Good, bad and ugly: Taking spring stock of all clubs
The Catholic Church has changed popes in the time since the first pitchers and catchers trickled into Spring Training camps. That's how long this World Baseball Classic-extended spring has been.
With the longer spring schedule comes the increased risk of injuries or other unforeseen developments impacting the outlook for the 2013 season. And while many of these "issues," as it were, come out in the wash over the course of 162 games, not all of them do.
So let's take a brief look at each Major League team and do our best to assess what kind of spring it's been:
Angels: Albert Pujols' recovery from knee surgery and dealings with plantar fasciitis have limited his activity in the field, Ryan Madson didn't throw off a mound for 38 days because of elbow tightness, and while nobody's reading too much into this, the Halos have the worst spring record in the game. But they did unload $14 million worth of Vernon Wells' contract, so let's upgrade them to a so-so spring.
Astros: Nobody's expecting much this season out of a team with about $20 million in payroll commitments. This spring was all about getting the young guys to buy into new manager Bo Porter, and by all accounts, they done that. So let's call it a good spring for Houston.
A's: Bartolo Colon has not exactly dominated, but, by and large, the A's have stayed healthy, appeared confident in their ability to build on last year's stunning successes and had a good spring. A deep outfield looks even deeper, given Shane Peterson's strong showing in Cactus League play.
Blue Jays: All is well with the new guys, as Josh Johnson has looked very sharp and R.A. Dickey and Jose Reyes got through the Classic unscathed. But as far as holdovers are concerned, Brett Lawrie will begin the season on the disabled list with a strained rib and Ricky Romero has still looked lost. A so-so spring for Toronto.
Braves: Evan Gattis spent four years away from baseball, working as a ski-lift operator, a housekeeper, a cook and a valet. Now, he's positioned to make Atlanta's Opening Day roster. A very cool story. What's not so cool? Key bullpen cog Jonny Venters struggling with command all spring and then leaving Tuesday's game with an elbow sprain. Downgrade the Braves to a so-so spring.
Brewers: Adding a quality veteran innings-eater (Kyle Lohse) to a largely young and unproven starting staff is a nice late-spring boost for the Brew Crew, so let's go ahead and call it a good spring for them.
Cardinals: They lost their shortstop (Rafael Furcal) for the season. Meanwhile, their closer (Jason Motte) and third baseman (David Freese) will open the season on the DL, and Carlos Beltran has a small fracture in his toe. All this, coming on the heels of the news that Chris Carpenter is done, and it's been a bad spring for the Cards.
Cubs: Matt Garza's recurring problems with his left lat will cost him at least a month of the season, and Scott Baker is likely to miss at least the first half with elbow trouble. The starting rotation had looked like a possible sneaky strength of the rebuilding Cubs, which makes these injuries all the more frustrating in what has been a bad spring.
D-backs: Remember when those gritty D-backs had an excess of outfielders? Well, now Adam Eaton is out six to eight weeks with an elbow strain and Cody Ross is behind schedule because of a calf injury. Beyond that, 2012 National League Rookie of the Year Award candidate Wade Miley has gone through a "dead arm" period. That qualifies as a bad spring for Arizona.
Dodgers: They lost Hanley Ramirez to the Classic, then lost him to thumb surgery that will cost him the first six weeks or so of the season. The Dodgers also had to take it slow with Zack Greinke because of his early spring elbow trouble and Carl Crawford in his ongoing recovery from elbow surgery. On the bright side, Yasiel Puig has looked like a beast. A so-so spring for a team with such high hopes.
Giants: Though Brandon Belt has been smoking the ball, Pablo Sandoval's elbow trouble is a troubling late-spring development. And the most-watched storyline in Giants camp -- Tim Lincecum's attempt to put 2012 behind him -- has not netted much positivity, as Lincecum has a 10.75 ERA and dealt with a blister issue. That's enough to qualify this as a bad spring for the defending champs.
Indians: Terry Francona's arrival has ushered in a Tampa Bay Rays-like looseness to the clubhouse, Chris Perez appears to have survived his early spring shoulder soreness and Scott Kazmir has been a pleasant surprise. What this translates to in the regular season remains to be seen, but the Tribe has had a good spring.
Mariners: All right, I'm going to be guilty yet again of citing a Spring Training statistic, but the Mariners -- the Mariners! -- lead the Majors in home runs at this moment. Maybe some of that good spring power will translate to Safeco Field's new dimensions.
