We were treated to a storybook finish in the World Baseball Classic, the perfect launching point for what should be a fantastic year in the majors. As teams settle back into their spring training routines, let’s check out the MLB news from the action out in the Sunshine State. We also have all the MLB spreads to make a bet online on spring training action and you can also check out some MLB playoff odds.
Sale Has “Good, Terrible” Start
Chris Sale is one of the more talked about players in Florida this year, certainly in Fort Myers. The injury list over the past few years is epic, but a healthy Sale – even at 34 – would be huge for a Boston Red Sox squad looking to remain competitive.
Early returns were pretty promising, as Sale threw five scoreless innings through his first two Grapefruit League starts. Tuesday’s outing at Baltimore in Sarasota? Not so clean, as Sale was pounded for six runs in five innings against the team he’ll face in his first start of the season on April 1.
Since it’s spring, however, the lefty was focused only on the positives, and getting through five frames intact was all that mattered.
“It was a weird one”, he said. “They put the ball in play and it just seemed to fall. You know, it’s gonna happen. In a way, it’s almost good to get that out of the way, try to be in some tough situations and have to be out there feeling like I felt and getting through it. So just a good, terrible start in a way”.
The seven-time All-Star has made just 11 starts for Boston since 2019 and hasn’t flashed his dominant form since the year before that. He’ll get one more tune-up before beginning another bid at redemption.
Early Return for Harper?
The Philadelphia Phillies’ chances at repeating as National League champs will be tested with Bryce Harper’s extended absence, although they weathered a two-month gap without him last year.
His return from Tommy John surgery may come earlier than originally expected. President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski told reporters Tuesday that the team will not put Harper on the 60-day IL when the season starts, with the hope that he may be ready before that period ends.
“If I had no, no hope, I would put him on the 60-day”, Dombrowski said. “I’m not setting any dates, but I’m just keeping that option open rather than closing an option.”
Harper struggled quite a bit when he came back from a thumb injury last year but notably put it all together when it mattered most in October. Giving him an early on-ramp in 2023 should yield a big summer in Philly. The team will need it, too, as the loaded NL East has this squad looking up at both the New York Mets and Atlanta Braves in most MLB predictions.
Big Debut for Buxton
From one injured star outfielder to another, we have a Byron Buxton sighting in Minnesota Twins camp. After hitting exclusively on back fields and against minor leaguers, Buxton made his debut in a Grapefruit League game Tuesday and quickly made his presence felt.
Buxton ripped a 110.4-mph line double in his first at-bat of the spring as part of Minnesota’s 5-2 win over Tampa Bay. He then scored on a Carlos Correa home run, giving Twins fans a glimpse of what can be when their two stars are in sync.
The oft-injured Buxton, who hasn’t played 100 games since 2017, hopes to expand his usage this year by staying off his feet a bit more. He’ll open the year as the team’s primary designated hitter and could stay in that role for much of the year.
“If he could play 162 games in center field, we would have him in center field for 162 games”, manager Rocco Baldelli said. “Almost no player does that, or no player does that in the entire game. So what’s going to help us get the absolute most out of Buck and help us win the most games? I think it’s going to be him being in the lineup as much as possible”.
It’s probably said every year, but Buxton could be a great selection if Comeback Player of the Year is included in your preseason MLB picks.
Phils Cut Ties With Appel, Ex-No. 1 Pick a Free Agent
The Phillies on Monday released former top pick Mark Appel, ending a chapter that had so many twists and turns over the last few years.
Appel, taken No. 1 by Houston in 2015 after a standout career at Stanford, battled injuries and ineffectiveness for years, even giving up on the game at one point. He returned and worked his way up the Phillies system, turning himself into a solid reliever with Triple-A Lehigh Valley last year.
The solid stretch gave Appel his first call-up in June, and the now-31-year-old eventually appeared in six games for the Phillies, sporting a 1.74 ERA. This spring has been difficult, however, and Appel seemed to see the writing on the wall, tweeting this the other day: “Opening Day is around the corner. Pitchers are almost ready. Position players are locked in. Fans share the optimism a new season brings. But this isn’t just another season. This is likely my last”.