Maddon looking at Schwarber for leadoff spot

Outfielder not known for speed, but has shown he can get on base

Maddon looking at Schwarber for leadoff spot

MESA, Ariz. -- Who will be the Cubs' leadoff man now that Dexter Fowler is gone? Manager Joe Maddon likes the idea of Kyle Schwarber at the top of the lineup, although don't expect the outfielder to be setting any stolen base records, and that's not because of a lack of speed.

Schwarber, who missed virtually all of the 2016 regular season after tearing two ligaments in his left knee, must continue to get on base. Asked if the outfielder had a green light on the bases, Maddon quickly responded, "No."

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Harper, Werth recreate 'Step Brothers' poster

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Harper, Werth recreate 'Step Brothers' poster

This week at Spring Training facilities around the country, MLB stars gathered together for the annual rite of spring known as Photo Day.  

The 2008 film "Step Brothers" has remained relevant almost a decade after its release thanks to the zany comedy stylings of its co-stars, Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly. (Trust us, the previous two sentences are related. Just wait.)

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Friday's spring slate marks return of MLB.TV

Streaming service begins 15th year with Phillies-Yankees tilt

Friday's spring slate marks return of MLB.TV

MLB.TV, the world's longest-running and most successful live streaming sports product, returns for its 15th-anniversary year, starting with Phillies at Yankees at 1:05 p.m. ET on Friday, followed by seven live games on Saturday and another eight on Sunday.

The gradual rollout of nearly 300 Spring Training select streams on more than 400 supported connected and mobile devices is an annual harbinger that Major League Baseball is back, and subscriptions to MLB.TV Premium are available now for $112.99 yearly or $24.99 monthly. Full features will be available on Opening Day, and for a big added treat, U.S. subscribers can watch the entire World Baseball Classic from March 6-22.

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Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com and a baseball writer since 1990. 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.

Cardinals bond over aliens, pirate treasure

Team shakes up the norm with escape room field trip

Cardinals bond over aliens, pirate treasure

JUPITER, Fla. -- The Cardinals took their workouts off campus on Thursday for a team-building exercise that featured, among other things, alien abductions and pirates' treasure.

It was an unexpected field trip for players, who split up into two groups and took turns boarding a bus to depart for a destination unknown. When they disembarked, players found themselves thrust into an escape room challenge. The goal: Work with your teammates to solve puzzles and escape a themed room within 60 minutes.

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Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Read her blog, follow her on Twitter, like her Facebook page and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Tanaka, Betances dominate hitters in live BP

Tanaka, Betances dominate hitters in live BP

TAMPA, Fla. -- Pitchers are generally ahead of hitters at this point of the spring, but for Brett Gardner and Chase Headley, taking their first at-bats of the year against Dellin Betances and Masahiro Tanaka proved to be an especially unfair matchup.

The Yankees right-handers worked crisply and efficiently on a back diamond of the George M. Steinbrenner Field complex on Thursday morning, preparing for their respective assignments. Betances is gearing up to pitch for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic, while Tanaka is eyeing his third consecutive Opening Day start.

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Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Joe Posnanski

Baseball faithful not big fans of change

Baseball faithful not big fans of change

If you had to pick just one thing that separates baseball fans from football and basketball and hockey fans, well, it might be this: Baseball fans love the game's rules. This is true for golf too, by the way. Golf fans love the rules. Golf fans can rhapsodize for hours about just Rule 13-1 -- "The ball must be played as it lies."

But this is even more true of baseball. Football, you probably know, changes its rules every other day. Now they're kicking from the 35 yard line. Now they're kicking from the 30. The goalpost many years ago was in the front of the end zone. That was silly, so they moved it to the back. One minute a quarterback in the grasp is sacked, the next minute a quarterback in the grasp is not sacked. A catch one year is an incomplete pass the next, and a catch the year after that. And don't even try to get into the differences between illegal contact, holding and pass interference -- it will make your head hurt, and by the time you figure it out, they will have changed it anyway.

