With spring football practice underway at Notre Dame, college basketball concluding with tonight’s national championship game, and the NBA and NHL winding down, today marks the beginning of baseball season.
Here’s a roundup of former Notre Dame players and coaches in professional baseball.
CRAIG COUNSELL, Manager, Milwaukee Brewers
The 46-year-old Counsell, a former Notre Dame player who went on to win a World Series with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2001, enters his third season leading the Milwaukee Brewers.
The Brewers struggled in 2016, finishing 73-89, good for fourth place in the National League Central. Counsell, who signed a three-year deal in 2015, is 134-165 in his first two years as a major league manager. He was named manager one month into the 2015 season when Ron Roenicke was fired.
JEFF SAMARDZIJA, Starting Pitcher, San Francisco Giants
The former two-sports star at Notre Dame signed a five-year, $90 million contract with the San Francisco Giants after the 2015 season. In his first year with his new club, the 32-year-old went 12-11 with a 3.81 ERA and 167 strikeouts in 203 1⁄3 innings.
The Merrillville, Ind., native has now logged 200-plus innings in each of the past three seasons, while playing for four major league teams. Samardzija is the Giants’ No. 3 starter behind ace Madison Bumgarner and No. 2 Johnny Cueto.
A.J. POLLOCK, Outfielder, Arizona Diamondbacks
After a breakout 2015 season in which he hit .315 with 20 home runs, 39 doubles and 39 stolen bases in 157 games and made his first All-Star appearance, Pollock wasn’t able to have an encore performance.
In an exhibition game three days before the 2016 season, Pollock fractured his elbow sliding into home plate. He missed most of the season, returning to play just 12 games.
“I feel great,” he said. “The elbow’s something in the past. I’m just working smart, and I’m looking forward to this spring.”
Pollock and the Diamondbacks opened the season Sunday with a 6-5 win over the Giants. Pollock finished 3 for 5 with a home run, two RBI and two runs scored.
TREY MANCINI, First Baseman, Baltimore Orioles
The 25-year-old cracked the Baltimore opening day roster and will play a part-time role off the bench. The college and minor-league first baseman is transitioning to the outfield, where he got work in right field during spring training.
“I think he has that [potential],” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “I wasn’t sure about it coming into spring — I really hadn’t seen much of it, but after the things he’s gone through out of people’s eyesight, he’s been working about every other day since he got here … with the exception of the first week. It’s been something he’s been working on for a while.”
THE BEST OF THE REST
• Former Notre Dame coach Pat Murphy returns for another season assisting Counsell on the bench of the Milwaukee Brewers. Murphy, who was at Notre Dame from 1988-94, was an interim manager for the San Diego Padres in 2015 before joining the Brewers.
• Reliever John Axford is back for his second season with the Oakland Athletics, entering the second year of a two-year, $10 million contract. He was 6-4 with a 3.97 ERA in 2016.
• Reliever Jeff Manship, who helped the Cleveland Indians reach the World Series last year, has opted to spend the season with the NC Dinos, a Korean League team.
• Former starter turned do-it-all reliever David Phelps returns to the Miami Marlins after winning an arbitration battle with the club. He’ll be paid $4.6 million in 2017. Phelps went 7-6 with a 2.28 ERA and 114 strikeouts in 86 2⁄3 innings. He appeared in 64 games, five of them starts, and finished with four saves.
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