Cespedes, Tigers begin to build long-term relationship

Originally pursued by club, Cuban outfielder seeks championship in Motown

Cespedes, Tigers begin to build long-term relationship

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Yoenis Cespedes believes he probably would've been here a few years ago for his first pro contract if not for a twist of fate. One bad step from Victor Martinez, one shift in priorities for the Tigers toward Prince Fielder to replace him, and Cespedes' journey from Cuba landed him in Oakland instead.

"Detroit was the team that was the most interested," Cespedes said Sunday through translator Aileen Villarreal.

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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.

Wainwright throws 41 pitches in bullpen session

Cards' ace has been limited by an abdominal strain

Wainwright throws 41 pitches in bullpen session

JUPITER, Fla. -- Though still limited in running and agility work, Adam Wainwright received the go-ahead from the training staff and returned to the mound on Monday to throw his first bullpen session in 10 days. Wainwright threw 41 pitches in the session, describing it afterward as "exactly what I wanted it to be."

Wainwright had last thrown off the mound on the day of the Cardinals' first official workout. After that, he began limiting his work due to an abdominal strain, an injury sustained while lifting weights during a voluntary workout at the team's complex on Feb. 16. But because Wainwright does not feel discomfort in his abdominal area when throwing, he will continue to build up arm strength while slowing incorporating other exercises back into his workouts.

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Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB and like her Facebook page Jenifer Langosch for Cardinals.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Sharp Harvey focuses on curve in live BP session

Mets batters largely unsuccessful as ace returns to original out pitch

Sharp Harvey focuses on curve in live BP session

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- This early in spring, live batting practice is an exercise inherently stacked against hitters. David Wright calls facing a game-ready pitcher "impossible" at a time when he and his peers are simply trying to rediscover their timing at the plate.

So it was entirely unsurprising to Wright when Matt Harvey unleashed a tumbling curveball Monday and the third baseman not only swung through it, but dropped his shoulder, put his head down and half-whiffed, half-walked out of the batter's box.

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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.

Kang's shortstop debut in intrasquad tilt draws big cheers

Korean infielder plays three innings before Grapefruit opener Tuesday

Kang's shortstop debut in intrasquad tilt draws big cheers

BRADENTON, Fla. -- The public unveiling of Jung Ho Kang was a popular hit. It was the only hit for Kang on Monday, as he played the first three innings of his Black team's 2-1 victory over the Gold team in an annual intrasquad game, but he nonetheless considered it a success.

Kang grounded out to short off Deolis Guerra in his only at-bat of the scrimmage, minutes after cleanly fielding a grounder off Justin Sellers' bat with one out in the top of the first.

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Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Bernard's faith in his work lands him on Tigers' 40-man roster

Bernard's faith in his work lands him on Tigers' 40-man roster

LAKELAND, Fla. -- There's a voracious reader in the Tigers clubhouse. Wynton Bernard has always found books as a way to fill the free time in a Minor League season.

When he thinks of his situation, he thinks of The Alchemist, a bestselling novel about a boy who follows a recurring dream to leave home and travel the desert to the Pyramids in Egypt to seek fortunes.

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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.

Tanaka faces hitters for first time in spring

Right-hander throws to Gardner, others with Girardi, Cashman observing

Tanaka faces hitters for first time in spring

TAMPA, Fla. -- Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, the $155 million starting pitcher who made only two starts after July 8 last season due to a partially torn ligament in his elbow, faced hitters for the first time Monday at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

It was just five pitches each to Brett Gardner, Chris Young, Ramon Flores, Jonathan Galvez and Tyler Austin, plus two pitchouts. Manager Joe Girardi and several of his lieutenants watched intently from behind the mound, and general manager Brian Cashman headed up a front-office delegation behind the batting cage.

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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.

One-time elite prospects set for breakout season in 2015

Young talents like Montero, Moustakas, Myers ready to take next step

One-time elite prospects set for breakout season in 2015

While we salivate at the release of the Top 100 prospect list, the fact is that very few players become superstars. Most slip into careers as relievers, journeymen and Quad-A sluggers.

But a few still manage to surprise you when most have stopped paying attention. After struggling to a .244/.328/.405 mark through 2010, Alex Gordon has become one of the most valuable players in the Majors, with the third baseman-turned-outfielder posting the third-highest Wins Above Replacement among American League position players in 2014.

