The countdown is on! Opening Day is just three days away and excitement for regular season baseball is mounting. Players and teams are ramping up for the new season, and that means MLB regulars are seeing more and more playing time in Spring Training games. With the sun setting on the spring action, let’s dive into all the news and performances from the last weekend of Spring Training.
- MLB Umpires will wear microphones for the 2022 season to announce replay reviews to both fans in the stadium and those watching at home. Umpires will announce when a play is being challenged, what exactly is being challenged, and the outcome of the challenge when the review is completed.
- New York Mets‘ ace Jacob deGrom was diagnosed with a stress reaction in his right scapula. He’ll be shut down from throwing for four weeks before being reassessed. ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported that deGrom is expected to miss “significant time.”
- The bad news for the Mets continued when Max Scherzer revealed that he is dealing with hamstring tightness and is unsure if he’ll be ready for Opening Day. He described himself as day-to-day. On Sunday, manager Buck Showalter announced that Scherzer will throw a bullpen on Tuesday and that will further determine if he’ll be ready for the start of the regular season.
- After months of rumors, the White Sox finally traded Craig Kimbrel. The 33-year-old shutdown closer is headed to the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for veteran outfielder AJ Pollock. The trade seems like a win for both sides, as the White Sox filled their gaping hole in right field and the Dodgers brought in one of the best closers in the game.
- The Detroit Tigers were dealt a huge blow with the news that top outfield prospect Riley Greene will miss Opening Day after being diagnosed with a fractured right foot. Greene suffered the injury after fouling a ball off his foot during Friday’s game. Thankfully, the injury will not require surgery, but he’s still expected to miss six-to-eight weeks.
- There is some good news for Tigers’ fans – Spencer Torkelson has made the Opening Day roster. The former first overall draft pick will make his MLB debut as part of the Detroit lineup on Opening Day.
- Torkelson won’t be the only top prospect breaking camp with an MLB team. On Saturday, the Royals announced that Bobby Witt Jr. has made the Opening Day roster. Witt’s one of the most electric prospects in the game and should be super fun to watch now and for the foreseeable future.
- The Padres acquired Sean Manaea and reliever Aaron Holiday from the Athletics in exchange for prospects Euribiel Angeles and Adrian Martinez. The A’s decimation of their once competitive roster continued with this move, so it’s likely only time until Frankie Montas is also on the move. Manaea should be a big part in stabilizing a San Diego rotation rife with injury risk and questionable depth.
- In a surprising move, the Los Angeles Angels designated veteran outfielder Justin Upton for assignment on Saturday. Upton had been seeing regular playing time in Spring Training and even got some reps at first base, so it seemed like the team was looking for ways to keep him in the lineup. The four-time All-Star is owed $28 million for the upcoming season, so it seems likely he’ll go unclaimed on waivers before becoming a free agent.
- An MRI revealed that Braves’ reliever Luke Jackson has damage to his ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. Jackson will surely be out for an extended period regardless of what treatment option he chooses, but Tommy John surgery seems the most likely.
- On Friday, Red Sox manager Alex Cora shared that an MRI of injured ace Chris Sale showed some healing of his stress fracture in his ribs. However, on Saturday morning, Sale said that he still hasn’t been cleared to begin a throwing program. The MRI results are certainly good news, but a return to the pitching mound may be a ways away.
- The Los Angeles Angels will begin the season with a six-man starting rotation. Manager Joe Maddon made the announcement on Friday and said that Reid Detmers will serve as the sixth starter.
- Contract extension talks between José Ramírez and the Cleveland Guardians have “bogged down, if not ended” according to Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, but the team was able to come to terms on a new deal with closer Emmanuel Clase. The two sides agreed to a five-year, $20 million extension that includes two $10 million club options for the 2027 and 2028 seasons.
- Mariners’ reliever Ken Giles is dealing with an issue in a finger tendon and will be shut down from throwing for a few weeks. Giles is working his way back from Tommy John surgery and could play a big role in the Mariners’ bullpen once he’s healthy.
- Garrett Crochet will need Tommy John surgery to repair a torn UCL in his left elbow. The electric young reliever was planned to be a big part of the White Sox bullpen, so this is a big blow to the defending AL Central champs.
- Chicago Cubs‘ starter Wade Miley will be shut down from throwing for 10 days due to swelling in his throwing elbow, according to Meghan Montemurro of the Chicago Tribune. The veteran left-hand starter is coming off a really strong season and was expected to be a staple in the Cubs’ rotation. The hope is that he’ll be able to resume throwing in a couple of weeks.
- The Diamondbacks signed starter Merrill Kelly to a two-year, $18 million extension with a $7 million team option for the 2025 season. Kelly has been a consistent part of Arizona’s starting rotation since joining the team in 2019 after a stint in the KBO.
