Aaron Gleeman

Ryan Howard

Ryan Howard is the Phillies’ first baseman … unless he isn’t

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Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg met with the media upon arriving at spring training and said the following when asked about Ryan Howard’s status on the team:

Right now, unless he gets unseated, he’s the first baseman. He needs to prepare himself to be the best first baseman he can be.

Well then.

General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has made it pretty clear that he’d like to rid the Phillies of Howard’s long-term contract, but obviously no teams are interested in taking him off their hands and Amaro has so far been unwilling to simply move on by eating all the money. And so that leaves Sandberg in a relatively tough spot where he has to dance around the fact Howard isn’t very good any longer without actually benching him.

All of which leads to quotes like “right now, unless he gets unseated, he’s the first baseman.” Sandberg did tell Todd Zolecki of MLB.com that he recently spoke to Howard and the former MVP is “very positive with the conversation” and “he wanted to be part of the process here with the younger players that we might have in camp.”

Homer Bailey has yet to throw off a mound in return from surgery

Homer Bailey AP
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Homer Bailey, who’s coming back from September surgery to repair a torn flexor tendon, arrived at Reds camp this morning and admitted that he’s behind his usual throwing schedule this time of year.

Here’s what Bailey told Mark Sheldon of MLB.com:

I haven’t gotten off the mound. Usually, l like to get off the mound a few times before I come. But I can catch back up real quick. It’s more getting used to the throwing everyday stuff.

Bailey has yet to suffer any setbacks in his recovery, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a ton until he actually tries to throw off a mound.

He started 23 games with a 3.71 ERA before being shut down in the first season of a $105 million contract extension.

Kevin Youkilis joins the Cubs as a special assistant

Kevin Youkilis Reuters
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Kevin Youkilis is reuniting with Theo Epstein … in the Cubs front office.

Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune reports that Youkilis, who spent last season playing in Japan and officially announced his retirement in October, is joining the Cubs as a special assistant.

Youkilis was Boston’s eighth-round draft pick in 2001 and debuted for the Epstein-run Red Sox in 2004, emerging as one of the top hitters in the American League from 2006-2011. He was traded to the White Sox in mid-2012 and spent 2013 with the Yankees before going to Japan.

Francisco Rodriguez wants $10 million to sign

Francisco Rodriguez
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Kenley Jansen being out 2-3 months following foot surgery led to speculation that the Dodgers may be interested in Francisco Rodriguez, with Bob Nightingale of USA Today reporting that the free agent right-hander “is seeking a $10 million contract.”

Last week reports had Rodriguez holding out for a two-year deal, but presumably if the price if high enough–and $10 million would certainly be high enough–he’d consider a one-year pact.

Of course, for now at least there’s no indication that the Dodgers are actually pursuing Rodriguez and if any team is willing to go forward without their closer by not acquiring another “proven closer” it’s the one with Andrew Friedman in charge.

Angels add bullpen help, sign Matt Lindstrom

Matt Lindstrom
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Matt Lindstrom, who spent part of last season as the White Sox’s closer, has agreed to a minor-league deal with the Angels that includes an invitation to spring training.

Lindstrom struggled and was hurt for a lot of last season, posting a 5.03 ERA in 34 innings overall, but the 35-year-old right-hander has a solid track record of quality setup man work.

Lindstrom has a 3.68 ERA in 421 career innings, including a 2.95 ERA and 122/51 K/BB ratio in 162 innings from 2011-2013. He seems like a good bet to crack the Opening Day roster.