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Evan Grant of The Dallas Morning News writes Spring Training is broken. Grant suggests reversing the current reporting schedule of players with minor leaguers and non-roster invitees reporting at the beginning of camp and the 40-man roster showing up ten days later. Grant also proposes expanding the roster to 28 for the month of April with 25 designated as active for games. This would allow teams, Grant reasons, to carry more pitching in April, as the hurlers continue to build their durability.
In today’s news and notes from the American League:
- In a separate article, Grant reports the Rangers have informed Jamey Wright he will not make the team, but the right-hander has decided to remain in camp. “If they change their minds, I’m still here,” said Wright, who is an Article XX(B) free agent. “But, if not, I’m showcasing for all the other teams.” As an Article XX(B) free agent, the Rangers must pay Wright a $100K retention bonus, if they decide to keep him in their organization.
- Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez has an appointment with Dr. James Andrews on Wednesday increasing speculation his recent MRI results could lead to Tommy John surgery and the end to his season before it begins, according to Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal.
- Despite the uncertain status of Vazquez, the Red Sox have not engaged the Blue Jays about Dioner Navarro, tweets CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman. With Vazquez’s injury, Heyman notes the Red Sox will give prized catching propsect Blake Swihart an extended look during the final week of Spring Training.
- James Schmehl of MLive.com tweets he wouldn’t be surprised if the Tigers take a flyer on James Russell, even though the left-hander has had a terrible spring. The 29-year-old was released by the Braves Sunday morning.
- The Tigers will only go as far as their veteran stars take them, but there is some important young talent on the roster and their performance could prove pivotal as the franchise bids for its fifth straight AL Central title, opines MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince.
- Twins GM Terry Ryan did not address whether Mike Pelfrey has requested a trade in the wake of the right-hander’s comments yesterday after losing the battle for a rotation spot, tweets Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Pelfrey threw one inning of perfect relief against the Orioles today needing just eight pitches in lowering his spring ERA to 1.23.
- Ryan Madson, in camp with the Royals on a minor league contract, calls his comeback from elbow injuries “a challenge” and knows he can pitch again at the MLB level, writes MLB.com’s Barry Bloom. “If it doesn’t happen here, I will see if there’s any other interest and will go from there,” said Madson, who has a May 1st opt-out. “I mean, I came in not knowing whether I could pitch on consecutive days or three times a week, and now I’m past that. I know what I can do and I want to pitch again in the Major Leagues.“
Phil Hughes was two years away from free agency but both he and the Twins realized that they wanted to hammer out something for the long term. In December, Hughes agreed to a three-year extension that will pay him $42MM but also allow him to cash in again at the age of 32.
For both sides, the deal appeared to be a win-win. The Twins locked up Hughes following his best season to date and Hughes will get to hit the open market roughly at the same age as James Shields when he inked a four-year, $75MM deal with the Padres in February. In a pre-game scrum with the Twins’ beat writers on Monday, I asked GM Terry Ryan if the club ever pushed for a longer deal with the right-hander.
“I think that’s kind of where our comfort level was, he was signed for two and we tacked on more…In essence, I think that’s where we felt pretty comfortable in terms of his age and what he accomplished in his life and all that stuff,” Ryan said. “We were comfortable with it and so was he. At the end of the deal he’ll be  and that’s getting to an age when you start to have a bit of…concern at that point but then again, that’s how old Ervin Santana is and we signed him to a four-year deal. He’s a young guy, he’s been around for a long time. That’s what happens when you sign out of high school and move into the majors quickly.”
Meanwhile, this spring, Eduardo Escobar has presented the Twins with one of those good problems to have. Escobar’s production at the plate has made some wonder if he could force shortstop Danny Santana back to the outfield, unseating Aaron Hicks. I asked Ryan about that possibility and he seemed to downplay the chances of that happening.
“No, we’re still going with that path, there’s still competition but Santana is certainly playing well at short. Paul [Molitor] said he’d like him to be there if he plays well and to this point he has. Escobar has had a fine spring and I’ve stated this many times. It’s going to be tough to get him out of that position because he played well last year and he played well this spring,” Ryan said. “I don’t think I’m prepared right now to tell you who is going to play center and I’m not prepared to tell you who is going to play short, but Hicks is certainly in the mix and Santana is in the mix.”
Later, Escobar saw some time in the outfield in an effort to get him comfortable with playing multiple positions off the bench, as Ryan explained to MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger and other reporters after the game.
