The Week Ahead: Lots to watch as spring unfolds
Well, that didn't take long.
Spring Training is less than a week old, and already teams are experiencing the rigors and challenges of a long baseball year that they're hoping will keep going into late October.
The Majors' 30 clubs do not want to see any more bumps and bruises in the holiday-shortened week ahead than some have already witnessed in the time since pitchers and catchers first reported to their Arizona and Florida camps. Change happens when the kinks are being worked out, and a big part of a championship season is adjustment to the misfortunes that creep up along the way.
The Angels found that out on the first day in Tempe, Ariz., when Mark Mulder, who was attempting to make the team after being out of the game because of shoulder problems, ruptured his Achilles tendon. Mulder might have been a long shot to break camp in the club's starting rotation, but now he's out for the season.
Meanwhile, there are plenty of new developments to keep an eye on over the next six days.
One would be the Orioles, who agreed with Ubaldo Jimenez on a four-year deal -- pending a physical -- on Monday and also are bringing in Korean pitcher Suk-min Yoon to give their pitching staff more sizzle and more depth. Baltimore won 85 games last season despite underperforming on the mound and didn't fully address the situation until now, but address it the O's have.
The Phillies also addressed their pitching by signing A.J. Burnett to a one-year deal on Sunday, and now the veteran right-hander, who played for Pittsburgh last season, will get acclimated to going to work on the other side of Pennsylvania. Burnett had his first throwing session on Monday, and the Phils liked what they saw.
In Boston, one has to wonder how the center-field situation will end up, and we'll find out more this week as young Jackie Bradley Jr. and veteran comeback candidate Grady Sizemore continue to ramp up and get in shape. Bradley made the club out of Spring Training last season and was sent back down to the Minors shortly thereafter, but the position opened up when free agent Jacoby Ellsbury bolted for the Yankees, so Bradley is viewed as the favorite. Sizemore missed the last two seasons because of injuries and has had multiple knee operations, so his every move will be observed closely as he first tries to prove he can stay on the field, and then will attempt to get back to being one of baseball's most dynamic players.
"The biggest thing at this point is that his work in the morning and in the training room is consistent," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "Granted, we're not into the heavy lifting part of Spring Training yet. But physically, he's responded well and is going through the normal reps with everybody else right now."
All week long, more questions will start to be answered.
The Yankees and their fans will begin to see what they have in Japanese righty Masahiro Tanaka, and the same goes for the White Sox and Cuban slugger Jose Abreu.
The Mariners will adjust quickly to life without starter Hisashi Iwakuma, who's out for four to six weeks with a finger tendon injury, and will watch as their top pitching prospect, Taijuan Walker, continues to progress.
Tim Hudson will continue to build strength in the ankle he fractured last season as he gains conditioning for his new team, the San Francisco Giants.
And then there are the guys who still don't have teams.
Sure, Jimenez is now spoken for, but the next-best name on the free-agent starter list, Ervin Santana, is not, and sluggers Nelson Cruz and Kendrys Morales and shortstop Stephen Drew also don't have jobs as we move into the second week of Spring Training.
Now that Baltimore has inked Jimenez, it's possible that the Blue Jays or Mariners or another team could swoop in and sign Santana to a similar deal. Seattle has also been linked to Cruz, but it's not out of the realm of possibility that the Rangers will bring him back. The future landing spot for Drew remains a mystery. The Mets and even a return to the Red Sox have been mentioned, but all has been quiet on that front.
Things can't be too much quieter for too much longer, though. Spring is upon us, and it's moving fast.