Despite age, Raul Ibanez still drawing lots of interest

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The list of players who are able to justify a roster spot at the age of 40 is relatively short. The list of 40-year-olds to bash 29 home runs is remarkably shorter. Maybe that’s why free agent Raul Ibanez, now 41, is still drawing interest. He finished 2013 with 29 dingers and an adjusted OPS 23 percent above average. It marked the 18th time in baseball history a player posted an adjusted OPS 20 percent higher than the league average (min. 450 plate appearances). The only other players to do it in this millennium were Barry Bonds (twice, 2006-07) and Edgar Martinez (2003).

Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported on Twitter earlier that even National League teams are showing interest in Ibanez:

Ibanez will turn 42 years old on June 2, so 2014 will be viewed as his age-42 season (if he had been born on July 1 or later, it would have been his age-41 season). The last player to take enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title was Carlton Fisk in 1990. Only five other players, along with Fisk, have accomplished the feat since 1901: Pete Rose (1983), Carl Yazstrzemski (1982), Luke Appling (1949), Sam Rice (1932), and Honus Wagner (1916). With the exception of Rose, they are all Hall of Famers. Rose was also the only one of the six not to post an adjusted OPS above the league average.

Ibanez’s last home run — a solo shot against the Angels on September 21 — was the 300th of his career. Other career milestones he is likely to reach with another full, productive season:

  • 8,000 plate appearances (currently at 7,998)
  • 2,000 hits (currently at 1,993)
  • 425 doubles (currently at 416)
  • 50 triples (currently at 48)
  • 1,250 RBI (currently at 1,181)

Despite the impressive performance with the bat, Ibanez is a defensive nightmare in the outfield, so a National League team’s best bet is to use him at first base or off the bench, or otherwise let an American League team snap him up. He earned $2.75 million on a one-year deal with the Mariners last season.

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.