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Chris Owings could see time in the outfield corners this spring

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Diamondbacks’ infielder/outfielder Chris Owings is preparing for another defensive switch in 2017, the Arizona Republic’s Nick Piecoro writes. According to GM Mike Hazen, the 25-year-old will see some time in the outfield corners during spring training in order to provide the club with extra insurance in case of injury.

That strategy worked out well for the Diamondbacks in 2016, when Owings filled in for starting center fielder A.J. Pollock after Pollock suffered a season-ending elbow injury during spring training. It was a significant switch for Owings, who had previously only seen time in the middle infield over three seasons in the big leagues.

Per Piecoro’s report, Hazen envisions Owings in a Brock Holt-like role for the club, one that spans multiple infield/outfield positions. Ideally, Piecoro writes, he’d form a platoon with outfielder David Peralta against left-handed pitchers.

“I think there’s a lot of versatility on the roster, to be honest with you, and he’s fantastic at it,” Hazen said. “He was one of our best outfielders with no preparation last year. I think that speaks to his athleticism and skill. I would surprised if he went just about anywhere on the field and didn’t look pretty natural.”

Owings’ defensive flexibility should also afford him more at-bats in the lineup, something that appeals to Arizona management after watching his performance at the plate in 2016. Owings carried a .277/.315/.416 batting line with a career-best 21 stolen bases and 40 extra bases over 466 PA. The way Hazen sees it, keeping him on as the team’s everyday backup would allow them to preserve his bat in the lineup while looking to their Triple-A affiliate for extra support off the bench.

Bryce Harper to Little League players: “No participation trophies, first place only”

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Nationals’ star outfielder Bryce Harper had some words of advice for a local Little League team on Saturday, telling a crowd of young players and their parents that winning matters far more than any participation trophies they might receive for their efforts on the field.

“As much as they might tell you, ‘Oh, it’s okay, you guys lost…’ No, Johnny, no,” Harper explained. “No participation trophies, okay? First place only. Come on.”

The panic over participation trophy culture has swelled over the last few years as studies continue to suggest that children are happier when they’re praised for their accomplishments, rather than rewarded for simply trying their best. The general idea is that kids aren’t motivated to succeed when they know they’ll receive a ribbon or medal celebrating their efforts at the end of the day — regardless of whether they win or lose. (Granted, it stands to reason that every kid can feel the difference between winning a championship trophy and receiving a participation ribbon.) Some have taken the idea to an extreme, claiming that when a child receives too many accolades for mediocre or poor performances, it can warp the way they view the world by generating a sense of undeserved entitlement.

Harper kept his tone light during the Q&A session, however, drawing cheers and applause from the majority of parents and a few of the kids. The 2015 NL MVP has routinely taken his own advice over the years, earning Rookie of the Year honors, four All-Star nominations and a Silver Slugger award since he broke into the major leagues in 2012. Next on his list? A World Series championship.

Indians to move Danny Salazar to the bullpen

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MLB.com’s William Kosileski reports that Indians starter Danny Salazar is being moved to the bullpen and will be available as soon as Wednesday or Thursday. The Indians will go on a five-game road strip starting on June 2, and manager Terry Francona said that Salazar could get a start during that trip.

Salazar, 27, has struggled to a 5.50 ERA over his first 10 starts this season. While none of those starts were absolute disasters, he failed to finish the sixth inning in seven of those 10 starts. It’s a far cry from his performance over the last two seasons, when he finished with a 3.45 ERA and 3.87 ERA.

Salazar’s walk rate is up to a career-high 11.9 percent, per FanGraphs, and he’s allowing many more line drives at the expense of ground balls. Compared to 2016, his line drive rate is up 8.9 percent and his ground ball rate is down 10.4 percent. All of that could explain Salazar’s struggles to some extent.