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  1. #126  
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    Gordon eager to play alongside Hamilton
    February 20, 2019
    By The Associated Press



    SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) With six-time Gold Glove winner Alex Gordon in left and speedy Lorenzo Cain in center, the Kansas City Royals' outfield defense ranked among the best in the majors for the six years they were together.


    That changed last season when Cain joined the Milwaukee Brewers.


    Royals manager Ned Yost started nine different players in center last year. Brian Goodwin made the most with 32 games.


    Gordon started in center field 11 times. Can he name the other guys who played there?


    ''I don't know,'' he said. ''Put me on a spot like that I can't do that.''


    The Royals believed they solved their center field issue for this season by signing free agent speedster Billy Hamilton, who was considered one of the best defensive outfielders in the National League while with the Cincinnati Reds.


    ''We're looking forward to seeing what he can do in that big outfield in Kauffman,'' Gordon said. ''I haven't played with him yet. Hopefully we can develop a history like me and Lo-Cain. I know the balls I need to get. He knows the balls he needs to get.''


    ''That's kind of what me and Lorenzo Cain had. We knew each other that well. Hopefully me and Billy can establish that chemistry, too. Through spring training we'll talk, we'll figure it out,'' he said.


    Yost is looking forward to seeing the tandem rob opposing batters of hits.


    ''That's what spring training is for, getting comfortable with the communication, comfortable with what each other can do,'' Yost said. ''It's just like a sixth sense. They don't have to see him to know where he is. The more they play out there, the more comfortable they're going to be. They're going to cover a lot of ground.''


    The 35-year-old Gordon, who is in the final year of a four-year $72 million contract, remains a fitness fanatic, but has altered his workouts.


    ''I used to work out in the mornings in spring training,'' Gordon said. ''I can't do that anymore because I'm older and my body can't handle it. It's just an adjustment to how your body feels.''


    ''The main purpose is to be healthy and out there contributing. Everybody has a different routine, different setup. As you get older you definitely have to adjust. I'd just get sore and worn down. I'm just trying to be smarter about it. I don't lift weights during the season. I just said heck with the weights. I think it was putting too much stress on my body,'' he said.


    Gordon played seven games last year before going on the disabled list in April with a left hip injury.


    ''Probably the best thing that happened to me last year was going on the DL even though it stunk, but coming back I felt rejuvenated and felt like I found my swing,'' Gordon said.


    ''During the season you're playing every day. It's hard to make adjustments and that's what I needed to do. It was like 13 days, I went into the cage and did small things off the tee and got back to where I felt like worked for me.'' He said.


    After hitting .208 in 2017, Gordon hiked his average to .245 last season. He hit .302 with a .491 slugging percentage in his final 13 games. After he was moved to the third spot on Sept. 7, Gordon drove in 17 runs in 21 games.


    Whit Merrifield, who led the American League in hits and stolen bases, and Adalberto Mondesi were batting in front of Gordon.


    ''It was fun to come up to bat and have someone on base every time,'' Gordon said. ''Just the pressure they put on the opposing pitcher, they weren't even worried about me. It was fun to hit in front of those two and watch them run wild.''
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    White Sox seek answers from within
    February 20, 2019
    By The Associated Press



    GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) The Chicago White Sox made no effort to hide their disappointment over losing the Manny Machado sweepstakes.


    They went to extra lengths, bringing in Machado's brother-in-law, another close friend and pulling out the stops in attempting to sell the free agent on the future of White Sox baseball.


    But they still missed out when the star infielder reached a deal with the San Diego Padres worth $300 million over 10 years.


    White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said of the experience that ''trying really hard and failing is not sufficient.'' Executive vice president Ken Williams said, ''I'm wearing my shades so you guys don't see the shock in my eyes.''


    In the meantime, the White Sox will look around and return to their youth movement, now in its third season. If Machado had moved to Chicago, he might've played third base, with Tim Anderson at shortstop and Yoan Moncada at second.


    Moncada, a key component of the trade that sent Chris Sale to Boston and began the Chicago rebuilding project, struggled in his first full big league season. He batted .235 with 17 homers while leading American League second basemen with 21 errors and topping all of baseball with 217 strikeouts.


