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Week 16 Fantasy Pitching Planner

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As Fantasy owners head into the second half of the season, they need to hone their strategies to make the final push towards a championship. In that spirit, we're doing some fine tuning of our own with the weekly Pitching Planner.

Beginning with the Week 15 edition, we started to include a ranking of the top 70 starting pitchers for the coming week, and you can find this week's ranked list further down below. Starting this week, the "advisable" and "inadvisable" two-start pitcher listings have been condensed into a single list, which will include all of the two-start pitchers who are on the border of being viable in standard mixed leagues. As in previous weeks, there will still be analyses of some of the borderline one-start pitchers as well, along with the latest information on pitchers on the disabled list and pitchers at risk of not making a start.

Finally, you can still use the interactive tool below to locate information on start dates, opponents, ratings, ownership rates and xFIP differentials for any pitcher scheduled or likely to make a start next week.

Borderline Two-Start Pitchers

A.J. Burnett, N.Y. Yankees: Burnett has been a little better over his last half-dozen starts, getting more strikeouts and grounders, but even before then, he was a decent two-start option. Especially with an upcoming start against the punchless A's, Burnett is advisable to use in most formats.

Chris Capuano, N.Y. Mets: As Capuano has surged to a 5-2 record and 2.57 ERA over his last seven starts, his popularity has risen, but he is still underappreciated. While his Fantasy stats didn't show it earlier in the year, Capuano has had solid command of the strike zone all season long. He should be active in more than 27 percent of the leagues on CBSSports.com, especially in a week when he faces the Marlins not once, but twice.

Josh Collmenter, Arizona: Collmenter's 13 percent popup rate still looks a little fluky, but it's hard to argue with his overall results. He has followed the pattern he established in the minors of issuing few walks and limiting base hits on balls in play. For someone who pitches to contact, that's a very good thing. The Brewers and Rockies don't present the easiest matchups, but Collmenter should produce enough to be worth starting.

Al's Top 70 for Week 16
Pitcher Opponents
1. Roy Halladay, Phillies @CHC, SD
2. Ubaldo Jimenez, SP, Rockies ATL, @ARI
3. Yovani Gallardo, SP, Brewers @ARI, @SF
4. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers @SF
5. Tim Lincecum, Giants LAD
6. Cole Hamels, Phillies SD
7. Cliff Lee, Phillies @CHC
8. Felix Hernandez, Mariners @BOS
9. Justin Verlander, Tigers @MIN
10. Brandon Beachy, Braves @COL, @CIN
11. Josh Beckett, SP, Red Sox SEA
12. James Shields, SP, Rays NYY
13. Dan Haren SP, Angels TEX
14. Anibal Sanchez, SP, Marlins SD, NYM
15. David Price, SP, Rays NYY
16. Tommy Hanson, SP, Braves @COL
17. Jered Weaver, SP, Angels TEX
18. CC Sabathia, SP, Yankees @TB
19. Ryan Vogelsong, SP, Giants LAD, MIL
20. Francisco Liriano, SP Twins CLE, DET
21. Michael Pineda, SP, Mariners @TOR, @BOS
22. Jaime Garcia, SP, Cardinals @PIT
23. Alexi Ogando, SP, Rangers @LAA, TOR
24. Chad Billingsley, SP, Dodgers @SF, WAS
25. Ricky Romero, SP, Blue Jays SEA
26. Madison Bumgarner, Giants LAD
27. Tim Stauffer, SP, Padres @FLA, @PHI
28. Randy Wolf, SP, Brewers @ARI, @SF
29. Johnny Cueto, SP, Reds @PIT
30. Justin Masterson, SP Indians @MIN
31. Matt Cain, SP, Giants MIL
32. Jeremy Hellickson, SP, Rays NYY, @KC
33. C.J. Wilson, SP, Rangers @LAA
34. A.J. Burnett, SP, Yankees @TB, OAK
35. Ian Kennedy, SP, D-Backs MIL
36. Tim Hudson, SP, Braves @COL
37. Bartolo Colon, SP, Yankees @TB, OAK
38. Trevor Cahill, SP, Athletics @NYY
39. Jhoulys Chacin, SP, Rockies ATL
40. Wandy Rodriguez, SP, Astros @CHC
41. Gio Gonzalez, SP, Athletics @NYY
42. Jordan Zimmermann, SP, Nationals @HOU
43. Daniel Hudson, SP, D-Backs COL
44. Bud Norris, SP, Astros @CHC
45. Jair Jurrjens, SP, Braves @CIN
46. Chris Capuano, SP, Mets FLA, @FLA
47. Matt Garza, SP, Cubs PHI
48. Ryan Dempster, SP, Cubs PHI
49. Zack Greinke, SP, Brewers @ARI
50. Philip Humber, SP, White Sox @CLE
51. Kyle Lohse, SP, Cardinals @NYM, @PIT
52. Mat Latos, SP, Padres @PHI
53. Carlos Carrasco, SP, Indians CHW
54. Chris Carpenter, SP, Cardinals @PIT
55. Brandon Morrow, SP, Blue Jays SEA
56. Josh Collmenter, SP, D-Backs MIL, COL
57. James McDonald, SP, Pirates CIN, STL
58. Josh Tomlin, SP, Indians @MIN
59. Dillon Gee, SP, Mets STL, @FLA
60. Mike Leake, Reds @PIT
61. Hiroki Kuroda, Dodgers WAS
62. Colby Lewis, Rangers TOR
63. Ricky Nolasco, SP, Marlins SD
64. R.A. Dickey, SP, Mets STL
65. Matt Harrison, SP, Rangers TOR
66. Jonathon Niese, SP, Mets STL
67. Gavin Floyd, SP, White Sox @CLE
68. Ted Lilly, SP, Dodgers WAS
69. Jeff Niemann, SP, Rays @KC
70. Phil Hughes, SP, Yankees OAK

