MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

Manfred ready for Majors from Day 1

New Commissioner ahead of baseball curve thanks to advanced 100-day plan

Manfred ready for Majors from Day 1

NEW YORK -- Rob Manfred's first day in the office as Major League Baseball's 10th Commissioner was, well, normal.

"It has been more routine than I would have expected, in the sense that I'm just dealing with the kind of everyday issues that come along," Manfred said on Monday afternoon.

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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.

Reds lock up Mesoraco with four-year pact

Homegrown catcher avoids arbitration, makes long-term commitment

Reds lock up Mesoraco with four-year pact

CINCINNATI -- Keeping their young and blossoming talent in the organization has been something the Reds have done the past few years. Homegrown players such as Joey Votto, Jay Bruce and Johnny Cueto were all signed to multiyear contracts as they approached their years of arbitration eligibility.

Catcher Devin Mesoraco became the latest Reds-developed player to join that list. On Monday, Mesoraco and the club avoided arbitration by agreeing to terms on a four-year, $28 million contract.

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Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Phil Rogers

Banks, Wrigley formed relationship to remember

Mr. Cub never felt underappreciated by generous owner despite salary restrictions

Banks, Wrigley formed relationship to remember

Ernie Banks wasn't just the all-time leader in love of the game. He was at the top of the charts in trust too.

At a time when the reserve clause allowed baseball owners to hold onto players almost like personal property, with salaries limited to levels that are now unthinkable, Banks landed in the lap of Cubs' owner Philip Knight Wrigley in September 1953. They formed a lasting relationship that benefited both men.

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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.

Snow doubt about it: MLB All-Blizzard team

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Snow doubt about it: MLB All-Blizzard team

If you're located along the East Coast, you know that there's a blizzard coming. A snowpocalypse. Snowzilla. SNOW MERCY.

In honor of the storm, we decided to put together an All-Blizzard team of MLB players. Check it out below.

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Blue Jays president Beeston signs extension, to retire after season

Blue Jays president Beeston signs extension, to retire after season

Paul Beeston will remain Blue Jays president and CEO through the end of the 2015 season.

Rogers Communications made the announcement Monday night that Beeston signed a one-year contract extension with the organization, but with the caveat that he will retire at the end of the season. The announcement ends the pursuit of Baltimore executive Dan Duquette for Beeston's position.

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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.

Mays man of the hour as Giants return to New York

Mays man of the hour as Giants return to New York

NEW YORK -- About 75 men, all old enough to remember John F. Kennedy's assassination or even Sputnik, gathered on Saturday in the ballroom of a midtown Manhattan hotel and lined up in two parallel rows to form a path between them. They stared expectantly at the ballroom's double doors as if they awaited a bride's entry.

All they really wanted to see was the best man.

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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.

Visitation, memorial service for Banks to be held in Chicago

Visitation, memorial service for Banks to be held in Chicago

CHICAGO -- Public visitation and memorial services for Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks, will be held Friday and Saturday at Fourth Presbyterian Church, the Cubs announced.

The public visitation will be from 12-8 p.m. CT at the church, located at 126 East Chestnut Street, Chicago. On Saturday, there will be limited public seating available for the memorial service, scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. CT at the church.

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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.

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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Speed thrills: Running down top 2B prospects

Braves' Peraza heads list, followed by White Sox's Johnson, Rockies' Wall

Speed thrills: Running down top 2B prospects

MLBPipeline.com's 2015 Top 100 Prospects list will be unveiled on Friday on MLB.com, with the Top 50 revealed during a one-hour show on MLB Network at 9 p.m. ET. Leading up to that, MLBPipeline.com takes a look at the Top 10 prospects at each position.

Graduations to the Major Leagues have taken a heavy toll on this list in the past year. Six of the second basemen on last year's preseason Top 10, including the top four, have lost their rookie eligibility, creating room for several newcomers.

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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.

Astros' roster upgrades have Hinch raring to go

Manager enjoying 'active winter,' ready to lead club at Spring Training

Astros' roster upgrades have Hinch raring to go

HOUSTON -- The roster has been retooled and improved since A.J. Hinch took over as manager of the Astros last fall. The team has beefed up the offense, strengthened the bullpen and created competition that will take center stage at Spring Training next month in Kissimmee, Fla.

Simply put, the Astros have given Hinch a club with which he can compete. After six consecutive losing seasons, Houston hopes to be in the thick of the American League West race and build off last year's 19-win improvement from 2013.

