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The Drama of Spring Training

Spring Training is customarily thought of as games that “don’t count”, games where players “work on things” and over the past twenty years as a place where people go for vacations to see their favorite teams.

Of course, there is plenty of drama in Spring Training, the games DO count for players who are trying to make a major league roster, revive a career, recover from an injury or make an impression on new teammates and managements. If you’re a Yankees fan, you are cheered by the news that Andy Pettitte, their great lefthander who retired after the 2010 season, has decided to return. If you’re a Red Sox fan, you’re wondering if perhaps Roy Oswalt will climb down from his tractor at some point to help bolster the Beantowners’ rotation. If you’re a Phillies fan, you are concerned that Ryan Howard will be out for an unspecified period, and you are concerned that Chase Utley hasn’t made an appearance yet.

Not to mention players who are trying to catch on. The Phillies yesterday dealt another blow to the hopes of Dontrelle Willis, whose career has been on a glide-path to oblivion for several years now. The Phillies signed Willis hoping that he might catch on a lefty specialist out to the bullpen, and as a gesture to his good friend Phillies stalwart Jimmy Rollins. Alas, Willis showed nothing, compounded with a sore arm, and now he might, if he is lucky, garner a minor league contract; otherwise, the D-Train has left the station.

Free agents who have relocated are settling in to their new surroundings. Jose Reyes adds to the Latin flavor of the newly-christened Miami Marlins, and the displaced Hanley Ramirez seems to be adjusting nicely at third base. New manager Ozzie Guillen, a former coach for the Marlins during their last run to the World Series in 2003, is back and very much at home. Everyone is eagerly awaiting the opening of their new ballpark and hoping that the Marlins will finally be able to claim the loyalty of the South Florida baseball fans; it’s not like there aren’t enough of them available.

Out West Albert Pujols is still in red, but it’s not the same. The expectations are that King Albert and C.J. Wilson will put the Angels over the top in the AL West but the Rangers, with the exotic import Yu Darvish in camp and a loaded lineup don’t look like they’re going to give any ground whatsoever. It says here that Darvish will be the biggest Japanese import since Ichiro and the first Japanese pitcher to truly attain superstar status.

With MLB Network blanketing the camps and many games broadcast locally and on MLB.TV, the “privacy” of the spring is no more; it’s now on full display.

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