Major League Baseball
MLB News Wire
  • Thursday, March 26, 2015
    MLB notebook: Reds acquire 1B Johnson from Astros
    By The Sports Xchange

    The Cincinnati Reds swung two trades on Thursday, getting first baseman Dan Johnson from the Houston Astros for a player to be named or cash and dealing infielder Devin Lohman to the Philadelphia Phillies also for a player to be named or cash.

    • Johnson signed with the Astros in December after playing in 15 games for the Toronto Blue Jays last season and hitting .211 with one home run and seven RBIs.

      The Reds assigned Johnson to their minor league camp.

      Johnson's major league stops have included Oakland, Tampa Bay, the Chicago White Sox and Baltimore.

      Lohman played at Double-A Pensacola last season and hit .245 with five homers and 29 RBIs in 108 games.

      ---The Texas Rangers penciled in right-hander Yovani Gallardo as their Opening Day starter on April 6 against the Oakland Athletics.

      Rangers manager Jeff Banister announced the decision on Thursday to go with Gallardo, who started five consecutive openers for the Milwaukee Brewers before joining Texas during the offseason.

      Banister cited Gallardo's experience as a key reason for selecting Gallardo despite his slow start in spring training with the Rangers. Gallardo has given up 13 earned runs in 10 1/3 innings.

      Last season for the Brewers, the 29-year-old posted an 8-11 record with a 3.51 ERA.

      ---Right-hander Chris Archer will replace the injured Alex Cobb as the Tampa Bay Rays' Opening Day starter.

      Archer will start April 6 against the Baltimore Orioles at Tropicana Field.

      Archer, 26, becomes the 11th Opening Day starter in the Rays' 18 seasons. He went 10-9 with a 3.33 ERA in 32 starts last season.

      Cobb will miss the start of the season with forearm tendinitis.

      ---Miami Marlins starting pitcher Jarred Cosart said he is cooperating fully with MLB's investigation into his alleged gambling activity.

      The Miami New Times reported Wednesday that an investigation had been launched after direct Twitter messages between Cosart and a person affiliated with the gambling industry.

      "Obviously, I was caught off guard by the whole situation," Cosart said. "I'm following the MLB protocol and talking with MLB security, and they're taking care of it. I'm putting everything in their hands, and when we know something else, we'll let everybody know."

      Based on the MLB rulebook, Cosart would be suspended indefinitely if he is found to have bet on games in which he was involved. He would face a one-year ban for betting on baseball games in which he was not involved.

      ---Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said Alex Rodriguez will be tested for drugs more often in the wake of his 162-game suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs.

      "Let me be clear about this: He'll be tested exactly like every other player who has violated the program. The program requires more frequent testing for players who are coming back after a suspension," Manfred told reporters Thursday at Charlotte Sports Park, where Rodriguez's Yankees were playing the Tampa Bay Rays.

      Players who have been penalized under baseball's drug policy are subject to six unannounced urine tests and three unannounced blood tests every year.

      ---Jared Burton's stay with the New York Yankees was brief.

      The veteran right-hander, who strained a lat muscle a week ago, was released Thursday.

      Burton signed a non-guaranteed minor-league contract with the Yankees during the offseason after the Minnesota Twins rejected a $3.6 million option for the 2015 season.

      The 33-year-old pitched in 68 games for the Twins last year and was 3-5 with three saves and a 4.36 ERA.

      ---For the first time since March 15, Yankees center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury was able to swing a bat.

      Ellsbury said the batting cage work -- he hit off a tee -- went "great."

      He resumed baseball activities on Thursday and said he is hopeful of a return from a strained oblique before Opening Day.

      Ellsbury is in the second season of a seven-year contract worth $153. He hit .271 in his first year with the Yankees, with 39 stolen bases, 16 home runs and 27 doubles, after coming up with the Boston Red Sox.

  • Thursday, March 26, 2015
    Garcia's forcing Cards' hand with solid spring
    By The Sports Xchange

    When the St. Louis Cardinals announced last June that left-hander Jaime Garcia would miss the season's remainder because of thoracic outlet syndrome, it was widely assumed that the starting pitcher was no longer in the team's plans.

    • General manager John Mozeliak criticized Garcia for picking surgery over rehab and informing the media before the team. But if spring training is any indication, Garcia might end up having the final say after all.

      Garcia became the first starting pitcher in camp to reach the 80-pitch mark, albeit in a simulated game March 24. He recorded 20 outs, allowing four hits and a walk in doing so. That's an outing which would play in any league.

      "Obviously, with everything that I've gone through, there is a little bit of doubt in your mind not knowing how it's going to be when you test it out going 80 pitches," Garcia said to cardinals.com. "But I tried to do my best not to think about that."

