April Fools! 10 times hidden-ball trick worked

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April Fools! 10 times hidden-ball trick worked

Happy April Fools' Day, everybody! We thought about orchestrating a hoax to convince you that Derek Jeter signed with the Mets, but that just didn't seem nice. Instead, we've rounded up 10 classic instances of one of our favorite MLB pranks: 

The hidden-ball trick.

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Mets, Lagares nearing contract extension

Deal would buy out Gold Glover's arbitration years

Mets, Lagares nearing contract extension

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The Mets are closing in on a contract extension with Gold Glove outfielder Juan Lagares, according to a source familiar with the negotiations. Yahoo Sports first reported that the deal would be worth $23 million over four seasons after 2015, with a $9.5 million fifth-year option potentially keeping Lagares in New York through the 2020 season.

The Mets have not commented on the deal because it is not final. Lagares confirmed late Wednesday morning that he has not put pen to paper, but that talks are ongoing.

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Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Fred Zinkie

10 bold fantasy predictions for 2015

10 bold fantasy predictions for 2015

Today may be April Fools' Day, but the following 10 fantasy predictions are not jokes. Sure, some of them may seem a bit outlandish right now, but no one will be laughing by the end of September. And remember: You heard it here first.

Mookie Betts will lead the Majors in runs scored

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Fred Zinkie is a senior fantasy baseball writer for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FredZinkieMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Verlander's opening series availability in doubt

Right triceps soreness may lead to first career stint on disabled list

Verlander's opening series availability in doubt

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Justin Verlander resumed throwing on Wednesday at Joker Marchant Stadium, but his scheduled regular-season debut next Wednesday in Detroit is in serious question.

"It's a little bit of a stretch right now," manager Brad Ausmus said of Verlander's chances, "but I wouldn't wave it off."

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Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Hanley expected to be 'a force' in Red Sox lineup

Hanley expected to be 'a force' in Red Sox lineup

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- In a loaded lineup that has a mix of decorated veterans and exciting young players, Hanley Ramirez sits in the catbird's seat, otherwise known as the cleanup spot.

In front of him will be the trio of Mookie Betts, Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz. Behind Ramirez, you'll have Pablo Sandoval, Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino and Xander Bogaerts.

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Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

10 names to know before the season begins

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10 names to know before the season begins

You know about Yasiel Puig's arm, Mike Trout's leaping/hugging abilities and the prodigious power of Giancarlo Stanton. And although he's never had a Major League at-bat, you've probably heard of Kris Bryant. I mean, there's even a book about his life.

But there are also some interesting, talented players who you may not have heard of yet. Here are 10 names to look out for in 2015.

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What to watch for in today's games

What to watch for in today's games

The end of Spring Training is near. For some clubs, Wednesday is the final day of Grapefruit or Cactus League play before they move on to a final few exhibition games in other locations. Yes, the regular season is almost here, and that's no April Fools' joke.

Here are three things to watch for in Wednesday's games (all times ET):

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Andrew Simon is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Dan O'Dowd

Identifying 15 players who may become trade targets

Cueto, Price, Tulowitzki among high-impact stars who will be desired at Deadline

Identifying 15 players who may become trade targets

The 162-game odyssey begins in just a few days, and after Opening Day, one of the biggest days on the MLB calendar is the non-waiver Trade Deadline on July 31. For general managers, it's never too early to start identifying trade targets; here are 15 players you will be hearing about in trade rumors this summer.

Cole Hamels, LHP, Phillies
He's the biggest name among a few Phils who will be on the block. Closer Jonathan Papelbon will also be discussed, and perhaps second baseman Chase Utley will be as well. First baseman Ryan Howard could even get moved if he can show the ability to crush right-handers again, but Philly would need to eat a lot of what's left of the $60 million Howard is owed over the next two years.

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Dan O'Dowd is an MLB Network analyst and MLB.com columnist who served as general manager of the Rockies for 15 years, building a National League pennant winner in 2007. Prior to his time with Colorado, he worked in the front offices of the Orioles and Indians. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

New year, new team, same excitement for Zobrist

New year, new team, same excitement for Zobrist

Regardless of where he's playing, Ben Zobrist has always had a fondness for the beginning of a new baseball season.

This time around, that "clean start" is taking on a whole new meaning. Zobrist, entering his 10th year in the Majors, is gearing up for his first season in Oakland -- and his first season wearing anything other than a Rays uniform.

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AJ Cassavell is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Reyes' health and performance go hand in hand

Full season, greater selectivity among Blue Jays shortstop's goals for 2015

Reyes' health and performance go hand in hand

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Jose Reyes is a four-time All-Star, a former batting champion and a $106 million man. Yet, somehow, when it came to this year's Spring Training, he's also someone who flew completely under the radar.

That's what happens when the team you play for adds Russell Martin and Josh Donaldson to the heart of an order that already included Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. It's also the result of two injury-plagued seasons that have left people questioning Reyes' ability to stand out during a grueling 162-game season.

