Baseball makes its pitch for the Olympics

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Four years ago,
baseball was told that, after 2008, its presence was neither requested
nor desired in the Olympics. Since then, the International Baseball
Federation has tried hard to get it back in. Today the IBAF made its pitch for 2016, and for what I think is the first time, got some concessions from Major League Baseball that may help its chances:

There would be no major league games on the day of the Olympic medal games.

There
would no MLB games broadcast at the times of Olympic Games, which means
Olympic baseball would create a schedule to have its games end before
MLB night games begin.

Even though MLB does not intend to stop
its season during the Olympics, there would be a “representative
number of the best players available (for the Games).”

The
International Baseball Federation would work with Olympic host cities
to finance construction and after-use costs of the two stadiums needed
for the five-day tournament, which would not be an issue for 2016
candidates Chicago and Tokyo, since they have stadiums.

There was
a sense in 2005 that the reason baseball (and softball) were axed from
the games was that they were too thoroughly dominated by America (see here).
That may have been true for softball — the U.S. women at the time were
unrivaled, and though that has changed somewhat since then, the
American women are still the best — but it was always a dubious claim
with respect to baseball given the high quality of Latin American and
east Asian teams. Many suspected that the decision was really a
cultural/political one, with IOC President Jacques Rogge taking what
was then a quite fashionable anti-American position. I don’t know if
that really was the case — people talked of the lack of
Olympic-quality drug testing in baseball at the time as another issue
too — but stranger things have happened with the Olympics.

The
announced concessions, however, seem not to address any
Olympic-specific problems with baseball. Rather, they seem to address
some of the criticisms voiced about the World Baseball Classic, where
the lack of participation by many of the best baseball players was seen
as a serious drawback (personally I think the injury risk is a bigger
drawback, but I’m not the biggest fan of international baseball, so
maybe I’m unique in that regard). If that was a concern, however, these
concessions don’t seem to do too terribly much to solve it. What
exactly does it mean that Major League Baseball will ensure that “a
representative number of the best players available” will play? How on
Earth could they do this? The 2016 Olympics will take place during the
height of the baseball season. Even if the games are played in Chicago
— one of the possible sites — I can’t see any team in contention
allowing their best players to go play for Team USA, Team Dominican
Republic, or Team Japan when so much is on the line in the regular
season. They can’t force them to participate, can they?

According
to this article, karate, roller sports, golf, rugby sevens, softball
and squash also are seeking spots on the program, and no more than two
of them will be chosen. If baseball in the Olympics means that my team
is going to lose its shortstop or setup man for a couple of weeks,
consider me rooting for squash.

Video: Andrew Toles hammers grand slam in Cactus League win

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Dodgers’ left fielder Andrew Toles crushed his first spring training home run on Saturday afternoon. With the bases loaded and a two-run deficit hanging over their heads in the fourth inning, Toles stepped up to the plate against Oakland right-hander Jesse Hahn and unloaded a grand slam on the second pitch he saw.

Third baseman Justin Turner was quick to follow up with a solo jack of his own, bringing the score to a comfortable 7-4 lead by the end of the fourth. Another three-run outburst in the fifth and an eighth-inning RBI single by Austin Barnes raised the final score to 11-6… which, coincidentally, was the same score the Reds used to defeat the Athletics’ second split-squad lineup on Saturday (albeit with a few more RBI walks than grand slams).

Toles, 24, is approaching his sophomore season with the Dodgers in 2017. He slashed .314/.365/.505 with three home runs and an .870 OPS in his first major league season in 2016 and is expected to platoon with the right-handed Franklin Gutierrez in left field this year.

David Price’s season debut could be pushed back to May

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David Price showed “strength improvements” in his elbow on Saturday, but Red Sox’ manager John Farrell still doesn’t think the left-hander will be ready to throw by the start of the season — or for a few weeks afterward. According to ESPN’s Scott Lauber, the 31-year-old might not be ready to debut until May at the earliest.

Price hasn’t thrown off of a mound this spring after experiencing soreness in his left elbow on March 1. Surgery doesn’t appear to be necessary, but the Red Sox are playing it extra safe with their No. 3 starter in hopes that rest and rehabilitation will return him to full health sometime during the 2017 season. For now, Price has been restricted to short games of catch until he’s cleared to resume a more rigorous throwing program. Via MLB.com’s Ian Browne:

[There were] strength improvements to the point of putting the ball back in his hand a little more consistently,” said manager John Farrell. “Today’s the first step for that. A short game of catch. That’s what he’s going through. Not off a mound but just to get the arm moving with a ball in flight, and he will continue in this phase for a period of time. There’s no set distance and volume yet to the throws.

The lefty is coming off of a lackluster 2016 season, during which he delivered a 3.99 ERA, 2.0 BB/9 and 8.9 SO/9 over 230 innings for the Red Sox.