      Garcia's progress means the Cardinals might have to back off their plan of having Carlos Martinez open the season as the No. 5 starter. Martinez, has pitched well in the spring, may be back in his familiar role as a late-inning option in the bullpen.

      Young left-hander Marco Gonzales might end up in Triple-A Memphis, starting every fifth day instead of working in an irregular role out of the bullpen. And with three off-days built in the season's first nine days, the team might not need a fifth starter until April 19.

      More and more, it's looking like Garcia might be that fifth starter.

      "We still have a ways to go," manager Mike Matheny told cardinals.com. "But what he's doing certainly looks good."

  • Thursday, March 26, 2015
    Roenicke looking for better results from Brewers
    By The Sports Xchange

    PHOENIX -- Much of spring training is designed for players to get back into a groove; pitchers use their work to build up arm strength and tinker with mechanics while hitters use their at-bats to refine their swing and timing.

    • But there comes a point where results begin to matter and for Milwaukee Brewers manager Ron Roenicke, that time has come.

      "It starts to get alarming this late in camp," Roenicke said. "Before this, it didn't bother me. But from here on out, yeah.

      "It's hard to go into a season when any of the guys, whether it's a regular or not, if (a hitter) is not swinging the bat or a pitcher's not throwing the ball well, it's hard to go into a season figuring that when the lights go on that all of a sudden they're going to completely turn this around. Usually it doesn't happen that way."

      Roenicke's biggest concern at this point has been a lack of production from those fighting for the few remaining spots in Milwaukee's bullpen as well as those looking for a job coming off the Brewers' bench.

      Right-hander Brandon Kintzler was looking to bounce back after a an up-and-down 2014 season (3-3, 3.24 ERA) but has a 7.11 ERA in six Cactus League appearances. Lefty Neal Cotts, who signed a one-year, $3 million contract over the winter has appeared in seven exhibition contests and has allowed six earned runs on 12 hits in 5 1/3 innings of work.

      Infielder Luis Jimenez is a leading candidate to make the team and would see significant action spelling veteran Aramis Ramirez at third base. But Jimenez, who began Thursday with a team-high 39 at-bats this spring, is batting just .179 with five strikeouts.

      "If he's going to be the guy at third base to pick up Aramis, there's going to be at-bats there," Roenicke said. "So whoever that person is needs to swing the bat well."

  • Thursday, March 26, 2015
    Pirates RHP Caminero emerges as spring surprise
    By The Sports Xchange

    BRADENTON, Fla. -- It appears the Pittsburgh Pirates are ready to turn another disappointing pitcher's career around.

    • Right-handed reliever Arquimedes Caminero has been the talk of an otherwise quiet spring training camp.

      Acquired from the Miami Marlins on Feb. 4 for cash considerations, Caminero has 16 strikeouts in 10 innings of Grapefruit League play. He has allowed two runs, seven hits and one walk.

      The one walk stands out the most because control and command problems are the primary reason he spent nine seasons in the minor leagues despite being one of the hardest throwers in the Marlins' system. He walked 4.5 batters per nine innings.

      He also appeared in 19 games major league games in the last two seasons, going 0-1 with a 5.49 ERA while issuing seven walks and hitting four batters in 19 2/3 innings.

      However, Caminero has turned into a strike-throwing machine under the tutelage of pitching coach Ray Searage, bullpen coach Euclides Rojas and Jim Benedict, who is a special assistant to general manager Neal Huntington.

      "Ray got me to see things that were there, I just didn't notice them that much," Caminero said. "I was trying to throw too hard. He said, 'Go easier. The ball's still going to fly, and you'll be even better.' Once you see that work, you're confident doing it, and hitting my target becomes more important."

      The Pirates preach strike throwing to all their pitchers and it works. Right-handers Edinson Volquez and Vance Worley not only turned around their careers but helped Pittsburgh reach the postseason for the second consecutive year after a string of 20 consecutive losing seasons.

      "They get the same message when they walk in the door --- pound the strike zone, strike one," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.

      One of baseball's most statistical-based teams, the Pirates use numbers to illustrate to their pitchers the importance of getting ahead in the count. Last season, National Leagues batted .268 after a 1-0 count but just .217 after an 0-1 count.

      "It's one of our main teaching tools," Searage said. "It gives them the mindset of first-pitch strikes, and being on the attack the whole time. Once you get ahead, stay ahead and put them away."

  • Thursday, March 26, 2015
    Rangers pick Gallardo to start opener
    By The Sports Xchange

    The Texas Rangers penciled in right-hander Yovani Gallardo as their Opening Day starter on April 6 against the Oakland Athletics.

