MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

It's a dry feat: WS rematch? AZ has hot topics

MLB Network's live Media Day coverage to be streamed on MLB.com

It's a dry feat: WS rematch? AZ has hot topics

PHOENIX -- Welcome to one of the real cool days of a new baseball season. This one reminds us how quickly things are moving toward an Opening Day less than six weeks away.

Commissioner Rob Manfred will be on hand Tuesday afternoon and so will all 15 Cactus League managers and general managers when Major League Baseball holds its fifth annual Cactus League Spring Training Media Day.

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Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. You can follow him on Twitter @richardjustice. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

5 pitchers aim to repeat breakout campaigns

5 pitchers aim to repeat breakout campaigns

MLB.com earlier profiled five breakout hitters from 2016 and examined their chances of sustaining that improvement this coming season.

Now, it's time to switch the focus to five starting pitchers who will face a similar challenge in 2017:

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Andrew Simon is a research analyst for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Kershaw, Wood look sharp throwing live BP

Both Dodgers left-handers battled injuries in 2016

Kershaw, Wood look sharp throwing live BP

PHOENIX -- Dodgers Nation breathed another sigh of relief Monday when Clayton Kershaw threw to hitters for the first time this spring and afterward said he felt fine.

Alternating on the mound with Kershaw on Monday was Alex Wood, who also returned from injury (elbow surgery) last season and is determined to earn back a spot in the starting rotation after being limited to 60 1/3 innings in 2016.

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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.

Giovanni Soto threw to Geovany Soto

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Giovanni Soto threw to Geovany Soto

The biggest moment of Monday morning's White Sox workout at Camelback Ranch was when Giovanni Soto threw to Geovany Soto during live batting practice. No, this wasn't some kind of cloning mishap or some kind of Rougned Odor situation -- they are, in fact, two different and unrelated people. 

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Lagares gets pic with Yo's latest crazy car

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Lagares gets pic with Yo's latest crazy car

Mets Spring Training was just a few days old last year when Yoenis Cespedes showed up in what appeared to be an actual Transformer. The next week, he drove another one. And then there was a tricycle. (This isn't even touching on that time he literally rode in on horseback.)

The Mets are now back in Port St. Lucie, and Cespedes is back filming his Fate of the Furious audition tape in real time. This time around, though, fellow New York outfielder Juan Lagares was determined to snag a photo.

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Stroman expecting a dominant year on mound

Stroman expecting a dominant year on mound

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Blue Jays right-hander Marcus Stroman has been an Opening Day starter. He's also started five postseason games, including the win-or-go-home American League Wild Card match-up against the Orioles last October. Toronto won.

Still, the 25-year-old -- now two years removed from surgery to repair the torn ACL in his left knee -- indicated after Monday's workout that he believes the best is yet to come.

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

Red Sox savor Sale's skills in first live BP of spring

Young: 'It's a lot more fun facing him knowing he's your teammate'

Red Sox savor Sale's skills in first live BP of spring

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Red Sox who stepped in against Chris Sale for Monday's live batting practice session got a glimpse of what American League East hitters are going to have to deal with regularly this season.

The most apt word? Nasty.

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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.

Fowler reaffirms comments regarding travel ban

New Cardinals center fielder's wife was born in Iran

Fowler reaffirms comments regarding travel ban

JUPITER, Fla. -- Dexter Fowler said on Monday that he stands by the statement he made to ESPN.com two days ago in which he discussed the effect on his family of President Donald Trump's executive order limiting travel to and from seven Muslim-majority countries.

Fowler's wife, Darya, was born in Iran, one of seven countries named in the executive order before it was blocked by the United States 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Fowler told ESPN.com that such restrictions could preclude his family from traveling to visit relatives in Iran and that it has delayed his sister-in-law's return from a business trip to Qatar.

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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.

Prince previews new show 'Fielder's Choice'

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Prince previews new show 'Fielder's Choice'

Recently, retired slugger Prince Fielder announced that he has a new project on his plate -- literally -- in the form of the perfectly named cooking program "Fielder's Choice." It will be premiering shortly on Netflix and Hulu.

Well, after keeping us all salivating with anticipation, wondering just what an entire show with a premise of "Prince Fielder plus food" might look like, he shared an official Season 1 trailer. 

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Darvish breaking bats in first outing

Darvish breaking bats in first outing

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish threw five minutes of live batting practice Monday, the first time he has faced hitters this spring.

Hanser Alberto and Nomar Mazara were among the hitters facing Darvish. Alberto had his bat broken by Darvish on one pitch.

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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.

