Scherzer has first 'pen session since injury

Scherzer has first 'pen session since injury

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Max Scherzer completed his first bullpen session of the spring on Saturday afternoon, the first time he has thrown off the mound since he arrived at camp still feeling the effects of a stress fracture in his right ring finger.

The Nationals announced Scherzer used a modified grip to get through the outing, but that it went well. Scherzer told the Washington Post that he threw his fastball with a three-fingered grip because the usual two-finger grip still caused him pain. He said he would continue to do so and did not rule out using the three-finger fastball grip during games.

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

Thor, Bryant, more offer Oscar picks

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Thor, Bryant, more offer Oscar picks

It's the time of year for projections and predictions to be made. Who'll emerge victorious despite stiff competition, and who will be relegated to looking to the future? 

We're talking, of course, about the Academy Awards.

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CarGo believes Classic will jump-start season

More spring at-bats have led to better early production for Rockies' star

CarGo believes Classic will jump-start season

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies right fielder Carlos Gonzalez believes representing Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic could lead to a good start to the regular season.

The last time Gonzalez played in the Classic, which was in 2013, he hit .306 with a .389 on-base percentage and a .551 slugging percentage in 25 April games. He kept that going in May, posting a .308/.385/.607 line in 28 games.

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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.

Starlin slugs first spring HR, a 3-run blast

Starlin slugs first spring HR, a 3-run blast

TAMPA, Fla. -- Starlin Castro joined the Yankees' Grapefruit League long ball club Sunday, smashing a three-run home run in the second inning off the Blue Jays' Brett Oberholtzer.

Castro's drive off the left-hander came with Matt Holliday and Chris Carter on the bases, bouncing off the new outfield concourse in front of the George M. Steinbrenner Field scoreboard. Castro set a career high with 21 home runs last season for New York.

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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.

Oblique no longer an issue for Britton

O's closer feeling fine, will throw from a mound soon

Oblique no longer an issue for Britton

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Zach Britton's oblique soreness is gone. A day after he threw a bullpen session on Monday, the Orioles' star closer complained of discomfort in his left side.

Britton said on Sunday morning that with the pain gone, he was ready to get started.

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

Hamilton may face another knee surgery

Slugger to be examined on Monday, missed all of '16 with injury

Hamilton may face another knee surgery

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Josh Hamilton is looking at the possibility of more surgery on his left knee and it is becoming obvious he will not be ready for Opening Day.

Hamilton continues to experience discomfort in the knee and will be examined by Dr. Walt Lowe in Houston on Monday. The Rangers acknowledged that arthroscopic surgery is a possibility.

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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.

9 Oscar nominees we wish depicted baseball

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9 Oscar nominees we wish depicted baseball

It's always fun to speculate about which films will win Academy Awards, but today we're going to indulge in an entirely different set of speculations. What if we lived in an alternate universe where all of the nominated movies were baseball-themed? Sounds pretty great, right? Lucky for you, we've chosen some possible winners from that different and better reality.

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Kipnis scratched with mild shoulder strain

Kipnis scratched with mild shoulder strain

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Jason Kipnis tried to play the villain against his hometown Cubs in the World Series last fall. If the Indians' second baseman is going to do so again this year, it will have to come a little later in the schedule.

On Sunday, Kipnis was scratched from the lineup for Cleveland's Cactus League clash with Chicago due to a mild rotator cuff strain. Tribe manager Terry Francona noted that Kipnis underwent an MRI exam and was given a cortisone shot after reporting to the team that he felt discomfort while throwing during Saturday's workout.

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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.

Football injury leaves Bourn in limbo

Veteran is one of 12 O's outfielders competing for roster spot

Football injury leaves Bourn in limbo

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Michael Bourn has caught footballs in conditioning drills "thousands of times." However, on Friday, he snared a pass that went the wrong way, which jammed his right ring finger and broke it. He appeared in the Orioles clubhouse Sunday morning wearing a splint on the finger.

Bourn, who was signed to a Minor League contract on Feb. 20 and hadn't yet played in a game, will be sidelined for four weeks.

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

Sprink Training! Water spray, game delay

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Sprink Training! Water spray, game delay

Spring Training is a time to shake the rust off and get back in the swing of things after months away from the diamond. This is true for the players, yes, but also for everybody else -- like, say, grounds crews. 

Case in point: Saturday's Reds-Indians game, which was headed to the bottom of the eighth inning when, well ...

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Mustache game strong for Mets starters

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Mustache game strong for Mets starters

The Mets lost both Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom to season-ending injuries in 2016, leaving Noah Syndergaard as the lone member of their three-headed starting-pitching beast still standing as the team was eliminated from the postseason by Madison Bumgarner and the Giants in the NL Wild Card Game. But it's 2017 now, and the Mets' rotation once again boasts three of baseball's most fearsome starting pitchers.

Also, three of the gnarliest mustaches this side of Tom Selleck.

