MLB.com Columnist

Barry M. Bloom

Ohtani will be next rising star from Japan

Two-way player for Nippon Ham features 100-mph heater

Ohtani will be next rising star from Japan

PHOENIX -- Shohei Ohtani is the next heralded player coming out of Japan. He's a 6-foot-4 right-hander for the Nippon Ham Fighters with a 100-mph fastball and four other pitches that dance like darts around the plate.

And, oh yeah, at 21, Ohtani is so productive with the bat that his Nippon Professional Baseball team utilizes him as a designated hitter in many of the the games he doesn't start on the mound. That's a first in Japan, where pitchers start only once a week. And it's rarely happened in Major League Baseball, either.

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Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

White Sox reportedly in on Desmond

White Sox reportedly in on Desmond

Shortstop Ian Desmond, who continues to languish on the free-agent market, could soon find a home on the South Side of Chicago. The White Sox are among the teams considering a deal with Desmond, MLB Network's Jon Heyman reported on Thursday.

The White Sox would appear to be a natural fit for Desmond. Tyler Saladino currently tops the club's depth chart at short, but the 26-year-old batted just .225/.267/.335 with four homers and 20 RBIs in 68 games as a rookie in 2015.

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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.

Australia, S. Africa to meet for spot in WBC final

Philippines will take on New Zealand in first elimination game

Australia, S. Africa to meet for spot in WBC final

SYDNEY -- Australia and South Africa will meet on Friday at 3:30 a.m. ET/7:30 p.m. local time, streaming live on MLB.com and worldbaseballclassic.com and airing on MLB Network, in the winner's bracket of the World Baseball Classic Qualifier, after the Aussies pounded out an 11-1 win vs. the Philippines, and South Africa opened up with a 7-1 victory over New Zealand.

The winner will secure a spot in the final at 10 p.m. ET Saturday/2 p.m. local time Sunday, streaming live on MLB.com and worldbaseballclassic.com and airing on MLB Network.

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

deGrom willing to talk potential long-term deal

All-Star pitcher discusses his willingness to negotiate a contract extension

deGrom willing to talk potential long-term deal

NEW YORK -- The Mets insist they're willing to talk about long-term deals with their young starting pitchers. And Jacob deGrom, at least, says he's prepared to listen.

"I'm a little bit older, so I might be more willing to do something like that," deGrom told the New York Post this week at Mets camp in Port St. Lucie, Fla. "You just have to look at what is fair so both sides get a decent deal. It's something I'd have to look into and make sure I agree with it.

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Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. 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.

Fenway goes Xtreme with 140-foot ski ramp

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Fenway goes Xtreme with 140-foot ski ramp

You have entered an alternate dimension, one where soda sprays from drinking fountains and parkour has replaced the car as humanity's preferred means of travel. It is a more Xtreme dimension.

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Dodgers reportedly shopping Guerrero

29-year-old from Cuba hit .233 in 106 games last season

Dodgers reportedly shopping Guerrero

The Dodgers are attempting to trade infielder/outfielder Alex Guerrero and have talked to "numerous" clubs about the possibility, FoxSports.com reported on Thursday. The club has not commented on or confirmed the report.

Guerrero, a native of Cuba, signed with the Dodgers as a free agent in March 2014. His four-year, $28 million deal runs through 2017 but also stipulates that if he is traded, he can become a free agent at the end of that season. Additionally, Guerrero cannot be optioned to the Minor Leagues without his consent.

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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.

Beloved MLB.com reporter Tom Singer passes away

Beloved MLB.com reporter Tom Singer passes away

With news like this, there is crying in baseball.

Tom Singer, among the first journalists hired at MLB.com, passed away suddenly on Monday at his residence in Scottsdale, Ariz.

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Dinn Mann is Executive Vice President, Content for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Cuban phenom Lazarito nearing decision

9 teams show strong interest in 16-year-old outfielder

Cuban phenom Lazarito nearing decision

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic -- Lazaro "Lazarito" Armenteros, one of the most dynamic young talents to come out of Cuba in recent memory, is close to deciding on his future.

