Scenes from Spring Training: Phun with the Phillie Phanatics Part 3

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After the clubhouse I made it out to the field and scoped the scene:

Phillies stretch.JPGThe Phillies take a much more casual approach to stretching than the circle-em-up Pirates do.
 
Howard skinny.JPGAt the risk of best-shape-of-his-life cliches, I really can’t impress upon you just how good Ryan Howard looks. He has absolutely transformed himself over the past couple of years.

Catcher Pitching.JPG I hadn’t noticed catchers warming up from the mound anywhere else, but both of the catchers who were suited up for Philly on Saturday did. Also: earlier, when the position players were warming up, Shane Victorino got down in a catcher’s crouch and Howard fired in a couple of full windup pitches to him. Worth noting that the pitches from both catchers and Howard were harder and more accurate than the pitches from the best dude most of you faced in high school.
 Dugout.JPGI don’t think I’ve ever paid close enough attention to notice if this is common or not, but I kind of like the two-row dugout.

Phanatic.JPGBright House is a new stadium — opened in 2004 — and has a lot of amenities that aren’t typical in the Grapefruit League. One of them is a cool kids’ area, complete with a playground, a special kids’ snack bar and, of course, a Phanatic statue for photo opportunities and, for the more intrepid youngins, climbing on.

Practice field.JPGThis practice field sits directly behind the stadium. There’s absolutely no truth to the rumor that it was a prototype designed to extend Pat Burrell’s usefulness as a defensive player. I mean, that would be silly. He couldn’t cover a left field that large.
Thome Homey.JPGThe Twins were in town, and Jim Thome made his way out to the field to say hello during Phillies’ BP. Everyone who came near him, be it players, coaches or media, either hugged him or gave him a fist bump. Everyone loves Jim Thome. I’ve been following his career since he broke in with the Tribe, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard a negative thing about the guy.
Police Truck.JPGYou think the City of Clearwater wasn’t cognizant that 10,000 Philly fans were on the premises? They had a police command station set up right outside the ballpark. They know who they’re dealing with.

Jason Kipnis could join Team Israel for 2017 World Baseball Classic

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Jason Kipnis #22 of the Cleveland Indians throws during batting practice prior to Game Seven of the 2016 World Series against the Chicago Cubs at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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With the 2017 World Baseball Classic around the corner, Team Israel has reportedly reached out to Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, per MLB Network’s Jon Morosi. Tournament rules stipulate that a player’s roster eligibility can be achieved in one of several ways: they were born in the country in question or hold citizenship/permanent legal residence there (or are simply capable of qualifying for citizenship), or one of their parents was born in the country or holds citizenship/permanent legal residence there.

For Kipnis, it’s the latter. Kipnis’ father, Mark Kipnis, is Jewish. That gives Kipnis the status he needs to suit up for Team Israel, despite the fact that he is a practicing Roman Catholic. He has yet to confirm or deny his participation in the competition.

Fifteen players have confirmed for Team Israel so far, including Mets’ infielder/outfielder Ty Kelly and free agents Sam Fuld, Nate Freiman, Jason Marquis and Jeremy Bleich. Per MLB.com’s Chad Thornburg, eight minor leaguers will also appear for the team. Like Kipnis, at least three other major leaguers are eligible for Team Israel’s roster but have yet to accept or decline involvement in the WBC: Dodgers center fielder Joc Pederson, Mariners infielder/outfielder Danny Valencia and free agent left-hander Craig Breslow.

Rangers to sign James Loney to minor league deal

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 21: James Loney #28 of the New York Mets tosses to first base against the San Francisco Giants during the second inning at AT&T Park on August 21, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  The New York Mets defeated the San Francisco Giants 2-0. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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Free agent first baseman James Loney has reportedly signed a minor league deal with the Rangers, per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. The deal includes an invite to spring training and a $1 million salary if he makes the major league roster in 2017.

Loney picked up a one-year stint and starting role with the Mets in 2016, slashing .265/.307/.397 with nine home runs in 336 PA. While his numbers were down a hair from the .280/.322/.357 batting line he produced with the Rays in 2015, he provided the Mets with a necessary, if underwhelming upgrade over an injured Lucas Duda through most of the season.

The 32-year-old infielder is expected to have some competition at first base, with at least five other candidates in the mix: Jurickson Profar, Ronald Guzman, Ryan Rua, Joey Gallo and Josh Hamilton. Rumor has it that the team is planning on platooning Rua and Profar in 2017, barring any impressive breakouts or injuries during spring training, though Loney could still provide the club with some veteran depth and a decent left-handed bat off the bench.