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Report — Kevin Pillar agrees to 1-year, $4M deal with Red Sox

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The Boston Red Sox have agreed to a deal with free-agent outfielder Kevin Pillar, according to The Boston Globe.

The newspaper reports it’s a one-year, $4 million deal that could become official as soon as this weekend if Pillar passes his physical.

Pillar will provide Boston with some outfielder depth with Mookie Betts now gone via trade to the Los Angeles Dodgers and Alex Verdugo, whom the Red Sox acquired in the deal, no certainty to be ready for Opening Day. Verdugo missed the end of last season with a back/oblique injury, and while he said in December that his goal was to be ready for the opener, he told MLB.com then that he’d have to wait and see how the injuries were progressing.

Red Sox position players aren’t mandated to report to spring training until Sunday.

Pillar began last season with the Toronto Blue Jays and moved to the San Francisco Giants as part of a four-player trade in early April. The slugging outfielder had the best season of his career, leading the Giants in several offensive categories, including homers (21), RBIs (87), hits (157) and on-base percentage (.339).

Pillar, who made $5.8 million in 2019, was not tendered a contract by the Giants after the season, as he would have become eligible for arbitration and likely would have commanded approximately $10 million.

A right-handed bat, Pillar had been Toronto’s longest-tenured player before being traded in his seventh season with the team. Known for stellar defense in center field, the 30-year-old has a .261 average with 76 home runs and 318 RBIs in 851 games. The Blue Jays selected Pillar in the 32nd round of the 2011 amateur draft, giving him a $1,000 signing bonus.

Pillar’s time in Toronto was not always smooth. In May 2017, he was suspended two games after yelling a homophobic slur at Atlanta Braves reliever Jason Motte. Pillar later apologized to fans, Major League Baseball and the LGBTQ community.

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Fans heckling Astros spring opener get signs confiscated

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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Fans hoping to heckle the sign-stealing Houston Astros at their spring opener were met with quite the coincidence.

They got their signs taken.

In the Astros’ first spring training game since their sign-stealing scandal rocked baseball, some fans brought signs jeering Houston, and ballpark personnel confiscated them before the Grapefruit League opener against the World Series champion Washington Nationals on Saturday night.

In a Series rematch, the Nats got hearty cheers, while everyone in an Astros jersey — including the mascot, Orbit — was booed. Houston did not use any players implicated in MLB’s probe.

Two men in Nationals gear sitting behind the Astros dugout briefly held up crudely drawn signs just before first pitch. One read: “You see my hate?” in large block letters. And another said: “Houston” with an asterisk below it, suggesting the Astros’ 2017 World Series title should be permanently blemished because of the cheating.

The men didn’t get to show off their signs for long. A woman who worked for the ballpark quickly approached to take the signs. The men didn’t argue with the woman, but they did look confused as she walked away with the signs folded in her arms.

The Astros and Nationals share a spring training complex. Houston was designated the home team Saturday.

Matthew Silliman, who held one of the signs, said he didn’t know they were forbidden. He drove to the game from Tampa Bay and said he has been waiting to let the Astros know what he thinks of them.

“I’m a big Nats fan and it’s wrong,” he said. “They’re cheaters.”

Commissioner Rob Manfred concluded last month the Astros violated rules by using a television camera to steal catchers’ signs during their run to the 2017 World Series title and again in the 2018 season. Manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow were suspended for one season and then fired by the team, but players were not disciplined.

Fans booed loudly every time the public address announcer said “Astros,” and fans behind Houston’s dugout heckled Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and Lance McCullers Jr. as they stood on the dugout steps before the game. A few fans banged on their metal seats, attempting to mimic the banging on a trash can the Astros used to relay stolen signs to hitters.

One fan in a Nationals jersey yelled: “Hey Altuve, are you scared to play tonight?” Others screamed “You suck!” and “Cheaters!”

About a half-dozen fans wore shirts that read “bang foul poles, not trash cans” in reference to Howie Kendrick‘s decisive home run for Washington in Game 7 of last year’s World Series.

First-year Houston manager Dusty Baker said he didn’t think the reception was “too bad” and said his team will have to get used to it.

“You’ll probably get the same reception most places you go, especially the first go-round,” he said. “So, you’ve just got to put your big-boy pants on and then just try to shut it out and just play baseball and realize this too shall pass.”

Washington ace Max Scherzer, who started Game 7 to help the Nationals to their first title, also started Saturday and pitched two scoreless innings. He was asked if he thought Saturday night’s game would be more dramatic considering what’s going on with the Astros.

“Maybe, I don’t know,” he said. “We won the World Series, so it wasn’t like I have a vendetta to hold. So, for me over here we’re just trying to move forward and get ready for our season.”

Scherzer was a bit disappointed that none of Houston’s starters played Saturday when he allowed one hit and struck out two.

“You want to face the best,” Scherzer said. “They’re a great lineup, but I get it, it’s early in the spring, you’re not going to see them.”

And while Silliman didn’t get to keep his signs, he said it wouldn’t stop him from heckling the Astros with his voice.

“Oh yeah,” he said. “They’re going to get it all.”

He didn’t have long. The game was delayed because of rain after two innings and canceled about 90 minutes later when rain continued.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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Fans heckling Astros spring opener get signs stolen

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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Fans hoping to heckle the sign-stealing Houston Astros at their spring opener were met with quite the coincidence.

They got their signs stolen.