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

Prince says 'everything is smooth' with swing

Rangers slugger missed most of 2014 season due to neck injury

Prince says 'everything is smooth' with swing

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Morning rain canceled the Rangers' planned intrasquad game for Monday, but that didn't impact Prince Fielder. He and Adrian Beltre were among those who were going to pass on the fraternal competition and wait until the Cactus League begins.

That means Wednesday against the Royals is the target date for Fielder to play in his first game since May 16. At that point, the Rangers will start getting a real measure for where Fielder is at offensively in his return from surgery to repair a herniated disk in his neck.

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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.

Peralta strives to stick around after breakthrough season

Outfielder took remarkable route to Majors, stayed active with winter ball in Venezuela

Peralta strives to stick around after breakthrough season

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- David Peralta's journey -- from pitching prospect to out of baseball to trying again as an outfielder in independent ball before finally making to the big leagues with the D-backs last year -- has been well documented.

It deserves mentioning again, because it helps explain why after a successful rookie season in 2014, Peralta was not about to rest on his laurels, not about to take anything for granted.

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Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Inside the D-backs, and follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

The Week Ahead: Spring games to get underway

College exhibitions precede beginning of Grapefruit, Cactus action on Tuesday

The Week Ahead: Spring games to get underway

It's been a long offseason and a long February, but baseball is back, and we'll finally be hearing "Play ball" again this week.

After two exhibitions against college teams on Monday, the Grapefruit League and Cactus League seasons officially begin Tuesday, with games in Florida and Arizona highlighted by the return of the World Series champion Giants (they'll play the A's, who debut in their new home of HoHoKam Stadium in Mesa, Ariz.) and a matchup between last year's American League East and AL Central champions, the Orioles and Tigers, at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, Fla.

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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.

Ryu, Peralta feel good after bullpen sessions

Ryu, Peralta feel good after bullpen sessions

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Most of the Dodgers' workout on Monday was washed out by rain, but they did receive good news from pitchers Hyun-Jin Ryu and Joel Peralta.

Ryu, set back two days by mid-back stiffness experienced during a bullpen session, threw a bullpen session and said afterward that he had no further problem with his back.

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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.

Kershaw to start Opening Day for Dodgers

Kershaw to start Opening Day for Dodgers

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- National League MVP and three-time NL Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw will start Opening Day, manager Don Mattingly revealed on Monday.

"That's our plan," Mattingly said.

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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.

Utley won't rush back from sprained right ankle

Phillies will get second baseman into a game 'down the road'

Utley won't rush back from sprained right ankle

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Chase Utley did not work out with his teammates Monday and he will not play in at least the first week of Grapefruit League games because of a sprained right ankle, but he said there is no reason to be alarmed.

Utley rolled the ankle in January. It remains visibly swollen.

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Todd Zolecki 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

McHugh, Keuchel proving building blocks of success

McHugh, Keuchel proving building blocks of success

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- The Houston Astros say it started with the two pitchers, Collin McHugh and Dallas Keuchel. They're the ones who deserve the credit for the Astros' success, because they were the ones who embraced change and executed every single pitch.

But it was more than that. It was a confirmation of how the Astros are doing business these days. It was the power of analytics identifying two pitchers with special gifts, and then offering a blueprint for success. It was also the work of a couple of really smart and innovative pitching gurus.

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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.

Horton reflects on Minoso's impact on baseball

Tigers great influenced by White Sox legend

Horton reflects on Minoso's impact on baseball

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Willie Horton credits a lot of people with helping him along his way in the Major Leagues. Minnie Minoso was up near the top of the list. So was Ernie Banks.

Together, they helped set an example for giving back to the community and to ensuing generations of players, as Horton does today.

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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.

Maddon names Lester Opening Night starter

Maddon names Lester Opening Night starter

MESA, Ariz. -- Manager Joe Maddon made it official Monday: Jon Lester will start Opening Night, April 5, for the Cubs against the Cardinals.

Early in camp, Maddon indicated it was fairly obvious that Lester, who signed a six-year, $155 million contract in December, would kick off the Cubs season. But he wanted to talk to the left-hander first.

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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.