- The Blue Jays signed manager Charlie Montoyo to a contract extension through 2023, with club options for the 2024 and 2025 seasons.
- The Mariners announced that prospect Matt Brash has won the final spot in the team’s starting rotation. Brash has been phenomenal in Cactus League action and certainly earned this spot. The 23-year-old right-hander has never pitched above the Double-A level, but the Mariners have seen enough to think he’s ready for MLB competition.
- The Pirates have made a long-term contract offer to franchise-cornerstone Ke’Bryan Hayes. According to Jon Heyman, the Pirates have made extension offers to Hayes in the past, but are making a serious effort now. Hayes, 25, is a former top prospect looking for a big 2022 season. Due to injuries, he was only able to play in 96 games last year and hit .257/.316/.373.
- Dustin May threw a bullpen session on Saturday, his first of the spring. May is recovering from Tommy John surgery and will hopefully be able to take the mound at some point in the second half of the season.
- Phillies’ ace Zack Wheeler tossed 45 pitches in a minor league outing on Saturday. He’s expected to throw 60 pitches in his next outing on Thursday before making his season debut on April 12th against the Mets.
- The Marlins acquired relievers Cole Sulser and Tanner Scott from the Orioles for prospects Antonio Velez, Kevin Guerrero, a player to be named later, and a competitive balance round B draft pick. Sulser was in the mix for saves in the Baltimore bullpen, and that’s likely still the case with the move to Miami. The Marlins’ presumptive closer, Dylan Floro, will miss the beginning of the season due to an injury so Sulser may have a chance to take over the job in Floro’s absence.
- Lance Lynn will start the season on the Injured List after he undergoes surgery to repair a torn tendon in his right knee. He’ll be shut down for at least four weeks before he can begin ramping back up.
- The Blue Jays and White Sox agreed to a trade to swap catchers on Sunday afternoon. Toronto is sending Reese McGuire to Chicago in exchange for Zack Collins.
- Diamondbacks’ manager Torey Lovullo announced that Josh Rojas will miss “weeks, not days” due to a right oblique strain.
- Mike Clevinger was scratched from his scheduled Spring Training start on Sunday due to knee soreness. With just one appearance so far this spring, it seems likely that Clevinger will open the season on the Injured List.
Notable Hitting Performances
Is this the season Byron Buxton puts it all together AND stays healthy? His elite level of skill was on display against the Braves on Friday, as he went 3-for-3 with two home runs and four RBI. His other hit was no cheap shot either – it was a single with an exit velocity over 100 mph against Max Fried. If Buxton can stay healthy, it’s hard to see him not being in the MVP conversation. He’s just that good.
Twins fans should get used to this 👀
— B/R Walk-Off (@BRWalkoff) April 1, 2022
Reds’ catcher Aramis Garcia continued to make some noise this spring hitting two home runs on Friday against the Angels. Garcia took two good pitchers deep, hitting his first homer against Reid Detmers and his second against Mike Mayers. Garcia is a non-roster invitee to Reds’ camp, and he’s hitting .375 with five homers so far this spring. He may be earning himself the backup catcher job in Cincinnati.
Here’s a name you probably haven’t heard for a while – Cory Spangenberg. After two years in Japan, he’s back in the states looking to make a big-league roster. He hasn’t seen any MLB action since a short stint with the Brewers in 2019, but in a very small sample this spring he’s hit well. Against the Mets on Friday, Spangenberg knocked three doubles and scored three times. Spangenberg likely won’t break camp with the Cardinals, but he’s making an argument that he at least deserves a chance on a minor league deal.
The Twins scored eight runs against the Rays on Saturday, and Nick Gordon was responsible for plating over half of them. The 26-year-old shortstop was a perfect 3-for-3 at the dish, sent one ball over the fence, and drove in five runs. Gordon’s performed well this spring and will likely open the season as the team’s backup shortstop.
The Yankees demolished the Braves in Saturday’s contest, and Kyle Higashioka was a big part of the action. Higashioka made some noise at the bottom of the Yankees’ lineup, hitting two home runs and driving in three. It’s been an incredible spring for the 31-year-old backstop – in 23 at-bats, he’s hitting .478 with seven home runs. It’s only Spring Training, but Higashioka is looking like a fine replacement for Gary Sánchez.
It was a big weekend at the plate for catchers, and Joey Bart didn’t want to be left out. The heir-apparent to Buster Posey reached base four times on Saturday, notching three hits, one home run, and three RBI. Bart has huge shoes to fill in San Francisco, and he’s looked good this spring, posting a 1.441 OPS in 17 at-bats.
Dom Nuñez also got involved in the catcher slugfest over the weekend. The 27-year-old catcher collected three hits on Saturday with one of them being a grand slam. Nuñez was just a part of an offensive outburst between the Rockies and A’s. The teams combined for 22 runs on the day, but unfortunately the game ended in an 11-11 tie. As the great Ted Lasso once said, “If God wanted games to end in a tie, she wouldn’t have invented numbers.”
