MLB.com Columnist

Phil Rogers

AL-inclusive: Everyone has eyes on West title

AL-inclusive: Everyone has eyes on West title

PHOENIX -- Jerry Dipoto knows that the Astros are favored to win the American League West, and if baseball analysts aren't talking about Jose Altuve's budding powerhouse, they're focused on the Rangers. Why not? They've won the AL West two years in a row.

Dipoto hides his confidence with a sheepish grin.

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Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Wheeler stays on track in latest 'pen session

Mets righty mixes breaking pitches into 2nd pain-free bullpen outing

Wheeler stays on track in latest 'pen session

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- For the second time since elbow tenderness created a snag in his throwing program, Zack Wheeler climbed atop a mound Wednesday for a bullpen session, the highlight of a rain-shortened day at Mets camp. Manager Terry Collins called it "a real big step forward for him," noting that Wheeler mixed breaking balls into his repertoire for the first time in over a week.

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Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Watch a kid hit moving car with a BP homer

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Watch a kid hit moving car with a BP homer

If you want to be a big league slugger, you have to practice hitting. And if you're like Jack Tannehill of Oxford, Miss., you also (inadvertently) practice windshield-smashing home runs.

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MLB.com Columnist

Joe Posnanski

Anticipated rule could continue decline of IBB

Anticipated rule could continue decline of IBB

The intentional walk is slowly dying. Last year, there were only 0.38 intentional walks per game, the lowest total since statisticians started counting intentional walks back in 1955. This is a clear trend, by the way -- the five lowest totals for intentional walks per game are, in order, the past five years.

This is a reason to rejoice. Managers are coming to realize that the intentional walk is, more often than not, a poor strategic choice.

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MLB.com columnist Joe Posnanski is a No. 1 New York Times best-selling author, an Emmy Award-winning writer and has been awarded National Sportswriter of the Year. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Braking news: Flashy car revs up Cubs camp

Strength coach Buss plans joke with Maddon, arrives in style

Braking news: Flashy car revs up Cubs camp

MESA, Ariz. -- When you win a World Series, you travel in style, and Cubs strength coach Tim Buss arrived for Tuesday's workout in a white Ferrari convertible.

"I don't think I've seen a Ferrari on the field before," pitcher Kyle Hendricks said. "You never know what to expect. It was a little unexpected, but not so unexpected. You expect the crazy around here, especially with 'Bussy.'"

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Yanks prospects log face time with Captain

Sheffield, Kaprielian among young players who dined with Jeter at camp

Yanks prospects log face time with Captain

TAMPA, Fla. -- It wouldn't be a Captain's Camp without dinner with the Captain himself.

Several of the Yankees' top prospects enjoyed dinner with former shortstop Derek Jeter on Tuesday. Jeter took the group of about 20 players and front-office personnel to Oxford Exchange in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Tampa, where he answered questions and offered advice.

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Corey Long is a contributor to MLB.com based in St. Petersburg. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

HOF to honor baseball-themed 'Simpsons'

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HOF to honor baseball-themed 'Simpsons'

On Monday, the National Baseball Hall of Fame announced what every baseball fan already knew: The lauded Simpsons episode "Homer at the Bat" is worthy of enshrinement in Cooperstown.

The Hall will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the episode on May 27 during Hall of Fame Classic Weekend. Festivities will include appearances by Wade Boggs and Ozzie Smith -- both of whom guest-starred in the episode -- at a discussion featuring members of The Simpsons team who put the episode together.

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MLB.com Columnist

Tracy Ringolsby

Indians out to end MLB's longest World Series drought

Cleveland hasn't won Fall Classic since '48; 8 of 14 expansion clubs yet to win

Indians out to end MLB's longest World Series drought

On the visiting side at Progressive Field last Nov. 2, the Cubs celebrated the end of a 107-season World Series championship drought, the longest in Major League history.

On the home side, meanwhile, a reality sank in. For all the Indians had accomplished -- winning an American League pennant and pushing the World Series into extra innings in Game 7 -- the Tribe inherited the distinction of having the longest active World Series championship drought -- a 68-year spell without a season-ending celebration.