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MLB.com columnist Joe Posnanski is a No. 1 New York Times best-selling author, an Emmy Award-winning writer and has been awarded National Sportswriter of the Year. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Odor on list of Rangers who may get extension

Second baseman signs pre-arbitration one-year deal

Odor on list of Rangers who may get extension

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Rangers continue to use Spring Training as a time to discuss contract extensions with key players.

Yu Darvish and Jonathan Lucroy may be the two most important since they are eligible for free agency. But second baseman Rougned Odor is also on their list, even though he won't be eligible for free agency after the 2020 season. He may be the latest in a line of Rangers players who received a contract extension either in Spring Training or early in the season.

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T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Panda among quartet of Sox with happy return to action

Boston tops Northeastern in opener of spring game slate

Panda among quartet of Sox with happy return to action

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- It seemed like everywhere you looked, someone from the Red Sox was making a comeback from a prolonged absence on Thursday.

Those stories, and Mitch Moreland's three-run homer in his first game action with Boston, are what made the 9-6 victory over Northeastern in the opening of spring exhibition play most meaningful.

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Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Ilitch's legacy celebrated at Detroit ceremony

Late Tigers owner revered for generosity, heralded as 'tireless worker'

Ilitch's legacy celebrated at Detroit ceremony

Detroit celebrated the life of Mike Ilitch on Wednesday by bringing together a congregation of the town's most respected sports figures at the historic Fox Theatre, an apt venue given the late Tigers and Red Wings owner's impact on the city and its restoration efforts.

Ilitch bought and renovated the Fox in 1987 -- five years before he purchased the Tigers -- and then moved his suburban Little Caesars Pizza corporate headquarters into the building as one of many investments to revitalize downtown Detroit. It was a fitting platform for the entrepreneur's memorial, which drew some of the city's most prominent figures and former President George W. Bush.

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Daniel Kramer is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. Follow him on Twitter at @DKramer_. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Strasburg's stuff solid in intrasquad game

Scherzer set to throw first bullpen session Saturday

Strasburg's stuff solid in intrasquad game

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals held an intrasquad game Thursday afternoon, a chance to get their pitchers facing hitters in game situations ahead of their Spring Training opener Saturday.

It offered yet another strong indicator for Stephen Strasburg's health coming off a torn pronator tendon that ended his 2016 season Sept. 7. If Strasburg was not 100 percent, then he would not have been pitching Thursday.

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

Clippard revels in Yanks return, shot to play for USA

Clippard revels in Yanks return, shot to play for USA

TAMPA, Fla. -- Tyler Clippard's phone buzzed with a message from an unknown number, and it took the Yankees reliever a few moments to digest what was happening. Team USA was offering a roster spot for the World Baseball Classic, and it was an opportunity he couldn't let get away.

Adding to the surreal nature of the moment was that the text came from Clippard's first big league manager, Joe Torre, who had welcomed the then-rookie to The Show as a midseason callup with the Yanks in 2007. Clippard quickly tapped back to Torre that he was "very interested."

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Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Anthony Castrovince

Conforto taking cues from Bruce, if not at-bats

Young RF is learning from similar left-handed slugger Mets acquired from Reds

Conforto taking cues from Bruce, if not at-bats

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Welp, this is awkward. Or at least, it would be, if the personalities involved were as unstable as the situation itself.

But in the Mets' clubhouse, the fact that Jay Bruce is blocking Michael Conforto from getting the kind of developmental opportunity Bruce himself got long ago with the Reds hasn't prevented the pair from developing a mentor/mentee relationship.

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Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. 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.

MLB.com Columnist

Barry M. Bloom

Pain-free A-Gon eagerly anticipating Classic

Pain-free A-Gon eagerly anticipating Classic

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Adrian Gonzalez told MLB.com that his right elbow is now free of pain early Thursday morning before the team worked out on the backfields of Camelback Ranch.

That assessment was corroborated shortly thereafter by Dodgers manager Dave Roberts.

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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.

MLB.com Columnist

Jon Paul Morosi

Japan heavily favored in Classic's first round

Cuba, Australia, China have work cut out for them in Pool B

Japan heavily favored in Classic's first round

The first three World Baseball Classics, in brief:

Team USA's best finish was a loss in the semifinals. Team Japan's worst finish was a loss in the semifinals.

