After dealing Milledge, Nationals continue outfield shakeup by demoting Dukes to Triple-A

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One day after shaking up their outfield by sending Lastings Milledge to the Pirates while bringing in Nyjer Morgan, the Nationals demoted Elijah Dukes to Triple-A this morning.

Dukes hasn’t been a disaster at the plate, batting .244/.308/.415 with
six homers and 20 total extra-base hits in 57 games, but he struggled
in June and the Nationals are reportedly unhappy with his defense, baserunning, and overall approach.

All of which sounds an awful lot like their reasoning for selling low
on Milledge, complete with not realizing that struggling in center
field doesn’t preclude someone from being a defensive asset in a corner
spot. Milledge is now out of the picture completely and Dukes is headed
to Syracuse, yet Austin Kearns sticks around despite hitting
.197/.330/.322 in 58 games this season after batting .217/.311/.316 in
2008.

The difference, of course, is that Milledge and Dukes are both young
players with minor-league options remaining and some value on the trade
market while Kearns is a 29-year-old veteran making $8 million. So
instead of writing him off as a sunk cost and giving his playing time
to younger outfielders in what’s destined to be another 100-loss season
the Nationals are … well, I’m not entirely sure what the Nationals
are doing.

A mid-April demotion to Triple-A paved the way for Milledge being
traded and if they take that path with Dukes the Nationals will have
parted with two promising-yet-troubled outfielders when their values
were at all-time lows. Dukes has flaws both on and off the field, but
he’s hit .237/.345/.435 with 29 homers, 66 total extra-base hits, and
101 walks in 190 games, is a good defensive corner outfielder, and
turned 25 last week.

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.