Spring training is now in full swing (no pun intended) and teams across the MLB are starting to get a clear picture of who is going to be in charge of leading their squads to a run on a pennant.  Some of the choices become obvious by player performances, while others are due to lingering MLB injuries that are forcing teams to change their strategies already.  There is obviously a lot of baseball still to come, but starting strong out the gate can sometimes be the difference between winning and losing.

Rafael Devers Back With Red Sox

Rafael Devers missed the start of spring training for the Boston Red Sox, but he was given a free pass – he wasn’t going to miss the birth of his second daughter.  Devers is back with the Red Sox team now, though, and they want to see if he still has the talent he showed last year.  The 23-year-old batted .311 and had an on-base percentage of .361, 32 home runs, 54 doubles and 115 RBIs.  He’s going to be on the field when Boston takes on the Minnesota Twins tomorrow, and is hopefully ready for the challenge.  Xander Bogaerts most likely won’t be there with him, though, as he was injured a couple of weeks ago while practicing at home in Aruba.

The LA Dodgers were confident that Jimmy Nelson would be healthy enough to take regular trips to the mound, so he was signed to a one-year contract.  He had dealt with injuries last year, and the back office believed the issues were in the rear-view mirror.  Nelson started spring training on the right foot; however, he has now been forced to be shut down as the injuries began to creep back up.  Dealing with lower back problems could keep him out of the rotation for some time to come.

The Toronto Blue Jays bosses knew early on what the field was going to look like, with almost all starters already selected.  However, as the team gets going with its first games, it knows that it has some strong backup in the event things don’t’ go according to plan.  Gold Glove winner Joe Panik is expected to be added, possibly as a backup infielder, and non-roster invitee Forrest Wall ready to assist the outfield.  If the team needs some help in the pitching rotation, Julian Merryweather isn’t just a possible candidate, despite his Tommy John surgery from a couple of years ago, he’s doing well enough that he could end up being added on Opening Day.

The Atlanta Braves and the St. Louis Cardinals are facing off today (the game started at 1:05 PM ET), in Florida, and Felix Hernandez, who is trying for one of the remaining pitching spots for the Braves, is going to turn on the juice.  It will be his second start during spring training, and the coaches like what they see so far.  In his debut, he struck out two players and helped secure two scoreless innings, and Atlanta may have found a ringer.

Not So Easy To Judge

Aaron Judge is still questionable for the New York Yankees.  Soreness in his shoulder is keeping him off the field and would make it virtually impossible for him to throw a long ball from right field.  Manager Aaron Boone is keeping the optimism level high, and said after the Yankees beat the Blue Jays this past Tuesday, “I would say no playing for sure this week.  After the off day, I’ll probably have a good lay of the land about when we’re going to get him in the game. Hopefully shortly thereafter.”

There is now under a month before Opening Day.  Most teams are ready to go, but a few are still working out the kinks.  There is a lot of pressure on certain players to step up to the plate (again, no pun intended) and prove they have the skills needed to create victories for their teams.  Not everyone can make it, though, and this is what spring training is all about.