Rockies prospect, alleged Parkland shooter rode bus together for 3 years

Rockies prospect, alleged Parkland shooter rode bus together for 3 years

All 30 MLB teams honored the victims of the recent school shooting in Parkland, Fla., by donning caps bearing the “SD” logo of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School’s baseball team.

But Rockies prospect Colton Welker had an incredible perspective no other player could match: He says he rode the school bus for three years with the alleged shooter, Nikolas Cruz.

“I went to middle school with him, I rode the bus with him for three years,” Welker said (via the Denver Post). “It was a complete shock.”

The minor league third baseman is a 2016 graduate of Stoneman Douglas High School, where he played on a state championship team in 2016.

“You read about it on the news and think, ‘Oh that’s miserable, that’s terrible.’ And it breaks your heart,” Welker told the Post. “But when it happens in your hometown, I was really thrown back. I was in shock. Total disbelief.”

Welker says he knew several of the 17 victims in the shooting, including Aaron Feis, the football coach who has been hailed as a hero for saving students, and athletic director Chris Hixon.

The 20-year-old Welker, considered the No. 8 third base prospect in baseball by MLB.com, said he couldn’t believe the news when someone texted him. His family, which still lives nearby, has been keeping him up to date on events.

“The town is quiet, my mom told me. People are still affected by it,” Welker said. “It will get back to normal soon, hopefully.”

Other alumni of the suburban Miami high school in spring training are Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo and Athletics minor league pitcher Jesus Luzardo.

Among the nicest tributes to shooting victims and survivors Friday in spring training, the Miami Marlins invited members of Stoneman Douglas High School’s baseball and softball teams to camp.

Twins sign veteran SS Erick Aybar to minor league contract

Twins sign veteran SS Erick Aybar to minor league contract

FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — The Minnesota Twins have signed 12-year veteran shortstop Erick Aybar to a minor league contract with an invitation to major league spring training.

The Twins announced the deal on Saturday, when Aybar was expected to report to camp. Aybar made his debut with the Los Angeles Angels in 2006 and was their everyday shortstop for seven seasons. He won a Gold Glove award in 2011 and made the All-Star team in 2014. He played last year for the San Diego Padres, batting .234 with 11 stolen bases in 333 at-bats.

The Twins have plenty of middle infield depth behind second baseman Brian Dozier and shortstop Jorge Polanco with versatile backups Eduardo Escobar and Ehire Adrianza, so Aybar will be a long shot to make the team.

For more AP baseball coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball

Kevin Siegrist agrees to minor league deal with Pirates

Kevin Siegrist agrees to minor league deal with Pirates

BRADENTON, Fla. (AP) — Left-hander Kevin Siegrist agreed to a minor league contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates and will report to big league spring training.

The 28-year-old was 1-1 with one save and a 4.81 ERA in 46 games last year for St. Louis and Philadelphia, striking out 43 in 39 1/3 innings.

He has an 18-10 record with 10 saves and a 3.04 ERA in 276 relief appearances over five big league seasons with the Cardinals and Phillies, who claimed him off waivers on Sept. 2.

His deal was announced Saturday.

More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball

Cubs field veteran lineup vs. Rangers

Cubs field veteran lineup vs. Rangers

The Cubs will field a veteran lineup Saturday when they open the home portion of their exhibition season against the Rangers at Sloan Park.

Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Willson Contreras, Jason Heyward, Addison Russell and Javier Baez will make their spring debuts.

Albert Almora Jr. will bat leadoff.

For the second consecutive game, the Cubs will wear Stoneman Douglas High School caps to honor the 17 people killed in the Feb. 14 mass shooting at the Parkland, Fla., school attended by Rizzo.

Here are the lineups:

CUBS

  • Almora Jr. CF
  • Bryant 3B
  • Rizzo 1B
  • Conteras C
  • Heyward RF
  • Russell SS
  • Baez 2B
  • Gimenez DH
  • Bourjos LF
  • Butler P

RANGERS

  • DeShields CF
  • Odor DH
  • Profar SS
  • Mazara RF
  • Guzman 1B
  • Robinson LF
  • Nicholas C
  • Lopez 3B
  • Alberto 2B
  • Blackburn P

[email protected]

Twitter @MDGonzales

Cubs infielder Javier Baez sets sights on winning Gold Glove »

Sullivan: Chill factor greets Cubs in Cactus League opener »

Peter Bourjos eager to fulfill long shot dream with Cubs »

Chicago Cubs' Kyle Schwarber looks lean ahead of spring training

Chicago Cubs' Kyle Schwarber looks lean ahead of spring training

Feb. 24 (UPI) — Chicago Cubs slugger Kyle Schwarber appears to be in great shape heading into the 2018 season.

The outfielder is listed at 6-foot, 235 pounds on Baseball Reference, but reports emerged all offseason about Schwarber working on his conditioning. ESPN reported that Schwarber lost up to 20 pounds during the offseason.

He was listed at 240 pounds when he played at Indiana University.

The Cubs posted a video of the slugger Thursday on social media. He looks extremely lean and muscular while making great contact with a baseball. The Cubs included some bomb emojis for good measure on the post.

Chicago Cubs’ Kyle Schwarber hits an RBI-single off Atlanta Braves’ Mike Foltynewicz in the third inning on September 1 at Wrigley Field in Chicago. File photo by Kamil Krzaczynski/UPI

Boston Red Sox‘s Sam Travis — Schwarber’s former college teammate — told MassLive that Schwarber was on a “really strict diet.”

Industry sources told ESPN that he was on a mission to “transform” his body this offseason.

Schwarber, 24, hit .211 last season with 30 home runs and 59 RBI in 129 games. He also hit four home runs and had nine RBI, while hitting .343, in 11 minor league appearances. He is pre-arbitration eligible in 2018.

He went 0-for-1 in the Cubs’ 2-1 loss Friday to the Milwaukee Brewers at Maryvale Baseball Park in Phoenix, Ariz. Schwarber had a walk and a strikeout in the spring training appearance.

Mets prospect Dominic Smith late for first game, benched

Mets prospect Dominic Smith late for first game, benched

Mets prospect Dominic Smith isn’t making the best first impression on new manager Mickey Callaway.

Callaway scratched Smith from the starting lineup for the Mets’ first spring training game Friday after the first baseman showed up late for team meetings. Smith had been slated to bat cleanup in the game against the Braves.

The Mets’ new skipper called it “a little shocking” Smith would be late on the first day of games.

As for Smith, he initially wouldn’t reveal why he’d been scratched but eventually talked to reporters at the urging of Mets PR staff.

“Everybody wants to know why I wasn’t in the lineup today. I was late. I apologize,” Smith said (via the New York Daily News). “That’s stuff that shouldn’t happen. It’s unacceptable in any locker room, the Mets or wherever you play.

“I am not in there today, just something that won’t happen again.”

The 22-year-old Smith, considered the No. 2 prospect in the organization in 2016, struggled in his MLB debut last season, slashing .198/.262./.395 in 167 at-bats, although he flashed some power with nine home runs. According to the Daily News, he’s slated to begin 2018 at Triple-A Las Vegas.

So Smith knows Friday was a missed opportunity. He admitted he’s disappointed in himself.

“I am more upset I let myself down. I was so excited last night to be in the lineup and be playing and stuff like that. It’s the first day, you are a little kid inside,” Smith said. “Sometimes you can’t get sleep. Up all night, thinking, ‘Oh my God, it’s my first day again. Get to show what I can do.’ I am kinda more disappointed in myself and with myself than anything else.”