The 6-foot-2, 205-pound outfielder is expected to make a decision on where he will sign soon, about one month after Major League Baseball declared him a free agent.

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Jesse Sanchez is a national reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

New, cooler spring jerseys, caps available

MLB shows off on-field Flex Base designs for all 30 clubs

New, cooler spring jerseys, caps available

It is almost time for Zack Greinke to suit up for the D-backs, Todd Frazier for the White Sox, David Price for the Red Sox, Justin Upton for the Tigers, Johnny Cueto for the Giants, Jason Heyward for the Cubs, and all those other new faces in new places.

Shop now for new Flex Base Spring Training gear

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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.

#TBT: Mr. Smith goes to St. Louis

In February 1982, McKeon traded Ozzie from Padres to Cardinals

#TBT: Mr. Smith goes to St. Louis

It was December 1981, and Jack McKeon had yet another situation on his hands.

It had only taken McKeon, then the general manager of the San Diego Padres, one offseason on the job to build such a significant reputation as a wheeler and dealer that he had earned the nickname "Trader Jack," and now he was faced with another potential mega-trade.

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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.

MLB.com Columnist

Fred Zinkie

10 crucial spring battles for fantasy owners

10 crucial spring battles for fantasy owners

Major League teams take Spring Training position battles seriously, understanding that a correct call in March could lead to participation in October. Similarly, wise fantasy owners will keep tabs on battles across the Grapefruit League and the Cactus League, looking for an edge to fill their roto and head-to-head rosters. Let's take a look at 10 competitions to monitor over the next month-plus.

1. Astros first baseman
After non-tendering all-or-nothing slugger Chris Carter, Houston may be left with Carter clone Jon Singleton as its Opening Day first baseman. The native Californian can rip roundtrippers, but his strikeout-prone ways may not be the best fit in a lineup that already whiffs at a great rate. As a result, prospect A.J. Reed could push Singleton during Spring Training. After hitting .340 with 34 homers and 127 RBIs in the Minors last season, Reed will be an attractive mixed-league option as soon as he reaches the Majors.

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Fred Zinkie is the lead 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.

MLB.com Columnist

Mike Bauman

Which division winner is most likely to repeat?

Which division winner is most likely to repeat?

In 2015, there were only two Major League teams that repeated as division winners. Don't count on a 6-for-6 performance by the current division champs in 2016, either.

We're completely out of the era in which the Atlanta Braves could win a record 14 division titles in a row, or the Yankees could dominate the American League East in the regular season for nearly a decade. This was a relatively recent era, but it has departed.

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

WBC play could cost prep Boyce HS eligibility

New Zealand-born Washington resident hopes to pitch for Kiwis

WBC play could cost prep Boyce HS eligibility

National pride and the chance to play in the ultimate international baseball tournament are apparently enough for Jimmy Boyce to be willing to potentially sacrifice his high school baseball career.

The 18-year-old pitcher, who was born in New Zealand but lives in Snoqualmie, Wash., is on the roster for the Kiwi team at the World Baseball Classic qualifier that is taking place in Sydney this week, with one of four teams (New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Philippines) to emerge and make the 16-team field for the 2017 Classic.

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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.

Mets' newcomers shore up infield, bullpen

Walker, Cabrera and Bastardo among New York's notable offseason additions

Mets' newcomers shore up infield, bullpen

This is the second in a seven-part Mets Spring Training preview. Today's installment: The new guys.

NEW YORK -- The Mets weren't missing much during their World Series run last year, finishing a few wins shy of their ultimate goal. And much of the optimism for an encore revolves around the players they re-signed -- Yoenis Cespedes, anyone? -- and retained.

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Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. 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.

Much expected of Cubs' newcomers

Heyward, Lackey and Zobrist added to team coming off 97-win season

Much expected of Cubs' newcomers

After winning 97 games in 2015, the Cubs didn't need to make too many changes on the roster for this season. The goal was to find the right players to fill in the gaps.