Dillon Gee, N.Y. Mets: Over his last four starts, Gee hasn't exactly been a whiz, going 1-3 with a 6.35 ERA. Sagging peripherals, including subpar strikeout, walk, line drive and popup rates, have contributed to his slump, but Gee's long-term track record suggests that he can do much better than this. To be sure, Gee is skating on thin ice right now, but he remains a reasonable low-end option as a two-start pitcher.

Jeremy Guthrie, Baltimore: Guthrie is having a solid season overall, but as usual, he has been a little too prone to serving up gopher balls. He is especially risky to start when he's at home, as his career 1.3 HR/9 at Camden Yards suggests. Next week, Guthrie has two home starts, including a Tuesday date with the slugging Red Sox. This is not the best of weeks to trust Guthrie as a two-start option.

Jeremy Hellickson, Tampa Bay: With only 68 strikeouts in 103 2/3 innings, Hellickson hasn't delivered in the way that many owners thought he would in the first half. While he hasn't provided punchouts, Hellickson has compensated by getting oodles of easy flyouts, just as he did as a prospect. That may not always be enough to power him through a one-start week, but Hellickson is a safe bet with two starts, even with one of those coming against the Yankees.

Kyle Lohse, St. Louis: A 3.90 xFIP (as compared to his actual 3.32 ERA) shows that Lohse likely overperformed in the first half, but you can't fake a 1.6 BB/9 rate. Lohse's economy with pitches has enabled him to average nearly seven innings per start. He is warming the bench in 40 percent of our leagues, but particularly with decent matchups at the Mets and Pirates, Lohse needs to grab his glove and get active in many of those circuits for Week 16.

Derek Lowe, Atlanta: Lowe's sinker is still effective, but even he has not been immune to the perils of home run venues like Coors Field and Great American Ball Park. His career HR/9 rates at those stadiums -- 1.1 and 1.5, respectively -- don't inspire confidence in his ability to succeed in upcoming starts there, especially since Lowe has become a shaky Fantasy option in general.

Jason Marquis, Washington: Because he got off to a good start this year, Marquis appears to be a decent borderline option in two-start weeks, but he simply hasn't been very good since April. Excluding his first five starts, Marquis has posted a 4.73 ERA and 1.59 WHIP this season. He simply allows too much contact, and he gets hit pretty hard when batters connect. There are few, if any, weeks in which Marquis can be trusted in standard mixed leagues.

James McDonald, Pittsburgh: The only time that standard mixed league owners should consider starting McDonald is when he gets a pair of starts in good pitchers' parks. McDonald has struggled on the road, and particularly in visits to hitter-friendly Cincinnati and Milwaukee, but he has compiled a 3.18 ERA at home this season. With two starts at hospitable PNC Park next week, McDonald is someone to target as you scour the waiver wire for two-start options.

