Astros’ Yordan Alvarez has sore hand, won’t take BP for a few days

Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Houston Astros All-Star Yordan Alvarez has a sore left hand that will keep him out of batting practice for a few days in spring training.

Alvarez told reporters that soreness in the hand was an issue at times last year and continued to “flare up a bit at times” during the offseason.

Despite the soreness, Alvarez hit .306 with 37 homers and 97 RBIs and finished third in the AL MVP voting for the World Series champion Astros.

Speaking through a translator, Alvarez said he told team officials about the sore hand when he reported to camp.

“It’s just something we’re going to monitor,” said Alvarez, a native of Cuba. “I felt a little bit of discomfort but it’s something we’re going to monitor and work on. I’m going to take the next couple days off here like I did in the offseason and prepare but it’s not something that’s going to be an issue during the season.”

Alvarez had only three hits in the World Series, including a 450-foot, three-run homer that powered the Astros to a 4-1 win over the Philadelphia Phillies in the decisive Game 6.


Cody Bellinger is getting a fresh start with the Chicago Cubs, and manager David Ross said the two-time All-Star has a “good energy about him.”

“He feels really good. He talks it. He hit an absolute missile yesterday in the live BPs down on the back fields,” Ross said. “It was nice to see. … It’s a big year for him and he’s got something to prove, but it’s not a pressure-type thing. It’s just like I want to go out there and play baseball and can’t wait to get started.”

The 27-year-old Bellinger spent his first six seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers, winning the NL MVP award after he batted .305 with 47 homers and 115 RBIs in 2019. But he hasn’t been the same since that monster performance, hitting just .210 last year with 150 strikeouts in 144 games.

Bellinger signed a $17.5 million, one-year deal with Chicago in December, and Ross said the center fielder is working on adjustments at the plate.

“I think everybody has a little bit of tweaks in their game when they go into the offseason, things they want to improve on. He’s no different,” Ross said. “It’s all about some of the stuff for him to get ready to hit and some of the way he loads and making sure we’re training that in the weight room and drilling that in the cages.”


Even after all these years, Terry Francona gets nervous before delivering the first speech of spring training to his players.

This season, it came with a price for Cleveland’s manager.

Francona broke a tooth while preparing to speak to the Guardians in Goodyear, Arizona. Because he wanted to work on his remarks, Francona skipped dinner with his staff on Monday night to prepare. He made some pasta, but it was undercooked.

“It was frozen at the bottom and I broke part of my tooth,” he said following his speech. “At first I didn’t think I did. Then I started chewing and said, `That tastes awful.’ Not only did I swallow the tooth, I chewed it.”

Then, when he arrived at the team’s facility, Francona spilled coffee over his speech.

The hiccups aside, Francona, who is entering his 11th season with Cleveland, felt good about it afterward.

“I felt like I said what I wanted to say,” he said. “That’s the goal. I don’t want to just talk. Everybody has meetings. I want to help.”


Yankees manager Aaron Boone fully expects a comeback season for third baseman Josh Donaldson.

The 37-year old former AL MVP hit .222 last season, 43 points under his career average. He finished with 15 homers and 62 RBIs in 132 games.

“First of all we’re talking about a great player,” Boone said. “This has been a star player, and consistently for a long time. He’s not far removed from 2021 where he was still a wrecking ball”


A guest of the Pittsburgh Pirates required emergency medical attention after suffering cardiac arrest while fielding fly balls on a practice field.

Ernie Withers, 69, was shagging balls at the team’s spring training complex when he had “a medical event” that required immediate attention and caused practice to stop.

Jacki Dezelski, president of the Manatee Chamber of Commerce in Bradenton, Florida, confirmed Withers is a member of her group which sometimes is invited to attend practices and retrieve balls near the fence during batting practice.

Dezelski said Withers suffered a cardiac arrest and was alert, talking and “doing well” following a procedure.


Atlanta Braves right-hander Spencer Strider has changed his number from 65 to 99 for his second season.

The hard-throwing Strider finished second to teammate Michael Harris II in the NL Rookie of the Year voting and then plotted a uniform number change. He was inspired by the hard-throwing fictional star of the baseball movie “Major League.”

“Picking your jersey number in baseball to me has always been something of importance and my favorite movie is Major League and I like Rick Vaughn, so I see some similarities between Wild Thing and myself,” Strider said.

Strider, 24, was signed to a $75 million, six-year contract after posting an 11-5 record and 2.67 ERA in 31 games, including 20 starts.


Royals prospect Drew Waters, expected to compete with Kyle Isbel for the starting center field job, will miss six weeks with a strained left oblique, according to manager Matt Quatraro. Waters hit .240 with five homers and 18 RBIs in 32 games after he was acquired in a trade with Atlanta last season.

