Weekly Hit Ground Ball: Spring again

WHGB11As Spring Training has got underway, so my regular Sunday catch-up begins again for another year.

Dreaded injuries #1

There is a morbid side to this time of year in which whenever you log onto MLB.com, your first thought is: I wonder if anyone picked up a bad injury overnight?

Amid the stories of uneventful Spring Training debuts for pitchers ‘just getting their work in’ and position battles for the 25th spot on a team’s Opening Day roster, it is news of injuries that take centre stage when they occur.

One of the first MLB.TV streamed game of Spring Training featured the New York Yankees and the Detroit Tigers and we immediately witnessed the sort of moment that every manager dreads:

It was a 95-mph fastball from the Yankees’ pitcher Luis Severino that hit Cameron Maybin‘s wrist and the result was a fracture and 4-6 weeks on the sidelines. It could happen to any hitter, especially this time of year when pitchers are trying out new pitches.

Harsh as it sounds, the Tigers would prefer the injury to happen to Maybin rather than Miguel Cabrera or Victor Martinez, but it still takes away from their outfield depth and creates an early headache for a team more dependent than most on good health this season.

Dreaded injuries #2

If that wasn’t bad enough, managers even have to be wary about their players when they’re not playing games.

The LA Dodgers’ great strength for this year seemed to be the depth of their resources, but that is being tested already with pitcher Brett Anderson suffering a recurrence of a back injury that will put him out of action for 3-5 months.

It’s the latest blow for a pitcher who has had an injury-plagued career. 2015 was kind to Anderson and he re-signed with the Dodgers over the off-season after they extended him a qualifying offer (the MLB-defined 1 year, $15.8m contract) to dissuade him from becoming a free agent.

The Dodgers now have three main starting pitchers, and plenty of money, unavailable to them. Anderson and his $15.8m are joined on the sidelines by Hyun-Jin Ryu (being paid $7m this season and potentially back on the field in May) and Brandon McCarthy ($11m this year and potentially back sometime in July).

It’s credit to the Dodgers, and their financial resources, that their season is far from sunk despite these key losses.

Desmond left to learn a new position

A change is as good as a rest, they say. Ian Desmond will be getting little in the way of rest this Spring following his move to the Texas Rangers that requires him to change his fielding position from shortstop to left field. Desmond made his debut in the #7 position on Friday and was glad that only one ball came his way, yet he will be putting in plenty of work to try to get accustomed to his new role over the next few weeks.

It was a strange decision by the Rangers to sign Desmond and move him to left field and the player’s agreement to it is largely due to simply wanting a job somewhere. We often highlight ‘walk years’ when a player excels in the season before he becomes a free agent, but Desmond’s 2015 was the exact opposite to that and once he turned down the Nationals’ qualifying offer, the draft pick a team had to give up to sign him made finding an opportunity difficult.

I’ll be looking at contract offers as part of revising the Baseball Basics for Brits Volume 3 about players and contracts. Desmond’s gamble on turning down the Nationals’ 7-year, $107m contract extension a year ago is likely to feature in the ‘when player’s wish they could turn back the clock’ section.

Maybe too soon for Manaea-mania?

We all know that you shouldn’t put too much stock in Spring Training performances, especially in these early weeks, and so A’s fans like myself won’t be touting pitching prospect Sean Manaea for a Cy Young Award on the back of his promising two-inning debut on Friday against the Rockies. However, there’s no harm in enjoying a youngster doing well, particularly ahead of a season where a .500 record would be a return to some form.

talkSPORT takes up MLB rights

British baseball fans should be retuning their DAB radios as part of talkSPORT’s plans to launch talkSPORT2 on 15 March.

Ex-MLB on 5 Live Sports Extra host (among many other shows) Nat Coombs will be presenting a new All American Sport Show on talkSPORT from Tues 22 March, 18.00-20.00, that will be well worth a listen.

And talkSPORT have the rights to broadcast MLB games too, with familar faces/voices Josh Chetwynd and David Lengel apparently lined up to be part of it. Further details on stations (talkSPORT, talkSPORT2 or a bit of both) and games covered will be announced in due course, but it’s fantasic news that a dedicated British-focused presentation of baseball will be available once again.

Checking in on London

And finally, as for MLB-related matters in Britain …

It was good to see MLB’s Murray Cook visiting the Olympic Stadium in London again, with talks continuing around MLB bringing games to London in 2017 or beyond.

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