Zach Eflin makes good first impression with Rays after big deal

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The most expensive free agent in Tampa Bay history made a good first impression with the Rays.

Zach Eflin struck out three of four Minnesota Twins batters on Thursday in his first spring training start, a game played at Tropicana Field. The right-hander signed a $40 million, three-year contract during the offseason, the most money the Rays have given to a free agent.

“Felt really good,” Elfin said. “Felt like I was in control. I felt like my offspeed was pretty good today, which is kind of a good foundation to start with.”

Eflin began last season in Philadelphia’s rotation but his last start was June 25 before being sidelined by right knee soreness. He returned Sept. 14 and made seven appearances out of the bullpen with a 1.17 ERA, then pitched in relief in 10 postseason games for the National League champions. He threw 4 1/3 scoreless innings over four World Series games.

His 2021 season was cut short by a torn patellar tendon in his right knee that required surgery. He had surgery on both knees in 2016, the same year he made his big league debut with the Phillies.

Eflin joins a Rays rotation that includes All-Star lefty Shane McClanahan and right-hander Drew Rasmussen. Tyler Glasnow, a 6-8 righty, is expected to miss six to eight weeks with an oblique injury.


Dodgers infielder Miguel Rojas told reporters that he is pulling out of the World Baseball Classic with Venezuela because he wants to focus on his role as the likely starting shortstop for Los Angeles.

The 34-year-old is expected to get more playing time following an injury to Gavin Lux, who tore ligaments in a knee this week and will miss the season.

“It’s definitely heartbreaking that I can’t go and participate with Venezuela,” Rojas told the Los Angeles Times. “The reason why is a new opportunity opened up for me – an opportunity to play every day at shortstop.”

Rojas said he’d likely get more at-bats during the spring with the Dodgers then he would in his expected utility role with Venezuela.


It was a double dose of less-than-encouraging news for the Colorado Rockies on Thursday.

Manager Bud Black said Gold Glove-winning second baseman Brendan Rodgers could be looking at surgery after he dislocated his left shoulder while diving for a grounder up the middle in a spring training game Wednesday.

Black also said left-handed reliever Lucas Gilbreath has been dealing with an elbow issue and may be facing Tommy John surgery.

Rodgers was the third overall pick by the Rockies in 2015. He hit .266 with 13 homers and 63 RBIs last season.

“This setback is a tough one,” Black said of Rodgers. “I do really think that he was ready for a big year. I think he was in great shape, he was in a good frame of mind mentally, confidence. Everything was pointed in the right direction for success. And now this is a setback.”


The Pittsburgh Pirates didn’t get a hit in their 9-1 exhibition loss against the Yankees until Matt Fraizer led off the bottom of the ninth inning with an infield single off non-roster right-hander Matt Bowman, the ninth New York pitcher.

Fraizer was erased on a double-play grounder, but Drew Maggi homered for the only Pirates run.

Each Yankees pitcher threw one inning. The first five were 40-man roster guys, with starter Lou Trivino followed by Wandy Peralta, Clay Holmes, Albert Abreu and Jimmy Cordero.

Top Yankees prospect Anthony Volpe led off the game with a homer. Rafael Ortega, who played for the Chicago Cubs the last two seasons, hit a two-run homer and had an RBI triple.


Well, that was a fast 1-2-3.

Peralta needed only about 20 seconds to strike out Pittsburgh’s Tucupita Marcano on three pitches. The Yankees lefty who has always exceled as disrupting the timing of hitters can now take advantage of the new pitch clock.

“It’s right up his alley,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “It just gives him something else to mess with.”

After a quick 85 mph slider that a seemingly surprised Marcano took for a strike, he swung at and missed a 94 mph slider before watching a 86 mph changeup that was called strike three to end the second inning.


Infielder Rougned Odor started at second base for the Padres on Thursday after finalizing a minor league deal.

Manager Bob Melvin said Odor will get the opportunity to play this spring training since the Padres are short on infielders, especially with the upcoming World Baseball Classic.

If added to the 40-man roster, Odor would get an $800,000, one-year contract.

Odor, a left-handed hitter, batted .207 in 135 games with Baltimore last season, after a year with the Yankees and seven with the Texas Rangers. He has a .231 career batting average with 174 home runs and 550 RBIs in 1,095 games. He also has 1,008 strikeouts and 252 walks.

SOME HURTING PLAYERS – Red Sox catcher Connor Wong, projected to be the backup behind starter Reese McGuire, injured his left hamstring in Boston’s 15-3 win over Philadelphia.

“It doesn’t look great right now but hopefully we get better news (Friday) morning,” Boston manager Alex Cora said.

– Another Yankees catching prospect has been shut down.

Josh Breaux won’t throw for a week or two after because of an elbow issue after feeling discomfort while throwing earlier this week. That came with Austin Wells already out six to eight weeks with a broken rib.

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. Rotevedt is one of three catchers on the New York’s 40-man roster, along with All-Star and Gold Glove-winning Jose Trevino and backup Kyle Higashioka.