    Manager Rick Renteria's advice to Moncada was simple: Forget last season.


    ''I think he has more of a focus factor that comes into play,'' Renteria said of the 23-year-old. ''I think he sees himself as a little bit more focused on trying to get the job done.''


    That is part of the reason that Moncada has been taking grounders at third in spring training, with Carlos Sanchez - who Moncada replaced at second - returning to his previous position. That may be temporary as well, with No. 1 draft pick Nick Madrigal being groomed for second and Anderson, who showed great defensive improvement in the second half last season, remaining at shortstop.


    But Moncada's focus is part of the reason, Renteria said.


    ''I think it's possible, and there's no guarantee, that playing third base rounds out his focus on both sides of the ball,'' the manager said. ''His range factor is huge, his arm is good. Understanding the nuances of the game at third, getting reacquainted with it will be a factor on how well he'll do.''


    For his part, Moncada says he ''feels good'' at third base. ''I like that position and with more repetitions I will feel even better.''


    Moncada worked with Renteria and hitting coach Todd Steverson after last season ended on fixing some of his problems at the plate - which included 63 called third strikes on borderline pitches as defined by Statcast. Moncada said that is the main focus of his offensive approach entering this season.


    ''With two strikes I will be more aware of the corners and maybe a little more aggressive on those pitches,'' he said.


    As for not getting the big free-agent prize, outfielder Jon Jay, who lockers next to Machado's brother-in-law Yonder Alonso - says they'll be able to move on, echoing what Hahn and Renteria also said.


    ''He's a good friend of mine,'' Jay said of Machado. ''We are very happy with what we have here and are going forward. I've been fortunate to be around a lot of playoff teams and that's still my goal here.''


    ''You see a lot of confidence. There are guys who have great opportunities, and what I like the most is that they want to get better,'' he said.
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    Future Props - Bochy & Giants
    February 20, 2019
    By BetDSI



    Following the news that Bruce Bochy will retire at the end of the 2019 season, BetDSI Sportsbook has posted odds on who will replace him as manager of the San Francisco Giants.


    Matt Williams and Eric Chavez are the two favorites while Mike Matheny, Omar Vizquel and Ron Wotus all carry 5/1 odds or less. Jose Canseco and Pete Rose have the longest odds at 100/1.


    You can find the full list below per BetDSI.eu


    San Francisco Giants Manager on Opening Day 2020 - per BetDSI.eu



    Matt Williams +200
    Eric Chavez +250
    Mike Matheny +350
    Omar Vizquel +500
    Ron Wotus +500
    Sandy Alomar +750
    Carlos Beltran +800
    Dusty Baker +1000
    Will Clark +1000
    Joe Girardi +1500
    Buck Showalter +1500
    Barry Bonds +2000
    Gary Pettis +2000
    Lloyd McClendon +2000
    Dave Stewart +2000
    Chili Davis +2000
    Eric Byrnes +5000
    Randy Johnson +5000
    Mark McGwire +7500
    Rickey Henderson +10000
    Buster Posey (player-manager) +10000
    Tony La Russa +20000
    Brian Kenny +20000
    Mike Krukow +20000
    Duane Kuiper +20000
    Jon Miller +50000
    Jose Canseco +100000
    Pete Rose +100000


    Odds Subject to Change
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    McCutchen ready to boost Phillies in all sorts of ways
    February 20, 2019
    By The Associated Press



    CLEARWATER, Fla. (AP) Andrew McCutchen is ready to boost the Philadelphia Phillies with his bat, glove and brain.


    Signed to a $50 million, three-year contract, McCutchen said he enjoys his role as the veteran in the outfield and likes what he's seen from his younger teammates.


    The 32-year-old McCutchen is set to start in left. He returns to the National League after finishing up last season with the New York Yankees - he spent his first nine seasons in Pittsburgh, joined San Francisco last year and then was traded to the Bronx.


    The five-time All-Star hit a combined .255 with 20 home runs and 65 RBIs last season.


    McCutchen said he is coming into camp knowing that Phillies have a surplus of outfielders, with Odubel Herrera, Roman Quinn, Nick Williams and Aaron Altherr looking for time in the lineup.