Marlins: It's all about the kids in Miami. Outfielder Christian Yelich had a sensational spring before his expected return to the Minors, but Jacob Turner, who had seemed assured of a rotation spot, got lit up on the mound and was optioned to the Minors. It was a so-so spring for rookie skipper Mike Redmond's club.
Mets: The injury bug has bitten both New York clubs hard this spring. Injuries have slowed or outright delayed Shaun Marcum, David Wright, Johan Santana, Daniel Murphy, Frank Francisco, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Justin Turner and Jenrry Mejia. The Santana situation is particularly prickly. A bad spring for the Mets.
Nationals: Ryan Zimmerman is about back to normal following shoulder surgery, Bryce Harper is built like a linebacker and Stephen Strasburg survived a bullet off the bat of Prince Fielder. A good spring for the Nats.
Orioles: Between the strong showings from prospects Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman and the steady progression of Brian Roberts, it was an excellent camp for Baltimore, right up until designated hitter Wilson Betemit's knee buckled on the bases Monday. Betemit will miss six to eight weeks, and the O's are hereby downgraded to a so-so spring.
Padres: Having lost two of their top prospects -- rotation candidate Casey Kelly (Tommy John surgery) and outfielder Rymer Liriano -- for the season to Tommy John elbow surgery and third baseman Chase Headley for a month to a fractured thumb, this certainly qualifies as a bad spring for the Friars.
Phillies: Great to see Ryan Howard and Chase Utley on the field from Day 1. Not so great to see Roy Halladay deal with diminished velocity. At best, a so-so spring for the Phils.
Pirates: Already dealing with uncertainty in the back end of their rotation, the Pirates had to yank Jeff Karstens out of the mix with lingering shoulder soreness. On the bright side, top prospect Gerrit Cole looked sharp, but he was none too pleased to be sent back to the Minors. A so-so spring for the Buccos.
Rangers: Martin Perez's broken forearm hurt the depth in what was already an iffy back end of the rotation. And the Nolan Ryan saga is a frustrating, unnecessary distraction. A bad spring for Texas.
Rays: Tampa Bay has received strong early returns from Roberto Hernandez, the artist formerly known as Fausto Carmona. And Wil Myers came as advertised. Despite the constant speculation about David Price's future, the Rays have had a good spring.
Reds: Joey Votto is back in peak physical form after recovery from knee surgery sapped his strength in September/October last year, and Shin-Soo Choo, despite some recent back woes, has fit in well. Now that the Aroldis Chapman situation is settled to the pitcher's liking, we can say it's been a good spring for the Redlegs.
Red Sox: A night-and-day difference in clubhouse vibe from last year to this is a good start, and Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz have turned in some good starts in Grapefruit League play. Boston has also seen a nice spring from Jackie Bradley Jr., an intriguing development given Jacoby Ellsbury's looming free agency. A good spring for the Red Sox.
Rockies: Troy Tulowitzki is healthy and has been productive, third-base prospect Nolan Arenado has made a strong impression in camp, and there have been positive early results with the increased emphasis on defense and ground balls by Walt Weiss and his staff. It's been a good spring for the Rox.
Royals: Hey, I don't care what time of year it is. If the Royals have the best record in baseball, it's worth mentioning. It's been a good spring for a Kansas City club with renewed vigor. We'll see what that means in April.
Tigers: Aside from Prince Fielder getting a flat tire on his way to work and closer-in-training Bruce Rondon having some shaky outings early, it's been a fairly drama-free spring camp for the defending American League champs. Having Victor Martinez back in the fold and healthy has made it an especially good spring.
Twins: Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau are healthy, and prospect Aaron Hicks legitimately won the starting center-field job (a rare feat, given the service-time stipulations that accompany his promotion). A good spring for Ron Gardenhire's crew.
White Sox: The Sox worked out what could be a very club-friendly contract with Chris Sale, but medical setbacks for John Danks (shoulder) and Jesse Crain (thigh) weaken the pitching staff for the start of the season. It's been a so-so spring for South Siders.
Yankees: Other than losing Curtis Granderson (forearm) and Mark Teixeira (wrist) for at least a month and having both Derek Jeter (ankle) and Phil Hughes (back) iffy for the start of the season, it's been a good spring for the Yankees. Which is to say it's been a bad spring for the Yanks.