Rick Porcello, Detroit: With a .318 BABIP and 68 percent left-on-base rate, Porcello pitched through an apparent mild case of bad luck in the first half, but he also didn't do much to catalyze any progress. The A's and Twins are a nice set of matchups, but given Porcello's undistinguished performance to date, the coming week should be viewed as more of a tryout for future two-start weeks than an invitation to get him on your active roster.

Other Add/Activate Targets

Carlos Carrasco, Cleveland: After two poor starts to finish out the first half, owners have started to turn on Carrasco, as he has been benched in 21 percent of our leagues over the last week. While the 24-year-old was unlikely to carry over a scorching performance from the month of June (4-2, 1.90 ERA, 0.87 WHIP) into July, he is just as unlikely to continue to falter, as he had in the early part of this month. Even in his recent pair of bad starts, Carrasco had been missing bats and inducing grounders, and he rebounded with a solid outing at Baltimore on Saturday. Look for a better week ahead, as he faces off against the White Sox on Friday.

R.A. Dickey, N.Y. Mets: Dickey has been on a serious roll over the last two months, but owners still don't trust him, as his ownership rate has barely budged. The knuckleballer's 2.69 ERA and 1.09 WHIP over his last 11 starts is no fluke, as his command has been impeccable. He was no slouch last season either, so it's time to take Dickey seriously as a standard mixed league pitcher, even in some one-start weeks. With a matchup against the Cardinals in Week 16, this may not be one of those weeks, but he should still be owned in more than 30 percent of our leagues.

Phil Hughes, N.Y. Yankees: In his two starts since coming off the DL, Hughes has pitched well and, better yet, his velocity is back. Standard mixed leagues can afford to take a wait-and-see approach, but in deeper formats, Hughes' upside makes him worth trying, especially with the A's on his Week 16 schedule.

Mike Leake, Cincinnati: Leake has been in a minor funk lately, allowing four earned runs or more in three out of his last four starts, but that shouldn't detract from what could be a breakout season. He has whittled down his walk rate significantly, and if not for a low strand rate, Leake's ERA would probably be in the mid-3.00s. With one start coming up against the Pirates, he is a safer option than several two-start pitchers, including Lowe and Marquis.

Ted Lilly, L.A. Dodgers: Lilly finished out the first half on a promising note with a pair of decent starts against the Mets and Padres, though he stumbled a bit on Sunday, allowing four runs (including two solo homers) in 6 2/3 innings at Arizona. Until he can put together a longer stretch of good outings, he may not be a no-brainer as a one-start Fantasy option, but Lilly could be fine to use next week. With a home start against the Nationals, the lefty's flyball tendencies shouldn't be exploited like they were at Chase Field.

Brandon McCarthy, Oakland: McCarthy didn't have his best game in his last outing before the All-Star break, allowing five runs to the Rangers over six innings, but he was considerably sharper against the Angels on Friday. While McCarthy didn't quite make the top 70 starters list this week, he deserves to be in more than a quarter of our leagues, even in one-start weeks. His ability to go deep into games and compile a solid strikeout-to-walk ratio makes him especially valuable in Head-to-Head formats.

Jeff Niemann, Tampa Bay: Niemann has shown enough since his return from the DL to be trusted in deeper mixed leagues. In fact, he's a reasonable use of a standard mixed league roster spot, now that he has reverted to the form he showed for much of last season. Particularly impressive were his last two starts prior to Sunday, in which he held potent Cardinal and Yankee lineups to one run apiece. Now that Niemann appears to be healthy again, he looks to be a pitcher on the rise for the second half.

Jonathon Niese, N.Y. Mets: Niese isn't having a bad year by any stretch, but his results should probably be better than they have been. The southpaw owns the majors' highest BABIP on flyballs, which has added extra heft to his ERA and WHIP. With improved command and stronger ground ball tendencies, Niese should be having a breakout season, and we could still see that happen in the second half as his BABIP regresses. Even with a Week 16 start against St. Louis, Niese should be active in more than 37 percent of our leagues.

Javier Vazquez, Florida: At some point during the last month, Vazquez quietly shed the "NL-only" label. In posting a 1.69 ERA over his last six starts, the veteran's ownership and activation rates have been creeping upward. Key to Vazquez's success has been sharper control, though he's also done a better job of avoiding the long ball. With a Week 16 start against the Padres, even more owners in deeper mixed leagues should think about using Vazquez.

