[March 20, 2014]
(The Sports Xchange) — Major League
Baseball player notes:
Baltimore Orioles: Schoop, Jonathan
INF Jonathan Schoop was expected to begin 2014 at Triple-A
Norfolk and get regular playing time to dust off any rust following
an injury-plagued 2013. However, the versatile infielder is playing
his way into the club's immediate plans. And with the uncertainty
surrounding 3B Manny Machado's knee and his availability for early
April unclear, Schoop may land a starting job with the Orioles. A
shortstop by trade, Schoop's future in Baltimore is likely at second
base. He has played some shortstop in spring training, but if he
were to make the Opening Day roster, it would be at second base,
with Ryan Flaherty shifting to third base to fill in until Machado
returns. Upon Machado's return, the Orioles could return Schoop to
the minors, or use Flaherty in a super utility role, having him
sharing time with Schoop at second base.
Baltimore Orioles: Tillman, Chris
RHP Chris Tillman will start Opening Day for the Orioles, manager
Buck Showalter announced. Tillman becomes the fifth Opening Day
starter in as many years, and he earned the start with his growth
over the past two seasons. After an inconsistent start to 2012,
Tillman grew by leaps and bounds by 2013, becoming the Orioles' top
starter and earning an All-Star nod last July.
Baltimore Orioles: Lough, David
OF David Lough battled stiffness in his neck and concussion symptoms
and was shut down for a stretch. The likely regular left fielder was
sent to see a neurologist and was battling some related dizziness.
He was impressing club officials and his teammates in games. If he
is unable to start the regular season, a group of players is in camp
to take the playing time.
Boston Red Sox: Sizemore, Grady
OF Grady Sizemore continues to make a compelling case for being
named the Red Sox's Opening Day center fielder, although a decision
likely won't be rendered until the final days of spring training.
The biggest issue: Can the Sox rely on him to play every day after
he missed the past two seasons with various injuries, including
microfracture surgery on both knees. Even Sizemore can't make any
Sizemore was holding up well this spring, exhibiting no signs of
being limited and even flashing the skills that once made him the
league's most dynamic center fielder. On March 17, for instance, he
notched a double and two singles and made two spectacular catches.
Sizemore is competing with rookie CF Jackie Bradley Jr., and with
the Sox already slated to have a platoon in left field with Jonny
Gomes and Daniel Nava, there isn't a place on the roster for both
Sizemore and Bradley unless a trade is made.
Boston Red Sox: Peavy, Jake
RHP Jake Peavy missed a few days earlier in spring training after
accidently splitting his left index finger with a fishing knife.
Lately, though, he was focused on a different kind of split-finger.
Peavy unveiled a new split-fingered fastball this spring, a pitch
that he says was inspired by RHP Koji Uehara, who helped him develop
the grip. Uehara's split was effective enough last season that he
was as dominant as any closer in history. "It's not going to be Koji
Uehara's split-finger, don't get me wrong, by any means," Peavy
said. "Why would you not try to see if you can expand your game?
It's something I felt like we're going to use a good bit and have as
a weapon." Peavy is slated to start the Red Sox's fourth game of the
season, the home opener April 4 against the Milwaukee Brewers.
Boston Red Sox: Ross, David
C David Ross will play more often than the usual backup catcher,
according to Red Sox manager John Farrell, who values the veteran's
ability to frame pitches, call a game and communicate well with
pitchers. Over the past five seasons, Ross leads the majors with a
3.29 catcher's ERA, and last October, he took over as the starter,
supplanting Jarrod Saltalamacchia midway through the World Series.
Still, barring injury, it is unlikely Ross will find his name in the
lineup more than a few times a week, especially with primary C A.J.
Pierzynski having played more games behind the plate than any active
major league catcher (1,678). Ross understands his role, having
spent most of his career playing second fiddle. "I've been a backup
before," Ross said. "I know how to give way to the starter."
Boston Red Sox: Doubront, Felix
LHP Felix Doubront was cruising through spring training, at least
until a March 18 beating by the Yankees. Doubront allowed seven
earned runs on 10 hits and three walks in 3 2/3 innings, struggling
with his release point and command. "He probably didn't have as much
finish to his pitches as we've seen in his first couple of outings,"
manager John Farrell said. "Quite possibly, we're into that part of
camp where he's battling through a little bit of a dead arm which is
completely normal and expected. But we got him up to 80 pitches,
which is in line for the progression we're trying to get him to."
