As the season nears, there are more Spring Training headlines than ever before flying out onto the Internet, ESPN, and every other possible source. Decisions are being made as to who will be on Opening Day rosters. A few of them are…
-Javier Lopez, the former Braves catcher, retired yesterday after Bobby Cox informed him that he would not make the team out of training camp. (Corky Miller is the leading candidate for the backup catching job.) One of my favorite players of the Braves’ division title era, dating back to his home run in Game 2 of the 1995 World Series, he set the world on fire with 43 home runs only five years ago, then wasted away in Baltimore before a decent effort in his final comeback attempt proved unsuccessful. He seems like the type of guy who, in retirement, can become a coach of some sort, maybe a Minor League instructor. I think that would be his best career path at this point. Lopez had some very good years, but it’s time for him to move on.
-John Smoltz could, if extreme caution prevails, start the season in the same boat as Scott Kazmir, on the disabled list. He may be ready to pitch next week, but at 40 years old, they’re treating Smoltz like a young fragile arm. He wouldn’t miss enough time to make it too significant if he doesn’t start the season.
-Without Kazmir, the Rays have announced that James Shields, Matt Garza, Andy Sonnanstine, Edwin Jackson, and Jason Hammel will form the starting rotation for about the first week of the season. Upon his return, Kazmir should take the number one spot and drop Jason Hammel into his projected long relief role. This looks to be the correct order for this rotation, and it should remain this way judging by what I’ve seen. Sonnanstine has forged ahead with a 0.64 ERA this Spring, and could be a nice fourth starter in 2008 behind the big three of Kazmir, Shields, and Garza. No other injury problems have surfaced, thankfully.
-Evan Longoria…no announcement yet. This concludes your required Evan Longoria update, brought to you by your Tampa Bay Rays.
-Troy Percival is locked in for the Rays’ bullpen, but he got hammered today, giving up seven runs in one inning to the Cincinnati Reds. He came in with a huge lead, so maybe he pulled an Al Reyes and played it soft until it suddenly got close. Or maybe he just got destroyed. Probably both. This was one game, but it can’t continue next month and beyond. Though, in this one, the offense bailed him out and won the game.
More decisions as they are made and announced. Speaking of announcements, the Tigers are expected to tell the world that they have extended Miguel Cabrera’s contract and paid him what he wanted: 8 years, $153.3 million. The former Marlins third baseman is thankfully out of the Braves’ division, and now ready to turn the large field of Comerica Park upside down. I would like to see him live up to the hype, as I’m a bit of a Tigers mark dating back to their 2006 World Series run. So, until next time, go Rays.
Today I used all of my Best Buy gift card money to buy MLB 08: The Show for my PlayStation 2. I’ve only played one game to this point, on my ridiculously easy settings, where the Rays beat the Florida Marlins 12-0. Carlos Pena had the first hit, a single to left field, and Rocco Baldelli the first home run, a two-run blast to right field (B.J. Upton hit the second, a solo shot to center field). Carl Crawford tripled, and Scott Kazmir pitched eight dominant five-hit innings before Troy Percival finished the job. From what I gather so far, it’s nearly identical to last year’s game, but there are some new animations and I think the gameplay is more fluid with new and improved fielding and home run animations. There is one critical change in the interface, being that after selecting a pitch, the little ball marker points arrows indicating where the pitch will break, which is a great pitching feature for breaking ball throwers. And check this out for new realism: I ran Kazmir over 100 pitches without even walking anyone. The AI is much more adept at fouling off two-strike pitches and running up pitch counts, though I still managed to strike out nine of the first 12 Marlins hitters. It will probably, as last year’s game did, take a brief adjustment period to this game’s style before I get as good as I want to be. It looks good so far. More news on this and other happenings as they occur, as I’m now on Spring Break and have more free time. Until next time, go Rays.