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  • MLB notebook: Rangers' Hamilton faces more surgery on knee
    By The Sports Xchange / Sunday, February 26, 2017

    Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton is facing another trip under the knife on his left knee as he attempts a comeback from last season's reconstructive surgery.

    • The former American League MVP is experiencing discomfort in the knee and may require arthroscopic surgery as soon as Monday, according to the Rangers.

      Hamilton felt sharp pain while running recently and was given a platelet-rich plasma injection last week. But the knee didn't respond to the treatment and Hamilton left the team to travel to Houston to see orthopedic surgeon Dr. Walt Lowe, who performed his knee reconstruction in June.

      There is speculation that Hamilton, who turns 36 in May, might not play again.

      Assistant general manager Mike Daly told reporters that the Rangers and Hamilton have not yet that had conversation. Daly said the team would like to give Hamilton the chance to recover.

      "Josh has a great desire to play," Daly said. "We feel good that Josh is going to play."

      Hamilton signed a minor league contract with the Rangers in January. He missed all of last season with the knee injury.

      Hamilton was a five-time All-Star for the Rangers and won MVP honors in 2010 when he led the AL with a .359 average and had 32 homers and 100 RBIs. He hit a career-best 43 homers in 2012 and departed as a free agent to sign with the Angels.

      --Baltimore Orioles veteran outfielder Michael Bourn is expected to miss four weeks after breaking his right ring finger while catching a football as part of a conditioning drill.

      Bourn jammed his finger while catching a pass on Friday and returned two days later wearing a splint on the injured digit.

      "It wasn't football for fun, first off," Bourn said. "It was just a conditioning drill that you do and the ball just hit me in the wrong spot. I thought it was a jam at first, but I kind of knew. It hurt kind of bad, more than a jam. And they showed me a little spot where there's like a little crack, not a crack, but a little space where it broke a little bit. So I have to let it heal and I'll see what happens."

      The time away from the diamond could prove disastrous as the 34-year-old Bourn is one of 12 outfielders in camp.

      Bourn agreed to a minor league contract earlier this month and an invitation to spring training.

      --Cleveland Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained right rotator cuff and has been told to avoid throwing for four to five days.

      Indians manager Terry Francona told reporters Sunday that Kipnis received a cortisone shot on Saturday in his throwing shoulder.

      Kipnis, a two-time All-Star, felt discomfort in the shoulder as he increased his throwing distance while warming up. An MRI exam detected the strain.

      Kipnis hit a career-best 23 homers last season while batting .275 with 82 RBIs. He slugged four more homers during the postseason as Cleveland reached the World Series before losing to the Chicago Cubs in seven games.

      --Oakland Athletics right-hander Sonny Gray will not participate in the World Baseball Classic after he did not receive medical clearance from the tournament's insurance carrier.

      Gray, who was expecting to participate for the U.S. National Team at the WBC next month, is the second player to be denied from the competition by the insurance company. Toronto Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin was told two weeks ago he couldn't play for Team Canada.

      Gray was denied insurance because of his extended time on the disabled list last season.

      Oakland general manager David Forst told the San Jose Mercury News on Sunday that Gray was considered a "chronic-condition player" after spending more than 60 days on two DL stints for a strained trapezoid and a strained right forearm.

      "The one exception on the book is pitching 10 innings after the injury and he didn't even do that," Forst said. "MLB pushed the issue, asked the insurance carrier to make an exception to allow him to pitch, and they didn't do it."

      The A's adjusted Gray's spring schedule since he will not pitch for Team USA. He will make his first Cactus League start on Wednesday against the San Diego Padres, after originally being slated to go Monday.

  • Orioles OF Bourn breaks finger playing catch with football
    By The Sports Xchange / Sunday, February 26, 2017

    Baltimore Orioles veteran outfielder Michael Bourn is expected to miss four weeks after breaking his right ring finger while catching a football as part of a conditioning drill.

    • Bourn jammed his finger while catching a pass on Friday and returned two days later wearing a splint on the injured digit.

      "It wasn't football for fun, first off," Bourn said. "It was just a conditioning drill that you do and the ball just hit me in the wrong spot. I thought it was a jam at first, but I kind of knew. It hurt kind of bad, more than a jam. And they showed me a little spot where there's like a little crack, not a crack, but a little space where it broke a little bit. So I have to let it heal and I'll see what happens."

      The time away from the diamond could prove disastrous as the 34-year-old Bourn is one of 12 outfielders in camp.

      Bourn defended his use of a football as a conditioning drill, a decision he has made countless times over the years since he stopped playing the sport in his junior year of high school.

      "Never had it happen to me, but it happened this time," Bourn said. "That's the risk you take, so you have to live with it. I made this bed, so I have to lay in it."

      Bourn agreed to a minor league contract earlier this month and an invitation to spring training.

      Bourn batted .283 with two homers and eight RBIs in 24 games after being acquired by the Orioles in September. The two-time All-Star served as the team's leadoff hitter in the American League wild-card game.

      Bourn batted .264 with five homers and 38 RBIs in 113 games between Baltimore and the Arizona Diamondbacks last season.

