MLB In Full Bloom 2/11//2014

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4– Number of days until pitchers and catchers report

48 – Number of days until Opening Day

For much of the country, it's hard to imagine baseball being played in your hometown city these days with the winter weather that much of the country is experiencing. The southeast is preparing for a second storm this week and the midwest and northeast is buried in snow and freezing temperatures. Having said that baseball is just 48 days away so lets hope spring time is around the corner!

MLB NEWS & NOTES

  • Josh Beckett (thoracic outlet surgery) threw a 30-pitch bullpen session Monday with no issues. Beckett underwent this surgery last July and has entered camp with no limitations. Monday's bullpen session was Beckett's first since he reported for spring training. Beckett is competing for the fifth spot in the Dodgers rotation against Paul Maholm.
  • Michael Brantley and the Indians agreed to a four-year, $25 million extension on Monday that includes a fifth year team option. Brantley had a career-best 611 plate appearances in a breakout season in 2013. He finished with career highs in homers (10), RBI (73), runs (66) and steals (17). Brantley is not a super star player, but he's solid in all aspects of the game.
  • Michael Pineda said Monday that he is coming into spring training at "100 percent." Pineda hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2011 due to shoulder issues, but he's feeling good now and will battle it out with David Phelps and Adam Warren for the final spot in the Yankees' rotation. Pineda certainly has the best upside of this group if he can show that he's got his velocity back.
  • Tommy Hanson and the Rangers agreed to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training. Hanson will be battling for a spot in the Rangers starting rotation this spring in camp. He struggled with forearm issues and the sudden death of his brother last year. Hanson is just 27 years old and certainly has a good chance to claim the fifth spot in the starting rotation.
  • Brad Ziegler may be a candidate for the closer's role with the Diamondbacks this year. J.J. Putz will be Addison Reed's stiffest competition for the closer's job, while both Ziegler and David Hernandez will very likely open the season in middle-relief or setup roles. Ziegler isn't much of a strikeout pitcher and is not a prototypical closer, but he did well with the role last season when injuries forced him into the ninth inning.
  • Brandon Lyon and the Angels agreed to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training on Monday. Lyon was released by the Mets last July after posting a 4.93 ERA in 37 relief appearances. He will struggle to make the Angels bullpen, which is not saying much in 2014.
  • Albert Pujols (foot) dropped his defamation lawsuit against former Cardinals first baseman Jack Clark on Monday after Clark released a public apology. Pujols has accepted the apology, and has dropped the lawsuit. He can now get back to focusing on baseball, as he is coming into 2014 healthy and looking to rebound from an injury-plagued 2013 season.
  • Tracy McGrady is trying out as a pitcher for the Sugar Land Skeeters of the independent Atlantic League. McGrady threw a 20 minute bullpen session to stand in hitters for the first time on Monday and those hitters left impressed with McGrady. His length and long arms on the mound certainly caught the attention of the stand in hitters as his fastball was clocked at 87 miles per hour. McGrady could face live hitters next week.

MLB In Full Bloom 2/10//2014

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5– Number of days until pitchers and catchers report

49 – Number of days until Opening Day

The Diamondbacks and Dodgers are in camp and preparing for the 2014 campaign. The rest of the camps open on Thursday or Friday this week. It is incredible to see so many free agents on the market looking for work in 2014. Hard to believe that pitching is at such a premium and there are still key starting pitchers on the free agent market on this date. Let's take a look at what happened over the weekend!

MLB NEWS & NOTES

  • Paul Maholm and the Dodgers agreed to a one-year deal over the weekend. Maholm could wind up working out of the Dodgers bullpen if Josh Beckett is healthy and able to claim the fifth spot in the rotation. The first four spots in the rotation are locked up with Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Dan Haren. Maholm provides insurance in the event that Beckett, who is recovering from surgery to repair a nerve issue, isn't available for the start of the season.
  • Francisco Rodriguez and the Brewers agreed to a one-year deal over the weekend. K-Rod compiled a 2.70 ERA with 54 strikeouts over 46 2/3 innings for the Brewers and Orioles last season. Rodriguez will be the primary setup man for Jim Henderson and would be first in line for saves should Henderson slip up.
  • Yasmani Grandal (knee) intends to be "behind home plate" on Opening Day, which takes place Mar. 30 when the Padres play the Dodgers. Grandal tore the ACL in his right knee on Jul. 6 and underwent surgery to repair the concern exactly one month later. The typical 9-to-12-month timetable for a recovery for this injury. The Padres will ease him into the lineup during their six-week stay in Arizona, but it appears Grandal is determined to be the Padres Opening Day catcher.
  • Jeff Samardzija and the Cubs avoided arbitration and agreed to a one-year contract over the weekend. Samardzija made 33 starts for the Cubs last season and p0sted a 4.34 ERA in a slightly disappointing season. He'll look to improve on those numbers this season.The question remains whether or not the right-hander and the Cubs can agree on a long-term contract. If not, the Cubs will look to trade him by the trade deadline this summer.
  • Coco Crisp and the Athletics agreed to a two-year contract extension over the weekend. The deal also includes a vesting option for 2017. Crisp is coming off an impressive 2013 campaign that saw him hit a career-high 22 homers and 21 steals. Crisp has had a long list of injuries during his career, but if he can stay healthy he should continue to produce.
  • Grady Sizemore (knee) arrived at Red Sox training camp over the weekend proclaiming he's healthy and "good to go,". Sizemore went on to say that he is not in baseball shape, but he is physically in good shape and moving around well. There is alot of risk involved with Sizemore, who is coming off microfracture surgery on both knees and fantasy owners should consider him only as a late-round pick.
  • Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana still remain on the free agent market with the majority of camps opening at the end of this week. It is incredible to see these two pitchers still looking for work after they both had such strong 2013 campaigns.
  • A Babe Ruth autographed baseball sold for for $250,641 by Grey Flannel Auctions last Thursday night. An official with the auction house said the buyer wishes to remain anonymous. The price paid for the ball falls short of the record for a Ruth signed ball. In 2012, a ball with a pristine Ruth signature sold for $388,375.

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