MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

15 stars off to fast Spring starts

Some of baseball's best gearing up for fantastic regular season

15 stars off to fast Spring starts

Good news here, good news there. Young players emerging. Yeah, even some not named Kris Bryant. Veteran players reproving themselves. Did you see the home run Miguel Cabrera belted Thursday afternoon? That's the thing about baseball's best players and one of the best things about Spring Training. They amaze us even when the games don't count.

With Opening Day closing in, let's round up 15 bits of good news from these last few weeks.

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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.

Bryant passes all tests in first start in left

Top prospect shows off arm, nabbing runner at second base

Bryant passes all tests in first start in left

MESA, Ariz. -- Kris Bryant passed all the tests Thursday his first game in left field for the Cubs, but the move didn't help his hitting.

Bryant has played third base since he was drafted second overall in 2013 by the Cubs, and manager Joe Maddon wanted him to consider playing the outfield. Being versatile can sometimes give a player a better chance on a big league squad. Bryant enthusiastically agreed. The only concern was with his arm because Bryant had missed time at third base with fatigue in his right shoulder.

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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.

MLB.com Columnist

Jim Callis

Top pick Aiken undergoes Tommy John surgery

Left-hander went unsigned after Astros selected him in 2014 Draft

Top pick Aiken undergoes Tommy John surgery

The Brady Aiken saga has taken another turn. Aiken, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 First-Year Player Draft and a top prospect for this year's Draft, underwent Tommy John surgery on Wednesday.

Aiken made the announcement himself today, via the website theplayerstribune.com, which was founded by fellow Excel Sports Management client Derek Jeter. Aiken said he tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow and had it repaired by Dr. David Altcheck at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York.

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Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com and writes a blog, Callis' Corner. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

What to watch for in today's games

MLB.TV slate includes Harvey facing Cardinals, rivalry matchups in action

What to watch for in today's games

The Spring Training action continues in Florida and Arizona, with Mets right-hander Matt Harvey taking the mound, several rivals squaring off and a Phillies youngster facing a star-studded Yankees lineup.

Here are five things to watch for:

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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.

MLB's International Prospect team flashing power, talent

Heredia, Ortiz set to lead talented group against North Carolina high school teams

MLB's International Prospect team flashing power, talent

The thunderous cracking noise coming off of Starling Heredia's bat every time he connected on a pitch during batting practice and deposited the ball over the left-field fence was unlike anything heard at the USA Baseball National Training Complex on Thursday afternoon.

The sound a wood bat makes when it is in the hands of Heredia or slugger Jhailyn Ortiz, his teammate in the first annual International Prospect Series, is unique. It was noticeably distinct, especially when you consider the players competing in the National High School Invitational tournament on the adjacent fields were using aluminum bats.

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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.

Aviles pranked teammate by parking his car on field

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Aviles pranked teammate by parking his car on field

It was a typical day at the Indians' spring complex on Thursday morning. The sun was shining. Palm trees swayed in the breeze. And Jose Ramirez's car was parked on the infield at shortstop on Field 1 at Cleveland's practice facility.

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Much-anticipated power arrives for Heyward

Much-anticipated power arrives for Heyward

JUPITER, Fla. -- Hours after his manager laughed off concern about Jason Heyward not yet having registered an extra-base hit this spring, the right fielder blasted his first -- all the way onto the porch of the team complex beyond the right-field wall.

It was a show of power that the Cardinals have been waiting to see, but one they also knew would come. Heyward did actually connect for an extra-base hit before Thursday, but it was erased from the stat sheet when rain kept Monday's game from becoming official.

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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.

Miggy, V-Mart show off their power strokes

All-Star duo hit their first home runs in Spring Training

Miggy, V-Mart show off their power strokes

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez seemingly cleared the health hurdle a few days ago in their comebacks from their respective surgeries. In their battle to get their timing down at the plate in time for Opening Day, they both cleared the fence Thursday.

In the case of Cabrera, his first home run of the spring cleared the left-field fence on a line. In Martinez's case, his first homer in Grapefruit League cleared the right-field fence easily.