  • Athletics RHP Gray not cleared to pitch in WBC
    By The Sports Xchange / Sunday, February 26, 2017

    Oakland Athletics right-hander Sonny Gray will not participate in the World Baseball Classic after he did not receive medical clearance from the tournament's insurance carrier.

    • Gray, who was expecting to participate for the U.S. National Team at the WBC next month, is the second player to be denied from the competition by the insurance company. Toronto Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin was told two weeks ago he couldn't play for Team Canada.

      Gray was denied insurance because of his extended time on the disabled list last season.

      Oakland general manager David Forst told the San Jose Mercury News on Sunday that Gray was considered a "chronic-condition player" after spending more than 60 days on two DL stints for a strained trapezoid and a strained right forearm.

      "The one exception on the book is pitching 10 innings after the injury and he didn't even do that," Forst said. "MLB pushed the issue, asked the insurance carrier to make an exception to allow him to pitch, and they didn't do it."

      The A's adjusted Gray's spring schedule since he will not pitch for Team USA. He will make his first Cactus League start on Wednesday against the San Diego Padres, after originally being slated to go Monday.

      The 27-year-old Gray originally received an invitation despite a rocky 2016 season. After winning 14 games in each of the previous two seasons, Gray stumbled to a 5-11 mark with a 5.69 ERA during the injury-plagued campaign.

      Gray owns a 38-31 record and 3.42 ERA in four seasons with Oakland. A first-round draft pick (No. 18 overall) of the Athletics in 2011, Gray made a combined 64 starts in 2014 and 2015, recording a career-low 2.73 ERA while going 14-7 in 2015.

  • Rangers OF Hamilton facing more surgery on knee
    By The Sports Xchange / Sunday, February 26, 2017

    Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton is facing another trip under the knife on his left knee as he attempts a comeback from last season's reconstructive surgery.

    • The former American League MVP is experiencing discomfort in the knee and may require arthroscopic surgery as soon as Monday, according to the Rangers.

      Hamilton felt sharp pain while running recently and was given a platelet-rich plasma injection last week. But the knee didn't respond to the treatment and Hamilton left the team to travel to Houston to see orthopedic surgeon Dr. Walt Lowe, who performed his knee reconstruction in June.

      There is speculation that Hamilton, who turns 36 in May, might not play again.

      Assistant general manager Mike Daly told reporters that the Rangers and Hamilton have not yet that had conversation. Daly said the team would like to give Hamilton the chance to recover.

      "Josh has a great desire to play," Daly said. "We feel good that Josh is going to play."

      Hamilton signed a minor league contract with the Rangers in January. He missed all of last season with the knee injury.

      Hamilton was a five-time All-Star for the Rangers and won MVP honors in 2010 when he led the AL with a .359 average and had 32 homers and 100 RBIs. He hit a career-best 43 homers in 2012 and departed as a free agent to sign with the Angels.

      Hamilton's career went into a deep decline and he hit 31 homers in two seasons with the Angels before they dealt him back to the Rangers. He batted .253 with eight homers and 25 RBIs in 2015 while batting injuries.

      Hamilton received medical clearance to return to baseball in December.

      He has 200 career homers and 701 RBIs in 1,027 games. Hamilton possesses a career batting average of .290.

  • Indians 2B Kipnis sidelined with shoulder strain
    By The Sports Xchange / Sunday, February 26, 2017

    Cleveland Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained right rotator cuff and has been told to avoid throwing for four to five days.

    • Indians manager Terry Francona told reporters Sunday that Kipnis received a cortisone shot on Saturday in his throwing shoulder.

      Kipnis, a two-time All-Star, felt discomfort in the shoulder as he increased his throwing distance while warming up. An MRI exam detected the strain.

      Francona said Kipnis should be "raring to go" when cleared to throw.

      "If it were during the season, we wouldn't do anything," Francona said, "but there's so much time to get ready that to put a Band-Aid on it now didn't seem to make sense."

      Kipnis smacked a career-best 23 homers last season while batting .275 with 82 RBIs. He slugged four more homers during the postseason as Cleveland reached the World Series before losing to the Chicago Cubs in seven games.

  • By The Sports Xchange / Saturday, February 25, 2017

    Opening Day of the preseason for Kansas City was an emotional day for the Royals, who paid tribute on Saturday to Yordano Ventura at Surprise, Ariz.

    • Ventura died in January in a car crash in his native Dominican Republic.

      With flags flying at half-staff, the Royals lined up on the third base line while their opponents, the Texas Rangers, lined up on the first base line. Texas teammates Adrian Beltre and Carlos Gomez, both Dominican natives, placed a bouquet of flowers on the mound.

      "I feel so bad about it," Gomez told reporters. "This just shows that you have to live life every day. Nobody but God knows what is next."

      Players and fans were then treated to highlights from Ventura's three-plus seasons, which played on the stadium's big screen.

      Royals manager Ned Yost was given a plaque honoring the 25-year-old Ventura by a Surprise city official. The plaque will remain on display at Surprise Stadium.

