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Royals DFA speedster Hamilton, recall OF Phillips



Center fielder Billy Hamilton, signed during the offseason to give the Kansas City Royals yet another speedster, has been designated for assignment, the team announced Friday.

Hamilton hit .211 with 12 doubles, two triples and 12 RBIs in 275 at-bats to go along with 18 stolen bases. He had just 14 at-bats in August with Bubba Starling also seeing action in center field.

The team has recalled outfielder Brett Phillips from Triple-A Omaha to fill Hamilton’s roster spot. Phillips was hitting .240 with 18 homers and 54 RBIs for Omaha.

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Nationals’ Carter Kieboom using years of tips to guide chase for third-base job



WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — If, as he hopes, and the Washington Nationals hope, Carter Kieboom earns a job this spring as the reigning World Series champions’ starting third baseman, he will do so with the help of years’ worth of ideas typed into the Notes app on his cellphone.

Ever since Kieboom was in high school in Marietta, Georgia — not all that long ago, given that he is 22 — the 2016 first-round draft pick has kept a list of tips and observations he figures will make him a better ballplayer.

“There’s no one right way to do things, which is what makes this game so special. For me, especially at a young age, we’re given so much information, and I’m constantly trying to improve my game,” said Kieboom, who split fielding reps at third with versatile veteran Asdrubal Cabrera on Wednesday.

“It’s too much just to keep in your head,” Kieboom added. “You’ve got to put it down and read it as you go along and fall back on it.”

His development should be one of the most intriguing storylines for Washington over the next five weeks. The Nationals need a new third baseman, because Anthony Rendon signed a $245 million contract with the Los Angeles Angels following a third-place finish in National League MVP voting.

“I’m not going to come in here and be Anthony Rendon. That’s not who I am as a player. He is in a class of his own. That guy is one of the best — if not the best — in baseball,” Kieboom said. “That’s not my job to try to live up to what he’s done. My job is to go play my game.”

To develop that game, Kieboom picked up the habit of writing everything down and studying it every so often.

He got it from one of his older brothers, Spencer, who used to be a catcher in the Nationals organization and stored things he wanted to remember about pitchers he worked with.

“If you look at my thoughts from three or four years ago, they’re a little more basic. And if you look at my thoughts from the last year or so, they get a little more in-depth and more advanced. It’s pretty cool to see the change,” the younger Kieboom said. “Some of it, maybe you keep in the back of your mind and maybe use a couple of years down the road, whether it’s about fielding or hitting. Maybe it applies to you — or maybe you figure out how to apply it.”

It might come from watching video of today’s elite third basemen, such as Rendon, Colorado‘s Nolan Arenado or Oakland‘s Matt Chapman, or someone he grew up seeing with the Braves, Hall of Famer Chipper Jones. Or from showing up to camp a week ahead of time and spending early mornings on a field practicing footwork with shortstop Trea Turner and coaches Tim Bogar and Chip Hale.

Bogar, who works with Washington’s infielders in addition to being the new bench coach, said a lot of what Kieboom needs to get used to are the angles and timing that vary from short to third.

“The more he does it, and the more he sees it,” Bogar said, “the better he’s going to be.”

Said Turner: “He’s been trying to learn as much as he can.”

Learn how to play third after coming up as a shortstop. Learn to adjust to big league pitching. Learn the ways of day-to-day life in the majors.

And learn, most of all, from his struggles during an 11-game, 39-at-bat stint with the Nationals in April and May 2019, when he filled in at shortstop for an injured Turner. The numbers were stark: five hits (including two homers), 16 strikeouts, four errors.

“Had a little bit of success, but I failed a lot. To fail in an environment like that, it’s different. … If I had two errors in a game in the minor leagues, I don’t have to deal with any media after,” said Kieboom, who hit .303 with 16 homers and 79 RBIs at Triple-A Fresno last year. “It’s just a matter of how you handle things. I don’t like to fail, but I never felt uncomfortable by any means up there.”

General manager Mike Rizzo blamed himself for that too-soon trip to the majors.

“It’s a lot to take on for any player, but especially a young player,” Rizzo said. “Last year was a failure — and we’re not afraid to call that very short stint a ‘failure’ for him — but we’re not concerned about that at all. We see skills and tools and baseball IQ and acumen. Last year was on me for bringing him to the big leagues before he was ready. … We also knew he had the makeup and character that if he did go up and fail, he’s not going to regress when he comes back up for good.”

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Cubs’ David Ross to use slugger Kris Bryant as leadoff man



MESA, Ariz. — New Chicago Cubs manager David Ross wasted no time in making his first big decision, announcing Kris Bryant as his leadoff man before even playing a game.

“You’ll see him at the top of the order a whole lot in spring training,” Ross said on Wednesday. “Kris Bryant is a really good at-bat, gets on-base, is probably one of our best baserunners. His baseball IQ is extremely high. When you talk about putting the best players at the top of the order, I want to put him at the top.”

Bryant is on-board, having hit leadoff in college after teams stopped pitching to him in the middle of the order.

The Cubs ranked last in the majors in on-base percentage (.294), from the No.1 spot in the batting order last season, after ranking first in the NL in 2018. Ross intends on giving Bryant, who has a career .385 OBP, a long leash.