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Farms that should crack the 2018 Top 10 list

Farms that should crack the 2018 Top 10 list

With Spring Training underway, MLBPipeline.com's Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo have not only been rolling out their 2017 Top 30 Prospects lists for each of the Major League teams, they've also been busy ranking their Top 10 farm systems in baseball. The following is a transcript of a segment from this week's episode of their Pipeline podcast with Tim McMaster, in which they discuss which teams look to be on the cusp of breaking into next year's Top 10.

To hear more from the MLBPipeline.com experts, subscribe to the podcast by clicking here.

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Gray will not participate in World Baseball Classic

Denial of insurance will keep right-hander off Team USA

Gray will not participate in World Baseball Classic

MESA, Ariz. -- A's right-hander Sonny Gray will not participate in the World Baseball Classic, after he was denied insurance because of his extended time on the disabled list last season.

A's general manager David Forst said Gray was considered a "chronic-condition player," having met one of the criteria that falls under the provision: He spent more than 60 days on the DL last season, because of two separate injuries.

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Jane Lee has covered the A's for MLB.com since 2010. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Royals honor Ventura at Cactus opener

Royals honor Ventura at Cactus opener

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Minutes before the start of the Royals' Cactus League opener against the Rangers, the memory of Yordano Ventura was honored at Surprise Stadium.

The stadium flags flew at half-staff, as players and coaches from both teams stood along the foul lines to pay tribute to Ventura, who died last month in a car accident in the Dominican Republic.

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Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Clark: Betances concentrating on season

MLBPA executive director says reliever has turned the page after arbitration hearing

Clark: Betances concentrating on season

TAMPA, Fla. -- Dellin Betances has turned the page following his arbitration hearing with the Yankees and is channeling his energy toward helping his teammates win ballgames, according to Tony Clark, the executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association.

Clark and other MLBPA representatives met with the Yankees for about 90 minutes on Sunday morning at George M. Steinbrenner Field, covering a variety of topics. Clark said that he had time to speak with Betances, who was upset by Yankees president Randy Levine's comments following a Feb. 18 hearing.

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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.

Bryce is right: Harper homers on first swing

Slugger sees immediate results after adding 15 lbs. of muscle over offseason

Bryce is right: Harper homers on first swing

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Bryce Harper bulked up during the offseason, adding about 15 pounds of muscle to his frame. He has credited his offseason routine as a reason he entered Spring Training feeling strong.

Harper saw immediate results in his first at-bat of Grapefruit League play on Saturday afternoon, when he launched a solo home run over the right-center-field wall in the second inning of the Nationals' 8-6 victory over the Mets.

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

Edwin gets first Indians RBI in debut vs. Reds

Edwin gets first Indians RBI in debut vs. Reds

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- It didn't take long for Edwin Encarnacion to look comfortable in an Indians uniform. The sound of his powerful swing made that clear on Saturday afternoon, when Cleveland's new slugger delivered the club's first run of the spring season.

In the first inning of the Indians' 8-2 Cactus League win against the Reds, Encarnacion drilled a pitch from Reds left-hander Amir Garrett into left field for an RBI single. Encarnacion stood on first base amidst cheers from the Goodyear Ballpark crowd, which was dotted with Tribe jerseys. It was an early look into why the Indians invested heavily into Encarnacion this winter.

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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.

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. 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.

MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

Kershaw's consistency awe-inspiring for teammates

'He expects perfection,' Kazmir says of Dodgers' ace

Kershaw's consistency awe-inspiring for teammates

PHOENIX -- If you'd like to understand what Clayton Kershaw means to the Los Angeles Dodgers, you can start with the area behind the bullpen mound in left field.

That's where Dodgers pitchers gathered prior to Saturday's 5-3 win over the White Sox to line up and watch their ace warm up for his first start of Spring Training. This is what respect looks like. There's surely some awe as well.

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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.

New right fielder McCutchen gets feet wet

New right fielder McCutchen gets feet wet

BRADENTON, Fla. -- As the Pirates took the field early Saturday afternoon, Andrew McCutchen ran out to assume his place in right field. He wouldn't say it felt weird, but it was different.

Pittsburgh unveiled its realigned outfield, featuring McCutchen in right for the first time since he broke into the Majors, as the Bucs opened their Grapefruit League schedule with a 6-2 split-squad win over the Orioles at LECOM Park.

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Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, read his blog and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Joe Posnanski

2017 Azocar Awards: And the winners are ...

In honor of Oscars weekend, we celebrate baseball's best and brightest

2017 Azocar Awards: And the winners are ...

There are people who noticed that the Oscar Azocar Awards -- the baseball awards we came up with to correlate with the upcoming Academy Awards -- seem to be based on a very flimsy coincidence: That "Best Pitcher" sounds a lot like "Best Picture."

I would like to tell you that there was more thought put into the Oscar Azocars.

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Joe Posnanski is a No. 1 New York Times best-selling author, an Emmy Award-winning writer and has been awarded National Sportswriter of the Year. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Franco caps 2-HR day with inside-the-parker

3rd baseman shows off speed, power in Grapefruit game vs. Yanks

Franco caps 2-HR day with inside-the-parker

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Maikel Franco is known for his power, not his speed.

