Phillies prospect Andrew Painter dazzles with heat in spring debut

Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
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The stage hardly looked too big for pitcher Andrew Painter.

The hard-throwing Philadelphia Phillies prospect’s fastball touched 99 mph in his spring training debut against Minnesota. The 19-year-old allowed one run and three hits with a strikeout in two innings, a solid first step as he attempts to crack Philadelphia’s starting rotation before his 20th birthday on April 10.

The 6-foot-7 Painter showcased a little bit of why the Phillies are so high on him. The 13th overall pick in the 2021 amateur draft nearly reached 100 mph on the radar gun while facing Carlos Correa in the first inning, though Correa did reach on an infield single.

“You know, (Correa) is pretty good at what he does,” Painter joked with reporters afterward. “So just trying to get by him.”

Painter threw 18 of 29 pitches for strikes and fanned Max Kepler with a 90 mph cutter. He ran into a bit of trouble in the second inning after allowing consecutive singles to Christian Vázquez and Nick Gordon before giving up a run on a sacrifice fly. The game ended in a 4-4 tie.

Phillies catcher Garrett Stubbs praised Painter’s poise, which Painter attributed in part to having played at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers while pitching for Philadelphia’s Class A affiliate last year.

“I felt like we didn’t even get to the point where he can probably get to, but he did really well,” Stubbs said. “You saw the kind of repertoire. He can spin the ball. He was throwing strikes. Obviously a really good heater and I don’t even think today’s heater was as good as it normally is. So I think we have even more to see from him.”

Painter sprinted through Philadelphia’s system in 2022, going 6-2 with a 1.48 ERA in 26 appearances spread across two Class A squads and Double-A Reading.


Boston Red Sox pitcher Chris Sale will likely make his Grapefruit League debut next week.

The seven-time All-Star threw 43 pitches over two innings of batting practice on Wednesday. Boston manager Alex Cora told reporters that Sale should be cleared to work two to three innings in a game sometime next week.

The 33-year-old Sale was limited to two starts last year and 11 starts in all since 2020 due to a variety of health issues. Sale arrived at spring training with no limitations, though Boston is taking the left-hander’s ramp-up slowly in hopes of avoiding any setbacks.


New York Yankees infielder DJ LeMahieu went 1 for 2 against Washington in his first game since being sidelined last September by a right toe injury.

He singled off the left-field wall in the third, and played four innings at second base. More importantly, LeMahieu enjoyed pain-free at-bats for the first time since the middle of last season.

“I’m excited about that,” LeMahieu said. “Excited to keep it going. I’ve been feeling good, and I expected it to stay that way.”

LeMahieu was limited to 125 regular-season games last year and missed the playoffs. He finished the season with a .261 batting average, his lowest since 2011.

“It’s awesome to see him up,” Yankees left fielder Giancarlo Stanton said. “He’s a force for us, and he’s a menace for pitchers.”


The Kansas City Royals signed veteran Jackie Bradley Jr. to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training, where he will have an opportunity to earn playing time in a wide-open outfield.

The Royals recently traded incumbent center fielder Michael A. Taylor to Minnesota for pitching prospects, and Drew Waters appeared first in line to take over the job. But he strained an oblique and is expected to miss the start of the season, leaving the Royals with an intriguing competition in spring training.

The 32-year-old Bradley will have to overcome Kyle Isbel, among other young prospects, to earn the starting job.

Bradley was an All-Star during eight seasons with Boston, where he was highly regarded for his defense but often failed to live up to expectations at the plate. He signed a two-year, $24 million deal with Milwaukee two years ago, but hit just .163 and was sent back to Boston before being released and signing with Toronto.

He batted .203 with four homers and 38 RBIs in 131 games between the Red Sox and Blue Jays last season.

If added to the Royals’ 40-man roster, Bradley would get a one-year contract for $950,000 and have the chance to earn $1 million in bonuses based on roster time.


The Cleveland Guardians are hoping some rest will help highly touted outfield prospect George Valera, who left Tuesday’s exhibition with an apparent right hand injury.

Valera, ranked as the No. 2 prospect in Cleveland’s organization, was forced to leave during his at-bat in the second inning after fouling off a pitch. He underwent surgery on the same hand during the offseason to repair a hamate bone fracture.

Manager Terry Francona said Valera will receive treatment before the team’s medical staff considers any imaging tests.

Valera hit .250 with 24 homers and 84 RBIs at Double-A Akron and Triple-A Columbus last season. Also, Francona said lefty reliever Sam Hentges is dealing with shoulder inflammation and will be evaluated weekly.

Hentges has become a reliable bullpen piece for Francona. Last season, the 26-year-old went 3-2 with a 2.32 ERA in 57 games.

“After Sam pitched the other day, he just came in and his shoulder just wasn’t bouncing back like he wanted it to,” Francona said. “They got him imaged. He has some swelling around the ligaments of his shoulder.”


Reserve catcher Ben Rortvedt is out indefinitely after a procedure to deal with what Yankees manager Aaron Boone called “an aneurysm of his posterior artery” near his left shoulder.

The injury is the latest in a series of setbacks for Rortvedt, who came to New York as part of the trade that sent catcher Gary Sánchez to Minnesota last offseason. Rortvedt was expected to compete for a roster spot but instead never appeared in a major league game due to oblique and knee injuries.


