GM Jeff Luhnow says Astros “likely to keep” veterans at trade deadline

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That the Astros are in rebuild mode is no secret. In the past, they had been pawning off veteran players in an effort to usher in a youth movement, but GM Jeff Luhnow says the Astros aren’t likely to be sellers at this year’s trade deadline.

Jesse Crain and Jerome Williams are eligible to become free agents after the season. Meanwhile, Dexter Fowler will be due a raise in his fourth and final year of arbitration eligibility, a handful of players will be eligible for arbitration for the first time, and the team will have to attempt to hammer out an extension with catcher Jason Castro.

Via Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle:

“This year, we have veteran players. If they play well, we’re likely to keep them as opposed to move them,” Luhnow said. “There’s always going to be that temptation, especially if you have an area where you think — if come mid-July we’re clearly not contending, and there’s a club that needs a guy that we have and they’re willing to give up enough to get him, we’re never going to shut that conversation down.

“But at the same time, I do think we value the relationship with the fans and we’ll make a — we’ll balance all the factors, including the fact that we do want to show significant progress.”

The Astros enter 2014 with a $50.5 million payroll, according to Cot’s Contracts, representing a significant increase over last season’s $26.1 million Opening Day payroll. Luhnow and his team has been disciplined in adhering to a long-term plan that included lots of short-term losing, but it looks like the strategy should bear some fruit in the coming years.

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.