MLB declares Cuban defector Chapman a free agent

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In a move that was widely expected to come either this month or in early October, Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman was declared a free agent on Friday.
Chapman made it through the red tape in record time, in large part because he managed to escape Cuba with his passport. The 21-year-old defected in July while taking part in the tournament held in the Netherlands and established residency in Andorra earlier this month.
Known for a fastball that has reportedly reached as high as 102 mph, Chapman has a chance to set a new record for a contract given to a Cuban defector, surpassing the four-year, $32 million deal Jose Contreras received from the Yankees after the 2002 season. He lacks polish and may require time in the minors before helping a contending team, but his youth and huge arm will land him a big deal. Expect usual suspects like the Yankees, Red Sox, Angels and Dodgers to express interest in the left-hander.

Danny Duffy exits spring training game with left shoulder tightness

Danny Duffy
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Royals’ Opening Day starter Danny Duffy weathered a minor scare during Saturday’s Cactus League game against the Diamondbacks. The left-hander was removed from his final spring training start after experiencing some left shoulder tightness in the second and third innings. No lasting damage appears to have been done — Duffy told reporters that he simply felt a slight ache, nothing more — and it looks like he’ll remain on track to open the season with the team next Thursday.

The 29-year-old southpaw is coming off one of his best performances to date. Despite losing a few weeks to an oblique strain and elbow soreness, he went 9-10 in 24 starts and finished the 2017 season with a 3.81 ERA, 2.5 BB/9 and 8.0 SO/9 over 146 1/3 innings. While Duffy entered camp with a clean bill of health, he struggled to execute against his spring training opponents and racked up 13 runs, four homers, seven walks and 11 strikeouts in 13 innings of Cactus League play.

The Royals are scheduled to kick off their home opener against the White Sox on Thursday, March 29 at 4:15 PM ET. Barring any further complications with his shoulder, Duffy will take the mound for the Royals, while James Shields is expected to make his first Opening Day appearance for the White Sox.