      The plaque reads: "On most days he could be found laughing and joking with his baseball family in the clubhouse. However, on days when he pitched that smile was replaced by a quiet confidence and an intense fire which he brought to the mound every start."

      Ventura compiled a 38-31 record with an ERA of 3.89 during his short time in the majors.

  • White Sox to retire LHP Buehrle's No. 56 jersey
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, February 23, 2017

    The Chicago White Sox will retire left-hander Mark Buehrle's jersey No. 56 on June 24, the team announced on Thursday.

    • Buehrle, who spent 12 seasons with the club, guided the White Sox to the 2005 World Series title. He also tossed a no-hitter against the Texas Rangers in 2007 and a perfect game versus the Tampa Bay Rays two years later.

      "A standout on the field and a standup teammate in the clubhouse, it is our honor to retire Mark Buehrle's No. 56 and to welcome him into the legendary class of all-time White Sox greats," Chicago chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said. "Mark Buehrle is one of the most accomplished pitchers in franchise history."

      Buehrle will be the 12th player to have his number retired by the club. The ceremony will take place prior to Chicago's game against the Oakland Athletics.

      Buehrle owned a 161-119 record with a 3.83 ERA for the White Sox from 2000-2011.He posted a 214-160 mark with a 3.81 ERA with three teams in 16 seasons.

  • Ortiz could land in Red Sox TV booth this season
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, February 23, 2017

    Former slugger David Ortiz will not be suiting up for the Boston Red Sox this season, although he could be behind the microphone on occasion.

    • Red Sox president Sam Kennedy confirmed to Boston Herald Radio on Tuesday that the team and the retired Ortiz have discussed the 10-time All-Star becoming part of NESN's broadcasting team.

      "It'll be fun to watch the next stage of his career," Kennedy said. "He's got a lot of different interests. Broadcasting is certainly one. It'd be interesting to see if he goes into national broadcasting. We'd certainly love to have him (as) part of our local broadcast team on a limited basis. He wanted to dip his toe into that water."

      Ortiz is no stranger to a microphone, with both positive and negative results. He was recently a part of the FOX's coverage of the 2014 World Series, but he also used colorful language after the Boston Marathon bombings.

      The Red Sox will retire Ortiz's No. 34 jersey at Fenway Park on June 23. Ortiz's number will be the 11th on the right field facade of Fenway Park, joining Bobby Doerr (No. 1), Joe Croin (No. 4), Johnny Pesky (No. 6), Carl Yastrzemski (No. 8), Ted Williams (No. 9), Jim Rice (No. 14), Wade Boggs (No. 26), Carlton Fisk (No. 27), Pedro Martinez (No. 45), and Jackie Robinson (No. 42), which is retired throughout Major League Baseball.

      Ortiz belted 483 career homers with the Red Sox, a total that trails only Williams (521) on the franchise's all-time list. He also ranks third with the club in RBIs (1,530), sixth in hits (2,079), third in doubles (524), third in extra-base hits (1,023) and fifth in runs scored (1,204)

  • Rubin: Owners, players need to agree on rules changes
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, February 22, 2017

    There is contentiousness. There is drama. There is suspicion.

    • No, we aren't talking about the Washington, D.C., political scene. We're talking about baseball. And while it comes nowhere close to what's going down in the nation's capital, it still is very real: Witness the tug-of-war between ownership and the Major League Baseball Players Association unfolding over rule changes to speed the pace of play in the game.

      Commissioner Rob Manfred pulled back the curtain on it on Tuesday as he took questions on the state of the game from the media in Phoenix. It wasn't more than two minutes before he said, "Unfortunately, it appears there won't be any meaningful change for the 2017 season due to a lack of cooperation from the MLBPA."

      As he begins his third season as commissioner, this is perhaps the most forceful Manfred has been. Ownership and the union were able to reach a collective bargaining agreement in the fall, so the sides are able to negotiate. However, clearly there are some residual feelings from the interaction.

      Manfred -- and thus ownership -- wants to take measures to speed the pace of games. He said that home runs are up 32 percent since 1980 and strikeouts are up 67 percent, so balls in play are at a record low.

      "I've tried to be clear that our game is fundamentally sound, and it does not need to be fixed," he said. "At the same time, I think it's a mistake to stick our head in the sand and ignore the fact that our game has changed and continues to change."

      Here are some of the ideas Manfred endorses: a 20-second pitch clock that has worked effectively to improve pace in the minor leagues, and altering penalties for violations of it; limiting the number of trips to the mound; issuing intentional walks without throwing pitches; and altering the strike zone in a way that pitchers must throw more hittable pitches.

      The intentional-walk change will go into effect for the 2017 season, ESPN reported Tuesday.

      MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said last weekend that the union favors making no changes, instead preferring to educate fans about the nuances of the game. Manfred said he rejects that idea and is prepared, under what he said are the terms of the CBA, to implement changes unilaterally for the 2018 season (some interpret this as "executive order").

      "I'm firmly convinced that our fans, both our avid fans and casual fans, want us to respond to and manage the change that's going on in the game," he said. "I'm certain that our job as stewards of the game is to be responsive to fans."

