Qualifier Dundee: WBC competition starts tonight

Australia, New Zealand, Philippines, South Africa vying for spot in 2017 tournament

Qualifier Dundee: WBC competition starts tonight

The first leg of the 2017 World Baseball Classic gets underway with the first of four qualifying tournaments starting at Blacktown International Sportspark just outside Sydney on Thursday (9 p.m. ET Wednesday). Australia, the favorite, will host New Zealand, the Philippines and South Africa.

The modified double-elimination tournament is scheduled to be played over four days. Sunday's finale, however, will be a winner-take-all game rather than part of the double elimination. The team that wins on the first two days gets an off day on Saturday. Four of the six games, including the final, will be aired live on MLB Network, and all of the games will stream live on MLB.com and WorldBaseballClassic.com. ESPN Pac-Rim will broadcast games across the Oceania region, and the games will also appear on Solar Sports in the Philippines.

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

Homers' odyssey: Statcast explains epic blasts

These balls managed to leave the yard despite having a high or low launch angle

Homers' odyssey: Statcast explains epic blasts

To hit a home run, a batter must accomplish two main goals.

First, he has to hit the ball hard. Or, in the parlance of Statcast™, he has to generate a high exit velocity. The second piece of the puzzle is perhaps less sexy but, as we have learned, no less important. The batter also must strike the pitch at the proper angle.

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

MLB.com Columnist

Fred Zinkie

Fantasy's top pick: Harper, Trout, Goldy or others?

Fantasy's top pick: Harper, Trout, Goldy or others?

The collective efforts of your rabbit's foot, horseshoe and four-leaf clover have paid off -- you have been tabbed to pick first in your upcoming fantasy draft. But now the real fun begins. Because three players -- Bryce Harper, Mike Trout and Paul Goldschmidt -- each present a compelling case to anchor your 2016 squad, the dilemma at the top of the draft is unusually difficult this year. Making the best choice could be the difference between a narrow victory and an agonizing defeat.

Reasons to choose Harper

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Fred Zinkie is the lead fantasy baseball writer for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FredZinkieMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Gattis to miss 4-6 weeks after hernia surgery

Gattis to miss 4-6 weeks after hernia surgery

HOUSTON -- Astros designated hitter Evan Gattis told MLB.com on Tuesday that he will miss four to six weeks after undergoing surgery to repair a hernia.

Gattis said via text message that he is optimistic he will be ready for the start of the regular season or shortly thereafter, and he hopes to start getting some at-bats in mid- to late March. Astros position players are scheduled to work out for the first time on Feb. 23.

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

Puig tops Dodgers' rebound wish list

Ryu, Grandal, Utley, Crawford among others eyeing '16 bouncebacks

Puig tops Dodgers' rebound wish list

LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training next week. In anticipation, Dodgers.com presents a series of articles previewing preparations for the 2016 season.

The first installment is "On the Rebound," covering players coming off injuries or disappointing 2015 seasons.

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

Rehabbing Tanaka throws off mound

Yankees right-hander had bone spur removed from elbow in October

Rehabbing Tanaka throws off mound

Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka threw off a mound Tuesday, his first time doing so since having arthroscopic surgery to remove a bone spur in his right elbow in October, according to pitching coach Larry Rothschild.

Rothschild told The Associated Press that Tanaka's throwing session took place in New York and that Tanaka's rehab is on schedule. The Yankees have said that the injury dates back to when the 27-year-old pitched in Japan.

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Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch, on Facebook and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Darvish getting stronger physically, mentally

Darvish getting stronger physically, mentally

ARLINGTON -- Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish said he is feeling stronger physically than he did before having Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery last March 17. More importantly, Darvish said he is feeling much better mentally as well.

Darvish, speaking with the media after his rehabilitation workout on Wednesday, admitted that the game started becoming a grind over the past few years, and he wasn't enjoying it as much. The time off has made a difference.

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T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, 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.

Teams scouting next wave of international prospects

Padres, Braves, Nationals, Brewers, Cards, Phils, Rangers most aggressive

Teams scouting next wave of international prospects

The start of the international signing period is months away, but teams have been hard at work scouting prospects across Latin America and the Caribbean since last summer in search of future stars.

