Yoenis Cespedes

Yoenis Cespedes homers, drives in another run in a spectacular spring training debut

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Yes, I know it’s spring training and that spring training doesn’t matter. But I believe in Yoenis Cespedes. I am, officially, a Cespedesphile.

Wait. That doesn’t sound quite right. We have time to work on it, though. It’s spring training for wannabe members of the not-yet-invented Yoenis Cespedes fan club, too.

Anyway, a full house — or close to it — here in Phoenix today saw A’s center fielder Yoeins Cespedes make his spring training debut in Oakland’s 6-3 win over Cincinnati. And it was a great one.

His first at bat was not, technically, an at bat. He walked on six pitches, never once taking the bat off his shoulder. I suppose you could say that was anti-climactic . But you could also say that it was good that he was willing to take pitches and look and see what a guy he’s never faced before — Johnny Cueto — had to offer.

And heck, I would too, as Cueto seems to have changed his delivery and now does the full-blown Luis Tiant thing, which is pretty cool. Lots of crazy looks from him these days. Love it.

Cespedes’ next plate appearance came in the second inning. One out, runners at the corners. This time he swung the bat twice. First to foul one off, the second time to knock a single up the middle, driving in the A’s third run of the game. Welcome to the majors, Yoeins.

The big at bat came in the fourth, leading off. He fell behind Jeff Francis 1-2, and then was way ahead on three straight sliders, fouling them hard past third. People in the press box made noises about him being set up for high heat (never mind the fact that Francis doesn’t have high heat). Nope: Cespedes waited and jacked the next pitch over the left field wall for a homer and his second RBI of the day. It was not a cheapie. Not by a long shot.

On the defensive side, he had his first defensive chance in the third inning, snagging a Brandon Phillips fly ball. It didn’t require any serious ranging or anything. Another fly ball from Daryl Jones in the fourth. I’m still wondering if he’s gonna stick at center field. Hard to justify it with Coco Crisp around unless — as Crisp says — he’s a demigod. As it was, there was nothing in today’s game to give us any indication. Which was frustrating because I want to know the answer to every conceivable question about the guy now, in one spring training game. DON’T MAKE ME WAIT FOR THE REGULAR SEASON.

Sorry. Got a little carried away there. I think the Arizona sun is getting to me. Or maybe it’s Cespedes Fever.  Because, guys, I have it.

Jason Kipnis diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Jason Kipnis #22 of the Cleveland Indians celebrates after scoring a run on a wild pitch thrown by Jon Lester #34 of the Chicago Cubs (not pictured) during the fifth inning in Game Seven of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.

There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.

Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.

Report: Cardinals are scouting Cuban outfielder Luis Robert

ST. LOUIS, MO - APRIL 25: Baseballs sit in the St. Louis Cardinals dugout prior to a game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on April 25, 2014 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by David Welker/Getty Images)
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According to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Cardinals are keeping an eye on outfield prospect Luis Robert. The 19-year-old left his native Cuba last November and is expected to command interest from multiple MLB teams as he approaches free agency. Goold adds that the Cardinals sent scouts to evaluate Robert’s workouts in the Dominican Republic as recently as last week.

There’s still a good chance that the club won’t get a shot at signing him; as Craig mentioned last month, it seems likely that Major League Baseball won’t declare Robert a free agent until after June 15. By July 2, the new Collective Bargaining Agreement’s policies on international bonuses will go into effect, handcuffing teams with the maximum penalty for bonuses to a $300,000 signing figure for any available international prospect. It’s designed to effectively take away those teams’ abilities to sign additional international talent, and the Cardinals have already spent a reported $9.35 million in bonuses on Venezuelan outfielder Victor Garcia, Cuban outfielders Jonatan Machado and Randy Arozarena and Cuban right-hander Johan Oviedo.

Until the cutoff in mid-June, the Cardinals are likely to continue actively scouting other international talent, including Robert. MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez quotes an anonymous National League scouting director who describes Robert as the No. 2 talent behind Japanese wunderkind Shohei Otani. The 19-year-old hit .286/.319/.397 with a .716 OPS during a 16-game run in the Canadian-American League in 2016, following up an impressive three-year tenure with the Ciego de Avila in the Cuban National Series from 2013-2015.