Marlins go the extra mile to introduce Ichiro

Samson leads contingent on 18-hour journey to Japan

Marlins go the extra mile to introduce Ichiro

MIAMI -- The Marlins went the extra mile to make a strong first impression on their latest acquisition, with five team executives traveling 18 hours by plane to Japan to properly welcome Ichiro Suzuki into their family.

To the organization, the long flight showed its commitment to a veteran with Hall of Fame credentials. To the 41-year-old Suzuki, the gesture was both humbling and energizing as he prepares for the next chapter of his brilliant big league career.

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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.

Ichiro 'humbled' by Marlins' efforts

All-Star introduced by team executives in his native Japan

Ichiro 'humbled' by Marlins' efforts

The Marlins welcomed the newest addition to their roster on Wednesday more than 7,000 miles away from Miami, as team officials traveled to Tokyo to introduce Ichiro Suzuki, who signed a one-year deal with the club this week.

"I am extremely humbled that these people took a total of 18 hours all the way from Miami to get here and hold this press conference for me," Ichiro said through a translator. "This is not a very usual happening, and I can only say that I'm extremely humbled."

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

Randy Johnson watches Randy Johnson play golf

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Randy Johnson watches Randy Johnson play golf

Randy Johnson was playing in the WM Phoenix Open Pro-Am on Wednesday. And do you know who was watching him? Randy Johnson!

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Braves announce 4-year deal with Toscano

Club evaluated Cuban outfielder during November workouts in the DR

Braves announce 4-year deal with Toscano

ATLANTA -- After aggressively scouring the international market over the past few months, the Braves opted to take a chance on Dian Toscano, a relatively obscure Cuban outfielder who might become a part of Atlanta's outfield mix after gaining some seasoning at the Minor League level.

The Braves officially announced their four-year deal (with an option for 2019) with Toscano on Wednesday afternoon. The two parties reached an agreement in early December, but it took nearly two months to complete the clerical requirements necessary to allow the 25-year-old to enter the U.S.

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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

Jonathan Mayo

Prospect Watch: Top 10 shortstops

Astros' Correa, Indians' Lindor, Cubs' Russell lead strong contingent

Prospect Watch: Top 10 shortstops

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 baseball's Top 10 prospects at each position.

The top two players from the 2014 list of top shortstop prospects graduated: Xander Bogaerts of the Red Sox and the Cubs' Javier Baez. So did the last two on that top 10: Luis Sardinas, then of the Rangers, and Chris Owings of the D-backs.

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Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com and writes a blog, B3. Follow @JonathanMayoB3 on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

PR skipper Perez looks to relive Caribbean Series magic

PR skipper Perez looks to relive Caribbean Series magic

Former Major Leaguer Eduardo Perez can still hear the celebratory sounds on the field in the Dominican Republic the last time Puerto Rico won the Caribbean Series. There were rowdy cheers from the Puerto Rican fans in attendance at Quisqueya Stadium in Santo Domingo. Noisemakers rattled. Horns echoed throughout the stands.

Perez leapt for joy after the final out that February night. He hugged every Santurce teammate he could find and he soaked in the team's undefeated run through the round-robin. Fifteen years later, Perez is back in the Caribbean Series with Santurce, this time as the team's manager, and the baseball lifer wants to relive history.

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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.

Finding fantasy value post-Tommy John

Finding fantasy value post-Tommy John

An elbow injury that requires Tommy John surgery is among the most serious that a baseball player can suffer. Pitchers can go from fantasy studs to completely off the radar faster than you can say "right forearm strain." Hurlers who take more than a year off due to the lengthy recovery process can disappear from the memories of fantasy owners, but those who want to win their 2015 leagues will need to get reacquainted with the following players.