The Padres, Braves and Nationals have been very aggressive on the international market, and each team expects to have a solid class of prospects for the next international signing period that starts July 2. Milwaukee, St. Louis, Philadelphia and Texas have also been very busy and expect to sign a good crop of teenagers.

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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.

Cuban phenom Lazarito nearing decision

9 teams show strong interest in 16-year-old outfielder

Cuban phenom Lazarito nearing decision

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic -- Lazaro "Lazarito" Armenteros, one of the most dynamic young talents to come out of Cuba in recent memory, is close to deciding on his future.

The 6-foot-2, 205-pound outfielder is expected to make a decision on where he will sign Wednesday, about one month after Major League Baseball declared him a free agent.

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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.

New, cooler spring jerseys, caps available

MLB shows off on-field Flex Base designs for all 30 clubs

New, cooler spring jerseys, caps available

It is almost time for Zack Greinke to suit up for the D-backs, Todd Frazier for the White Sox, David Price for the Red Sox, Justin Upton for the Tigers, Johnny Cueto for the Giants, Jason Heyward for the Cubs, and all those other new faces in new places.

Shop now for new Flex Base Spring Training gear

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Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Get hyped for the 2017 WBC Qualifiers

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Get hyped for the 2017 WBC Qualifiers

Play in the 2017 World Baseball Classic technically begins this year, 2016, on Thursday in Sydney, Australia. The first qualifying matchup between South Africa and New Zealand starts at 9 p.m. ET on Wednesday night and will be streamed live on MLB.com. Then, the Philippines will take on Australia on Thursday at 3:30 a.m. ET -- which you can watch live on MLB Network and MLB.com:

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McCann gushes over 'pen trio at Munson Awards

Yanks catcher honored at dinner alongside Miller, Familia, Orosco, Abbott

McCann gushes over 'pen trio at Munson Awards

NEW YORK -- Brian McCann can't stop thinking about the possibilities.

Dellin Betances in the seventh inning, Andrew Miller in the eighth and Aroldis Chapman in the ninth.

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Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

White Sox sign righty Latos to 1-year deal

White Sox sign righty Latos to 1-year deal

CHICAGO -- The White Sox strengthened the back end of their starting rotation by agreeing to a one-year, $3 million deal with right-hander Mat Latos, the club announced on Tuesday.

If the White Sox get the Latos who pitched from 2010-13 with the Padres and Reds, then they might have done more than just strengthen the fourth or fifth starter's spot. Latos posted a 51-35 record with a 3.27 ERA during that four-year-stretch, making at least 31 starts and pitching at least 184 innings in each of those four seasons.

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Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. 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.

MLB.com Columnist

Fred Zinkie

Best of Fantasy 411 Twitter Chat

Best of Fantasy 411 Twitter Chat

MLB.com fantasy guru Fred Zinkie fielded questions from fans during a live Twitter chat at @Fantasy411 on Tuesday. Check out the chat transcript below, and follow the @Fantasy411 Twitter handle and MLB.com's fantasy home. Questions and answers have been edited for clarity.

@johnniefan105: In a keeper league, should I keep Miguel Sano for $5 or J.D. Martinez for $14?

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Fred Zinkie is the lead fantasy baseball writer for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FredZinkieMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

J.D. Martinez, Tigers proving perfect fit

J.D. Martinez, Tigers proving perfect fit

J.D. Martinez surely had trouble envisioning a week like this one two springs ago, when the Houston Astros released him. That kind of thing can rattle a guy's confidence.

Drafted by the Astros in 2009, Martinez had flown through their system to make his big league debut two years later, midway through the 2011 season. In parts of three seasons with Houston, he'd struggled some and also shown flashes of being a special player.

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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.

Baez among Cubs looking to rebound in 2016

Baez among Cubs looking to rebound in 2016

Which Cubs players are looking to bounce back in 2016? As the Cubs count down to Spring Training, MLB.com takes a look at some hot topics, including which players are on the rebound.

After a 97-win season, it would seem that the Cubs didn't have anyone struggle last year, but here are a few players to watch in '16:

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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

Anthony Castrovince

Emerging trends slowing free-agent spending

Clubs focusing on premier pitching, youth and hard data as they look to add impact

Emerging trends slowing free-agent spending

This is awkward, isn't it?