Phil Hughes was two years away from free agency, but both he and the Twins realized that they wanted to work something out for the long-term. Earlier today, the Twins announced a three-year extension that will pay him an additional $42MM, giving the right-hander a pact that will take him through the 2019 season. The deal gives Hughes job security, a healthy payday in the here and now, and also allows him the opportunity to cash in again at the age of 32. As our own Steve Adams pointed out this afternoon, Hughes is on track to hit the open market again at roughly the same age as James Shields is this winter. On a conference call earlier today, I asked Hughes about the importance of getting a deal that could allow him to land another hefty multi-year contract down the line.
“That’s the benefit of coming into the league at the age of 20, I put some service time behind me so even after this contract, I’ll be 32, 33, but that’s something for another day,” Hughes said. “I haven’t even begun to think about my next deal, this is five years away and I have a lot of things I want to accomplish. After that, we’ll see where we’re at.”
Hughes knows that he could have boosted his value even further by continuing on his previous deal, but he would have had “a little bit more of a struggle” in talking agent Nez Balelo into greenlighting an extension one year away from free agency. The 28-year-old is clearly comfortable in Minnesota and spoke glowingly of the team’s potential in the years to come. He was effusive in his praise of the roster, from promising youngsters like Danny Santana and Kennys Vargas to veterans like Ervin Santana and Torii Hunter.
“I didn’t want it to be where I came in for three years, kind of saw this team get back on the right track and then said, ‘Thanks for everything. Thanks for having faith in me, but see you later.’ I wanted to be part of this for years to come, and I believe in the process and the direction that this team is going,” said the hurler.
As GM Terry Ryan put it, the extension called for “some risk on both parties.” While Hughes passed up a chance to bet on himself and possibly earn more after the 2016 season, the Twins are making a sizable commitment to the right-hander and banking on the kind of pitching that he delivered in 2014. For his part, Hughes is confident that he will continue to excel while warming up to the idea of a veteran leadership role at such a young age.
If the Cubs land Jon Lester, an industry source tells Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter) they’re next move would be to pursue a big bat – to go along with Miguel Montero – to try and accelerate their revival. The Cubs are reportedly discussing Montero with the D’Backs in a deal that wouldn’t require them giving up much in the way of assets. More out of the Central divisions..
- The Indians kicked the tires on Justin Masterson, but were never really “all in” on bringing him back, according to Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer (via Twitter).
- Twins GM Terry Ryan says he has no interest in the Blue Jays’ president/CEO role, according to Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press (on Twitter). “[I’m] very humbled to hear [that], but I’m a GM. I’m a baseball guy,” Ryan said.
- Even though word has only recently leaked, White Sox executive Kenny Williams was contacted by the Blue Jays about their team president position shortly after the end of the season, writes Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star. Current Jays president Paul Beeston is part of the executive search process, which indicates the club isn’t going behind his back to make a change. Williams also likes the idea of being the first African American MLB CEO.
- Indians GM Chris Antonetti is comfortable with his current roster, he tells Jordan Bastian of MLB.com (Twitter). The acquisition of Brandon Moss affords the club depth and versatility. We learned earlier tonight that the club would now look to build upon its seven pitcher deep rotation. We could also see them shop Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn, or David Murphy, but I doubt they would receive much salary relief in a trade.
- Ryan went on to say that the Twins have been in serious talks with both agents and clubs about acquiring pitching, according to Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com (on Twitter).
- Cubs GM Jed Hoyer isn’t making any secret about what he wants to do this winter, tweets Jesse Rogers of ESPNChicago.com. “Clearly we want to add multiple starting pitchers this winter. We need to,” Hoyer said.
Earlier today, Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos addressed reporters in San Diego. Here’s a look at some of the highlights from that plus more..
- When asked about how much trade interest there has been in catcher Dioner Navarro, AA said: “I’ve had clubs ask, that’s probably as far as I would go with it,” according to Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com (via Twitter). The GM went on to say (link) that the Blue Jays are a “better team with Dioner Navarro…There’s no doubt about it.” While AA wouldn’t rule out trading the catcher over the weekend, he says that he won’t be going anywhere unless he gets a fair return (link).
- Anthopoulos says the Blue Jays still do not currently have any offers out to free agents, Chisholm tweets.
- There was, however, one free agent the Blue Jays wanted, but he signed elsewhere. “There was someone that signed that we really liked that we wanted to get,” the GM said, according to Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet (via Twitter). However, the Jays never got to the point where they would make an offer, AA said, because that player really wanted to play in a certain place, Chisholm tweets.
- Money may be tight for the Blue Jays, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post. After adding Russell Martin and Josh Donaldson, payroll projects to about $103MM with another $14MM via arbitration. The team spent $137MM so if money’s tight, it might mean the club’s budget has decreased.
- Twins GM Terry Ryan also crossed the Blue Jays radar in their search for a new team president. Scott Miller of Bleacher Report tweets that Ryan is “staying put” in Minnesota.
