If Ian Desmond was looking for motivation, he's found it.
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The former Nationals shortstop, who turned down a $15.8 million qualifying offer at the outset of the offseason, agreed to a one-year, $8 million contract with the Rangers on Sunday. With Elvis Andrus manning the shortstop position in Arlington, Desmond will primarily play left field for his new club.
For the Rangers, it's an $8 million lottery ticket that could pay off in a big way. With Josh Hamilton already expected to start the season on the disabled list, the club suddenly had an opening in left field. While Desmond is a right-handed hitter as opposed to the left-handed bat they lost in Hamilton, Desmond offers more speed and enough pop to make them forget about Hamilton's absence.
The reported deal ends what has been a long offseason for the 30-year-old. Desmond surely didn't expect to find such a cold market despite struggling to a .233/.290/.384 line last season. Desmond drew some interest from the Padres and a few other shortstop-needy teams, but the lucrative multi-year deal he was seeking never materialized.
Even more frustrating for Desmond is the reported seven-year, $107 million contract extension he turned down from the Nationals before the 2014 season. Now, he'll have to produce in hopes of getting that long-term deal next winter.
He's in a good spot to do it. Globe Life Park in Arlington is one of the most notorious hitter-friendly parks in the league, and the Rangers figure to score plenty of runs this year. Like the Rangers, fantasy owners looking for a low-risk, high-reward buy this spring could do worse than Desmond.
'Core Muscle Injury' Sidelines Tillman
The Orioles are hoping a precautionary missed start isn't something more serious for Chris Tillman.
Tillman was scratched from his appearance in an intrasquad game because of tightness in his groin, an injury the Orioles are calling a "core muscle injury." While nobody is jumping to any conclusions, Orioles manager Buck Showalter left the door open for potentially bad news in the near future.
“Right now, it’s precautionary, but who knows what [will happen]?” Showalter said. “If it lingers, we’ll probably proceed with some other forms of trying to find out what it is. It probably wouldn't be as much of concern than if it was later in spring. Just want to be cautious with it right now. We’ll see.”
Surgery to a core muscle, the most likely alternative to rest, would likely keep Tillman sidelined for months. The Orioles surely won't do anything rash, but they should have a better handle on the situation -- and a clearer picture of Tillman's future -- in the next week or two.
Head athletic trainer “Richie [Bancells] said he felt pretty good about it when he left last night,” Showalter said. “Said he got up last night and felt it at home. I think Richie was a little surprised it wasn’t a lot better today.
“I don’t want to paint it too cautious and then, I don't know. There’s just a lot of unknown. Who knows where we go? Richie said if we get to the point where it didn’t get better in a while — I don't know what a while is — we might do an MRI on it [to] see if there’s something else there. But we’re not there yet.”
Phillies Win Exhibition Opener
Some actual baseball was played Sunday, even if most of the names weren't recognizable. (This is not a gratuitous Phillies joke, as obvious as it may seem.)
The Phillies and the University of Tampa played an exhibition, with the Phillies walking away with an 8-3 victory. Only a handful of their regular position players made the start, and no pitcher worked more than one inning.
And while there's zero value in analyzing spring games from late February, the Phillies at least avoided an embarrassment like last year's loss to the Spartans. Contributing to that was starter Jeremy Hellickson and Aaron Nola, each of whom threw perfect nine-pitch innings.
Offensively, Odubel Herrera went 2-for-2 with an RBI, a run scored and a stolen base atop the Phillies lineup. Aaron Altherr also stole a base in the game, and Darin Ruf went 1-for-2 with two runs scored.
Quick Hits: An MRI of Eduardo Rodriguez's right knee showed a subluxation of the patella tendon after he tweaked the knee Saturday. He's dealing with some swelling and will be sidelined for a few days, but all in all it's great news for the 22-year-old ... There's been "some talk" about Kyle Schwarber serving as Kyle Hendricks' personal catcher this season, according to Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune. Manager Joe Maddon is pumping the brakes on the speculation, but it would be great news for Schwarber's fantasy value going forward if he could keep catcher eligibility beyond 2016 ... Henderson Alvarez (shoulder) could begin throwing off a mound in the next few days. It's a step in the right direction, but the right-hander still isn't expected back sooner than late May or early June ... The Blue Jays signed reliever Rafael Soriano to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. Soriano struggled in 2015 but was a high-leverage reliever as recently as two years ago ... After their pursuit of Dexter Fowler ended in odd and unfavorable fashion, the Orioles continue to explore the addition of an outfielder. Jay Bruce and Austin Jackson were two names listed as MLB Network's Jon Heyman as possibilities for the club ... Juan Uribe's $4 million contract with the Indians became official. Uribe is expected to be the team's everyday third baseman, pushing Giovanny Urshela to Triple-A for the start of the season ... Anibal Sanchez (triceps) will resume playing catch on Monday. Inflammation in his right triceps has kept Sanchez sidelined in recent days, but the club still expects that Sanchez will be ready to roll by Opening Day.