This offseason, the Cubs spent $272 million on three free agents -- Jason Heyward, John Lackey and Ben Zobrist -- and added some pitching depth via trade with the acquisition of Adam Warren. As the countdown to Spring Training continues, here's a look at some of the new Cubs who will be playing at Wrigley Field in 2016.

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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.

Kazmir headlines list of Dodgers' newcomers

Kazmir headlines list of Dodgers' newcomers

LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training next week. In anticipation, MLB.com presents a series of articles previewing the season.

Thursday's installment is "The New Guys," of which the Dodgers have fewer than last season after a relatively quiet winter.

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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.

Bell, Guerrero bring MLB pedigrees to showcase

Youngsters with big league ties among 59 prospects working out in D.R.

Bell, Guerrero bring MLB pedigrees to showcase

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic -- Former Major League outfielder George Bell beamed as he perched on the edge of a yellow plastic chair in the stands near the home dugout at Estadio Quisqueya Juan Marichal.

Bell held his head high with his shoulders thrust back, and he patted the sides of his legs in excitement.

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Jesse Sanchez is a national reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Lefty-heavy rotation not a concern

Sale, Quintana, Rodon and Danks will be joined by sole righty Latos

Lefty-heavy rotation not a concern

CHICAGO -- Take a Major League rotation and fill it with four or five right-handed starters. It becomes about as newsworthy as a ground ball to short in the third inning of a 7-0 game.

Rearrange that same rotation with four left-handers, and it not only becomes a story but also potentially a concern.

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Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. 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.

Australia, S. Africa open Qualifiers with routs

Beresford, Wade help Qualifier host invoke mercy rule on Philippines

Australia, S. Africa open Qualifiers with routs

SYDNEY -- Twins Minor Leaguer James Beresford went 4-for-5 with three RBIs from the leadoff spot as Australia cruised by the Philippines, 11-1, prompting the mercy rule after seven innings on Thursday in the second game of the World Baseball Classic Qualifier at Blacktown International Sportspark. Australia will now face South Africa in the winner's bracket, while the Philippines will take on New Zealand in an elimination game.

"He's a great player," Australia manager Jon Deeble said of Beresford. "He's been in professional baseball for 11 years. He hit .300 in Triple-A. We just want him to get a chance in the big leagues because he is such a bloody good player. Hopefully, that is this year."

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

New Zealand performs traditional Haka dance before World Baseball Classic Qualifier game

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New Zealand performs traditional Haka dance before World Baseball Classic Qualifier game

Baseball players have a bit of a reputation for being a superstitious bunch: Some eat the same pregame meal every day, some go through the same motions every time they step into the batter's box and some won't change their socks during a hit streak. Gross? Sure, but not as gross as jeopardizing that streak by inviting bad juju into the clubhouse by rocking some fresh socks.

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Nova eager to earn his spot in Yanks' rotation

Righty knows 'pen a possibility, wants to regain command from early in career

Nova eager to earn his spot in Yanks' rotation

TAMPA, Fla. -- Ivan Nova understands that he does not have the luxury of a guaranteed rotation spot, but as the Yankees right-hander eyes a bounce-back campaign in his second year removed from Tommy John surgery, he has made his preference clear.

"I'm a starting pitcher; I'm not a reliever," Nova said on Thursday. "But like I say, it's their decision. Whatever they tell me to do, that's what I've got to do. Maybe I can feel bad going into the bullpen, but what does that change? Nothing, I've still got to go to the bullpen."

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

Source: O's making progress with Gallardo

Source: O's making progress with Gallardo

BALTIMORE -- The Orioles are moving closer to landing the best free-agent starter still available: Yovani Gallardo.

An industry source confirmed to MLB.com Wednesday afternoon that Gallardo and Baltimore were in serious contract discussions on a three-year deal that would give the O's a key rotation piece. Gallardo -- who has been on the Orioles' radar all offseason -- has reportedly dropped his desired contract length with Spring Training approaching, and the O's have ramped up their efforts.