    ''There are no set spots,'' McCutchen said. ''We've got a lot of guys out who are competing for positions and that's a good thing to have in camp.''


    ''''Everybody is out there working hard. Working to win the job or even if they don't they know they could be the next man up. The competition is good for the outfield as a whole,'' he said.


    While speculation swirls that the Phillies are in the mix for free agent outfielder Bryce Harper, McCutchen said he sees a lot of upside in the current group of outfielders in camp. He compares them to his former teammates with the Pirates.


    ''It's similar to when I was on the Pirates with Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco,'' McCutchen said. ''We were able to work together, challenge each other and grow together.''


    ''I'm happy to be here to help facilitate that here. We will be able to help each other out and I can share my knowledge and my experience,'' he said.


    Phillies manager Gabe Kapler has raved about McCutchen's versatility and his ability to hit anywhere in the lineup, suggesting he'll use him at the top of the order when the situation presents itself.


    McCutchen will likely start out around the middle of the lineup when spring games start Friday.


    ''I can hit anywhere you put me,'' McCutchen said. ''I've been up and down the lineup and there's not one place that I'm way more comfortable at than another. I'm comfortable leading off, hitting third, fifth, sixth whatever. I've done it all.''

    NOTES: Herrera left camp with a strained left hamstring. Kapler said it happened on a running play from first to third base. ''It's something he had earlier in camp,'' Kapler said. ''It was tightening up on him, so we're getting it checked out.'' Kapler said the team didn't have an MRI planned, but Herrera had an MRI on the hamstring before camp opened up and determined there was nothing serious at the time. ... Kapler met with MLB executive Joe Torre later Wednesday. He did not reveal much of the meeting but said they discussed rule changes. ''The rules are in place and we just respond to them accordingly,'' Kapler said.
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    Pricey FA would imbalance Pirates
    February 20, 2019
    By The Associated Press



    BRADENTON, Fla. (AP) Having watched the San Diego Padres reach a $300 million, 10-year deal with Manny Machado, Pirates owner Bob Nutting doesn't think it makes sense Pittsburgh general manager Neal Huntington to add a pricey free agent.


    A huge salary could cause the portion paid to one player to be ''overweight.''


    ''You get an imbalanced payroll, that you have much more challenging team dynamic, much more challenging clubhouse dynamic, much more limitation in crafting an overall roster that can bring a championship,'' Nutting said Wednesday. ''I'm not sure that that necessarily makes a team a team more competitive and more ready to win a championship.''


    Pittsburgh was 82-79 last year for its fourth winning record in 26 years. The Pirates acquired two-time All-Star right-hander Chris Archer from the Tampa Bay Rays last summer and reliever Keone Kela from the Texas Rangers.


    Attendance dropped by 450,000 from 2017 and the lowest since 1996, and Nutting hopes for a rebound. Nutting thinks the Pirates can contend in the NL Central, where four of the five teams had winning records last season.


    ''The expectation of the fan base should be that we put a competitive team on the field that is built to win,'' Nutting said. ''That's what their expectations deserve to be. Frankly, I think that a seven-game improvement last year was a meaningful step forward, and we are absolutely positioned to take another meaningful step forward and get us back into that range where we have a very good shot at playoffs and, once you get into the playoffs, of moving down the pike.''


    Pittsburgh was 26th among the 30 teams in payroll last year at $90.6 million for its 40-man roster and again will have one of the lowest. That makes Nutting rather unpopular with many fans.


    ''I think the only piece that worries me is to the extent that it negatively impacts the club,'' Nutting said. ''And that's unfortunate and up to me to do everything I can to make sure that the degree of commitment that I show - and I'll say show as opposed to have, because I deeply believe that I am fully committed to this organization and to its success and devote all the energy I possibly can to seeing that happen - if I need to be more effective to communicate that in order to help and support the team, that's on me.''


