Even before the first pitch of the 2015 season is thrown, an eye-popping baseball record will be set.
The average salary when Opening Day rosters are finalized Sunday will break the $4 million benchmark for the first time, according to a study of all major league contracts by the Associated Press. Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw tops players at $31 million this year and Los Angeles projects to open the season with a payroll at about $270 million, easily a record.
"We're enjoying a tremendously bountiful season in baseball," said Toronto pitcher R.A. Dickey, the 2012 NL Cy Young Award winner with the New York Mets.
Fueled by the largest two-year growth in more than a decade, the average salary projects to be about $4.25 million, according to the AP study, with the final figure depending on how many players are put on the disabled list before the first pitch is thrown. That is up from $3.95 million on the first day of last season and $3.65 million when 2013 began.
"MLB's revenues have grown in recent years, with the increase in national and local broadcast rights fees being a primary contributor," said Dan Halem, MLB's chief legal officer.
Baseball's average was approximately $50,000 in 1976, the last year before free agency. Back then, many players took offseason jobs to pay their bills.
The average salary broke the $1 million mark in 1992, topped $2 million in 2001 and reached $3 million in 2008.
Wrigley on track
Wrigley Field will be ready for the Chicago Cubs' season opener Sunday night, and the bleachers still are on track to be opened later this year, the team said.
Vice President of Ballpark Operations Carl Rice said the left- and center-field bleachers are scheduled to be ready May 11, with the right-field bleachers set to be ready in mid-June.
Rice said the Cubs are spending $50 million more than originally planned on the renovation project, and confirmed it will take them up to five years to complete instead of four.
• Detroit pitcher Justin Verlander won't make his scheduled start Thursday. He could pitch in a minor league game Friday, but if he doesn't, he will miss his first scheduled regular-season start vs. the Twins on Wednesday. He has been battling sore triceps.
• The 2-year-old son of Colorado pitcher John Axford is in stable condition a week after getting bitten twice by a rattlesnake at spring training in Arizona. Doctors likely have saved the foot, though Jameson Axford could still face losing a toe or two, Rockies officials said.
• Pitcher Freddy Garcia agreed to a minor league contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers, who also agreed to pay reliever Mike Adams a $100,000 retention bonus and told pitcher Dustin McGowan they plan to release him.
• Tampa Bay released former Twins infielder Alexi Casilla, who hit .267 in 17 spring training games.
• Kansas City released three-time All-Star shortstop Rafael Furcal, two weeks after he signed a minor league deal.
• Philadelphia outfielder Domonic Brown will open the year on the disabled list because of left Achilles tendinitis.