Gausman tosses 3 perfect innings

Baltimore Orioles pitcher Kevin Gasuman retired all nine batters he faced on Saturday, striking out five.

Only one ball of the 39 Gausman pitched went beyond the infield, and the Orioles went on to beat the Phillies 4-2.

Gausman’s Spring Training debut was cut short on Monday after a collision at the plate.

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MLB Preview: Colorado Rockies

The Colorado Rockies are an interesting team to watch as we progress through spring training and into the start of the regular season, with multiple positions still up for grabs and rookies trying to make the Opening Day Roster.

There was a cloud of uncertainty at first base throughout the offseason for the Rockies. Mark Reynolds still has not been re-signed, so it would appear that the club is comfortable moving forward with a combination of No. 3 prospect Ryan McMahon and prized 2016 free-agent signee Ian Desmond to man first base.

McMahon served an abbreviated stint in the big leagues last season, earning three hits in 19 at-bats with one double and one RBI. After three spring games, McMahon is 3-for-6 with three RBIs two runs scored, a good sign early on. Desmond spent his first season in a Rockies uniform getting used to the transition from the outfield to first base, although he did spend most of his injury-shorted season playing left field. Desmond still needs work at first to become a reliable option, but a bounce-back 2018 season from him can certainly go a long way in helping the Rockies get back to the playoffs in 2018. Depending on how the two perform during the next month, expect to see Desmond spend most of his time back in the outfield and McMahon take over most of the time at first base.

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Ryan McMahon

Rockies GM Jeff Bridich made revamping the bullpen his top priority this offseason after free agency left some pretty big holes. The team re-signed Jake McGee and landed former Indians reliever Bryan Shaw, both on three year/$27 million deals. The biggest move came after the Winter Meetings, though, when Bridich inked 3-time All-Star closer Wade Davis to a three year, $52M contract to fill the hole at closer left by Greg Holland. If you add the new guys the Rockies landed this offseason to the already existing corps of reliable relievers the club already had, like Swiss Army Knife Chris Rusin and flamethrower Scott Oberg, this bullpen has the potential to be even better than what the Rockies had in 2017.

Finally, perhaps the most intriguing player to watch during camp is top prospect Brendan Rodgers. Through three spring games, Rodgers is 1-for-5 with a home run and two RBIs. He split the 2017 season in Class-A Advanced and Double-A. Overall, he hit .336/.373/.567 with 18 home runs and 64 RBIs, certainly meriting a call-up. Rodgers is knocking down the door, and while he will probably start the 2018 season in Double-A, it won’t take long for him to make the Triple-A roster. We could be seeing Rodgers’ first shot in the big leagues late this season, especially with incumbent second baseman DJ LeMahieu set to become a free agent after this year.

Expect the Rockies to finish this season with an 87-75 final record; the same as last season. While Bridich made some flashy moves in the bullpen, the rest of the team is largely the same, and second-year manager Bud Black will be relying on a lot of young players to carry the team back to Rocktober for the second year in a row.

MLB Preview: Arizona Diamondbacks

After an impressive 93-69 season, the Arizona Diamondbacks found themselves as the winners of the National League Wild Card Game against the Colorado Rockies early last October. It was a storybook season for the Snakes, who defied expectations time and time again on their way to their first playoff appearance since 2011.

But it was the Los Angeles Dodgers who, in a flash, ended the Diamondbacks’ season after a 3-game sweep in the National League Division Series. A season that was so magical – one in which star-first baseman Paul Goldschmidt finished in the top three in NL MVP voting and first-year skipper Torey Lovullo won NL Manager of the Year – was ripped away like candy from a child, and Arizona was left to wait until 2018.

But the Diamondbacks are ready to make a run at the playoffs again, and they don’t expect anything less of themselves. According to breakout-reliever Archie Bradley, they can do just that, too.

This article has been broken down into three parts: the returners, the newcomers and the sleepers. We’ll kick it off with the key returning members of the Diamondbacks’ squad who could help them reach their second consecutive postseason for the second time in franchise history.

