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Rays’ Alex Colome battling pneumonia
Sometimes, players favored to win position battles struggle on the field and cede their projected roles. Unfortunately, if Alex Colome does not open the season in the Tampa Bay rotation, it will likely be the result of forces beyond his baseball control.

Colome has had a tumultuous February and March, which began back in the Dominican Republic, where visa issues kept him away from camp long after pitchers and catchers were due to report. Manager Kevin Cash did not hold the delayed arrival against Colome, saying at the time, “I don’t think it’s fair to punish a guy for being held up.”

The 26-year-old threw regularly at the Rays’ complex in the Dominican to stay in pitching shape, and he was all set to take the mound to bolster his case for the rotation job, only to come down with pneumonia. Cash told reporters that Colome remained in the hospital as of Saturday, so the right-hander’s health is of primary importance at the moment, no matter how it affects his near-term future with the Rays. When asked about Colome on Sunday, Cash said he might be discharged, though it was unknown at press time whether that occurred.

Coupled with Drew Smyly’s shoulder injury, which will sideline the southpaw into April, Colome’s illness puts Cash’s rotation plans in a minor state of disarray. The Rays have reinforcements coming in the form of Matt Moore, who should recover from Tommy John surgery in time to rejoin the team by early July, but only Alex Cobb, Chris Archer, and Jake Odorizzi are assured of starting assignments to open the season.

That’s good news for Nate Karns, the 27-year-old prospect who’s still attempting to carve out a stable major-league job. Karns was projected to begin the year as Tampa’s sixth or seventh starter, with a chance to unseat Colome in Grapefruit League play, but the thinning depth chart now puts him squarely in the starting five.

With 24 total innings in the majors—12 each with the Nationals in 2013 and the Rays last year—Karns still carries question marks and might ultimately fit better in the bullpen. But if there ever were an opportunity for him to shed the reliever-only tag in his doubters’ eyes, this might be it.

Beyond Karns, the Rays will “explore internal and external options,” per head baseball man Matt Silverman, who spoke with reporters following Cash’s presser on Saturday.

Leonys Martin will bat leadoff for Rangers
In 2014, his second season as a major-league regular, Leonys Martin saw time in several batting-order slots. A plurality (164) of his 583 plate appearances came in the leadoff spot, but Martin saw nearly as much time batting seventh and eighth, much of that versus left-handed pitching. Now, first-year manager Jeff Banister has decided to put a bigger weight on Martin’s shoulders, announcing early in spring training that the outfielder will hit first for Texas regardless of who’s toeing the rubber for the opposition.

The 27-year-old Martin was a 4.2 WARP performer last year, but baserunning and defense accounted for the bulk of his contributions. At the plate, he delivered a .259 True Average, which improved to .272 versus right-handers and dropped to .220 when a southpaw was on the hill. Martin’s .250/.287/.294 triple-slash line against lefties might be cause for concern if the Rangers count on him to be their sparkplug, matchups notwithstanding.

But Banister suggested to writers, including Evan P. Grant of the Dallas Morning News, that his mind is made up. That’s good news for Martin’s current and future fantasy owners, who should see an uptick in runs scored and perhaps in stolen bases. The jury’s still out on whether the move will benefit the Rangers.

Addison Reed altering mechanics
Over at D’backs camp at Salt River Fields, closer Addison Reed is spending the early part of spring training trying to tweak his delivery in a way that will improve both his results and his health.

Nick Piecoro, who covers the Snakes for the Arizona Republic, saw Reed practicing a motion with reduced crossfire, a feature of his deception but one that makes it more difficult for the right-hander to command his arsenal. Refined command could go a long way for Reed, a fly-ball pitcher who saw 11 baseballs clear the fences over 59 1/3 innings in his first season in the desert. The San Diego State product’s other peripherals—notably a career-low 6.0 percent walk rate and career-high 27.4 percent strikeout rate—were excellent, so if he can just rein in the big flies, a much better year could be in store.

Reed also suggested that more direct mechanics would lessen the strain on his shoulder, sparking some concerns that he might be dealing with soreness or otherwise fearing an injury. But Reed’s medicals are completely clean thus far in his professional career, so the move appears preventative from a health standpoint.

Finally, the latest on Hector Olivera

That comes three days after MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez heard that Olivera was considering multiple offers in the 4-6 year range. Olivera’s agent, Greg Genske, reportedly met with the Braves on Friday. Meanwhile, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman was told last week that the Dodgers were continuing to examine the Cuban infielder’s medicals, requesting a second MRI on his right elbow after Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan reported that Olivera has a torn UCL.

The Athletics, Giants, Marlins, and Padres have also been connected to Olivera, though they’ve been quieter in the past few days.

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hableaf
3/16
I am hopeful someone here can explain why Alex Colome and so many others arrive late for camp and jeopardize making the big league club? It seems this happens every year, multiple times. Who is accountable here and why are they failing? Spring training starts at the same time every year, so it should not come as a surprise that they need to be in Florida or Arizona in February and they should make sure their paperwork is in order well in advance.

Is this just lack of attention to detail, or is there more to this tardiness? I am sure the US is quite slow at processing the paperwork, which makes it even more of a requirement that the player and/or agent is organized. It seems the franchise itself would have a strong interest in the player showing up on time too, yet every year players are late.
delatopia
3/16
My understanding in Colome's case is that his 50-game drug suspension created some possibly unforeseen delays with immigration. They probably had the paperwork done according to a normal schedule and the extra delay messed that up.
hableaf
3/16
That makes sense for him - I had forgotten about his suspension. Thanks for reminding me.