Matt Harvey (Mets)
Expected return: Opening Day
Expected fantasy production: 10 wins, 190 K's, 3.07 ERA, 1.08 WHIP

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Fred Zinkie is a fantasy baseball writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Cardinals counting on Heyward to fill outfield hole

Acquisition joins Holliday, Jay as starters; Bourjos, Grichuk provide depth

Cardinals counting on Heyward to fill outfield hole

This is the fourth of a seven-part Around the Horn series that will take a position-by-position look at the Cardinals' projected starters and backup options heading into next season. Previous installments examined the catchers, corner infielders and middle infielders. Up next: outfielders.

ST LOUIS -- When the book closed on the 2014 season, the Cardinals' outfield plans appeared fairly finalized. Matt Holliday and Jon Jay would return in their starting roles, while Oscar Taveras and Randal Grichuk would provide coverage in right field. Unexpected tragedy, however, soon shattered the well-intentioned plans, leaving the Cardinals to quickly revise their offseason to-do list while also grieving over the loss of 21-year-old Taveras.

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

MLB.com Columnist

Lindsay Berra

Players, coaches discuss impact of the infield shift

Players, coaches discuss impact of the infield shift

MLB's new Commissioner, Rob Manfred, got people's attention right out of the gate.

In an interview that aired on ESPN on Sunday, his first official day at the helm, Manfred responded to a query by Karl Ravech by saying he was open to the possibility of doing away with defensive shifts. This stirred up immediate chatter in social media, on sports radio and among sportswriters, which was a good thing, according to the game's 10th Commissioner.

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

MLB.com Columnist

Anthony Castrovince

Time for hitters to counter defensive shifts

Time for hitters to counter defensive shifts

New Commissioner Rob Manfred certainly wasn't speaking in binding terms when he floated the possibility of eliminating or limiting the defensive shifts that have become so prevalent in baseball. In fact, he was simply replying to a question about any "radical" changes he might consider. That said, the impact of shifting is a topic many executives, coaches and players have bandied about in the office or locker room at a time when offensive production is at its lowest levels in decades.

But as is the case with so many of the game's evolutions in circumstances and strategy, the players themselves will probably dictate the direction taken here. Shifts, after all, are the byproduct of historical data, and they inherently create present and future areas of vulnerability on the field. And so it is incumbent upon the hitters to disrupt the data with revolutionary results.

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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.

Teams eager to ink Cuban phenom Moncada

Cuban infield prospect has yet to be cleared by US government

Teams eager to ink Cuban phenom Moncada

Major League Baseball issued a memo to its clubs on Tuesday night that acknowledged new regulations for Cuban players that were published earlier this month by federal officials, and reminded teams that the League's current policies for Cuban players remain intact until further notice.

The one-page memo states the League, its legal counsel and the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control are discussing the changes. For now, Major League Baseball will continue to require an OFAC unblocking license prior to players being allowed to enter a contract. The scouting of Cuban players and travel to the island by club personnel or representatives remain prohibited, the memo states.

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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.

Robbie Ross learned he was traded during yoga class

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Robbie Ross learned he was traded during yoga class

I'm not sure there are any good places to be when you learn that you've been traded. For a life-changing moment like that, I guess the best option would be sitting in your office with a pad of paper and a pen already in your hand. And what baseball player wants to spend all of their free time doing that? 

So when Robbie Ross learned that he was traded to the Red Sox on Tuesday, he found out in one of the best possible ways possible: Just as he was walking into a yoga class. I mean, imagine how awkward that would be if it was during -- his phone going off and all the people around him getting annoyed at the sounds of his "Baby Elephant Walk" ringtone as they try to open their solar plexuses -- it would be madness.

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MLB.com Columnist

Tracy Ringolsby

Cardinals are still the team to beat in NL Central

Even with the Cubs' many moves, St. Louis primed for another division title

Cardinals are still the team to beat in NL Central

The Cubs grabbed the offseason headlines in the National League Central.

Don't, however, overlook the defending division-champion Cardinals.

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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.

