Baseball fans have learned to take early spring-training storylines with a grain of salt. Everyone's looking forward to the season; everyone except Pablo Sandoval came to camp in the best shape of his life. Spring-training stories and statistics can deceive as often as they enlighten.
This does not mean, however, that it's impossible to find developments worthy of observation and comment, even on a day with only four games scheduled. After all, we finally have live baseball again. What could be more noteworthy than that?
Here are a few things that caught my attention this afternoon:
1) Victor Martinez's long home run. Martinez's two-run blast provided all the offense for the Tigers in a 4-2 loss to Pittsburgh. Detroit's cleanup hitter had a dreadful 2015, but he's only a year removed from a .335-32-103 campaign and second-place finish in the All-Star balloting, he played 10 games at first base last season, and he's largely been forgotten in pre-draft rankings and conversations. A healthy Martinez who returns to form in that lineup would provide major value.
2) Uneven results for Cleveland's would-be starters. Again, results aren't always the primary focus in spring training games, but the Indians should have competition for the final two spots in their rotation, so it's worth noting how the contenders for those spots perform. Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, and Danny Salazar are locks. Incumbents Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin should have the inside-track on the other two spots, but last season Bauer led the AL in walks with 79, and Tomlin, despite an excellent 8:57 walk-to-strikeout ratio, posted an ERA (3.02) nearly a run-and-a-half lower than his FIP (4.43), so there's reason to expect some regression. Tomlin got the start in this afternoon's 6-5 loss to Cincinnati. In one inning of work he gave up an earned run on three hits and a walk. He was followed by T.J. House, another rotation candidate who pitched well in 2014 before suffering Bauer-like control problems last season. Today he surrendered two earned runs on three hits in two innings. In short, Tomlin and House did nothing to separate themselves from other serious contenders such as Bauer, Cody Anderson, and 2015 Triple-A playoff hero Mike Clevinger. This will be a battle worth watching.
3) Atlanta's teenagers. Shortstop Ozzie Albies and outfielder Braxton Davidson, both 19, not only received non-roster invitations to spring training but also got into today's 4-4 tie against Baltimore. Albies entered as a pinch-runner, walked, scored a run, and was caught stealing. Davidson finished 0-for-3 with 2 strikeouts. Yes, the Braves are serious about this youth movement.