      If it is a curiosity that the players' union is so resistant to changes that ownership wants, consider for a moment the MLBPA's perception of things. Since agreeing on the CBA, the players have experienced an offseason of free agency that was not expected.

      Many top players didn't get the kind of offers that came along in years past, and many had to settle for fewer dollars and fewer years. There were a surprising number of one-year deals and minor league contracts for long-time big-leaguers. Words like "collusion" have been whispered. And the players fear their percentage of the revenue is going down.

      The new CBA, with escalating taxes each time a club surpasses the luxury tax threshold, has changed something. New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman -- this is the Yankees, mind you -- said the revised system is a little like working with a salary cap. The union agreed to it, but if clubs see it that way, it's not good for player salaries.

      Nevertheless, the union's lack of enthusiasm for moves to increase pace of games has Manfred taking a hard line.

      The 2016 season was plenty compelling with the Chicago Cubs winning their first World Series in 108 years at the end of a fascinating postseason. Interest didn't wane despite the average length of a game going up by approximately four minutes. But the younger generation of would-be baseball fans, the social-media generation, has an insatiable appetite for more action, wanting the game to be as fast as can be.

      Baseball can grow by doing whatever it can to engage this group.

      And frankly, baseball doesn't need every closer treating every pitch like an event. It doesn't need pitching coaches going to the mound to stall for extra time so a reliever in the bullpen can get in five more warm-up throws.

      Taking away the four balls in the intentional walk will save little time and remove some unpredictability in the game. And at a time when swing-and-miss pitching is at its height of importance -- and let's face it that strikeouts are fun -- changing rules to introduce more balls in play feels like forcing a shift in this living, evolving game.

      There is room for change.

      The idea here is that the sides are supposed to continue talks about the proposed rule changes over the course of the coming season before it comes to Manfred's office implementing things unilaterally. If the union can warm things in the relationship as it appeared Tuesday, it could have real input into what changes for 2018.

      That's what needs to happen. What's best for the game will come from a meeting of the minds, not a Washington, D.C., sort of standoff.

  • MLB bags four-pitch intentional walk to help shorten games
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, February 22, 2017

    Major League Baseball, in its attempt to speed up play, is starting out small.

    • In a move that might save one minute every few games, MLB will no longer require pitchers to lob four pitches to issue an intentional walk, ESPN.com reported Tuesday, citing management and players union sources.

      A signal from the dugout will be sufficient to send a batter to first base with an intentional walk.

      There were 932 intentional walks in the 2016 season, or one every 2.6 games.

      Other speed-up proposals -- including a move to hike the bottom of the strike, adding a pitch clock and limiting trips to the mound -- remain on hold, to the chagrin of commissioner Rob Manfred. He blames the Major League Baseball Players Association for blocking potential tweaks.

      "Unfortunately, it appears there won't be any meaningful change for the 2017 season due to a lack of cooperation from the MLBPA," Manfred said. "I've tried to be clear that our game is fundamentally sound, and it does not need to be fixed. At the same time, I think it's a mistake to stick our head in the sand and ignore the fact that our game has changed, and continues to change."

      Manfred said MLB is considering imposing pace-of-game alterations for 2018 with or without union approval.

      MLBPA executive director Tony Clark wrote in an email to USA Today, "I don't agree that we've failed to cooperate with the Commissioner's office on these issues. Two years ago, we negotiated pace of play protocols that had an immediate and positive impact. Last year, we took a step backward in some ways (with the time of game increasing four minutes) and this offseason, we've been in regular contact with MLB and with our members to get a better handle on why that happened."

      Another potential future rule change will be tested at the lowest level of the minor leagues this summer, with a runner placed on second base at the start of every extra inning.

      The average major league game last year lasted three hours.

  • A-Rod says he's retired, 'zero' chance to play again
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, February 21, 2017

    Former New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez on Tuesday said he is through playing baseball.

    • Rodriguez said he is retired and that there is "zero" percent chance that he will change his mind.

      The 41-year-old Rodriguez made the declaration during a press conference in Tampa, Fla., trumpeting his new role as a special adviser to the Yankees. He will serve as a special instructor during spring training.

      Rodriguez finished his career with 696 homers, narrowly missing on becoming just the fourth player in baseball history to reach 700.

      His 22-year career was plagued by steroid use allegations and he was suspended for the entire 2014 season due to his use of performance-enhancing substances.

      The Yankees are paying Rodriguez $21 million in 2017 in the final season of a 10-year, $275 million contract. The team released him as a player last August.

      Rodriguez said he was tempted to continue playing last season when a couple teams expressed interest.

      "I thought about it for a minute," Rodriguez said. "I flew the whole family home after that Friday night. I thought about it a little bit that weekend. I was fortunate to have a few offers. I called them back and said, 'No thank you.'"

      Rodriguez batted just .200 with nine homers prior to his release last season. He said it was hard to recover from 2015 when he returned from the one-year suspension and stunningly clubbed 33 homers and drove in 86 runs.

