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Baseball owners quiet on first day of meetings

Baseball owners quiet on first day of meetings

CHICAGO (AP) While the Miami Marlins and Toronto Blue Jays worked on a blockbuster trade with far-reaching implications, major league owners and executives descended on Chicago on Wednesday for the first of two days of meetings.

The deal was the talk of the baseball world. But the game's power brokers didn't seem too interested in talking about the trade in public, perhaps waiting to see its full scope.

``Not today, boys,'' Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria said as he strolled by a group of reporters. ``If you haven't figured it out yet, I'm not going to figure it out for you.''

Loria went on a spending spree last winter, handing out lucrative free-agent deals to All-Star shortstop Jose Reyes, left-hander Mark Buehrle and closer Heath Bell. The Marlins thought they would contend for the NL East title and draw 3 million fans in the first year of their publicly financed ballpark.

But they flopped, finishing last in the division. Bell was traded to Arizona in October, with the Marlins agreeing to pay $8 million of the remaining $21 million owed to the reliever. Now Reyes, Buehrle and Josh Johnson - probably Miami's best pitcher when healthy - are headed to Toronto for a package of top prospects.

``I really haven't focused on it,'' said New York Yankees president Randy Levine, whose team will have to contend with the improved Blue Jays in the AL East. ``Obviously, they got great players and both teams felt they improved themselves.''

The deal is pending physicals for the players, and Miami could be sending money to Toronto in the trade - something that likely caught the attention of the owners at the meetings.

``That's an interesting question, but I think you might want to address that to the commissioner,'' White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf said.

Commissioner Bud Selig said Wednesday night that no deal has been submitted to him for approval, but otherwise declined to address the potential trade. He is expected to talk at the conclusion of the meetings on Thursday.

Selig and the owners shuffled in and out of rooms all day, but no one seemed interested in talking about the topics discussed at the meetings.

Oakland is interested in building a new ballpark in San Jose, but that area is considered part of the San Francisco Giants' territory. Selig said at the World Series he is working on the issue, and A's managing partner Lew Wolff refused to talk about the situation on Wednesday.

The owners are expected to hear more about expanding the use of instant replay to fair-foul calls and trap plays on potential catches, and possibly even more. But it was unclear if that topic was addressed on the first day of the meetings.

``Without focusing on a general type of play, I would say that we need to, baseball needs to move forward,'' Red Sox president Larry Lucchino said. ``I'm confident the commissioner and the special committee he's got in place will examine a variety of options that will begin to address that problem.''

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Jay Cohen can be reached athttp://www.twitter.com/jcohenap

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Describing John Wall's injury: 'It feels like a piece of glass is in the bottom of your heel 24/7'

Describing John Wall's injury: 'It feels like a piece of glass is in the bottom of your heel 24/7'

John Wall, though he is with the team in Indianapolis, did not play Monday night against the Pacers as he continues to deal with bone spurs.

Bone spurs, also called plantar fasciitis, are formed when calcium deposits form on the underside of the heel bone and cause significant pain.

NBC Sports Washington Wizards analyst Drew Gooden, who played alongside Wall in D.C. from 2014-16 and has played with the same injury in the past, described what the injury feels like during Wizards Pregame Live.

“Let me tell you, that thing can either last for two weeks or for two years,” Gooden said. “And with his speed and how much impact he puts on his knees and on his feet, I mean you have to be precautious and really know what days to go hard and pick your days. So you have to monitor John Wall throughout this time of pain because heel spurs are nothing to play with.”

Wall played at less than 100 percent health on Saturday night against Cleveland and scored just one point in one of the worst outings of his career.

“Let’s just get down to it and let me tell you it feels like a piece of glass is in the bottom of your heel 24/7,” Gooden continued. “When you get out of bed, when you’re at practice, when you’re getting treatment, when you’re playing and after you play it gets worse. So, that’s a management type of injury that you have to be aware of on how much pressure you’re actually putting on that area.”

Wall is averaging 20.4 points and 8.3 assists per game in 25 games this season.