    • Rangers manager Jeff Banister announced the decision on Thursday to go with Gallardo, who started five consecutive openers for the Milwaukee Brewers before joining Texas during the offseason.

      Banister cited Gallardo's experience as a key reason for selecting Gallardo despite his slow start in spring training with the Rangers. Gallardo has given up 13 earned runs in 10 1/3 innings.

      Last season for the Brewers, the 29-year-old posted an 8-11 record with a 3.51 ERA.

      Banister also announced that Ross Detwiler will be in the Rangers' starting rotation. The left-hander worked as a reliever last season for the Washington Nationals and had a 2-3 record with a 4.00 ERA in 47 appearances. This spring, he has a 4.15 ERA in 8 2/3 innings.

      Detwiler, who joined the Rangers in December as part of a trade, is projected as the No. 4 starter behind Gallardo, Derek Holland and Colby Lewis.

  • Thursday, March 26, 2015
    Cubs keep eye on Lester, Jackson
    By The Sports Xchange

    With the 2015 season opener less than 10 days away, the Chicago Cubs have issues with two of their starting pitchers.

    • Projected Opening Night starter Jon Lester continued to rebuild arm strength and potential fifth starter Edwin Jackson literally got lost this week on the way to his fourth spring appearance and was yanked after just 1 2/3 innings.

      The left-handed Lester, suffering from what was described as a "dead" left arm, had not pitched since March 16 but was scheduled to throw 60 pitches Thursday in a controlled setting against minor leaguers. A similar appearance is set for next Tuesday with an 80-pitch limit.

      Cubs manger Joe Maddon said Lester's April 5 debut appearance against the St. Louis Cardinals might be similarly restricted.

      "It's more of a controlled environment. That's all we're working from right now," Maddon said this week.

      Jackson, meanwhile, drew Maddon's ire after arriving just 25 minutes before his scheduled start against Oakland on Tuesday.

      "I put Oakland A's spring training complex (in Google maps) and it took me to the old one," Jackson told reporters. "It was crazy. That pretty much sums it up."

      The Cubs instead started right-handed reliever Blake Palmer. Jackson entered in the second inning and the veteran right-hander gave up eight runs and nine hits in 1 2/3 innings, including seven straight two-out hits in the third.

      "It was one of those days when they hit the ball," Jackson said. "Everything you threw up there got hit whether it was a good pitch or not."

      Major League Baseball and the Cubs announced Thursday that Fall Out Boy will perform three songs as part of nationally televised Opening Night festivities as the Cubs host the Cardinals.

  • Thursday, March 26, 2015
    Yankees drop RHP Burton
    By The Sports Xchange

    Jared Burton's stay with the New York Yankees was brief.

    • The veteran right-hander, who strained a lat muscle a week ago, was released Thursday.

      Burton signed a non-guaranteed minor-league contract with the Yankees during the offseason after the Minnesota Twins rejected a $3.6 million option for the 2015 season.

      The 33-year-old pitched in 68 games for the Twins last year and was 3-5 with three saves and a 4.36 ERA.

      Burton spent the first five years of his major league career with the Cincinnati Reds and the last three wtih the Twins, posting an 18-19 record with 10 saves and a 3.46 ERA.

  • Thursday, March 26, 2015
    Reds acquire 1B Johnson from Astros
    By The Sports Xchange

    The Cincinnati Reds swung two trades on Thursday, getting first baseman Dan Johnson from the Astros for a player to be named or cash and dealing infielder Devin Lohman to the Philadelphia Phillies also for a player to be named or cash.

    • Johnson signed with the Astros in December as a free agent after playing in 15 games for the Toronto Blue Jays last season and hitting .211 with one home run and seven RBIs.

      The Reds assigned Johnson to their minor league camp.

      "If the opportunity wasn't going to be here (with Houston), then I'm probably thankful for it," Johnson said of the trade, according to the Houston Chronicle. "You get to know everybody and it's hard to leave, but you know, if there's better opportunities somewhere else for you ... I'm going to try to capitalize on that."

      Johnson's major league stops have included Oakland, Tampa Bay, the Chicago White Sox and Baltimore. He's best known for hitting a tying home run for the Rays with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning of a game against the New York Yankees in 2011 that Tampa Bay eventually won to secure a wild-card playoff berth.

      Lohman played at Double-A Pensacola last season and hit .245 with five homers and 29 RBIs in 108 games.

  • Thursday, March 26, 2015
    Commissioner: A-Rod will be drug-tested a lot
    By The Sports Xchange

    Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said Alex Rodriguez will be tested for drugs more often in the wake of his 162-game suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs.