Archer plans to keep plenty in his tank for stretch run

In eighth Spring Training, Rays righty knows not to push himself early

Archer plans to keep plenty in his tank for stretch run

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Starting pitchers have a two-fold task during Spring Training: build up endurance while leaving some gas in the tank for the season.

Rays right-hander Chris Archer understands that to meet the ultimate goal of pitching through the season and finishing strong, he must temper what he does during the offseason and in Spring Training.

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

'Nicest guy in baseball' took alternate route to The Show

Cursi reflects on memorable tenure with Rays, which began as bullpen coach in '99

'Nicest guy in baseball' took alternate route to The Show

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- By Scott Cursi's estimation, he wasn't a bad player when he caught for Pickerington High School in Pickerington, Ohio.

"I could hit a little bit," said Cursi, adding with a chuckle, "but I couldn't really throw or catch."

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

Courageous teenager works out with Wood, Braves

Ritter played with titanium rods in back after removal of foot-long tumor

Courageous teenager works out with Wood, Braves

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- As he has undergone multiple surgeries to remove a foot-long tumor from his spine and continued to play high school sports with titanium rods in his back, Thompson Ritter has maintained a passion for baseball that was enriched when he accepted Alex Wood's invitation to work out with the Braves during Monday's practice.

Wood extended the invite on Sunday night after hearing the 17-year-old Ritter tell his inspirational story to a group of individuals who traveled to the Orlando area to participate in Children's Healthcare of Atlanta's Birdies and Baseball golf scramble, which was played Monday afternoon.

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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.

MLB.com Columnist

Phil Rogers

'The Cubs Way' might just be the ticket for Fowler

Center fielder has opportunity to get back on track with new team

'The Cubs Way' might just be the ticket for Fowler

MESA, Ariz. -- Dexter Fowler is a center fielder, not an advance scout.

But that didn't stop Fowler from paying close attention to the opposing team last year, when he was playing against the Triple-A Iowa Cubs while working his way back to Minute Maid Park after straining an intercostal muscle. He grew more impressed after every one of the four games, and he quickly drew on those memories when the Astros traded him to the Cubs in January.

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

White Sox legend Minoso passes away

Club's first black ballplayer was 9-time All-Star, 3-time Gold Glover

White Sox legend Minoso passes away

Native Cubans could move to the big leagues without dealing much in politics, secrecy and defection six decades ago. Cuban baseball talent was highly regarded and increasingly desirable. Not coincidentally, Minnie Minoso was at the forefront of the international game then. His baseball skills caught the eye. His distinctive name caught the ear. And his warm and engaging personality made him an uncommonly popular figure anywhere he played -- no, anywhere he went -- and helped forge a legacy that, to this day, prompts baseball folks to smile.

Minoso died Sunday at age 90 -- 34 years after his final at-bat in the big leagues, the one that made him the second player in Major League history to appear in games in five decades. Had Bill Veeck, baseball's ultimate showman, lived into the summer of 1990, Minoso probably would have played in six, and perhaps ended his 14-year slump at three at-bats.

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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.

MLB.com Columnist

Phil Rogers

Beloved Minnie was a Chicago treasure

Mr. White Sox was a great player on the field and a great man off of it

Beloved Minnie was a Chicago treasure

Minnie Minoso is gone, and it is silly to say he'll be missed. That's a huge understatement.

His death on Sunday leaves holes everywhere. No one alive knew better what it was like for Latin-American players to come to the Major Leagues, Cuban players, in particular. But that's just the very tip of a legacy that includes tremendous love of family, love of the American way and a devotion to the White Sox organization that Jerry Reinsdorf lovingly returned, in keeping an eye out for him all these years.

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

Andrus limited due to soreness in left knee

General manager Daniels says injury is 'not considered significant'

Andrus limited due to soreness in left knee

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus is dealing with some soreness in his left knee, and he was limited in his workouts on Monday.

Actually, everybody was limited in their workouts because of the morning rain sweeping through the Phoenix area. That made it seem unlikely the Rangers would be able to hold their second intrasquad game, but Andrus wasn't going to play anyway.

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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.