He still is, even after he hit an inside-the-park home run in the sixth inning of Saturday's 6-5 walk-off victory over the Yankees in a Grapefruit League game at Spectrum Field.

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Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Luis Tiant would really like to know who or what a #SaltBae is

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Luis Tiant would really like to know who or what a #SaltBae is

Luis Tiant is 76 years old. When he made his Major League debut with the Indians, Lyndon Johnson was the President of the United States, The Four Seasons were on top of the Billboard charts and a gallon of gas cost 30 cents. 

He's been around for a while, is what we're saying. His meme knowledge isn't exactly exhaustive -- he predates the Internet by several decades after all. So, when Mookie Betts celebrated a single during Saturday's 8-7 win over the Twins with a pinch of salt ...

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Let's all take a moment to appreciate just how adorable Josh Donaldson's puppy is

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Let's all take a moment to appreciate just how adorable Josh Donaldson's puppy is

A little less than a month ago, we posed a profoundly important question: Of all the good baseball dogs, which was the vvery best baseball dog? The people made their voices heard, and we thought we had arrived at an answer.

... until Saturday, that is, when we were introduced to Josh Donaldson's puppy.

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Freeman honors mother by repping Canada

Freeman honors mother by repping Canada

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman always wears long sleeves, even on the hottest days. He does it to honor his mother, Rosemary, who died of skin cancer. He also wears a cross-shaped locket around his neck with her hair inside.

Beginning March 6, though, he's going to pay tribute in a way he wasn't sure would ever be possible. That's when he'll put on the uniform of Team Canada for the first workout in preparation for this year's World Baseball Classic.

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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.

Tigers hit 3 HRs in a row; Miggy plunked

Cabrera OK after getting hit on the arm in a homer-filled 3rd inning

Tigers hit 3 HRs in a row; Miggy plunked

LAKELAND, Fla. -- The Tigers needed 11 innings to put up their first run of Grapefruit League play at remodeled Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium. Once they finally crossed the plate they kept swinging for the fences, hitting three consecutive home runs off Astros reliever Edison Frias in the third inning Saturday during Detroit's 11-4 win.

None of those home runs came from Miguel Cabrera, who was hit by Frias' next pitch after the three home runs. Cabrera was unharmed, but Frias was ejected by home-plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt.

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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.

Fowler, Carpenter link up fast for Cardinals

New acquisition scores on first baseman's sacrifice fly, home run

Fowler, Carpenter link up fast for Cardinals

JUPITER, Fla. -- After watching two key pieces in the Cardinals' new-look lineup thrive in their roles, the club is hopeful that first impressions create a lasting one.

Dexter Fowler didn't put a ball in play in his organizational debut, but as the team's new leadoff hitter, he drew two walks and scored after each in St. Louis' 8-7 loss to Miami. Behind him, Matt Carpenter, who vacated that leadoff spot upon Fowler's arrival, tallied three RBIs from the third spot in the batting order, which is likely where he will settle once the season starts.

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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.

Oscars wiz Axford predicts tonight's winners

A's reliever correctly guessed all 18 winners in 2014

Oscars wiz Axford predicts tonight's winners

A's reliever John Axford, the film buff who was a perfect 18-for-18 in Oscar predictions in 2014, has shared his full selections again ahead of tonight's ceremony:

Best Picture: "La La Land"

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Jane Lee has covered the A's for MLB.com since 2010. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Colon puts focus on location more than results

In debut, Braves hurler effective in 2 innings of work

Colon puts focus on location more than results

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- As he prepares for his 20th Major League season, Bartolo Colon certainly isn't going to allow himself to be bothered by the results he garners during exhibition games. But at 43 years old, the ageless wonder can certainly take pride in the fact that he is still physically capable of doing what he has always done best.

Colon didn't necessarily have pinpoint command as he provided two innings for the Braves as they claimed a 7-4 win over the Blue Jays during a mutual Grapefruit League season opener on Saturday afternoon at ESPN's Wide World of Sports complex. But the beloved hurler still proved effective, while more importantly providing indication he still soundly understands the art of pitching.

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Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Melancon: 'Executed pretty well' in first SF outing

Melancon: 'Executed pretty well' in first SF outing

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Mark Melancon's initial Cactus League appearance as a Giant was exactly what the ballclub expected.

Three batters up, three down against the top third of the Chicago Cubs' batting order. A pair of ground balls, which Melancon specializes in coaxing with his cut fastball. In short, he delivered a thoroughly uneventful outing in the Giants' 8-6 Cactus League triumph.

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Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Verlander wastes no time getting into form

Right-hander mixes pitches, throws slider in spring debut

Verlander wastes no time getting into form

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Justin Verlander began his 12th Major League season trying to figure out when he was supposed to hit the field.

His first Spring Training outing of the year Saturday against the Astros was a 1:05 p.m. ET start, same as nearly all the other starts he has made at Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium over the years. He's one of the most routine-oriented players in baseball, to the point where even a couple minutes' delay can throw him off his habits.

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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.