<span class="vcard">Matthew Pouliot</span>

A.J. Burnett

April Fools! A.J. Burnett victim of exploding rosin bag gag

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Even before taking the loss to the Cubs, A.J. Burnett got dusted in Monday’s game:

Burnett recovered from the traumatic incident to strike out 10 in 5 2/3 innings. However, he did give up all of the Cubs’ runs in the Pirates’ 3-1 defeat.

That’s just Hunter being Hunter

Hunter Pence
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For those of us who miss Manny Ramirez’s antics on the field, we do have an awkward sort of replacement in Hunter Pence patrolling right field for the Giants.

Here’s Pence today giving the Dodgers’ Mark Ellis a double when he lost a flyball on the sun.

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And here is Pence with Matt Kemp up a minute later. Spot the difference?

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Fortunately, Matt Cain was able to pitch around the non-error. He and Clayton Kershaw are locked in a scoreless duel in the seventh.

Red Sox storm into first place, beat Yankees 8-2

Jackie Bradley Jr.
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Jumping all over CC Sabathia, the Red Sox racked up 13 hits and eight walks to beat the Yankees 8-2 in Monday’s opener.

A typical Red Sox-Yankees game, it finished about an hour and a half later than the Nationals’ 2-0 win over the Marlins, which also started at 1:05 p.m. EDT.

The Red Sox scored four times off Sabathia in the second, leading the Yankees to get the bullpen active. Sabathia was able to stay in and hold the Red Sox scoreless through the fifth, but the Red Sox got to both David Phelps and Joba Chamberlain out of the pen. Jacoby Ellsbury and Jose Iglesias collected three hits apiece for Boston, though none of Iglesias’s singles left the infield. 11 of Boston’s 13 hits were singles.

Jackie Bradley Jr., making his major league debut after a terrific spring, walked three times, scored twice, knocked in a run on a groundout and made a fantastic catch in left field to rob Robinson Cano of a double in the third.

While the Bombers got little going offensively today, their bigger concern has to be Sabathia’s diminished velocity. He was typically around 90 mph with his fastball, and he was forced to rely more on breaking balls and changeups as a result. It makes one wonder if he was going through his dead-arm period a bit later than most. The Yankees were protective of Sabathia this spring after October surgery to remove a bone spur from his elbow.

Besides the patience displayed by the bottom half of the lineup, the Red Sox had to be most encouraged about the showing of their pen today. Jon Lester left after striking out seven in five innings, and Koji Uehara, Andrew Miller, Andrew Bailey, Junichi Tazawa and Joel Hanrahan combined to give up just one hit the rest of the way.

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UPDATE: Rangers, Elvis Andrus reach an agreement on a $120 million extension

Elvis Andrus
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UPDATEJon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that the deal is done.

2:42 AM: Despite the presence of Jurickson Profar waiting in the wings, the Rangers have decided to lock up Elvis Andrus to an eight-year, $120 million deal, according to FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal and CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman.

Rosenthal reports that the contract would supersede Andrus’ current deal, which will pay him $11.25 million total for 2013-14, essentially making this a six-year, $109 million extension. Heyman, on the other hand, says the eight-year, $120 million extension will kick in after his current deal, locking up Andrus for the next 10 years.

It’s actually a pretty big difference, in that Rosenthal has Andrus making $18.2 million per year for six years, while Heyman’s extension would be for $15 million per year for eight years. I’m going to guess that Heyman has it right; the latter deal would seem to me to be more palatable to the Rangers.

Obviously, the Rangers’ hope here is that the 24-year-old Andrus will continue to improve at the plate, as well he should. The four-year veteran established new highs in average (.286), OBP (.349) and slugging (.378) last year. He was also perfectly solid in 2011, hitting .279/.347/.361. One of the AL’s best defensive shortstops, he’s worth $15 million per year at the moment. Of course, his range figures to decline with age, but his bat should make up for it in his late-20s and he should still last as a shortstop well into his 30s.