The Returners

Star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt had one of the best seasons of his career last season. With the exception of September, “Goldy” was the driving force of the Diamondbacks, slashing .297/.404/.563 with 120 RBIs. Goldschmidt tied his career high in home runs with 36 in his fifth consecutive All-Star campaign in 2017 and should not disappoint in 2018. Throughout his career, Goldschmidt has been susceptible to minor injuries throughout his career – the most recent being a sore right elbow that sidelined him for a week in September – but as long as he stays healthy, the Diamondbacks will roll. With Giancarlo Stanton’s departure to the New York Yankees and the American League, I might even go as far to say that Paul Goldschmidt could win his first career Most Valuable Player this season – he’s only lost out three other times.

Since his entrance into the league in 2014, fans had been searching for the results Jake Lamb promised while he was ascending through the minor leagues. In 2017, he finally delivered and cemented himself as Arizona’s third baseman of the future. Lamb notched his first All-Star appearance in July after posting 20 home runs and 67 RBIs before the break. He cooled off in the second half of the year, but proved to manager Torey Lovullo that he belongs at the hot corner and will likely remain there barring any unforeseen circumstances. I expect another brilliant year from Lamb in the desert and predict he will remain one of the elite third basemen in a stacked National League field.

Another breakout year came from starting pitcher Robbie Ray, whom the D-backs acquired in a three-way trade with the Detroit Tigers and the Yankees. It’s often referred to as, “the Didi Gregorius trade” in Arizona, but I strongly believe that with Ray’s talent outbreak it should be Tigers fans mourning the loss of Ray. The 26-year-old fireballer posted a 2.89 ERA and struck out 218 hitters, good for third in the NL behind the Nationals’ Max Scherzer and the Mets’ Jacob DeGrom – and that’s with Ray having missed significant time after getting nailed in the head with a line drive on July 29. Make no mistake, Robbie Ray is molding himself into an ace and one of the best left-handed pitchers in all of baseball. That showed last year when Ray appeared in his first All-Star Game. It won’t be long before we see him atop the Diamondbacks’ rotation, but for now he’ll serve as their No. 2 with ace Zack Greinke still throwing the ball as well has he ever has. He finished seventh in NL Cy Young voting last year, and should contend for the title as long as he continues to dominate with his electric fastball and equally-astounding slider. For the second straight year, he should compliment the right arm of Zack Greinke beautifully.

Speaking of the Arizona ace, Greinke was also an All-Star last season, his fourth time. His contract looms over the D-backs front office, as he’s owed $138.5 million over the next four years, and likely is the reason general manager Mike Hazen couldn’t bring back slugging outfielder J.D. Martinez. Greinke had a superb 2017 campaign – with a 17-7 record and a 3.20 ERA – and should be expected to do the same entering his age-34 season. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if Diamondbacks fans were talking about Ray more than Greinke nearing season’s end.

The Newcomers

The departure of J.D. Martinez to the Boston Red Sox hurt for Arizona baseball fans and players alike. Just ask Archie Bradley, who showed his reaction to Martinez signing a 5 year/$110 million contract with the BoSox on Twitter.

But the Diamondbacks’ front office did a fantastic job filling Martinez’s void quickly after the 30-year-old outfielder signed his new deal.

Just 2 hours and 46 minutes after, Mike Hazen made a splash of his own by bringing in outfielder Jarrod Dyson on a 2 year/$7.5 million deal. Dyson offers something the D-backs have never possessed: elite speed. Over the course of his eight-year career, Dyson has rightfully earned the nickname. “Mr. Zoombiya,” swiping 204 career bags. Since 2012, he averaged 30 stolen bases per season with the Kansas City Royals and Seattle Mariners. Dyson offers a great fourth outfielder option for Torey Lovullo – he can play all three outfield positions with ease, utilizing his speed to cut down would-be doubles in the gap. Look for his speed to be key in late-game situations as well, as Lovullo will likely use Dyson as a pinch-runner when in search of a late offensive spark.

