Whoever says spring training doesn’t count is both right and wrong. Although the games themselves, as far as the standings are concerned, don’t count, what goes on off and on the field does. Injuries, contract disputes, and teams shuffling players around all count. Spring training is for starting players to get back in the swing of baseball after an almost 3 month hiatus and for backups and young stars to work hard to keep from being sent back down to the minors, or worse yet, fired.
On March 31, the Texas Rangers and Houston Astros will officially kick off the 2013 MLB season. It has been a very long offseason, and players and fans are ready to get the show on the road. But before the season starts, let’s take a moment to discuss two teams in which the offseason and spring training may have defined their destinies for the upcoming months, plus some special musings of mine.
Though the Cleveland Indians did awesome throughout spring training with 16 wins and 10 losses, I have my concerns about them. They have had some pitching woes in which three of their relievers and one closer were injured. All three of the relievers are recovering from Tommy John’s surgery (Frank Hermmann, Josh Tomlin, and Blake Wood) and their closer, Chris Perez, has had a strained right shoulder but will probably be back by opening day. If Cleveland can get their pitchers healthy, they will certainly make things interesting this season.
Unfortunately, the New York Yankees will limp into the regular season. Four of their key starters will not take the field when they kick off their season against Boston. SS Jeter is still recovering from a broken ankle he suffered during the ALDS against Detroit and is expected to be back the opening week. 3B A-Rod is out recovering from hip surgery and will not be back until mid-season. A broken forearm CF Curtis Granderson suffered in the middle of spring training will keep him out a month after opening day. And finally, 1B Mark Teixeira will miss playing until after May, healing from a partially torn tendon in his hand. On a positive note, the Yankees have been fortunate enough to avoid major injuries to their pitching staff, which will be their lifeblood until everyone is back to good health. The Yankees are going to have to prove that they don’t need the “bombers” to win. In other words, they will need to prove they can win without players who can slam the ball out of the ballpark.
There are a few other questions I have, which time will eventually answer. Will the Tampa Bay Rays make it to the playoffs? They came so close last season but didn’t have enough gas in the tank to outdo New York and Baltimore. Will the Dodgers finally begin having success? They added pitcher Zack Greinke during the offseason and picked up former Red Sox players Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford toward the end of last year. Will the Giants repeat their domination? They begin the season with a virtually unchanged roster. And the final burning question, will the Cubs go to the World Series? Yes, I used “Cubs” and “World Series” in the same sentence. As we all know, in the MLB, anything is possible.