      "After serving the suspension, I just put so much effort into 2015, and I honestly think I emptied the tank," Rodriguez said. "Having the opportunity that (owner Hal Steinbrenner) gave me, to not only come back and finish strong but also kind of get my life back together. To me, that's where the win was."

      Only Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714) hit more homers than Rodriguez in baseball history.

      Rodriguez concludes his career with a .295 batting average, 3,115 hits and 2,086 RBIs. Only Aaron (2,297) had more RBIs.

      Rodriguez was a three-time American League MVP and 14-time All-Star. He broke into the majors with the Seattle Mariners in 1994 and joined the Texas Rangers as a free agent following the 2000 season.

      The Rangers traded Rodriguez to the Yankees after he won the 2003 AL MVP award and the return package included Alfonso Soriano.

  • Wieters joins Nationals on two-year, $21 million deal
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, February 21, 2017

    Matt Wieters and the Washington Nationals agreed to a two-year contract worth $21 million on Tuesday, ESPN reports.

    • The four-time All-Star will earn $10 million in the 2017 season and $11 million in 2018, according to ESPN's Jim Bowden. The deal reportedly includes an opt-out clause after one season.

      Washington lost All-Star catcher Wilson Ramos to the Tampa Bay Rays over the offseason. The Nationals also have backup catchers Derek Norris and Jose Lobaton on their roster.

      Wieters, 30, played his first eight seasons with the Baltimore Orioles, batting .256 with 117 home runs and 437 RBIs. Last season, the former fifth-overall pick in the 2007 draft hit .243 with 17 homers and 66 RBIs.

      He is also a two-time Gold Glove Award winner in 2011 and 2012.

      Washington went 95-67 last season to finish first in the National League East before blowing a 2-1 series lead in a best-of-five NLDS matchup against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

  • Bourn again will be with Orioles in 2017
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, February 20, 2017

    Baltimore Orioles veteran outfielder Michael Bourn agreed to a minor league contract on Monday and an invitation to spring training.

    • Multiple outlets reported that the contract will be worth $2 million if the 34-year-old Bourn makes the major league club.

      "Michael Bourn's all-around play helped the club earn a 2016 playoff spot, and the O's are glad to have him back for '17," general manager Dan Duquette said.

      Bourn batted .283 with two homers and eight RBIs in 24 games after being acquired by the Orioles in September. The two-time All-Star served as the team's leadoff hitter in the American League wild-card game.

      Bourn batted .264 with five homers and 38 RBIs in 113 games between Baltimore and the Arizona Diamondbacks last season.

  • Ankiel admits to drinking vodka before two starts
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, February 20, 2017

    Former major league pitcher/outfielder Rick Ankiel admitted on Monday that he drank vodka before his first two starts of the 2001 season with the St. Louis Cardinals.

    • Ankiel was attempting to calm his nerves after he famously threw five wild pitches in one inning for the Cardinals during Game 1 of the 2000 National League Division Series against the Atlanta Braves. All told, he threw nine wild pitches in four innings during his meltdown.

      "Before that (first) game ... I'm scared to death. I know I have no chance," the 37-year-old Ankiel said on 590 The Fan, a St. Louis radio station. "Feeling the pressure of all that, right before the game I get a bottle of vodka. I just started drinking vodka. Lo and behold, it kind of tamed the monster, and I was able to do what I wanted.

      "I'm sitting on the bench feeling crazy I have to drink vodka to pitch through this. It worked for that game. I had never drank before a game before. It was one of those things like the yips, the monster, the disease ... it didn't fight fair, so I felt like I wasn't going to fight fair either."

      Ankiel recorded the win against Randy Johnson and the Arizona Diamondbacks in his first start, but the alcohol didn't help in his second when he took the loss versus the Houston Astros.

      Ankiel's pitching days ended in 2004 before he returned as an outfielder in 2007, playing the position for St. Louis, the Kansas City Royals, Atlanta, the Washington Nationals, Houston and the New York Mets.

  • Report: LHP Niese moves to Yankees
    By The Sports Xchange / Sunday, February 19, 2017

    Jon Niese is moving across New York.

    • The former New York Mets left-handed pitcher signed a minor league contract with the New York Yankees, multiple media outlets reported Sunday.

      Niese, 30, spent the first eight seasons of his career with the Mets before he was dealt to the Pittsburgh Pirates in December 2015 in exchange for second baseman Neil Walker.

      His time in Pittsburgh was a disappointment. Niese went 8-6 with a 4.91 ERA in 23 games (18 starts), losing his spot in the rotation at midseason in 2016.

      Niese was dealt back to the Mets on Aug. 1 in exchange for reliever Antonio Bastardo and cash. He went 0-1 with an 11.45 ERA in six games (two starts) for New York, then underwent season-ending left knee surgery on Aug. 25.

      In 211 career games (197 starts), Niese has a 69-68 record with a 4.07 ERA.

      Niese figures to compete for a spot at the back end of the Yankees' rotation in spring training.

  • MLB notebook: Blue Jays' Donaldson sidelined with calf ailment
    By The Sports Xchange / Sunday, February 19, 2017

    Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson expects to be sidelined two to three weeks due to a right calf strain.