“That was part of the conversation we had,” Ross said. “This is a commitment on his part. It’s really easy to change the lineup in my seat but I think that screams panic when you start to change all that. This is one of the best players in baseball, and how he goes about his business, I want representing our team night in and night out. He’s on board with that.”

The leadoff position has been a spot of contention for the Cubs since Dexter Fowler left the team via free agency after the 2016 season. They’ve ranked 18th, 2nd and 30th in on-base since then, but no one person has excelled for a full season. Kyle Schwarber famously bombed in that spot in 2017 while Ben Zobrist did a good job at the top when he played there the following season. The Cubs bottomed out last year with Jason Heyward, Zobrist and others getting reps.

“That leadoff spot has been a real thing around here since Dexter left,” Ross lamented. “I know it’s going to be a story and a thing and a lot of attention is going to be paid to it. It always has, so I want to make sure I cover all my bases before I commit to something.”

There’s a good chance Anthony Rizzo will bat behind Bryant giving the Cubs two sluggers who get on base at the top of the order.

“The dynamic of KB and Rizz behind him is a good 1-2 punch at the top,” Ross said.



Pedro Gomez reports on Kris Bryant’s desire to remain with the Cubs for the long term.

The move will reduce attempts for Bryant to drive in runs as he heads toward free agency in two years. Ross knows giving up stats for the team will set a great example.

“The players that are committed to winning, contracts take care of themselves,” the manager said. “The goal here is to win. … He’s all in.”

Bryant is 9-for-28 with a walk and a .387 on-base percentage in seven games hitting leadoff in his career but this will be the first time it’ll be his job to keep.

“I would hate to be on the other side and look at that big boy step in the box to lead things off and what he can do,” Ross said. “I like professional at-bats. To start it off and set the tone for what we’re going to do, KB is a great option.

“It’s something I’ve been thinking about long and hard.”

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Rangers’ Shin-Soo Choo unsure of future after ’20, ‘still love this game’



SURPRISE, Ariz. — Shin-Soo Choo wants to enjoy baseball even more this season, all of those times in the clubhouse and on the field while still at the top of the Texas Rangers lineup.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen at the end of the year,” said Choo, the 37-year-old leadoff hitter going into the final season of his $130 million, seven-year contract.

Choo has genuine confidence that he can play at a high level for another couple of years, or more, after 2020.

There is just no way to know if he will be re-signed by the Rangers, maybe go to another team or decide it’s time to be at home full-time with his wife and three growing children. Those are all questions he said are too early to consider.

“I still love this game,” Choo said. “I’m still lucky to play major league level, and then it’s very special, major league uniform, wearing my number on it, my name on it on the back. That’s very special, very lucky. I still feel that way, so we’ll see.”

His oldest kid is a 14-year-old son who is a high school freshman playing baseball and football. Choo flew home to Texas last weekend to watch one of his baseball games.

“I really want to see him play so bad sometimes,” Choo said. “Just think about myself, I’ll play five, 10 more years.”

A first-time All-Star in 2018, Choo followed that up by hitting .265 with a career-high 24 home runs and a .371 on-base percentage last season.

“He’s the most professional player, person,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said. “I truly value the person and what he can do. And, you know, I still think there’s a lot left physically just based on the way he prepares himself, the shape that he keeps himself in.”

Choo will be the highest-paid Rangers player this season, at $21 million for the final year of his back-loaded deal. The only longer-tenured Texas player is 31-year-old shortstop Elvis Andrus, who is entering his 12th season.

Texas signed Choo as a free agent the same offseason it acquired Prince Fielder in a trade from Detroit, when the All-Star slugger had seven seasons left on a nine-year contract. Fielder was forced to retire midway through the 2016 season, at age 32, after a second neck surgery over a three-year period.

Choo, who turns 38 in mid-July, was coming off a career-high .423 on-base percentage during his only season with the Cincinnati Reds when he got to Texas. He is still having productive seasons for the Rangers.

Corey Kluber, a two-time AL Cy Young Award winner known for his own hard work ethic and attention to detail, made his major league debut in 2011 with Cleveland when Choo was with the Indians.

“When I first got called up, you noticed right away the way he goes about his business. So I tried to try to pay attention to that a lot,” said Kluber, who was traded from Cleveland to Texas during the offseason. “It definitely impact on me when I was younger.”

Choo has averaged 149 games over the past three seasons, since being limited to 48 games in 2016 because of four stints on the disabled list for different injuries each time.

He has had at least 20 homers and 75 walks in each of the past three seasons, becoming only the third Rangers player to do that. The others were Rafael Palmeiro’s record five in a row (1999-2003), and Alex Rodriguez from 2001-03. Palmeiro and Adrian Beltre are the only other Texas players with at least 24 homers in a season at age 36 or older.

Over those three seasons combined, Choo is fifth among all American League players in games played (446), walks (247), hit by pitch (35) and times on base (721).

“I think he’s gotten smarter. His ability to control the strike zone and get on base,” Woodward said. “Pitch one, he is the most prepared player I’ve seen. He doesn’t take one day for granted. He’s there. He’s the earliest there every day. He’ll talk about the game all the time.”

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