Stars re­turn as pitch­ers, catch­ers be­gin work­outs

The News Herald (Willoughby, OH) - - Sports - By Noah Tris­ter The As­so­ci­ated Press

Justin Ver­lan­der is look­ing for­ward to a full sea­son with the Hous­ton Astros, while the New York Mets are hop­ing for a health­ier year for their start­ing staff.

The New York Yan­kees? Well, this sea­son may not be about their pitch­ers and catch­ers, but they can still send some pretty im­pres­sive arms to the mound.

In many ways, Wed­nes­day was the first real day of spring train­ing, with over 20 teams sched­uled for their first work­outs with pitch­ers and catch­ers. The Astros, Mets and Yan­kees were among that group, and so were the Los An­ge­les Dodgers, Bos­ton Red Sox and Chicago Cubs. In both Florida and Ari­zona, some of the game’s big­gest stars were back on the field.

“I’m ex­cited to be here for the whole sea­son,” Ver­lan­der said. “I’m ex­cited to be here for spring train­ing and to be part of this whole thing from start to fin­ish.”

Ver­lan­der reached the sum­mit last year but missed much of the jour­ney. He was traded to Hous­ton at the end of Au­gust and be­came a key part of the Astros’ run to the World Se­ries ti­tle. Hous­ton beat the Dodgers in Game 7, and both of last year’s pen­nant win­ners fig­ure to be strong again.

“You’ve just got to take that as a mo­ti­va­tion and re­mem­ber that bit­ter taste,” Dodgers closer Ken­ley Jansen said. “We all were cry­ing and all that stuff in the club­house and we all were emo­tional. You have to take that as a mo­ti­va­tion to push and don’t take any­thing for granted, be­cause we know how hard it is.”

The Dodgers won’t have right-han­der Yu Darvish this sea­son. He’s with the Cubs now. In fact, the Dodgers may have to com­pete for at­ten­tion in their own area after the Los An­ge­les An­gels added two-way Ja­panese star Sho­hei Oh­tani.

There was a group of Ja­panese fans on hand for Oh­tani’s work­out with the An­gels .

The Yan­kees made a huge off­sea­son move of their own, adding Giancarlo Stan­ton to a lineup that al­ready in­cluded slug­ger Aaron Judge. Those two power-hit­ting out­field­ers may be the head­lin­ers in New York this year — the big news Wed­nes­day was that Judge hit in a bat­ting cage — but the Yan­kees will need pitch­ing too. Righthander Masahiro Tanaka threw a bullpen ses­sion Wed­nes­day.

New York also has a new man­ager in Aaron Boone.

“We’ve been work­ing to­ward this day,” Boone said. “So there’s an ex­cite­ment not just for me but the coaches and the play­ers to fi­nally get out here and know that the clock on the sea­son in a way kind of started.”

Boone’s ex­cite­ment was shared by Ron Gar­den­hire, who took over this off­sea­son as man­ager of the Detroit Tigers. Gar­den­hire fielded some grounders at Detroit’s work­out, help­ing out with a drill in which pitch­ers prac­tice cover­ing first base.

“This is a game, and we’re go­ing to play it like a game and we’re go­ing to have fun, and I’m go­ing to laugh at some of these guys,” Gar­den­hire said. “I don’t know if I’ll yell at any­body. I don’t re­ally know if I’ll do that at spring train­ing too much — maybe not dur­ing the sea­son.”

The Mets have a new man­ager as well. Mickey Call­away was pre­vi­ously the pitch­ing coach in Cleve­land, and he could have some im­pres­sive starters to work with if the Mets stay healthy. Noah Syn­der­gaard, Steven Matz, Matt Har­vey and Zack Wheeler have had their share of in­jury is­sues.

Wheeler, Syn­der­gaard, Seth Lugo and Matz were all lined up throw­ing their bullpens un­der the watch­ful eyes of gen­eral man­ager Sandy Alder­son and new pitch­ing coach Dave Ei­land. When he was done work­ing out, Syn­der­gaard signed au­to­graphs for fans draped over the chain-link fence along the right-field warn­ing track.

“I think we’re all able to learn kind of in our own way how to deal with a cer­tain amount of ad­ver­sity through in­jury,” Syn­der­gaard said. “But in terms of us be­ing able to con­trol that, we can only con­trol so much. We can only put so much effort and time into the weight room. After that it’s re­ally in God’s plan, what hap­pens.”

The Mets at least could have some up­side if they catch a few breaks. The Mi­ami Mar­lins traded Stan­ton as part of an off­sea­son pay­roll purge and face what fig­ures to be a tough short­term future. Derek Jeter, the Mar­lins’ CEO, was at the team’s camp Wed­nes­day, and he signed au­to­graphs as he left.


Mets pitch­ers, from left, Zack Wheeler, Noah Syn­der­gaard, Seth Lugo and Steven Matz throw at spring train­ing in Port St. lu­cie, Fla., on Feb. 14.

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