    • Donaldson admitted that he felt something grab his muscle while running sprints during a workout on Friday. The 2015 American League Most Valuable Player and three-time All-Star underwent an MRI exam the following day and required the use of crutches while walking in the clubhouse on Sunday.

      "It's something that we don't necessarily want to push too much, just for the simple fact that we have a little extra time with spring training right now," the 31-year-old Donaldson said. "I'm just making sure that whenever I step back on the field, it's ready to go and I'm ready to be able to push it."

      Donaldson batted .284 with 37 homers and 99 RBIs in 2016 to record his second straight AL Silver Slugger Award for third basemen.

      --Chicago White Sox outfielder Charlie Tilson will be shut down from impact activities for the next 10 days as he deals with a stress reaction in his right foot.

      An MRI exam on Saturday revealed the injury for Tilson, who is aiming to return from a torn left hamstring that occurred in his lone game with the White Sox last season.

      Tilson, who is bidding to be Chicago's starting center fielder this season, was acquired from the St. Louis Cardinals in a trade deadline deal for left-hander Zach Duke in July. Tilson, however, saw his season come to an end on Aug. 2 after attempting to run down a blast from Detroit Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera.

      --Clayton Kershaw is the no-brainer decision to start for the Los Angeles Dodgers on Opening Day when the left-handed ace will tie a franchise record.

      Kershaw, who is healthy after missing 2 1/2 months last season with a back injury, was officially named the starter by manager Dave Roberts on Saturday, tying him with Don Drysdale and Don Sutton with seven.

      Kershaw will make his seventh consecutive Opening Day start when the Dodgers begin the season at home against the San Diego Padres on April 3. He has a 0.93 ERA in his six Opening Day starts, going 4-0 as the Dodgers won all of those games.

      Kershaw, a three-time National League Cy Young Award winner, was having another superb season in 2016 when he was shut down with a herniated disc in his back after losing in Pittsburgh on June 26. He was dominant before his injury, posting an 11-2 record with a 1.79 ERA. Kershaw returned to the starting rotation in September and finished the regular season 12-4 with a 1.69 ERA in 21 games.

      --The Arizona Diamondbacks signed veteran left-hander Jorge De La Rosa to a minor league deal with an invitation to major league spring training.

      De La Rosa, 35, is expected to compete for a bullpen role after spending most of his 13-year major league career as a starter.

      De La Rosa appeared in 27 games (24 starts) for the Colorado Rockies last season, going 8-9 with a 5.51 ERA over 134 innings pitched.

  • Diamondbacks ink LHP De La Rosa to minor league deal
    By The Sports Xchange / Sunday, February 19, 2017

    The Arizona Diamondbacks signed veteran left-hander Jorge De La Rosa to a minor league deal on Sunday with an invitation to major league spring training.

    • De La Rosa, 35, is expected to compete for a bullpen role after spending most of his 13-year major league career as a starter.

      De La Rosa appeared in 27 games (24 starts) for the Colorado Rockies last season, going 8-9 with a 5.51 ERA over 134 innings pitched.

      De La Rosa spent the past nine years with the Rockies (2008-16). He also pitched for the Kansas City Royals (2006-2007) and Milwaukee Brewers (2004-2006).

      For his career, De La Rosa is 101-84 with a 4.64 ERA in 306 games (241 starts).

  • White Sox OF Tilson out with foot injury
    By The Sports Xchange / Sunday, February 19, 2017

    Chicago White Sox outfielder Charlie Tilson will be shut down from impact activities for the next 10 days as he deals with a stress reaction in his right foot.

    • An MRI exam on Saturday revealed the injury for Tilson, who is aiming to return from a torn left hamstring that occurred in his lone game with the White Sox last season.

      "Certainly I guess you could say I'm disappointed, but it's a very minor setback and it's part of the process," the 24-year-old Tilson said. "I had a major repair, and these things come up, and hopefully we can minimize them as much as we can, and hopefully this is the last one. I'm just going to deal with it and do whatever I can to move forward.

      "It's certainly something I'm aware of, my right leg early on in the process of recovering was bearing a lot of weight. As much as I try to stay even and that's a lot of what the rehab is, unfortunately something like this came up. Fortunately we were very proactive about it."

      Tilson, who is bidding to be Chicago's starting center fielder this season, was acquired from the St. Louis Cardinals in a trade deadline deal for left-hander Zach Duke in July. Tilson, however, saw his season come to an end on Aug. 2 after attempting to run down a blast from Detroit Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera.

  • Blue Jays 3B Donaldson sidelined with calf ailment
    By The Sports Xchange / Sunday, February 19, 2017

    Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson expects to be sidelined two-to-three weeks due to a right calf strain.

    • Donaldson admitted that he felt something grab his muscle while running sprints during a workout on Friday. The 2015 American League Most Valuable Player and three-time All-Star underwent an MRI exam the following day and required the use of crutches while walking in the clubhouse on Sunday.

      "It's something that we don't necessarily want to push too much, just for the simple fact that we have a little extra time with spring training right now," the 31-year-old Donaldson said. "I'm just making sure that whenever I step back on the field, it's ready to go and I'm ready to be able to push it."