Other Drop/Stash Targets

Kevin Correia, Pittsburgh: Correia is not without his merits. Most notably, he doesn't issue many free passes, but he's not especially efficient and he doesn't get many Ks. Correia's main Fantasy asset this year has been his 11 first-half wins, but he can't bank on getting more than seven runs worth of run support per nine innings going forward. He is still owned in a healthy proportion of standard mixed leagues, but the former Padre is little more than a waiver wire option in those formats.

Derek Holland, Texas: Perhaps Holland has turned a corner with back-to-back complete-game shutouts of Oakland and Seattle, but the A's and Mariners have made plenty of pitchers look good this year. Despite increased velocity and stronger ground ball tendencies, Holland has taken a step backward overall in 2011, registering fewer strikeouts while allowing more line drives. While Holland is owned in just 64 percent of our leagues, he is starting in a sizable majority of those leagues. For now, owners in mixed leagues should see if Holland can succeed against stiffer competition before trusting him on a weekly basis.

Most Added Pitchers
* as of July 17
Player % increase
1. Bobby Parnell, RP, Mets 23
2. Paul Maholm, SP, Pirates 15
3. Jeff Karstens, SP, Pirates 14
4. Derek Holland, SP, Rangers 13
5. Jason Isringhausen, RP, Mets 13
6. Javier Vazquez, SP, Marlins 12
7. Vance Worley, RP, Phillies 11
8. Joe Nathan, RP, Twins 10
9. Cory Luebke, SP, Padres 10
10. Matt Harrison, RP, Rangers 8

Edwin Jackson, Chicago White Sox: Jackson's impressive strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.6) and home run rate (0.6 HR/9) are all for naught, as he ranks fourth among all qualifying starters for highest line drive rate (24 percent). That's how Jackson can cut back his walk rate and still see his WHIP increase from last season's 1.39 to this year's 1.43. Saturday's complete-game shutout of the Tigers is a step in the right direction, but until we see some long-term change, Jackson's standard mixed league owners might as well use a roster spot on someone else, even if it's just a reserve spot.

Cory Luebke, San Diego: Over his four starts, Luebke has continued to strike out more than a batter per inning, just as he had done as a reliever. He also limited the Braves, Mariners and Giants (two starts) collectively to four runs over 24 innings. While impressive, the latter two opponents haven't offered the best test of what Luebke might be able to accomplish over the long haul. With an abundance of reliable options available next week, this would be a good time for Luebke's mixed league owners to stash him, as he is set to face the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park in Week 16.

Jake Peavy, Chicago White Sox: Peavy had his first post-All-Star break start pushed back so that he can build up more strength in his shoulder. This likely explains some of the problems he has had with location recently, and while he is set to pitch in Week 16, it does not appear to be a very safe time to use him outside of deeper leagues.

Ervin Santana, L.A. Angels: Homer-prone Santana tends to struggle badly in hitters' parks, and Camden Yards is no exception. Santana's ERA in four career starts at Baltimore is an unsightly 8.72, and he has given up five jacks in 21 2/3 innings there. With the Angels' hurler paying a visit to Charm City in the coming week, it's best to stash him in any mixed league format.

Max Scherzer, Detroit: Who will show up in Week 16? Good Max? Bad Max? Mad Max? Given his wild inconsistency, it's hard to know. However, with Scherzer having allowed at least five earned runs in two of his last five starts and in five of his last 10, why take a chance on finding out? Keep Scherzer stashed outside of deep formats until he can establish a pattern of reliability.

Jason Vargas, Seattle: As one would expect, Vargas -- a flyball pitcher -- has been more homer-prone on the road than at Safeco Field. While he has never pitched at Rogers Centre, the safe play is to avoid Vargas, at least in standard mixed leagues, while he plies his craft in the Blue Jays' launching pad.

Might Not Start in Week 16

Blake Beavan, Seattle: Beavan currently lines up to pitch at Boston on July 23, but Erik Bedard (knee) could be activated from the DL prior to that start. If healthy, Bedard would face the Red Sox instead of Beavan.

Duane Below, Detroit: Below is one of two candidates to fill the Tigers' fifth starter role in Week 16, with Charlie Furbush also being considered. Unless an announcement is made prior to Monday's lineup deadline, it's best to avoid Below or Furbush for the coming week. Should Below get the call, he would be a low-end option for owners in AL-only leagues.