The next day, Hazen pivoted his attention to the trade market and acquired outfielder Steven Souza Jr. from the Tampa Bay Rays in a three-team deal that also included the Yankees. Hazen sent infielder Brandon Drury to New York and top pitching prospect Anthony Banda to Tampa Bay in the swap, with two players to be named later heading to the Rays as well. It was an incredibly cerebral move by the Diamondbacks’ front office, and here’s why: Souza Jr. will make $3.5 million this season and won’t be a free agent until 2021. The trade saves Arizona – for those of you without a calculator in front of you – $106.5 million and gives the D-backs an extremely important power bat in the middle of their lineup to hit, likely, behind Paul Goldschmidt. In 2017, Souza Jr. slashed .259/.351/.459, which may not seem eye popping to some. But, his 4.2 WAR, 121 OPS+, 30 home runs and 78 RBIs speak for themselves. Oh yeah, and that WAR? Better than Martinez’s 4.1. He’ll patrol the outfield with A.J. Pollock and David Peralta, two defensively proficient players that Souza Jr. will only add to. This trade will end up working wonders for the Diamondbacks in my opinion, and I expect Souza Jr.’s home run tally to climb in the thin desert air at Chase Field.

You want relief pitching? The Diamondbacks have it. New additions Brad Boxberger and Yoshihisa Hirano will help bolster the back of Arizona’s bullpen. Boxberger was acquired via trade with Tampa Bay (separate from the Souza Jr. deal) and is under club control through 2019. The 30-year-old righty led the American League in saves in 2015 with 41, and sports a career 3.19 ERA. Hirano, also a right-hander, comes to the desert on a 2 year/$6 million contract from Japan, where he played with the Onix Buffaloes of Nippon Professional Baseball (Japan’s top pro baseball league). Word on the street is that Hirano has a nasty splitter, which he’ll look to use throughout the spring while competing with Boxberger and Bradley for the closer’s role.

Another under-the-radar move Arizona made was signing catcher Alex Avila to a 2 year/$8.25 million contract. The D-backs lost Chris Iannetta to the division-rival Colorado Rockies, so Avila will likely plug in as the everyday starter, with Chris Herrmann and Jeff Mathis on the roster as well. Avila hit .264/.387/.447 in 2017 while driving in 49 runs for the Detroit Tigers and Chicago Cubs. In recent years, moves involving catching have been made with defense in mind. Avila threw out 31% of potential base stealers last season and has done so 29% of the time throughout his career.

The Sleepers

As previously alluded to, Diamondbacks’ reliever Archie Bradley believes that Arizona will reach the playoffs once again in 2018. He’s probably one of the bigger reasons why after his stellar outbreak in 2017 in which he started the year expecting to be a starter. Torey Lovullo ruled Bradley as the odd man out and moved him to the ‘pen, where he recreated himself as a lockdown set-up man and a smooth segue to the ninth inning. This year, he’ll compete for the closer’s role, and his statistics from last season leave no reason to believe he won’t get it. A 1.73 ERA in 73 innings made Bradley a staple coming out of the bullpen for the Diamondbacks. He even received an NL MVP vote! With the dominance he showed in 2017 – and you heard it here first – Archie Bradley will be in the All-Star Game in 2018.

The trade of Brandon Drury to the Bronx means one thing for the Diamondbacks: 24-year-old Ketel Marte is the future of the D-backs’ middle infield. Acquired by Arizona with righty Taijuan Walker on Thanksgiving Even in 2016, Marte platooned with Drury, Chris Owings and Nick Ahmed in a crowded 2017 middle infield. In 73 games, Marte hit .260 and shined defensively. It speaks volumes that Marte was Mike Hazen’s only untouchable middle infielder during trade talks in the offseason. They fully expect him to be a large part of their future. He had a three-hit, two-triple performance in the NL Wild Card Game. With a contact-speed skillset, Marte could prove to be just what the D-backs want in 2018.

At the back end of the Diamondbacks’ rotation sits right-hander Zack Godley. He had a sneaky good 2017 with a 3.37 ERA and 165 strikeouts. Most analysts were surprised by his output last year and expect more of the same this season. His trademark sprint to and from the mound allowed for 155 innings pitched, and as long as Godley stays healthy, the D-backs should be set with a solid rotation that will compete for the best in all of baseball. Last season, it did the same but with the progression of Godley and Taijuan Walker, this Arizona rotation could be one opponents dread.