    Notes: Archer threw batting practice for the first time this spring training. He underwent hernia surgery in November but is fully recovered. ... RF Gregory Polanco is taking batting practice as he rehabilitates following left shoulder surgery in October, but he is throwing from just 100 feet. He is expected to begin the season on the injured list. ... RHP Chad Kuhl, who underwent Tommy John surgery and will miss the season, made 50 throws off flat ground from 60 feet.
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    Tulowitzki hits in first simulated game
    February 20, 2019
    By The Associated Press



    TAMPA, Fla. (AP) Troy Tulowitzki took a called third strike in his first simulated game of spring training and followed with a drive down the right-field line that would have been over Yankee Stadium's right-field wall.


    ''Honestly I feel good, ready to go,'' he said. ''Just excited to play.''


    Now 34, the five-time All-Star has not played in the major leagues since July 2017. He is projected to start at shortstop for the New York Yankees while Didi Gregorius recovers from Tommy John surgery.


    Tulowitzki missed last season because of bone spurs in his right and left heels.


    ''Taking a full year off was tough for me,'' he said. ''But I think it's built some character, it's built some toughness, and it makes you appreciate it that much more being out there. It's been a long road. It's took it's toll but I'm still here standing.''


    Gregorius is expected to return to the Yankees between June and August. Tulowitzki isn't expressing worry about his role.


    ''I care about just doing the best job I can to fill in for Didi,'' he said. ''Things work themselves out.''


    Tulowitzki topped .300 or better four times from 2010-14 and 90 RBIs from 2009-11, boosted by Colorado's hitter-friendly Coors Field.


    He agreed last month to a one-year contract with the Yankees for the major league minimum $555,000. That will be offset against the $20 million he is owed by Toronto, which released him. The Blue Jays also are responsible for $14 million in salary for 2020 plus a $4 million buyout of a 2021 team option.


    ''The question now for him is going to be the ability to bounce back and can he endure the rigors of being a regular,'' Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. ''He looks really good moving around in the field and where he's at with his swing.''


    Boone said a plan is in place for Tulowitzki until mid-March and that he will play consecutive days before the team breaks camp.


    ''The idea would be at some point middle of spring that we start to see some bounce back and that will kind of determine if he's able to really be a regular,'' Boone said.


    Tulowitzki has a no-trade provision in his deal with the Yankees. He hopes to find success in New York.


    ''I've done a lot of things in my career,'' Tulowitzki said. ''The one thing that's missing, I've been close, I haven't won a ring.''


    MORE SWINGS


    Greg Bird, slowed by injuries last year and trying to unseat Luke Voit at first base, also took part in the simulated game. The left-handed hitter had three at-bats, including a walk and pop fly off a southpaw. ''I think he's added some weight in a good way,'' Boone said. ''I think, clearly, he feels like he's through some of the physical things that we're holding him back a little last year.''
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    After salaries drop, players want change
    February 20, 2019
    By The Associated Press



    NEW YORK (AP) Neil Walker's salary dropped from $17.2 million to $2 million in two years. Greg Holland was cut from $14 million to $2 million this season. Daniel Murphy fell from $17.5 million to $10 million.


    While Manny Machado agreed to a pending $300 million, 10-year contract with San Diego and Bryce Harper is likely to top Giancarlo Stanton's record $325 million, 13-year deal, many less-than-superstar veterans have been routed on the free-agent market.


    Players want change, and management could be open to negotiations for alterations to the collective bargaining agreement as part of an extension of the current deal, set to expire in December 2021.


    ''It's really clear there's been a redistribution of how clubs are looking at veteran players,'' agent Scott Boras said Wednesday. ''We have a clear problem in the industry of a non-competitive cancer. Like any patient with a malady, we have to address it immediately. Otherwise it is going to get steadily worse.''


    Of the 111 announced agreements among the 164 players who exercised their free-agency rights after the World Series, 36 were for minor league contracts and 26 were one-year deals for less than last year's average salary of just over $4 million.


    In all, 46 players got one-year contracts, 19 two-year deals and seven three-year agreements. Just three longer contracts for free agents have been announced: left-hander Patrick Corbin's $140 million, six-year deal with Washington, outfielder A.J. Pollock's $60 million, five-year contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers and pitcher Nathan Eovaldi's $68 million, four-year package with Boston.


