure of Nick Markakis, noting that the move didn’t necessarily sit well with him or franchise cornerstone Adam Jones. “Adam and I have both thought about that,” Hardy told Kubatko. “I know Adam thinks about it a lot. I mean, losing Nick was big. He was one of the guys out there every single day with us. Obviously, we want to win and the reason we signed our extensions is because we like it here and we like the guys who were around, so if everyone starts leaving, I don’t know.” Hardy said he hasn’t voiced any concerns to executive vice president/general manager Dan Duquette or manager Buck Showalter and that, when signing, he trusted that the Orioles would do everything possible to keep their players. Hardy also discussed teammates Matt Wieters and Chris Davis, pointing out that each has Scott Boras as an agent. “[Boras] kind of does a lot more decision-making,” Hardy said, adding that he hopes to see both Wieters and Davis stay in Baltimore.
More from the AL East…
- The Yankees announced that Hideki Matsui has been hired as a special adviser to GM Brian Cashman. Per ESPNNewYork.com’s Andrew Marchand, Matsui will work closely with Cashman and vice president of player development Gary Denbo, and he’ll spend much of the 2015 season visiting minor league affiliates to work with their managers, coaches and players, focusing on aspects of hitting.
- Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News spoke to Cashman about why the Yankees re-signed Stephen Drew. The GM explained that the team believes Drew’s rapid offensive deterioration in 2014 to be an aberration, and there’s little concern about the defensive en of the equation despite a change of positions. Andrew Miller, newly signed with the Yankees but a teammate of Drew’s last year in Boston, also weighed in with Feinsand, stating that he doesn’t envy the situation Drew entered in 2014. “Missing spring training and trying to come in with that weight on your shoulders, for it to be such a big story, have a team act so excited to see him, it was a little unfair to him,” Miller explained. “I can’t imagine missing that time and then trying to go to game speed.” Drew himself adds that the missed time hurt him quite a bit, and he’s pleased to be getting reps on schedule this year with the rest of the league.
- The Phillies scouted both the Yankees and Red Sox today, via Jon Morosi of FOX Sports and Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe (Twitter links). Of course, having a senior scout in attendance doesn’t necessarily indicate that anything eventful is on the horizon in terms of trade activity, as scouts are frequently watching multiple teams over the course of Spring Training. Still, Abraham notes that the Phils have taken quite a few looks at Boston third base prospect Garin Cecchini.
There is a silver lining to the Yu Darvish injury for the Rangers, as Dave Cameron of Fangraphs writes. In short, if Darvish undergoes a UCL replacement, he will be nearly certain not to trigger any of the award-based opt-out provisions in his contract. Thus, while Texas would lose his services for 2015, they would in all likelihood gain him for 2017 — when, it might be hoped, the team will be in better shape for contention.
We have already seen significant injury news relating to four other pitchers today, and that’s not all:
- The Braves got a positive update on starter Mike Minor as Dr. James Andrews concurred with club orthopedist Javier Duralde that an MRI showed no structural issues with Minor’s left shoulder, as David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. Minor will nevertheless sit out at least two weeks to rest his arm, and president of baseball operations John Hart says that the team will likely turn to internal options to fill in.
- Andrews will take a look at another arm tomorrow when Tim Collins of the Royals checks in, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star tweets. An MRI has already showed ligament damage to his left elbow. The final determination of whether he’ll undergo Tommy John surgery could have fairly significant ramifications for the club not only this year but into the future, as youngster Brandon Finnegan could be pressed back into relief duty.
- Another club with a possible LOOGY issue is the Mets, whose top southpaw reliever Josh Edgin will undergo an MRI after experiencing a velocity drop and elbow soreness, as The Record’s Matt Ehalt reports. Missed time from Edgin would figure to pose difficulties given the team’s relative dearth of southpaw depth. As Ehalt explains, Scott Rice is in on a minor league deal and provides an option, while Rule 5 pick Sean Gilmartin is joined by fellow youngsters Jack Leathersich and Dario Alvarez on the 40-man roster.
- Jacob Turner of the Cubs has been shut down with a flexor strain and bone bruise in his right elbow, as ESPNChicago.com’s Jesse Rogers tweets. The out-of-options Turner was probably destined for the Chicago ‘pen after the club claimed him off waivers late last year and picked up his $1MM option for 2015. It would appear that a DL stint will likely be in the cards for the start of the year, which in some ways gives the team more flexibility to give Turner a chance to start during a rehab period.
- Orioles backstop Matt Wieters is just one week away from getting back behind the dish for a spring game, as Rich Dubroff of CSNBaltimore.com reports. Nearing a full return from Tommy John surgery, Wieters has already advanced to throwing to second at as much as 80% in practice. Given the rehab process he has just endured, the free agent-to-be says that his next contract is not where his focus is at present, as Peter Schmuck of the Baltimore Sun writes.
