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Toronto Blue Jays’ Troy Tulowitzki won’t be ready for opener



The Toronto Blue Jays won’t have shortstop Troy Tulowitzki for Opening Day as he continues to deal with a bone spur in his right heel.

Manager John Gibbons made the announcement Tuesday. Tulowitzki has participated in on-field work this spring but has yet to run at full speed.

“I think you can write Tulo off right now,” Gibbons told reporters. “He’s not ready to play in game action. It wouldn’t be fair to him, either, because he’s going to need to build up and get some at-bats, really test that thing out. Make sure when he comes back, he’s really ready to go. I think you can eliminate that.”

The Blue Jays open the season March 29 against the Yankees.

“When Tulo’s ready to go, that’s his job,” Gibbons said. “I’ve been watching him work out, swing the bat. It’s all been BP, of course, but I think he looks great right now. Now it’s just a matter of getting him running. That’s the only thing hampering him now. We’ll see how that develops.”

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Inside the mask — An umpire crew chief on mound visits, mad managers and having your call overturned



Ted Barrett has been a major league umpire since 1994 and a crew chief since 2013. He has worked nine postseason division series, eight championship series and three World Series. He’s well-respected among his peers, players and managers. After a recent spring game, he sat down for a Q&A, which included everything from the new limit on mound visits to instant replay to the strike zone — and plenty in between.

How will this work, logistically? How will umpires keep track of mound visits?

Ted Barrett: They plan on putting it on the scoreboard for everyone to see. Something new this year will be a direct [phone] line to the press box in case there’s a mix-up. We can go right over to the dugout between innings or even call timeout and get it taken care of.

We’ve gotten that question from pitching coaches and managers. You’ll see the umpire signal one, and then it will go on the board.

That’s the easy question. Now the tough one: What’s going to constitute a mound visit outside of the obvious ones?

We’re still working on it. The iffy ones are when the infielder goes in. We’re still working on some defining points, like if you go on the [mound] dirt or something like that. There has to be some guidelines for everyone. Halfway to the mound and stuff like that will get worked out. That’s why they put the rule in regarding infielders. They didn’t want teams finding a loophole. You know, instead of catchers going out there, they might send the third baseman. By Opening Day, there will be no gray area.

Have you heard of some of the various scenarios in which there might be a visit that doesn’t slow the game down? For example, a long home run trot. Can a catcher go out there while the batter is running around the bases without it counting?

Yes, those will be allowed and won’t count. If it doesn’t slow the game down, we’ll use some common sense. If a pitcher covers first base and the first baseman and he have a quick conversation as he walks back to the mound, that won’t count. Or the home run trot thing. The catcher just has to be back behind the plate for the next hitter. And there will be scenarios we don’t anticipate. Hopefully, it will be obvious for everyone.

One exception is a pitcher/catcher cross-up. But who is going to determine when that happens?

That’s another one where I think it’s going to be obvious. The catcher missed it. It hits the umpire. “OK, get out there and straighten that out.” The abuse could come in if he says to me, “Hey, we need to get our signals straight.” We’re not going to allow that. A cross-up has to happen. I don’t think guys will do that on purpose just to get a mound visit.

What about the hitter? Have you been instructed to speed them up?

To start the inning, we want the hitter in the box as the catcher throws down to second. There seems to be a lot of dead time there. Sometimes the hitter waits for his name to be announced and stuff like that. We still have the rules in place where a hitter can’t step out after a pitch.

Can you give me your opinion on a pitch clock?

I’ll say this: When I came into the league in 1994, guys were quicker about going about their business. That has slowed down. I do think the people at the top are smart in thinking about the future. They’re smart thinking about young kids.

I’ve always been a purist. I don’t like change, but since I’ve been in the big leagues, all the changes have eventually worked out.

Have your feelings on replay changed over time?