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Tracy Ringolsby is columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Jonathan Mayo

Breaking down the Tigers' Top 30 Prospects

Twenty-two names on Detroit's list have ETA of this year or next

Breaking down the Tigers' Top 30 Prospects

After a disappointing 2015 season that saw them fall under .500 for the first time since 2008, the Tigers hit a bit of a reset button. It wasn't a full-on rebuilding process like the Braves or Phillies are in the middle of, but it did shift the focus a bit from buying to selling

David Price and Yoenis Cespedes were dealt at the deadline, bringing in some young talent. The jury is out just how much those players will help, though Michael Fulmer -- coming courtesy of the Cespedes deal with the Mets -- paid immediate dividends by winning the American League Rookie of the Year Award.

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Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Hamilton leaves Rangers camp to have left knee examined

Veteran slugger has had three surgeries on knee since September 2015

Hamilton leaves Rangers camp to have left knee examined

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton aggravated his surgically repaired left knee and has flown back to Texas to be examined by Dr. Walt Lowe in Houston.

Hamilton felt a problem with the knee while doing "arc" running on Tuesday, which means he was running at an angle and simulating baserunning rather than just a straight line.

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T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Mike Petriello

Greinke could bounce back through better fielding, framing

D-backs outfield's Defensive Runs Saved fell by 56 from 2015 to '16

Greinke could bounce back through better fielding, framing

Zack Greinke's first season in the desert hardly went as intended, and that's not exactly a controversial statement. "It didn't go as planned, for the team and myself for the most part," he told MLB.com's Steve Gilbert last October. "I didn't do that good when I came back [from the disabled list]," he added after reporting to camp earlier this month. "I kind of didn't pitch as good as I probably could have or should have."

That's not really in dispute, not after his ERA ballooned from a stunning 1.66 in 2015 with the Dodgers to an inflated 4.37 ERA with the D-backs in 2016. After missing six weeks in the summer with a left oblique strain and his final two starts of the year with a sore right shoulder, certainly better health would help. Better performance on Greinke's end would help, too.

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Mike Petriello is an analyst for MLB.com and the host of the Statcast podcast. He has previously written for ESPN Insider and FanGraphs. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Twins reliever Ryan O'Rourke's pitching secret is that he throws up before every appearance

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Twins reliever Ryan O'Rourke's pitching secret is that he throws up before every appearance

MLB players are a diverse bunch, and they bring with them a rich tapestry of pregame routines: A series of complex stretcheskissing the manager's forehead, dancing, whatever it takes to get ready to perform at the highest caliber. So really, is it so weird that Twins reliever Ryan O'Rourke has a Bill Russell-esque proclivity to vomit before he pitches?

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Upton brings rare feat into 13th season

Upton brings rare feat into 13th season

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Call them Baseball's Elite Eight. You have Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Mookie Betts, Wil Myers, Jose Altuve, Ian Desmond, Paul Goldschmidt and ... Melvin Upton Jr.?

Many would be surprised Upton would be in such elite company, but the Blue Jays outfielder joined the others last season as exclusive members of baseball's 20/20 club, hitting at least 20 home runs while stealing 20 bases.

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Mike Nabors is a contributor to MLB.com based in Dunedin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

O's being cautious with Britton

Closer rested Wednesday with oblique soreness

O's being cautious with Britton

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Zach Britton says that he's not worried about the soreness in his oblique. The Orioles left-hander, who converted all 47 of his save attempts in 2016, was scheduled to throw in an intrasquad game on Wednesday, but manager Buck Showalter said the day before that Britton would not pitch.

"It felt a little bit better today. It was a few days ago, just kind of normal soreness," Britton said.

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Rich Dubroff is a contributor to MLB.com based in Sarasota. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Geo Soto, Gio Soto share bond beyond name

Geo Soto, Gio Soto share bond beyond name

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- What's in a name?

Sometimes confusion for Chicago White Sox reliever Giovanni Soto and catcher Geovany Soto. But the teammates have more in common than their nearly identical names, and a friendship has blossomed between the new batterymates.

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Fabian Ardaya is a senior majoring in journalism at Arizona State University. This story is part of a Cactus League partnership between MLB.com and ASU's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

No major rules changes for '17, but '18 a possibility

No major rules changes for '17, but '18 a possibility

PHOENIX -- Major League Baseball may have one notable rule change this season -- an automatic intentional walk. As for significant rule changes, they appear to be very much on the table for 2018, with an eye toward speeding up the pace of play.

