MLB.com Columnist

Jim Duquette

5 trades that make sense before Opening Day

5 trades that make sense before Opening Day

It's not often that you see major trades made in the week before Opening Day, which is a shame, because this should be a time when teams should be trying to fill holes that have appeared during Spring Training.

In hopes of spurring some action, here are five trades I'd love to see happen before Opening Day. These are not trades I expect to happen, mind you, but deals that I think make sense for the parties involved.

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

MLB.com Columnist

Dan O'Dowd

Leap year? 10 players poised for a breakout in 2015

Leap year? 10 players poised for a breakout in 2015

With Opening Day just around the corner, you're hearing a lot of people talking about "breakout players." In that spirit, here are 10 players I expect to make a leap toward stardom in 2015.

Kevin Gausman, RHP, Orioles
Gausman was dominant down the stretch last year, posting a 2.87 ERA with a strikeout per inning in his final five starts. He already has mid-90s heat and is just a click away from commanding a wicked slider that will make him a true No. 1 starter.

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Dan O'Dowd is an MLB Network analyst and MLB.com columnist who served as general manager of the Rockies for 15 years, building a National League pennant winner in 2007. Prior to his time with Colorado, he worked in the front offices of the Orioles and Indians. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Jonathan Mayo

Breaking down the arrival time for top prospects

Rising stars made impact in Spring Training even if they won't be on Opening Day rosters

Breaking down the arrival time for top prospects

Spring Training isn't only about making the 25-man roster that breaks camp for Opening Day. There are countless prospects who, either because they are on the 40-man roster or are there on a non-roster invitation, get the chance to simply show what they can do against a higher level of competition, perhaps making a strong impression with the powers that be.

As the calendar forges toward the start of the regular season, spring rosters are slowly being pared down as clubs begin to figure out who will "head north" to start the year. Many of the game's top prospects have made their presences felt and been optioned or reassigned to Minor League camp. Where will they start the year and, more important, when can we expect to see them in the big leagues on a permanent basis? Here's a look at those in the top half of our Top 100 prospects whose time in big league camp has come and gone.

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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.

Verlander feels triceps tightness, concern level low

Verlander feels triceps tightness, concern level low

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Justin Verlander said Saturday morning he feels similar tightness in his right triceps to what forced him out of his Grapefruit League start Friday, though he said his level of concern remains low.

"Pretty low," Verlander said, "especially with the time we have [before next start], extra day and can even manipulate things forward if need be."

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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.

QB Wilson hits Rangers camp for second time

QB Wilson hits Rangers camp for second time

Russell Wilson traded his Seattle Seahawks uniform for a Texas Rangers one on Saturday, as the two-time Super Bowl quarterback joined the club in Surprise, Ariz.

Wilson, whose Seahawks lost to the Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX on Feb. 1, made his second Spring Training visit with the Rangers. He participated in the team's morning workout, but won't play in the 4:05 p.m. ET game against the Padres.

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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.

McClendon makes it official: Felix to start opener

McClendon makes it official: Felix to start opener

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Just in case there were any lingering doubts, Lloyd McClendon made it completely official on Saturday: Felix Hernandez will be the Mariners' Opening Day starter on April 6, when Seattle hosts the Angels at Safeco Field.

That declaration was something less than a surprise, given McClendon said early in camp that Hernandez was "99.999 percent" likely to be the man.

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Greg Johns, a journalist in the Seattle area for more than 20 years, began covering the Mariners for MLB.com in November 2010.

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

Padres give Shields Opening Day nod

Padres give Shields Opening Day nod

James Shields will make his Padres debut as the club's Opening Day starter against the Dodgers at 1:10 p.m. PT on April 6, manager Bud Black announced on Saturday.

It will be the seventh career Opening Day start for Shields, who signed a four-year, $75 million deal with the Padres this offseason. The right-hander received the Opening Day nod for the Royals in each of the past two seasons, as well as four times as a member of the Rays (2008-10 and '12).

