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The Los Angeles Angels have a difficult decision to make over the next few days: Will Shohei Ohtani make the Opening Day roster?

OK, so maybe it is an easy decision. After all, Ohtani has struggled on the mound and at the plate in his limited exposure in spring training games. In two spring starts, he allowed nine hits and nine runs in 2⅔ innings, flashing plus stuff but also struggling with his command and serving up three home runs. At the plate, he has gone 3-for-28 with nine strikeouts, three walks and no extra-base hits.

Much of his pitching work has come on the back fields, including an 85-pitch outing in an intrasquad game Saturday against Angels’ minor leaguers. While Angels manager Mike Scioscia called it a “great outing,” Ohtani threw 47 of the 85 pitches for strikes but walked five batters, hit another and threw two wild pitches. ESPN’s Jesse Rogers reported that Ohtani’s fastball was 92-94 mph, down from his previous outings. Through his interpreter, Ohtani said after the game that he was working on his splitter and breaking ball more than his fastball, which is probably why his velocity was down a bit. Hmm.

Maybe the Angels feel obligated to keep Ohtani on the major league roster. After all, they were handed a gift when Ohtani selected them over the other teams, and I doubt their sales pitch included Ohtani starting the season in Salt Lake City.
Shohei Ohtani has struggled this spring on the mound and at the plate. Masterpress/Getty Images
Still, the Angels have a long-term commitment to Ohtani and they need to do what’s best for his development and what’s best right now for the franchise. That means starting him in the minor leagues, where he can find his fastball command, have a few good outings and get at-bats without everyone focused on whether he’s going to be the Babe Ruth of Anaheim on March 29.

Saturday’s outing seemed like a possible harbinger of a minor league assignment. Using major league starters on the back fields for minor league games has become a trend in recent seasons, but this felt like a deliberate attempt to give Ohtani a low-pressure environment. The Angels needed him to get his pitch count up, so this also provided a controlled situation to do that. In a regular spring game, for example, if his pitch count in one inning got up to, say, 30, they would likely want to remove him and he’d have to finish throwing on the side. In a controlled scrimmage, you can end the “inning” at any point.

That’s sort of the point, however: The Angels couldn’t trust Ohtani to get through 85 pitches in a spring game, so that hardly makes him ready for a major league game. Scioscia may have called it a great outing, but clearly walking five batters — minor league batters — in six innings is a sign that he’s not ready to start on, say, April 2 against the Cleveland Indians in the Angels’ home opener. Those lights are a lot bigger than the ones on a back field in Tempe.

Ohtani said he’s ready. “I feel like I’ve done everything I can get to get ready for Opening Day and I felt like I’ve done everything 100 percent, but it’s hard. Every other year, even in Japan, I was never 100 percent on Opening Day, so it’s going to go gradually into the season. I think it’s going to be the same this time.”

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Asked when he’s pitching next, he responded, “Please ask Mike Scioscia.”

If that’s the case, it’s all the more reason for him to start in Triple-A. Remember, because of an ankle injury, he pitched just 25 innings in Japan last year. His command was lacking then as well, as he walked 19 batters. So some of this is probably just rust from a pitcher trying to find his 2016 form, when he posted a 1.86 ERA and fanned 174 batters in 140 innings.

The bat is another issue entirely. There’s a reason there hasn’t been a true two-way player since Ruth: It’s hard! The hitting side of the equation is going to be even more problematic to work out. How much patience will Scioscia have with him? He obviously needs at-bats to adjust to major league fastballs, but if he struggles at the plate from the onset, is Scioscia willing to give him 300 plate appearances? The Angels are a potential playoff team, and if Ohtani starts the season going 7-for-49 (or something similar to that) it will be easy for Scioscia to give those at-bats to Chris Carter or Luis Valbuena and keep Albert Pujols as the full-time DH.
Would a move to the minors make it easier for Shohei Ohtani to adjust? Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports

Of course, if the Angels do send him down, they’ll be accused of doing so simply to manipulate his service time, as the Atlanta Braves did with Ronald Acuna. There is enough evidence to justify the move, though. Ohtani seems aware that he may not make the Opening Day roster.

“Honestly, I don’t know how people up there are making decisions like that, what they think of me at this point,” he said Saturday. “I try not to worry about that. I’ve been having the same approach since my days in Japan. It’s not really up to me; it’s up to other people.”


There is enormous pressure on this kid, with all the hype, the expectations, the throng of Japanese reporters following his every movement. He’s trying to do something no player has done at the major league level in 100 years, all while adapting to a new culture. There’s nothing wrong with easing him into that situation. He should start the season at Triple-A.

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New York Mets first-year manager Mickey Callaway won’t name a closer for the start of the season, opting instead to use a committee approach to close out games.

Callaway, in a recent interview with, said he’s planning to rotate Jeurys Familia, AJ Ramos, Anthony Swarzak and left-hander Jerry Blevins in save situations to start the season.