Commissioner Rob Manfred made this clear on Tuesday afternoon during a news conference that opened the fifth annual Cactus League Spring Training Media Day.

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Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. You can follow him on Twitter @richardjustice. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Next step for Kiermaier: Upping his offense

Next step for Kiermaier: Upping his offense

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Defense has always been a priority for Kevin Kiermaier.

And the Rays center fielder has elevated the way the position is played. He won Gold and Platinum Glove Awards for his work in 2015, and also won a Gold Glove Award in 2016 -- despite playing in just 105 games due to injuries.

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Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Breaking down the Indians' Top 30 Prospects

Cleveland expects to get plenty of help from farmhands in 2017

Breaking down the Indians' Top 30 Prospects

The Indians came within one win of ending the franchise's 68-year World Series drought in 2016, ultimately falling to the Cubs in extra innings in Game 7 of the Fall Classic.

But while their season may have ended in disappointment, it was still a banner season for the Tribe, which won 94 games, the second most in the American League, en route to its first division title since 2007 and the team's first pennant since 1997.

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Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Lefty Peralta impresses Price early in camp

Lefty Peralta impresses Price early in camp

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- A game has yet to be played, but Reds lefty reliever Wandy Peralta hasn't wasted his chances to impress during the early portion of Spring Training. Peralta has stood out during bullpen sessions and again on Tuesday, when he faced some Reds hitters.

"I don't know if there is anyone who has impressed me more than Wandy Peralta, as far as his bullpen quality, his pitch quality," Reds manager Bryan Price said on Wednesday morning. "[He has] a really good changeup and a slider that's impressed me as being better this year. The command and sharpness has been better."

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Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Merritt gets ball first in early Indians spring rotation

ALCS surprise star will start Saturday vs. Reds; Salazar, Carrasco, Clevinger, Bauer up next

Merritt gets ball first in early Indians spring rotation

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Ryan Merritt pitched himself into Indians lore during the 2016 postseason, taking the ball in the American League Championship Series and helping push Cleveland into the World Series with a brilliant performance in Toronto. It was a whirlwind October for the lefty, who arrived to Tribe camp this spring with a sudden wealth of experience.

The stage will be much smaller on Saturday -- and the crowd not nearly as raucous as Rogers Centre during Game 5 of the ALCS -- but Merritt is nonetheless excited about his next start for the Indians. The left-hander will take the ball for the Tribe in its Cactus League opener against the Reds at Goodyear Ballpark.

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Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

D-backs set to play first game of spring against GCU

Contest against Antelopes part of 'Collegiate Baseball Series'

D-backs set to play first game of spring against GCU

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The D-backs and Grand Canyon University will face off on Wednesday at 1:10 p.m. MST at Salt River Fields in the first exhibition game of the MLB Spring Training season.

It may not count in the Cactus League standings, but the contest against the Antelopes has some meaning to the D-backs.

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Steve Gilbert has covered the D-backs for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Blair hoping slider will propel him into rotation

Right-hander developed pitch in Triple-A, K'd 10 in final start of '16

Blair hoping slider will propel him into rotation

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Aaron Blair has returned to Spring Training with the out pitch he finally developed just in time to end his frustrating rookie season, when he threw a dazzling 10-strikeout performance against the Tigers. But the Braves right-hander understands that last year's inconsistencies potentially mean he'll to need to wait for another call to the Majors.

Influenced by last season's late success, and the desire to field a much more competitive team during SunTrust Park's inaugural season, the Braves acquired three veteran starting pitchers -- Bartolo Colon, R.A. Dickey and Jaime Garcia -- this past offseason. In doing so, they created the likelihood that Blair and Matt Wisler will both begin the season with Triple-A Gwinnett.

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Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Ausmus prefers surf to turf

Manager golfed during his playing days, but has since taken up surfing

Ausmus prefers surf to turf

LAKELAND, Fla. -- The rain limiting the Tigers' Spring Training practice Wednesday morning to indoor activities likely meant the same for the 22nd Annual Major League Scramble that afternoon at Grasslands Golf & Country Club in Lakeland.

