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Top free agent Gerrit Cole likes pitching in Oakland, Josh Reddick says

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USATSI

Top free agent Gerrit Cole likes pitching in Oakland, Josh Reddick says

MLB free agency is upon us, but there's nothing "free" about it. 

Ace pitcher Gerrit Cole is the biggest name of the crop, and will be the one who could earn the largest paycheck. But where will he go?

All things equal, every team has a one-in-30 chance at getting Cole. But we know that's not the case. Would it really be possible he could land on the team with one of the lowest historical payrolls?

Yep, I'm talking about the A's.

Many have thought he could join the Giants, as he is married to shortstop Brandon Crawford's sister and he's from California. But former teammate Josh Reddick suggests Cole could play for the other Bay Area team.

“We know he wants to be a West Coast guy,’’ Reddick told USA Today's Bob Nightengale. “He’s a California guy, so he probably wants to be close to home. I know he mentioned Oakland a couple of times because of how he’s pitched there in the past. But that probably won’t happen. They’d have to clear the whole roster to afford him."

To say Oakland would be happy to have him is the understatement of the century. Oakland could use starting pitching -- but what team couldn't?

As far as Cole loving to pitch at the Coliseum, that makes sense, but it's a small sample size. In three games pitching in Oakland, he's boasted a 2.71 ERA and limited batters to a .212 average. Pitchers love it there.

The A's are not known to give out large contracts. They're not known to give out a fraction of what Cole is worth.

Three All-Star selections over his seven-year career have helped that value rise. An AL-leading 2.50 ERA last season with a league-leading 326 strikeouts and a 2.64 FIP raises it even more.

[RELATED: A's acquire McFarland off waivers]

“It makes you wonder what teams are going to be able to afford him, because there’s so many teams that can’t afford somebody like that," Reddick, who spent five seasons with the A's, added.

Beyond the monetary value Cole will command, this will create yet another long winter for teams -- and Cole will be the main target.

Just don't get your hopes up, A's fans.

Watch Giants prospect Jacob Heyward get ejected on call by robot umpire

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AP

Watch Giants prospect Jacob Heyward get ejected on call by robot umpire

Players getting angry towards an umpire is synonymous with baseball. And during the Arizona Fall League, it's no different ... even if you're arguing with technology.

During a Tuesday fall league game, Giants outfield prospect Jacob Heyward, the younger brother of Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward, was ejected after striking out on a call made by a robot umpire:

Looks low and inside, right?

But if you scroll to the next photo of the Instagram post, the pitch tracker shows it was, indeed, a strike. 

So who (or what) was Heyward yelling at if he was unsatisfied with the call? Heyward appears to claim his displeasure wasn't with the home plate umpire -- who simply was relaying the call from a computer system -- but he was ejected nevertheless.

This year, the automated ball-strike system (ABS) has been implemented to use at all games being played at Salt River Fields in Scottsdale, Ariz.

The independent Atlantic League first tested the technology, which includes a real-life umpire still manning duties behind the plate. The ump receives communications via an earpiece that's connected to an iPhone, and then relays the call from the TrackMan computer system.

[RELATED: Giants infielder Dubon engaged at Disneyland Paris]

Yes, it's complicated.

Despite Heyward's reaction, the data shows the pitch was a strike. And even if this is the case from now on (MLB will sometimes adopt these "experiments" down the line) the human element of emotions still will always come into play. 

Is 34-year-old Blanco faster in second stint with Giants?

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USATSI

Is 34-year-old Blanco faster in second stint with Giants?

SCOTTSDALE — Gregor Blanco turned 34 years old a few weeks before signing with the Giants, so it seems unlikely that he’s faster than he was during his first stint with the organization, which started six years ago. And yet...Blanco sure does look to have an extra step.

“I feel like I am (faster), to tell you the truth,” Blanco said. 

Teammates and team officials have noticed. Bruce Bochy has repeatedly said that Blanco looks like he’s still in his twenties, and after he legged out an easy triple — his second of the spring — on Sunday, Hunter Pence noted that Blanco looks faster. Pence said Blanco has opened eyes with his explosive work in the weight room.

“You watch some of what he’s doing...it’s incredible,” Pence said. 

Blanco has made speed work his emphasis, doing work with training bands and mixing in plenty of box jumps. He said Pence is actually the one who deserves credit. Blanco overhauled his workout routine after seeing Pence’s work on explosiveness when the two were teammates the first time. He has continued to tweak things. Blanco said he recently ran a 6.4-second 60-yard dash. 

“The last time I did that was when I was like 16 years old,” he said, laughing. 

According to Statcast’s Sprint Speed metric, Blanco was one of the fastest players in the big leagues last year at the age of 33. He was as fast as Jarrod Dyson, known as a burner, and he entered camp as the fastest Giant (Steven Duggar hasn’t been tracked by Statcast yet). That skill gives him a leg up on others. The Giants did so many things poorly last season that sometimes it got lost just how little speed they had on the field, and Bochy has noticed the dimension Blanco has added to his roster once again. 

“It’s like he hasn’t changed,” Bochy said. “We’ve all gotten older but he looks exactly the same as when he came in as a non-roster (invitee) in 2012.”

Bochy continues to talk about how competitive the race for the final two outfield spots is, but at this point, Blanco looks like a pretty good bet to once again be wearing orange and black on opening day. 

--- Pablo Sandoval made a nifty play in the fifth when Andres Blanco’s throw to first went up the line. Sandoval jumped off the bag and swipe-tagged Freddy Galvis as he ran by. Sandoval was pretty much a roster lock coming into the spring, and he has done nothing to hurt his status. He looks pretty agile at first, which could come into play at some point. The staff has not fully shelved the idea of Brandon Belt playing the outfield against certain pitchers. 

Sandoval said he hasn’t caught any bullpen sessions yet, but he still plans to as he prepares to be an emergency catcher. He was slowed a bit in recent days after jamming his hand taking a swing. 

--- Mark Melancon gave up a solo homer to Jose Pirela, but otherwise had a good day. He struck out Eric Hosmer and got Wil Myers and Hunter Renfroe to ground out. The appearance was Melancon’s second of the spring, and his stuff looked pretty crisp. Melancon has mentioned some lingering arm discomfort, but there don’t seem to be any issues when he’s on the mound. 

--- Pence hit a grand slam and talked about some of the things he’s trying to do with his swing this spring. Here’s video of the blast.