DOM NUÑEZ GRAND SLAM! pic.twitter.com/E4QOH0tzhz
— RoxGifsVids (@RoxGifsVids) April 2, 2022
Jeremy Peña did his best Carlos Correa impression on Sunday, launching two home runs while starting at shortstop for the Astros. Peña’s strong spring showing has him primed to open the season as Houston’s new everyday shortstop, and with some exciting prospect pedigree, he could play a large role for the Astros this year.
Nationals’ catcher Keibert Ruiz was locked in on Sunday, collecting four hits including a home run. This will be Ruiz’s first season with a chance to be an everyday starting catcher, and the potential he offers with his bat is phenomenal.
Sunday was a perfect day at the dish for Wander Franco. The Rays’ electric young shortstop tallied three extra-base hits and scored three runs. There’s no doubt Franco’s ready to make his mark on the league.
The reigning NL MVP had himself quite the day on Sunday. Bryce Harper sent two balls out of the yard, doubled, and knocked in three runs in the Phillies’ win over the Tigers. Harper looks ready to defend his MVP award hitting in a stellar Philadelphia lineup.
Harper wasn’t the only Phillie outfielder who roughed up Detroit’s pitching staff on Sunday. Mickey Moniak also went deep twice, had three RBI, and scored a pair of runs. With Odúbel Herrera dealing with an oblique injury, Moniak is vying for the everyday centerfielder job in Philadelphia and his showing on Sunday certainly had to have helped his cause.
Robinson Canó was a perfect 4-for-4 at the plate in Sunday’s contest against the Marlins. Only one of his hits went for extra bases, but it was still nice to see the former All-Star get in the groove of things after having not played in an MLB game since 2020.
It was a slugfest for the Reds on Sunday as they roughed up the Diamondbacks for 15 runs. Joey Votto played a big part in that effort, reaching base four times with a home run, two doubles, and a walk. The 38-year-old first baseman isn’t showing any signs of slowing down – he’s coming off his best season since 2017.
Notable Pitching Performances
It was a split-squad day for the Cubs on Friday, and Madison Bumgarner wiped the floor with the half of the Cubs team he faced. The lone blemish on Bumgarner’s day was a third-inning single off the bat of Cubs’ prospect James Triantos. Other than that, the veteran lefty was dominant, striking out six in five frames. His increased velocity was still present across the board, helping him to a 35% CSW% in the outing. He’s not throwing as fast as he was in his prime, but he’s seemingly battling back against the velocity drop he’s experienced the past couple of years.
Rich Hill was knocked around hard by the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday. He gave up double-digit hits and nearly double-digit runs. The 42-year-old lefty’s first two outings went well, so this just seems like one to forget. He’ll likely have one more spring tune-up before the season begins.
In his first outing of the spring, newest Twin Chris Archer looked vulnerable. He gave up three earned runs in less than three innings, and he wasn’t getting many swings and misses – all five of his whiffs came on his slider. Archer got his pitch count up to 50 and only utilized his fastball and slider. Those have always been his bread and butter, and with such a limited 2021 showing, it’ll be interesting to see how much he works in his changeup or even a sinker going forward. Archer’s only thrown 19.1 innings since 2019, so it’s hard to know what to expect from him this year.
Luis Garcia had all his stuff working against the Marlins on Friday. He struck out six hitters through 3.2 innings and allowed just a single hit. At just 25 years old, Garcia is looking to build on his strong 2021 rookie campaign — he posted a 3.48 ERA over 155.1 innings last year.
Reid Detmers looked pretty good in his Friday outing against the Reds, albeit against a less-than-stellar lineup. The Angels’ sixth starter worked 3.2 innings, giving up two earned runs, while striking out six. Detmers is looking to bounce back after a dreadful MLB debut last year, and he’ll get the chance to open the season in Los Angeles’ rotation.
Mariners’ prospect Matt Brash has looked great in Spring Training action, and his latest start was more of the same. He struck out five batters through 4.1 innings and had his slider doing work. He had a 42% whiff rate on the pitch during Friday’s outing. Brash has never pitched above Double-A, but he’s done so well this spring that on Saturday the Mariners announced that he’ll open the season in the starting rotation.
Matt Brash, K'ing the Side.
All Swords!! ⚔️⚔️⚔️ pic.twitter.com/AbEqmHF5i2
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 2, 2022
Eduardo Rodríguez (SP, Detroit Tigers): 5 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, BB, 8 K
Eduardo Rodríguez worked his way up to 83 pitches against the Orioles on Saturday. He finished five innings of work, allowing three hits, a walk, and two runs while punching out eight batters. Rodríguez looked like he had some of his best stuff on Saturday – he threw all of his pitches with higher average spin rates than he did last year. The 28-year-old southpaw could be in store for a great first season in Detroit.
