Spring training to open with many storylines
From Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, Fla., to HoHoKam Park in Mesa, Ariz., bats and balls will be broken out this week when teams report for spring training.
While the Los Angeles Dodgers and Angels flashed their cash, putting Zack Greinke in Dodger blue and Josh Hamilton in Orange County red, Toronto general manager Alex Anthopoulos flipped players in the trade market as if they were baseball cards.
NL Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey was acquired from the Mets, and 2011 NL batting champion Jose Reyes arrived with pitchers Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson from Miami, which seemed to jettison virtually every veteran other than mascot Billy the Marlin.
"There's pressure to win for everybody," said manager John Gibbons, back running the Blue Jays' dugout for the first time since 2008. "It's survival of franchises. They've got to win sooner or later. That forces some teams to do some things if you're going to keep up."
Players and fans are looking forward to sun in Florida and Arizona over the next 1½ months, with the exhibition schedule starting Feb. 21 when the Boston Red Sox host Northeastern University at Fort Myers, Fla.
But the cloud of drugs remains over the game. Alex Rodriguez, Gio Gonzalez and others were alleged to have obtained substances on baseball's banned list from a Florida clinic, charges the players denied.
Who did what will take months to sort out, perhaps years. Teams are more focused on the now.
The Atlanta Braves, minus retired star Chipper Jones, were busy this winter bringing in brothers B.J. and Justin Upton to play alongside each other in a stacked outfield.
The Washington Nationals, who brought postseason baseball to the nation's capital last year for the first time since 1933, look primed for a run at the World Series. They re-signed Adam LaRoche and added Dan Haren, Denard Span and Rafael Soriano to a deep and talented roster highlighted by young phenoms Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper. n