Before Wayne Shaw ate a mid-game pie, Gates Brown batted with hot dogs hidden in his shirt

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Before Wayne Shaw ate a mid-game pie, Gates Brown batted with hot dogs hidden in his shirt

But baseball has its own amazing history of players eating during games. With all the appetizing aromas from the concourse wafting through the stadium, how can a player say no? 

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Bourn gets one-year deal, invite to spring camp

Bourn gets one-year deal, invite to spring camp

SARASOTA, Fla. -- The Orioles are bringing back Michael Bourn, signing the veteran outfielder to a one-year Minor League deal with an invitation to big league camp on Monday night.

The deal, worth a reported $2 million if Bourn makes the team, gives the O's another outfield option along with a much-needed speedster and defense-first player.

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Brittany Ghiroli has covered the Orioles for MLB.com since 2010. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

McCullers' new gloves honor friend Fernandez

McCullers' new gloves honor friend Fernandez

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Astros right-hander Lance McCullers Jr. took the opportunity to get some new gloves for the start of Spring Training to pay tribute to his close friend, Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez, who was killed in a boating accident last year.

McCullers picked up a specially ordered glove early Monday, the day in which representatives from Wilson came to Astros camp to deliver gloves. McCullers picked up an A2K model, which is what Fernandez used, that was Astros orange with a small pinch of blue.

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Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Youth is served in fantasy SS rankings

Seager, Correa, Lindor in top tier; Bogaerts, Story, Villar not far behind

Youth is served in fantasy SS rankings

A position with few elite fantasy options not long ago, shortstop has been rejuvenated by a deluge of talented youngsters.

Said influx is evident in the first two tiers, which contain six players who are 25 or younger. Fantasy owners, though, will find quite a drop-off after that. Those who miss out on one of the top six players at this position will not be able to count on their shortstop as a fantasy-lineup linchpin.

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

Mallex Smith, who was traded twice in 77 minutes, could be the latest player to wear No. 0

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Mallex Smith, who was traded twice in 77 minutes, could be the latest player to wear No. 0

Mallex Smith made news this offseason as he may have set the record for shortest time on a Mariners roster. Seventy-seven minutes after Jerry Dipoto acquired him from the Braves, he was traded again -- this time to the Rays as part of the package for Drew Smyly. 

The number of those trades are also two higher than his new uniform number with the Rays: Zero.

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Cubs notes: Spot in rotation up for grabs

Anderson, Montgomery battling for final spot in starting rotation

Cubs notes: Spot in rotation up for grabs

MESA, Ariz. -- The Cubs and the city of Mesa will host a championship rally on Friday from noon to 4 p.m. MT/11 a.m-3 p.m. CT at Sloan Park, one day before the defending World Series champs open Cactus League play.

During the rally, fans will hear from Mesa mayor John Giles, Cubs manager Joe Maddon and several Cubs players, and have the opportunity to take photos with the 2016 World Series trophy. Gates will open at 10 a.m. MT/9 CT with live music, food and beverages starting at 11 a.m. MT/10 CT.

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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.

Miller's first live BP draws respect from Tribe

Miller's first live BP draws respect from Tribe

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Brandon Guyer headed over to introduce himself to left-hander Andrew Miller last August. Both players had just been traded to the Indians, so Cleveland's new outfielder -- best known for his ability to hit left-handed pitching -- had a message for his new Tribe teammate.

Spring: Info | Tickets | Schedule | Gear

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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.

Maybin up for challenge as LF, tablesetter

Maybin up for challenge as LF, tablesetter

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Cameron Maybin will be adjusting to more than just a new team this spring.

Maybin, who was acquired from the Tigers in exchange for Minor League right-hander Victor Alcantara over the offseason, has spent most of his career as a center fielder but will now be charged with filling the Angels' void in left field.

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Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Reed looking to seize Astros' first-base opportunity

After 1st taste of Majors, 23-year-old spent offseason working on swing, agility

Reed looking to seize Astros' first-base opportunity

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- He was named Indiana high school player of the year and won the Golden Spikes Award in 2014 as the top amateur player in the country. He led all the Minor Leagues in home runs, RBIs and OPS in 2015 en route to being named the Astros' Minor League Player of the Year.

With all of those honors on his resume, AJ Reed showed up at spring camp last year ranked as the club's top prospect and bursting with potential. His arrival in Kissimmee, Fla., made news, and fans immediately clamored to see what he could do in the big leagues.

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Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Slugger Hamilton harnessing thunder once again

Slugger Hamilton harnessing thunder once again

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The storms moved east from the Phoenix area and the White Tank Mountains on Monday, and blue skies soared over Texas' training complex to greet the Rangers.

