Longer spring training aids evaluation, lets players get healthy

Posted March 27, 2009, at 10:24 p.m.

This year’s endless spring training is nearing opening day and few players or managers will regret that.

With the World Baseball Classic this year, camps for most teams opened one to two weeks earlier than usual and the teams were playing games in the last week of February.

Managers have given more days off to teams and players than normal for that reason. The preparation for pitchers has been more difficult trying to figure out how much they need to throw with the spring extended.

That makes for a long spring for most players who really believe that in this day and age they can come to camp for a couple of weeks and be ready to go.

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Many players think most spring training seasons are too long, never mind an extended one like this year.

That creates a conundrum for MLB teams since they have asked spring training cities to invest heavily to obtain their presence while resting the stars the fans want to see since the camps are so long this year.

However, for some, time is still on their side. These AL East teams have some players and situations that may benefit from the long days journey to the regular season.

Kevin Youkilis of the Sox needs the ankle to heal and Daisuke Matsuzaka may need a little rest after going 3-0 in the WBC while picking up his second MVP in those games.

The Yankees got an extended look at their hopes for center fielder of the future, Austin Jackson. For players like Jackson the extended time kept them in the major league camp longer and gave the Yankees coaches more time to work with him.

New York also hopes Joba Chamberlain can find the live arm that has abandoned him for the moment.

Tampa Bay is hoping the elongated spring will give their center fielder B.J. Upton a chance for his shoulder to heal. He is questionable for opening day.

Toronto may have closer problems. B.J. Ryan is a flame thrower, but the flame, as with Chamberlain, is weak at this point.

The extra time gives the Blue Jays a chance to figure out if this is a case of tired arm that occurs to most pitchers in the spring, or a real problem that could sideline him.

Cito Gaston, the Jays manager, also gets extra time to preach to his hitters the value of patience and situational hitting. He began that task last year and with a weakened pitching staff this year, he more than ever wants production and quality at bats.

With the beginning of the season in sight, teams are now serious as to the lineups they put on the field and the cuts they are making.

For all the talk of who might have had a chance to make the rosters, it’s those who are left now that are in the real battle.

Teams also want the time left in spring sites to reunite players who were in the WBC with their MLB teams.

Having covered the WBC, the players are far less concerned about this than owners, managers and fans.

Soon Philly will raise the World Series banner and spring will become summer.

bdnsports@bangordailynews.net

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