Week Ahead: Shields still on Hot Stove menu

Right-handed ace remains biggest name on free-agent market

Week Ahead: Shields still on Hot Stove menu

Rob Manfred, Major League Baseball's new Commissioner, enters his first full week on the job with plenty to look forward to.

Manfred has indicated that he has lofty goals to enhance youth participation in baseball, he has bold vision for the improvement of technology throughout the game, and he will explore ways to make big league baseball better on the field for years to come.

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

Mr. Universe? Stanton judges pageant

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Mr. Universe? Stanton judges pageant

On Sunday night, over 80 of the world's most beautiful women will compete for the title of Miss Universe. And while those of us who believe that the title is meaningless until the multi-cellular creatures of Xorig IV-9 are included, it's still a highly sought after honor.

And for this year's competition, slugger Giancarlo Stanton and boxer Manny Pacquiao were chosen to help judge the event. 

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Commissioner Rob Manfred's letter to fans

Commissioner Rob Manfred's letter to fans

Dear Fans:

On the night of August 14, 2014, I left a Baltimore hotel after being elected Commissioner of Baseball. As I began to reply to the overwhelming number of congratulatory messages coming in, it hit me that I'd just been entrusted to protect the integrity of our National Pastime and to set a course that allows this great game to continue to flourish -- now and in the years to come. Needless to say, I was deeply honored by the trust the owners placed in me.

Today is my first day as Commissioner, and I am incredibly excited to get to work. I am grateful to Commissioner Selig for his expertise and friendship. His leadership set a direction that led to historic success.  

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Presenting the official 2015 MLB baseball

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Presenting the official 2015 MLB baseball

There's a new signature on the official Major League Baseball ... well, um ... baseball.

Commissioner Rob Manfred's John Hancock will be prominently featured on every potential souvenir pitched, batted, thrown and belted over the outfield wall in 2015 and beyond.

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Napoli energized, refreshed after sleep apnea surgery

First baseman overcomes condition that prevented him from feeling rested

Napoli energized, refreshed after sleep apnea surgery

LEDYARD, Conn. -- To say Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli is energized for the coming season is far from the typical mantra you hear from just about every baseball player at this time of year. The slugger has the energy now that he lacked for close to a decade as he battled a severe case of sleep apnea.

To get to this point wasn't easy. Napoli had major surgery in November to treat his condition, and it might stun you to realize the kind of ordeal it was.

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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.

Opening Day: Manfred takes over as Commissioner

Opening Day: Manfred takes over as Commissioner

When Rob Manfred arrives at 245 Park Ave. in New York on Monday morning, it will be almost like nothing has changed. He'll take the elevator to Major League Baseball's headquarters on the 31st floor. He'll walk to the same office he's been in for years.

Everything has changed, of course. Manfred became baseball's first new Commissioner in 23 years at 12:01 a.m. ET Sunday morning when Bud Selig officially retired from the role. It was a momentous occasion for the sport.

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

MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

Manfred has clear vision of game's future

Commissioner's plan includes umbrella approach to better engage youth

Manfred has clear vision of game's future

NEW YORK -- Rob Manfred's first day as Commissioner began with a breathtaking realization.

"It really did kind of hit me that we're through the transition period," he said Sunday afternoon. "I'm very excited. My only regret is that it's Sunday, and there's not much point in going to the office. I can't expect everyone to be front and center today."

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Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Beloved Mr. Cub, Hall of Famer Banks dies at 83

Beloved Mr. Cub, Hall of Famer Banks dies at 83

The preeminent advocate of two-for-the-price-of-one baseball, the former shortstop who hit hundreds of home runs at a time when shortstops seldom hit home runs and the man as readily associated with one team as anyone in the history of American sports has died. Mr. Cub is gone. The game has lost Ernie Banks, the most popular baseball figure ever in Chicago.

Banks, who stands alongside Michael Jordan, Dick Butkus, Walter Payton, Bobby Hull, George Halas, Harry Caray, Bill Veeck and Ryne Sandberg in the Windy City's sports pantheon, died Friday at age 83, leaving the Second City without its No. 1 baseball ambassador.

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

Chicago to host public memorial for Banks at Daley Plaza

Hall of Famer's bronze statue on display Wednesday until Saturday

Chicago to host public memorial for Banks at Daley Plaza

CHICAGO -- The bronze statue of Ernie Banks will be installed in Daley Plaza from Wednesday until Saturday as a public memorial for fans who want to celebrate the Hall of Famer's life, the Cubs and the City of Chicago announced Sunday. The outdoor plaza is at 50 W. Washington Street.

Banks, who played his entire career with the Cubs from 1953-71, passed away Friday at the age of 83.

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Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Offseason spent in Texas agrees with Darvish

Rangers righty says strength program going well, elbow feels fine

Offseason spent in Texas agrees with Darvish

ARLINGTON -- This has been a winter of content for Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish, who has spent most of it in Texas working out at the Ballpark.

Darvish has a new girlfriend. In November he tweeted to his 1.24 million followers that he was dating Seiko Yamamoto, a four-time world wrestling champion.