Doubront is slated to start the third game of the season, April 3 in
Boston Red Sox: Middlebrooks, Will
3B Will Middlebrooks remains in the Red Sox's plans despite his
disappointing 2013 season. The team wasn't aggressive in trying to
re-sign Stephen Drew, leaving Xander Bogaerts as the shortstop and
Middlebrooks as the projected Opening Day third baseman. And Farrell
continues to express confidence in Middlebrooks, even though the
25-year-old's defense has been shaky at times throughout spring
"I talked to Pedey (second baseman Dustin Pedroia), all these guys
in here and they said, 'We've all been through it, we've all
struggled,'" said Middlebrooks, who recently dealt with a
hyperextended right middle finger that wasn't expected to keep him
from being ready for the season. "At this level, it's going to
happen at one point or another."
New York Yankees: Ellsbury, Jacoby
OF Jacoby Ellsbury, the Yankees' new $155 million center fielder,
was injury-prone throughout his career with the Red Sox. Thus, he
took no chances when he felt a right calf strain during camp,
sitting out a second straight Grapefruit League game March 18
against his former Boston teammates. He wasn't expected to play
until March 21 at the earliest. "Just something I want 100 percent
before I step on the field," Ellsbury said. "It's not one of those
things where I try it on the field and see how it is. I'll know when
I'm on that field that it's already 100 percent."
Baltimore Orioles: Britton, Zach
LHP Zach Britton was impressive on the mound in his attempt to win a
25-man roster spot, but he was not resting on his arm. Britton
offered to make a spring road trip recently to serve as a designated
hitter. Britton, who has a home run on his big league record as a
hitter, is one of the better hitters among the Baltimore pitchers.
Baltimore Orioles: Matusz, Brian
LHP Brian Matusz continued to work long innings as if he is a
starter, and his performance was solid. The former top prospect
struggled as a starter in 2011 and 2012, and he was moved to the
bullpen, where he thrived late in 2012 and again in 2013. Matusz,
who threw 60 pitches in five innings March 18, could strike the
interest of clubs in need of an affordable young starter with
upside. Otherwise, he is likely headed back to the bullpen where he
would be the club's top lefty in relief.
Baltimore Orioles: Peguero, Francisco
OF Francisco Peguero is likely to open the season on the disabled
list, having been shut down due to a strained right wrist. Peguero
would have needed to impress to make the 25-man roster, as it was in
a tight outfield competition and he is out of options. Through six
spring games, he was 4-for-15.
Baltimore Orioles: Escalona, Edgmer
RHP Edgmer Escalona might open the regular season on the disabled
list after being shut down due to shoulder inflammation. Escalona is
out of options and likely won't throw until the end of March.
New York Yankees: Pineda, Michael
RHP Michael Pineda emerged as the clear front-runner for the
Yankees' No. 5 starting job with an impressive spring after missing
the past two seasons following right shoulder surgery. The
25-year-old, acquired from Seattle in 2012, allowed no runs and
struck out five in 4 1/3 innings (60 pitches) in a March 18 start
against Boston. He tossed nine scoreless innings in his first three
outings. "It doesn't look like a guy that's coming back from a
serious injury," manager Joe Girardi said. "I think he's getting
stronger when he goes out. I think his command was better today — a
lot better than the other day. Another good step for him."
New York Yankees: Sabathia, CC
LHP CC Sabathia had to go all the way to Panama to rediscover his
mojo after an alarming start this spring. He tossed five no-hit
innings against Miami on March 16 in the second game of the Yankees'
visit to retired closer Mariano Rivera's native country. Sabathia,
who admitted that he "sucked" in his previous outing, retired 15 of
the 16 Marlins he faced. "As critical as I was of myself last time,
I don't want to get too excited about pitching well," Sabathia said.
"It is still spring training and I'm still working on stuff. I was
just frustrated last week. This feels good, to go out and put this
behind me. I have two starts left. I'll be ready for April 1."
Toronto Blue Jays: Hutchison, Drew
RHP Drew Hutchison came to spring training as a candidate for the
fifth spot in the Toronto Blue Jays' rotation.
He will leave as the No. 2 starter, barring the unforeseen in the
final days of camp.
Hutchison earned the spot by the way he pitched. Now that he is
fully recovered from Tommy John surgery that cut short a promising
start to the 2012 season, the 23-year-old is showing why the Blue
Jays liked his potential.