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

Flash letting a challenging 2016 go

Flash letting a challenging 2016 go

JUPITER, Fla. -- Whether he's taking part in drills on a back field in Spring Training or at the plate in a big league ballpark, Dee Gordon plays with the same passion.

No matter the venue, the Marlins' second baseman is ready to go. He arrives early to camp with a clear focus on what's ahead, and not rehashing the events of 2016.

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Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Lindor shows off 'pancake' glove

Gold Glove winner says practice mitt helps fielding focus, footwork

Lindor shows off 'pancake' glove

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Francisco Lindor has been heading out to the practice diamonds with a pair of gloves every morning at Indians camp this spring. In doing so, he has provided a glimpse into why the young shortstop captured both a Gold Glove and Platinum Glove for his defensive work last season.

Lindor takes his normal shortstop glove, but also carries a thinner training glove with him for taking ground balls. The flat glove -- also known as a pancake glove -- has no pocket, forcing Lindor to concentrate on a few things as the ball skips his way. He is focusing mostly on his footwork, but also on keeping his sights on the baseball until it meets his hands.

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Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Gonzales nears end of Tommy John recovery

Gonzales nears end of Tommy John recovery

JUPITER, Fla. -- Marco Gonzales isn't likely to make a Grapefruit League appearance this spring, but the work he's doing behind the scenes has the left-hander on track to potentially wrap up his recovery from Tommy John surgery before the end of May.

Gonzales is a little more than 10 months removed from having his elbow operated on, and he returned to the mound for the first time post-surgery last week. He could have been a little further along in that rehab work if not for timing. Gonzales paused his rehab work early last fall so he could build in a break that would allow him to pitch all the way through the 2017 season.

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Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Read her blog, follow her on Twitter, like her Facebook page and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Brewers reportedly offer extension to Villar

Brewers reportedly offer extension to Villar

PHOENIX -- According to a report, David Stearns may be mulling another first in his tenure as Brewers general manager: His first contract extension.

MLB Network insider Jon Heyman said the Brewers recently "floated" a proposal to infielder Jonathan Villar with a financial guarantee in the neighborhood of $20 million over an undisclosed term. According to Heyman, Villar "passed for now."

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Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Phil Rogers

Improving Anderson a key piece to Sox rebuild

Shortstop showed defensive prowess as a rookie

Improving Anderson a key piece to Sox rebuild

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Tim Anderson has vivid memories of the tryouts he went through for teams four springs ago, flying to St. Louis and Dallas-Fort Worth after the East Valley Community College Warriors had finished their season.

His eyes were wide as he left Decatur, Miss., and arrived at Busch Stadium and Globe Life Park.

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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.

Zimmerman turning to analytics to improve

Nats' first baseman taking cue from Murphy to boost launch angle

Zimmerman turning to analytics to improve

WASHINGTON -- Daniel Murphy loves talking about hitting. He is constantly studying the craft, watching video and making adjustments. He joked that his teammates think he's crazy. He is a self-professed geek who reads articles on Fangraphs.com and learns what he can from analytics.

During the offseason, Murphy came across articles using Statcast™ data to explain Ryan Zimmerman's rough 2016 season, where he hit a career-worst .218/.272/.370 with a 69 OPS+, despite having an Exit Velocity among the best in the Majors last season. A lot of his struggles can be explained by his low Launch Angle, as outlined previously by MLB.com's Mike Petriello. Murphy, whose swing adjustments led to his breakout '16, believes he can help.

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

Schimpf combines power and patience at plate

Schimpf combines power and patience at plate

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Suffice it to say, Ryan Schimpf will never be known for his batting average.

Among the 2016 numbers on the back of Schimpf's baseball card, some jump out as impressive and others are downright incredible. But his batting average -- which hovered around .220 and settled at .217 -- isn't going to turn any heads.