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T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Torii returns to open arms at TwinsFest

Popular outfielder commands long autograph lines, admiration from fans

Torii returns to open arms at TwinsFest

MINNEAPOLIS -- For Torii Hunter, it felt like he never left.

Hunter, who signed a one-year deal worth $10.5 million this offseason to rejoin the Twins after leaving Minnesota following the 2007 season, was perhaps the most popular player at TwinsFest this weekend, as he commanded long lines for his autograph and had his name chanted by fans as he walked from each event to the next.

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Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Anthony Castrovince

Pivotal season looms for many

Players, managers and executives face potential make-or-break year

Pivotal season looms for many

Every season is an opportunity for everybody fortunate to participate at the Major League level. But some guys have more riding on the outcome than others.

With that in mind, here are 10 people in and around the game who have reached a particularly interesting intersection in 2015.

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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.

New Commissioner makes mark on official ball

All MLB game balls will now be stamped with Manfred's signature

New Commissioner makes mark on official ball

Now, it's official.

"Robert D. Manfred Jr." is the cursive stamped signature as of today on all Rawlings game balls to be used in Major League Baseball, representing Manfred's first day as MLB 's 10th Commissioner, succeeding Bud Selig, who retired and is now Commissioner Emeritus.

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Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. MLB.com national columnist Paul Hagen and MLB Official Historian John Thorn contributed to this story. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Network deems Hanley top left fielder in a tight race

Network deems Hanley top left fielder in a tight race

Entering the 2015 season, Major League Baseball is stacked with great left fielders. Some are well known, others are under the radar and one has yet to even play the position.

Who's the top left fielder in baseball right now? MLB Network's response may surprise you.

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

Halos' Hamilton expects big year at plate in 2015

Halos' Hamilton expects big year at plate in 2015

ANAHEIM -- Josh Hamilton's personal goals haven't changed, even though expectations from the outside have plunged.

"I'm gonna say .300, 30 and 100," Hamilton said Sunday night, referencing his batting average, home run and RBI totals when asked about his own expectations for 2015. "Keep it simple. Those are very obtainable."

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Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Fernando Rodney's secret to success: Naps

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Fernando Rodney's secret to success: Naps

Multiple studies have shown that naps increase productivity with NASA pilots showing improved performance and alertness following a few winks. Count Mariners closer Fernando Rodney in the camp of the converted. 

Coming off a 2014 season in which he lead the league with 48 saves and posted his third consecutive above-average ERA+, the 37-year-old hurler admitted that after coming to the park and getting ready, he'll "sometimes take a nap."

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Kluber collects Cy Young Award, joins Tribe Fest

Indians ace 'excited about getting going' for 2015 season

Kluber collects Cy Young Award, joins Tribe Fest

CLEVELAND -- It sat near the edge of a table inside the training room within the Indians' clubhouse. The sides of the black plaque were smudged with the fingerprints of the many people who have handled it, wanting to get a close look at the honor bestowed upon Cleveland pitcher Corey Kluber.

Following a whirlwind trip to New York and back, Kluber returned to Tribe Fest with his American League Cy Young Award in tow. The team told him he did not have to come back to snowy Cleveland, but Kluber felt it was important for him to be at the stadium for the second and final day of the annual event for Indians fans.

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

Weaver weighs in on offseason, goals for 2015

Weaver weighs in on offseason, goals for 2015

ANAHEIM -- At one point last season, Jered Weaver stepped on the scale, saw "199" and committed himself to getting bigger.

On Sunday night, 25 days before reporting for Spring Training, the Angels' ace weighed in at a career-high 224.

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Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Braun says 'so far, so good' with right thumb

Brewers slugger feels real test will come with Spring Training games

Braun says 'so far, so good' with right thumb

MILWAUKEE -- More than three months after undergoing a procedure to relieve nerve pain that contributed to the least productive season of his career, Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun was still brimming with optimism on Sunday.

"Knock on wood, I feel great," Braun said during the team's annual fanfest. "It feels really good. Everything's going well, regular offseason, regular routine. I started hitting a little bit earlier than I typically do, just to kind of see how it felt. So far, so good."

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Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

SoxFest concludes with high hopes for 2015

Ventura appreciates fans' optimism after rebuilding process

SoxFest concludes with high hopes for 2015

CHICAGO -- The past two SoxFests weren't exactly filled with the sort of venomous anger once witnessed in Chicago City Council meetings. Yet there were more than a few fans who had questions for general manager Rick Hahn and manager Robin Ventura that began with, "I've got a lot of problems with you people."

Not SoxFest '15, which concluded Sunday afternoon at the Hilton Chicago. It was almost exclusively messages of thanks and visions of grandeur toward the team's second playoff appearance since they won the World Series 10 years ago.

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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.

Source: Flaherty, Orioles agree on one-year contract

Source: Flaherty, Orioles agree on one-year contract

The Orioles have reached a one-year deal with infielder Ryan Flaherty worth $1.075 million, avoiding arbitration, a source told MLB.com.

Flaherty initially filed for a salary of $1.5 million while the Orioles countered at $900,000 when figures were exchanged last week, and the two sides have agreed to meet in the middle.