– Rays infielder Yandy Díaz will be out at least a week with a hip flexor injury. Diaz hit .298 with nine homers, 57 RBIs and 71 runs scored last season. He was fifth in majors with his .401 on-base percentage.


This was a different kind of pitch tipping when Minnesota right-hander Kenta Maeda made only his second spring start in his return from Tommy John surgery two seasons ago.

Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said the PitchCom device catcher Tony Wolters was using was loud enough for Tampa Bay hitters to hear every pitch that was called. Home plate umpire Brennan Miller heard them all through the wireless system used by pitchers and catchers to communicate.

Maeda still threw two scoreless innings, allowing two hits. He struck out two and walked one.

“I said nicely done,” Baldelli said. “By the way, something to note, they knew every pitch that was coming.”

Maeda laughed when told by his manager what happened.

Baldelli said the device in Wolters’ ear was projecting significantly louder than normal, and it wasn’t very loud in the domed Tropicana Field with an announced crowd of 2,531.

A conversion with the umpires after the second inning tipped off Baldelli, and adjustments were made to the device.


Spring training games in Arizona were played Thursday with temperatures barely reaching the mid-50s (Fahrenheit). Temperatures in the Phoenix and surrounding area are forecast to be closer to 60 degrees by Friday, but that is still almost 5 degrees cooler than the average high temperature the first week of March.

Trevor Bauer pulls on No. 96 for Yokohama’s BayStars

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YOKOHAMA, Japan – Trevor Bauer apparently was shunned by every major league team, so he’s signed a one-year deal with the Yokohama DeNA BayStars.

Before about 75 reporters in a Yokohama hotel, he slipped on the BayStars uniform – No. 96 – on Friday and said all the right things. Not a single Japanese reporter asked him about his suspension in the United States over domestic violence allegations or the reasons surrounding it.

The only question about it came from The Associated Press. Bauer disputed the fact the question suggested he was suspended from the major leagues.

“I don’t believe that’s accurate,” he said of the suspension. “But I’m excited to be here. I’m excited to pitch again. I’ve always wanted to play in Japan.”

He said the suspension dealt technically with matters of pay, and he said he had contacted major league teams about playing this year. He said he would have been eligible, but did not say if he had offers.

The 2020 NL Cy Young Award winner was released by the Los Angeles Dodgers on Jan. 12, three weeks after an arbitrator reduced his suspension imposed by Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred from 324 to 194 games.

The penalty followed an investigation into domestic violence, which the pitcher has denied.

Manfred suspended Bauer last April for violating the league’s domestic violence and sexual assault policy, after a San Diego woman said he beat and sexually abused her in 2021.

Bauer has maintained he did nothing wrong, saying everything that happened between him and the woman was consensual. He was never charged with a crime.

Bauer joined his hometown Dodgers before the 2021 season and was 8-5 with a 2.59 ERA in 17 starts before being placed on paid leave.

Bauer said his goal with the BayStars was to strike out 200 and keep his average fastball velocity at 96 mph – hence his uniform number. He said he is also working on a better change-up pitch.

He said he hoped to play by mid-April – about two weeks after the Japanese season begins – and said he has been training for the last 1 1/2 years.

“I’ve been doing a lot of strength training and throwing,” he said. “I didn’t really take any time off. So I’ve had a year and a half of development time. I’m stronger than ever. More powerful than ever.”

Yokohama has not won a title in 25 years, and Bauer said that was his goal in the one-year deal.

“First and foremost, I want to help the Stars win a championship,” he said. “That involves pitching well. That involves helping teammates and learning from them. If they have questions – you know – share my knowledge with them.”

He also repeated several times about his desire to play in Japan, dating from a collegiate tournament in 2009 at the Tokyo Dome. He said playing in Japan was on his mind even before winning the Cy Young – and also immediately after.

“The Tokyo Dome was sold out,” he said. “I’d never played in front of that many people – probably combined in my life. In the United States, college games aren’t very big, so seeing that amount of passion. How many people came to a college game in Japan. It really struck me.”

He said he’d been practicing with the Japanese ball, which he said was slightly softer with higher seams.

“But overall it just feels like a baseball and the pitches move the same. The velocity is similar. I don’t notice much of a difference.”

Other teams in Japan have made similar controversial signings before.

Former major league reliever Roberto Osuna – who received a 75-game suspension for violating MLB’s domestic violence policy – signed last season with the Chiba Lotte Marines.

He has signed for this season with the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks.

In 1987, Dodgers relief pitcher Steve Howe, who had a career plagued with drug problems, tried to sign with the Seibu Lions. But he did not play in the country after the Japanese baseball commissioner disqualified Howe because of his history of drug abuse.

Bauer was an All-Star in 2018 and went 83-69 with a 3.79 ERA in 10 seasons for Arizona (2012), Cleveland, (2013-19), Cincinnati (2019-20) and the Dodgers. He won the NL Cy Young Award with Cincinnati during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.