Joey Votto homers on 1st pitch in 1st spring training game with hometown Toronto Blue Jays

Joey Votto sure knows how to make an instant impression, going deep on the first pitch he faced as a member of his hometown Toronto Blue Jays.

The veteran first baseman lined a 392-foot homer to left-center off Philadelphia Phillies ace Zack Wheeler in the first inning Sunday in Clearwater, Florida, in his inaugural spring training game with Toronto.

Granted, there was some debate about whether the ball actually went out, and Votto momentarily stopped at second base. But the umpires ruled it was a homer and he continued on his way to home.

A chance to go home is what led Votto to Toronto in the first place; he agreed to a minor league contract with the Blue Jays this month after spending 17 seasons with the Cincinnati Reds.

The 40-year-old Votto became a free agent last fall after the end of a $251.5 million, 12-year contract with the Reds, the team that selected him in the second round of the 2002 amateur draft out of Richview Collegiate Institute in Toronto.

A six-time All-Star and the 2010 NL MVP, Votto has a .294 average with 356 homers, 1,144 RBIs and a .409 on-base percentage in 2,056 games. Cincinnati declined his $20 million option for 2024.


The New York Yankees may have caught a break on the injury front. X-rays on the right foot of leadoff hitter DJ LeMahieu came back clean. Although sore, LeMahieu remains day to day after fouling a ball off his foot this weekend.

The banged-up Yankees recently learned that ace Gerrit Cole won't throw for three to four weeks due to nerve irritation and edema in his throwing elbow. The right-hander likely will need a spring training-like period after he resumes throwing to be ready to rejoin the team.

Slugger Aaron Judge is dealing with an abdomen injury. He hit off a tee, did soft toss and took batting practice against a pitching machine in an indoor cage Sunday.

Judge, who recently had an MRI of his abdomen come back clean, hasn’t taken batting practice on the infield or played in a game since a week ago when he struck out in both at-bats against Atlanta.

Reliever Tommy Kahnle threw 20 pitches over one inning in a simulated game. He is expected to miss at least the first week of the regular season because of a right shoulder injury.


Signing New York Mets first baseman Pete Alonso to a long-term contract before the end of the season appears to be a remote possibility, owner Steve Cohen implied in a lengthy media session Sunday, his first of spring training.

“At this point, for Pete, it’s best for him to go and have a great year and not be distracted,” Cohen said.

Alonso has a $20.5 million, one-year contract and can become a free agent after the World Series.

Alonso, who turns 30 in December, was the 2019 NL Rookie of the Year and is a three-time All-Star. Over his five seasons with the Mets, he's hit .251 with 192 homers and 498 RBIs.

Alonso last fall hired Scott Boras as his agent, and Boras generally prefers his clients use their free agent rights to maximize value.

Cohen believes his good relationship with Boras could help the Mets.

“I enjoy the conversation,” he said.


Kyle Stowers homered in each of his three at-bats for Baltimore in a split-squad game against Detroit. He connected for a solo shot in the second inning, a two-run drive in the fourth and another solo shot in the seventh.

It was the first three-homer game in spring training since 2018.

Stowers, a second-round pick in the 2019 amateur draft, is putting together a strong case for the Orioles' opening-day roster. He is batting .297 (11 for 37) with seven homers and 13 RBIs during spring training.


The Cardinals are turning to Miles Mikolas as their opening-day starter with Sonny Gray recovering from a strained hamstring. St. Louis opens the season on March 28 against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Mikolas will be making his third start in a St. Louis opener. The righty went 3 1/3 innings, allowing five runs, last season during a 10-9 loss to Toronto. In 2019, he surrendered five runs over five innings as St. Louis lost 5-4 at Milwaukee.

Gray, the AL Cy Young Award runner-up in Minnesota, signed a $75 million, three-year contract in the offseason.


Right-hander Josiah Gray will get the ball for Washington in the season opener at Cincinnati on March 28. Gray went 8-13 with a 3.91 ERA last season.


Wheeler will take the mound on opening day for the Phillies, ending Aaron Nola's string of six straight opening-day starts. The last time a starter other than Nola got the ball on opening day for Philly was Jeremy Hellickson in 2017.


The Red Sox erupted for nine runs in the first inning against the Yankees on Sunday. Trevor Story, Connor Wong and Rafael Devers each homered in the frame. Boston went on to a 12-6 win.


With his platinum-colored glove, San Diego right fielder Fernando Tatis Jr. made a Gold Glove-worthy catch in an exhibition game against Team Korea in Seoul. Tatis sprinted in from the outfield to make a sliding grab in the fifth inning Sunday.

Tatis earned his first Gold Glove last season.


AP freelance writers Mark Didtler in Tampa, Florida, and Chuck King in Port St. Lucie, Florida, contributed to this report.