D.J. Short

Ernie Banks AP

Cubs will honor Ernie Banks this season by wearing No. 14 patches on jerseys

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Hall of Famer and Cubs legend Ernie Banks passed away last month at the age of 83. As you would expect, the Cubs plan to honor the memory of “Mr. Cub” in various ways this season:

According to an announcement from the team, Banks will also be honored during a pregame ceremony before MLB’s season opener between the Cardinals and Cubs at Wrigley Field on April 5. Additional tributes will be “finalized and incorporated” during the season.

 “There is no level of recognition that can properly acknowledge how much Ernie Banks meant to this franchise and fan base,” said Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts. “Collectively, we must ensure Mr. Cub’s legacy rightfully lives on at the Friendly Confines and with future generations of baseball fans.”

It would be nice to see an annual home doubleheader in Banks’ honor, as Dayn Perry has suggested. It’s too late to do that for 2015, but maybe next year? It’s a good thought.

Jayson Werth talks about his time in jail for reckless driving

Jayson Werth AP
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Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth recently completed a five-day jail sentence in Fairfax County, Virginia for a reckless driving charge. He talked about his experience with Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post and it’s well worth a read if you have a few minutes:

In his first public comments addressing his conviction and jail sentence, Werth recalled that story and reflected on an experience he never expected. The jail time did not change him, he said, but it did add perspective, both deep and practical. The experience left him with a more acute appreciation of friends, family, teammates and fans. It implanted a newfound desire to volunteer at local charities. It gave him, to be clear, a full grasp of Virginia’s driving laws and penalties. He seemed penitent, if not necessarily remorseful. He is eager to keep the lessons and leave the rest.

“It’s a time in my life that I’m glad it’s behind me,” Werth said in a telephone conversation Wednesday night. “I’ve had time to reflect on the whole thing. I want to talk about it one time, and kind of lay it to rest. I’m ready to put it behind me. I’ve learned my lesson. I don’t recommend the experience I had to anyone, really. It’s not something that was fun. It’s not a destination you would choose.”

By the way, that story about an inmate getting Werth’s autograph in jail? It was legitimate.

Werth ultimately didn’t feel like he “put anybody in danger” despite going 105 mph in a 55 mph zone, stating that there was “no one around on the Beltway.” Of course, that doesn’t justify his actions and it seems like he learned something from the experience and will try to be a better member of his community moving forward. That’s a pretty good outcome.

Masahiro Tanaka throws his first bullpen session of the spring

Masahiro Tanaka AP
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All eyes were on Masahiro Tanaka at Yankees camp today as he threw his first bullpen session of the spring. Fortunately, his elbow made it through unscathed.

Bryan Hoch of MLB.com reports that Tanaka threw about 21 pitches — all of them fastballs — during a session which last lasted around seven minutes. He declined to speak with reporters after the session, but is expected to address the media on Friday.

Tanaka was diagnosed with a partially-torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow last July, but he decided to rehab the injury rather than have Tommy John surgery. He made it back for two starts in September and had a normal offseason, so the Yankees are banking on him to be a big part of their starting rotation this season. Still, you can’t help but feel like that’s a risky proposition.

Tanaka, 26, posted a 2.77 ERA and 141/21 K/BB ratio in 136 1/3 innings across 20 starts as a rookie last season.

Huston Street says he has had “steady” extension talks with Angels

Huston Street Getty
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Huston Street came over the Angels last July in a trade with the Padres and now he wants to stay there for the long haul.

According to Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times, Street said today that negotiations with the Angels regarding a contract extension have been “steady” for several weeks and he’s hopeful something will get done by the start of the season.

Street, who is serving as his own agent, is currently due to become a free agent after the 2015 season. He believes that something in the neighborhood of David Robertson’s contract with the White Sox (four years, $46 million) and Andrew Miller’s contract with the Yankees (four years, $36 million) is a fair comparison for what he’s worth.

“If you look at what Miller and Robertson got, I think something between them is justifiable,” Street said Thursday, the day pitchers and catchers reported for spring training. “It’s a principle thing for me. I have the best save percentage in baseball that last four or five years. What’s a guy like that worth?”

Street will be 32 in August and has an injury history, so you can understand if the Angels are reluctant to go four years on him, but there’s no questioning his performance. He owns a 1.97 ERA in 159 appearances dating back to the start of 2012.

Koji Uehara admits “physical” issue was behind struggles late last season

Koji Uehara AP
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Red Sox closer Koji Uehara struggled mightily down the stretch last season and he finally acknowledged to reporters today that it was injury-related. Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald has the details:

“It was more physical,” Uehara said after arriving in Red Sox camp Monday, four days before the mandatory reporting date for pitchers and catchers. “I didn’t talk about it at that time, but I think I’m over it.”

Uehara wouldn’t elaborate — “I’m not getting into specifics,” he said through translator C.J. Matsumoto — except to say the issue “wasn’t fatigue” from the Red Sox’ long run to the World Series in 2013. General manager Ben Cherington noted Uehara dealt with a “little lower back issue” in August that cleared up by the end of the year.

Uehara was in typical fantastic form for most of the year, posting a 1.27 ERA over 55 appearances through August 15, but he gave up 10 runs on 14 hits (including four home runs), one walk, and one hit batsman in 4 2/3 innings in a span of six appearances from August 16-September 4. He finished the year with three scoreless appearances, but the Red Sox used him sparingly in September.

The uncharacteristic rough patch obviously didn’t scare off the Red Sox, as Uehara was brought back on a two-year, $18 million contract at the start of the offseason. He’s set to serve as Boston’s closer again in his age-40 season.