Why are the Twins, Braves and Angels smiling?

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Because they have some of the easiest second-half schedules among contenders.  That according to Buster Oleny who breaks it all down in his latest column.

Really the Reds and Cardinals have the easiest schedules left, but considering they’re competing with each other for the NL Central title, the cake schedule doesn’t really give either of them an advantage. At least not against one another. Each of them will have an advantage in the wild card race against the runners up in the East and the West, however. And here you thought the Pirates, Astros, Cubs and Brewers had no place in the playoff conversation.

Outside of the NL “cupcake” Central, the Twins get some help from the scheduling gods, with seven more games against sub-.500 teams than the White Sox have, and three more home games as well. The Braves have one more game against losers than do the Mets, but they also have six more home games. Given that both the Braves and Mets have done much better at home, this really works in Atlanta’s favor.

On the other end of the spectrum are the Dodgers, who play 58 of their 74 remaining games against winners, 11 more than the team with the next toughest go of it, the Rockies. The Padres have an easier time overall, but their schedule is backloaded, with several tough series in September.  Think it’s a coincidence that San Diego is thinking about putting Mat Latos on the disabled list right now?  He may not be that badly hurt, but given that he has an innings cap this year, better to have him fresh, healthy and available in September than July or August.

But before we get too far down this schedule = destiny road, let’s remember something: unlike football, baseball really is a game of any given Sunday (and Monday thru Saturday too). Anybody beats anybody, and what matters more than schedule, I believe anyway, is health.

So this is all fun, but ultimately the teams who suffer the fewest key injuries are the teams who will be the best off.

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.