Attending Spring Training this weekend was an absolute blast. I had never been out there before, so I was blown away by the stadium, the games, batting practice, and fanfare.
You can catch a full rundown of my time spent there on Friday, here, and more from my Twitter account @Michael_Cerami. I took some good videos (Addison Russell’s home run) and some less good ones (left field singing happy birthday to Kyle Schwarber), but all in all it was an excellent experience.
Also, thanks to everyone who came up, said hi and talked to me about baseball. That was swell. Okay, enough’s enough. Here is some news from around the league …
- Major League Baseball has submitted a proposal to the Treasury department that would provide a means for Cuban baseball players to sign directly with big league teams. Under the proposed plan, a percentage of the players’ salaries would be used to create a (sort of) non-profit organization of Cuban entrepreneurs and officials who would become responsible to support youth baseball, education and the improvement of sports facilities in the country. It is not yet clear where the Cuban Government or the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control stands, but this is a step in the right direction. The goal of the proposal is to ultimately provide a safer pathway for players from Cuba to play in the United States. You can read more about the story, here at the New York Times.
- Chase Utley will not be serving a 2 game suspension for his aggressive slide into Ruben Tejada during Game 2 of the 2015 NLDS. The league has not officially announced a decision (on Utley’s appeal) yet, but the Los Angeles Times has reported, otherwise. I don’t feel like rehashing the debate on whether his slide was clean or not, but I will remind you that this slide had a definite impact on the rule changes coming this year.
- At the Tampa Bay Times, Marc Topkin is reporting that each of Brad Boxberger (led the AL in saves last year) and Jake Odorizzi (3.35 ERA) will receive pay cuts heading into 2016, and Kevin Kiermaier (Gold Glove Winner) will receive basically no raise. The Rays offered each player very small raises, to which each player rejected on a matter of principle. The Rays responded by offering each player a lesser portion of the salary based on service time accrued only (in other words, not performance based pay). While it is well within the team’s right to do so (and the players reportedly have no hard feelings), I prefer the good-will strategy the Cubs have taken with their young players over that of the Rays.
- Also from Tampa Bay, Dan Johnson, 36, will be attempting to return to the Rays as a knuckleballer in 2016. Johnson is perhaps best known for his two dramatic ninth inning home runs (one in 2008 off Jonathan Papelbon and another in 2011 during game 162), but he’s trying to leave yet another mark on the sport. Knuckleballers are capable of pitching far later into their career, but it is a notoriously difficult pitch to master at the Major League level. This could be a fun story to follow this Spring.
- The St. Louis Cardinals have established a new “Performance Department,” to work collaboratively with the team’s medical and training staff to better protect players from injuries before they happen. The department will be led by Dr. Robert Butler from Duke University and they’re jokingly (or seriously, I can’t tell) calling it “Sabermedicals” and “BioBall.” All jokes aside, it is an interesting approach to player management and feels like something that could catch on if it’s successful.
- Speaking of the Cardinals and injuries, Jhonny Peralta has torn a ligament in his thumb, and may miss about 2-3 months. Ouch.
- At the other end of the health spectrum, Cardinals reliever Jordan Walden threw 18 pitches in relief on Friday, having fully completed a rehab assignment that has had him out since last April. Walden threw 10 of the 18 pitches for balls, but his velocity is reportedly where it should be at this point in the Spring. If he proves that he is healthy and effective, he can be another late inning option for Matheny and a pretty good St. Louis pen.
- At MLB.com, John Schlegel has a fun read about the 10 players over 40 on a 40-man roster this Spring. Going through the list, you’ll find some former big-time names. Without looking, do you know who is the oldest active player in baseball?
- Joe Carter turns 56 today, which means it’s appropriate to remember and watch one of the great homers in baseball history.