But there was still some thunder in the area, and it came from Field No. 1 behind the main stadium. Josh Hamilton, who missed last season because of left knee surgery, was taking batting practice.

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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.

Garcia driven to reclaim White Sox outfield spot

Garcia driven to reclaim White Sox outfield spot

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- There was very little offseason for Avisail Garcia after a disappointing 2016 campaign came to a close.

The White Sox right fielder worked hard at his craft, picking up 113 at-bats while playing for Tigres de Aragua in the Venezuelan Winter League. He also got into better shape, dropping from 268 pounds to 258 at the start of Spring Training, and has a goal weight of 248 by the time the team breaks camp.

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Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Cuban infielder Fernandez shaking off rust with Dodgers

Non-roster invitee can play second base, trying to learn third

Cuban infielder Fernandez shaking off rust with Dodgers

PHOENIX -- The Dodgers' latest Cuban talent is 28-year-old infielder Jose Miguel Fernandez, who is among the non-roster invitees that will participate in Tuesday's first full-squad workout.

Fernandez played seven seasons for Matanzas in Cuba's Serie Nacional but was suspended in 2015 for attempting to defect. He left Cuba in December of that year and didn't play competitively until the recently completed Dominican Republic Winter League, where he hit .286 in 18 games.

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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.

De La Rosa comes full circle with D-backs

De La Rosa comes full circle with D-backs

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Jorge De La Rosa is hoping the third time around he will get a chance to pitch in the Major Leagues for the D-backs.

Signed to a Minor League deal Sunday, De La Rosa said that he chose the D-backs because he believes they have a chance to win.

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Steve Gilbert has covered the D-backs for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Glove at first sight for Bailey and his mitts

Glove at first sight for Bailey and his mitts

TEMPE, Ariz. -- It was an exciting day at Angels camp for right-hander Andrew Bailey, who received his new gloves for the season on Glove Day from Wilson Sporting Goods representatives on Monday morning at Tempe Diablo Stadium.

"I got my new whips!" Bailey said.

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Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

LeMahieu ignores naysayers, keeps improving

LeMahieu ignores naysayers, keeps improving

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies second baseman DJ LeMahieu added the 2016 National League batting title to his honors that include a Rockies Wilson Defensive Player of the Year award in 2013 and a Rawlings Gold Glove in 2014. Still, he's guaranteed to show up on any list of underrated players.

But he never cared about that before and doesn't intend to start now. The 2017 MLB Network listing of Top 10 Second Basemen Right Now rated him ninth.

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Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and like his Facebook page. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Clemens slated to start Padres' Cactus opener

29-year-old right-hander trying to nab rotation spot

Clemens slated to start Padres' Cactus opener

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Paul Clemens will get the first chance to state his case in the Padres' wide-open race for starting rotation spots.

The 29-year-old right-hander -- one of about 11 starting pitchers fighting for a roster spot -- has been tabbed for San Diego's Cactus League opener Saturday against Seattle.

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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.

A-Rod visiting Yanks camp as special instructor

A-Rod visiting Yanks camp as special instructor

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Yankees believe that Alex Rodriguez has a wealth of information to pass on to their young players, and that can begin on Tuesday, when he'll put the pinstripes back on as one of the team's special guest instructors.

Rodriguez played his final game for the Yankees on August 12, announcing that he had accepted a role serving as an advisor under managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner. He was released from a contract that will pay him $21 million not to play this season.

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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.

Jimenez's stuff, demeanor impress V-Mart

Righty prospect faces five-time All-Star catcher in live BP session

Jimenez's stuff, demeanor impress V-Mart

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Joe Jimenez has been waiting to face Major League competition since last summer. The Tigers' closer of the future's first look Monday included Victor Martinez, who made his big league debut in 2002 -- when Jimenez was seven years old.

It wasn't a game setting, just pitchers throwing to hitters in Spring Training

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Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

D-backs leadership likes where team stands

D-backs leadership likes where team stands

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- D-backs managing general partner Ken Kendrick and team president/CEO Derrick Hall met with the media Friday just before the team's first full-squad workout of the spring and covered a variety of topics.

Here's a look at them:

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Steve Gilbert has covered the D-backs for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

No timetable for when Cueto might report

Right-hander still tending to family matter in Dominican Republic

No timetable for when Cueto might report

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- A week has gone by since pitchers and catchers reported to Giants camp and there's still no sign of right-hander Johnny Cueto.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy said Cueto is still at home in the Dominican Republic dealing with a personal issue involving his father, and there's still no timetable for him to join the club.

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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.