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

Johan hopes to start throwing off mound in mid-April

Johan hopes to start throwing off mound in mid-April

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Blue Jays left-hander Johan Santana continues to take a cautious approach to the 2015 season and isn't expected to begin throwing off a mound until the middle of April.

Santana, who signed a Minor League contract late last month, has been throwing off flat ground while continuing to go through strength exercises on his left shoulder.

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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

Richard Justice

Count on the Orioles being back atop the AL East perch

Front office, Showalter and returning stars will offset key free-agent losses

Count on the Orioles being back atop the AL East perch

Let's get out in front of this thing here and now. The Baltimore Orioles aren't sneaking up on anyone this time.

Fooled me once…

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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.

HS center fielder uses header for wild DP

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HS center fielder uses header for wild DP

We'll spare you the "heads up" puns and just get right down to business with this one. D'Iberville High School in Biloxi, Miss., turned one of the craziest double plays you'll ever see. 

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Hardy getting more evaluation on shoulder

Orioles shortstop to have MRA after suffering injury while diving for ball

Hardy getting more evaluation on shoulder

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Shortstop J.J. Hardy will get a magnetic resonance angiogram on his injured left shoulder Monday and won't play before Tuesday, according to Orioles manager Buck Showalter.

Hardy said Saturday morning he had been hoping to avoid anti-inflammatory medications this spring, but the infielder had no choice after jamming his left shoulder diving for a ball during Friday's rain-shortened game.

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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.

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

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

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

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

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

Astros unveil on-the-go chicken waffle cone

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Astros unveil on-the-go chicken waffle cone

Have you ever been in the mood for chicken and waffles, but because of your hectic and busy schedule, don't have time to sit down for a meal? Are you at a large sporting event and lack a table and utensils with which to eat your meal? Well, have no fear: The Astros are happy to solve that little issue. 

From the makers of the BBQ baked potato, arguably the most delicious ballpark food of 2014, comes the resplendent chicken and waffles cone. 

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MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

Tigers crossing fingers on Verlander

Triceps cramp puts damper on day right-hander showed Cy Young form

Tigers crossing fingers on Verlander

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- What a strange, confusing, scary day for the Detroit Tigers. One moment, there was Justin Verlander at his dominant best.

"That's about as well as I've seen him throw in Spring Training in years," Tigers president Dave Dombrowski said.

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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.

Verlander sneaks up on fan for selfie

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Verlander sneaks up on fan for selfie

Normally, people who take selfies in Starbucks lines are just way too excited about the massive amount of sugar and milk foam they're about to consume. But sometimes, they're professional baseball players who are super excited about … you.

Well, not you, necessarily -- not unless you're this lucky kid wearing a Verlander shirsey. 

Continue Reading on Cut4

MLB.com Columnist

Phil Rogers

Maddon sees NL Central as the new AL East

Skipper, whose Rays grew vs. Yanks, Sox, says competition helps young players develop faster

Maddon sees NL Central as the new AL East

MESA, Ariz. -- When Joe Maddon took over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, lots of people -- Lou Piniella included -- felt they were on a dead-end street, trapped in the American League East like a house hunter on a budget in the Hamptons.

Every preseason publication -- including the baseball preview in Cigar Aficionado -- started with the Yankees, Red Sox, Orioles, Blue Jays and then, just to be nice, threw in a couple hundred words about the Rays. That was life in baseball's best division, and Maddon loved it.

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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.

Harvey celebrates b-day with breezy outing

Mets' ace fans five, allows one run in 4 1/3 innings against split Cardinals squad

Harvey celebrates b-day with breezy outing

JUPITER, Fla. -- Consider this mathematical improbability: Matt Harvey was one of four Mets players to celebrate a birthday on Friday, receiving an early-morning cake in the clubhouse alongside outfielder Michael Cuddyer and catcher Johnny Monell. (The fourth, outfield prospect Brandon Nimmo, is in Minor League camp.) But Harvey's celebration did not linger. At age 26, there was much work to do.