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

Napoli energized, refreshed after sleep apnea surgery

First baseman overcomes condition that prevented him from feeling rested

Napoli energized, refreshed after sleep apnea surgery

LEDYARD, Conn. -- To say Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli is energized for the coming season is far from the typical mantra you hear from just about every baseball player at this time of year. The slugger has the energy now that he lacked for close to a decade as he battled a severe case of sleep apnea.

To get to this point wasn't easy. Napoli had major surgery in November to treat his condition, and it might stun you to realize the kind of ordeal it was.

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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.

Tigers hold delicious sandwich-making competition

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Tigers hold delicious sandwich-making competition

During the season, MLB players are, well, professional baseball players. But during the offseason, they can be anything they want. For a few Tigers, the team's Winter Caravan Tour was the chance to be competitive culinary architects.

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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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Apprehensive at first, Morneau finds home with Rockies

Longtime Minnesota slugger adjusts quickly to Colorado, wins batting title, serves as team leader

Apprehensive at first, Morneau finds home with Rockies

DENVER -- First baseman Justin Morneau wasn't sure how he'd fit with the Rockies when he signed with them before last season. He was a Twins mainstay from his Major League debut in 2003 until August 2013, when he was dealt to the Pirates -- where he helped during a playoff run but admitted he felt like an outsider.

Morneau did more than fit with the Rockies. He won the National League batting title in 2014. His professionalism and mature hitting approach were part of the reason the Rockies, in need of pitching, asked such a high price in trade talks that the Marlins backed away. On top of it all, Morneau found a home with his new team.

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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.

Beloved former Boston pitcher Monbouquette dies

Massachusetts native, eight-year Sox vet passes away at 78 after battle with leukemia

Beloved former Boston pitcher Monbouquette dies

Bill Monbouquette -- a Medford, Mass., native and Red Sox legend -- died on Sunday at age 78 after a long battle with leukemia.

Monbouquette, who pitched eight seasons for the Red Sox from 1958-65, tossed a no-hitter in 1962 and won 20 games for the club in '63. He was also a three-time All-Star who spent more than 50 years in professional baseball.

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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.

Valverde, top prospects among Padres' spring invites

Former All-Star closer, Elbert, Wallace part of experienced contingent to get chance with Friars

Valverde, top prospects among Padres' spring invites

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres have extended Major League Spring Training invitations to 18 players, several with big league experience and a handful of their top prospects.

The team has signed eight Minor League free agents, including right-handed pitcher Jose Valverde and left-handed pitcher Scott Elbert in addition to infielder Brett Wallace.

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Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Kemp talks to Larry King about leaving LA, joining SD

Kemp talks to Larry King about leaving LA, joining SD

SAN DIEGO -- New Padres outfielder Matt Kemp touched on several topics recently during a interview for "Larry King Now," including his departure from the only organization he's ever known and his new start in San Diego.

And while Kemp admitted to being "shocked" at the Dec. 18 deal, a five-player trade between National League West rivals, he wasn't entirely surprised he was dealt after 12 years with the organization.

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Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Mr. Universe? Stanton judges pageant

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Mr. Universe? Stanton judges 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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Francona confident Indians have pieces to contend

Manager joins president Shapiro for Q&A with fans during Town Hall Meeting

Francona confident Indians have pieces to contend

CLEVELAND -- In one respect, it has not been a quiet winter for the Indians. At the corner of Eagle Avenue and East Ninth Street, construction crews have made plenty of noise for the past four months, battling the weather and doing all they can to have the team's massive renovation project complete in time for the regular season.

Cleveland's decision-makers understand that fans want more than ballpark improvements, though. More than anything, this city craves a championship, and the team's quiet offseason (in terms of acquisitions) has created some concern. During the team's annual Town Hall Meeting on Monday, Indians president Mark Shapiro and manager Terry Francona reiterated their belief that the team in place is more than capable of contending.

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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.

Week Ahead: Shields still on Hot Stove menu

Right-handed ace remains biggest name on free-agent market

Week Ahead: Shields still on Hot Stove menu

Rob Manfred, Major League Baseball's new Commissioner, enters his first full week on the job with plenty to look forward to.

Manfred has indicated that he has lofty goals to enhance youth participation in baseball, he has bold vision for the improvement of technology throughout the game, and he will explore ways to make big league baseball better on the field for years to come.

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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.

Garcia, Gausman, Alvarez bring intrigue to O's camp

Right-handers, outfielder could play key roles in 2015 if they step up in spring

Garcia, Gausman, Alvarez bring intrigue to O's camp

BALTIMORE -- The Orioles haven't had a busy offseason, but with Spring Training approaching, the storyline will shift from who the club should add to who is having a strong camp.

