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Scenes from Spring Training: Few people, good seats

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Despite it being perhaps the most beautiful day since I’ve been down here, it’s a near-empty ballpark today.  I guess you’ll have that when it’s the Royals and the Padres, neither of which are what you’d call national draws.

But the good thing about it was that I was able to wander down to a seat in the front row right behind the dugout and take the game in like a civilized human being.  It helped me get pics like that one of Luke Hochevar. And here’s one of Mat Latos:

I’m surprised he didn’t break my camera, because he was ugly. He threw 34 pitches. Only 15 for strikes. He walked four guys in the first inning, but avoided giving up a run thanks to a nice diving grab by Aaron Cunningham in right field and thanks to Nick Hundley throwing a guy out stealing. Who was probably safe, but don’t worry your pretty little head about that because it’s still spring training for the umps too.  Latos left after an inning and a third. Didn’t allow a hit, though, so I’m going to pretend it was the first no-hitter I’ve ever seen in person.

And here was something else fun to see from my seat on the first base line:

Dave Roberts, yo. Back from cancer treatment and manning the box.  Glad to see him there.

The game is still early, but it’s very spring trainingy so far. The pitchers don’t quite have a lock on the strike zone.  The base running has been fun, though, with the Royals trying to steal almost every time they get on.  I just popped back into the box to post this and got a pretty good explanation for it. Seems that Billy Butler was the only Royal to have stolen a base before today and he was crowing to everyone who would listen that he leads the team in steals. People wanted to shut him up, it seems.

It’s the top of the fourth. Time to head back to my good seats.

Shohei Otani may come to the United States after 2017

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Last week it was widely speculated that Shohei Otani, the highly-touted Japanese pitcher/designated hitter who stars for the Nippon Ham Fighters, would not come to the United States to play due to changes in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The upshot: the new CBA caps money available to international free agents under age 25 at $5-6 million and Otani, 22, would be worth way more than that, so why take the pay cut?

Now, however, Jeff Passan of Yahoo reports that the Fighters are set to post Shotei Otani following the 2017 season. Passan says that his sources have told him that there are potential ways around the limit on spending for under-25 players like Shohei Otani and he links a Japanese article from Sponichi which says the Fighters would post him after the 2017 season.

It’d be interesting to see what that loophole is. Without knowing the exact terms of the CBA on this score it’s impossible to know, but one possibility is that there are different rules applicable to those with professional experience in other countries as opposed to amateur free agents.

Whatever the case, the notion that we could see Otani in the U.S. at age 23 or 24 is pretty exciting.

Report: Phillies close to signing Joaquin Benoit

ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 15:  Joaquin Benoit #53 of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches during the seventh inning of a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim  at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 15, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.

Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.

Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.

The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.