“I don’t think we’re going to name a closer to start the season,” Callaway told “If there are three left-handers coming up in a row, we can use Blevins. We want to make sure everyone is pitching when they have the best chance to be successful. I think we have four options to close games.”

Callaway did not indicate whether he would change his approach and name a full-time closer at any point later in the regular season.

Callaway also said that the Mets plan to have Familia throw multiple-inning relief outings in spring training in order to get him ready for extended outings in the regular season. Familia had a franchise single-season 51 saves in 2016 but missed most of last season because of a blood clot in his pitching shoulder.

Ramos, an All-Star closer with the Miami Marlins in 2016, has 99 saves over the past three seasons. He was expected to compete for the closer role with the Mets after New York acquired the right-hander in a trade with Miami last July.

Swarzak signed a two-year deal with the Mets last month after posting a career-best 2.33 ERA in 70 combined appearances last season with the White Sox and Brewers.

Blevins, an 11-year veteran with five career saves, went 6-0 with a 2.94 ERA in 75 appearances last season, his third with the Mets.

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The Baltimore Orioles probably haven’t received enough credit for what they’ve done the past six seasons. They’ve reached the playoffs three times in that span, the same as the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. They’re sixth in the majors in total wins, just seven behind the Yankees and 18 ahead of the Red Sox. With that track record of success, it’s understandable why Orioles owner Peter Angelos and general manager Dan Duquette are reluctant to trade Manny Machado, their three-time All-Star third baseman who has twice finished in the top five of the MVP voting.

It’s also understandable why the Orioles are finally engaging other front offices in trade talks for Machado. Sure, they could give it one more run with this group. Like Machado, Adam Jones, Zach Britton and Brad Brach are impending free agents. After all, the Minnesota Twins went from 59 wins to 85 wins to earn a wild-card berth. Anything is possible! On the other hand, the Orioles are coming off a 75-87 season in which they were outscored by 98 runs. The current projections at FanGraphs have the Yankees and Red Sox at 91 wins and the Orioles way below that at 75. The odds of keeping Machado and winning the division appear slim. The odds of re-signing Machado as a free agent are even slimmer.
Which team’s fans could Manny Machado be greeting next year? Josh Holmberg/Icon Sportswire
So, there are trade rumors. Buster Olney said the Yankees and White Sox are interested. Other reports have mentioned the Phillies and Cardinals, although the Cardinals acquired the big bat they desired in Marcell Ozuna. Machado’s stated desire to play shortstop in 2018, however, opens up a wide range of trade possibilities. Let’s take a look.

Indians: Make it happen, Chris Antonetti and Mike Chernoff!

This idea has me so excited, I’m considering moving to Cleveland and buying season tickets. The Indians loved the way Jose Ramirez played second base in 2017, which is why they’re shopping Jason Kipnis. That leaves an opening at third base; nothing against Yandy Diaz or Giovanny Urshela. Machado essentially replaces Carlos Santana’s bat, and he gives the team excellent defense at third base — and maybe this lineup:

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SS Francisco Lindor

3B Manny Machado

2B Jose Ramirez

DH Edwin Encarnacion

LF Michael Brantley

1B Lonnie Chisenhall

CF Bradley Zimmer

RF Greg Allen / Brandon Guyer

C Yan Gomes / Roberto Perez

So, can the Indians make the money work? Machado should receive $17-18 million in arbitration, which is a big contract for the Indians to take on; but if they trade Kipnis to the Mets — one rumor that’s out there — that’s only a $4 million increase. Any team can afford $4 million.

The time is now for the Indians. The lineup needs another hitter. The pitching is arguably the best in baseball, and more importantly, it will enter 2018 in good health. We all know what can happen with pitchers, and maybe in 12 months you’re looking at three guys needing Tommy John surgery. You’re not hoping to keep Machado long term, but you might win it all in 2018.

The Orioles reportedly want young arms, so this trade will probably cost you top pitching prospect Triston McKenzie. It will be worth it.

Yankees: It makes sense, but it’s not going to happen

The Yankees could use a third baseman for 2018, giving prospects Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar a little more time in the minors. They have some highly rated pitching prospects, including Chance Adams, Justus Sheffield and Domingo Acevedo. From a personnel standpoint, it’s a perfect match. But if you’re the Orioles, why help your division rival? Sure, maybe you hurt the Yanks by extracting a couple of prospects, but if you give Machado a season in the Bronx, maybe he loves it so much that it becomes more likely that he signs with the Yankees as a free agent. If I’m Duquette, I don’t want to see Machado in pinstripes. At least not of my own volition.