Hutchison's performance enabled the Jays to drop the struggling
Brandon Morrow into the fifth spot in the rotation. That will give
the presumptive No. 2 starter one more spring training start to
prepare for his first start of the season April 4, the home opener
against the New York Yankees.
Baltimore Orioles: Yoon, Suk-min
RHP Suk-min Yoon was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk and likely will
open the season in the Tides' rotation. He didn't obtain a work visa
until mid-March, and after the signing of RHP Ubaldo Jiminez, the
likelihood that Yoon would break camp with the Orioles decreased
Baltimore Orioles: Clevenger, Steve
C Steve Clevenger has the inside track on the backup catcher's role.
C Johnny Monell was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk, opening
Clevenger's path as the clear-cut favorite for the job, barring an
Baltimore Orioles: Wieters, Matt
C Matt Wieters (sprained right ankle) was hurt March 11, and he
finally returned to Grapefruit League action March 19. He was
batting .316 through seven spring games.
Toronto Blue Jays: Morrow, Brandon
RHP Brandon Morrow, who was presumed to be the No. 2 starter in the
rotation when spring training opened, was dropped to No. 5, which
means he will start the home opener against the New York Yankees on
April 4. Morrow's schedule was adjusted due to the change, and he
threw 3 2/3 innings (63 pitches) in a minor league game March 18,
allowing four hits, two runs and two walks while striking out two.
Morrow was limited to 10 starts last season because of an entrapped
radial nerve. The move allows Morrow one more spring start to
prepare for the season, but that was only one reason for the
decision. The other was performance. He was not particularly sharp
in his first outings of spring training, while RHP Drew Hutchison
was probably the team's best starter during that time.
Toronto Blue Jays: Bautista, Jose
RF Jose Bautista hit two home runs and drove in four runs March 19
in Toronto's 11-6 win over the Philadelphia Phillies. The 2-for-4
outing boosted his batting average to .361 and gave him five home
runs and 11 RBIs. Bautista's health is important to the Blue Jays.
His 2013 season was cut short by a hip injury, and a wrist injury
ended his 2012 season prematurely.
Toronto Blue Jays: Cabrera, Melky
LF Melky Cabrera, who was hampered last season by a non-malignant
tumor in his spine, is enjoying a strong spring training, both in
the outfield and at the plate. He made some running catches that
were out of the question last year. He went 3-for-3 against the
Detroit Tigers on March 18 in an 18-4 loss, then went 2-for-2 with
two RBIs on March 19 in an 11-6 win over the Philadelphia Phillies
to give him a .422 spring average with eight RBIs. Cabrera fouled a
ball off the area of his right ankle before hitting a single in his
second at-bat March 19 and was replaced by a pinch runner. Cabrera
said he was fine. Manager John Gibbons said removing Cabrera was
just a precaution.
LHP Ricky Romero saw his chances of returning to the rotation end
after he allowed the Detroit Tigers three runs, five walks and three
hits in 2 2/3 innings on March 18. The Blue Jays lost the game 18-4.
In his three previous games, he had a 1.29 ERA. Romero, who spent
most of the 2013 season in the minors and was in camp as a
non-roster player, was reassigned to the minor league camp March 19.
"We feel for the guy," manager John Gibbons said. "It's not just
looking at results. As much work as the kid's putting in, things
like that — the battles he's going through, mentally — you root
for him. You root for him extra hard. But we're encouraged. We're
positive after this camp. He may look at it differently, but we feel
positive with what he accomplished this spring."
Blue Jays: Jenkins, Chad
RHP Chad Jenkins was optioned to Triple-A Buffalo, but it is likely
he and his sinker will return to the majors sometime this season. He
did well in his stints with Toronto the past two seasons, and he did
nothing to hurt his chances during spring training. He has an
unusual grip on his sinker in that his fingers don't touch a seam.
The result is what is called a "dry spitter" because of the movement
that is created. "It doesn't look flashy," Jenkins said. "Nobody
gets excited when I come in to pitch. I don't hit 95 (mph), but I've
learned how to control the sinker, and my action gets a little
better and better all the time."
"He doesn't get the credit he deserves," manager John Gibbons said.
"But he's going to pitch in the big leagues for a long time, I
believe. He's got that go-to pitch, it's a ground-ball pitch. It's a
reliable pitch, it's in the zone and it's got late life."
Toronto Blue Jays: Wagner, Neil
RHP Neil Wagner had options left, so that meant he received an early
demotion during spring training because there are others in a
stacked bullpen who were out of options. He is likely to see major
league action before long after proving he belonged following a
call-up from Triple-A Buffalo last season. "I know I belong at this
level whether it's to start the season here or not," Wagner said
before he was assigned to Buffalo. "It's a tough bullpen to crack."