    Clubs are replacing veterans with younger players earning at or near the $555,000 minimum who lack the roughly 2 2/3 years of major league service needed to be eligible for salary arbitration. In the age of analytics, cheaper may not be better, but often it's not much worse.


    ''All veteran players of a certain age are being affected by this analysis, which is not just widespread but fairly consistent across most clubs,'' said former New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson, now an Oakland Athletics senior adviser. ''The math is the math.''


    Spending on big league payrolls dropped last season for the first time since 2010, an $18 million fall to $4.23 billion, according to figures compiled by the commissioner's office and obtained by The Associated Press. While the decrease was attributable to drug and domestic violence suspensions and a player retiring at midseason, payrolls were otherwise flat, unusual for a sport with rising revenue.


    Team behavior changed following a new collective bargaining agreement, which imposed a higher luxury tax on big spenders. The New York Yankees dropped under the tax threshold last year for the first time since 2003 and the Dodgers for the first time since 2012. Neither showed great interest in Harper or Machado.


    ''Isn't it odd that all 30 teams have gone younger and cheaper rather than older and better?'' agent Jay Reisinger said. ''It's more than a coincidence that guys remain unsigned. Clubs are treating the tax threshold as a salary cap. If you look at the salary-cap sports, it is most often the middle-class that gets squished.''


    In addition to Harper, Craig Kimbrel, Dallas Keuchel, Marwin Gonzalez, Carlos Gonzalez and Gio Gonzalez were still on the market on the eve of the exhibition opener scheduled for Thursday.


    And many of those who have signed got deals for a fraction of their initial hopes. Mike Moustakas turned down a $17.4 million qualifying offer from Kansas City after the 2017 season and returned to the Royals in mid-March for a one-year contract that included a guaranteed $6.5 million. He was traded to Milwaukee during the summer, earned $2.2 million in bonuses and became a free agent again. He stayed with the Brewers for a one-year deal guaranteeing $10 million - raising his two-year total to just $1.3 million more than the one-year contract he turned down 15 months ago.


    ''It was nice to see Manny come off the board yesterday, but ultimately it's a lot more than one player,'' said reliever Andrew Miller, who left Cleveland for a $25 million, two-year contract with St. Louis. ''Even the guys that are getting deals that they're happy with, the timing of it is unique compared to what we saw in the past. It used to be a couple guys maybe played the long game. Now it seems like a lot of guys have no choice. The stories that we hear when guys show up to camp is that they had no offers.''


    Players are ready to go to war over WAR. Teams compare the Wins Above Replacement of veterans against rookies. In addition, data shows older players spent more time on the disabled list.


    The system since 1976 has been based on seniority. Clubs control the salaries of young players, those with roughly three-to-six years of service are eligible for arbitration and those with more than six are free. For decades, many players in the second half of their careers had deals that reflected earlier production more than their current output.


    ''There has been an explosion in data, and when you have more data you have fewer gaps that require some intuitive or subjective assessment,'' Alderson said. ''The second aspect of this is people running clubs are all exposed to the same data, and the data is only minimally subject to interpretation.''


    Data also is causing teams to shed veterans during the offseason in favor of rebuilding. The cost of amateurs residing in the U.S., Puerto Rico and Canada was capped in the labor contract that started ahead of the 2012 season and the price of international amateurs was capped before the 2017 season.


    Boras, whose top free-agent clients include Harper and Keuchel, suggests adding wild-card teams, so more teams try to compete later into the season.


    ''There is a clear evidence of tanking in our industry,'' he said. ''Clubs are choosing to lose and tank and the decrease in competition for the better teams does not require them to be as good. So they have less incentive to build the depth of their roster.''


    Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred maintains all teams are trying to win, though some have a longer-term vision of success. Boras says stripped-down rosters have been the cause of three straight years of attendance drops - to under a 30,000 average for the first time since 2003.


    ''I'm not saying that every team has to serve steak, but I'll tell you what, fans of this game love to go to the ballpark and have a good hamburger,'' Boras said. ''And that means that they know their team can beat another team every time. But when you walk in there and you're serving essentially stale, less-than-quality meat, fans aren't going to come, and the evidence has shown they won't.''
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