MLB: Spring Training '21 Observations
(originally written 3/23/21)
As I sit here fully and happily indulged in MLB Network's extensive coverage of Spring Training baseball for the 7th or 8th day in a row, it's literally impossible to believe that I once truly disliked the exhibition season. Cactus League? Grapefruit League? Yawn. When's the next Warriors game, I used to think.
(Then again, I also once thought Paula Abdul was the hottest woman alive. No disrespect to Paula, but that simply was not true.)
I'm loving every pitch, every thump of the mitt, every crack of the bat—I'm even diggin' the interviews! (Especially a recent on-field hookup with Braves 1B coach Eric Young Sr.)
So far this spring, there hasn't been a litany of stars tearing, breaking, straining or catching anything, as was the case in 2019-2020.
Off-hand, some of the notables to go down with injury include Houston's Framber Valdez (finger) Toronto's Kirby Yates (arm strain) Washington's Jon Lester (thyroid; already recovered) the Yankees' Zack Britton (elbow) the Mets' Carlos Carrasco (hamstring) and Cincinnati's Joey Votto (COVID; already recovered).
DH/P Shohei Ohtani (Angels) is 14-for-22 with four LONG home runs this Spring. Initially shaky on the mound, he looked far better his last time out.
We may have seen the last of Felix Hernandez, who left his start for Baltimore 3/16 with an elbow injury.
I had no idea Rich Hill was on the Rays until watching him start for them a few days ago. And I follow this stuff.
After Salvador Perez signed his extension with the Royals, an MLBTradeRumors.com poster, appearing serious, actually ranked Gary Sanchez (of the Yankees) ahead of Perez among catchers. Every other poster's head exploded. I can only hope this person was 15 or younger.
There is a lefty pitcher named Matthew Liberatore in camp with the Cardinals (acquired from Tampa for Randy Arozarena last year). He is not related to ex-Dodgers lefty pitcher Adam Liberatore (2015-18). That is barely comprehensible.
On 3/22 I learned Seattle prospect Taylor Trammell pronounces it Truh-MELL, not TRAM-mell, as Hall-of-Famer Alan does. Now you know, too.
On Sunday 3/21, Detroit's Willi Castro lost his bat into the stands, clubbing a fan in the head/face. And it did not make a single headline; the only related news I could find online was a tweet from sportswriter Chris McCosky.
Over six years since his horrific beaning and it's still tough to watch Yankees DH Giancarlo Stanton pitched in tight. On 3/22, the Phillies set up inside; I turned away and sure enough: Aaron Nola drilled Stanton in the arm. Obviously, he wasn't thrilled, but he remained cool.
As a Giants fan, it is scary to watch Corey Seager of the Dodgers right now; the free-agent-to-be is just as scalding hot this spring as he was during the 2020 postseason.
Odubel Herrera and Domingo German are competing for roster spots with the Phillies and Yankees after their careers grinded to a halt in 2019 (domestic violence suspensions for both; neither played in 2020). Thru 3/22, Herrera is 8-for-36 with three solo home runs. German is unscored upon in three starts covering nine innings. Only these two men know if they've truly changed their off-field ways, and we fans can only hope that they have.
Speaking of DV, MLB dropped the hammer on free-agent RP Sam Dyson, formerly of my Giants. After sitting out 2020, he'll get the whole 2021 season off, too. You think you "know" somebody...
If you saw it (on 3/16), you'll never forget Amed Rosario's first real foray in CF for the Indians, who appear set to go with Andres Gimenez as Frankie Lindor's replacement at SS (at least to open 2021). Rosario botched two routine flies, bobbled a grounded hit, and then threw the ball wildly to second base. It was not pretty.
I really wish I'd taken note of the Indians 3B who, last week, fielded a ground ball and promptly threw it 10 feet over the first baseman's head while RP Oliver Perez fought to keep his job in the Tribe bullpen—I thought it was Tyler Freeman at first, but there's no record of him committing an error recently.
And speaking of guys named Freeman: as Tribe manager Terry Francona participated in a live TV interview 3/17, Reds IF Mike Freeman—who was cast off by Cleveland 3/12—homered, prompting Francona to immediately declare "Why couldn't he have done that for us?" (Good-naturedly.)
Colorado's Ian Desmond decided not to play. Again. Oh, well, more opportunity for a youngster.
Blake Snell of the Padres says the ball is definitely different this year, in a way that should favor pitchers. If that's true, GOOD. Then they'll give up fewer jacks and stay in games longer; we don't need somebody leading the league with 187 innings pitched.
It's great to hear legitimate cheers (and jeers) coming from the crowds around Arizona and Florida, is it not? Even better seeing kids at the ballparks again, though I'm not sure how school schedules are being navigated to accommodate them.
Competing to be the Tigers' starting catcher, Grayson Greiner was drilled in the face by Toronto's Elvis Luciano in early March. He's now recovered.
A great story: Brent Honeywell of the Rays. Check it out here.
Another great story that may get even better: Rafael Dolis of the Blue Jays. After getting run with the 2011-13 Cubs, the guy was out of the majors 2014-2019 (mostly in Japan) before returning to North America with the Jays in 2020. This year, he's got a shot to replace Yates as Toronto's closer.
Potentially the best story: Scott Kazmir of my Giants. Kazmir, who's already returned from the baseball dead once before (in 2013), is trying to resume his career after missing the entire past four seasons. Though he's looked halfway decent in camp, odds of him making a deep Giants staff are questionable at best. But even if there's no room for him at AT&T Park, I'm more than willing to bet on Kazmir pitching for somebody in the majors this year.