Spring Training camps open in mere days, yet nearly 70 big league free agents are still looking for a job, or even the opportunity to compete for a job.

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

This #TruckDay montage will have you more excited about packing than ever before

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This #TruckDay montage will have you more excited about packing than ever before

What is your least favorite part about traveling, and why is it packing?

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MLB.com Columnist

Roger Schlueter

Spoils of WAR: Donaldson enjoys rapid ascent

Metrics illustrate how late-blooming slugger has joined Hall of Fame company

Spoils of WAR: Donaldson enjoys rapid ascent

Josh Donaldson is once again in the news. The 2015 American League MVP Award winner has reportedly agreed to a two-year, $29 million deal with the Blue Jays, which will effectively buy out his first two years of arbitration. This is a very lucrative deal for someone reaching arbitration for the first time, but Donaldson isn't just any other player. He's been a top-10 MVP finisher three years running, and his unusual career arc makes him arguably the most impressive late-bloomer in baseball history.

There are 24 position players since 1901 who accumulated a WAR of at least 23.0 for their age-27 through age-29 seasons. Of the two dozen, 19 are in the Hall of Fame, with the only exceptions being Barry Bonds and a quartet of active players: Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez, Chase Utley and Donaldson. This collection of ballplayers -- led by Babe Ruth -- finds Donaldson occupying the 19th slot, in between arguably the game's greatest second baseman, Joe Morgan, and two of its absolute top-of-the-line center fielders, Tris Speaker and Mickey Mantle. For this age, Josh Donaldson rubs shoulders with players like Lou Gehrig and Hank Aaron, Duke Snider and Willie Mays, Ty Cobb and Mel Ott.

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

Familia has special bond with Bastardo

Mets closer receives Thurman Munson Award, credits lefty for helping him in DWL

Familia has special bond with Bastardo

NEW YORK -- Camaraderie may never have been in short supply last season for the Mets, but it never hurts to have a little more. To that end, one of the team's newest acquisitions, Antonio Bastardo, has baseball roots intersecting with those of closer Jeurys Familia.

The two first met as teammates for the Gigantes del Cibao in the Dominican Winter League in 2010, shortly after Bastardo broke into the big leagues. Throughout that offseason, Bastardo helped the 20-year-old Familia transition to professional baseball.

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Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Longtime Reds clubhouse manager Stowe dies

Longtime Reds clubhouse manager Stowe dies

CINCINNATI -- Bernie Stowe, a Reds fixture and an employee for six decades, died Tuesday after a long illness. Stowe, who had up-close-and-personal experiences with great players and teams that included the Big Red Machine, was 80 years old.

In a career that saw him working out of three different Reds homes -- Crosley Field, Riverfront Stadium and Great American Ball Park -- Stowe began as a clubhouse boy for the team in 1947 before elevating to clubhouse manager in '68. He retired in 2013, long after he had already passed on the family business to his sons, Rick and Mark.

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

TV schedule set for Classic's Sydney qualifier

World Baseball Classic, Inc. (WBCI) today announced the broadcast schedule for the Sydney, Australia Qualifier, which will be played February 11th-14th at Blacktown International Sportspark. The winner of the Qualifier, which features Australia, New Zealand, Philippines and South Africa, will advance to compete in the 2017 World Baseball Classic, the fourth installment of the premier international baseball tournament featuring many of the world's greatest players.

Fans in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico will be able to watch the Final of the Qualifier on MLB Network live at 10:00 p.m. ET on Sunday, February 14th as well as three additional games, including the first game of the host team Australia.

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Trevor May's new website features a section dedicated solely to pictures of his cat

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Trevor May's new website features a section dedicated solely to pictures of his cat

Twins pitcher Trevor May  launched his personal website on Monday. It's not out of the ordinary for professional athletes to have their own websites, as a way to give fans a little more insight into their lives, and even in some cases (as is with May's), to communicate with a mailbag-like feature. What is a little unusual is the tab all the way to the right on May's website.

