LEADING OFF: Keuchel, Braves reach deal, Didi back for Yanks
A look at what’s happening around the majors today:
BRAVE NEW WORLD
It appears free agent pitcher Dallas Keuchel has finally found a home. Keuchel and the Atlanta Braves agreed to a one-year contract that would pay the 2015 AL Cy Young Award winner about $13 million, a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity Thursday night because the agreement was subject to Keuchel passing a physical, which was scheduled for Friday.
Keuchel’s contract would include a salary of about $21.21 million, and he would get a prorated share that amounts to approximately $13 million because 114 days will remain in the 186-day season. A 31-year-old left-hander, Keuchel was 12-11 with a 3.74 ERA in 34 starts last season for Houston and turned down a $17.9 million qualifying offer in November. The two-time All-Star is 76-63 with a 3.66 ERA in seven major league seasons, all with the Astros.
Didi Gregorius is expected back in the Yankees’ lineup for the first time this season when New York opens a three-game series at Cleveland. The shortstop has recovered quickly from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow Oct. 17. Gregorius batted .268 with a career-high 27 homers last season. He also had 86 RBIs and an .829 OPS in 134 games. New York is still missing several injured stars, but Gregorius’ left-handed bat provides some balance for a Yankees lineup loaded with right-handed power when healthy.
Twins outfielder Max Kepler turned around his week in a big way Thursday, ending an 0-for-21 skid with a three-homer game against Cleveland. Minnesota leads the majors with 117 homers, including 15 from Kepler, who is already closing in on his career high of 20. The AL Central leaders are set to start a three-game set in Detroit, facing breakout left-hander Matthew Boyd (5-4, 3.01 ERA) in the opener.
Dating to last season, Clayton Kershaw has gone 21 consecutive starts without a loss — the longest active streak in the majors. The three-time Cy Young Award winner pitches for the major league-leading Los Angeles Dodgers (43-20) in their series opener at last-place San Francisco. Kershaw (5-0, 3.20 ERA) is 22-10 against the rival Giants, who send Drew Pomeranz (1-6, 8.08) to the mound. In his last start, Pomeranz was tagged by Baltimore for eight runs in 1 1/3 innings.
SHIPPIN’ UP TO BOSTON
Riding a four-game winning streak, the Red Sox hope to have slugger J.D. Martinez available against Tampa Bay as the teams begin a four-game series at Fenway Park. Martinez was removed in the fifth inning Thursday at Kansas City because of back spasms. Boston is 27-16 following a 6-13 start but remains third in the AL East, five games behind the second-place Rays and 6½ back of the Yankees.
RIVALS AT WRIGLEY
Cole Hamels (4-2, 3.62 ERA) and the Chicago Cubs host the rival Cardinals at Wrigley Field. St. Louis swept three games from the Cubs at home last weekend. Miles Mikolas (4-5, 4.11) starts for the Cardinals as they begin a 10-game trip, their longest of the season.