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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.

MLB.com Columnist

Phil Rogers

Rodon could be game-changer for White Sox

Rodon could be game-changer for White Sox

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Ah, so this is why the White Sox have been so mysterious through the years.

A few times every spring, they have their starters work in a Minor League game on a back field rather than allowing them to face an American League Central opponent. But on Wednesday night, they allowed 22-year-old lefty Carlos Rodon to pitch against the Royals.

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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.

'Undateable' cast dishes out fantasy advice

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'Undateable' cast dishes out fantasy advice

Because the last few weeks of Spring Training can be a fraught time for any fantasy player, the cast of NBC's "Undateable" is here to help. Rick Glassman, Ron Funches and Brent Morin are here to dish out their best fantasy advice.

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Ortiz defends legacy regarding PEDs

Red Sox slugger writes adamant defense linking '03 test to over-the-counter supplement

Ortiz defends legacy regarding PEDs

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Red Sox slugger David Ortiz still carries the sting from perceptions that resulted from the 2009 report in the New York Times that he was one of 103 players flagged in anonymous survey testing in 2003 for performance-enhancing drugs.

In a lengthy first-person account for The Players' Tribune, the new venture headed by retired Yankees icon Derek Jeter, Ortiz remained adamant that he "never knowingly took steroids" and said the positive test stemmed from taking an over-the-counter product.

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

Get an edge in your league with Fantasy 411's Cheat Sheet

Get an edge in your league with Fantasy 411's Cheat Sheet

With fantasy-baseball-draft season in full swing, MLB.com put together a cheat sheet for fans in need of expert advice. Make sure to have the one-stop information shop on hand during your auctions or snake drafts.

For comprehensive coverage of the player pool, check out MLB.com/preview. And follow @Fantasy411 for daily- and annual-league tips all season long.

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Zachary Finkelstein is a fantasy editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Kershaw cruises behind Puig, Rollins homers

Lefty fans 8 over six; pair of 2-run shots sets tone

Kershaw cruises behind Puig, Rollins homers

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Brad Penny's push for a White Sox roster spot, either as a spot-starter for Chris Sale or a long reliever, took a bit of a hit on Thursday at Camelback Ranch in the Dodgers' 9-6 victory.

The Los Angeles offense was led by Yasiel Puig's fifth home run, a two-run shot, of the spring and four RBIs from Jimmy Rollins, who also hit a two-run homer. Penny allowed six runs on eight hits over four innings, while Clayton Kershaw struck out eight in six innings.

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Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. 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.

MLB.com Columnist

Mike Bauman

'Dead arm' a dead issue for Lester

Cubs can rest easy after new ace reports no problem in return to mound

'Dead arm' a dead issue for Lester

MESA, Ariz. -- Sighs of relief all the way around for Chicago Cubs loyalists. Jon Lester is OK. He is all right. In fact, he is much better than that.

Lester had missed a Cactus League start Saturday because of the dreaded, yet commonplace, "dead-arm" syndrome. Because he is a centerpiece of the Cubs' expected revival, because he is worth $155 million over six years to the Cubs, this development was viewed in some quarters as dreadful, ominous and further evidence that gloom and doom have a permanent home at Wrigley Field.

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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.

Hale: Tomas may start season in Minor Leagues

D-backs manager said Cuban star could play third base or left field

Hale: Tomas may start season in Minor Leagues

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Cuban star Yasmany Tomas could still start the regular season in the Minor Leagues, D-backs manager Chip Hale said on Thursday before his club played the Padres in a Cactus League game at Salt River Fields.

"Yeah, there's a definite chance," the first-year manager said about determining the answer to the biggest question in camp. "It's going to come down to us all sitting down and everybody talking about what's best for the Major League team."

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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.

Bean brings his message of inclusion to A's

Often confused with Oakland GM Beane, the duo played together at Triple-A

Bean brings his message of inclusion to A's

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Often mistaken for one another, Billy Beane and Billy Bean found themselves in the same clubhouse Thursday, just as they did 27 years ago when playing in the outfield together for Triple-A Toledo.