In the Astros’ first spring training game since their sign-stealing scandal rocked baseball, some fans brought signs jeering Houston, and ballpark personnel confiscated them before the exhibition opener against the World Series champion Washington Nationals on Saturday night.

In a Series rematch, the Nats got hearty cheers, while everyone in an Astros jersey — including the mascot, Orbit — was booed. Houston did not use any players implicated in MLB’s probe.

Two men in Nationals gear sitting behind the Astros dugout briefly held up crudely drawn signs just before first pitch. One read: “You see my hate?” in large block letters. And another said: “Houston” with an asterisk below it, suggesting the Astros’ 2017 World Series title should be permanently blemished because of the cheating.

The men didn’t get to show off their signs for long. A woman who worked for the ballpark quickly approached to take the signs. They didn’t argue with the woman, but they did look confused as she walked away with them folded in her arms.

The Astros and Nationals share a spring training complex. Houston was designated the home team Saturday.

Matthew Silliman, who held one of the signs, said he didn’t know they were forbidden. He drove to the game from Tampa Bay and said he’s been waiting to let the Astros know what he thinks of them.

“I’m a big Nats fan and it’s wrong,” he said. “They’re cheaters.”

Commissioner Rob Manfred concluded last month the Astros violated rules by using a television camera to steal catchers’ signs during their run to the 2017 World Series title and again in the 2018 season. Manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow were suspended for one season and then fired by the team, but players were not disciplined.

Fans booed loudly every time the public address announcer said “Astros,” and fans behind Houston’s dugout heckled Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and Lance McCullers Jr. as they stood on the dugout steps before the game. A few fans banged on their metal seats, attempting to mimic the banging on a trash can the Astros used to relay stolen signs to hitters.

One fan in a Nationals jersey yelled: “Hey Altuve, are you scared to play tonight?” Others screamed “you suck!” and “cheaters!”

About a half-dozen fans wore shirts that read “bang foul poles, not trash cans” in reference to Howie Kendrick‘s decisive home run for Washington in Game 7 of last year’s World Series.

First-year Houston manager Dusty Baker said he didn’t think the reception was “too bad” and said his team will have to get used to it.

“You’ll probably get the same reception most places you go, especially the first go-round,” he said. “So, you’ve just got to put your big-boy pants on and then just try to shut it out and just play baseball and realize this too shall pass.”

Washington ace Max Scherzer, who started Game 7 to help the Nationals to their first title, also started Saturday and pitched two scoreless innings. He was asked if he thought Saturday night’s game would be more dramatic considering what’s going on with the Astros.

“Maybe, I don’t know,” he said. “We won the World Series, so it wasn’t like I have a vendetta to hold. So, for me over here we’re just trying to move forward and get ready for our season.”

Scherzer was a bit disappointed that none of Houston’s starters played Saturday when he allowed one hit and struck out two.

“You want to face the best,” Scherzer said. “They’re a great lineup but I get it, it’s early in the spring you’re not going to see them.”

And while Silliman didn’t get to keep his signs, he said it wouldn’t stop him from heckling the Astros with his voice.

“Oh yeah,” he said. “They’re going to get it all.”

He didn’t have long. The game was delayed because of rain after two innings and canceled about 90 minutes later when rain continued.



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Jack Flaherty named Cardinals’ opening day starter

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JUPITER, Fla. — Jack Flaherty is getting the ball on opening day for the St. Louis Cardinals.

St. Louis manager Mike Shildt said Saturday the 24-year-old Flaherty will start the season opener March 26 at Cincinnati. It will be the right-hander’s first opening day start and comes after he finished fourth in NL Cy Young Award voting with a closing surge last season.

“It’s one of of those things you work for and you want it,” Flaherty said.

The nod comes one season after Flaherty pitched the home opener for the Cardinals.

“It’s cool,” Flaherty said. “Just happy I get the ball first, get the first chance to go out and kind of set the tone for the season.”

Shildt gave Flaherty the news on Friday, not a surprise after Flaherty went 11-8 with a 2.75 ERA last season. Seven of those wins came after the All-Star break, when he posted a 0.91 ERA.

He also started three games in the postseason, allowing four earned runs in 13 innings.

Flaherty started three games against the Reds last season, allowing only one run in 16 1/3 innings while earning two wins.

“It’s a nice accomplishment and it’s a well earned one,” Shildt said. “He was excited, but he took it in stride.”

Shortly after Shildt made his opening day announcement, Flaherty took the mound for the Cardinals’ Grapefruit League opener, a 2-0 victory over New York Mets in which he was awarded the win.

Working his scheduled two innings, Flaherty surrendered two hits and struck out three. He threw 20 of his 32 pitches for strikes. His fastball hit 95 mph on the stadium’s radar gun.

“Everything felt good,” Flaherty said. “It felt comfortable. I felt strong.”

Saturday also marked the Grapefruit League debut of left-handed Korean import Kwang-Hyun Kim, known to his teammates as “KK”. The offseason signee walked one and struck out two in a scoreless inning.

“I felt KK was good,” Shildt said. “Good slider. Located his fastball. Showed a little changeup. Nice outing for him.”

Kim is among the handful of pitchers vying for a spot in the Cardinals rotation. Adam Wainwright and Dakota Hudson will join Flaherty as starters. Miles Mikolas would have broken camp in the rotation, but a flexor tendon issue will force him to miss the opening weeks of the season.

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