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Phillies’ manager Gabe Kapler says he’s ‘fascinated’ by Bryce Harper

Phillies’ manager Gabe Kapler says he’s ‘fascinated’ by Bryce Harper

LAS VEGAS -- Gabe Kapler commanded his nondescript, off-brown chair during his media session Monday at the Winter Meetings. He wore a black leather jacket, presumably the only MLB manager sporting such a look, spoke firmly and with projection when going over what went right, wrong and is to come for his Philadelphia Phillies.

The first question posed to Kapler was about...Manny Machado. Soon enough, Bryce Harper came up. Kapler said Harper “might be the best player in baseball” in September. Monday, he lauded a player his organization is rumored to be in hot pursuit of.

“I think -- in my opinion, Bryce Harper does a number of things well, but one of the things I found most fascinating about him last year was even through the times of his struggles, he still worked an incredible at-bat,” Kapler said. “So it wasn't like rolling over to the second baseman on the first pitch when he was struggling, although that happened from time to time. But when he struggled he still put together a quality at-bat. He still worked the pitcher. He still made the opposition uncomfortable. And sometimes he'd end that at-bat with a walk, which I think there's a lot of value in that."

“Now, when he's going good, he's one of the more difficult players to get out in the game. And I love the way he plays. I think there's so much to like about what Bryce Harper brings to the table.”

Kapler’s laudatory comments are not a surprise. And, Harper does appear an on-field fit in Philadelphia after their recent trade with Seattle which extracted Carlos Santana from first base, enabling Rhys Hoskins to move there from the outfield, where the Phillies played him out of necessity last season. That opens an outfield spot. Harper could easily slide in there.

Harper also makes sense in the Philadelphia lineup. He would pair nicely in front of or behind the right-handed Hoskins. Kapler said his initial thought is to hit Jean Segura second, Odubel Herrera third and Hoskins fourth. For all the progress they made last year, the Phillies still finished just 11th in National League OPS. They were 14th in OPS among right fielders. The No. 1 right field OPS in the National League last season? The Washington Nationals.

Miami in a vice

The Nationals and Phillies are sorting out their free agent plans with marquee players on the market. Atlanta won the division, added Josh Donaldson and has moves ahead. The Mets acquired Robinson Cano and closer Edwin Diaz. They are expected to do more in order to beef up their team as opposed to break it apart.

Then, there are the Marlins. Things are bad in Miami. They are set to remain so in 2019.

Monday, Marlins manager Don Mattingly, who is in the final year of his contract, was asked if he could definitively name a starting position player for 2019 outside of Starlin Castro at second base. He couldn’t.

“We knew it was going to be a tough year, but we needed to take steps forward,” Mattingly said.  “You see what's going on in the division, what's happening with all the other teams."

“And it's not going to get easier with the teams in our division. So it's hard to say anybody definitely in one spot. But I think our thought process is just continue, you gotta get better. And I think that's what [Michael Hill] has talked about, it's what Derek [Jeter] has talked about.”

Mattingly said he thinks catcher J.T. Realmuto, the team’s best player, is handling all the trade rumors about him well. Beyond Realmuto, the conversation centered on the bushel of prospects and young players Miami will be rolling onto the field in 2019.

Miami won 63 games last season. It finished 26 ½ games out of first place. Its best player will probably be gone by Opening Day. Other than that, everything is going well.

Baines, Smith ready for the Hall

Harold Baines and Lee Smith were surprise guests Monday at the Winter Meetings. Maybe not so much Smith, but certainly Baines.

Both were elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday by the Today’s Game Era Committee, a 16-person panel not associated with the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, which also votes on Hall of Fame candidacy.

Baines piled solid numbers during a 22-year career. However, he never come close to inclusion by the writers. His chances changed once his candidacy was presented to the committee, which included Jerry Reinsdorf, who owns the Chicago White Sox. Baines played 14 of his 22 seasons for the White Sox.

Smith delivered 478 saves in his 18 seasons.

Both selections rankled the baseball community, to a degree. They also had a positive impact for players like Edgar Martinez, who are struggling to be voted in by the writers, but could find a more congenial path with the committee based on these two selections.

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