      Toronto general manager Ross Atkins told MLB.com that Donaldson's calf issues last season are unrelated to the current ailment.

      Donaldson batted .284 with 37 homers and 99 RBIs in 2016 to record his second straight AL Silver Slugger Award for third basemen.

  • Dodgers LHP Kershaw earns seventh straight Opening Day start
    By The Sports Xchange / Sunday, February 19, 2017

    Clayton Kershaw is the no-brainer decision to start for the Los Angeles Dodgers on Opening Day when the left-handed ace will tie a franchise record.

    • Kershaw, who is healthy after missing 2 1/2 months last season with a back injury, was officially named the starter by manager Dave Roberts on Saturday, tying him with Don Drysdale and Don Sutton with seven.

      "It's really special company," Kershaw said. "You take a little bit of pride in wanting to do it every year. I'm thankful to get to do it so long for the same team. Not a lot of people get to do that. It's pretty cool."

      Kershaw will make his seventh consecutive Opening Day start when the Dodgers begin the season at home against the San Diego Padres on April 3.

      "Obviously Clayton will be the starter and do what he does," Roberts said in Glendale, Ariz. "I'm looking forward to having all of us there in Los Angeles."

      Kershaw has a 0.93 ERA in his six Opening Day starts, going 4-0 as the Dodgers won all of those games.

      "Any time you get to do it is special. ... It's always fun to get the season going and to be a part of it," said Kershaw, who turns 29 on March 19. "I hope I get to do it for 10 more years. I don't feel old, but getting to do it seven times, I guess I've been around a little bit."

      Kershaw, a three-time National League Cy Young Award winner, was having another superb season in 2016 when he was shut down with a herniated disc in his back after losing in Pittsburgh on June 26. He was dominant before his injury, posting an 11-2 record with a 1.79 ERA.

      Kershaw returned to the starting rotation in September and finished the regular season 12-4 with a 1.69 ERA in 21 games. He was 2-1 with a 4.44 ERA in the postseason with his first career save. For his career, Kershaw is 126-60 with a 2.37 ERA.

  • Yankees beat Betances in arbitration, team president rips agent
    By The Sports Xchange / Saturday, February 18, 2017

    The New York Yankees won their arbitration case over reliever Dellin Betances on Saturday and then team president Randy Levine criticized Betances and his agent for requesting $5 million.

    • The three arbitrators chose the Yankees submission of $3 million but Levine was highly displeased after the decision. He cited that Betances' agent, Jim Murray, spent a large portion of Friday's 90-minute hearing saying that the three-time All-Star setup man was as valuable as a closer.

      "What his agent did was make him a victim of an attempt to change a marketplace in baseball that has been well-established for 30 or 40 years," Levine told reporters at the Yankees' spring training headquarters in Tampa, Fla. "And I feel bad for Dellin that he was used in that way by his agent, because anyone who knows about this process (realizes) that the history is very much established -- that $5 million goes to elite closers."

      Murray insisted that the fact Betances doesn't pitch in the ninth inning is irrelevant.

      "It is like me saying, 'I'm not the president of the Yankees, I'm an astronaut,'" Levine said. "I'm not an astronaut, and Dellin Betances is not a closer, at least based on statistics, not whether he could be or couldn't."

      Betances recorded 12 saves last season while striking out 126 batters in just 73 innings. He went 3-6 with a 3.08 ERA. In 225 career appearances with New York, he has a 2.16 ERA, 22 saves and has struck out 404 in 254 2/3 innings.

      Betances indicated that he planned to move on after the contentious arbitration case. His mindset changed when the New York native heard Levine's comments.

      "I was planning on putting everything behind me until I was aware of Randy Levine's comments saying I was the victim in this whole process and saying how much they love me," Betances said. "But then they take me in a room, trash me for about an hour-and-a-half. I thought that was unfair."

      Betances leads all relievers in innings pitched over the past three seasons. He said he will consider making himself unavailable to pitch multiple innings on some occasions this season.

      Yankees manager Joe Girardi said Betances hasn't declined to enter a game over the past three seasons. Girardi believes the situation will be resolved by the time the regular season arrives.

      Murray said hard feelings will remain -- Betances will be eligible for free agency following the 2020 campaign -- due to Levine's public comments.

      "As you know, it's not my style or our style as a company to comment to the media on anything," Murray told Fox Sports. "However, we are not going to be bullied by the Yankees' team president. His statements are reprehensible and outright false. His desire to conduct a news conference today amounts to nothing but grandstanding and trying to mislead the media.

      "With regards to Dellin, it was very ironic to hear the Yankees' president express his love and affection when he spent the only portion of the hearing to which he contributed, calling this player by the wrong first name. It is Dellin, for the record.

      "He then proceeded to blame Dellin for the Yankees' declining ticket sales and their lack of playoff history while trying to bully the panel, saying something to the effect that the sky will fall if they rule for the player. He is not going to bully this player."