Tom Gorzelanny, Washington: Gorzelanny left Sunday's start against Atlanta after two innings with a twisted right ankle. His upcoming start against the Dodgers is in question as a result.

Shaun Marcum, Milwaukee: Marcum exited Sunday's game against Colorado in the sixth inning with a strained neck. While the injury was not to his shoulder as was initially reported, he may still not be ready to take the mound for Friday's game at San Francisco.

Alfredo Simon, Baltimore: Simon is scheduled to take over the rotation spot of Mitch Atkins, who was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk on Sunday. However, Simon was placed on the restricted list, as he is in the Dominican Republic dealing with his legal issues, and he may not be permitted to leave the country in time for his next scheduled start.

Barry Zito, San Francisco: The Giants have an off day this Thursday, so they have the option of skipping Zito's next turn in the rotation. If manager Bruce Bochy keeps his top starters on regular rest, Zito will not be needed until Fantasy Week 17 (July 25-31).

DL Watch

Scott Baker, Minnesota: Baker was placed on the disabled list on Sunday with a sore right elbow, retroactive to July 6. He is eligible to return on Thursday, though there are no reports as to whether he will be ready to pitch during the coming week.

Fausto Carmona, Cleveland: Carmona has reportedly recovered from his quadriceps injury and is scheduled to start on Monday at the Twins. He will be a two-start pitcher next week, also facing the White Sox on July 24.

John Danks, Chicago White Sox: After making a pair of rehab starts at Triple-A Charlotte, Danks (oblique) is scheduled to take the mound against the Royals on Wednesday.

Wade Davis, Tampa Bay: Davis (forearm) had his first bullpen session on Friday and will have another one on Monday. Davis is not expected to need a minor league rehab assignment, and he could be activated in time to start on July 23 at Kansas City.

Jon Lester, Boston: Lester (lat) is expected to be activated on July 26 to start against the Royals. Keep Lester stashed for Week 16, but be prepared to get him active for Week 17.

Jonathan Sanchez, San Francisco: Sanchez (biceps) will make a rehab start for Class A San Jose on Sunday night and then move on to make a start for Triple-A Fresno. He could be ready to return to the Giants' rotation for Week 17.

Jesse Litsch, Toronto: The 30-day rehab clock is about to run out for Litsch (shoulder), so the Blue Jays either have to add him to their major league roster or demote him to the minors. With no apparent openings in the Toronto rotation, owners should not expect Litsch to contribute in Fantasy for Week 16.

Chien-Ming Wang, Washington: Wang (shoulder) made his fourth rehab start for the Nationals on Thursday night, pitching for Double-A Harrisburg, as he tossed six scoreless innings. He will progress on to Triple-A Syracuse, where he will start on Tuesday. If all goes well, Wang could be in the Nationals' rotation sometime during Week 17.

Erik Bedard, Seattle: Bedard (knee) was initially thought to need only the minimum 15 days on the DL, but his injury has lingered longer than expected. He has started throwing and could be activated in time to pitch against the Red Sox on July 23.

Tyson Ross, Oakland: Ross, placed on the DL with an oblique injury, has now developed shoulder tightness and will not return on Tuesday as initially anticipated. Most likely, Ross will be activated in Week 17, though even if that occurs, he may not return as a starter.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter . You can also follow Al on Twitter ( @almelcbs ) and can e-mail us your questions to DMFantasyBaseball@cbs.com . Be sure to put Pitching Planner in the subject field. Please include your full name, hometown and state.

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Player News
Brewers' Khris Davis to work on being a patient hitter in 2015
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2/27/2015) Brewers outfielder Khris Davis realizes he didn't show patience at the plate last year in his first full major-league season, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

"I built a reputation in the organization of being a patient hitter," Davis said. "I felt like I wasn't a patient hitter at all last year. I was a little eager, wanting to please too much, too early. I found out I'm human."

Davis drew just 32 walks in 549 plate appearances while posting a .299 OBP in 2014, a number far away from his career .392 OBP in the minors.

"He was different last year," manager Ron Roenicke said. "Everybody goes through different phases. Guys change. (His walk total) was too low. He's a guy I think should be fairly patient. He sees pitches well. When he starts getting anxious, he becomes more aggressive and chases more. He realizes it, which is the first step. If you don't realize it and don't listen to other people when they tell you that, then you have issues. You have to have good self-awareness to be a good player. Sometimes these players don't have good self-awareness. But if they had better self-awareness they'd be a better player."