I was always happy with the fact that you can go out there without the fear of having a play named after you. The “Jim Joyce” play. The “Don Denkinger” play. There’s a lot of pressure. Then in the World Series, you don’t want to be the story. With replay, that’s taken that away.

It is tough to make a play, go to replay, stand there and get overturned. We know what the players feel like when they make an error or strike out. My thing was always, like, “You struck out, so what? It happens.” Now we understand what it feels like.

What’s that like? To get overturned?

At first, it was tough. I’m sitting there looking at the board thinking I’m still right — and then it’s overturned.

My crew was one of the last to rotate in there [the replay booth]. Once you’re in there, you see the technology. You see the way you can freeze things. That has made it easier. And another thing that’s big is those are fellow umpires in there. I trust them. But anytime you fail, that’s tough. You have to get over it. And it’s not just when the game is on the line: I would feel bad if I cost a guy a base hit.

What about arguments with managers? They’ve changed because of replay.

It’s more like, “I’m just the messenger.” A lot of managers will say, “I know it’s not your call. I’m just upset about what they’re seeing in New York.”

Have you even once called blocking the plate, live, as it happens?

I’ve never called it. If I see it, I’d call it, but it’s a tough one. There is so much going on during a play at the plate. It’s a constant moving, changing situation. Focusing on tag and slide is hard enough. It’s tough to see blocking live. If it’s blatant, I’ll call it. Otherwise, replay will do the overturning.

How frustrating is the pop-up slide thing, where a guy comes off the bag by the smallest of margins?

There are some things that happen that you don’t have the ability to see with the human eye. That’s difficult. I think pickoffs at first have increased because of it. You know, the NFL has talked about changing the definition of a catch. We may have to change the definition of a tag. Umpires are used to using sound. When someone pops up off the bag for a split second, that’s a whole other thing. Those are hard.

The elephant in the room is balls and strikes. You must be aware of the scrutiny now with the combination of technology and social media.

We’re aware of it. We’re aware there are websites that rank us and stuff like that. We also know there are different technologies.

It’s really hard to go out there and try to do your job when you know you’re not going to be perfect. That’s why I’d like to think we’re a special breed of men. We can lock out the external stuff, run a ballgame and do the best we can. We stick together. I’ll be in replay and afterwards text a guy and tell him he did a great job.

How much post-analysis do you do? Do you try to get better within your strike zone even after all these years?

The technology has helped. And it’s getting better and better. The day after running the plate, I’ll get on the computer and watch every pitch that I called — maybe not every pitch but those that I knew at the time were borderline or a hitter will say something.

If I’m consistently missing pitches in the same spot, now I know I have to make an adjustment. I’ll give you one from early on. Left-handed batters, I had a tendency to call a strike too far on the outside corner. I positioned myself better to get a better look at the corner.

Even now, I’ll go back and look, “Is my head height too low? Am I being blocked out? Am I in the slot enough?” Lots of things I look at with my stance.

Can you have a weakness on a certain pitch?

Possibly, if you’re not tracking the ball with your eyes. Pitches that have a lot of movement and I’m calling too soon, I’m probably not tracking all the way with my eyes.

It’s a never-ending self-analysis. That’s the biggest thing I want to get across to people that say, “Big league umpires have no accountability.” Every play and pitch we call is analyzed. We get reviewed on everything. It’s not always public, just like internal things with players and teams aren’t always public. We make every effort to be at our best.

Over the past year, you guys have created a Twitter account for umpires. Why?

We found that the NBA was able to kind of get their point of view out sometimes using Twitter. We’re just following their lead. We haven’t done a lot with it, but we might look to just get our side out on a play the baseball world is talking about.

What about fans? Do you hear their taunting?

I try to block it out. My brother was an actor. He called it the fourth wall. You just pretend like they’re not there. It’s worse in the minors, when it’s nickel beer night and they are just wearing you out. You want to go up in the stands and go after them. My blood would start boiling.

