Spring Training is awesome! The weather in Arizona and Florida (usually) rocks, the next generation of stars are on display, we get to see baseball being played after snowy months without it and ... what am I saying? By the end of March I can’t wait for the games to finally, mercifully, eventually count in real standings -- sorry, Kansas City Royals fans -- and now that day is nigh. The big Texas rivalry officially starts the 2013 season on Sunday night baseball on ESPN, so let’s go! It’s Friday, so here are five things you have to know for this weekend in baseball!
Bud Norris versus Matt Harrison!: Hope springs eternal, even in Houston where the goals are to build for 2019 (hopefully sooner) and avoid losing 100 games this year, just a bit different than that of the contender-ish Texas Rangers. Perhaps this isn’t an outstanding rivalry yet, but there’s certainly room for growth! Anyway, Norris has faced only two current Rangers, but current Astros are 0-for-18 against Harrison. Anyone else smell a no-hitter watch on Opening Day? Bob Feller (1940) would welcome Harrison to the club!
We’re not Joshing: Meanwhile, Josh Hamilton spent five seasons as a Ranger, making five All-Star teams, hitting many home runs and burning bridges when he departed. The new center field arrangement is a likely speedster platoon of Cuban Leonys Martin and Arkansas native Craig Gentry. It won’t provide power, but certainly intrigue at the bottom of a deep lineup. Hamilton’s power will be replaced -- as Ron Washington crosses his fingers -- by Lance Berkman. Sure, last season he was an injured mess. In 2011 when nobody expected it, Berkman finished sixth in the majors in OPS. Hamilton was 10th in OPS last year.
San Antonio, here we come!: Meanwhile, all teams are technically in action this weekend, even if their low-level Class A players will be doing the heavy pitching and hitting lifting. The Rangers host the San Diego Padres in Tim Duncan’s lovely city Friday and Saturday. San Jose is a lovely place, too, but the Oakland Athletics are going to end up somewhere, someday, so remember the Alamo, or at least the attendance figures this weekend when the A's and Giants host each other. The skeleton of the New York Yankees -- oh wait, that’s their actual April lineup? -- will take on Army at West Point, N.Y. An entire Army? And you thought the Yankees taking on the rest of baseball was a challenge.
Roster roulette: Fantasy owners might be wondering why the heck Christian Garcia is on the disabled list -- or who he is -- or when the Yankees will officially send Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson as teams finagle 25 men onto their active rosters. Longer-term injured players will get their procedural asterisks for DL placement, but in some of the cases the moves will be short-term. Baltimore Orioles pitcher Chris Tillman, for example, had his DL stint performed retroactively, and could still pitch later in the week, so don’t give up on the potential fantasy windfall of players like Tillman just yet. What’s more interesting is ...
Unemployment line: The healthy players who do end up with jobs -- because there are some big names on the proverbial fence. Check out SweetSpot blogger Dave Schoenfield’s beloved Seattle Mariners, for example, where four-time 30-100 guy Jason Bay should make the team, but only to sell tickets. Seriously, can he be an integral contributor after years of unfortunate injury and insult to New York Mets fans? Prospects like Jackie Bradley Jr. in Boston won’t be out of work, but it’s undecided where that work will be on display. Don’t be surprised by a trade or two as well, as teams look for upgrades even at the last minute. Casper Wells starting in left field for Philly for their Opening Day? Alfredo Aceves in another team’s rotation? Jose Valverde closing for his pal Jim Leyland in Detroit? Well, maybe not.
Regardless, enjoy your weekend and remember, the games count starting Sunday night!