- Blue Jays skipper John Gibbons told reporters, including BN-S (via Twitter), that he wants to see a couple of relievers added to the team. He added that he likes the team’s current lineup and he isn’t sure if there’s a real second base upgrade out there.
Brad Johnson contributed to this post.
Twins GM Terry Ryan is “doing well” after his bout with throat cancer, writes MLB.com’s Barry Bloom. The 61-year-old still is experiencing various forms of discomfort, but has completed radiation and is back at full force in the Minnesota front office.
Here’s more out of the American League:
- The Tigers will not pursue Torii Hunter after inking Victor Martinez and trading for Anthony Gose, GM Dave Dombrowski told reporters today, including George Sipple of the Detroit Free Press. “I called and said it just didn’t look like it was going to fit the way the club was getting put together,” Dombrowski said. “Thanked him for everything. Absolutely love him. If something changes where we make some changes for one reason or another, that we’re not anticipating, we would still be open. It’s just probably not much of a fit right now.” Hunter indicated in an Instagram post that he still intends to play in 2015.
- The Blue Jays recently met with free agent lefty Andrew Miller, Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca reports on Twitter. Miller figures to be a highly sought-after relief weapon. Toronto has definite pen needs, as Nicholson-Smith’s colleague, Shi Davidi, told me on this week’s podcast, and as MLBTR’s Mark Polishuk wrote in previewing the club’s offseason.
- Free agent utility man Emilio Bonifacio is receiving interest from his former teams, including the Blue Jays and Royals, Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com tweets. (Cotillo also lists the Cubs as a team with possible interest.) Bonifacio should have his pick of situations given his versatility and place on the market.
- The Red Sox have promoted Mike Rikard to become the team’s scouting director, according to a tweet from Clint Longenecker, formerly of Baseball America. He replaces Amiel Sawdaye, who will be promoted to a vice president role, according to Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal (via Twitter). Longenecker himself is moving on to join the Indians, Baseball America’s John Manuel tweets.
Third baseman Trevor Plouffe suffered a fractured left forearm today, as LaVelle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune reports on Twitter. That will end the 28-year-old’s season, but not before he posted a solid .258/.326/.423 slash over 520 plate appearances. Presumably, he will return to full strength in time for the spring — after taking his second pass through the arbitration process.
Here’s the latest out of Minnesota:
- As things stand in today’s game, starter Phil Hughes has gone eight innings on 96 pitches and stands just one out away from reaching 210 innings on the year — which would trigger a third and final $500K incentive payment. But, as Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press tweets, a rain delay is now threatening to complicate Hughes’s bid to finish his excellent season with a complete game and a healthy bonus payout.
- GM Terry Ryan told reporters that he hopes to stay at the helm of the Twins next year, as ESPN.com reports. Ryan said he is doing well eight months after his cancer diagnosis, and feels physically capable of doing the job. He will sit down after the season with owner Jim Pohlad, as usual, to discuss his future. All reports have indicated that Ryan is expected to return.
- Meanwhile, manager Ron Gardenhire said today that he, too, hopes to be back in 2015, as MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger reports. “Why wouldn’t you want to be here? This is as good as it gets,” said Gardenhire. “But I’m all for whatever’s best for the organization, too.” For his part, Ryan has said that a decision on Gardenhire’s future has yet to be reached, but will be forthcoming quickly after the season ends.
- The Twins have a talented group of young Latin American players, but lack Spanish-speaking coaches to serve as mentors, writes Patrick Reusse of the Star Tribune. As the flow of Latin talent to the club’s MLB roster increases, says Reusse, it is incumbent upon Minnesota’s leadership to create an environment that will get the most out of those players.
Twins GM Terry Ryan discussed a number of topics with 1500ESPN.com's Darren Wolfson on Wednesday, including the following hot stove-related items…
- The Twins have a protected first round draft pick but Ryan said he'd be comfortable in surrendering the club's second round selection to sign a free agent who had declined a qualifying offer, provided that he felt the free agent was a good fit.
- Likewise, if the Twins identify a player on the trade market that would upgrade their club and could be had at the right price, Ryan would be open to dealing prospects to make a big splash like the Royals did last offseason to acquire James Shields. "If you find some of that pitching, it makes you look a lot better in a hurry. So, you'd have to give it some consideration. But it'd have to make a lot of sense. No doubt," Ryan said.
- Ryan has "flexibility with payroll" and isn't afraid to spend on a player his front office thinks is the right guy. "We have people who put their neck out and are committed to whoever the player is or the pitcher is, you move forward. If it costs you some money, we go to where we're comfortable," Ryan said.