Here’s one good story from the minors. I was working with Bill Miller, and we had a play at third end the game, and as we were leaving the field, some fan sticks his glasses in our face, and he’s yelling, “You need these, you need these.” So we take them and whip them down into the dugout, and we’re kind of laughing, saying “Way to go, way to go.” All of a sudden we see the guy. And he has a walker. And he’s trying to find his glasses. We felt about 1 inch tall.

What are your favorite interactions with a manager?

I remember throwing out [former Dodgers manager] Jim Tracy. Paul Lo Duca was catching, and he had two plays at the plate. Lo Duca was giving me crap on both of them. So Tracy comes out and says he had a perfect angle on both of them and I was right, but you have to throw me out. So he’s yelling and screaming, and I throw him out, and he goes to kick the chalk, and he stubbed his toe. So he comes hobbling out to home plate the next day and says, “That’s what I get for putting on a show. I broke my toe.”

What’s worse: 30 degrees or 95 degrees?

Ninety-five in Phoenix is good. Ninety-five in Chicago or one of those [humid] places is not good. Now that the AstroTurf is gone in Kansas City, it’s better. My feet used to be on fire. I’d choose cold because you can always layer up. Hot you can’t do anything about.

I know you’re not allowed to answer which pitchers have the best stuff or questions like that, but can you tell me who’s the most talkative player and who’s the most serious on the field?

Talkative is an easy one because I’m a boxing fan, and Joey Votto is a big boxing fan, so I talk to him all the time. In fact, if you see me talking to a lot of players, it’s usually about boxing. A former player that was nice but very serious was Darin Erstad. He was very classy and hard-nosed. He would say hi and that was it. I used to tell my sons to watch him.

Do you focus on officiating when you watch other sports?

Yeah, it’s really a pain. It’s kind of ruined sports for me. I used to love watching the NBA, and all I do now is watch the refs. I go to the Coyotes games in Arizona here, and I watch the officials. It’s amazing how they skate and avoid pucks.

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What losing Justin Turner means for the Dodgers – SweetSpot



The Los Angeles Dodgers suffered a significant injury when Justin Turner broke his wrist after being was hit by a pitch Monday night. Turner said the injury was a small nondisplaced fracture, and while the Dodgers didn’t report a potential timetable for his return, he’ll likely be out a few weeks and maybe until the beginning of May.

The Dodgers have multiple options here in the meantime. Logan Forsythe likely slides over to third base, where he started 31 games last season. Chase Utley probably gets more playing time at second, at least against right-handers, but Enrique Hernandez, Chris Taylor and Austin Barnes can all play second as well.

An Utley/Hernandez platoon at second seems like a strong possibility, especially since Matt Kemp has performed well enough in the spring (.317/.341/.659, four home runs) to not only earn a roster spot, but possibly start as the regular left fielder. With Turner out, the Dodgers may need Kemp’s power potential: Remember, this is a guy who slugged 35 home runs two seasons ago and 19 in 115 games with the Braves last season.

Turner’s injury could open up a roster spot for Joc Pederson, who may otherwise have been squeezed out in the glut of outfielders, or perhaps for third catcher/pinch hitter Kyle Farmer. Carrying him would allow Barnes to play some second base (he played 21 games there last season, although he made just four starts). The Dodgers have also raved about the swing changes Hernandez has made, which could allow him to play more against right-handers (in his career, he has an .883 OPS against lefties and just .589 against righties).

A 13-player Opening Day roster could look like this:

Catchers: Yasmani Grandal, Austin Barnes, Kyle Farmer

Infielders: Cody Bellinger, Chase Utley, Corey Seager, Logan Forsythe

Outfielders: Yasiel Puig, Chris Taylor, Matt Kemp, Andrew Toles, Joc Pederson

IF/OF: Enrique Hernandez

Outfielder Alex Verdugo would be the other player in the running for a spot.