"We also had a guy named Pete Rice playing in the outfield, so we had a 'Rice and Beans' outfield," said a smiling Bean.

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

Hernandez's strong start 'very pleasing' to Mariners

Seattle ace rebounds from rough Cactus League outing

Hernandez's strong start 'very pleasing' to Mariners

PEORIA, Ariz. -- The Mariners lost to the Royals, 3-0, on Thursday at Peoria Stadium. But really only one thing mattered in this one. Felix Hernandez looked King-ly and thus all was well.

"I feel like I'm where I want to be," Hernandez said after firing six innings of two-hit, one-run ball. "I'll be ready for Opening Day."

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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.

Sophomore Danner dominates on Day 2 of NHSI

Righty throws three-hit shutout, fans 13 for Huntington Beach

Sophomore Danner dominates on Day 2 of NHSI

CARY, N.C. -- As the quarterfinals of the 2015 USA Baseball National High School Invitational began Thursday afternoon at the USA Baseball National Training Complex, Huntington Beach (Calif.) High School sophomore right-hander Hagen Danner delivered a stellar performance against Puyallup (Wash.) High School on the big stage of Coleman Stadium and the audience of MLB.com.

After surrendering a triple to start the game, Danner got into a groove and finished the game with a three-hit shutout and 13 strikeouts. With the victory, the Oilers advance to the semifinals on Friday in the 16-team, single-elimination tournament.

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

Royals send well wishes to recovering superfan

Faseler, shot during home invasion, thanks supporters on Twitter

Royals send well wishes to recovering superfan

Jimmy Faseler, the Royals superfan who was shot recently in a home invasion, thanked fans and friends on Twitter for their support as he recovers in a Kansas City area hospital.

Faseler then tweeted, "I probably won't be posting too much for now. I don't have a lot of strength and need to conserve my energy for learning to walk again."

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

Pujols, Cron flex muscle behind Weaver

Right-hander strikes out eight batters in 5 1/3 innings of penultimate start

Pujols, Cron flex muscle behind Weaver

MESA, Ariz. -- Albert Pujols belted a three-run homer and an RBI double and C.J. Cron added a two-run triple to back Jered Weaver and lift the Angels to a 8-4 victory on Thursday over the Cubs. Weaver, expected to be the Angels' Opening Day starter, struck out eight over 5 1/3 innings.

Mike Olt belted a two-run homer in the fourth and pinch-hitter Travis Wood smacked a solo shot in the fifth for the Cubs, who rank second in the Majors with 32 home runs this spring.

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Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. 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.

Mammoth shot shows Stanton's nearly season-ready

Mammoth shot shows Stanton's nearly season-ready

JUPITER, Fla. -- Peppering baseballs over the Marlins' building at Roger Dean Stadium is common for Giancarlo Stanton in batting practice. When the two-time All-Star is launching a baseball off Adam Wainwright on the balcony in a game, it's a sign the slugger is just about ready for the regular season.

Stanton connected on a solo home run and added an RBI double in two at-bats off Wainwright on Thursday in the Marlins' 5-3 win over the Cardinals at Roger Dean Stadium.

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Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Fantastic Four: Competition at 2B wages on

Giavotella, Featherston, Green and Rutledge all making solid cases for Angels job

Fantastic Four: Competition at 2B wages on

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Position battles are as intertwined into the fabric of Spring Training as much as the fun-loving, laid-back atmosphere that descends on Arizona and Florida each March. Usually, a frontrunner emerges in the race for the right to take the field in the first inning on Opening Day.

Not the case for the Angels, where the four-way battle for the starting spot at second base is still as murky as the day Spring Training began.

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Nick Krueger is a junior majoring in journalism at Arizona State University. This story is part of a Cactus League partnership between MLB.com and ASU's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Flores shakes off sore left foot against Nats

Flores shakes off sore left foot against Nats

VIERA, Fla. -- Wilmer Flores' return from a bruised left foot proved relatively uneventful -- 1-for-3 with a walk in the Mets' 8-3 win over the Nationals on Thursday, plus seven innings at shortstop with two defensive chances. All of which was just fine for Flores, who endured some soreness after missing three games with an injury that could have been much worse.

