Baseball is back, spring training begins
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David Price made his first big-money throws of spring training as Boston's prized offseason acquisition, while new Diamondbacks ace Zack Greinke began Day 1 with his new club by drilling on the basics of covering first base.
Johnny Cueto showed off some orange-tinted dreadlocks beneath his off-kilter cap. It will fit in perfectly with his new San Francisco Giants colors. His former team, the World Series champion Kansas City Royals, arrived in the Arizona desert and got started Feb. 18.
From Arizona to Florida, the familiar sound of baseballs snapping into gloves has returned. Clubs held their first spring training workouts for pitchers and catchers. That signaled the true start of a new year. In the greater Phoenix area, a cooling cloud cover provided a respite from the unseasonably warm 90-degree temperatures.
Now, all those franchises that went on offseason spending sprees to improve their pitching are counting on those arms to come through.
Greinke signed a $206.5 million, six-year contract with Arizona. He already has been picked as the Diamondbacks' opening day starter in what manager Chip Hale called the easiest decision he has had to make. The D-backs train in Scottsdale.
Price brought his new $217 million, seven-year deal to Red Sox camp in Florida with similar fanfare. And Jeff Samardzija began getting in sync with his new San Francisco catcher, Buster Posey.
After playing catch with closer Santiago Casilla, Cueto sat in the dugout at Scottsdale Stadium soaking in the scene of his new spring home. His Dominican Republic countryman, former Giants manager and outfielder Felipe Alou, stopped by. He thanked the pitcher for joining the organization.
Are there any nerves for Cueto at this stage after just winning it all with the Royals?
"Claro que no" -- of course not, he quipped. "Maybe if I were a rookie," he said through translator Erwin Higueros. "I came from pitching in the World Series. I don't get nervous."
He is plenty funny, however. When told pitcher Madison Bumgarner brought horses to spring training, Cueto cracked, "Maybe he will sell me one. Or maybe he will gift me one."
Manager Bruce Bochy figures Cueto will fit in well with the Giants. The team has won the World Series in even years of late -- 2010, '12 and '14 -- with some different characters.
"We've been called misfits, cockroaches," Bochy said. "This is as solid as I think we've been, and that's saying a lot."
In nearby Tempe, Arizona, the Los Angeles Angels pitchers and catchers reported, while reporting day for Padres pitchers and catchers was decidedly more low key this year than in 2015. Last spring, San Diego had big expectations following a shopping spree by general manager A.J. Preller.
"Same as every spring training," said outfielder Matt Kemp, one of a handful of players who arrived early. "I think everybody has a goal of coming in and making a championship team. Nothing has changed from last year."
In Florida, catcher Yadier Molina and the St. Louis Cardinals got going in Jupiter, and former all-star pitcher Pedro Martinez was busy working as a special assistant on the field with the Red Sox in Fort Myers.
In Sarasota, manager Buck Showalter loved seeing so many of his Baltimore Orioles regulars report ahead of time. That included South Korean outfielder Hyun-Soo Kim. He brought with him a dozen members of the South Korean media.
Asked if he was nervous, he said with a smile, "A lot."
"They enjoy coming here," Showalter said of his players, "I think they enjoy being around each other."