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MLB spring training kicks off

Image from Cleveland.com

Image from Cleveland.com

Will M. '19, Writer

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As Valentine’s Day came and went, Feb. 14 marked another important date besides the day of love. Twenty-five of the 30 MLB teams called their pitchers and catchers to report to their respective spring training sites in Florida or Arizona. Four other teams made their first call to players the day after. The Washington Nationals, the only remaining team, reported on Feb. 16. The first full-team workouts began Feb. 19-21, as spring training for the 2018 Major League Baseball season begins.

Much has happened since the Houston Astros won the World Series last fall, with blockbuster trade deals and signings shaking up rosters. Because of this, there are new expectations as players set their sights on the seven-month-long season.

“I’m most excited to see how the season turns out as a whole after all the big shifts happened during the offseason,” Michael L. ‘19 said.

Perhaps the biggest roster move this year involves relocation from Miami to The Bronx for 28-year-old National League MVP, Giancarlo Stanton. Stanton finished the 2017 season with 59 home runs, leading the entire league. In second place with 52 homeruns is the American League Rookie of the Year, Aaron Judge, Stanton’s new teammate. As of Dec. 9, the New York Yankees and Miami Marlins agreed to a trade sending Stanton to New York in exchange for Starlin Castro and prospects right-hander Jorge Guzman and infielder Jose Devers, according to MLB.com.

Another headlining story within the baseball world is the signing of right-handed starting pitcher Yu Darvish to the Chicago Cubs. Last season, Darvish began the year with the Texas Rangers, a team he had been with since 2012. However, with the Rangers not making a playoff push, several other contending franchises scouted Darvish. On July 31, Darvish was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers, who won the National League Championship and made the World Series. Darvish won his start in the Divisional Series, as well as game three of the National League Championship Series, allowing two runs in both of those starts combined. However, in the World Series, Houston’s offense got the best of Darvish, and he was unable to get out of the second inning in both of his two starts. Darvish lost both games, but because of his strong regular season record, as well as solid starts in the NL Divisional and Championship series, Darvish was a sought-after free agent. Several teams pursued the pitching ace, and on Feb. 13, Darvish signed a six-year deal with the Chicago Cubs, MLB.com reports.

“It’s interesting to see how one offseason can completely revamp a team and turn them around, or can push some good teams out of the running,” junior Cole C. said.

There have been several other significant offseason trades around the Majors. The Pittsburgh Pirates traded all-star outfielder Andrew McCutchen to the San Francisco Giants for Kyle Crick and Bryan Reynolds. The Giants also acquired all-star third-baseman Evan Longoria from the Tampa Bay Rays for four players. Both McCutchen and Longoria had over 158 hits last season, and over 84 runs batted in (RBI).

“Every year, organizations are looking to make their team a little better, and trying to find that piece that might help them take that next step closer towards winning the World Series,” Olentangy baseball coach Ryan Lucas said.

Looking through a local lens, the Cleveland Indians have made moves of their own this offseason. The Tribe lost a Cleveland favorite when first-baseman Carlos Santana signed a three-year deal with the Philadelphia Phillies. Santana had been with Cleveland since 2010, and finished last season with 23 home runs and 79 RBI. To fill this position, the Indians went shopping, and on Dec. 21, signed first-baseman Yonder Alonso, according to USA Today. Alonso spent part of the 2017 season with the Oakland A’s, as well as with the Seattle Mariners. He came off of a career-high 28 homerun season, and was selected to his first all-star game in 2017.

“[I am] beyond thankful for the opportunity to join the Indians. My family and I are beyond excited and truly just can’t wait for Spring Training and [the] season!” Alonso posted on Instagram after the trade.

Additionally, the Indians signed outfielder Rajai Davis, who was previously with the Oakland A’s and the Boston Red Sox for a short period last season. While Davis’s career now spans 12 years, and his hitting talent has cooled off, he is still a valuable asset, as he stole 29 bases on 36 attempts in 366 plate appearances in 2017. Davis became a hero in Cleveland after his game-tying home run off Aroldis Chapman in game 7 of the 2016 World Series. The 37-year-old now has a minor-league contract with the Tribe, and looks to cap off his career on a positive note.

Joining Davis is another member of the Indians’ 2016 American League Championship team, Mike Napoli. Napoli was signed to a minor-league deal by the Tribe on Feb. 27, and will relocate from Texas to Ohio. Last year, Napoli hit 29 home runs and batted .193 with the Texas Rangers. Indians manager Terry Francona made it clear Napoli would not play for Cleveland this year, as both the first base and designated hitter positions are filled, but was signed in order to allow him to showcase his abilities to other teams. After the 2016 season, the Indians did not make an offer to Napoli, and instead signed slugger Edwin Encarnacion from the Toronto Blue Jays. However, Francona explained because of the respect the club has for Napoli, they wished to do as much as they could for the 36-year-old.

With everything that has happened since the fall, teams have fallen in, out and remained in the sights of success and hopes of the playoffs. However, until the season is in full motion, nothing is for sure, and there is always a possibility of a club surprising the baseball world. For now, all eyes are set on the players as they stretch out and gear up down south before the season begins. Opening Day is scheduled for March 29, with the Chicago Cubs taking on the Miami Marlins at 12:30 p.m. as the first game of the year, and the Indians taking on the Seattle Mariners later at 10:00 p.m.

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