It certainly seemed like business as usual later in the day, when Harvey waited out a brief rain delay before setting a spring high of 80 pitches in his 4 1/3-inning, one-run outing against the Cardinals in the Mets' 5-4 loss. Though Harvey was less efficient than he would have liked, the most remarkable aspect of his afternoon was how unremarkable it all seemed. He was just plain old Harvey, hitting 97 mph on a notoriously slow Roger Dean Stadium radar gun while keeping the Cardinals largely off the basepaths.

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

Milone named fifth starter over bullpen-bound Pelfrey

Left-hander struck out eight over 14 spring innings

Milone named fifth starter over bullpen-bound Pelfrey

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The competition for the Twins' fifth starter officially ended on Saturday, as left-hander Tommy Milone won the job over right-handers Mike Pelfrey and Trevor May. Pelfrey, who was frustrated by the decision, will head to the bullpen, while May was optioned to Triple-A Rochester.

Milone showed he was healthy after being bothered late in the season by what was eventually diagnosed in the offseason as a benign tumor in his neck. The lone lefty in the competition posted a 4.50 ERA in 14 innings with eight strikeouts and four walks. Pelfrey actually had the best numbers with a 1.32 ERA with seven strikeouts and two walks in 13 2/3 innings, while May had a 4.22 ERA with nine strikeouts and two walks in 10 2/3 innings.

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Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Gonzalez exits game vs. Padres with sore left knee

Rockies right fielder had knee surgery in August

Gonzalez exits game vs. Padres with sore left knee

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Rockies right fielder Carlos Gonzalez was removed from Friday's game against the Padres because of soreness in his surgically repaired left knee. Gonzalez called the injury "nothing serious" and will be re-evaluated in the morning.

Gonzalez, who had surgery on the knee Aug. 19, aggravated it after a catch-and-throw off a Will Middlebrooks fly ball in the bottom of the third. He finished the inning, and he batted in the top of the fourth before being removed in the middle of the frame.

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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.

May, Hicks among Twins roster cuts

Pitching prospect, center fielder optioned to Triple-A Rochester

May, Hicks among Twins roster cuts

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Twins' roster situation became much clearer Saturday morning, as they made a series of roster moves, including the surprising decision to option center fielder Aaron Hicks to Triple-A Rochester. Right-hander Trevor May was also optioned to Triple-A Rochester, leaving left-hander Tommy Milone as the club's fifth starter over right-hander Mike Pelfrey, who will head to the bullpen.

The club also optioned outfielder Eddie Rosario to Rochester, while righty Mark Hamburger was reassigned to Minor League camp and will also open the year at Rochester in either the bullpen or as a starter.

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Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Anthony Castrovince

Healthy legs foundation of Mauer's hope to rebound

Veteran is back at first base for second season after decade behind the plate

Healthy legs foundation of Mauer's hope to rebound

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The funny, frustrating thing about those 7,883 regular-season innings Joe Mauer caught before the Twins yanked him away from the position to preserve his body? They stuck with him. Turns out, all those foul tips and bent knees and bumps to the noggin and sweaty summer nights tend to take their toll on the human body, and not even a full-time shift to first base was going to instantly heal all that ailed the former American League MVP Award winner.

"I caught for 11 years," Mauer said. "All those nicks and bruises don't just go away."

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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.

Santana named Opening Day shortstop

Second-year player hit .319 in 101 games as a rookie in 2014

Santana named Opening Day shortstop

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Given his impressive rookie season last year and his numbers this spring, it comes as no surprise, but Danny Santana will be the Opening Day shortstop for the Twins, manager Paul Molitor said Saturday.

Santana, who hit .319/.353/.472 in 101 games as a rookie last year, has followed that up by hitting .341/.356/.455 with three doubles and a triple in 13 Grapefruit League games.

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Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Pinto fails concussion protocol; will retake test Sunday

Catcher still hoping to return to field by Monday

Pinto fails concussion protocol; will retake test Sunday

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Twins catcher Josmil Pinto, who has been sidelined with concussion-like symptoms, failed a concussion protocol test on Friday but will retake it on Sunday with the hope of returning to action on Monday.