But a rained out day at the links has not concerned manager Brad Ausmus for years.

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Zak Kerr is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Joe Posnanski

Is 300-wins club done adding members?

Is 300-wins club done adding members?

Pitcher wins, as you probably know, have been going out of style for about a decade now. There have been campaigns against them, like Brian Kenny's "Kill The Win." There are numerous examples of how random the win has become; a pitcher is now more likely to pick up a victory pitching an inning in relief than pitching seven good innings as a starter. And, anyway, the way the game is pointing -- with pitch counts and fewer complete games -- the win loses meaning every year.

And so we ask: Will there ever be another 300-game winner?

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Joe Posnanski is a No. 1 New York Times best-selling author, an Emmy Award-winning writer and has been awarded National Sportswriter of the Year. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Pomeranz, Wright may round out rotation

Barring injuries, Boston's back end could feature 2016 All-Stars

Pomeranz, Wright may round out rotation

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- With all the attention on the top three pitchers in the Red Sox rotation this spring, it is easy to forget that the team will likely feature a pair of All-Stars on the back end, too.

Drew Pomeranz and Steven Wright are competing to fill out the rotation behind David Price, Rick Porcello and Chris Sale this spring. Both Pomeranz and Wright were named All-Stars in 2016, both come into camp with serious question marks about their health to start the season and both are about a week behind in their throwing schedules.

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Scott Butherus is a contributor to MLB.com based in Fort Myers. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Giolito feels work from offseason paying off early in camp

No. 11 overall prospect hoping to see better results in 2017

Giolito feels work from offseason paying off early in camp

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Lucas Giolito likes the way the ball is coming out of his hand, a noticeable difference even through just one week of Spring Training pitching with the White Sox.

"Much better than last year," said Giolito, MLB's No. 11 overall prospect, per MLBPipeline.com. "I made a lot of positive changes in the offseason trying to simplify things -- get back to basics, let the ball kind of come out of my hand instead of forcing it. And it's feeling very good."

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Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Hot topics: Cactus clubs look ahead to season

Hot topics: Cactus clubs look ahead to season

In advance of Friday's opening round of spring exhibitions, the managers and general managers from the clubs competing in Arizona were on hand Tuesday for the fifth annual Cactus League Spring Training Media Day.

Below is a rundown of all the biggest stories to come out of Tuesday's event:

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Chad Thornburg is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Nats agree to 2-year deal with Wieters

Backstop's bat adds depth to Washington's lineup

Nats agree to 2-year deal with Wieters

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The Nationals had been the speculated landing spot for free-agent catcher Matt Wieters this offseason, and the two sides reached a deal on Tuesday, pending a physical, manager Dusty Baker confirmed.

The deal reportedly is for $21 million over two years, with an opt-out after the first season. Wieters will be paid $10.5 million in 2017 and the same amount if he returns for '18, with $5 million deferred through '21, according to The Washington Post.

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Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Lo-Mo takes pride at being the boom in the room

Lo-Mo takes pride at being the boom in the room

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- The silence inside the Rays' clubhouse was broken this month when the Rays decided to bring back Logan Morrison for another season.

That's because there's no such thing as a quiet clubhouse with Lo-Mo in it.

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Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Carlton trade 'phantastic' for Phils in '72

Lefty went on to win 27 games for a Phillies team that won only 59

Carlton trade 'phantastic' for Phils in '72

Two quality pitchers were traded for each other, because they couldn't agree to a contract with their original clubs. The record shows that on Feb. 25, 1972, left-hander Steve Carlton was dealt to the Philadelphia Phillies from the St. Louis Cardinals, for right-hander Rick Wise. It turned out to be the last trade Phillies general manager John Quinn -- who spent 28 years as a Major League GM -- ever made.

Carlton, 27, was fresh from a 20-win season for a team that tied for second place in the National League East; Wise, 26, was a 17-game-winner with the last-place Phillies. Carlton had 77 big league wins to Wise's 75. Each was seeking a raise to $65,000, and both clubs balked. Ironically, after the trade, Carlton got $65,000 from the Phillies and Wise almost that much from St. Louis, according to the New York Times.

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Larry Shenk is editor/writer of the Alumni section. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.