Alex Rodriguez was the center of attention in Yankees camp a year ago coming off his season-long suspension for performance-enhancing drugs, but we’ve barely heard a peep about him this spring. That all changed on Wednesday after Rodriguez indicated to Andrew Marchand of ESPN New York that he plans to retire after his current contract with the Yankees comes to an end following the 2017 season.
“I’m thinking in terms of my contract which ends in 2017. After that, we’ll see what happens. I’ve got two more years and 300 games to play.”
So maybe he’ll retire after his age-41 season, maybe he won’t. It’s sort of amazing that we are even in this place right now, as it wasn’t too long ago that Rodriguez’s future with the Yankees and even in MLB was very much in doubt. When he arrived to spring training last year, many were wondering if he had anything left after a year away from the game or if his two surgically-repaired hips would hold up. Apparently the time away was beneficial for him. In addition to being on his best behavior, he batted .250/.356/.486 with 33 home runs and 86 RBI over 151 games while serving as New York’s primary designated hitter. It was his highest home run total since his age-32 season in 2008.
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Rodriguez reached 3,000 career hits last season and also passed Willie Mays for fourth on the all-time home run list. He’ll begin the 2016 season with 687 career home runs, which puts him 27 shy of tying Babe Ruth for third all-time. Assuming he stays healthy, it’s not hard to imagine him reaching that milestone either this year or next year. Rodriguez needs 68 home runs to reach Hank Aaron for second on the all-time list and 75 to catch Barry Bonds at No. 1. Both scenarios feel unrealistic if he truly intends to walk away after 2017, but perhaps he’s leaving the door open in case he’s close? That’s fun to think about if you enjoy chaos.
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Sanchez Makes His Case
Blue Jays right-hander Aaron Sanchez thrived after moving from the rotation to the bullpen last season, but he’s getting another chance to prove himself as a starter this spring. And he’s taking advantage of it.
Sanchez improved his spring ERA to 1.35 after blanking the Mets over 6 1/3 innings on Wednesday afternoon. Touching the mid-to-high 90s with his fastball, the 23-year-old allowed just three hits and walked none while striking out four batters. He also induced 10 ground balls. Granted, it wasn’t the toughest lineup. Michael Conforto, Juan Lagares, and Wilmer Flores were the notable names involved for New York. He also faced the likes of Danny Muno, T.J. Rivera, and Travis Taijeron. But it was an impressive showing nonetheless.
Sanchez now has a 19/3 K/BB ratio over 20 innings of work this spring. He has done just about everything the Blue Jays could have asked for, but it’s not a sure thing that he’ll win the final spot in the starting rotation. The alternative is Gavin Floyd, who missed most of last season after re-fracturing the olecranon bone in his throwing elbow. The veteran right-hander has been a nice surprise this spring, posting a 2.19 ERA and 11/3 K/BB ratio over 12 1/3 innings.
It’s easy to root for the upside of Sanchez, but I’m not sure we’ll see much improvement unless he takes a step forward with his secondary pitches. While he had a 3.55 ERA in 11 starts last year, he compiled an ugly 42/37 K/BB ratio over 66 innings. The AL East (and Rogers Centre) is a tough place to hang for a starting pitcher. The Blue Jays might just stick with what works, though there’s less of a need for Sanchez in a set-up role now that Roberto Osuna and Drew Storen are in line to pitch the late innings. He's a wait-and-see option in mixed leagues if he ends up winning the spot.
Gattis Likely Headed for DL
We already know that Astros right-hander Lance McCullers will begin the season on the disabled list due to right shoulder inflammation, but teammate Evan Gattis acknowledged Wednesday that he’ll likely join him as he makes his way back from February surgery to repair a sports hernia.
Gattis hasn’t appeared in a Grapefruit League game this spring, but he has been serving as the DH on the minor league side in recent days. However, he’s still not running at 100 percent intensity and the Astros aren’t going to push things. Since he’ll be kept on the minor league side, the club will be able to backdate his stint on the disabled list. This would set up a return by mid-April if all goes well.
After being acquired from the Braves, Gattis served as Houston’s primary designated hitter last season and finished with a career-high 27 home runs and 88 RBI in the process. It wasn’t all good news, as he hit just .246 with a .285 on-base percentage. This amounted to an OPS+ of 101, which means that he was essentially league average. He loses a lot of his appeal in fantasy leagues now that he’s no longer catcher-eligible, but there’s something to be said for cheap pop. And the price tag is pretty reasonable right now, as he has an ADP of 190.7 in Yahoo. Gattis figures to deposit plenty of souvenirs in the Crawford Boxes once he’s deemed ready for his season debut.
Quick Hits: A.J. Pollock (elbow) will play in a minor league game on Thursday … Edwin Encarnacion (oblique) is expected to take live batting practice Friday … Troy Tulowitzki was forced to exit Wednesday’s Grapefruit League game against the Mets after he was hit in the knuckles by a pitch, but fortunately X-rays came back negative on his right hand … Giancarlo Stanton launched his first home run of the spring on Wednesday … The Nationals reassigned top prospect Lucas Giolito to minor league camp, but chances are we’ll see him in the majors at some point this summer … Jacoby Ellsbury (wrist) was encouraged by how he felt after doing tee and toss work on Wednesday … Matt Wieters (elbow) is expected to return to Grapefruit League action Thursday at DH … In expected news, the Rangers will start Cole Hamels on Opening Day while Marcus Stroman will get the call for the Blue Jays … A’s closer Sean Doolittle (triceps) pitched in a minor league game Wednesday and will make his next appearance in Cactus League action … Victor Martinez (hamstring) will likely be limited to pinch-hitting duties when the Tigers visit the Marlins to begin the regular season … Tyler Naquin slugged two home runs on Wednesday as he continues to build his case for the Indians’ starting center fielder job … Padres manager Andy Green indicated Wednesday that Colin Rea will likely begin the season with a rotation spot … The Phillies have tabbed Jeremy Hellickson to start Opening Day, which sets up Aaron Nola to start the home opener … Kevin Gausman (shoulder) could resume throwing as soon as Friday … Jon Gray was diagnosed with an abdominal strain, but a timetable for his return is unclear … Luke Gregerson (intercostal) is expected to make his Grapefruit League debut this weekend … Lance McCullers (shoulder) threw a bullpen session Wednesday …