J.P. Ricciardi says Mets are happy with Ruben Tejada at shortstop

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There’s been a lot of speculation this winter about free agent shortstop Stephen Drew potentially landing with the Mets, but the team has publicly thrown their support behind Ruben Tejada in recent weeks. Mets special assistant J.P. Ricciardi is the latest example, saying on WEEI’s “Hot Stove Show” that the team is happy with the idea of going into 2014 with Tejada as the starting shortstop.

“I think we are,” said Ricciardi when asked if the Mets were happy with heading into 2014 with the 24-year-old Tejada. ‘€œHe’€™s a young player. As Johnny can tell you, a lot of young players who get to play at the big league level early in their career, a lot of them don’€™t realize how hard it is to play every day. A lot of them don’€™t realize what it takes to play every day. I think in Ruben’€™s case, he got a lot early in his career and I think he’€™s starting to realize that he has to work a lot harder than he has in the past, and he has. To his credit, he really has. But as a young player, they get to the big leagues, some things happen for them and they forget how tough it is to stay there. I think he’€™s at that stage in his career. I think next year he’€™s going to be a better player than he was this previous year.”

Tejada is coming off a nightmare season in which he batted just .202 with a .519 OPS in 202 plate appearances. The 24-year-old spent a long stretch of time in the minors after a quad injury and suffered a broken fibula after he rejoined the team in September. Still, he hit .287 with a .345 on-base percentage between 2011-2012, so a rebound isn’t out of the question. The Mets clearly haven’t given up on him, as they sent him to a fitness camp earlier this offseason, but there’s still a chance that Drew could fall into their laps if his market dwindles. As Ricciardi said, “there’€™s just not a lot of demand for shortstops” at the moment.

While Drew remains a possibility, the Mets could cross their fingers with Tejada in 2014 while waiting for next offseason when J.J. Hardy, Asdrubal Cabrera and Jed Lowrie will all be free agents.

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.