  • Gagne, 41, makes Team Canada WBC roster
    By The Sports Xchange / Saturday, February 18, 2017

    Former Cy Young Award winner Eric Gagne has not pitched in the major leagues since he was a member of the Milwaukee Brewers in 2008 -- and he was not very good that season, compiling a 5.44 ERA in 46 1/3 innings.

    • But the dream to play again lives on for the 41-year-old, who has earned a spot on Team Canada's roster for the World Baseball Classic later this month. He's also been serving as a guest pitching instructor for the Los Angeles Dodgers, and all signs point to Gagne attempting a comeback.

      Gagne told mlb.com that his fastball has been clocked in the 90s and that his go-to pitch that helped him win the Cy Young in 2003 -- the changeup -- has returned.

      "I feel great. It's almost scary," he said.

      Gagne has had throwing sessions with the San Diego Padres and Arizona Diamondbacks. The last time he appeared in a spring training camp was with the Dodgers in 2010. But Gagne was feeling the effects of multiple surgeries on his elbow and back and was assigned to the Dodgers' minor league camp. He asked for his release, which was granted.

      He served as a pitching coach for France in the 2013 World Baseball Classic.

      Last season, he pitched in one game for Ottawa of the independent Canadian-American Association. He allowed just one run, two hits and struck out six in five innings.

      In a 10-year career that included stops in Texas, Boston and Milwaukee in addition to Los Angeles, Gagne compiled 187 saves, including 55 in 2003. He recorded 718 strikeouts in 643 2/3 innings.

  • Padres, P Weaver agree to 1-year deal
    By The Sports Xchange / Saturday, February 18, 2017

    Veteran right-hander Jered Weaver and the San Diego Padres on Saturday agreed to a one-year deal worth $3 million.

    • The San Diego Union-Tribune said the deal is pending on Weaver passing his physical.

      The deal makes Weaver the Padres' highest-paid pitcher, and he joins a rotation that will be significantly different than last year's, which included Andrew Cashner, James Shields and Tyson Ross, all of whom are no longer with the team.

      "The idea behind the signing (of Weaver) was somebody who can log innings, somebody who still has a lot to prove and wants to pitch," San Diego general manager A.J. Preller told the Union-Tribune.

      "He's always been a winner his entire career. Guys that have been there, been in the postseason, I think from that standpoint he brings a lot to our team and some of the other pitchers that are in that locker room."

      Weaver spent the first 11 seasons of his career with the Los Angeles Angels and compiled a 150-93 record with a 3.55 ERA. He appeared in three straight All-Star games from 2010-2012.

      The 34-year-old suffered his worst season last year. He went 12-12 in 31 starts and gave up a league-leading 37 home runs.

      Weaver is expected to join veteran Jhoulys Chacin and Clayton Richard in the Padres' starting rotation.

  • Dodgers re-sign 2B Utley at 38
    By The Sports Xchange / Saturday, February 18, 2017

    The Los Angeles Dodgers officially re-signed second baseman Chase Utley to a one-year contract on Saturday.

    • The Dodgers opened a roster spot for Utley by releasing infielder/outfielder Darin Ruf so he could sign with the Samsung Lions of the Korean Baseball Organization.

      The 38-year-old Utley was the Dodgers' starting second baseman in 2016, but he returns in a bench role after the team acquired Logan Forsythe from the Tampa Bay Rays in a trade last month.

      "I'm going to make sure Chase gets his at-bats," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said recently. "It's going to work itself out. But the big thing is Chase wanted to be here and be part of what we've got going on."

      Utley batted .252 with 14 home runs and 52 RBIs in 138 games last season. Over his 14-year major league career, he is hitting .278 with 250 home runs and 977 RBIs.

  • Swisher officially retires
    By The Sports Xchange / Saturday, February 18, 2017

    Nick Swisher won't be returning the major leagues this year or in the future.

    • After not having played in a big-league game since 2014, Swisher officially announced his retirement on Thursday through a statement in The Players Tribune.

      "Your body tells you when it's time to call it quits," Swisher said. "And this offseason, my body was screaming, 'The dream is over, baby!' And I can't argue with that."

      Knee injuries took their toll and made the 36-year-old Swisher decide during the offseason that he had enough.

      Swisher won't be out of work, though. In addition to working as a guest instructor during spring training with the New York Yankees, he'll start a new TV gig with Fox Sports as a studio analyst.

      Swisher played in 76 games in 2014 with the Atlanta Braves and Cleveland Indians in his last major league action.

      Last year, Swisher attempted to resume his career and he played in 55 games for the Yankees' Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre franchise. He left in July when his second child was born.

      Swisher hangs it up with a .249 career batting average, 245 home runs and 803 RBIs in 12 major league seasons. His stops included the Oakland Athletics (2004-07), Chicago White Sox (2008), Yankees (2009-12), Indians (2013-15) and Braves (2015).

      Swisher's best seasons were 2006 with the Athletics, when he hit 35 home runs and had 95 RBIs and a .254 batting average, and in 2010 with the Yankees, when he batted .288 with 29 homers and 89 RBIs.

      The No. 16 overall selection in the 2002 amateur draft out of Ohio State, Swisher was part of a World Series championship team with the Yankees in 2009.