    • "Let me be clear about this: He'll be tested exactly like every other player who has violated the program. The program requires more frequent testing for players who are coming back after a suspension," Manfred told reporters Thursday at Charlotte Sports Park, where Rodriguez's Yankees were playing the Tampa Bay Rays.

      Players who have been penalized under baseball's drug policy are subject to six unannounced urine tests and three unannounced blood tests every year.

      Manfred has met with Rodriguez three times since his reinstatement after the 2014 World Series.

      "Alex served a very long suspension. Once he served that time, baseball ought to welcome him back," Manfred said. "And I think we've done a good job. The institution as a whole: teams, central baseball, everybody. He's played well. Good for him."

  • Thursday, March 26, 2015
    RHP Archer will open season for Rays
    By The Sports Xchange

    Right-hander Chris Archer will replace the injured Alex Cobb as the Tampa Bay Rays' Opening Day starter.

    • Archer will start April 6 against the Baltimore Orioles at Tropicana Field.

      Archer, 26, becomes the 11th Opening Day starter in the Rays' 18 seasons. He went 10-9 with a 3.33 ERA in 32 starts last season.

      Cobb will miss the start of the season with forearm tendinitis.

      "You don't want to take anything away from Cobb. It was his. He'd earned that," manager Kevin Cash said. "But we're extremely comfortable with having that guy now be Arch."

      Cash said he was not ready to announce the next two starters in the Rays' rotation.

  • Thursday, March 26, 2015
    OF Ellsbury optimistic for Yankees opener
    By The Sports Xchange

    For the first time since March 15, New York Yankees center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury was able to swing a bat.

    • Ellsbury said the batting cage work -- he hit off a tee -- went "great."

      He resumed baseball activities on Thursday, and said he is hopeful of a return from a strained oblique before Opening Day.

      "I guess the biggest thing is, I haven't had it before, so I'm basically going off their instructions," Ellsbury said. "These are the steps that worked in the past for guys, so this is the progression we want you to take. I'm just listening to them and I know they're doing a very good job."

      Ellsbury had been permitted to sprint and take "dry swings" with a broomstick before Thursday.

      Manager Joe Girardi said the key date is March 31. If Ellsbury gets game action by then, the Yankees will expect him to be ready for the opener April 6.

      "I'm very optimistic," Ellsbury said.

      Ellsbury is in the second season of a seven-year contract worth $153. He hit .271 in his first year with the Yankees, with 39 stolen bases, 16 home runs and 27 doubles, after coming up with the Boston Red Sox.

  • Thursday, March 26, 2015
    Marlins, SP Cosart cooperate with MLB probe
    By The Sports Xchange

    Miami Marlins starting pitcher Jarred Cosart said he is cooperating fully with MLB's investigation into his alleged gambling activity.

    • The Miami New Times reported Wednesday that an investigation had been launched after direct Twitter messages between Cosart and a person affiliated with the gambling industry.

      "Obviously, I was caught off guard by the whole situation," Cosart said. "I'm following the MLB protocol and talking with MLB security, and they're taking care of it. I'm putting everything in their hands, and when we know something else, we'll let everybody know."

      Cosart said there is no timetable for the investigation, based on his initial conversations with MLB.

      Cosart, 24, was acquired in a seven-player trade with the Houston Astros in July 2014.

      Based on the MLB rulebook, Cosart would be suspended indefinitly if he is found to have bet on games in which he was involved. He would face a one-year ban for betting on baseball games in which he was not involved.

      Redmond said he has spoken to Cosart, but declined to comment further on the situation and its potential impact on Cosart or the team.

      Manager Mike Redmond said he was still learning about the investigation and did not have a comment.

      "It's better to let this thing play out and find out more information," Redmond said. "When we do that, we'll have a comment. But right now we need to let this thing play out."

  • Thursday, March 26, 2015
    Cubs trialing Bryant in left field
    By The Sports Xchange

    Chicago Cubs slugger Kris Bryant has worked out in left field and was expected to play there in Thursday's spring training game.

    • Bryant led the minor leagues with 43 home runs last season and swatted a spring training-leading nine homers entering Thursday.

      The Cubs are not sure Bryant is a candidate at third base, his natural position, because of his defense. Other teams have made similar switches with power prospects to get them on the field. National League Central rival Milwaukee moved Ryan Braun from third base to left field when his defense showed to be sub-standard at the MLB level.