Let’s take a look at the latest out of Baltimore:
- The Orioles are “keeping an eye” on Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard, Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com reports. Baltimore is one of nine teams as to which Howard does not enjoy no-trade protection. The Orioles’ level of interest is far from clear, of course, especially since there is no indication that the team has seriously pursued Howard to this point.
- One player whose present and future would presumably weigh on the addition of someone with Howard’s profile is slugger Chris Davis, who is entering his final year of team control (along with ten other current Orioles). As Peter Schmuck of the Baltimore Sun reports, Davis is keeping a close eye on how Baltimore proceeds in considering his future. You’ll want to give this piece a full read, as it has several interesting quotes from Davis, who expressed how much he likes playing for the O’s while also making clear that he thinks the team will need to make new investments to keep pace in the AL East.
- Baltimore has obviously achieved significant value from its lower-profile acquisitions in recent years, with Davis himself being perhaps the prime example. One player who has been a surprising contributor is backstop Caleb Joseph, as Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun writes. Before breaking in at the big league level last year, the 28-year-old spent every offseason as a wage laborer. Joseph is not alone in that, of course, and Encina discusses the hard work put in by several other Orioles in an interesting look at that side of the game.
Drew Smyly has been slowed by shoulder tendinitis this spring and may not be ready for the start of the regular season, but Rays manager Kevin Cash isn’t about to panic, Roger Mooney of The Tampa Tribune writes. Meanwhile, Nathan Karns, Burch Smith and Matt Andriese, who began camp competing for the fifth spot in the rotation, could be pitching for a second spot, if Smyly isn’t ready.
Here’s more from the AL East:
- Orioles GM Dan Duquette sent his best starting pitching prospect, left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez, to the Red Sox in order to land Andrew Miller last season. If he had his druthers, that’s not neccessarily the deal he would have made, Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald writes. “I offered about 50 other pitchers before him,” said Duquette. “It was required that we give up Rodriguez for Andrew Miller. We had to take a shot.” O’s manager Buck Showalter thought the deal was worth it for both teams, but Silverman wonders if Rodriguez could prove to be the next great ace in Boston.
- CC Sabathia threw live batting practice this morning and remains on track in his recovery from right knee surgery, reports MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch. “I haven’t had a setback and I’ve been feeling so good,” Sabathia said. “I’ve been able to participate in every drill and haven’t had where I’ve needed a day [off]. I feel good about how we’re going and the pace that we’re moving at.” The Yankees left-hander could make his Grapefruit League debut next week, if an upcoming two-inning simulated game goes well.
- The Red Sox‘s decision to play Hanley Ramirez in left field is the biggest gamble a team is taking on a position switch, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post.
- The AL East is wide open for the taking by any of the five teams, not because of its strength but because of its mediocrity, opines CSNNE.com’s Sean McAdam. “I never thought I’d say this,” one talent evaluator told McAdam, “but you could make the case that the AL East is the thinnest division in the game.“
A number of Orioles players worked temporary jobs in the offseason when they were minor-leaguers, Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun writes. Caleb Joseph rode a scooter to deliver packages for UPS, Darren O’Day worked as a bouncer (wearing five T-shirts one on top of the other to look more intimidating, he says), and Miguel Gonzalez worked early mornings in a grocery store stocking shelves. Minor-league salaries are, for the most part, very low. “We could always order fast food because fast-food restaurants would be the only thing open after the game and guys would stand by the cash register and ask for your change,” O’Day says of some of his old teammates in the Angels system. “You’d give them two dimes and a nickel, whatever you got back, and after we all ordered, they would go to the back of the line and order whatever they could with the change. You don’t make a lot of money.” Here are more notes from the East divisions.
- The Mets are gambling on Wilmer Flores, who played no shortstop at all in the minors in 2012 or 2013, as their starting shortstop next year, and they aren’t the only team hoping a position change works out, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. Across town, the Yankees are hoping Stephen Drew works out at second base. In Boston, Hanley Ramirez is trying his hand at the outfield, although he could eventually wind up at designated hitter when David Ortiz departs.
- The Red Sox still aren’t quite sure what they have in outfielder Rusney Castillo, but the early returns are promising, and Castillo himself is trying to look forward despite the twisting path he took to the big leagues, WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford writes. “Obviously, it goes without saying that leaving family behind is very difficult,” says Castillo. “But once I made the decision, at least for me personally, I didn’t look back. No regrets. It was easy for me to turn the page.” The Red Sox signed Castillo last August after he defected from Cuba the previous November, and he made his way to the Majors by the end of the season. Now, though, as he deals with an oblique strain, he says he isn’t worried about whether the Red Sox have him start the season in the big leagues or in the minors. “If that’s what it’s got to be, that’s what it’s got to be. I’m just worrying playing and continuing to get reps and reps wherever they may come,” he says.
