Spring Training. A time for prospects to show off their talents, pitchers to loosen their arms, and managers to pray for an injury free month. Throughout the course of Spring Training and the concomitant World Baseball Classic, various major league players and ball clubs experienced triumphs, but also suffered setbacks. Even though spring training (which is still dwindling down) is just practice--not a game, we talkin' bout practice- and the stats do not tell all, several winners and losers emerged. I'll give you the bad news first.
The New York Yankees: Phil Hughes and Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter, oh my! Basically everything that could have gone wrong for the Yanks went wrong. Grandy's arm was broken on a hit by pitch, Tex strained his wrist, Jeet suffered a setback in the healing of his ankle, and Hughes has a bulging disk in his lower back. These injuries pile on top of an already aging roster and it's not like they have the best reinforcements waiting for them in the Bronx. Juan Rivera will see a lot of playing time. So will Eduardo Nunez and Vernon Wells. The catching situation did not sort itself out either. Chris Stewart and Francisco Cervelli? Talk about a mess. April might be a rough month for the Yankees, but hopefully things will get a little better after Joba Chamberlain shaves his gross mustache and the DL clears up.
Ricky Romero: The Blue Jays will send Romero to Class-A Dunedin after he compounded his horrendous 2012 campaign with an even worse Spring Training. Romero appeared in 5 games this spring and he posted a 6.23 ERA, a 2.08 WHIP, and 10 walks over 13 innings pitched. Romero will be replaced by J.A. Happ in the rotation.
Bruce Rondon: Rondon looked like the early candidate to be the Tigers closer. However, when he arrived for Spring Training, Rondon looked like he was trying to throw the baseball through the backstop. He walked 9 batters in 12+1/3 innings and was just optioned to Triple-A Toledo. Jim Leyland will elect to go with a closer by committee and utilize the combination of Phil Coke, Octavio Dotel, Al Alburquerque, and Joaquin Benoit.
Roy Halladay: Am I worried about Roy Halladay? No, but that doesn't change the fact that he had a horrible spring. His velocity is the real cause for concern. Although he cited an illness, Halladay was barely throwing his fastball for 90 mph. I am not expecting him to throw 97, but this cannot continue. Spring Training stats are often misleading, but in 2011, Halladay's spring ERA was 0.42 and he had a stellar season. In 2012, he had a bad spring and followed it up with a disappointing regular season. This could be a dangerous trend.
Kris Medlen: I am definitely not worried about Medlen, but everybody keeps talking about his poor spring so I threw him in with the losers. His ERA in Spring Training is 7.23. There are no other red flags that I am aware of, so for now I will just assume that Medlen is working on getting all of his pitches ready for the regular season.
MLB's Drug Testing: I will be quick on this one. I thought the whole steroid issue would finally go away, but a rundown clinic in Miami ruined it. Ryan Braun and Alex Rodriguez headlined the scribbled-on-a-notebook list. Gio Gonzalez was on it too, but he cleared his name. I just don't know who to believe anymore. I was born in the midst of the steroid era and I feel like it defines my entire life as a baseball fan. It sucks.
Other Injured Players: This group includes Chase Headley and Hanley Ramirez. Both of these guys hurt their thumbs. Hanley's injury came during the World Baseball Classic and he could be sidelined for 6-8 weeks. Headley's injury is less severe and he could return in late April. David Freese (back) and Brett Lawrie (ribs) have also landed themselves on the hot corner disabled list. Jason Motte is out with an elbow strain and David Ortiz may miss some time as well, due to an Achilles issue.
Domonic Brown: This dude killed it in Spring Training. He is currently tied for the league lead in homers with 7. Even though said league includes the Grapefruit and Cactus, not National and American, it is nice to see Brown succeed. He is also batting .373. These numbers can probably be attributed to his hitting adjustments. Brown has moved his hands lower and shortened his swing. Hopefully, these spring stats translate into regular season success.
Prospects: Jackie Bradley Jr., Yasiel Puig, and Julio Teheran. Only one of these players will certainly make their respective clubs, and that is Teheran. He struck out 35 batters and maintained a miniscule 1.04 ERA over 26 innings. Teherean will surely bolster the Braves rotation. Puig, a Cubano, will begin the year in Double-A because the Dodgers are stacked in the outfield. He batted .526 in spring and was a joy to watch this spring. Jackie Bradley Jr. still has a chance to make the Red Sox, but I predict that he will start the year in Triple-A. He batted .444 and the college-seasoned center fielder looks ready to me.
Scott Kazmir: It is crazy to think that Kazmir is still only 29 years old. After being basically irrelevant for the last couple of years, Kazmir has found a home in Cleveland and will be the Tribe's fifth starter. Scott Kazmir is employed and that absolutely makes him a winner.
Vernon Wells: A lot of people were unhappy with the Yankees acquisition of Vernon Wells, but the deal was a personal victory for him. Wells will pretty much play every day because somebody is messing around with their voodoo doll set of the Yankees. He will roam left field. Wells seems especially ecstatic and has revealed his previously concealed love for the Evil Empire. There is no pressure of playing under a big contract in New York for Wells and I don't think another Mike Trout is poised to steal his spot.
Other Notes: I would label Kyle Lohse a winner because he found a team in the Brewers and will be cashing a fat paycheck soon. Also, Bryce Harper is mashing the baseball, batting .473 and at one point, he rattled off a string of 9 straight hits.