Madison Bumgarner Suffers Hand Injury After Being Hit by Line Drive

San Francisco Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner left the team's spring training game against the Kansas City Royals on Friday after being struck in his pitching hand by a line drive in the third inning, Chris Haft of MLB.com reported.

An injury to Bumgarner prior to the start of the season would be a nightmarish but familiar scenario for the Giants.

This is another setback for the southpaw after he suffered rib and shoulder injuries in a dirt bike accident last April and made just 17 starts. While he missed significant time following the off-field accident, he has been durable on the field in recent seasons and entered the 2017 campaign having made more than 30 starts in six straight years.

The four-time All-Star and three-time World Series champion is one of the best pitchers in baseball when healthy. He also sports a career 2.11 ERA in 16 postseason games and was the MVP of the 2014 Fall Classic.

San Francisco will have to rely on Johnny Cueto and Ty Blach in its rotation while Bumgarner is out. Jeff Samardzija will begin the season on the disabled list after suffering a shoulder injury, per Andrew Baggarly of The Athletic.

The Giants are looking to return to the playoffs after missing out in 2017, and having Bumgarner healthy will be important if the Giants hope to compete in the National League West.

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Jeff Samardzija to Start Season on DL After Pec Injury Diagnosed as Strain

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija is reportedly expected to start the 2018 MLB season on the disabled list after being diagnosed with a strained right pectoral muscle.

Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle provided the update Thursday night and passed along comments from optimistic Giants manager Bruce Bochy.

"He'll go a week without throwing the ball and then crank it up," Bochy said. "It shouldn't take long for him to get back on the mound, so that's good news."

This is a difficult setback for San Francisco and Samardzija as he looks to bounce back from last year's up-and-down performance. He compiled a 4.42 ERA across 32 starts in 2017.

Samardzija signed with the Giants before the 2016 season after a lackluster 2015. He was an All-Star in 2014, when he posted a 2.99 ERA, a 1.07 WHIP and 202 strikeouts in 219.2 combined innings for the Chicago Cubs and Oakland Athletics. However, that marked a career-high workload, and he suffered a drop-off in 2015 with the Chicago White Sox, finishing with a 4.96 ERA in 214.0 innings.

He didn't regain his All-Star form in his first year with the Giants but still posted a solid 3.81 ERA in 2016.

Fortunately for San Francisco, the depth of its starting rotation is one of its strong points. It still has Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto as a formidable one-two punch that should keep the team afloat until Samardzija returns. Meanwhile, Derek Holland should get the first crack to fill the void.

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Trevor Cahill Reportedly Agrees to 1-Year Contract with Oakland Athletics

The Oakland Athletics bolstered their pitching staff Saturday when they reportedly agreed to a one-year deal with the versatile Trevor Cahill.

According to MLB.com's Jane Lee, the contract is still pending a physical.

The move comes after the San Francisco Chronicle's Susan Slusser reported right-hander Jharel Cotton will have Tommy John surgery, which rules him out for the entire 2018 season.

Cahill started his pro career with Oakland and was an All-Star for the A's in 2010.

Cahill spent the 2017 season with the San Diego Padres and Kansas City Royals and has also pitched for the Arizona Diamondbacks, Atlanta Braves and Chicago Cubs. Kansas City acquired him from San Diego last year via trade, but he was much more effective at the start of the year as a member of the Padres.

He posted a 3.69 ERA in San Diego compared to 8.22 in Kansas City and finished with a 4.93 ERA, 1.62 WHIP and 87 strikeouts in 84 innings and 21 appearances, 14 of which were starts.

The drop-off down the stretch is concerning, considering he appeared to find his consistency after posting a career-best 2.74 ERA and 1.28 WHIP in 2016 with the Cubs. However, it is now fair to worry if his prime is in the rearview mirror since he will be 30 years old throughout the 2018 campaign and struggled down the stretch in 2017.

Cahill still has a solid track record to fall back on that includes an All-Star appearance in 2010 when he pitched for Oakland. He also has four seasons with a sub-4.00 ERA and experience as both a starter and reliever throughout his career.

He also appeared in six playoff games as a member of the Cubs in 2015 and understands what it takes to pitch on some of the biggest stages the sport has to offer.

This is not a signing that is going to be the biggest difference in earning a playoff berth for the Athletics, but Cahill provides valuable depth and someone who can slide in near the back of a rotation or provide critical long relief over the course of a long season.