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

Trimmer Garcia ready to take off in 2015

Outfielder has worked hard, lost weight in offseason

Trimmer Garcia ready to take off in 2015

CHICAGO -- Evaluating Avisail Garcia's bright future simply by judging his past results must be done so with a couple of caveats in mind.

Remember that the talented right fielder had only 51 career regular-season plate appearances before playing his first postseason game with Detroit in 2012. Remember that he missed important development time from April 9 to Aug. 16 last season due to a torn labrum and avulsion fracture in his left shoulder, suffered when diving for a fly ball in Colorado. Remember that Garcia also will be a mere 23 years old when the White Sox open the 2015 season in Kansas City.

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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.

At 'On Deck' event, Brewers owner says roster's not set

GM Melvin: Milwaukee isn't in market to acquire Shields or Zimmermann

At 'On Deck' event, Brewers owner says roster's not set

MILWAUKEE -- A year after using the event to announce a record-setting contract for Matt Garza, Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio told fans at Sunday's "On Deck" event that the team's 2015 edition is still under construction.

"Some of our best signings, if you look back over the years, are signings that we made after this event," Attanasio told fans during a question and answer session. "I'm pretty confident you'll see at least one other signing between now and the start of Spring Training. I just don't know who that will be."

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Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Buxton reveals secret to his defensive skills

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Buxton reveals secret to his defensive skills

Byron Buxton's 2014 was cut short by injuries, but there's still plenty of anticipation for 2015. MLB ranked him as the top prospect heading into this coming season, and Twins fans are already eagerly anticipating seeing his five-tools in action at Target Field.

One of those tools: A knack for chasing down fly balls in center field. His prospect profile lists fielding as his second-best skill, behind only his running.

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Urshela, Merritt earn Indians' Minors awards

Urshela, Merritt earn Indians' Minors awards

CLEVELAND -- The focus each year at this time is understandably on the makeup of the Indians' Major League roster. Cleveland's efforts to construct a team capable of sustained success must also include building blocks throughout the organization's farm system.

Two such prospects are third baseman Giovanny Urshela and left-hander Ryan Merritt, who were honored on Monday as the club's top Minor Leaguers for 2014. For their work last season, Urshela received the Lou Boudreau Award (top position player) and Merritt took home the Bob Feller Award (top pitcher) -- annual accolades that were established by the organization in 1990.

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

Mariners close to reuniting with Endy, Gutierrez

Mariners close to reuniting with Endy, Gutierrez

SEATTLE -- Two familiar outfielders, Endy Chavez and Franklin Gutierrez, are close to returning to the Mariners on Minor League deals with invitations to next month's Major League Spring Training.

The Mariners haven't confirmed either signing, but the News Tribune (Tacoma) reported Sunday that Chavez had agreed to a deal. The 36-year-old Venezuelan played the past two years with Seattle, both times originally signing a Minor League contract before being added to the 25-man roster during the season.

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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.

Moustakas' wild ALCS catch gets tribute it deserves

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Moustakas' wild ALCS catch gets tribute it deserves

It was the top of the sixth inning in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series. Adam Jones hit a high pop up into foul territory by third base. Mike Moustakas chased the soaring ball over to the stands and didn't think twice: He stretched out over the railing, flipped over and landed in the laps of the fans on the other side. Oh, and he made the catch.

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Watch Ovechkin strike out at NHL All-Star Game

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Watch Ovechkin strike out at NHL All-Star Game

I don't know much about hockey, but I do know that Alexander Ovechkin is very good at it. After all, he has lead the NHL in goals in four separate seasons, something that (I'm guessing) is very difficult to do. At the NHL All-Star skills competition on Saturday, Ovechkin tried to win the Breakaway Challenge by taking a few hacks at a lobbed puck. After all, how different could a hockey stick really be from a baseball bat? 

Turns out, very. Ovechkin whiffed harder than Mighty Casey and went down on three swings, even coming up empty after switching to a goalie's larger stick.

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MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

Banks' smile and warmth will live on forever

His impact off the field every bit as impressive as his Hall of Fame career

Banks' smile and warmth will live on forever

Ernie Banks never seemed to have a bad day, and isn't that why we loved him? His was a journey filled with laughter and joy, and with a smile that lit up rooms and warmed hearts for 83 years.

Banks, who passed away Friday, played baseball the way he lived. He was a little kid at the ballpark, his enthusiasm infectious. He loved his Cubbies, too. Lord, did he love his Cubs. He loved that uniform, that ballpark and especially the fans.

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Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Perkins recovered from arm injury, prepared for camp

Twins closer optimistic with new pitching coach, manager heading into 2015 season

Perkins recovered from arm injury, prepared for camp

MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins closer Glen Perkins said he's fully recovered from his left forearm injury that saw him miss the last two weeks of the 2014 season, and he'll be ready to go for Spring Training.

Perkins, who was diagnosed with a left forearm strain and secondary nerve irritation on Sept. 19, said he took two weeks off after the season to let the injury heal and underwent another precautionary MRI exam to make sure the injury wasn't serious.

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Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.