Of course, the major concern is whether Turner’s injury lingers, as wrist injuries often do. While the Dodgers won 104 games in 2017, they weren’t necessarily an offensive powerhouse, ranking sixth in the National League in runs scored, a total lifted by the surprise performances of Bellinger and Taylor. Turner, however, was the team’s best all-around hitter, slashing .322/.415/.530 over 130 games with 21 home runs and 71 RBIs. If he hadn’t missed 19 games in May and early June with a hamstring issue, he may have finished in the top three of the MVP voting (he still finished eighth).

Another concern for the Dodgers’ offense is the fact that Corey Seager has been handled carefully after playing through a sore right elbow in the second half last year, an injury that caused him to sit for 10 games at one point and sapped his power down the stretch. He didn’t require offseason surgery, but he has also played just 12 innings in the field so far and, for what it’s worth, struggled at the plate, hitting .156 in 32 at-bats.

One thing to watch is how all this affects the defense. Even after shedding a reported 40 pounds, Kemp is unlikely to reverse his trend of terrible defensive metrics (he posted minus-17 defensive runs saved last year, minus-18 in 2016 and minus-15 in 2015). Forsythe graded out as a solid second baseman (plus-5 DRS), while Utley’s range has obviously diminished at his age. Seager will also have to show his elbow is sound. The Dodgers were second in the majors with 66 defensive runs saved last year, a big key to their success. That figure could regress significantly, especially if Kemp actually ends up playing a lot in left field.

None of this probably costs the Dodgers the division, but home-field advantage in the NL certainly figures to be a tough fight. A win or two could be the difference between starting a series at Dodger Stadium or starting one at Wrigley Field (or Nationals Park). Note as well: Twelve of the Dodgers’ first 14 games are against the Giants and Diamondbacks. They also have seven more games against those two clubs in late April/early May, when Turner may or may not be back. If those teams want to catch the Dodgers, they need to take advantage of the Dodgers playing without Turner.

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Fantasy MLB – Third base position preview



The MLB season is 10 days away, and ESPN’s fantasy baseball experts have gathered to break down each position to help you prepare your draft-day strategy.

How are our fantasy analysts approaching the third base position, and which players are they picking and avoiding in their drafts?

For more position previews, plus rankings, cheat sheets and mock drafts, check out our draft kit.

How are you approaching the third base position this season?

Several of my deep-league sleepers play third base, and while that is perhaps the first thing I notice about the position, it is not the only thing. Third base is solid at the top with several building block options, and even though there is a drop-off to No. 5 choice Anthony Rendon, he seems to be the one I end up acquiring. Rendon finished last season fourth at the position on the Player Rater. I am also willing to wait until the middle rounds for a certain future Hall of Famer nobody seems to want, even though he hit .312 with power last season. — Eric Karabell

Third base is the one position for which I don’t have any defined strategy. I think it’s deep but also has some of the more intriguing values of any one particular spot. This could result in it being one of the more heavily drafted spots in some leagues, or one where I might be able to get cheaper options in the later rounds depending on how the draft plays out. A weekend auction draft of mine featured a lot of quality talent at the position still available at discounts late. — Tristan H. Cockcroft

Third base is, in a word, loaded. The top 10 at the position all project to give back enough value to merit being selected in the first six rounds. The next eight names should all be off the board by the end of Round 12. In other words, I don’t see an absolute need to take Nolan Arenado in Round 1. While I’d be completely happy to end up with enough hot corner residents to use one at my CO spot and another at UT, if I’m debating between two players of generally equivalent value, I’ll probably select the non-3B player since odds are good that waiting another round or two at this position will not hurt me. — AJ Mass

With just over 21 percent of 25-homer guys residing at third base last season, there is no question that I want some pop from the hot corner. Having said that, the third base position also has a plethora of hitters who combine power with average (22 percent of the players who hit 25-plus home runs while also batting at least .270 played the position), so this is a position I will pay up for to make sure I am getting reliable production. — Kyle Soppe

My sleeper at third base is:

