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ARLINGTON Jose Pirela Jersey , Texas (AP) — Before Ila Borders became the first female pitcher to start a college baseball game or pitch professionally in an independent league in the 1990s, the lefty felt almost like she was in a fight just to be on the field.“When I was playing, they tried to do everything possible to not let me play, or they didn’t want the media attention, and it was an uphill battle,” Borders said Friday. “Now I feel like people are searching and looking and trying to develop that talent. For me, that’s an awesome feeling and it’s great to see.”Borders is one of the coaches this weekend for MLB Grit, an inaugural high school invitational baseball tournament for 64 teenage girls from the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico that were split into four teams to play four games each.On Friday, which was International Women’s Day, each team got to play a game in a big league ballpark — Globe Life Park, the home of the Texas Rangers. The rest of the games will be at the Rangers MLB Youth Academy in Dallas.Ashton Lansdell, an 18-year-old pitcher/shortstop who was on Team USA in the Women’s Baseball Cup last summer, hopes to play college baseball next season.Lansdell has been playing baseball since she was 4 years old — “I’ve been told since when I was like really young to go play softball, I just straight-up said ‘No’,” she said — and started pitching when she was about 10.“My travel team needed some pitching, and they just put me on the mound,” she said. “They just threw me on there and I had good mechanics from watching people and being on the field so much. Ever since then, I’ve upped my game, my mechanics and velocity.”The right-handed senior for the varsity team at Wheeler High in Marietta, Georgia, now throws four-seam and two-seam fastballs, with a velocity of just more than 80 mph Kevin Kiermaier Jersey , plus has two different changeups, a slider and a curveball.Delaney Dunham, a 15-year-old freshman left-handed pitcher/outfielder from Dayton, Texas, switched from softball to baseball when she was 12 years old and her goal is to play one day for Team USA. She missed a tournament with her Barbers High baseball team this weekend.Along with the four games each team will play, the girls at MLB Grit will go through special developmental presentations this weekend, including tips on the collegiate recruiting process and information about careers within baseball.MLB is going into its third year of the Trailblazer Series for girls at its Compton Youth Academy in California, and last summer had its first Breakthrough Series for high school girls at the Dodgertown spring training complex in Vero Beach, Florida.What made MLB Grit different from those events was having more game competition for the girls.“Most of them are the only girls on their teams,” said Kim Ng, MLB’s senior vice president for baseball and softball development. “This is one of the few opportunities they actually get to compete against other girls, which is also why is fairly unique. “Ng said youth participation is one of Commissioner Rob Manfred’s most important agenda and platform items.“The first thing is No. 1, just to provide opportunity. No. 2, we need to shed light on these kids, on these young women and girls,” Ng said. “We think this is the best game in the world, and we don’t want to discourage anybody from playing it.”Allison Schroder is a 16-year-old junior from Fruitvale, British Columbia who played for Team Canada last summer and is on her high school team that competes in the state of Washington.“I’d love to play baseball at a college level,” said Schroder, a pitcher and shortstop. “Just to be able to play the game while getting an education has always been a good goal of mine.”Borders is among nine former and current players and staff from the USA Baseball Women’s National team instructing the girls. The other coaches are former MLB pitcher Marvin Freeman, infielder Homer Bush who was a member of the 1998 World Series champion New York Yankees and Morehouse College coach Antonio Grissom.Grissom, the brother of former big leaguer Marquis Grissom, was also part of the Breakthrough Series last summer and has been impressed by what he’s seen.“These girls are fundamentally sound Alex Cobb Jersey ,” he said. “In terms of the velocity and the strength, there’s a separation there. But in terms of the technique and fundamentals, they’re pretty sound. They’re going to make the routine plays, they’re going to throw strikes. Some of their secondary stuff is above average for their age, so that gives them a chance.” SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — The Colorado Rockies will be without the reliever who boasted he could strike out Babe Ruth, but they believe the bridge between their solid starting rotation and premier closer Wade Davis remains sturdy.Colorado is counting on a veteran bullpen group that includes Scott Oberg, Seunghwan Oh, Chris Rusin and Bryan Shaw to step up the way Adam Ottavino did in 2018, when his career year with the Rockies led to a three-year, $27 million free agent deal with the New York Yankees.“I think we have a lot of good arms and a lot of talented guys back there,” catcher Chris Iannetta said.“I think we can piece it together and be really good. Guys have good years. Guys have bad years. I don’t think anyone expected Adam to have the year that he had last year after the previous year. It happens all the time.”Oberg had a strong second half last season, Oh pitched well after being acquired at the trade deadline and the Rockies are counting on a return to normalcy by Shaw, Rusin, Jake McGee and Mike Dunn.The Rockies’ bullpen had a 4.62 ERA last season, 13th in the league and a number that must be improved upon so as not to squander the quality starts inherited from a rotation that includes Kyle Freeland, German Marquez and Tyler Anderson.Davis had a franchise-record and league- and career-high 43 of the Rockies’ franchise-record 51 saves last season, his first in Colorado.Ottavino and Oberg served as the primary setup men last year. Ottavino was 6-4 with six saves, a 2.43 ERA and a rate of 13 strikeouts per nine innings, thus the Ruth reference he made after signing with the Yankees.“He was great for us and that’s a tough piece to fill, but we are definitely capable of it,” Davis said.The right-handed Oberg, a top candidate to inherit more of Ottavino’s workload Wade Boggs Jersey , was 8-1 with 2.45 ERA and was scored upon in only four of his final 34 outings.He had a streak of 11 straight scoreless appearances in August and September as the Rockies moved to a second straight postseason appearance. He limited righty hitters to a .185 batting average.“Collectively, I think we are going to be fine,” Oberg said. “Those are some big shoes, but we have a really talented group down there. There is going to be all eight of us pulling together down there.”Oberg has made a team-high 210 relief appearances since his 2015 debut, but he is not the only workhorse returning.Shaw has appeared in 503 games since 2012, tied for the most in the majors, and he is looking to build on a second half in which he went 1-1 with a 2.84 ERA in 20 appearances after being reinstated from the disabled list July 11.The Rockies hope to return Shaw to the high-leverage role he had in Arizona and Cleveland before his outlier of 2018, when he was 4-6 with a 5.93 ERA. He has a career 3.43 ERA.“Hopefully, better performances by myself will be a big contributing factor to filling his (Ottavino’s) innings,” Shaw said.Shaw, a right-hander, spent time in the offseason at the Driveline Baseball training center in Washington, an outfit that is heavily immersed in biometrics and data analysis, spin rates, effective arm angles and more.Former Cleveland teammate Trevor Bauer has long been a proponent, and the two talked this offseason.“Got some good info,” Shaw said. “The info I got from them kind of correlated with some things we were seeing and talking about here. Hopefully the data we took from them we can implement this year and get going.”Oh was 2-0 with a 2.53 ERA in 25 appearances after being acquired from Toronto at the trade deadline.“I try to not think that we are filling the hole for someone just because that person left,” Oh said through a translator. “It is more about always being ready whenever the game situations calls us. So my job is to be prepared every day.”Iannetta sees “a ton of talent” in the bullpen.“You need guys to seize the moment,” Iannetta said. “There is opportunity back there to solidify yourself as a back-end reliever. Everyone has skills. Even if you had a bad year, that’s baseball. See who rises to the top.”
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