As for Profar, this now makes him the Rangers’ second baseman of the future, which puts Ian Kinsler’s role in question. The Rangers could trade Kinsler this summer if they fall out of contention, but it’s more likely that they’ll shift him to first base or an outfield corner and keep him around for 2014 and beyond. He’s in the first year of a five-year, $75 million contract.

Andrus would have been eligible for free agency for the first time after 2014. Because of Profar’s presence, he had been mentioned in trade rumors, most notably in the Justin Upton talks with Arizona. The Rangers, though, never appeared interested in moving him.

Handicapping the AL Rookie of the Year race

Aaron Hicks
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Bringing back something I used to do each year for fun, here’s a look at the American League Rookie of the Year possibilities, with odds posted for several of the favorites. I’ll follow suit with the National League tomorrow.

Please note: Rangers outfielder Leonys Martin is ineligible for Rookie of the Year honors. He spent too much time in the majors last season. Otherwise, he’d likely be the second favorite.

Mike Olt (1B-3B Rangers) – 25:1 – Olt was being considered for a bench spot entering spring training, but a poor showing (.194/.324/.419 in 31 AB) got him sent down to play everyday. Since he’s 24, that’s the right move anyway. Olt would be starting at third base for a few teams right now, and he’s also an option at first base and maybe in the outfield corners in case injuries begin piling up in Texas. Alternatively, he could be the team’s best trade bait if it needs help in July. If he has to wait until then, it’ll probably be too late for a ROY bid.

Projection: .241/.327/.408, 12 HR, 40 R, 42 RBI, 3 SB in 316 AB

Dylan Bundy (RHP Orioles) – 20:1 – Bundy would have gotten better odds if not for the presence of Orioles 2012 first-round pick Kevin Gausman, who might have taken his place in line for a May callup. Bundy remains the game’s No. 1 pitching prospect, but Gausman is closing in on a spot on the top five, and Gausman is probably the more polished of the two, having been drafted out of LSU. Bundy, a high school product drafted fourth overall in 2011, went 9-3 with a 2.08 ERA and a 119/29 K/BB ratio in 103 2/3 IP in the minors last year, topping out in Double-A. He’s a phenomenal talent, but since he’ll be limited to around 150 innings this year, he’ll only have so much of a chance to show what he can do.

Projection: 8-5, 3.88 ERA, 1.321 WHIP, 112 Ks in 109 IP

Carter Capps (RHP Mariners) – 20:1 – Seattle closer Tom Wilhelmsen was shaky towards the end of the spring, giving up six runs in his final six innings. Capps, on the other hand, was just about untouchable, allowing one earned run and striking out 13 in nine innings overall. I fully expect him to emerge as the Mariners’ long-term closer, and while that might not happen at any point during this year, he’s a sleeper candidate here. Rookie of the Year voters love their saves.

Projection: 4-3, 7 Sv, 3.16 ERA, 1.200 WHIP, 79 Ks in 68 1/3 IP

Chris Archer (RHP Rays) – 15:1 – The Rays are always thinking long-term with their rookies, and that usually means keeping them on the farm for a couple of extra months, even when they look ready. Archer allowed just one hit in seven scoreless innings during the early part of the spring, but the Rays quickly sent him down and proceeded with Roberto Hernandez and Jeff Niemann as their fifth-starter candidates. It’s Hernandez’s job now, but Archer should be the answer come June. If he were up now, he’d be my ROY pick.

Projection: 7-4, 3.82 ERA, 1.334 WHIP, 94 Ks in 96 2/3 IP

Wil Myers (OF Rays) – 12:1 – As soon as the Rays traded James Shields to the Royals for Myers, it was a given that the slugger wouldd spend that he’d spend this first month or two in Triple-A to limit his service time. Myers doesn’t really have much left to prove in Triple-A after hitting 24 homers in 99 games there last year. Overall, he hit .314/.387/.600 with 37 homers in 134 games at two levels. Still, it would be nice to see him cut back on the strikeouts a bit; he fanned 140 times last year. He figures to take over as the Rays’ right fielder in June.