A-Rod will not play in Yanks' first Grapefruit game

A-Rod will not play in Yanks' first Grapefruit game

TAMPA, Fla. -- Alex Rodriguez, who missed the entire 2014 season after being suspended for his connection to Biogenesis, will wait at least one more day before making his return to game action. The Yankees open their Grapefruit League schedule against the Phillies in Clearwater on Tuesday; A-Rod is not on the travel list.

He could play Wednesday when the Yankees host the Phillies at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

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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.

Cubs' Bryant to start Opening Day? Kind of

Maddon crafts creative answer to burning question

Cubs' Bryant to start Opening Day? Kind of

MESA, Ariz. -- Kris Bryant has impressed Cubs manager Joe Maddon so far this spring.

"He's solid, he's motivated," Maddon said Sunday of the Cubs' top prospect. "He's got a really nice way about him. He's really good, he knows he's really good, but he carries that very well. I like that. False humility doesn't do anything. It's kind of a worthless quality. I think his humility is sincere, but he also knows that he's good."

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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.

Harper says he has to 'step up' for Nationals

Slugging outfielder looks to leave thumb injury in past

Harper says he has to 'step up' for Nationals

VIERA, Fla. -- Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper wants to improve his numbers from last year. He made it clear Sunday that he wants to stay injury-free and he would like to get better at the plate.

Although he missed 62 games because of a thumb injury, Harper put up respectable numbers, hitting .273 with 13 home runs, 32 RBIs and a .344 on-base percentage. He also was the team's best player in the National League Division Series, hitting three home runs in the four games against the Giants. However, after returning from his injury on June 30, Harper struck out 83 times in 269 at-bats. He acknowledged that he was overzealous after coming off the disabled list.

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Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Big innings don't always equate to struggles next season

History shows Bumgarner's 2014 workload doesn't necessarily mean extra obstacles this year

Big innings don't always equate to struggles next season

At some point between the final out of the World Series and that time a photo of Madison Bumgarner and an ox went viral, the question emerged: Was the big Giants lefty's huge postseason on top of a career-high innings load too much of a great thing?

The answer may be evident in the relative similarity in size between the man and an actual beast of burden, but really it will be proven by how Bumgarner performs in 2015. And before we find out, charting it up a bit shows that his total of 270 innings between Opening Day and Game 7 was the most in zero years, ranked fifth in the past five seasons and wouldn't have rated in the Majors' top 10 for just the regular season many years in the 1960s and '70s.

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John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. You can follow him on Twitter @JohnSchlegelMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Weeks likely to be part of corner-outfield platoon

Manager McClendon will let matchups dictate personnel; Paxton throws off flat ground

Weeks likely to be part of corner-outfield platoon

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Lloyd McClendon has never liked the word "platoon," but the Mariners' skipper acknowledged Monday that he'll likely be using that sort of split-time situation in both left and right field this season if things go as planned.

McClendon said his left-field situation will likely see Rickie Weeks starting against left-handed pitchers and Dustin Ackley against right-handers. Similarly, the right-field at-bats figure to fall primarily to right-handed-hitting Justin Ruggiano or Nelson Cruz against left-handed starters, and Seth Smith against righties.

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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.

Fernandez throws first session since Tommy John surgery

'Just like riding a bike,' Marlins ace pleased with latest step in rehab from May operation

Fernandez throws first session since Tommy John surgery

JUPITER, Fla. -- Marlins ace Jose Fernandez took another step in his rehab from Tommy John surgery on Sunday, when the right-hander threw a short bullpen session off the mound for the first time since last May.

Fernandez, who was diagnosed with a torn UCL after his eighth start last season and had surgery May 16, warmed up on flat ground for several minutes Sunday morning before heading to the mound at the Roger Dean Stadium complex. He threw 10 warmup pitches, then fired 15 fastballs to bullpen coordinator Jeff Urgelles as pitching coach Chuck Hernandez watched from the side.

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

Wieters gets behind plate for first time since surgery

Major milestone in Tommy John recovery comes in O's intrasquad game

Wieters gets behind plate for first time since surgery

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Matt Wieters crouched behind home plate at Ed Smith Stadium for the first two innings of the Orioles' intrasquad game Sunday afternoon, the first time he's caught a game since May 4. It was, without a doubt, a major moment in his recovery from Tommy John surgery.

But Monday might bring an even bigger test.

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