Padres to don brown pinstripe uniforms for 5 games

Club announces promo schedule, with Salute to Military days among highlights

Padres to don brown pinstripe uniforms for 5 games

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres have decided to bring back the brown in 2015 -- well, at least on a limited basis.

The team announced Wednesday that on five Wednesday day games this season, Padres players will wear brown pinstripe uniforms -- the same style that was worn by teams from 1985-90. In-game music, graphics and other entertainment features will add to the "Way Back Wednesday" theme on these days.

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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.

Travis Snider wears luchador mask during interview

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Travis Snider wears luchador mask during interview

Pop quiz, hotshot: You've just been traded to a new city, your favorite football team is in the Super Bowl and you're making a TV appearance -- what do you wear? 

Well, if you're Washington-born Travis Snider, you wear a vaguely frightening Seahawks football helmet-meets-luchador mask complete with Seahawks poncho on Intentional Talk. It's basically Bane if Bane decided to hang out at sports bar instead of take over Gotham. 

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Reliever Will Smith goes undercover to interview fans

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Reliever Will Smith goes undercover to interview fans

If there is one thing that the preponderance of reality television and prank shows has shown us over the last decade and a half, it's this: Take a famous person out of their natural habitat and absolutely no one will have any idea who they are. 

At Brewers On Deck, reliever Will Smith took off the uni, picked up a mic and became newscaster Bill Schmidt. Naturally, his questions were generally Will Smith-related. Though no one listed him as their favorite player (the fan who listed Special Assistant to the GM Craig Counsell as his second-favorite holds a special place in my heart), Smith at least received plenty of love on the 1-10 hotness scale. 

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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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MLB.com Columnist

Phil Rogers

With Janssen on board, Nationals' roster has no holes

Proven arm helps replenish bullpen's depth with strong setup option, potential backup closer

With Janssen on board, Nationals' roster has no holes

Any more questions? No, probably not.

A week after adding Max Scherzer to the front of their rotation, the Nationals have agreed to a deal that addresses the only issue they faced on the way to Florida, signing former Blue Jays closer Casey Janssen to add another solid late-innings option.

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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.

Yelich makes historic visit to Louisville

Outfielder the first to sign contract with bat company at facility in Kentucky

Yelich makes historic visit to Louisville

By no means is Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich the first player to sign a contract with Louisville Slugger, but on Wednesday he became the first to do so at the facility in Louisville, Ky.

In a ceremony before employees and museum guests, Yelich signed a contract with the bat company. He also spent time watching his bats being made for the upcoming season.

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

Angels agree to deal with Freese, avoid arbitration

Angels agree to deal with Freese, avoid arbitration

ANAHEIM -- The Angels avoided arbitration with third baseman David Freese on Wednesday, agreeing on a $6.425 million salary that stood as the midpoint of the numbers previously exchanged by both sides.

The Angels' only remaining arbitration-eligible players are outfielder Matt Joyce, a pending free agent, and starting pitcher Garrett Richards, who attained Super Two status this offseason.

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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. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Mejia, Mets avoid arbitration with one-year pact

Mejia, Mets avoid arbitration with one-year pact

Right-hander Jenrry Mejia and the Mets have settled on a deal for 2015, agreeing on a $2.595 million contract to avoid arbitration.

Mejia -- who took over as closer in 2014 and is projected to start the 2015 campaign in that role -- appeared in 63 games last season and posted a 3.65 ERA. He also struck out 98 batters in 93 2/3 innings.

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

Veteran lefty Bedard signs Minors deal with spring invite

Dodgers also bring in Minor League reliever Rowen

Veteran lefty Bedard signs Minors deal with spring invite

The Dodgers announced Wednesday the signings of veteran starter Erik Bedard and Minor League reliever Ben Rowen to Minor League contracts with invitations to Spring Training.

Bedard has posted a 3.99 ERA, a 1.36 WHIP and a 2.34 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 241 games (230 starts) in his 11-year career, spent mostly with the Orioles and Mariners.