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

Bait & pitch: Mets fin-ish strong, reel in shark

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Bait & pitch: Mets fin-ish strong, reel in shark

Imagine, if you will, a relaxing afternoon fishing. Maybe you're sitting on a boat, maybe you're standing in a river in your waders … either way, it's a pretty peaceful afternoon, right? Well, not for Mets Steven Matz and Sean Gilmartin, who appeared on the internet fishing show "BlacktipH" this week.

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New-look Yankees, stadium ready for opener

Steinbrenner Field to unveil $40 million facelift Friday

New-look Yankees, stadium ready for opener

TAMPA, Fla. -- As the ongoing renovation of George M. Steinbrenner Field continues, a remodeled Yankees lineup will be on display for the first time this season on Friday as New York hosts the Phillies at 1:05 p.m. ET.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said he plans to have his frontline lineup on the field for the Grapefruit League opener, sans outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, who reported late to camp so he could be present for the birth of his daughter.

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Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Cishek says rehab on right track

Cishek says rehab on right track

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Steve Cishek had his second day of playing catch on flat ground Thursday, and everything continued to go well as he recovers from last October's microfracture left hip surgery.

"I'm playing catch every other day," Cishek said. "I expect to throw again in another two days and keep building up my hip strength."

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

Prospect Dubon eyeing history for Honduras

Prospect Dubon eyeing history for Honduras

PHOENIX -- The newest of the Brewers' young shortstops would like to add "pioneer" next to the word prospect.

Mauricio Dubon, the 22-year-old acquired in a December trade with the Red Sox, is bidding to be the first player born and raised in Honduras to make it to the Major Leagues. Former Astros outfielder Gerald Young was born in the Central American nation, but he grew up in the U.S., while Dubon did not migrate until he was 15, traveling with a Christian baseball mission group. Dubon went to high school in Sacramento, Calif., and the Red Sox made him a 26th-round pick in the 2013 Draft.

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Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Oblique improving, Britton to wait on spring debut

Closer, coaching staff want symptoms to dissipate before lefty's first game

Oblique improving, Britton to wait on spring debut

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Zach Britton says his left oblique muscle is feeling better, and he's progressing towards making his 2017 spring debut, but the Orioles' closer won't pitch in a game until his symptoms are gone.

"We all agreed there's no reason to go out there and go through the motions and possibly do any damage," Britton said. "We have time right now on our side, so kind of just stay in here and treat it today and come in in the morning and see how I feel."

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

Seager says he didn't have 'A' swing in '16

NL ROY, MVP candidate claims he wasn't comfortable at times

Seager says he didn't have 'A' swing in '16

PHOENIX -- Here's a stunning revelation, passed along by Dodgers manager Dave Roberts: Corey Seager said he didn't have his "A" swing last year.

"I thought I could be better at times mechanically than I was," Seager confirmed Wednesday. "I wasn't always 100 percent comfortable. Still competing, not uncomfortable, but not comfortable. I wasn't exactly where I wanted to be."

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Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Herrera welcomes pressure as Royals' closer

Herrera welcomes pressure as Royals' closer

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- New Royals closer Kelvin Herrera thought it'd be a good thing this offseason to check in with former closer Wade Davis, now with the Cubs, on what this full-time gig will be like.

As one might expect, Davis told Herrera he would do just fine.

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Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

And the Oscar Azocar goes to ... Vote now!

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And the Oscar Azocar goes to ... Vote now!

It's Oscars time and Azocars time -- named for Oscar Azocar, a beloved outfielder and pinch-hitter in the early 1990s. Yes, some of the categories are obvious like Best Pitcher. And some, well, OK, maybe we stretched a little. (Note: This is not an award for 2016 but something more present: Who do you think is the best pitcher right now? Who do you think is the best actor right now?)

Anyway, vote away, we'll announce the winners on Oscar Sunday.

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Hamilton back in Rangers camp after left knee exam

Veteran has no structural damage but will proceed with caution this weekend

Hamilton back in Rangers camp after left knee exam

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Josh Hamilton is back in camp with the Rangers after an examination of his left knee showed no significant structural damage.

Hamilton will back off his workouts through the weekend. His goal is still to be on the Opening Day roster, but that wasn't helped by this recent setback of feeling discomfort in his left knee.

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T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.