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Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Puig steals base with elusive maneuver

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Puig steals base with elusive maneuver

On a 2-0 pitch to Adrian Gonzalez in the bottom of the first inning of Tuesday's Dodgers-White Sox Spring Training matchup, Yasiel Puig attempted to steal second base. The throw from Geovany Soto was in plenty of time.

Puig made it safe anyway.

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Get an edge in your league with Fantasy 411's Cheat Sheet

Get an edge in your league with Fantasy 411's Cheat Sheet

With fantasy-baseball-draft season in full swing, MLB.com put together a cheat sheet for fans in need of expert advice. Make sure to have the one-stop information shop on hand during your auctions or snake drafts.

For comprehensive coverage of the player pool, check out MLB.com/preview. And follow @Fantasy411 for daily- and annual-league tips all season long.

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Zachary Finkelstein is a fantasy editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Who is top player at each position in AL Central?

Who is top player at each position in AL Central?

The American League Central has sent a team to the World Series in two of the last three years and a pair of clubs to the postseason in each of the last two seasons. Once again in 2015, it's a division worthy of attention as the regular season heads toward the promise of October.

Some prime individual talent resides in the AL Central, too, including a two-time Most Valuable Player Award winner and the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner, along with a treasure chest of Gold Glove Award winners. As 2015 begins with the Kansas City Royals defending the AL pennant, here's a look at the best of the division by way of a position-by-position breakdown:

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

MLB.com Columnist

Anthony Castrovince

5 keys for AL Central clubs

5 keys for AL Central clubs

Any number of factors can conspire to decide a division. But at the dawn of a new season, these are the five factors that look like they'll loom largest in the American League Central.

1. Royal relief regression?

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Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

McClendon ejected, runs across outfield to leave game

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McClendon ejected, runs across outfield to leave game

You already know that Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon is an ejection artist. We know you're familiar with his early work as well as some of his later shenanigans. But this week, McClendon cemented his status as the Marina Abramovic of getting kicked out of ballgames.

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Everything you need to know about service time

Everything you need to know about service time

Major League service time, which ultimately decides how long a team has control over a player during the beginning of his career, is always a hot topic around this time of year. The rules regarding service time can sometimes be tough to understand, so here is a primer.

Service time pertains to a player's days spent on the 25-man roster. Once a player reaches the Major Leagues, his contract is under team control for six years of service time (a year of service time is 172 days), and that consists of approximately three years near the league minimum salary and three or four years of arbitration (see below).

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

With spring ending, Redmond likes team unity, efficiency

Manager reflects on camp as Grapefruit League schedule wraps up Wednesday

With spring ending, Redmond likes team unity, efficiency

JUPITER, Fla. -- For six weeks, the Marlins used Spring Training to bond together and prepare for the regular season. On Wednesday, Miami's Grapefruit League schedule came to a close.

Manager Mike Redmond likes what he saw since camp started, but he noted a different level of adjustment is ahead when Opening Day rolls around on Monday.

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Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Tanaka, Yanks relieved after healthy spring

Tanaka, Yanks relieved after healthy spring

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The contact might have been more solid than Masahiro Tanaka would have preferred on Tuesday, but as the Yankees right-hander left the mound for the final time this spring, the organization had to be thrilled that he is heading into the regular season with a clean bill of health.

Preferring to face a big league club for his final tuneup, Tanaka volunteered to make the 140-mile trek to Hammond Stadium, where he completed his Spring Training workload by hurling 4 1/3 innings of three-run, seven-hit ball in a 3-1 loss to the Twins.

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Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Salty eager to enjoy much-needed rebound season

After rough transition to NL, catcher's efforts at and behind plate will be key to Marlins' hopes

Salty eager to enjoy much-needed rebound season

JUPITER, Fla. -- Turning the page is not a problem for Marlins catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. After a disappointing 2014, the 29-year-old is ready for a fresh start.

The new beginning comes Monday on Opening Day. Miami, a team on the rise, is hopeful Saltalamacchia plays a pivotal role in what becomes a playoff season.

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Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

In right field and on bases, Puig shows off arm

In right field and on bases, Puig shows off arm

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- In his final Cactus League game, Yasiel Puig checked in with one base hit and two highlight plays.

Puig got to show off his right-field throwing arm in the fourth inning, when Conor Gillaspie tried to go from first to third on a two-out single by Carlos Sanchez. Puig charged the bouncing single and came up firing a perfect one-hopper to third baseman Juan Uribe, who tagged out Gillaspie.

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

Chapman fine after early exit vs. Brewers

Reds closer leaves after miscommunication over injury

Chapman fine after early exit vs. Brewers

PHOENIX -- A mid-inning removal of Reds closer Aroldis Chapman on Tuesday turned out to be nothing more than a miscommunication.

Chapman left Tuesday's game after recording only one out in the fifth inning of Cincinnati's 10-4 win over the Brewers at Maryvale Baseball Park. He retired the lone batter he faced on a routine grounder to second, but the trainers and coaches came out to the mound. Chapman threw two practice pitches but was removed.