Davis is determined to fulfill the potential that caused the organization to move Ryan Braun to right field before the 2014 season and plug Davis into the regular left-field role.

"I can't thank them enough for having patience with me," Davis said. "I'm going to work it out. When you get here, you want to stay. That's the toughest part at first. I don't think this league has seen the best of me yet. I'm ready to pull that out and prove it day by day. I learned so many lessons there are too many to name."

Davis hit .244/.299/.457 with 22 home runs and 69 RBI in 501 at-bats.


Indians' Francona keeping a close eye on Giovanny Urshela
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2/27/2015) Indians manager Terry Francona has been keeping a close eye on third-base prospect Giovanny Urshela, who was only recently cleared for a full range of activities after tweaking his knee during winter ball, MLB.com reports.

"He has a tremendous reputation of being a really good defender," Francona said. "I think I've been more wanting to watch his gait, just to make sure he's not favoring that leg. He promised us that, if he was, he'd let us know, but I also know he's a young kid in his first major-league camp."

Urshela suffered the injury on Nov. 15 and has rehabbed the injured knee at the team's spring-training facility in Goodyear, Ariz.

"He's worked really hard to get himself to where he can go through a normal spring," said Indians' director of player development Carter Hawkins. "We're very excited about the spot he's in right now, given the possible outcomes of the injury."

Urshela saw his first action at the Triple-A level in 2014, hitting .276/.331/.473 with 13 home runs and 65 RBI in 395 at-bats with Columbus.


Reds' Brennan Boesch to see time at first base this spring
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2/27/2015) Reds manager Bryan Price indicated Friday that outfielder Brennan Boesch would see time at all three outfield spots as well as at first base as he competes for a roster spot this spring, MLB.com reports.

"We already know he's a terrific player," Price said of Boesch, who has never played first base professionally. "He kind of got banged up and lost his way a little bit, but I think he feels -- and we feel -- that he's back on top of his game, and maybe his best days are ahead of him."

Boesch said he doesn't see the battle for a reserve outfield role as a "competition."

"I only care about the competition against the pitcher, and that's really as basic as I keep it," Boesch said. "You aren't competing against other players. We're all on the same side here. We're all wearing Red jerseys. Let the chips fall where they may."

Boesch struggled in limited time with the Angels in 2014 but hit .332/.381/.636 with 25 home runs, 85 RBI and 10 stolen bases in 374 at-bats with Triple-A Salt Lake.


Dodgers' Mattingly: Turner has 'put a lot of time in and it shows'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2/27/2015) Dodgers infielder Justin Turner earned a nonroster invitation to the team's camp last year and ended up leading the team in batting average, and he's been working on his body like a fiend over the winter, MLB.com reports.

"Going into last year, we felt if he played every day, he'd get in trouble, and we found that out, but this year maybe he can handle more," manager Don Mattingly said Friday. "He's really been diligent about his work, been at Dodger Stadium almost daily. He's put a lot of time in and it shows."

Turner credited strength-and-conditioning coach Brandon McDaniel for his workout success.

"Brandon did everything. He's been a one-man wrecking crew," said Turner. "He and his family deserve the credit. I've been able to establish a routine and train consistently. Before I signed a year ago, I was on my own, going to 24 Hour Fitness, had to coordinate everything myself."

Turner added that he lost 18 pounds this winter through a healthier diet. Mattingly said that he intends to use the infielder at the corner-infield positions and also potentially up the middle.


Nationals' Matt Skole: 'I'm eating healthy and working hard'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2/27/2015) Nationals first baseman Matt Skole missed most of 2013 after undergoing Tommy John surgery and struggled at the plate in 2014 but showed up to camp in better shape and will look to rebound in 2015, MLB.com reports.

"This offseason, I had a little more time to work on my body," Skole said. "I really got after it in the weight room. I ate right. I ate healthy. I think that was probably the biggest difference for me. I'm about the same weight as I was. I just leaned out a little bit. I'm eating healthy and working hard."

Skole worked with hitting coordinator Troy Gingrich for a month after the season and learned to keep his hands up in order to hit the ball consistently after having his hands too low during his down 2014 season.