The Red Sox Opening Day starter looked solid against the Pirates on Saturday, tossing nearly six innings while striking out seven. Although five runs were scored while Nathan Eovaldi was on the mound, only three were earned keeping his stats on the day respectable. With Chris Sale starting the season on the IL, another strong year for Eovaldi would do wonders for a vulnerable Red Sox rotation.
Clayton Kershaw looked good in what was likely his final Spring Training appearance. The future Hall of Famer struck out six Giants in 4+ innings while allowing just three hits and one run. The big question coming into the season for Kershaw was health, and this spring he’s looked locked in and ready for a full season of work.
Clayton Kershaw, Cooperstown Curveball (again) 👑 pic.twitter.com/ReHAwosudt
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 2, 2022
While Kershaw looked good on Saturday, the Dodgers’ bullpen looked anything but that. Collectively, the group allowed nine runs in five innings with nearly half of them being charged to new closer Craig Kimbrel. Thankfully for Dodgers fans, it’s just Spring Training, but Kimbrel sure didn’t look like himself. He allowed four hits including two home runs and only got one out.
After signing a contract extension over the weekend, Merrill Kelly went out and pitched a gem against the White Sox on Saturday afternoon. Kelly struck out five batters over four innings of work. He focused heavily on his changeup, throwing the pitch nearly 30% of the time. His cutter was the real standout though, generating five whiffs on seven swings and 12 total pitches. It was a strong day on the mound for 33 year old, however, Kelly wasn’t facing many of the White Sox starters,
The Mariners’ biggest offseason acquisition looked good against the Brewers on Saturday. Robbie Ray may have allowed seven hits and three runs in less than six innings, but the encouraging sign was that he continued to strike out batters while avoiding walks. The reigning AL Cy Young now has a total of 17 strikeouts to just five walks this spring, a great sign for anyone worried that last year’s breakout wouldn’t stick.
Robbie Ray, Nasty Slider 😨 pic.twitter.com/huBSBYkUnl
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 3, 2022
Although Ray looked good, Corbin Burnes won the battle between last year’s Cy Young winners at Peoria Stadium on Saturday. Burnes mowed down the Mariners, allowing just two hits and one run through six innings. He looks ready to make his Opening Day start on Thursday against the Cubs.
In his final spring tune-up, Verlander was looking like his old self against the Nationals. He racked up five strikeouts over five frames while allowing two earned runs. Overall, his 1.32 ERA over 13.2 Spring Training innings has Astros fans dreaming of seeing the return of vintage Verlander this year. He’s slated to start the Astros’ third game of the season, Saturday against the Angels.
It was a perfect day for Sonny Gray on Sunday. The Twins’ veteran starter set down all 12 Orioles he faced, striking out half of them. Gray had his whole arsenal working, posting a 46% CSW% during the outing, made even more impressive by the fact that it was his first appearance of the spring.
4 perfect innings for Sonny Gray in his Spring Training debut. pic.twitter.com/fDKyjpLZ0y
— MLB (@MLB) April 3, 2022
Aaron Nola looked like he was ready for Opening Day during his Sunday outing. The 28-year-old righty struck out nine batters through 5.1 innings with the only blemish being Nola’s typical culprit – a 2nd inning home run off the bat of Spencer Torkelson. Nola generated 15 whiffs in the outing and had a CSW% of 44%.
Aaron Nola, K'ing the Side. 🔥 pic.twitter.com/jH5N2kXdRX
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 3, 2022
It was a weird Sunday for Sean Manaea. He started the day an Oakland Athletic and by the afternoon, he was on the mound pitching against his former team. The newest Padre only allowed one run through 3.2 innings of work, but he did allow six hits and a walk while punching out four batters. Manaea’s outing won’t be memorable, but the circumstances surrounding it certainly will be.
Noah Syndergaard’s second spring start was great as he struck out seven Dodgers while tossing five innings. Despite the positive results, Syndergaard is working a couple of miles per hour slower than he was when we last saw him healthy for a full season. Seeing Thor move past his injury history and produce at the level he’s always been capable of would be a treat, but it remains to be seen how he’ll fare after so long away from an MLB mound.
What to Watch for Today
Tony Disco – Good SL?
Nick Martínez – Repertoire depth?
Julio Urías – CH strikes?
Freddy Peralta – Few walks?
For updates on all of these pitchers, listen to the Plus Pitch Podcast every morning, exclusive for PL+ membershttps://t.co/Y8epYkHYt2
— Nick Pollack (@PitcherList) April 4, 2022
Graphic by Michael Packard (@artbyMikeP on Twitter & IG)