The early returns on Major League Baseball’s decision to restrict shifts are promising.

Runs and batting average were both up through the first wave of games compared to spring training a year ago. Players were hitting .272 through Feb. 28, with an average of 11.9 runs scored. That’s up from a batting average of .259 and 10.6 runs through the same period in 2022.

The uptick in offense does not appear to be affecting pace of play, thanks in large part to the introduction of the pitch clock. The average game time through Feb. 28 was 2 hours, 39 minutes. That’s down from 3:01 over the same stretch last spring training.

Umpires remain aggressive in enforcing timing rules. Cleveland shortstop Jose Tena was called out for not engaging the pitcher until there were less than eight seconds left on the clock.


Ronald Guzmán is serious about trying his hand at pitching. And the San Francisco Giants are serious about giving the veteran first baseman a shot.

The 28-year-old Guzmán pitched the ninth inning of San Francisco’s 8-5 loss to Arizona. Guzmán allowed a solo home run to P.J. Higgins but also struck out Jake Hager on three pitches. Guzmán was efficient, throwing eight of his 12 pitches for strikes.

Guzmán signed a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training as a two-way player with San Francisco over the winter. The 6-foot-5 left-hander played in 246 games for Texas and the New York Yankees from 2018-22 as a first baseman and designated hitter.

Royals’ John Sherman optimistic about new ballpark, current team

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The first thing that Kansas City Royals owner John Sherman thinks about when he wakes up each morning is how the club, stuck in what seems like an interminable rebuild, will play on that particular day.

Not where they will play four or five years down the road.

Yet given the modest expectations for a team that lost nearly 100 games a year ago, it makes sense many Royals fans are just as interested – quite possibly more so – in the plans for a downtown ballpark than whether infielder Bobby Witt Jr. can double down on his brilliant rookie season or pitcher Brady Singer can truly become a staff ace.

That’s why Sherman’s second thought probably moves to the downtown ballpark, too.

“This is a huge decision, and I look at it as maybe the most important decision we’ll make as long as we have the privilege of stewarding this team,” Sherman said before the Royals held a final workout Wednesday ahead of opening day. “I’m probably as anxious as you to get moving on that, but it’s a complicated process.”

The Royals have called Kauffman Stadium home since the sister to Arrowhead Stadium, the home of the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, opened 50 years ago next month.

And while most stadiums are replaced because they have become outdated, the unique, space-aged look of Kauffman Stadium – built during an era in which teams trended toward impersonal, multisport concrete donuts for their homes – remains beloved by Royals fans and visitors alike.

The problem is that despite numerous renovations over the years, the very concrete holding the ballpark together has begun to crumble in places. The cost simply to repair and maintain the ballpark has become prohibitive.

So with the decision essentially made for them to build an entirely new stadium, the Royals revealed plans to build an entire development in the same mold of The Battery Atlanta, where the Braves built Truist Park, and the Ballpark Village in St. Louis, where the new Busch Stadium is merely the centerpiece of a whole entertainment district.

No site has been secured, but several of the most promising are in downtown Kansas City, where the Power & Light District along with T-Mobile Center have spearheaded a successful era of urban renewal.

Sherman has said that private funds would cover the majority of the stadium cost and the entire village, each carrying a price tag of about $1 billion.

But if any public funding will be used, as it was to build and maintain Kauffman Stadium, then it would need to be voted upon, and the earliest that it could show up on a ballot would be August.

“You look at Atlanta, they took some raw ground – they started with 85 acres – and that has been a complete home run,” said Sherman, who purchased the Royals in August 2019, shortly before the pandemic wreaked havoc on team finances.

“This is one of the reasons we want to do this: That’s helped the Braves become more competitive,” Sherman said of the vast potential for increased revenue for one of the smallest-market teams in baseball. “They have locked up and extended the core of their future, and the Braves are in a great position from a baseball standpoint.”

So perhaps the first two thoughts Sherman has each day – about performance and the future – are one and the same.

When it comes to the team itself, the Royals were largely quiet throughout the winter, though that was by design.

Rather than spending heavily on free agents that might help them win a few more games, they decided to stay the course with a promising young roster in the hopes that the development of those players would yield better results.

In fact, Sherman said, the club has been discussing extensions for some of the Royals’ foundational pieces – presumably Witt, who was fourth in voting for AL rookie of the year, and Singer, who was 10-5 with a 3.23 ERA last season.

“We’re having conversations about that as we speak,” Sherman said. “We have a number of young players that we’re trying to evaluate and we’re talking to their representatives about what might work.”

Just because the Royals’ roster largely looks the same, that doesn’t mean nothing has changed. The Royals fired longtime general manager Dayton Moore in September and moved J.J. Picollo to the role, then fired manager Mike Matheny in October and replaced him with longtime Indians and Rays coach Matt Quatraro.

Sherman said the new voices created a palpable energy in spring training that he hopes carries into the regular season.

“When we acquired the team, we had three primary objectives,” Sherman said. “One was to win more games; we’re working on that. The second was to secure the future; that’s what (the stadium) is. And the third was to do good in the community.

“But the first priority,” he said, “is really the on-field product. That’s what really lifts everything else up.”