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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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Giancarlo Stanton to judge Miss Universe Pageant

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Giancarlo Stanton to judge Miss Universe 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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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.

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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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.

MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

Selig goes out on top in final day as Commissioner

New York Baseball Writers Dinner a perfect way to say goodbye

Selig goes out on top in final day as Commissioner

NEW YORK -- Bud Selig might just remember it as one of the best evenings of his life. His emotions bubbled to the surface a time or two, but there were also waves of laughter and joy in his final hours as Commissioner on Saturday night.

This surely is as good as he could have hoped for, a bittersweet moment in which the game he reshaped was celebrated and the man himself was showered with affection and respect as he formally turned the Commissioner's position over to Rob Manfred to start a new chapter in the game's history.

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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.

Maddon watches Baez play in Puerto Rico

Maddon watches Baez play in Puerto Rico

CHICAGO -- Cubs manager Joe Maddon was in Puerto Rico this weekend to watch Javier Baez play in the championship series with Santurce. What was he looking for? Maddon told the young infielder he wanted to "see him smile."

"My purpose is to see Javier Baez play," Maddon told El Nuevo Dia on Saturday. "Being a new member of the Cubs organization, being the manager and Javier being such a big part of our future, I thought it was important to come down and show support and start building that kind of relationship so he could trust me, also. From my perspective, the most important thing I have to do in Spring Training is earn the trust of all of our players."

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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.

Henderson, Thornburg aiming for Opening Day

Both Brewers relievers missed most of 2014 season with arm injuries

Henderson, Thornburg aiming for Opening Day

MILWAUKEE -- While engaged in talks with Francisco Rodriguez and monitoring markets for other free-agent relievers, the Brewers heard positive feedback Sunday from two of their own. Jim Henderson and Tyler Thornburg, who missed most of last season with arm injuries, each expressed optimism during Sunday's "Brewers On Deck" about being healthy in time for Opening Day.

Thornburg, who has avoided Tommy John surgery for a compromised ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, is already throwing bullpen sessions. Henderson, who underwent surgery to "clean up" bone spurs and tissue damage in his right shoulder, is scheduled to throw his first proper bullpen session on Tuesday. If that goes well, he will repeat the exercise on Friday.

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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.

Selig gets sendoff with BBWAA honor

Outgoing Commissioner given Long and Meritorious Service Award

Selig gets sendoff with BBWAA honor

NEW YORK -- In one of his last official acts as Commissioner, just hours before stepping down from the position that he held for 23 transformative years, Bud Selig accepted yet another honor Saturday night.

He was given the Long and Meritorious Service Award at the annual New York Baseball Writers' Association of America dinner at the New York Hilton. Then, at the stroke of midnight, he officially became the first Commissioner Emeritus in baseball history as Rob Manfred, who was his presenter, took over as the game's 10th Commissioner.

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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.

Mauer, Molitor excited to work together in 2015

Twins star supported Hall of Famer's hire, had 'great offseason'

Mauer, Molitor excited to work together in 2015

MINNEAPOLIS -- It was just two St. Paul natives having lunch in their hometown this week, but for Joe Mauer, it was a chance to keep picking the brain of new Twins manager and Hall of Famer Paul Molitor.

Molitor said during the Winter Meetings in December that he planned on sitting down with Mauer before Spring Training to give the 31-year-old advice on how to stay productive in the second half a career while also laying out expectations for the 2015 season. Molitor, who played for 21 seasons before retiring when he was 41, came away impressed with Mauer and his desire to bounce back from his uncharacteristically down year in '14, when the first baseman hit .277/.361/.371 with just four homers and 55 RBIs in 120 games.

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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.

Pedroia 'ready to go,' sees Sox rebounding

Second baseman says he's fully recovered from wrist surgery

Pedroia 'ready to go,' sees Sox rebounding

LEDYARD, Conn. -- Dustin Pedroia no longer has any questions about his health, or any doubts about the kind of season he can have in 2015.

The second baseman was even more fired up than usual as he held court during the Red Sox's Winter Weekend at Foxwoods Resort and Casino on Saturday.

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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.

Phillies trade talks with Crew over Papelbon lose steam

Phillies trade talks with Crew over Papelbon lose steam

Trade talks between the Phillies and Brewers regarding closer Jonathan Papelbon have "dissipated," Brewers general manager Doug Melvin told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Saturday.

"It doesn't appear there's any momentum to it right now," Melvin told the newspaper. "It could be revived later, I guess, but right now there's nothing happening.

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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.

Fans show support, optimism at Target Field TwinsFest

Fans show support, optimism at Target Field TwinsFest

MINNEAPOLIS -- TwinsFest was held at Target Field for a second straight year this weekend, and generated a similar turnout to last year, when it was held at the stadium for the first time since the event was created in 1989.

Twins president Dave St. Peter said roughly 14,000 fans attended the event, which helped generate $300,000 for the Twins Community Fund. The event was previously held at the Metrodome until it was demolished last year.

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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.

Murphy's unclear role a result of injuries, outfield depth

Swisher, offseason acquisition Moss could cut into right fielder's playing time

Murphy's unclear role a result of injuries, outfield depth

CLEVELAND -- Not long after he acquired slugger Brandon Moss from the A's in early December, Indians general manager Chris Antonetti got right fielder David Murphy on the phone. Cleveland suddenly had a surplus of right fielders and the GM wanted to discuss the situation.

Murphy, who was signed to a two-year contract prior to last season, likely stands to lose playing time in right if both Moss and Nick Swisher are healthy and ready to go by Opening Day. A veteran of nine seasons in the Majors, Murphy understands the situation and appreciated that he had a chance to talk things over with Antonetti prior to Spring Training.

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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.