White Sox and Phillies: Trade and sign

This would be the White Sox’s or Phillies’ scenario: Trade for Machado, get him acclimated to your organization and city, convince him of the bright future of the club and sign him to an extension. Stranger things have happened. The Phillies don’t seem to be as interested in this idea, according to reports. While you will no doubt be going after Machado as a free agent, why give up prospects in a year you’re very unlikely to contend for the playoffs? The odds of Machado signing any kind of extension before hitting free agency are slim. Just wait until next offseason and make your pitch.

Giants: The obvious candidate

The Giants have a gaping hole at third base, unless you believe in some rejuvenation of Pablo Sandoval. They missed out on Giancarlo Stanton. They intend to make a playoff push. The trouble is, they don’t look like a good match for the Orioles. Tyler Beede is their top pitching prospect — the only pitcher in their top 10, according to’s list — and he had a 4.79 ERA at Triple-A, with poor peripherals. If the Orioles do trade Machado, they can find better prospects from another team.

Teams that could use him at shortstop

Here’s the weird thing: The good teams, or the teams we think we know are good, already are set at shortstop. Here are the teams with the highest projected WAR at shortstop, according to FanGraphs:

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Astros: 6.1 (Carlos Correa)

Indians: 5.9 (Francisco Lindor)

Dodgers: 5.4 (Corey Seager)

Nationals: 3.9 (Trea Turner)

Angels: 3.7 (Andrelton Simmons)

Cubs: 3.6 (Addison Russell)

Red Sox: 3.6 (Xander Bogaerts)

Yankees: 2.9 (Didi Gregorius)

Giants: 2.9 (Brandon Crawford)

A list of teams with less than 2.0 projected WAR that made or contended for the playoffs last season includes the Rockies, Diamondbacks and Brewers. The Rockies and Brewers would have to punt on Trevor Story and Orlando Arcia, respectively, at least for one season; that’s possible but not likely. The Diamondbacks have Ketel Marte and could certainly use a bat to replace J.D. Martinez, but their system is also thin in pitching prospects. As fun as it is to think of Machado playing shortstop, there isn’t an obvious match here.

Cubs: The challenge trade

Well, here’s an idea. Would you trade four years of Addison Russell for one year of Machado? The Cubs love their infield defense, but Machado would be a big upgrade at the plate — and the Cubs could potentially re-sign him if they’re comfortable with his defense at shortstop. The Orioles wouldn’t get a premium pitching prospect back in the deal, but getting four years of a Gold Glove-caliber shortstop who can pop 20-plus home runs would be a nice return.

Angels: Billy Eppler clinches executive of the year
Then we have the Angels. They’ve already signed Shohei Ohtani and re-signed Justin Upton. They picked up Ian Kinsler. They still have a hole at third base. There appears to be room in the payroll. Like some of the other teams here, however, they’re a little thin in the pitching prospect department, as their top prospects are outfielders Jahmai Jones and Jo Adell.

Maybe there’s a sleeper team out there. After all, if you can get Manny Machado, you make room for him. Maybe the Twins make a surprise move. Maybe the Cardinals still aren’t done. Maybe he does go to the Yankees.

Or maybe Machado just stays in Baltimore and the Orioles see where they are in July.

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New York Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez had his suspension reduced to three games, and he will begin serving it Monday when his team visits the Baltimore Orioles.

Sanchez had been suspended for four games for his role in a fight-filled afternoon against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park on Aug. 24, but he appealed the punishment and continued to play last week.

On Saturday, Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera and reliever Alex Wilson had their suspensions reduced by one game. Cabrera (six games) and Wilson (three games) both began serving their suspensions Saturday.

“In a way I feel good about it, and then on the other hand I don’t feel good about it because I’m going to be unable to help my team in these important games,” Sanchez said through an interpreter.

Sanchez had been criticized for what were perceived as sucker punches, after he hit Cabrera and Nicholas Castellanos when they were defenseless.

“That’s something that happened. You can’t turn time around, you can’t go back in time,” Sanchez said. “It’s in the past.”

He apologized for his actions in a Facebook post Monday.

“The heat of the moment and my desire to protect my teammates led me to commit some errors during the brawl,” Sanchez wrote. “It’s an incident I regret and from which I have learned. I know to some these may be mere words, but they are words that I feel the need to express because I sincerely feel this way, and for respect to you, the fans, the Yankees organization, the Detroit Tigers and the game of Baseball.”

Sanchez, 24, is hitting .276 with 28 home runs and 79 RBIs this season for the Yankees, who enter Monday atop the American League wild-card standings.

“Obviously, this is an important time for us. Obviously, we don’t want to miss him at all,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of Sanchez. “But again, it’s better than four. And taking one game off could be really important for us. So the next three days we’ll be without him, and we’ll have to deal with it.”

Catcher Austin Romine has appealed his two-game suspension for his role in the fighting. He was in the starting lineup Monday and will likely retain the starting role until Sanchez returns.

“I think that you’re allowed to stagger suspensions, and I’ve seen it in the past,” Girardi said. “So I’m not too concerned about that.”