Pinto, who was hit on the head three times on follow-throughs from Baltimore's Adam Jones' swing on March 21, has to be reinstated by Major League Baseball before he makes his return to Grapefruit League play. He said Saturday he feels 100 percent and has been participating in baseball activities with no issues but failed one aspect of the test on Friday.

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Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Ventura dazzles with his Opening Day form

Ventura dazzles with his Opening Day form

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Royals ace Yordano Ventura figured out he had a no-hitter going on Friday night somewhere around the fifth inning.

That's when he had a message for catcher Salvador Perez.

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

MadBum builds pitch count in sharp Minor League outing

Penultimate spring appearance for ace proves he's ready for season

MadBum builds pitch count in sharp Minor League outing

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The World Series wasn't on the line and millions weren't watching, but Madison Bumgarner was just as dominant pitching in late March as he was in late October.

Five months ago the left-hander was dominating the Kansas City Royals under the bright lights as he led the Giants to a World Series championship. Friday, he was pitching under a hot Arizona sun in a Minor League game against the A's with fewer than 100 fans in attendance.

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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.

Top prospect Bryant aims to break Epstein's track record

Cubs president of baseball operations hasn't had a rookie debut on Opening Day

Top prospect Bryant aims to break Epstein's track record

MESA, Ariz. -- Whether or not Kris Bryant will be on the Cubs' Opening Day roster has been a hot topic, and president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said Friday that no decision has been made regarding the team's top prospect.

In his career, Epstein has never had a player make his Major League debut on Opening Day, other than a Rule 5 Draft pick or a Japanese player. While most of the focus has been on Bryant's callup being linked to the start of the service time clock, Epstein said this is not a business decision.

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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

Fred Zinkie

Fantasy roundtable prepares you to draft

MLB.com experts strategize for daily and season-long fantasy success

Fantasy roundtable prepares you to draft

MLB.com's Fantasy 411 is the most comprehensive resource available for all things fantasy baseball. As draft prep and speculation heated up, four experts -- Fred Zinkie, Zachary Finkelstein, Cory Schwartz and Mike Siano -- discussed their tactics for success. Get comprehensive daily and traditional fantasy coverage at MLB.com/fantasy, and follow @fantasy411 on Twitter.

Tell us about daily fantasy baseball.

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Fred Zinkie is a senior fantasy writer for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FredZinkieMLB. Zachary Finkelstein is MLB.com's Manager of Fantasy Baseball and Content Initiatives. Follow him on Twitter at @Fantasy411. Cory Schwartz is the VP of Stats for MLB.com and a co-host of the Fantasy 411 podcast. Follow him on Twitter at @schwartzstops. Mike Siano is the VP of Multimedia for MLB.com and founder and co-host of the MLB.com Fantasy 411 podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Cardinals HOF candidacy brings back fond memories for Morris

Now removed from baseball, former righty's 22-win season was highlight of successful career

Cardinals HOF candidacy brings back fond memories for Morris

This is the fourth in a series of stories profiling the eight modern candidates on the Cardinals' 2015 Hall of Fame ballot.

More than 700 miles from the nearest Major League Baseball city, in Big Sky, Mont., lives Matt Morris.

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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.

Contract status last thing on Zimmermann's mind

Contract status last thing on Zimmermann's mind

VIERA, Fla. -- Jordan Zimmermann is enjoying one of the best springs of anyone at Nationals camp. The right-hander's latest performance came on Friday afternoon, when he limited the Cardinals' split-squad team to one run on four hits and a pair of walks while striking out four in six innings. His Grapefruit League ERA sits at 1.37 after his fifth start.

Yet Zimmermann seems prepared to enter the 2015 season pitching in the final year of his contract. He has said he doesn't want to talk about his contract once the season starts, and he reiterated that point after the Nationals' 1-1 tie with the Cardinals.

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

Healthy Pujols is in vintage form this spring

Healthy Pujols is in vintage form this spring

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Albert Pujols has never really had a bad Spring Training. He's hit at least .286 and as high as .407 over the last 10 springs, because he always shows up in shape and it never takes him long to find his timing.

He just seems, well, different this spring.

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Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.