Quatraro said that Isbell will have “every opportunity to grab that spot.” Nate Eaton and Edward Olivares also will get a look as the Royals seek to replace Michael A. Taylor, who was traded to Minnesota last month.

The Royals also announced that left-hander Angel Zerpa has minor shoulder pain that is not expected to keep him out long. Outfielder Brewer Hicklen, a non-roster invitee, will miss about two months with a right elbow strain.


First baseman Luke Voit and outfielder Tyler Naquin agreed to minor league contracts with the Milwaukee Brewers and will report to major league spring training.

Voit, 32, hit .226 with 22 homers and 69 RBIs in 135 games with San Diego and Washington last season. He became a free agent when the Nationals failed to offer a 2023 contract.

MLB free agent watch: Shohei Ohtani leads possible 2023-24 class

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CHICAGO – The number will follow Shohei Ohtani until it is over. No, not Ohtani’s home runs or strikeouts or any of his magnificent numbers from the field. Nothing like that.

It’s all about how much. As in how much will his next contract be worth.

Ohtani is among several players going into their final seasons before they are eligible for free agency. There is still time for signatures and press conferences before opening day, but history shows a new contract becomes less likely once the real games begin.

There is no real precedent for placing a value on Ohtani’s remarkable skills, especially after baseball’s epic offseason spending spree. And that doesn’t factor in the potential business opportunities that go along with the majors’ only truly global star.

Ohtani hit .273 with 34 homers and 95 RBIs last season in his fifth year with the Los Angeles Angels. The 2021 AL MVP also went 15-9 with a 2.33 ERA in 28 starts on the mound.

He prepared for this season by leading Japan to the World Baseball Classic championship, striking out fellow Angels star Mike Trout for the final out in a 3-2 victory over the United States in the final.

Ohtani, who turns 29 in July, could set multiple records with his next contract, likely in the neighborhood of a $45 million average annual value and quite possibly reaching $500 million in total.

If the Angels drop out of contention in the rough-and-tumble AL West, Ohtani likely becomes the top name on the trade market this summer. If the Angels are in the mix for the playoffs, the pressure builds on the team to get something done before possibly losing Ohtani in free agency for nothing more than a compensatory draft pick.

So yeah, definitely high stakes with Ohtani and the Angels.

Here is a closer look at five more players eligible for free agency after this season:


Nola, who turns 30 in June, went 11-13 with a 3.25 ERA in 32 starts for Philadelphia last year. He also had a career-best 235 strikeouts in 205 innings for the NL champions.

Nola was selected by the Phillies with the seventh overall pick in the 2014 amateur draft. There were extension talks during spring training, but it didn’t work out.

“We are very open-minded to trying to sign him at the end of the season,” President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski said. “We’re hopeful that he’ll remain a Phillie for a long time.”


Chapman hit 36 homers and drove in 91 runs for Oakland in 2019. He hasn’t been able to duplicate that production, but the three-time Gold Glover finished with 27 homers and 76 RBIs in 155 games last year in his first season with Toronto.

Chapman turns 30 on April 28. Long one of the game’s top fielding third basemen, he is represented by Scott Boras, who generally takes his clients to free agency.


Hernández was acquired in a November trade with Toronto. He hit .267 with 25 homers and 77 RBIs in his final year with the Blue Jays. He was terrific in 2021, batting .296 with 32 homers, 116 RBIs and a .870 OPS.

The change of scenery could help the 30-year-old Hernández set himself up for a big payday. He is a .357 hitter with three homers and seven RBIs in 16 games at Seattle’s T-Mobile Park.


The switch-hitting Happ is coming off perhaps his best big league season, setting career highs with a .271 batting average, 72 RBIs and 42 doubles in 158 games. He also won his first Gold Glove and made the NL All-Star team for the first time.

Chicago had struggled to re-sign its own players in recent years, but it agreed to a $35 million, three-year contract with infielder Nico Hoerner on Monday. The 28-year-old Happ, a first-round pick in the 2015 amateur draft, is on the executive subcommittee for the players’ union.


Urías, who turns 27 in August, likely will have plenty of suitors if he reaches free agency. He went 17-7 with an NL-low 2.16 ERA in 31 starts for the NL West champions in 2022, finishing third in NL Cy Young Award balloting. That’s after he went 20-3 with a 2.96 ERA in the previous season.

Urías also is a Boras client, but the Dodgers have one of the majors’ biggest payrolls. Los Angeles also could make a run at Ohtani, which could factor into its discussions with Urías’ camp.