Adrian Beltre might be older than every other third baseman, but he is not too old to supply top-100 value — yet his ADP continues to slip. Beltre hit last season. He hit well. He also got a year older. It is an obvious bias, but Beltre makes my top 100. I also really like Miami’s Brian Anderson, a more obvious sleeper for the final round or two. — Eric Karabell

I’m probably the most pro-Matt Chapman of anyone out there, putting him on my recent “Tristan’s Twenty” list. I think his defense is so good that the typically matchups-driven Oakland Athletics will roll him out there almost every single day, fueling his counting numbers. A 30-homer season isn’t out of the question. — Tristan H. Cockcroft

How early would you draft a guy who gives you 24 homers, 74 RBIs, 8 SBs and a .294 BA? That’s in the ballpark of what Rendon gave you in 2017, earning him a sixth-place finish in NL MVP voting. However, it’s also what Travis Shaw gave you last season — entering play on Aug. 1. After a slow start to the spring, his bat is heating up again with four homers in his last 21 at-bats. Currently, his ADP barely has him in the top 10 at third base, but I think he’s got an outside shot at finishing in the top three. — AJ Mass

Evan Longoria might not scream “sleeper” to you, as everyone is well aware of the newest San Francisco Giants slugger, but ADP has him sitting as 3B16 and the 164th overall player. That leaves nice ROI potential. At the bare minimum, you can count on him being on the field (he is the only player in the bigs with 600-plus at-bats in each of the past five seasons), but I think the potential for a resurgent season goes beyond that. He figures to be batting in the middle third of the lineup, and while the Giants won’t light up the scoreboard much, the hitters slotted above him combine to have a career OBP in the .360 range. Longoria set a career high in contact percentage last season, and if that contact is coming with men regularly on base, I think he could make a run at his first 100-RBI season since 2010. — Kyle Soppe

My bust at third base is:

The price tag on Arizona’s Jake Lamb has fallen quite a bit since last season, just like his batting average did, but now I have concerns about batting average and power. Lamb just cannot compete with left-handed pitching, and the fact that his home ballpark is using a humidor to keep offense in check does not bode well for a player who has hit 35 of his 59 home runs in Phoenix over the past two seasons. — Eric Karabell

I share Eric’s concern here. No one stands out as a particularly poor pick using ADP as the measure, but Lamb is a player I don’t anticipate landing in too many leagues. Too much of his fantasy value is tied up in home runs (and resulting RBIs), as he graded below average in a mixed league context for batting average last season, and the introduction of a humidor at Arizona’s Chase Field this season threatens his ability to repeat the power output. — Tristan H. Cockcroft

Manny Machado had a great season in 2017 — from June 1 on, that is, with a .284 BA, 23 homers and 70 RBIs. That said, beyond the .205 BA he posted over the first 50 games of the season, Machado hit just .229 on the road last season, which is a bit concerning. Add in the extra wear and tear that could come from the move to shortstop and I’m simply concerned that Round 2 might be too soon, especially if Machado has another extended slump and starts to press given his “walk year” status. Machado could indeed win the AL MVP with 45 homers if all goes well, but I’m not sure I want to bank on that. — AJ Mass

My goal is to get a well-rounded third baseman, and it’s safe to say that Joey Gallo does not qualify as such. Thanks, but no thanks. In his first full season, Gallo ranked behind only Chris Davis in strikeout percentage (36.8 percent), a major concern on its own, but when you consider that he wasn’t even among the top 50 players in chase rate, you really have to wonder if his approach is anywhere refined enough to return value for a top-100 pick. If he had a high chase rate, I could hope for growth and call upon his production when swinging at strikes, but the fact that I can’t explain the high K-rate by an inability to identify strikes worries me. I believe this Texas offense as a whole is a bit overrated, as Elvis Andrus is poised to regress and Shin-Soo Choo and Beltre have seen better days. Gallo simply doesn’t fit my profile, and there is enough depth at the position to not take such a hit in the batting average department. — Kyle Soppe