"I feel it a little bit, but I've just got to go through it," Flores said. "It's going to be sore after, but I feel great."

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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.

Olt goes deep, Bryant flashes leather in loss

Top prospect shows off arm in outfield, turns double play

Olt goes deep, Bryant flashes leather in loss

MESA, Ariz. -- Albert Pujols belted a three-run homer and an RBI double and C.J. Cron added a two-run triple to back Jered Weaver and lift the Angels to a 8-4 victory on Thursday over the Cubs. Weaver, expected to be the Angels' Opening Day starter, struck out eight over 5 1/3 innings.

Mike Olt belted a two-run homer in the fourth and pinch-hitter Travis Wood smacked a solo shot in the fifth for the Cubs, who rank second in the Majors with 32 home runs this spring.

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Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. 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.

Rangers keeping a close eye on Fujikawa

Rangers keeping a close eye on Fujikawa

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Kyuji Fujikawa is scheduled to pitch in relief on Friday against the Athletics. The Rangers are watching him closely to see if he is fully recovered from Tommy John surgery or if he'll need more time in the Minors.

Fujikawa, a former dominating closer in Japan who underwent the procedure on June 13, 2013, has not allowed a run in four Cactus League games, but he hasn't looked as sharp in two camp games, allowing two runs in three innings.

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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.

Nationals entertaining plenty of bench options

Nationals entertaining plenty of bench options

VIERA, Fla. -- As the Grapefruit League begins to wind down, the Nationals are starting to focus on who will fill out the final spots on their bench.

They have multiple players in camp who play similar roles at first base and in the outfield in Tyler Moore, Clint Robinson, Kila Ka'aihue and Matt Carp.

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

Filling in admirably, Bettis aces audition

Filling in admirably, Bettis aces audition

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Rockies sent right-hander Chad Bettis to Minor League camp on Sunday, but after they released Jhoulys Chacin and learned that David Hale's left oblique injury would cost him Thursday night's start against the Rangers, Bettis had another audition.

Bettis acquitted himself well, giving up two runs -- on a Leonys Martin homer -- but allowing no further runs and striking out four against three hits.

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Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, and like his Facebook page, Thomas Harding and Friends at www.Rockies.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Schafer lends support to Hooten Foundation

Brewers outfielder joins advisory board to help raise awareness of PED abuse

Schafer lends support to Hooten Foundation

PHOENIX -- Moved by a father's effort to educate youth about the dangers of performance-enhancing drugs in the memory of his late son, Brewers outfielder Logan Schafer accepted an invitation to serve on the Taylor Hooten Foundation's advisory board.

Other players on the board include Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw, Red Sox infielder Dustin Pedroia and Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista. They will participate in the foundation's educational activities throughout North America and appear in print, radio and TV public-service ads.

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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.

Martinez's arm, Martin's power carry Rangers

Martinez's arm, Martin's power carry Rangers

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Leonys Martin hit a two-run home run in the third, Nick Martinez pitched six scoreless innings and the Rangers defeated the Rockies, 6-3, on Thursday night.

Rockies starter Chad Bettis allowed two runs in four innings. He only allowed three hits, but he hung a 1-2 curveball to Martin, who hit it out to right-center for his second home run of the spring. Reliever Rex Brothers, who entered with a 1.50 ERA in five games, struggled, allowing four runs in the eighth inning, on a pair of singles, a double and a wild pitch.

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Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. 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.

Concussions behind him, Sanchez working hard

Concussions behind him, Sanchez working hard

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Giants catcher Hector Sanchez has gone from feeling awful to a feel-good story.

Last year, Sanchez wasn't completely sure he'd play baseball again. The lingering effects of two concussions, which he sustained in a span of less than a month, brought the robust 25-year-old to his knees. When he kneels these days, it's to say grateful prayers.

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Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Haft-Baked Ideas, and follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.