Opryland Hotel

Next week: The Winter Meetings

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The next time you hear from me I’ll be blogging from Nashville, where the 2012 Winter Meetings will be held in the labyrinthine Gaylord Opryland Resort. I’ve been to that place before. It’s crazy big and confusing what with all of the fern-filled atria and gawking tourists. And, at this time of year, it’s festooned with more Chirstmas lights than that old lady’s down the block times a gajillion.

I may need to take some sort of medication in order to properly orient myself to the surroundings. But that’s my problem.

For your purposes, know that HardballTalk is going to do what it has done four Winter Meetings’ running: blog the living hell out of the thing, passing along every trade, signing, news nugget rumor, and stray observation that comes our way. I got a new phone this year too, so maybe my pictures won’t suck so bad too.  Just a whole lot to look forward to, really.

When Josh Hamilton or Zack Greinke signs, we’ll be on it. When Scott Boras says something so mind-blowingly ridiculous that it makes your eyes cross — my guess this year is some Michael Bourn/Willie Mays comp — we’ll let you know. We’ll be all around in the dark. We’ll be ever’-where – wherever you can look. Wherever there’s a fight so hungry people can eat, we’ll be there. Wherever there’s a cop beatin’ up a guy, we’ll be there, etc.

We hope you do this all the time, but starting, say, midday on Sunday, keep a window open with HBT, and refresh liberally. If you do, you won’t miss a thing.

Mets leaning on Jay Bruce, Neil Walker as Lucas Duda insurance

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MAY 12:  Pinch hitter Lucas Duda #21 of the New York Mets walks back to the dugout after striking out for the first out of the ninth inning against Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on May 12, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  The Dodgers won 5-0.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.

Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”

Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”

The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.

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.