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Western Courier

Spring training is finally underway

Conor Fredland

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Baseball is back in session, and spring training is well under way in Arizona and Florida as the underdogs and favorites alike get ready for the season. Players from around the world begin to prepare for the phenomenon that is The World Baseball Classic. In Florida, the Cardinals are looking to find the right tools to become contenders again. Head west to Arizona where the Cubs and White Sox are dusting off their cleats and getting back on the field. Spring training and The World Baseball Classic are here and so is the excitement that follows.

For the Cardinals, their new center fielder Dexter Fowler has been walking quite a bit with three games and only three official at-bats with one hit and four walks. Pitcher Carlos Martinez, who will be representing The Dominican Republic in the WBC, had a three-inning scoreless stint in his only action before The Classic. Martinez, who had an impressive 2016, looks to build on that in 2017, but first must compete with the world’s best. The Cardinals have one main goal in mind heading into the season, which is to beat the Chicago Cubs and reclaim National League Central supremacy.

The two Chicago teams heading to Arizona for the spring have very different agendas. The White Sox have their eyes on a slew of young talent lead by Yoan Moncada, who they acquired from The Boston Red Sox in exchange for Chris Sale. Moncada has had a unproductive start to the spring, having no hits in seven at bats, but has had a defensive gem already as he robbed Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo with a diving stop to start a 4-6-3 double play, showing fans what they have to look forward to. Moncada, who isn’t expected to make his major league debut soon, is giving White Sox fans a first look at their future. The White Sox may not compete in 2017, but they are not a force to be overlooked.

This brings us to the Reigning World Champion Chicago Cubs. The Cubs look relatively similar to what they looked like in 2016, with reigning MVP Kris Bryant and slugging first baseman Anthony Rizzo. The only question remaining is: Who will be the Cubs’ fifth starter in 2017? As of right now, it seems that it is between Mike Montgomery and Brett Anderson. Manager Joe Maddon has said that he is considering rotating the pitchers in that fifth spot around. For now. both pitchers have been solid, not surrendering a single run between the two. Kyle Schwarber, the Cubs’ slugging left fielder, is being put in a very unconventional spot by his manager. Maddon is putting the powerful hitter in the lead-off spot. This is intriguing considering it puts the Cubs in position to have a leadoff hitter who can hit 40 or more homeruns. Maddon has also announced that left-hander Jon Lester is more than likely to be the opening day starter in St. Louis.

Around other parts of the league, third baseman David Wright of the New York Mets may not be ready for opening day. After having neck surgery last season, Wright is looking to make a successful recovery. Wright has recently hit a setback, feeling a shoulder discomfort that’s halting him from throwing. Mets trainers have called it a “shoulder impingement,” which has made him questionable for their regular season opener against the Atlanta Braves. Wright was able to make an appearance during spring training as a designated hitter, giving him some experience at the plate to start out his spring and shake off the cobwebs. The Mets know they must be careful, as their star third baseman has had injury problems throughout his career.

Starting March 6, the World Baseball Classic is set to get under way with teams such as the Dominican Republic, the United States, Puerto Rico and Japan vying for a spot atop the world. The United States, as usual, is playing short, with big names not wanting to compete in the Classic. For whatever reason throughout history, players from the States have not felt the need to play in the Classic while countries such as Puerto Rico and The Dominican Republic have the best of their best playing. The United States could be the odds-on favorite, but they have never won the Classic due to this problem. The Dutch team has a very good problem: an overabundance of depth at the shortstop position. They have Xander Bogaerts, Didi Gregorius and Andrelton Simmons all at the one position. Even though the Dutch may not be favorites, they are a dark horse to look out for. The favorite is most likely the Dominican Republic, with names such as Jose Bautista, Adrian Beltre, Dellin Betances and Robinson Cano. They don’t have a weak spot in the lineup and are a team to be wary of for opposing pitchers.

With about a month left in spring training and The World Baseball Classic smack in the middle of the Spring, baseball fans have a lot to look forward to in the upcoming month. Baseball, and it’s around corner

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The independent student newspaper of Western Illinois University. Serving Macomb since 1905.
Spring training is finally underway