Baltimore is relying on the return of its core -- and the health of Matt Wieters and Manny Machado -- to help offset the loss of Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis. There's also the hope that Chris Davis, who will finish his suspension Opening Day, will have a bounceback year.

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

MLB.com Columnist

Matt Yallof

A View From Studio 3: Hale ready to lead

New D-backs skipper paid dues, long groomed to manage

A View From Studio 3: Hale ready to lead

To be completely honest, this week's view is actually not from Studio 3 but from my family room, where the view is blinded by whiteout conditions. The Blizzard of 2015 is upon us. There's plenty of milk, eggs and bread to get us through. Come to think of it, I don't really drink milk or eat eggs, and bread is a no-no for those of us watching our waistline. Alas, peer pressure got the best of me at the grocery store. Hopefully in a few short weeks, this storm will be a distant memory when teams arrive at Spring Training camps in Florida and Arizona. This I can guarantee: Peer pressure will not be an issue for new D-backs manager Chip Hale.

Walter William Hale is a baseball lifer who does things his own way. He had to in order to succeed on the field. A self-admitted overachiever, Hale goes about his business with passion and tenacity. He's a man with an undergraduate degree in finance and a Ph.D. in competitiveness. The former Oakland Athletics bench coach traces his competitive roots back to his high school days in Moraga, Calif.

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Matt Yallof is the co-host of The Rundown on MLB Network from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. ET. 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.

Prospect Franco rips through Dominican Winter League

Prospect Franco rips through Dominican Winter League

Third baseman Maikel Franco, the Phillies' No. 3 prospect, was one of the hottest hitters throughout the winter ball playoffs in his native Dominican Republic. Though he saw his hitting streak snapped at 13 games on Tuesday, Franco continued to be a driving force in the lineup for Gigantes del Cibao when the games mattered most.

Franco capped his playoff run Sunday in Game 8 of the Liga de Beisbol Domincano championship series against Estrellas de Oriente with a dominant effort, hitting two home runs and driving in seven runs as Cibao defeated Oriente, 12-5.

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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.

Braves sign veteran catcher Buck to Minors deal

Braves sign veteran catcher Buck to Minors deal

ATLANTA -- Attempting to strengthen their organizational depth in the catching department, the Braves have signed veteran John Buck to a Minor League contract with an invite to Spring Training.

Buck will be targeted to begin the upcoming season with Triple-A Gwinnett. But the 34-year-old would be the most likely option to join Atlanta's roster if anything were to happen to Christian Bethancourt or A.J. Pierzynski, who are slated to be the two catchers on the Braves' Opening Day roster.

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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.

Texas native Finnegan receives award from Rangers

Reliever named Texas Professional Baseball Player of the Year

Texas native Finnegan receives award from Rangers

DALLAS -- Royals pitcher Brandon Finnegan received a major award on Friday night from the team that originally drafted him.

No, it was not from the Royals. Finnegan was honored by the Rangers as the Texas Professional Baseball Player of the Year at their awards dinner on Friday night.

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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.

MLB.com Columnist

Tracy Ringolsby

Winning isn't always main ticket to Hall of Fame

Banks among small contingent with zero postseason appearances

Winning isn't always main ticket to Hall of Fame

It's all about winning.

Individual stats can impress, but championships are usually the defining ingredient of greatness.

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

Due to concussions, Avila switching mask

Tigers backstop transitioning from traditional gear to hockey-style

Due to concussions, Avila switching mask

DETROIT -- Alex Avila is committed to making the hockey-style catching mask work for him, whether it's comfortable or not. After concussions in each of the last three seasons, the Tigers' backstop is making the switch.

"Eventually I'll feel comfortable with it," Avila said at TigerFest on Saturday. "I will be wearing it full time."

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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.

Loup's role in 'pen amplified after offseason shuffle

With Janssen on free-agent market, left-hander could fill closer vacancy

Loup's role in 'pen amplified after offseason shuffle

TORONTO -- Aaron Loup had another effective season out of the Blue Jays' bullpen in 2014, but if there was one cause for concern, it was his occasional loss of command.

Loup walked more than twice as many batters last year as he did in 2013. The lack of control came as a surprise, but it's also something he appeared to solve during the second half of the year.

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

MLB.com Columnist

Anthony Castrovince

Pivotal season looms for many

Players, managers and executives face potential make-or-break year

Pivotal season looms for many

Every season is an opportunity for everybody fortunate to participate at the Major League level. But some guys have more riding on the outcome than others.

With that in mind, here are 10 people in and around the game who have reached a particularly interesting intersection in 2015.

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Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. 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.