Julio Borbon to start in center field for Rangers after rough spring

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Rangers manager Ron Washington said over the winter that he wanted to use Julio Borbon in center field this season in an effort to protect the injury-prone Josh Hamilton. Not a bad idea, really, but those plans appeared to be in doubt due to concerns about Borbon’s defense — he committed five errors this spring and was even pulled from a game at one point — and a recent elbow injury.

However, according to Bryan Doglin of ESPN Dallas, Washington has him in the lineup in center field for today’s opener against the Red Sox.

“I’ve always had confidence in him [Borbon]. Just working his butt off, man, trying to get better,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “We know that we are going to have to continue to develop him. We believe in him, and I trust he is going to do what he is supposed to out there. The rest is up to Borbon.”

The funny part is that for all of scrutiny Borbon has taken for his defense this spring, UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) actually rated him among the game’s best in center field last season. Of most importance to today’s game, Borbon is in the lineup against Jon Lester, despite a measly .229/.274/.284 batting line over 124 major league plate appearances against southpaws.

It looks like the Rangers are going to give him every opportunity to sink or swim in center field in the early going, but if he stumbles, look for Hamilton to return to center field and David Murphy to play left field.

Report: Jose Ramirez close to four-year extension with Indians

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Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan reports that third baseman Jose Ramirez is finalizing a four-year extension with the Indians. The deal is said to be worth north of $30 million, and may crest $50 million if all options are exercised. While the extension won’t take effect until the 2018 season, it guarantees Ramirez a $26 million sum with two options worth $11 and $13 million and will give the Indians control of the infielder through the 2023 season.

Ramirez, 24, is entering his fifth season in the Indians’ organization. He posted career-high numbers during his first full season in the majors, slashing .312/.363/.461 with 11 home runs, 22 stolen bases and 4.8 fWAR in 2016. He’s projected to have a strong follow-up season at the plate and will likely see some time at second base as Jason Kipnis works his way back from a shoulder injury.

Although 2016 only showcased the beginning of Ramirez’s success with the club, FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman says it’s a standard move for Cleveland to “sign their stars early,” and indicates that Ramirez was rumored to want the deal. Jeff Todd of MLB Trade Rumors adds that the extension will keep Ramirez under club control through three arbitration-eligible years and one year of potential free agency.

Diamondbacks return Rule 5 pick Tyler Jones to Yankees

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Diamondbacks’ right-hander Tyler Jones is headed back to the Yankees, the teams announced on Friday. The Diamondbacks had previously selected Jones in the Rule 5 draft last December, but elected to leave the 27-year-old off of their 40-man roster heading into the 2017 season. Rule 5 draft rules stipulate that when a player is not kept on the receiving team’s roster, the player must be offered back to his original team.

Jones signed a minor league contract with the Yankees prior to the 2016 season. He pitched to an impressive 2.17 ERA, 2.2 BB/9 and 13.2 SO/9 over 45 2/3 innings with Double-A Trenton, but was unable to make the leap to Triple-A or beyond during his stay with the organization.

Jones’ outlook with the Diamondbacks appeared slightly more promising. GM Mike Hazen described the righty as a power arm with a “good fastball and power curveball” after selecting him in the Rule 5 draft, and early reports indicated that Jones would be in the mix for a bullpen spot. A rough spring performance — underscored by his lack of experience at the Triple-A and major league levels — undid most of that confidence, however, and the Diamondbacks weren’t willing to keep him on the active roster throughout the entire 2017 season in order to acquire his control rights.

Jones is set to open the season with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, per a report from the Yankees.