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Clearwater, Fla. — Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg says Ryan Howard will start at first base this season, despite plans to rebuild the team and attempts to trade the declining slugger.

Sandberg spoke in support of Howard on Wednesday during his first news conference of spring training as pitchers and catchers reported to Bright House Field.

When Sandberg was asked about Howard, the former MVP he benched for three games last season, he said: “He’s the first baseman.”

Howard, 35, never has fully rebounded to the level of production he showed before tearing his left Achilles tendon during Philadelphia’s final out in 2011, in the National League Division Series loss to St. Louis.

He played in 153 games in 2014 after missing half of each of the previous two seasons. He hit .223 with 23 home runs and 95 RBIs, led the majors with 190 strikeouts and had a career low .380 slugging percentage.

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First baseman Eric Hosmer and the Royals avoided arbitration by agreeing to a two-year, $13.9 million contract.

Hosmer gets $5.65 million this year under Wednesday’s agreement and $8.25 million in 2016.

Hosmer, 25, hit .270 for the AL champions with 35 doubles, nine homers and 58 RBIs, and won his second straight Gold Glove.

He made $3.6 million last year and had asked for $6.7 million when the sides exchanged proposed arbitration salaries last month. The Royals had offered $4.6 million.

Kansas City has not gone to a hearing since Dayton Moore became general manager in 2006.

... The Rockies have defeated catcher Wilin Rosario in salary arbitration. Rosario, who turns 26 on Monday, was given a $2.8 million salary instead of his $3.3 million request. Teams now lead players 6-3.

Rosario, who turns 26 on Feb. 23,He hit .267 with 13 homers and 54 RBIs last year, down from .292 with 21 homers and 79 RBIs in 2013. He made $502,000 last year.

Teams lead players 6-3, the most hearings since teams went 8-6 in 2001.

... Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen has undergone surgery to remove a growth from a bone in his left foot and is expected to miss 8-12 weeks.

The team says Jansen will be on crutches for about 10 days after Tuesday’s surgery in Los Angeles. He will then wear a boot for three to four weeks. He’s expected to be out about eight to 12 weeks.

The growth was found when Jansen reported discomfort while running last week. An X-ray, MRI and CT scan all showed the problem in the fifth metatarsal of his left foot.

Jansen saved 44 games in 49 chances last season. He had a 2.76 ERA in 68 appearances.

... Mariners pitching prospect Victor Sanchez was hospitalized in Venezuela following a boating accident. No condition was released.

... Right-hander Matt Lindstrom has agreed to terms on a minor league contract with the Angels and has been invited to spring training.

... Indians pitcher Tyler Sturdevant has been suspended for 50 games by the league under the minor league drug program following a positive test for a banned amphetamine.

The 29-year-old right-hander is on the roster of Triple-A Columbus of the International League. He spent last season with the Clippers and Akron, going 2-2 with a 2.65 ERA and eight saves in 46 relief appearances.

The suspension, announced Wednesday, was the 35th this year under the minor league program.

... Pitchers and catchers reported Wednesday to the Giants, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians and Philadelphia Phillies.

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