If I could get any third baseman at his current draft position cost to build around in drafts, it would be:

The big four third basemen are pretty obvious, so I will go with Rendon, coming off a season in which he batted .301 with power and was one of a handful of players to earn more walks than strikeouts. The baseline for Rendon might not be as high as it is for Arenado, but you do not have to spend a top-five pick to secure him, either. Rendon also chips in stolen bases, which you will not find many of at this position. — Eric Karabell

If it’s not Chapman, the other third baseman I’m drafting everywhere is Rendon. His reputation for being injury-prone is a little unfair, as he has averaged 134 games played over the past four seasons and appeared in at least 147 in each of the past two. He’s also capable of contributing positive numbers in all five categories, averaging .280-20-84 with 10 stolen bases and 94 runs scored per 162 games played in his career. — Tristan H. Cockcroft

Nicholas Castellanos qualifies at third base, though he’ll be far less taxed by manning right field for the Detroit Tigers on the regular in 2018. In 21 games in the outfield last season, Castellanos hit .380 with five homers and 20 RBIs — all of which took place in the season’s final month — which is why we’re not at all worried about his transition to a new position. If anything, freed from the stress of worrying about potential line drives headed for his noggin, he should see his offensive production continue to surge. So far this spring, he’s slugging .763 in 38 at-bats. I’m buying it. — AJ Mass

Alex Bregman is a star, and this will be as cheap as you will be able to get him for the next decade. So yeah, take advantage. His OPS in the second half last season was greater than that of Cody Bellinger, and I don’t think it was at all a fluke, as he showed nice growth in knocking 3.2 percentage points off of his strikeout rate after the All-Star break. The Houston Astros scored 38 more runs than any other offense on the planet last season, and with no real reason to think that changes, Bregman is not only the best building block given his draft-day price at the hot corner, he also sits atop my overall targets list. The only thing standing in the way of true stardom (other than the impending breakout campaign) is a good nickname, so let’s get on that. — Kyle Soppe

The young third baseman who could break out is:

One should not assume that Castellanos emerges as a star simply because he no longer needs to play third base. That should help him concentrate more on his hitting, but the fact is Castellanos has been trending as a star hitter for a while. He hits baseballs hard with enough lift for 35 home runs and a strong batting average. I see a breakout coming. — Eric Karabell

Nick Senzel is going to make his major league debut sometime this season, and the fact that he’s still in Cincinnati Reds‘ big league camp 10 days before spring training concludes is a very good sign that he’s firmly in the Reds’ near-future plans. The team has been getting creative with him in the infield, which could help in terms of position flexibility, and he has a good combination of batting average and power potential to make him a worthwhile late-round stash, even in re-draft formats. — Tristan H. Cockcroft

Gallo’s 2017 was quite the campaign, as he became one of only seven players since 1980 to strike out more than 175 times while also compiling less than 100 hits. Add to the mix that 43.6 percent of those hits were home runs and we’re looking at the very definition of an all-or-nothing bat. That said, the Rangers are talking about hitting Gallo No. 2 in the order to allow him to see more first-pitch fastballs, thanks to the speed of leadoff hitter Delino DeShields. Given that Gallo hit .310 last year when putting the first pitch of his at-bats into play, I’m looking for the 24-year-old to take a huge step forward. — AJ Mass

A proud member of the elite first-name, last-initial club, Kyle Seager changed his approach last season to produce more fly balls, and it was a bit of a bumpy ride. He set a career low with a .249 batting average, but what do you expect when making a midseason adjustment? Seager’s batting eye was as strong as ever (career-low chase rate), and the addition of Dee Gordon should result in more traffic on the bases. I’m expecting both his quality and quantity of hits to increase. I’m labeling “breakout” as someone who will improve on 2017 and provide strong value, which I think Seager does in spades this season. — Kyle Soppe

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