It may seem early, but there is less than a month before teams will need to set their final rosters for the start of the season. We often hear about players with opportunities to win jobs, and that is never more true than in the cases of Rule 5 picks, whose new teams have a unique incentive to keep them to start the year. Last year, for instance, three teams kept players on the roster all year and earned their rights going forward: the White Sox (Adrian Nieto), Rockies (Tommy Kahnle), and Brewers (Wei-Chung Wang). Click here for complete 2014 results.
With that in mind, let’s see how things are shaping up for some of this year’s selections:
- First overall choice Oscar Hernandez still appears to be on track to get a chance as the Diamondbacks‘ backup, as MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert reports. “There are some things to work out,” said manager Chip Hale. “We’re up for the challenge and I think he is, too.”
- Slugger Mark Canha started out ahead of Nate Freiman in the competition for a roster spot given his Rule 5 status, manager Bob Melvin told Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle recently (Twitter link). An unfortunate back injury to Freiman only increases Canha’s edge, as MLB.com’s Jane Lee reports. (It probably does not hurt, either, that Canha is off to a four-for-six start at the plate.)
- Righty Jason Garcia has impressed the Orioles thus far with a smooth delivery and easy velocity, as MLB.com’s Adam Berry recently reported. Hall of Fame journalist Peter Gammons tweets that the preliminary word is that the O’s are looking for ways to fit him on the roster.
- Right-hander J.R. Graham is making an impression with the Twins, as Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com reports. Graham worked consistently up to 96 mph in two scoreless innings in his first outing, though he did struggle with command in his first frame. “I’m sure he was a little amped up being a Rule 5 guy,” said skipper Paul Molitor. “But he’s got some velocity. It was good to see him get through two clean innings.”
- An early look at right-hander Jandel Gustave and his high-octane stuff had the Royals contemplating an eight-man pen to fit him on the roster, as MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan reported a few weeks back. Gustave has a history of command issues, however, and was roughed up pretty badly in his first outing — though he allowed only one baserunner in his most recent chance.
- The Phillies have two Rule 5 picks in converted outfielder Odubel Herrera and lefty Andy Oliver, and Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com recently looked at both players. Herrera is already showing off his tools and would create some valuable flexibility for the team now and in the future, Bill Baer of Crashburn Alley explains.
- Marlins manager Mike Redmond was among those impressed with the first live action from lefty Andrew McKirahan, as Juan Rodriguez of the Sun-Sentinel writes. McKirahan’s odds increased when the Fish failed to land Phil Coke, though it still seems he’ll have to overcome out-of-options lefty Brad Hand to join Mike Dunn in the bullpen.
- Mets skipper Terry Collins has indicated that prospect Rafael Montero is a long-shot to be added to the pen if fellow starter Dillon Gee ends up there, as MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo tweets. DiComo noted then that, should Gee in fact work in relief — which seems rather likely — Rule 5 pick Sean Gilmartin would appear to have an inside track to a pen slot.
- This is not an update, but more a reminder. Braves‘ selection Daniel Winkler is coming off of Tommy John surgery and therefore has quite a unique situation, as J.J. Cooper of Baseball America explains.
Rusney Castillo‘s strained oblique may cause him to miss a bit of Spring Training time, yet the injury isn’t considered to be particularly serious. Still, WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford posits that this setback might convince the Red Sox to give Castillo some extra minor league preparation time at the start of the season and give the center field job to Mookie Betts. Castillo told Bradford that he would be open to being in the minors if the team felt it necessary, and his long-term contract makes him secure about his role in Boston’s plans. “Of course there is a degree of comfort in that that I’m going be here for a while,” Castillo said. “At the same time, if you don’t want to be in the minor leagues ramp it up and work harder to not be there.”
Here’s some more from around the AL East…
- Orioles executive VP Dan Duquette spoke to reporters (including MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko) about the team’s release of Suk-min Yoon earlier today and Yoon’s subsequent return to the KBO’s Kia Tigers. Duquette confirmed that Yoon gave up the $4.15MM still owed to him under the Orioles contract in order to make the deal happen. “The good part of this is that this didn’t work, but we were able to correct the mistake, if you will, and we have that money available to invest in other players,” Duquette said.
- After a tumultuous year that has included Tommy John surgery, being drafted by the Blue Jays and then mentioned in trade rumors to acquire Duquette as Toronto’s new team president, Jeff Hoffman tells Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi that he is looking forward to just “putting on a uniform again” once he’s finished his rehab work. Hoffman provides a progress report on his recovery from his surgery last May.
- After years of struggling to find reliable left-handed relievers, the Yankees look to have solved the problem with Andrew Miller, Chasen Shreve and Justin Wilson all in the fold, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. Ironically, this comes at a time when there are only a few standout left-handed hitters amongst the Yankees’ AL East rivals, Sherman notes.