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MLB.com Columnist

Mike Petriello

Ziegler remains baseball's unlikeliest closer

Submariner has 5-year streak of most downward fastball movement

Ziegler remains baseball's unlikeliest closer

When the D-backs signed veteran reliever Tyler Clippard to a two-year deal on Monday, general manager Dave Stewart made it clear that Clippard was brought in to support closer Brad Ziegler, not supplant him. For those of us who like oddities in our world, this is good news: Ziegler will remain baseball's most unexpected closer.

No, really. There's no one working the ninth inning in baseball like Ziegler right now, and there hasn't been for years. In an era where flamethrowers like Aroldis Chapman and Craig Kimbrel are lighting up radar guns, Arizona's closer averages 84.6 mph on his primary pitch and has a near pathological aversion to strikeouts, finishing in the bottom 30 (of the 268 pitchers with a minimum 60 innings thrown) in both K/9 (4.76) and K% (13.7).

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Mike Petriello is an analyst for MLB.com and the host of the Statcast podcast. He has previously written for ESPN Insider and FanGraphs. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Source: Change on takeout slide rule is coming

Source: Change on takeout slide rule is coming

Major League Baseball and the Players Association could be coming closer to an agreement on redefining what constitutes a legal slide into second base, a source told MLB.com. Barring unforeseen complications, the changes should be implemented by Opening Day.

The development was first reported by ESPN.

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

Still on the market, Fowler boasts a truly unique skill set

Free-agent OF could be the game's best switch-hitting OBP threat

Still on the market, Fowler boasts a truly unique skill set

The market for free-agent outfielders was particularly loaded this offseason, and as a result, one of the most unique players in the class seemed to get lost in the shuffle.

It's the second week of February, and Dexter Fowler still hasn't found a home. He's 29 years old -- younger than Yoenis Cespedes and Alex Gordon -- and fresh off a season in which he manned center field and batted leadoff for a Cubs team that reached its first postseason in seven years.

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

Hale poised to bounce back after rough '15

Hale poised to bounce back after rough '15

DENVER -- Rockies right-handed pitcher David Hale has a degree in economics from Princeton and is quite capable of learning, but last season tested his aptitude.

Hale suffered a left oblique injury just before the start of the season, and it cost him a potential spot in the starting rotation. After his third promotion from Triple-A Albuquerque on June 8, he landed on the disabled list again, this time with a left groin strain suffered July 9.

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Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. 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.

Post Cuba: O' Brothers, Where Start Thou?

Yulieski Gurriel said to be MLB-ready; Lourdes a highly regarded prospect

Post Cuba: O' Brothers, Where Start Thou?

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic -- Two top players from the most famous baseball family in Cuba are not expected to return to the island.

Brothers Lourdes Gurriel Jr., 22, and Yulieski Gurriel, 31, defected from Cuba's Ciego de Avila team following the Caribbean Series that concluded Sunday in order to seek contracts with Major League teams, according to sources. Lourdes is considered the top prospect in Cuba while his brother is considered the country's best player.

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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.

Spring preview: Padres' rebound contenders

San Diego looks to Myers, Kemp and Cashner to bounce back

Spring preview: Padres' rebound contenders

SAN DIEGO -- With the start of Spring Training around the corner, MLB.com will preview the Padres by taking a glance at several areas of the team leading up to the report date for pitchers and catchers on Feb. 18.

The Padres, coming off a 74-88 season, won't head to Arizona with a revamped roster as they did a year ago under general manager A.J. Preller.

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

MLB.com Columnist

Jim Duquette

Best of the best: Top offseason moves

Braves, Rays and Dodgers just a few to earn A's this winter

Best of the best: Top offseason moves

Of the many deals this offseason, some appear to be shrewder than others. With roughly two weeks to go before pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training, let's take a look at five moves that I believe stand above the rest.

1. Braves acquire SS Dansby Swanson, RHP Aaron Blair and OF Ender Inciarte from D-backs for RHP Shelby Miller
In dealing Miller to the D-backs, the retooling Braves managed to acquire some major building blocks. Swanson, the first overall pick of the 2015 Draft and the No. 8 prospect in MLB, could be a batting-average and on-base-percentage machine, with solid pop from the shortstop position, perhaps sooner rather than later given his advanced skill set.

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