The stock footage of players jogging, playing catch and generally milling around has been replaced by actual Spring Training games. These games should come with a warning label that reads, â€œCaution: May Contain Baseball-like Substance,â€ but this is a step closer to Opening Day.
Weâ€™ve already got depth chart jockeying and a whole slew of guys nursing annoying injuries. Weâ€™ve yet to have a true closer controversy yet, but itâ€™s on the horizon. Itâ€™s an annual spring event. Itâ€™s right up there with a Chase Utley injury, Joel Zumayaâ€™s elbow ligaments leaping out of his body and a Quad-A guy leading Spring Training in hitting. Last year it was Kila Kaâ€™aihue and the year before that it was Sean Rodriguez. The smart money is on Jordan Schafer this year.
On to the week that was week two of Spring Training…
Jim Johnson has yet to throw a pitch in Orioles camp due to a back issue, but he is inching closer to making his Grapefruit League debut. He threw an 18-pitch simulated inning and didnâ€™t report any issues. On the other hand, Kevin Gregg is already in mid-season form. He gave up a two-run homer to someone named Matt Hague on the Pirates. Matt Lindstrom wasnâ€™t much better. Lindstrom was tagged for three runs on three hits and walk. Johnson really canâ€™t get back soon enough.
Chris Perez started a long-toss program and it sounds like the Indians are making noise that he may return by Opening Day. Tribe manager Manny Acta confirmed that Vinnie Pestano will get the first crack at saves if Perez is going to miss any time. All this means is that Pestano will be closing by May.
It sounds like Andrew Bailey is all the way back from his lat strain early in camp. Bailey is set to make his Grapefruit League debut on Monday. Mark Melancon is looking more and more like a sneaky late round play thanks to Baileyâ€™s near-constant health issues. Would anyone other than Bailey owners be stunned if Melancon ended the year with ten or more saves?
The arms race in Chicago (AL) is still a three-way affair between Matt Thornton, Addison Reed and Jesse Crain. Thornton and Reed notched scoreless innings this week in Cactus League action. Crain was tagged for a run on two hits and a walk, but struck out two. Itâ€™s anyoneâ€™s guess which way manager Robin Ventura is leaning.
Oaklandâ€™s Grant Balfour got off to a poor start by giving up two homers in his Cactus League debut against the Mariners. Brian Fuentes and Fautino de los Santos also gave up homers last week. Dark horse candidate Joey Devine is the only Oakland reliever thought to be involved in the competition that didnâ€™t get tagged yet. Devine has only given up a hit in two scoreless innings so far and heâ€™s starting to get some buzz as a possible answer to Oaklandâ€™s closer questions.
New Cincinnati Redsâ€™ closer Ryan Madson is still sidelined with an elbow issue of some sort. The Reds are calling it â€œirritationâ€ and Madson is claiming he simply went too hard too early in camp. The bigger question is, who is second in line should this elbow issue turn into an elbow injury? Sean Marshall and Nick Masset are setting up Madson, and the odds-on favorite would probably be Marshall, but it wouldnâ€™t be a shock to see Aroldis Chapman get the job due to the Reds’ starting pitching depth.
Dodgersâ€™ manager Don Mattingly gave Javy Guerra a vote of confidence as closer. Kenley Jansen is still the better pitcher and is worthy of a roster spot in all formats even if heâ€™s not the closer. Guerra is a solid bet to struggle at some point and Jansen is ready to step in.
Andrew Cashner turned a lot of heads in Padres camp by averaging 102.2 MPH on his fastball during a ten-pitch scoreless inning. Cashner topped out at 103.3 and looks like the heir apparent should(when?) Huston Street land on the DL this season. He doesnâ€™t really have mixed league value yet…yet.
Finally, Brian Wilson threw a 25-pitch bullpen session and is slated to make his Cactus League debut on Sunday. It sounds like heâ€™ll be good to go and itâ€™s not like he needs a lot of time to get ready for the season, but does anyone actually feel good about drafting Wilson this year? Sergio Romo is the handcuff option and a must own if Wilson suffers a setback during Spring Training.