      Manager Joe Maddon said the move isn't as simple as scratching Bryant's name on the lineup card. Bryant has been working with bench coach Dave Martinez to get accustomed to the position. Martinez knows the adventure that is manning the outfield at Wrigley Field, where exposed brick walls can make fielding tricky in the spring months and growing ivy only complicates matters in summertime.

      "My biggest concern, always, with infielders going to the outfield and vice-versa is arm -- that you would hurt your arm because you would chose to use different arm stroke," Maddon said.

      Cubs president Theo Epstein has been called on the carpet by Bryant's agent, Scott Boras, who questioned in the media recently whether the team should be shamed for not having its best players on the 25-man opening day roster.

      By delaying Bryant's arrival to the big leagues even two weeks, the Cubs can preserve a year of service time.

  • Thursday, March 26, 2015
    White Sox go with Samardzija for opener
    By The Sports Xchange

    Right-hander Jeff Samardzija will start the Chicago White Sox's opener against the Kansas City Royals on April 6.

    • White Sox manager Robin Ventura told the Chicago Sun-Times on Wednesday that Samardzija will get the ball on Opening Day in Kansas City in place of injured Chris Sale.

      Sale likely would have started in the opener for the third straight year, but a fracture in his right foot that he suffered in February is expected to sideline him through the opening week of the season. His projected debut is April 12 against the Minnesota Twins.

      Samardzija will oppose 23-year-old right-hander Yordano Ventura, who was named Kansas City's starter on Wednesday.

      The 30-year-old Samardzija is in his first year with the White Sox after a six-player trade involving the Oakland Athletics in December.

      Last season in 33 starts with the Chicago Cubs and A's, Samardzija posted a 7-13 record with a 2.99 ERA. He became a full-time starter with the Cubs in 2012 and has a 36-48 record with a 3.87 ERA in 99 career starts and 222 games.

  • Wednesday, March 25, 2015
    MLB notebook: MLB teams worth $1.2B on average
    By The Sports Xchange

    Major-league baseball teams are worth $1.2 billion on average, an increase of 48 percent from 2014, according to Forbes' valuations released Wednesday.

    • The New York Yankees, long baseball's most valuable franchise, are worth $3.2 billion. That matches the Dallas Cowboys for highest value among North American sports teams. Real Madrid, at $3.44 billion, is the only sports franchise worth more in the world.

      Three other baseball teams are worth more than $2 billion: the Los Angeles Dodgers ($2.4 billion), Boston Red Sox ($2.1 billion) and World Series champion San Francisco Giants ($2 billion), who doubled their value over the past year. The Chicago Cubs are fifth at $1.8 billion.

      The least valuable franchises are the Tampa Bay Rays ($625 million), Miami Marlins ($650 million) and defending AL champion Kansas City Royals ($700 million).

      --- The Kansas City Royals' rotation is set to start the 2015 season.

      Manager Ned Yost told The Kansas City Star on Wednesday that 23-year-old Yordano Ventura will start Opening Day against the Chicago White Sox at Kauffman Stadium.

      The rest of the rotation includes, in order, Danny Duffy, Edinson Volquez, Jason Vargas and Jeremy Guthrie, according to The Star.

      The hard-throwing right-hander started 30 games last year and posted a 14-10 record with a 3.20 ERA and 159 strikeouts in 183 innings.

      ---New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson acknowledged assigning right-hander Matt Harvey the second game of the home-opening series was partly based on ticket sales.

      Alderson said right-hander Jacob deGrom getting named the starter for the April 13 home opener at Citi Field against the Philadelphia Phillies mostly was based on merit.

      Harvey, who missed the 2014 season due to Tommy John surgery, is slated to make his second start of the season April 14, which would be the Mets' second home game.

      ---Major League Baseball reportedly is investigating whether Miami Marlins pitcher Jarred Cosart has bet on baseball.

      The investigation stems from an exchange between Cosart and an apparent gambling expert on Twitter, the Miami New Times reported Wednesday.

      MLB forbids gambling on baseball but allows it for other sports.

      Cosart, 24, went 13-11 with a 3.77 ERA last season with the Houston Astros and the Marlins, who acquired him in a trade at midseason.

  • Wednesday, March 25, 2015
    Royals go with RHP Ventura to start opener
    By The Sports Xchange

    The Kansas City Royals' starting rotation is set to start the 2015 season.

    • Royals manager Ned Yost told The Kansas City Star on Wednesday that 23-year-old Yordano Ventura will start the Opening Day game against the Chicago White Sox in Kauffman Stadium.

      The rest of the Royals' rotation includes, in order, Danny Duffy, Edinson Volquez, Jason Vargas and Jeremy Guthrie, according to The Star.

      The hard-throwing right-hander started 30 games last year and posted a 14-10 record with a 3.20 ERA and 159 strikeouts in 183 innings.

