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Spring Training News and Notes

The calendar is changing. Winter is trying to keep its grip on large part of the country, but that will soon be over. Hope is in the air. Baseball season is nearly upon us. Spring Training is here, which means it’s the best time of the year. Many of us compare this time to the days and weeks leading up to Christmas. Like keeping track of the big sales at Christmas, there is also a lot of news going on in Arizona and Florida.

After his intersquad start on March 8, Diamondbacks pitcher Zack Greinke said he has a nagging fear that he doesn’t have it anymore. Greinke was above 90 MPH in his first spring outing but has been sitting in the mid-80s in his last two starts. Many have noted that Greinke has had to build up his velocity during Spring Training in the past, as well. Many are also wondering whether or not Greinke has a dead arm, which is not an uncommon ailment for pitchers in March. Greinke posted a 3.20 ERA and a 215/45 K/BB ratio over 202.1 innings last season. It is a little early to overreact to some Spring Training issues, but it’s probably something worth watching.

Jake Arietta has finally found a home, signing a three-year contract with the Phillies. Lance Lynn recently signed with the Twins,  Jonathon Lucroy has signed with the A’s, and Mike Moustakas signed with the Royals. Jeff Zimmerman covered the AriettaLynn, Lucroy, and Moustakas signings for Fantrax.

The Blue Jays have officially ruled Marcus Stroman out for Opening Day. Stroman has been dealing with shoulder soreness, and while the Jays were optimistic that he might be ready for the opener, he’s just not going to make it. However, Stroman said that he felt “great” during his bullpen session on Monday morning, so it seems like it’s more a matter of getting him stretched out in time to start the season as opposed to physical problems preventing it.

The recent announcement of Jorge Bonifacio’s 80-game suspension for taking a performance-enhancing drug has thrown the Royals lineup in a bit of a flux. Bonifacio would likely have been the Opening Day starter in right field, which will now be filled by either John Jay or Jorge Soler, with Alex Gordon likely manning center field.

Cub fans might be wanting to rework the original Abbot and Costello skit “Who’s on first?” to “Who’s batting first?” to suit the big Spring Training question for 2018. Last season, it was outfielder Kyle Schwarber who handled the top of the lineup duties for the Chicago Cubs on Opening Day, and it did not produce good results for Schwarber or the Cubs. This year, Ian Happ is making a strong case to be the leadoff hitter to start the season. Through Sunday,  Happ has a spring slash-line of.429/.500/1.190, all while batting at the top of the order for most of this time.  Jason Heyward has also been seen some time at the leadoff spot this spring. Heyward has not had a great spring but has been working diligently with new hitting coach Chili Davis.

Speaking of Schwarber, the Cubs outfielder decided to make some major changes after a disappointing 2017 season. During the offseason, he underwent a physical transformation that included major changes in workouts and diet. In addition to some improved hitting so far, Schwarber’s lighter frame has helped him swipe three bases so far.

Spring Training 2018 news would not be complete without some kind of news about Angels pitcher/DH Shohei Otani. Unfortunately, the latest news is not that positive. Ohtani gave up six runs on five hits in a three-inning appearance in an Angels ‘B’ game against the Tijuana Toros of the Mexican League last Friday. He registered six strikeouts, but he threw two wild pitches, hit two batters and walked one. It was a poor performance, but nothing to worry about at this point in the spring.

Cardinals first baseman Matt Carpenter arrived at Spring Training with a tight lower back and a sore shoulder. The ailments are being described as “tendinitis,” yet manager Mike Matheny is now saying the shoulder is always a source of concern, despite Carpenter’s optimism that he’ll be ready to go. On Saturday, Carpenter took three at-bats in an intrasquad game setting. He walked on a full count, grounded out and fouled out but said he felt “perfect” afterward. He also gave his back a good test when he stumbled rounding second base after another hitter had singled, but he felt no discomfort. He is scheduled to make his spring debut as the DH in Tuesday’s exhibition game.

According to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, Los Angeles Angels pitcher Cam Bedrosian is seen as “the current favorite” for the closer job. Bedrosian has been outperforming 2017 closer Blake Parker so far this spring and could be taking the lead in the race to be the Angels closer. Nothing official has been announced, and Heyman also reports that a closer-by-committee strategy could also arise.

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