Added manager John Gibbons: "He deserves to be pitching in the big
leagues. The way we're set up now, we've got a few guys that are out
of options, really good pitchers. Sometimes having an option works
Toronto Blue Jays: Goins, Ryan
2B Ryan Goins looked fine defensively playing both second base and
shortstop during spring training, but his hitting was lacking. He
broke out March 19 with a 3-for-4 game, including a triple and an
RBI against the Philadelphia Phillies. In the process, he boosted
his spring batting average to .209. "He needed that," manager John
Gibbons said. "He hadn't gotten a lot of hits, but he had hit some
Toronto Blue Jays: McGowan, Dustin
RHP Dustin McGowan, who missed a scheduled start when he came down
with a flu virus, returned to action March 13. He threw two shutout
innings against the Astros, lowering his spring ERA to 6.75.
Tampa Bay Rays: Balfour, Grant
RHP Grant Balfour said he pretty much needs the adrenaline of the
regular season atmosphere to get his velocity up to his usual
standards. The closer was clocked at 90-91 mph during his March 19
minor league outing, consistent with his work earlier in the spring.
In past years, he said he starts the season topping out at around 94
mph. "Nothing against being out here, but it is tough to get the
adrenaline going," he said. "With all the emotion, it'll kick into
gear in another 10 days and I'll be right around there."
Tampa Bay Rays: Oviedo, Juan Carlos
RHP Juan Carlos Oviedo is expected to play a key role in the bullpen
but is now "probably a longshot" to be on the opening day roster
after not reporting until March 15 due to a visa delay, according to
manager Joe Maddon. Oviedo had been throwing, but the Rays are
moving cautiously since he has not pitched in the majors since
September 2011 and is coming back from Tommy John elbow surgery. He
likely will not pitch in an exhibition until March 22.
Tampa Bay Rays: Moore, Matt
LHP Matt Moore is having another inconsistent spring, though the
Rays are not as concerned since he did so last year and started the
season 8-0. Moore is in the process of simplifying his mechanics,
and the initial returns were mixed. He showed increased velocity (10
pitches 96 mph or better and a sharp curve) in a March 18
exhibition, but also walked six in less than five innings. Manager
Joe Maddon called "a great step forward" saying the stuff was
Moore's best since his 2011 playoffs start and the command will
Toronto Blue Jays: Stroman, Marcus
RHP Marcus Stroman, a 22-year-old non-roster player, was reassigned
to minor league camp after allowing six hits and seven runs in
one-third of an inning in Toronto's 18-4 loss to Detroit on March
18. "We really like what he did at this camp," manager John Gibbons
said. "Just go down and polish it up. He was kind of the odd man
out. He had trouble throwing strikes (against the Tigers), and he
has to do that."
Toronto Blue Jays: Happ, J.A.
LHP J.A. Happ returned to pitch in a minor league game March 14, his
first outing in 11 days after he rested a sore back. He appears set
to open the season as the No. 4 starter. "Yeah, I'm a big Happ fan,
and I think he's going to have a heck of a year for us," manager
John Gibbons said. "All indications the other day were his back is
fine, he threw very well. That was a big question. Now, if his back
flares up, it could be a different story." Happ said: "I felt normal
out there, which is really nice. It's definitely a step in the right
Happ's return to Grapefruit League action was not so impressive. He
said his back felt fine but his control was poor as he walked four
and allowed three hits and three runs in 2 2/3 innings against the
Philadelphia Phillies on March 19.
New York Yankees: Teixeira, Mark
1B Mark Teixeira believes his surgically repaired right wrist, which
limited him to 15 games last season, passed every test this spring.
"No problems. I haven't had any problems all spring," Teixeira said.
"I feel good, I feel really good. I told you guys, I feel really
good about my wrist. I feel like it's getting stronger and it will
continue getting stronger all year. And that's the exciting part.
It's not like this is as good as it's going to get. It'll keep
getting stronger all year."
Tampa Bay Rays: Bedard, Erik
LHP Erik Bedard made a solid case to win the Rays No. 5 starter's
job — a temporary opening until the expected return of RHP Jeremy
Hellickson from elbow surgery on or around June 1. But Bedard said
if he doesn't win the job, he likely will exercise the March 31
opt-out clause in his minor league contract rather than accept an
assignment to Triple-A, noting the wave of injuries to pitchers
going through baseball. "Every day it seems like a starter goes
down," Bedard said. "So there's a lot of opportunities out there if
I'm not on the team."
