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Spring training springing into life

by Matt Smith

We’re halfway through Spring Training and Opening Night is now only seventeen days away. So near and yet so far. MLB.com has a countdown on their main page and baseball fans the world over will be counting down the days one by one until the Cards and Mets renew their rivalry on 1 April to kick everything off once again.

That’s not to say I’m desperate for Spring Training to hurry up and finish. While this period can drag a bit, at this point we start to see a few more “competitive games” with more of the probable starters getting three at-bats or so. The Oakland-Colorado Cactus League game going on right now (live on MLB.TV) is proof of that. Yes Spring Training is generally laid-back, but that didn’t stop Steve Finlay from blowing a gasket and getting chucked out of the game for arguing with the home plate umpire. Finlay is under a bit of pressure as he is trying to earn a spot on the Rockies’ roster, but it’s more likely that the reason he was a bit hot under the collar was due to A’s pitcher Rich Harden.

Harden has been bedevilled by injuries over the last two seasons, yet most people in the game recognise that if he can stay healthy he will be a genuine challenger for the AL Cy Young award. Sadly that has been a big if recently, but with Barry Zito joining the long list of premium Oakland talent who has walked away at the end of his contract there are a lot of hopes resting on Harden finally staying healthy for a full campaign. Harden made his third start of Spring Training and the results were extremely impressive. On his first way around the Rockies’ batting lineup, Harden struck out seven of the nine batters.

The top players are starting to fine tune their game and that’s what makes the next two weeks or so enjoyable to watch. You really get a sense of things building up for the Major League season.

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