      The Royals are looking to the young pitcher as their ace this season after losing James Shields during the winter in free agency.

  • Wednesday, March 25, 2015
    Red Sox still sorting outfield
    By The Sports Xchange

    "When does a good problem become a problem?" Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell said as his team entered the spring-training home stretch in preparation for the April 6 opener at Philadelphia.

    • The "problem" Farrell was talking about was his outfield, which was crowded heading into camp and remained crowded Wednesday.

      "We have to take these next few days of camp and determine what's best for us as an organization," Farrell said. "I'm not suggesting there's player movement, but there's only three spots and really two coming off the bench.

      "What that means for the final Opening Day roster remains to be seen, but we're trying to get more exposure on Rusney (Castillo) in right field. We're trying to get a better gauge of Vic's (Shane Victorino's) durability if we can in the coming days."

      Hanley Ramirez, switching from the infield to the outfield, is the left fielder. Mookie Betts took advantage of Castillo's injury to steal the center-field and leadoff spots.

      Victorino, a vital cog in the 2013 championship, is back and expected to play right field. A platoon with Castillo? Not likely with Victorino back to hitting only right-handed, the same side as Castillo.

      There also are Allen Craig and Daniel Nava. And Brock Holt, likely to see his major time in the infield, is also a good outfielder.

      Injuries, as always, will take care of some of this, but there are still questions to be answered going forward.

      A good problem?

      "The one thing we can't avoid is that Shane is coming off back surgery, so he's not 100 percent right now," Farrell said. "We said Shane Victorino healthy is our starting right fielder. We haven't come off that. We're still in the process of him regaining quickness and running speed. What's his overall durability and how many games can we plan for?"

      Craig, who batted just .128 while battling a foot injury after coming over from the Cardinals last season, is a better hitter than that. He's also a guy other teams might want. But he can also play first base, and Mike Napoli is hardly 100 percent.

  • Wednesday, March 25, 2015
    If Rays use one closer, RHP Jepsen just might be it
    By The Sports Xchange

    PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash isn't ready to name right-hander Kevin Jepsen as his closer. In fact, Tampa Bay may not designate anyone as the closer when the season begins April 6.

    • However, Jepsen has shown a closer-type arm in his first spring training with the Rays since being acquired from the Los Angeles Angels in an offseason trade.

      "He's kind of exactly as everybody envisioned," Cash said. "Dominant stuff. Has had really clean innings. Quiet, which is nice. No hiccups or anything like that.

      "Fastball's been good. Velocity. Command. And his breaking ball -- that's the one pitch you really notice from the side. That thing just drops off the table when he snaps it off. So I'm excited that we have him and (for) the roles that we'll use him in during the season."

      Will that role be as the closer?

      "They will be very significant leveraged roles," Cash said. "As for specific innings, we don't have that."

      Jepsen, 30, has never been a closer, but he tantalized the Angels for years with his raw ability. He had the best of his seven seasons with them last year, when he was 0-2 with a career-best 2.63 ERA in 74 appearances. He ranked fourth in the American League in games pitched.

      Jepsen said he improved his mental preparation last season with the aid of Nick Francona, who was an assistant in the Angels' baseball operations department and is the son of Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona.

      "We sat down and kind of made a game plan, mostly about what I do well," Jepsen said. "Figure out what I do well and focus more on what I do well. Not being scared to throw off-speed early in the count because you don't want to get behind. Basically throw all that out the window and attack guys the way they need to be attacked."

  • Wednesday, March 25, 2015
    Norris closes in on spot in Blue Jays' rotation
    By The Sports Xchange

    DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Left-hander Daniel Norris appears to have forced himself into a spot in the Toronto Blue Jays' rotation.

    • He improved his spring-training record to 2-0 with a 2.41 ERA in a 5-2 win over the Baltimore Orioles at Sarasota on Wednesday. It was his fifth start.

      Norris allowed three hits, one run and no walks while striking out seven in six innings. He has 21 strikeouts in 18 2/3 innings.

      "He's getting better every time out there," manager John Gibbons said. "He's more relaxed out there. His changeup is getting better. They had their A lineup out there."

      Gibbons would not say whether Norris will open the season in the rotation. Norris is taking nothing for granted.

      "I'm still looking at it like I have to fight for a job," said Norris, who went through four levels last season that ended with a September trial at Toronto.

      Norris fits in with one of the major themes of the Blue Jays' camp: the progress of rookie pitchers.

      Right-hander Aaron Sanchez already is in the rotation after the Jays considered making him the closer. Left-hander Brett Cecil will open the season as the closer; and, with right-hander Marcus Stroman out for the season with a knee injury, Sanchez was moved into the rotation.

