Julio Borbon to start in center field for Rangers after rough spring

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Rangers manager Ron Washington said over the winter that he wanted to use Julio Borbon in center field this season in an effort to protect the injury-prone Josh Hamilton. Not a bad idea, really, but those plans appeared to be in doubt due to concerns about Borbon’s defense — he committed five errors this spring and was even pulled from a game at one point — and a recent elbow injury.

However, according to Bryan Doglin of ESPN Dallas, Washington has him in the lineup in center field for today’s opener against the Red Sox.

“I’ve always had confidence in him [Borbon]. Just working his butt off, man, trying to get better,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “We know that we are going to have to continue to develop him. We believe in him, and I trust he is going to do what he is supposed to out there. The rest is up to Borbon.”

The funny part is that for all of scrutiny Borbon has taken for his defense this spring, UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) actually rated him among the game’s best in center field last season. Of most importance to today’s game, Borbon is in the lineup against Jon Lester, despite a measly .229/.274/.284 batting line over 124 major league plate appearances against southpaws.

It looks like the Rangers are going to give him every opportunity to sink or swim in center field in the early going, but if he stumbles, look for Hamilton to return to center field and David Murphy to play left field.

Free agent slugger José Abreu signs 3-year, $58.5M deal with Astros

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
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HOUSTON — Jose Abreu and the World Series champion Astros agreed to a three-year, $58.5 million contract, adding another powerful bat to Houston’s lineup.

Abreu, the 2020 AL MVP, gets $19.5 million in each of the next three seasons.

He spent his first nine major league seasons with the Chicago White Sox. The first baseman became a free agent after batting .304 with 15 home runs, 75 RBIs and an .824 OPS this year.

With the Astros, he replaces Yuli Gurriel at first base in a batting order that also features All-Star sluggers Yordan Alvarez, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman and Kyle Tucker.

Gurriel became a free agent after Houston defeated the Philadelphia Phillies this month for its second World Series championship.

The 35-year-old Abreu becomes the biggest free agent to switch teams so far this offseason. Born in Cuba, the three-time All-Star and 2014 AL Rookie of the Year is a .292 career hitter in the majors with 243 homers, 863 RBIs and an .860 OPS.

The Astros announced the signing. Abreu was scheduled to be introduced in a news conference at Minute Maid Park.

He would get a $200,000 for winning an MVP award, $175,000 for finishing second in the voting, $150,000 for third, $125,000 for fourth and $100,000 for fifth. Abreu also would get $100,000 for earning World Series MVP and $75,000 for League Championship Series MVP, $75,000 for making the All-Star team and $75,000 for winning a Gold Glove or a Silver Slugger.

Abreu gets a hotel suite on road trips and the right to buy a luxury suite for all Astros home games.