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

R.B.I. Baseball 15 now available on next-generation consoles

Cubs All-Star first baseman Rizzo is first cover athlete

R.B.I. Baseball 15 now available on next-generation consoles

Major League Baseball Advanced Media announced that R.B.I. Baseball 15, with Cubs All-Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo as its first cover athlete, is now available on next-generation consoles. These editions of the iconic and easy-to-play game also are available via GameStop.

R.B.I. Baseball is developed by MLBAM and officially licensed by MLB and the MLB Players Association. This year's game arrives with a host of all-new features ranging from stat tracking to online multiplayer mode to newly crafted authentic MLB ballpark designs for each club, so here are some questions and answers about what to expect:

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Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Spring forward: Astros set Opening Day roster

Wojciechowski will start third game of the season; reliever Harris also makes club

Spring forward: Astros set Opening Day roster

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- With no real surprises, the Astros set their 25-man roster on Wednesday morning, informing several players they had made the club while putting three pitchers on the 15-day disabled list.

The Astros placed relief pitcher Josh Fields (groin), starting pitcher Brett Oberholtzer (blister) and starting pitcher Brad Peacock (recovery from hip surgery) on the DL. Those moves opened the door for starting pitcher Asher Wojciechowski and reliever Will Harris to make the club.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Abreu raises spring average to .519 with four hits in win

Slugger doubles twice, drives in run as Rodon, Sox defeat host Dodgers

Abreu raises spring average to .519 with four hits in win

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Jose Abreu had a pair of doubles and a pair of singles, and J.B. Shuck doubled and singled as the White Sox beat the Dodgers, 2-1, on Tuesday. Abreu doubled in one run, and Melky Cabrera brought home the other with a sacrifice fly.

"That's the plan, to come to Spring Training and start the season hot," said Abreu, through translator and White Sox Spanish language broadcaster Billy Russo. "Right now, I am very glad about what my results are, and I think I can keep the momentum into the season. I'm ready for the season. I am anxious and tired, because the sun is so hot here."

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Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Phillies outright Aumont after right-hander clears waivers

M. Gonzalez also outrighted; Bogusevic reassigned to Minor League camp

Phillies outright Aumont after right-hander clears waivers

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Phillippe Aumont quietly packed up the things in his locker Wednesday morning at Bright House Field.

He could have been packing for a trip to another organization, but he was not. Aumont entered Spring Training out of options, which meant if he did not make the Opening Day roster, he needed to clear waivers to remain with the Phillies. As no team claimed Aumont, the Phillies announced he had been outrighted to Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

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Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his Phillies blog The Zo Zone. Follow him on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

This KBO first pitch was a literal ball of fire

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This KBO first pitch was a literal ball of fire

Korean baseball teams have taught us to expect incredible first pitches, but we weren't quite ready for this literalization of baseball's favorite metaphor. Sure, we've maybe implied that some players can throw hot fire, but the KT Wiz started their home opener with a first pitch that was literally a burning baseball meteor careening into the stadium. 

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Crow facing Tommy John surgery

MRI reveals partial ligament tear in right elbow; will seek second opinion

Crow facing Tommy John surgery

JUPITER, Fla. -- Marlins reliever Aaron Crow has a partially torn ligament in his right elbow, and he is considering season-ending Tommy John surgery. The tear was revealed by an MRI exam on Tuesday.

Crow, who had been in the mix for a bullpen spot, felt discomfort in his throwing elbow on Sunday after pitching an inning against the Astros a day earlier.

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Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Mariners deal Ramirez to Rays for Montgomery

Mariners deal Ramirez to Rays for Montgomery

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Mariners right-hander Erasmo Ramirez was traded to Tampa Bay on Tuesday for left-hander Mike Montgomery as Seattle acquired a former first-round Draft pick in return for a pitcher who was out of Minor League options.

Ramirez, 24, was one of Seattle's top pitching prospects in 2012, when he was first called up, and he's started 35 games for the Mariners over the past three years. But he has struggled with consistency the past two seasons.

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Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Phils confident Giles' back tightness not serious

Reliever day to day, hopes to pitch in one of remaining spring games

Phils confident Giles' back tightness not serious

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Ken Giles said Wednesday morning that a doctor examined his back and told him the tightness he experienced there Tuesday is not serious.

The Phillies are confident about the diagnosis.

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Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his Phillies blog The Zo Zone. Follow him on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Paul Hagen

Who is the top player at each position in the NL East?

Who is the top player at each position in the NL East?

The general consensus is that the Nationals have the best team in the National League East, and the next six months may well prove that to be the case. Every team has good players, though. With that in mind, here's a look at the division and the top player at each position:

First base: Freddie Freeman, Braves
It's easy to forget that Freeman is just 25 years old. In 2011, he finished second in the NL Rookie of the Year Award voting. In the past two seasons, Freeman has had an OPS of .897 and .847, respectively, was twice an NL All-Star and twice received votes for the NL Most Valuable Player Award. And he should be entering the prime years of his career. Freeman has also been durable; last season, he played in all 162 games.

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