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Report: Jose Altuve, Astros Agree to 5-Year, $151 Million Contract Extension

Second baseman Jose Altuve helped lead the Houston Astros to a World Series title, and the team is reportedly rewarding him accordingly.

Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reported Altuve and the Astros agreed to a 5-year, $151 million contract on Friday.

Brian McTaggart of MLB.com initially reported Altuve was closing in on the deal. McTaggart noted the extension would start in 2020 since Altuve is signed through the 2018 campaign and the Astros have a club option for 2019.

This move makes perfect sense for the Astros considering how important Altuve has been to their recent success. He is just 27 years old and already has an American League MVP, four Silver Sluggers, three AL batting titles and five All-Star appearances on his resume.

He won his MVP last year for the World Series champions and slashed .346/.410/.547 with 24 home runs, 81 RBI and 32 steals. He also hit .310 with seven home runs in 18 postseason games, proving his mettle under the pressure-packed lights of October.

Houston has a young core in place that figures to keep it among the game's best moving forward. In addition to Altuve, Carlos Correa is just 23 years old, and George Springer is 28.

According to OddsShark, the Astros have the best odds to win the 2018 World Series entering the season at 5-1.

With Altuve reportedly locked up for the foreseeable future, Houston figures to continue competing for World Series in the coming years.

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Facebook Wins Exclusive Rights to Broadcast 25 MLB Games This Season

Get ready to watch some baseball on your Facebook.

According to Scott Soshnick, the social media platform was awarded exclusive rights to broadcast 25 Major League Baseball afternoon games during the 2018 campaign. Soshnick noted the games will primarily be on Wednesdays, starting with the April 4 contest between the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies.

Soshnick noted it is the first time one of the major United States sports leagues gave exclusive broadcasting rights for games to a social network.

This is "part of the next great leap," consultant Lee H. Berke said, per Soshnick. 

Soshnick pointed out sports are nothing new for Facebook, which also reached a deal last year with Fox Sports to stream UEFA Champions League games and earned the rights to stream 47 men's college basketball games this year.

Facebook will be involved with an MLB season that starts March 29 and figures to feature plenty of tight races leading into October.

The Houston Astros returned the same core from last year's World Series-winning squad and added Gerrit Cole in the offseason. However, they will have to deal with the New York Yankees in the American League after the Bronx Bombers added 2017 National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton to a lineup already featuring Aaron Judge.

In the Senior Circuit, the Chicago Cubs added Yu Darvish and Brandon Morrow after they each helped the Los Angeles Dodgers reach last year's Fall Classic. Those two teams could be headed for a third straight meeting in the National League Championship Series, and those roster moves could add another layer of intrigue.

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Dallas Keuchel on Possible World Series Hangover: ‘We’re Not the Cubs’

Houston Astros pitcher Dallas Keuchel believes his team is talented enough to defend its World Series crown in the 2018 season and suggested as much in a way that is sure to turn some heads in Chicago.

"We're not the Cubs," Keuchel said when discussing a potential World Series hangover and the 2016 champions' failure to win back-to-back titles, per Dave Sheinin of the Washington Post. "I firmly believe we have better players."

             

This article will be updated to provide more information on this story as it becomes available.

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Javy Baez Hamstring Injury Diagnosed as Tightness After Exiting vs. Padres

Chicago Cubs infielder Javier Baez left Thursday's game against the San Diego Padres with what was described as left hamstring tightness immediately after legging out a double, according to Bruce Levine of WSCR-AM.

 

He slashed .273/.317/.480 with 23 home runs and 75 RBI in 145 games last year and is a key piece for Chicago as it looks to win its third straight National League Central crown.

Baez's value to the Cubs goes beyond his raw statistics, as his versatility gives manager Joe Maddon the chance to vary the lineup card on a daily basis. Baez also provides injury insurance across the infield and is known for making spectacular plays in the field.

The Cubs still have a number of infielders who can play on an everyday basis if Baez is out, including Kris Bryant at third, Addison Russell at shortstop and Ben Zobrist and Ian Happ at second. Tommy La Stella can also fill the versatile role Baez so often does if needed.

While Chicago has enough pieces to remain afloat without Baez, it could use his bat and glove in the lineup as Opening Day nears.

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