Spring Training is full of highs and lows as teams prepare for a long season. Here’s your latest news – good and bad – from the Cactus and Grapefruit Leagues.
The first week of spring games across Major League Baseball has been bittersweet, as we’ve seen promising performances from rookies, new faces, and players returning from injuries…and also seen several key players go down. Through one week of live games, what highs and lows are coming out of the Cactus and Grapefruit Leagues? Let’s take tabs:
Matt Harvey made his first start in any capacity since August of 2013, and after spending 18 months rehabbing his surgically-repaired right elbow, it appears it was worth the wait. Harvey looked impressive – honestly, he looked downright dominant – in his limited time against the Tigers. The young right-hander struck out three of the six batters he faced, didn’t allow a base-runner, and was hitting the upper-90s on the radar gun. While a two-inning Spring Training appearance is hardly cause for a celebration, the fact that Harvey was not only out there, but out there tossing BBs, was a welcomed sight.
Two pitchers making their first appearance with their new teams also impressed thus far. New Nationals’ ace Max Scherzer had a decent, if not eye-popping, first outing for the Nats, tossing two innings and allowing one earned on a solo home run by the Mets’ John Mayberry, Jr. Scherzer had good control, tossing 20 of his 29 pitches for strikes, and was in the mid-90s with his fastball. Meanwhile, new Cubs starter Jon Lester looked very good in his spring debut, allowing only one base-runner and throwing 20 of his 24 pitches for strikes. Both Lester and Scherzer figure to play big roles, as one team looks to turn around 100 years of history and the other is a World Series favorite.
Pitchers aren’t the only players to make an impression, either. Pirates fans were already excited about Korean shortstop Jung Ho Kang, and that was before he hit a home run in his first spring game. Kansas City’s Alex Rios and Oakland’s Marcus Semien have each already hit two long-balls, while in Boston, Dustin Pedroia hit a grand slam earlier this week.
It hasn’t been all sunshine and roses thus far in the Spring. Just ask the Texas Rangers. Even before games began, the Rangers had lost infielder Jurickson Profar for the second straight season. Now, star pitcher Yu Darvish reportedly has a sprained UCL in his pitching elbow, meaning a dreaded Tommy John surgery and 12-18 months of rehab may be in his future. For a team that dealt with injuries all last season, this Spring is looking like a recurring nightmare.
The World Series champions got a bit of bad news this week as well, as Giants outfielder Hunter Pence broke his arm as the result of a hit-by-pitch, and will miss the next 6-8 weeks. While this falls under the umbrella of “freak injury” and not something the Giants will need to worry about much once he returns, it still isn’t the start San Francisco had hoped for.
Meanwhile, on the non-injury front, Yankees camp is already a circus as Alex Rodriguez re-integrates himself onto the team and into baseball. I’d say it’s through no fault of his own that every ground-ball and batting practice pitch he sees in under a microscope, but it’s entirely his fault that’s the case. Either way, he – and, by proxy, the team – can’t so much as spit a sunflower seed without the tabloids writing about it.
Spring Training is only a couple weeks old, and Opening Day is still one long month away, but the storylines coming out of Florida and Arizona are numerous. You never know what will happen over the course of a six-month season, and the same goes for a six-week Spring Training. Continue to follow along here and at TodaysKnuckleball.com for all the latest Spring Training news and notes.