Dirk Hayhurst to play ball in Italy this year

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Dirk Hayhurst, author of “The Bullpen Gospels” and the upcoming “Out of my League,” is a personal favorite of mine. Yes, because of the books, but also because he lives in Ohio and I got to meet him last fall and I found that he is just as neat a guy in person as he is in print and on Twitter and stuff.

Anyone who has paid attention to his career since his first book came out knows that, after 25 major league games in 2008-09, he was first beset with injury and then, last year, was beset with being part of the Tampa Bay Rays organization which, unfortunately for Hayhurst, had way damn too many good pitchers.

It might be easy to get discouraged if you’re a guy like Hayhurst, but he’s not doing that.  No, rather than get upset at a system that is, by design, almost impossible to crack, he has decided to view his baseball career as an opportunity to experience neat stuff.  He just announced on Twitter that he’ll be playing baseball in Italy in 2012.

He was already considering this possibility when I met him in September, and what he told me about it made it sound pretty sweet. It’s a relatively short season with games mostly on weekends, allowing players a lot of time to travel around and see the sights.  He’s taking his wife with him, so he won’t be stuck in some minor league town talking to her on the phone all the time.  And, of course, Italy is way cool.

Bonus: I’m guessing the Italian league won’t get nearly as bent out of shape at Hayhurst for blogging about what goes on inside their clubhouses as U.S. baseball does, so we can probably assume that he’ll be writing an awful lot about his experiences.  Which, given that his writing — sorry Dirk — has been more successful than his baseball career in many respects, is probably a good thing for him as he thinks about what the rest of his playing days and then the rest of his life hold in store for him.

Good luck, Dirk.  I know it will be hard to leave magical, beautiful Ohio for boring old Italy for the rest of the year, but I’m sure you’ll somehow find a way to make it work.

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.