We want to see them back on the field and at their best. This isn't about the impact they'd have on their teams, either. That's part of the story, but not the most important part.It's simply rooting for guys who've been good for baseball, guys who either believe they've got
We want to see them back on the field and at their best. This isn't about the impact they'd have on their teams, either. That's part of the story, but not the most important part.
It's simply rooting for guys who've been good for baseball, guys who either believe they've got something left in the tank or have worked relentlessly to get back to being what they once were.
Here are 10 comebacks we can all root for this spring:
1. Indians outfielder Michael Brantley
Brantley just has to come back for the fun the Indians are going to have this season. To see them go to the World Series last year without their best player was the lone downside of a sweet story. He has passed every test during his rehab from biceps surgery and could be about to show an entire nation what a complete player looks like.
2-3. Angels starters Garrett Richards and Matthew Shoemaker
If they're both healthy, the Angels might just be a playoff team. Beyond that are the circumstances. Shoemaker suffered a fractured skull when struck by a line drive last September. To see him back on a mound this season would be as uplifting a story as there is in the sport. As for Richards, he had a stem-cell injection in his injured elbow instead of undergoing Tommy John surgery. If it works, it could offer an alternative treatment for pitchers looking at surgery and long recovery times.
4. Diamondbacks outfielder David Peralta
Peralta's career is the stuff of a Disney movie, having washed out as a pitcher and returned as an outfielder from a stint in indy ball. His 10 triples and .893 OPS in 2015 indicated a guy on the verge of stardom. Then finger, back and wrist injuries sidelined Peralta for 114 games last season. Still only 29, he has been healthy and productive this spring.
5. Red Sox third baseman Pablo Sandoval
Sandoval seems likely to be Boston's Opening Day third baseman, and that's about as far as anyone will go with that thought. He has gotten himself healthy and back into shape. When Sandoval was really good with the Giants, he looked like the happiest guy in the world. Here's hoping we see some more of that Kung Fu Panda this season.
6. Rockies reliever Greg Holland
The Rockies are hopeful that Holland will be their closer at some point this season after undergoing Tommy John surgery and missing the entire 2016 season. His blazing fastball has lost a couple of ticks, but that's secondary to his continuing to feel good and build arm strength. Holland's injury occurred near the end of the 2015 season, so he served as a cheerleader as his Royals won the World Series. The Rockies believe they're on the verge of turning a corner, and they think Holland will be part of it.
7. Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg
One of these seasons, the stars and moons will align for both the Nationals and the No. 1 pick of the 2009 Draft. Strasburg's season ended early last September with a torn elbow tendon, and the Nats lost Game 5 of a National League Division Series to the Dodgers. Strasburg has had a nice spring and added a nasty changeup to his 95-mph fastball. Washington is again one of the four or five best teams in the game. Maybe this October will be the Nationals' moment.
8. Padres starter Jered Weaver
Weaver doesn't have the blazing fastball that helped him go 80-42 with a 2.99 ERA from 2010-14 for the Angels. But he's healthy and working to be more precise in his location and in keeping hitters off-balance. If Weaver can continue to fine-tune his game, he has a chance to reinvent himself as a different kind of pitcher with his new team.
9. Cardinals starter Michael Wacha
Wacha worked hard to tweak his mechanics this offseason to lessen the stress on his shoulder and neck areas. So far, so good. He hasn't allowed a run in three starts, and if he's the Wacha of his first three seasons (3.21 ERA), the Cardinals have a chance to make up for the loss of Alex Reyes (Tommy John) and return to the postseason.
10. Astros starter Dallas Keuchel
Keuchel struggled with velocity, command and a cranky shoulder last season after pitching 246 innings in a American League Cy Young Award-winning 2015 season. He'll make his first spring start on Sunday as the Astros have taken a cautious approach to getting their ace back to the top of his game. If Keuchel returns to his 2015 form, Houston will be a solid favorite to win the AL West.
Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. You can follow him on Twitter @richardjustice.