Spring training: Baseball emerges from winter
By Jimmy Golen
AP Sports Writer
FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — The crack of the bat at spring training camps replaced the sound of trash can lids banging in homemade YouTube videos as baseball emerged from its winter of cheating scandals and salary dumps to bask in the Florida and Arizona sun.
The Pittsburgh Pirates and San Diego Padres held their first official workouts, and pitchers and catchers for 16 other teams reported to their Grapefruit and Cactus League complexes on Tuesday. The rest of the major leagues will filter in this week.
Red Sox players checked in without knowing who their manager will be, almost a month after Alex Cora was fired for his part in the Houston Astros 2017 sign-stealing scheme. Bench coach Ron Roenicke, a former Brewers skipper, will serve as interim manager while the team waits for Major League Baseball to wrap up its investigation into Boston’s attempts to steal signs after Cora arrived in ’18.
The Red Sox were also without a former MVP and Cy Young Award winner after the long-haggled trade of Mookie Betts and David Price to the Dodgers was finalized on Monday.
“Great teammates. Great players,” Red Sox outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. said after arriving at Fenway South on Tuesday. “Time to move forward.”
At the Red Sox complex in Fort Myers, reliever Matt Barnes tossed a football on a back field while teammates stretched and sprinted. The rest of the position players are scheduled to report on Sunday; spring training games begin in earnest on Feb. 22.
Across Fort Myers at the Minnesota Twins’ camp, Marwin Gonzalez became the first Astros hitter to apologize for his role in the sign-stealing. The utilityman was in Houston from 2012-18, including the championship season that was the subject of the MLB investigation that led to the firing of manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow.
“I’m remorseful for everything that happened in 2017, for everything that we did as a group and for the players that were affected directly by us doing this,” Gonzalez told reporters. “I wish I could take it back and do it a different way, but there’s nothing we can do. I just want to move forward and focus on the 2020 team.”
The Dodgers added Betts and Price to make another run at a World Series after being denied in back-to-back seasons by teams that have been accused of cheating. The Astros, who report to West Palm Beach on Wednesday, replaced Hinch with Dusty Baker.
The Mets were the third team to fire a manager in the wake of the scandal. They reported to Port St. Lucie on Monday with new manager Luis Rojas; he replaced Carlos Beltrán, a player on the Astros World Series team who never managed a game for New York.
“We expect to be a contender,” Rojas said in his first spring training news conference. “We have a great roster, great position players with versatility, great starting rotation or pitchers that have a history of Cy Youngs and World Series winners. And our bullpen has a history of saving games and being closers.”
Here is some other news from around spring training:
WORKING FOR TIPS
Phillies manager Joe Girardi said he will make sure his pitchers and catchers aren’t giving away their signs. And if the team picks up on any tells from opposing pitchers — within the rules — that’s fair game.
“We’re going to do things the right way and we’re going to look for every advantage there is,” Girardi said. “If the pitcher is tipping, we’re going to use that. And we’re going to protect … make sure that our guys aren’t tipping. ”
Joe Maddon returned to the Angels, where he spent the first three decades of his baseball career. A light-hitting catcher who worked his way up through the organization before managing the Rays and Cubs, he is back with a franchise that hasn’t won a playoff game since 2009.
“It’s kind of eerily the same, so I feel pretty comfortable with it,” he said, noting that he saw some of the same faces at the complex in Tempe, Arizona, from before he left for Tampa Bay in 2006. “Listen, I’ve always loved this place. … I get flooded with nostalgia, I do. And it’s OK. It’s a good thing.”
Reliever Aroldis Chapman showed up at Yankees camp in Tampa in a white Rolls Royce convertible with a black roof. But the biggest arrival was right-hander Gerrit Cole, who signed a $324 million, nine-year contract in the offseason.
“He brings a dynamic that’s crazy,” first baseman Mike Ford said. “He boosters our staff that’s already is awesome. To have him, probably the top pitcher in the game, couldn’t be happier.”
New Giants manager Gabe Kapler liked the looks of the team’s expanded complex at Scottsdale Stadium in Arizona. A three-story building behind the seats down the first base line houses a new clubhouse, weight room, meeting spaces, coaches offices, trainers room and large event space.
“Everything will be more intertwined, and that’s by design,” Kapler said. “We want to bring departments together and we want to solve problems collectively. And then we can take advantage of a very diverse group of thinkers.”