Baseball is back. As we get closer to the regular season, be sure to stop by The Stew each morning for your daily helping of spring storylines.
• This time of year is all about hoping your players show some improvement or promise for the new season. That, and hoping injuries don't befall anyone on your roster. Two teams hoping for better 2014s than they had 2013s got bad news Sunday: The Chicago Cubs watched shortstop Starlin Castro leave their game with a hamstring issue while the San Diego Padres saw outfielder Cameron Maybin return to the ranks of the walking wounded.
• Luckily for the Cubs, Castro's injury is being described as "mild," but he'll still miss about a week. Castro, 23, hasn't fulfilled his potential in Chicago, and an injury, mild or not, isn't the start people were hoping for in 2014.
• Maybin will need an MRI on his shoulder after he injured it diving for a fly ball Sunday. He left the game and Padres fans immediately had flashbacks to 2013. Maybin played in just 14 games last year because of injuries.
• In a not-at-all surprising bit of news: The Miami Marlins announced Jose Fernandez will be their opening day starter. At 21 (and 274 days), he'll be the youngest opening day starter since Felix Hernandez in 2007.
• Tim Hudson, the newest San Francisco Giants pitcher, looked sharp in his first outing with his new team, and his first time on the field since a gruesome ankle injury ended his 2013 season last July. Hudson, 38, pitched two scoreless innings as the Giants beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 5-3.
• Matt Garza pitched for the first time in a Milwaukee Brewers uniform Sunday and it wasn't fun. Garza gave up four runs in a 28-pitch first inning. Garza, 30, signed a $52 million contract with the Brewers last month. Getting lit up in spring training isn't a big deal. In this case, there might be a reason. Garza said he had trouble sleeping Saturday night.
• The Cleveland Indians acquired infielder Justin Sellers from the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday, after L.A. had designated Sellers for assignment. In order to make room for Sellers, the Indians DFA'd David Cooper, a former first-round pick with a tough injury history. He figured to be a back-up at first base.
• Relief pitcher Guillermo Mota announced his retirement Sunday after 14 MLB seasons. He had been in camp with the Kansas City Royals. He leaves baseball with a 3.94 ERA in 743 career games.
• In case you didn't hear: Cleveland Indians closer John Axford nailed his Oscar predictions Sunday night. He went 18-for-18 in his picks.
It's spring training. The stats don't matter, but they're still interesting sometimes.
• The Washington Nationals (3-0) are the only undefeated team right now in spring training. The rival Atlanta Braves, meanwhile, are 0-5.
• We hope you have Mike Moustakas on your spring training fantasy team. The Kansas City Royals third baseman hit two homers Sunday, giving him six RBIs so far in the Cactus League. That's the most in baseball.
• Oakland Athletics pitcher Jesse Chavez has already made two spring starts and he's 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA. He started Sunday against the Los Angeles Angels and pitched 2 2/3 scoreless innings. Chavez, 30, was a reliever for the A's last season and he figures to play the same role in 2014, considering their wealth of starting pitching.
#Rays Balfour on curveball he bounced: "If you're playing cricket, that's a pretty good ball."— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) March 2, 2014
"This is Matthew McConaughey's second academy award. He previously won for his role in Angels In The Outfield." "Alright alright alriiiiiiii— Sean Doolittle (@whatwouldDOOdo) March 3, 2014
I wonder if Jason Giambi will be accepting another award at the Oscars this year!! pic.twitter.com/JLrLhZ0bO5— Jason Kipnis (@TheJK_Kid) March 3, 2014
As seen elsewhere on The Stew.
Prince Fielder and Adam Eaton still think it's football season. Advantage, Fielder.
Ichiro Suzuki may be 40, but he's not even thinking about retirement, he told ESPN New York:
“Retirement from baseball is something I haven’t even thought about," he said. Asked how many more seasons he thought he could play, Ichiro laughed. “Not just a few," he said. “Many. For me, I feel there’s no reason for me to retire right now."
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