"After taking a year off, it was more difficult than I thought it would be," the left-handed-swinging Skole said. "But coming back, I turned some corners, made some strides as far as getting to know myself as a player and know the things I need to fix. I think everything I did last year was a stepping stone for this year."

Skole hit .241/.352/.399 with 14 home runs and 68 RBI in 461 at-bats with Double-A Harrisburg last season.


Report: Dodgers sign center fielder Travis Witherspoon
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(2/27/2015) The Dodgers signed center fielder Travis Witherspoon to their organization, according to a report from Baseball America

Witherspoon has previously been in the Angels and Mariners organizations. In six years of minor-league ball, Witherspoon has posted a career batting average of .252 with 68 home runs. He hit a minor-league single-season best 15 home runs in 2014 with the Mariners' Single-A affiliate High Desert Mavericks. 


Phillies' Buchanan 'working on being a complete pitcher'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2/27/2015) Phillies pitcher David Buchanan is "working on being a complete pitcher," manager Ryan Sandberg said, per the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The team's coaches spoke with Buchanan in the fall about command and pitch sequencing, executing bunts and thwarting would-be base-stealers, and Sandberg noted while examining the players that arrived early that the pitcher had taken the advice to heart.

"My biggest goal [this spring] is to show our front office and our coaches that I can throw the ball over the plate," Buchanan said. "That's one thing I had success with last year. I wasn't walking guys. I was throwing strikes, and that's what I'm known for. That's why I succeeded in the minor leagues; I was throwing strikes. So that's what I want to do this spring training, is continue to do that, pound the zone, force early contact and keep the ball on the ground."

Buchanan is scheduled to pitch the team's Grapefruit League opener Tuesday against the Yankees.


Giants' Bochy: Hunter Strickland 'needs to get a little smarter'
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(2/27/2015) Giants pitcher Hunter Strickland is ready to learn from his mistakes from the tail end of his 2014 season.

Starting strong once he was called up from Double-A Richmond, Strickland gave up six home runs in the postseason. Giants manager Bruce Bochy said the remedy to put Strickland back on track is simple. 

"He needs to get a little smarter," Bochy said, per MLB.com.  

Strickland will be competing for a spot in the bullpen during spring training. His fastball is a strength, though it's a matter of his command improving on the mound. 

"The failures are what make guys better, I feel like," Strickland said. "I feel like they made me better. Just being in tune with yourself and knowing who you are and what you've got to do. In this game, you're not going to make it too far if you don't have confidence. If you don't believe in yourself, who else is going to believe in you?"


Mets' Nieuwenhuis, den Dekker competing for roster spot
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2/27/2015) Mets left-handed hitters Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Matt den Dekker will be battling for one roster spot this spring, MLB.com reports.

While Nieuwenhuis is out of options, manager Terry Collins indicated that den Dekker has responded to the team's request that he reduce his strikeouts when sent to Triple-A last season.

"We'll just see how it translates this spring into what kind of an offensive player he can be," Collins said of den Dekker. "We know he's got the defensive skills."

Collins said that whichever outfielder shows the most promise will make the initial 25-man roster.

"He plays the game right. He's fearless," Collins said of Nieuwenhuis. "But right now, we've got to get some offense from one of those two guys. Which one of those two guys is going to be able to come off the bench as a pinch-hitter? The best closers in our division are all right-handed, so the left-handed hitter off that bench is going to be a big piece."


Stephen Strasburg wants to stay with Nationals
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(2/27/2015) Though Stephen Strasburg's agent Scott Boras denied a report that he wanted to be traded in January, the right-handed pitcher said himself that he wants to remain with the Nationals and has no issues with the organization. 

"I haven't said anything like that," Strasburg said in an interview with MLB.com. "I don't feel like that. You have to accept it because that's how the system works. It's like they pick up on any little thing and they twist it. Some people want to turn it to see how many clicks they can get on the webpage."

Strasburg is set to be the ace of a deep rotation that looks to be on of the best in baseball this coming season. With the Nationals winning their second divisional title in the past three seasons, Strasburg said he's happy with the organization. 

"It's the team that drafted me. I love the players here, I love D.C. Winning cures everything, that's for sure," Strasburg said. "I'm excited to be part of the resurgence so far. It's great to see the type of players we bring in here every year. The expectations keep going up and up. Hopefully, we can do big things this year."


 
 
 
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