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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. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Panda hits a half-court shot sitting down

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Panda hits a half-court shot sitting down

Pablo Sandoval is an accomplished professional baseball player. He is a two-time All-Star, three-time World Series champion and, this past offseason, a highly coveted free agent who ended up signing a five-year deal with the Red Sox. But that isn't enough. He wants to conquer the world of trick-shot basketball, too.

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Stewart names Carter special assistant to GM

Former Blue Jays teammates reunite in Arizona

Stewart names Carter special assistant to GM

Arizona senior vice president and general manager Dave Stewart turned to an old friend and teammate Wednesday, hiring Joe Carter as a special assistant to the general manager.

Carter and Stewart were teammates on the Blue Jays in 1993-94 and also part of the '93 World Series championship team.

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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.

White Sox reunite with Beckham on one-year deal

Versatile infielder happy to return to Chicago; Viciedo designated for assignment

White Sox reunite with Beckham on one-year deal

CHICAGO -- Gordon Beckham has returned to the White Sox ... after a very brief absence.

The White Sox announced on Wednesday that they have agreed to terms on a one-year, $2 million contract with the sure-handed, right-handed-hitting infielder, with outfielder Dayan Viciedo designated for assignment. The 40-man roster remains at 40.

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Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Viciedo designated for assignment to open roster spot

White Sox part ways with outfielder to pave way for return of infielder Beckham

Viciedo designated for assignment to open roster spot

CHICAGO -- There's a chance Dayan Viciedo will still turn out to be a consistently productive player at the Major League level.

That chance just won't happen with the White Sox, who designated the outfielder for assignment on Wednesday to make room for Gordon Beckham on the 40-man roster. Beckham and the White Sox agreed to a one-year, $2 million deal.

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Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Moore on mound for 1st time since April

Rays lefty continues comeback from Tommy John surgery, hopes to return to rotation by June

Moore on mound for 1st time since April

Rays left-hander Matt Moore has reported no setbacks throughout his recovery from Tommy John surgery, and he's targeting a return to the big league mound in June.

After reportedly throwing off the mound Tuesday for the first time since the operation, nothing's changed. And in this case, no news is good news for Moore and the Rays. According to the Tampa Bay Times, Moore threw 15 times from about halfway up the bullpen mound at Tropicana Field on Tuesday, and he told the Times he felt "pretty good."

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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.

Fred Lynn's favorite player: Mike Trout

Fred Lynn's favorite player: Mike Trout

As a former outfielder, Fred Lynn pays extra attention to the players who roam the outfield today. One player stands above the rest: Lynn's favorite current player, Angels outfielder Mike Trout.

Trout, who burst onto the scene as a rookie in 2012 like Lynn did back in 1975, when he won AL Rookie of the Year and MVP honors, can seemingly do it all. That's why Lynn admires him.

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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.

Blue Jays, Brewers talk potential trade for Papelbon

Blue Jays, Brewers talk potential trade for Papelbon

PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies are still talking to the Brewers and Blue Jays about a Jonathan Papelbon trade.

Two sources said on Tuesday evening that the talks are alive, although the seriousness of those discussions is unclear. Yahoo! Sports first reported Friday that the Phils and Brewers were in serious negotiations. FOXSports.com mentioned the Blue Jays' interest.

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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.

In Minors, Russell Wilson tackled tornadoes

Rome Braves GM Dunn saw qualities in quarterback during tragedy

In Minors, Russell Wilson tackled tornadoes

ATLANTA -- As a frightening string of destructive tornadoes ripped through the Southeast on April 27, 2011, Mike Dunn took precautionary measures to protect his Class A Rome Braves players and the visiting Asheville Tourists club that included a young second baseman named Russell Wilson.

Wilson's baseball career was nearing its end, but his leadership abilities were on full display as he helped take control of a potentially dangerous situation.

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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.