Tampa Bay Rays: Myers, Wil
OF Wil Myers was not worried about his slow start to the spring,
hitting .154 with four singles through March 17, but Rays manager
Joe Maddon had some concerns given this is Myers first full
big-league season. So Maddon, using a regular-season slump-busting
tactic, moved Myers into the leadoff spot on March 18, and it worked
as Myers doubled his first three times up, then homered to lead off
the March 19 game. "I know it's spring training but we're getting to
the end and I want him to feel good about himself going into the
season," Maddon said.
Baltimore Orioles: Santana, Johan
LHP Johan Santana (left shoulder surgery in April 2012) threw 25
pitches off flat ground in mid-April. He said he envisions a
scenario where he could join the club by late June.
Cincinnati Reds: Chapman, Aroldis
LHP Aroldis Chapman sustained facial fractures when he was struck in
the face by a line drive Wednesday.
In an exhibition game at Surprise, Ariz., a ball hit by Kansas City
Royals catcher Salvador caught the pitcher above the left eye.
Chapman was carried off the field on a stretcher, and he was taken
to a local hospital. The Reds later announced that Chapman had
broken bones in his nose and near his left eye, and that he was
being hospitalized overnight for observation. "He never lost
consciousness," Cincinnati manager Bryan Price told MLB.com. "He was
able to communicate. He was able to move his hands, his feet, his
legs. I'm not a doctor. I don't want to go much further than that.
It got him pretty flush just above the left eye is what it looks
New York Yankees: Johnson, Kelly
3B Kelly Johnson will start out the season as the primary
replacement for suspended 3B Alex Rodriguez, even though he played
only 16 previous games at the hot corner in his big-league career.
The converted second baseman is taking a crash course every day
during spring training with infield coach Mick Kelleher, according
to the New York Daily News. "I think he's going to do a good job,"
manager Joe Girardi said of Johnson. "I've liked what he's done. I
don't really have a lot of concerns about it."
New York Yankees: Banuelos, Manny
LHP Manny Banuelos, a former top prospect working his way back from
Tommy John surgery, was optioned to minor league camp March 16, but
he is shooting for a call-up to the Yankees at some point this
season. "I think I'm going to make it if I stay healthy," Banuelos
said. "I think it's the best thing. Like they say, I've got to make
progress. ... It's about time and about comfort. Go to the minor
leagues — I don't know if I'll start in Double-A or Triple-A,
whatever, just keep pitching. Get all my pitches to where I can help
Toronto Blue Jays: Janssen, Casey
RHP Casey Janssen (sore right shoulder) had yet to pitch in a spring
training game when he threw batting practice March 18. He was
scheduled for his first game action of the spring March 21 against
the Phillies. "All in all, good to get on a mound, good to get a
little bit of adrenaline going, and most importantly, it's good to
feel good," said Janssen, who had 34 saves last season. Manager John
Gibbons said Janssen came out of the session feeling great and that
he likely would be used three or four times before the season opens
March 31 at Tampa Bay.
Philadelphia Phillies: Rollins, Jimmy
SS Jimmy Rollins responded rather defiantly to a report that
indicated the team might listen to trade offers for the veteran.
ESPN The Magazine reported that the Phillies might be interested in
going in a different direction at the position and would be willing
to shop the 35-year-old Rollins, who says he is not anticipating a
"Because I can't be traded," Rollins told MLB.com on March 19. "It
doesn't matter. I don't care which way it is tried to be twisted or
said, or if it is exactly how it was said, or even if it was said, I
can't be traded. It doesn't matter. If I was tradeable it may have
weight because that means I could be moving soon. But I am not
tradeable and so it doesn't matter."
Rollins told CSNPhilly.com that he would not waive his no-trade
clause. He also has the right to veto any trade.
RHP Luis Ayala was granted his release by the Nationals, and he
hopes to catch on with another team this season. After the veteran
signed a minor league contract with Washington in early February,
his performance on the mound was up and down during spring training.
A long shot to land the final spot in the Nationals' bullpen, Ayala
asked the team to let him go.
"I don't want to go to Triple-A," he said, according to The
Washington Post. "I'm going to go home and keep training, see what
happens this week, see if I have a chance with another team. I
appreciate the opportunity, but that's baseball. These things