- Trevor Plouffe will be tendered a contract, Ryan confirmed. He declined to comment on Anthony Swarzak or Brian Duensing (both of whom are also eligible for arbitration), but Wolfson reports that "league sources are convinced" that both pitchers will be tendered contracts.
- There is "probably not" any chance of the Twins re-signing Mike Pelfrey before he hits the free agent market, as Ryan suggested Pelfrey and agent Scott Boras will want to test the market. Pelfrey returned from Tommy John surgery in 2012 to throw 152 2/3 innings for the Twins last season and he posted a 5.19 ERA that peripherals stats indicated should've been lower. Pelfrey has said he would be interested in returning to Minnesota and MLBTR's Steve Adams suggests Pelfrey could be had on another one-year contract.
In a wide-ranging interview with 1500ESPN.com's Darren Wolfson, Twins GM Terry Ryan talked about a team that is currently "going in the wrong direction." Here are some of the most notable points covered:
- At the halfway point, Ryan acknowledged that his team is "struggling." Ryan declined to place the blame at the feet of manager Ron Gardenhire, saying that "I just now need to get him players he can succeed with." Ryan said that he "take[s] the responsibility" for the team's record. "I put this roster together. I've told Gardy to do the best he can. I understand that I don't have a perfect roster here."
- When asked whether the team's deal with Dominican outfielder Lewin Diaz was Minnesota's big international deal, Ryan said no. The team "still ha[s] dollars left" and is "still pursuing other guys."
- Ryan indicated that he is impressed with top prospect Byron Buxton for more reasons than his incredible tools and statistics. "He's done a good job and he's made up right," said Ryan, referring to Buxton. "He's a good teammate. He's approachable. There's a lot of humbleness in him. He was raised right by his parents."
- Discussing trades, Ryan says that the general manager is "not going to win no matter what you do," though he insists that he is not bothered by criticism. Several moves that the Twins have faced questions over include not trading Josh Willingham before last year's trade deadline ("If I had traded him, I would've been hammered. Not trading him, I'll get hammered.") and shipping out center fielders Denard Span and Ben Revere this past offseason ("We made a bold move. We need pitching. People were comfortable with Benny and Denard.").
- One Ryan decision that has received criticism was the two-year, $10MM deal given starter Kevin Correia. With Correia pitching well enough to be a trade target, Ryan says he "never thought it was the wrong decision" because "our people were adamant that he'd be okay. … We got him for what we thought was right. He has fit in here. He's given us what we thought he could do."
- Looking at this year's trade deadline, Ryan acknowledged that the team's current 10-game road "will be a good indicator whether we're a team that will be competitive." Minnesota kicked things off with a dispiriting 4-0 loss to Mark Buehrle and the Blue Jays last night, and is expected to be a seller.
White Sox outfielder Casper Wells was perhaps the most successful pitcher yesterday for Chicago. The interesting backstory can be read here. The Sox gave up two ballgames in incredible fashion to the division rival Indians. Let's take a quick look at the Tribe, along with their American League Central foes from Minnesota:
- Looking ahead for the Indians, Sheldon Ocker of the Akron Beacon Journal wonders whether this could be the last season that Carlos Santana toils behind the dish. With a Yan Gomes/Lou Marson tandem potentially capable of holding down the catching role, and Santana's offensive gifts outpacing his defensive development, Ocker says that Santana makes more sense as a first baseman/designated hitter going forward.
- Of more immediate concern, Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer writes that Cleveland's seeming rotation depth has suddenly dissolved. In his view, GM Chris Antonetti should be aggressive in looking to bolster the starting staff in advance of the trade deadline. Of course, the Indians would join a growing list of clubs looking to add starters from a relatively sparse pool of potentially available candidates.
- The Twins haven't ruled out a September call-up for top prospect Miguel Sano this season, according to Phil Mackey of 1500ESPN.com. "I guess we'll let him dictate that," GM Terry Ryan said. "And certainly it'll be a little bit of a situation of what's going on with the major league team as well." Sano's trademark power has been evident this season, despite a .236 batting average in 17 Double-A games, and Ryan is also impressed with the third baseman's work on the defensive side of the ball. "His defense is better than his offense down there [at Double-A] to this point, which is good. I think anybody that's seen him realizes he's going to hit, and certainly in time I think he'll catch up with Double-A pitching."
- Meanwhile, Ryan is keeping quiet on the team's plans in the pre-trade deadline period. As MLB.com's Kelly Erickson reports, the veteran GM says he has not even determined that the team will sell since Minnesota sits just seven games out of first. "People get a little jumpy at this time of year," says Ryan.
Aaron Steen contributed to this post.