      Right-handers Miguel Castro and Roberto Osuna also have impressed. Castro could open the season in the bullpen.

      He introduced a different changeup against the Orioles -- one that moves away from right-handed hitters. He induced a swinging third strike from center fielder Adam Jones.

      He still retains his cut changeup that moves in on right-handed hitters, but he used the new "sink-changeup," as he calls it, more often on Wednesday.

      "It's a looser grip," he said of the pitch, which was introduced to him by pitching coach Pete Walker and which he has been working on for a week.

      An ankle injury to right-hander Marco Estrada will not hurt the chances of Norris making the rotation. Estrada is also a candidate for the rotation but could be used in the bullpen.

  • Wednesday, March 25, 2015
    Orioles C Wieters looking beyond Opening Day
    By The Sports Xchange

    It now seems pretty clear that the Baltimore Orioles won't have catcher Matt Wieters back for Opening Day.

    • The team was hoping Wieters could recover from his Tommy John surgery last June in time to be ready at the start of 2015, but since that's not going to happen due to right elbow tendinitis, the question now is when does the All-Star catcher return.

      Wieters won't be eligible to come off the disabled list until April 11, the day the Orioles would play their fifth game of the season. With Wieters out at the start, it appears that Caleb Joseph has the inside track at filling in for him after a very strong defensive season as a rookie last year.

      But as good as Joseph can be on defense, Wieters is one of the best in baseball. That's why the Orioles are being careful here.

      The team, along with Dr. James Andrews (Wieters' surgeon), have said that elbow tendinitis can show up as part of the recovery from this operation. Now, they're going to let Wieters rest some more and keep checking it out.

      Wieters told the media that he doesn't want the tendinits to be some kind of a recurring issue throughout the season.

      "(Opening Day is) a special date," Wieters told The Baltimore Sun. "It's always fun to experience it, but at the same time, I want to be there at the end of the year and I'd much rather be playing for the playoffs as opposed to playing on that Opening Day date."

      Many thought last year that the loss of Wieters could truly hurt the team in so many ways. Still, Joseph and Nick Hundley combined to do well enough at catcher that the Orioles kept going.

      Wieters nearly made it back in time for Opening Day. The Orioles now just have to wait until his elbow is ready, and they're hoping that's sooner rather than later.

  • Wednesday, March 25, 2015
    Yankees RHP Warren leads field to be fifth starter
    By The Sports Xchange

    With a week and a half remaining in spring training, one of the few remaining decisions for New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi is who will be the fifth starter once the regular season starts.

    • If the Yankees had to make that decision right now, all indications seem to lean in favor of right-hander Adam Warren to fill the spot expected to be occupied by left-hander Chris Capuano when he returns from a groin strain and eventually by Ivan Nova returning from Tommy John surgery.

      Those indications are based on comments made by general manager Brian Cashman before Wednesday's exhibition game with the New York Mets.

      "There is a Secretariat in the field," Cashman said. "Right now, Warren's got a big lead in this but we don't have to make that decision right now. As of right now if we made the call today, it would be Warren."

      Warren will make his fifth start Thursday and so far has a 2.77 ERA in 13 innings. Last year, the 27-year-old was 3-6 with a 2.96 ERA in 69 appearances and he has 104 major league appearances, including a few spot starts.

      The rest of the field behind Warren are also right-handers in Bryan Mitchell, Esmil Rogers and Chase Whitley.

      So far, the best numbers of that trio have been produced by Whitley but all of his six outings have been in relief.

      Mitchell has a 7.36 ERA after allowing two runs and four hits and three walks in 3 1/3 innings against the Washington Nationals on Monday. Last year he made three appearances late in the season for the Yankees, including one spot start.

      Rogers has a 2.92 ERA and has allowed eight runs (four earned) and 15 hits in 12 1/3 innings over six appearances (four starts). The Yankees are intrigued by his potential after picking him up last August on waivers but on Tuesday he allowed five runs and five hits in three innings while also making a fielding error that led to three runs.

      The Yankees have time to make that decision, which is why Girardi kept his answer brief when asked about the competition.

      "It's something that we have to talk about and I'm sure in the next week or so we'll talk a lot about what we're going to do here," Girardi said. "I think you have to make a decision by the end of the week so the guy that's not a starter can get to the pen and get some work there."

      That means the competition will end shortly -- and whomever the Yankees feel has pitched well enough and is best suited for it gets the distinction of being a temporary fifth starter.