Projection: .240/.312/.429, 15 HR, 47 R, 56 RBI, 2 SB in 366 AB

Brandon Maurer (RHP Mariners) – 12:1 – Supposedly behind Taijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen and James Paxton in the Mariners chain, Maurer pulled off a stunner in securing a spot in Seattle’s rotation this spring. The 22-year-old showed a strong slider in striking out 25 in 24 innings during the Cactus League season, and he’s always had very good command. He may not have the upside of Walker or Hultzen, but it looks like he’ll be a solid choice to put behind them come 2014 and ’15.

Projection: 9-10, 4.19 ERA, 1.366 WHIP, 126 Ks in 161 IP

Jurickson Profar (2B-SS Rangers) – 9:1 – Now that the Rangers have reportedly chosen to commit to Elvis Andrus for a whopping eight years, Profar’s future appears to be at second base, with Ian Kinsler moving to first base or an outfield corner. It will be interesting to see if the Rangers try to pull that off during the season; asking an All-Star to suddenly switch positions in May or June isn’t something that happens often. Profar, though, will force the Rangers to make a move soon enough. He’s one of their nine best players right now, and the Rangers have too much competition in the AL West to not use their best players.

Projection: .263/.330/.412, 8 HR, 51 R, 42 RBI, 11 SB in 376 AB

Bruce Rondon (RHP Tigers) – 8:1 – Last year was the first year since 2008 that a Rookie of the Year award was not won by a closer (Andrew Bailey in 2009, Neftali Feliz in 2010, Craig Kimbrel in 2011). Rondon was demoted to Triple-A following a very shaky spring, but the Tigers are still hoping he’ll run away with the ninth-inning gig at some point this season. If it happens by May 15, he’d still be a candidate for 30 saves, which would likely lead to at least a top-three finish in the balloting.]

Projection: 2-2, 11 Sv, 3.86 ERA, 1.393 WHIP, 50 Ks in 46 2/3 IP

Jackie Bradley (OF Red Sox) – 6:1 – Arguably the breakout star of the Grapefruit League, Bradley hit .419/.507/.613 in 62 at-bats to make the Red Sox as their left fielder with David Ortiz out. If he hits, he’s going to have to stay when Ortiz returns; it’s not like Jonny Gomes was ever a good plan as a starting left fielder anyway. However, if he doesn’t get off to a fast start, the Red Sox will probably return to the original plan of giving him some Triple-A time. Such a move would push back his free agency an extra year. My guess is that he does wind up back in the minors, at least for a month or so.

Projection: .267/.340/.407, 9 HR, 54 R, 45 RBI, 11 SB in 378 AB

The field – 5:1 – Trevor Bauer (RHP Indians), Kevin Gausman (RHP Orioles), Dan Straily (RHP Athletics), Hiroyuki Nakajima (SS Athletics), Martin Perez (LHP Rangers), Nick Tepesch (RHP Rangers), Jonathan Schoop (2B-SS Orioles), Kyle Gibson (RHP Twins), Danny Hultzen (LHP Mariners), Mike Zunino (C Mariners), Nick Castellanos (OF Tigers), Brandon Guyer (OF Rays), Avisail Garcia (OF Tigers), Austin Romine (C Yankees), Nate Freiman (1B Athletics), Jonathan Singleton (1B Astros), Grant Green (2B-OF Athletics), Taijuan Walker (RHP Mariners), Allen Webster (RHP Red Sox)

Aaron Hicks (OF Twins) – 4:1 – As the lone AL rookie set to get 550 at-bats, Hicks is the safest of the Rookie of the Year picks. The 23-year-old is jumping from Double-A to the majors after hitting .370/.407/.644 with four homers and three steals this spring to beat out Darin Mastroianni and Joe Benson for the Twins’ center field job. Hicks hit a modest .271 in five minor league seasons, but he offers a strong walk rate, emerging power and a strong glove in center field. I don’t see him wowing as a rookie, but I’m also not sure anyone will overtake him.

Projection: .257/.334/.392, 11 HR, 83 R, 48 RBI, 23 SB in 544 AB