Saunders, Feldman and Wuertz agree to new deals

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Joe Saunders.jpg– The Angels and Joe Saunders avoided arbitration on Friday by agreeing to a one-year, $3.7 million contract. The 28-year-old southpaw asked for $3.85 million and was offered $3.6 million when arbitration figures were exchanged last week, so he settled for a little less than the midpoint. Saunders was 16-7 with a 4.60 ERA in 31 starts last season. He was 7-0 with a 2.55 ERA over his final eight starts after serving a stint on the disabled list due to a shoulder irritation.

– The Rangers and Scott Feldman avoided arbitration by agreeing to terms on a one-year, $2,425,000 contract. Feldman, who was arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter, asked for $2.9 million and was offered $2.05 million when figures were released last week. Though he didn’t start the season in the rotation, the 26-year-old right-hander surprised by finishing 17-8 with a 4.08 ERA and 1.28 WHIP. He’s not nearly as good as the wins would have you think, but as Fangraphs astutely pointed out, his cut fastball was worth 25.9 runs last season, leading the majors. Yes, even better more than Mariano Rivera.

– Finally, the Athletics inked right-hander Michael Wuertz to a two-year, $5.25 million contract with a $3.5 million club option for 2012. According to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, the 31-year-old right-hander will earn $2.2 million in 2010 and $2.8 million in 2011. The Athletics can buy out the option for $250,000. Wuertz compiled a 2.63 ERA, 0.95 WHIP and 102/23 K/BB ratio in 78 2/3 innings with the Athletics last season, emerging as one of the best set-up men in the majors.

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.