  • Wednesday, March 25, 2015
    Report: MLB investigates Marlins' Cosart for gambling
    By The Sports Xchange

    Major League Baseball reportedly is investigating whether Miami Marlins pitcher Jarred Cosart has bet on baseball.

    • The investigation stems from an exchange between Cosart and an apparent gambling expert on Twitter, the Miami New Times reported Wednesday.

      Based on screen grabs of private messages between Cosart and the gambler, Cosart seemingly was soliciting advice on the NCAA Tournament. After the gambler made the messages public, Cosart deleted his Twitter account, the New Times reported.

      MLB forbids gambling on baseball but allows it for other sports.

      Cosart, 24, went 13-11 with a 3.77 ERA last season with the Houston Astros and the Marlins, who acquired him in a trade at midseason.

  • Wednesday, March 25, 2015
    Average value of MLB teams: $1.2 billion
    By The Sports Xchange

    Major-league baseball teams are worth $1.2 billion on average, an increase of 48 percent from 2014, according to Forbes' valuations released Wednesday.

    • The New York Yankees, long baseball's most valuable franchise, are worth $3.2 billion. That matches the Dallas Cowboys for highest value among North American sports teams. Real Madrid, at $3.44 billion, is the only sports franchise worth more in the world.

      Three other baseball teams are worth more than $2 billion: the Los Angeles Dodgers ($2.4 billion), Boston Red Sox ($2.1 billion) and World Series champion San Francisco Giants ($2 billion), who doubled their value over the past year. The Chicago Cubs are fifth at $1.8 billion.

      The least valuable franchises are the Tampa Bay Rays ($625 million), Miami Marlins ($650 million) and defending AL champion Kansas City Royals ($700 million).

  • Wednesday, March 25, 2015
    Mets GM admits ticket sales factor in Harvey's slot
    By The Sports Xchange

    New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson acknowledged assigning right-hander Matt Harvey the second game of the home-opening series was partly based on ticket sales.

    • Alderson said right-hander Jacob deGrom getting named the starter for the April 13 home opener at Citi Field against the Philadelphia Phillies mostly was based on merit.

      Harvey, who missed the 2014 season due to Tommy John surgery, is slated to make his second start of the season April 14, which would be the Mets' second home game.

      "Look, we take a lot of things into account," Alderson said. "I think the first and foremost is: Does any pitcher deserve to pitch in a game of that sort? And I think that was the primary focus. You're assuming people are more interested in seeing Harvey pitch than Jacob. That's probably true, but not something that I would acknowledge. There are lots of secondary considerations."

      Alderson was then asked if ticket sales were among those secondary considerations.

      "Could be," he said with a smile.

      Last season, the Mets drew 42,442 on Opening Day at Citi Field against the Washington Nationals and 29,146 in the second game.

  • Wednesday, March 25, 2015
    Phillies' Brown hopes to be ready for opener
    By The Sports Xchange

    CLEARWATER, Fla. --- What is likely to be Domonic Brown's make-or-break season with the Philadelphia Phillies might not get off to a promising start.

    • The right fielder is questionable for the April 6 opener against the Boston Red Sox because of tendinitis in his left Achilles.

      Brown has been sidelined since being injured March 19 in the third inning of an exhibition game against the New York Yankees. An MRI taken the next morning was negative and the Phillies are hopeful he will be able to start running by the weekend, though they aren't certain.

      Brown, for his part, is staying optimistic.

      "I'm feeling better, much better," Brown said Tuesday. "I'm not going to lie, I was a little nervous there before the MRI. Hopefully I can be back on the field in another week or so."

      Brown was considered one of the top prospects in baseball when he arrived in the major leagues in 2010 but struggled until 2013. That year, he hit .272 with 27 home runs in 139 games and was selected to the All-Star Game.

      However, Brown slumped to a .235 batting average and 10 homers in 144 games last season. In his first year of salary arbitration, Brown is making $2.6 million this season, and the Phillies are expecting more production at that price.

      At 27, Brown is still young enough to be part of the Phillies' youth movement. However, he needs to be on the field in order to prove he belongs. At this point, he is limited to riding an exercise bike and playing catch.

      "Hopefully I can be ready for Opening Day," he said. "That's the goal right now, but we'll see what happens. I'm excited it wasn't a tear or anything like that. We're moving in the right direction."

      If Brown isn't ready for the start of the season, rookie Odubel Herrera could get a chance to start in left field while left fielder Grady Sizemore would shift to right field. Herrera has impressed Phillies management this spring after being selected from the Texas Rangers in the Rule 5 Draft in December during the Winter Meetings in San Diego.

      The Phillies also are considering playing Herrera in center field and shifting Ben Revere to left.