Mike Trout says back is pain-free ahead of spring training

Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports
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NEW YORK – Mike Trout feels pain-free as the start of spring training approaches.

The Los Angeles Angels’ three-time AL MVP was sidelined between July 12 and Aug. 19 last year by an injury to his upper back and ribcage. After returning, he hit .308 with 16 homers and 29 RBIs in 40 games for an overall season batting average of .283 with 40 homers and 80 RBIs in 119 games.

The 31-year-old 10-time All-Star is the captain of the U.S. team in the World Baseball Classic and will report to spring training by Feb. 16.

“The back’s been a non-issue for the past four months,” Trout said during a conference call Friday. “I felt a little bit when I came back during the season last year and then I’ve been on top of it pretty well and just keeping the same routine in the weight room, just a warmup and making sure all the back muscles around it is strong.”

The U.S. team will try to defend its 2017 WBC title (the 2021 tournament was called off because of the pandemic). The road to that starts when players report to the Phoenix area on March 6, then play exhibitions in Arizona against the San Francisco Giants on March 8 and the Angels on March 9.

The Americans open World Baseball Classic play against Britain on March 11 as part of a first-round group that includes Mexico, Canada and Colombia.

Trout, who is from south New Jersey, also talked Friday about another important sport to him: the NFL. A longtime Philadelphia Eagles fan, he recorded a video of himself singing the fight song for the team four years ago and plans to be at Saturday’s playoff game against the New York Giants.

“The football game tomorrow is going to be fun because I’m obviously going to be there,” Trout said.

RHP Fairbanks, Rays agree to 3-year, $12 million contract

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Dave Nelson/USA TODAY Sports
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Reliever Pete Fairbanks and the Tampa Bay Rays avoided arbitration when they agreed Friday to a three-year, $12 million contract that could be worth up to $24.6 million over four seasons.

The deal includes salaries of $3,666,666 this year and $3,666,667 in each of the next two seasons. The Rays have a $7 million option for 2026 with a $1 million buyout.

His 2024 and 2025 salaries could increase by $300,000 each based on games finished in the previous season: $150,000 each for 35 and 40.

Tampa Bay’s option price could increase by up to $6 million, including $4 million for appearances: $1 million each for 60 and 70 in 2025; $500,000 for 125 from 2023-25 and $1 million each for 135, 150 and 165 from 2023-25. The option price could increase by $2 million for games finished in 2025: $500,000 each for 25, 30, 35 and 40.

Fairbanks also has a $500,000 award bonus for winning the Hoffman/Rivera reliever of the year award and $200,000 for finishing second or third.

The 29-year-old right-hander is 11-10 with a 2.98 ERA and 15 saves in 111 appearances, with all but two of the outings coming out of the bullpen since being acquired by the Rays from the Texas Rangers in July 2019.

Fairbanks was 0-0 with a 1.13 ERA in 24 appearances last year after beginning the season on the 60-day injured list with a right lat strain.

Fairbanks made his 2022 debut on July 17 and tied for the team lead with eight saves despite being sidelined more than three months. In addition, he is 0-0 with a 3.60 ERA in 12 career postseason appearances, all with Tampa Bay.

He had asked for a raise from $714,400 to $1.9 million when proposed arbitration salaries were exchanged Jan. 13, and the Rays had offered for $1.5 million.

Fairbanks’ agreement was announced two days after left-hander Jeffrey Springs agreed to a $31 million, four-year contract with Tampa Bay that could be worth $65.75 million over five seasons.

Tampa Bay remains scheduled for hearings with right-handers Jason Adam and Ryan Thompson, left-hander Colin Poche, third baseman Yandy Diaz and outfielder Harold Ramirez.