Home MLB Weekly Hit Ground Ball: Spring Training begins

Weekly Hit Ground Ball: Spring Training begins

by Matt Smith

We’re into March already and whilst some may be left wondering how the first two months of the year have flown by, us baseball fans have no need to get weighed down by such trivialities.

March means Spring Training, which means baseball is finally back for another year after the long winter months.

The games began on Wednesday with the Blue Jays and Phillies meeting in the first contest shown on MLB.TV.

Whilst the MLB.TV service is generally fantastic, it isn’t faultless all of the time and many fans eager to start their baseball-watching year were left frustrated by paid-for subscriptions not registering and apps failing to show the presence of any live games on a variety of connected devices.

Thankfully most of the problems were ironed out within an hour or so and we were able to get on with enjoying the games.

Just as good as you imagined

With a more limited selection of televised games to watch during Spring Training, it’s a good time of the year to get reacquainted with the joys of listening to radio commentary of ballgames via MLB Gameday Audio. The best crews bring a sense of fun to the occasion whilst painting a vivid picture of the events unfolding, allowing you to use your imagination to create the scenes.

Sometimes when you get to see the TV replay you find that a play wasn’t quite as spectacular as you envisioned it. There was no danger of that being the case with the two highlights from the Oakland A’s spring opener against the San Francisco Giants on Wednesday.

The A’s lead radio commentator Ken Korach was sounding quite matter of fact when describing Michael Morse’s flyball to right field, even getting most of the way through his “and this one is …” call before stopping himself from saying the final word. He couldn’t say “gone” because it wasn’t. Instead. he said “did he catch it?”, with an air of incredulity, before shouting “HE DID! AN INCREDIBLE CATCH SCALING THE WALL!”

There was nothing forced about the call, no hint that he was hyping it to the hills like the best (or worst, depending on your viewpoint) Sky Sports commentator. You knew Josh Reddick has just pulled off a stunning catch, which was quickly backed up by various A’s writers taking to Twitter to: a) state how incredible it was, and b) to bemoan the lack of TV cameras which meant you’d just have to take their word for it.

What they didn’t know initially was that the ballpark did have one TV camera filming from behind home plate. Barely a few hours into the 2014 baseball season and we already had one of the best fielding plays we’re likely to see all year. Reddick then proved it wasn’t a one-off by doing it again, to the same unfortunate Morse, later in the game.

Not your average Spring Training game

Spring Training games are normally a low-key affair, but not when they involve a Japanese star making his North American debut.

Japanese baseball reporters were out in force on Saturday to see Masahiro Tanaka’s first appearance for the Yankees and he showed plenty of poise in two score-less innings. The highlight of his outing came when he used his much-talked-about splitter to strike out the Phillies’ Ben Revere. The early signs are that Revere will be the first of many hitters flailing at that pitch with two strikes against their name.

Say it ain’t so, Sano

Long-term injuries are always a sad part of the game, but it feels all the more cruel to happen to an exciting young player. The Minnesota Twins were hoping 2014 would bring some positive developments as they try to build themselves into a contender again; however it’s started in the worst possible way with third base prospect Miguel Sano needing to undergo Tommy John surgery.

The rehabilitation process following the elbow surgery isn’t quite as lengthy for position players as it is for pitchers, but Sano will be out for the whole season and will already have next year’s Spring Training camp as his focus, rather than potentially competing for a Major League roster spot this season.

Greinke grounded

Dodger fans held their collective breath on Thursday when pitcher Zack Greinke lasted only four pitches before leaving the team’s game against the Arizona Diamondbacks with an injury.

Fortunately the ailment was a minor calf strain that shouldn’t hold him back for long. Greinke appeared to suffer the injury on the mound, although he perhaps might have done it whilst putting his foot in his mouth over his less-than-enthused comments on the prospect of going to Australia. The injury may make it less likely he will be heading Down Under, potentially avoiding the risk of some of the locals giving him the Stuart Broad treatment.

Setbacks for Seattle

Seattle Mariners fans that hadn’t made the trip to Arizona got their first chance to see Robinson Cano playing in their uniform on Saturday, courtesy of MLB.TV.

That was where the good news ended as it was confirmed on the same day that pitchers Hiashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker are both unlikely to be ready for Opening Day due to lingering injury concerns. The Mariners need to see an improvement on the field after investing so heavily in Cano; however he’s only one piece in the puzzle and the team will be desperate for their pitching rotation to be at full strength as soon as possible.

If the Face fits

Finally, the MLB Network decided to run a strange competition this past week in which fans were asked to vote for ‘the Face of MLB’. Quite why anyone would want to declare one single player as the face of MLB is a bit of a mystery, but in the face of such absurdities sometimes the internet can come up trumps.

The A’s bespectacled fringe infielder Eric Sogard became the subversive vote and his #nerdpower campaign got him all the way to the final where he was just beaten, some would say suspiciously so, by the New York Mets’ David Wright.

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