MLB Preview: Baltimore Orioles

Following a last place finish in the AL East, the Baltimore Orioles are entering 2018 with a pitching staff thrown together at the last minute like a high schooler’s essay on The Great Gatsby, and the faces of the franchise have one foot out the door.

Despite this, and their elite closer being out until the until the All Star break, general manager Dan Duquette said the Orioles are looking to be contenders in 2018.

Okay, Dan.

Baltimore entered Spring Training with only two starting pitchers before signing Andrew Cashner and Chris Tillman during the first week of camp. They’ll join Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy on the rotation. The fifth spot is up for grabs, and is expected to go to someone currently in the bullpen such as Mike Wright, Gabriel Ynoa or Miguel Castro. Prospect Hunter Harvey could also make a push for the spot.

Star third baseman Manny Machado is coming off of a disappointing season. He wasn’t bad by any means but he certainly did not have the MVP caliber year that was expected. Look to see a better version of Machado in 2018. It’s a contract year for him — if he wants big money, he’ll need to put up big numbers.

Whether or not Machado is traded at the deadline or departs in free agency is another story on its own. He will at least start the season in Baltimore. Even if he has mentally moved on, it will still benefit Machado (and the Orioles, by proxy) if he performs well.

Center fielder Adam Jones has also made it clear that his return isn’t guaranteed after this year. Jones said he wants to play for a winner and get a ring. The chances of that happening in Baltimore (this year, and going forward) are slim.

It was reported that manager Buck Showalter held a meeting where he showed some “tough love” for his team. It might be safe to guess there won’t be much screwing around in Baltimore this season.

Even if the team is locked in, it will be very hard for the Orioles to compete. They made no major moves in the offseason, while their division rivals acquired stars like Giancarlo Stanton and J.D. Martinez.

Similar to last year, their offense probably won’t suck. Not sucking just isn’t going to be enough this year. For a team like this to rely on their offense, they’ll need to score a lot more runs. The Orioles pitching staff allowed the second most home runs in baseball last year. Now they’ll have to face the leading home run hitter 18 times, all in hitter-friendly parks.

There is always the chance that the entire roster improves, and the pitching staff gets their s— together. If that happens, the team can be decent and make a run at a Wild Card spot.

Realistically though, 2018 will be nothing more than a year of existence for the Orioles. They have shown no signs of committing to a rebuild and significant time might pass until they do.

Owner Peter Angelos’ hesitancy to spend in the offseason and build a good roster on the fly will likely play out just as you would expect:

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MLB Agent Hints at Possible Boycott

Major League Baseball agent Brodie Van Wagenen said Friday that due to free-agent frustrations, a player-organized boycott of spring training may be in the works.

Wagenen, who has represented MLB players such as Yoenis Cespedes, Robinson Cano and Ryan Howard, stated that players are “outraged” with the lack of free agent signings made this offseason and says the inaction “feels coordinated, rightly or wrongly” by the owners of the 30 ball cubs. It could lead to the first MLB strike since 1994.

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“Players in the midst of long-term contracts are as frustrated as those seeking employment,” Van Wagenen said in the statement tweeted out Friday morning. “Their voices are getting louder and they are uniting in a way not seen since 1994.”

Van Wagenen cited the players’ salary increases from 2007-2012 and 2012-2017, stating that the respective 23 percent and 13.8 percent growth was satisfactory for players and owners. But he said this offseason, the free agent market changed “drastically” compared to recent years.

That statement went on to say that algorithms that are used to calculate players’ values show that many are not getting the money they deserve.

Van Wagenen said that several club presidents and general managers are “frustrated” with the lack of funds needed to sign quality players still available and it raises suspicion of “institutional influence over the spending.”

He finished the statement by emphasizing the fact that baseball franchise values are at an all-time high and that the entertainment is provided solely by the players. United, they have the ability to fight through fines and lawsuits that would only end up hurting the MLB owners in the long run.

“I would suggest that testing the will of 1,200 alpha males at the pinnacle of their profession is not a good strategy for 30 men who are bound by a much smaller fraternity,” Van Wagenen said. “These 1200 players have learned first-hand that battles are won by teamwork, and they understand that Championships can’t be won by individuals. They are won by a group united by a singular focus. Victory at all costs.”