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Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Rockies beef up bullpen, add vets to lineup

McGee, Motte, Parra and Reynolds bring talent, experience to young club

Rockies beef up bullpen, add vets to lineup

DENVER -- In our first installment of the Spring Training preview, we looked at Rockies On The Rebound. Now we take a look at The New Guys.

General manager Jeff Bridich took a slightly unexpected route toward building the 2016 squad. Instead of adding experienced starting pitchers to a staff that has struggled mightily the past two years, Bridich beefed up the bullpen and added a couple of hitters -- one a contact-and-speed guy, another with power. The hope is the young starters drafted and acquired will mature, and the moves this offseason will make a difference in close games.

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

Gonzalez leads deep bench bunch

Marisnick, Tucker also give Hinch lots of flexibility

Gonzalez leads deep bench bunch

This is the last of a six-part Around The Horn series that will take a position-by-position look at the Astros' projected starters and backup options heading into next season. This one: the bench.

HOUSTON -- They have to be versatile and they have to be ready at a moment's notice. They have to be capable of playing every day for a couple of weeks if a teammate gets injured, while also knowing they could be riding the bench for a few days in a row, too.

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

Inciarte headlines list of new Braves in 2016

Flowers, Norris and Blair also among Atlanta's notable offseason additions

Inciarte headlines list of new Braves in 2016

ATLANTA -- When Craig Kimbrel arrived for Spring Training last year, he handed out T-shirts that were embroidered with "Hello My Name Is" stickers on the chest. A little more than a month later, Kimbrel was walking through the Padres' clubhouse, introducing himself to his new teammates.

This offseason might not have created quite as much turnover as the previous one, but there will be plenty of new faces when the Braves welcome center fielder Ender Inciarte and their other newcomers in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., next week. This is the latest installment of MLB.com's Spring Training preview: The new guys.

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

Wheels, not wings for Blue Jays on Truck Day

Wheels, not wings for Blue Jays on Truck Day

TORONTO -- With a name like the Blue Jays, it makes perfect sense that Toronto would pick the coldest weekend of the year to migrate south.

The Blue Jays held their annual Truck Day on Thursday morning to pack up all of the gear that will be required during a six-week stay in Dunedin, Fla. The weather outside might suggest otherwise, but Spring Training is right around the corner.

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

Peraza an intriguing new addition for Reds

Prospect one of several fresh faces on roster heading into 2016 season

Peraza an intriguing new addition for Reds

CINCINNATI -- This is Part 2 of a series previewing the Reds for the 2016 season, which gets underway next week when pitchers and catchers report to the team's complex in Goodyear, Ariz., with the first workout on Feb. 18. The series began Tuesday with a look at the team's bounce-back candidates. The focus of the second installment is "The New Guys."

Understandably this offseason, there has been more focus on a couple of popular players who departed the Reds in Todd Frazier and Aroldis Chapman. And unlike recent seasons when Cincinnati took aim at winning the National League Central, there has not been a big or even a medium-name acquisition. But there still are some new players to get to know:

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Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, 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.

Hopeful Phillies have plenty of new faces

Hellickson, Hernandez among Philadelphia's notable offseason additions

Hopeful Phillies have plenty of new faces

PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies are in the early stages of a rebuilding effort, which means there will be plenty of new faces in camp. In the second part of a seven-part series previewing their Spring Training camp in Clearwater, Fla., MLB.com looks at a few of the most notable newcomers:

RHP Jeremy Hellickson: The Phils acquired Hellickson from the D-backs in a Nov. 14 trade for Minor League pitcher Sam McWilliams. Hellickson, 28, went 9-12 with a 4.62 ERA in 27 starts last season with Arizona.

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

MLB.com Columnist

Tracy Ringolsby

Singer will be missed by many

Singer will be missed by many

Tom Singer was special.

Unfortunately that is in the past tense. Life seems to come in reverse.

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