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Athletics sign Norge Ruiz to minor league deal

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Right-hander Norge Ruiz is set to receive a $2 million signing bonus from the Athletics, according to MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez and the San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser. The club signed the 22-year-old Cuban defector to a minor league deal on Friday and could see the right-hander in the rotation sometime next season.

Per Sanchez, Ruiz is ranked No. 3 on Major League Baseball’s top 30 list of international prospects. He last appeared with the Sabuesos de Holguin and Ganaderos de Camaguey in the 2014 Cuban National Series, pitching to a combined 3.26 ERA with a 6.9 SO/9 and 3.5 BB/9 in 110 1/3 innings. While he’s had difficulty with his command, he features a fastball that tops out around 94 m.p.h. and an impressive variety of off-speed pitches that should round out his repertoire when he makes it to the majors.

Athletics’ assistant general manager Dan Feinstein had positive things to say about the righty (via Slusser), who possesses the “makings of a quality major-league starter” and wields a big league change-up, another pitch that has earned Ruiz top billing among international prospects this year. Baseball America’s Ben Badler points out that the prospect comes with an actual price tag of $4 million, which could still be a steal if Ruiz lives up to the hype:

His bonus is $2 million, and since the A’s will have to pay a 100 percent overage tax for exceeding their bonus pool, the total cost for the team will be $4 million.

Red Sox to extend protective netting at Fenway Park in 2018

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The Red Sox are the latest team to extend the protective netting at their ballpark this winter. According to a statement by club president Sam Kennedy, the exact dimensions of the netting have yet to be determined, but it will likely stretch “all the way to Field Box 79, down the left field line and then all the way down to almost Canvas Alley in the Field Box 9 area.”

Fenway Park received additional protective netting prior to the 2016 season, when the netting behind home plate was lengthened to the home and visitor dugouts. Per Kennedy’s statement, the current expansion should cover everything but the outfield corners, making it nearly impossible for a line drive foul to reach fans in the lower boxes.

After a toddler sustained serious injuries from a 105-MPH foul ball to the face at Yankee Stadium last September, over half of all MLB teams decided to take more extreme preventative measures in advance of the 2018 season. The Brewers, Cardinals, Braves, Astros, Royals, Pirates, Rangers, Padres, Nationals, Mariners, Phillies, Mets, Reds, Blue Jays, Giants, Yankees, Twins and Indians are among the organizations to address the issue over the last several years, while others have yet to take significant action.