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Report: Blue Jays open to offers on Melvin Upton Jr.

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The Blue Jays are reportedly seeking alternatives to 32-year-old outfielder Melvin Upton Jr., according to Buster Olney of ESPN. While their Opening Day roster does not appear to be set in stone just yet, rumor has it that they’re open to offers on the veteran outfielder, and FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman believes the Giants and Rays could be a good fit.

Upton Jr. is coming off of a surprisingly productive season at the plate, during which he batted .238/.291/.402 with 20 home runs and 27 steals for the Padres and Blue Jays in 2016. He saw more playing time and a better production rate in San Diego, but was able to contribute something down the stretch for Toronto and tacked on a pair of hits in 11 postseason PA.

The sudden influx of power and speed that boosted Upton Jr.’s totals in 2016 evaporated in spring training, however. He batted an underwhelming .194/.216/.472 in 14 Grapefruit League games, putting up three home runs and getting caught stealing twice in two attempts. Although he made an interesting candidate for the Blue Jays’ fourth outfield spot, the team will likely go with 29-year-old Ezequiel Carrera or 24-year-old Dalton Pompey in left field, barring any external alternatives.

Of the two potential landing spots mentioned by Heyman, Tampa Bay appears to be in greater need of outfield depth as Opening Day nears. With Colby Rasmus and infielder/outfielder Nick Franklin out of the picture, the Rays are expected to split left field between 23-year-old Mallex Smith and veteran Peter Bourjos. The Giants, on the other hand, appear set with Seth Marrero and Jarrett Parker sharing left field duties, though adding some depth at the position shouldn’t be out of the question just yet.

Rob Manfred says Tampa Bay must pick up pace on new stadium

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred wants Tampa Bay to work a little quicker on getting the Rays a new ballpark.

Rays Principal Owner Stuart Sternberg has been working for nearly a decade to get a new stadium for the club and signed a three-year agreement with the City of St. Petersburg early in 2016 to search for a site in the Tampa Bay area. Manfred wants that search to pick up some steam.

“I think it’s fair to say we want the process to take on a better pace moving forward,” Manfred said Wednesday night at Tropicana Field, home of the Rays since their first season in 1998.

The Rays were averaging 15,815 fans per game before Wednesday night’s contest against the Toronto Blue Jays. That is just over half the major league average of 30,470. Tropicana Field and its location have been almost universally blamed as the reason for the poor attendance.

“I’ve been pretty clear that they need a new facility here, a major league quality facility in an A-plus location,” Manfred said. “It is time to move that decision to the front burner here in Tampa.”

The matter of how a stadium would be financed has been tabled until a site is determined, but Sternberg continued to express confidence in the Tampa Bay market.

“I’ve had the opportunity to bail on it many times over the years,” he said. “I won’t say this is a slam dunk, it’s certainly not. But I think we can do something that’ll at least double our attendance. That’s a lot to ask for.”

Manfred said Major League Baseball “doesn’t have a firm timetable” for what steps to take if the Rays fail to get an agreement to build a new stadium in the Tampa Bay area, but but added that “it is a topic of discussion in the industry, the lack of progress.”

More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball

Robinson Cano leaves game with hamstring tightness

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Bad news for the Mariners this evening: Robinson Cano left Seattle’s game against the Atlanta Braves with tightness in his left hamstring.

Cano walked off the field after legging out a double — his second of the game — in the third inning. He pulled up as he approached second base and walked off the field, accompanied by a trainer. There was no immediate word on the severity of the injury. The Mariners have a day off Thursday before opening a series at the Yankees on Friday night, so they have some time to evaluate him.

Cano is hitting .277/.377/.460 with 19 homers and 78 RBI on the year.