These are strange days across the Cactus League and Grapefruit Circuit spring training road maps.
Teams are preparing to pull up stakes and head home to start the 2015 MLB season, Sunday with the National League opener, then Monday when the Padres-Dodgers and virtually everybody else starts the season.
Strange and tough days, from Peoria to West Palm Beach, from HoHo Kam Park in Mesa to Legends Field in Tampa..
Veteran players, fighting to keep their careers going, get cut. Just ask ex-Twins pitching anchor Scott Baker, just let go from maybe his final opportunity with the pitcher poor Yankees; or Kevin Correia, chopped by Seattle; or reliever Heath Bell, released, and admitting time to retire after leaving Washington..
Tough too for young guys, who had good springs, but get caught up in the numbers game, sent back to Triple A, whether your name is Tommy Medica in San Diego, or Kris Bryant, embroiled in a firestorm around Wrigley Field with the Cubs.
Age and injury catch up to veterans. Guys with options get shipped out in paper-work moves. And then there are those who earned the right to play, but get a plane ticket to the minors because teams don’t want to start their arbitration or free agency clocks.
Medica, who can hit home runs, batted an amazing (.421) over 23-games, but was caught in a traffic jam at lst base with the Friars.. Bryant, the former USD star, and minor league phenom, hit (.425-9HR), but was sent to Des Moines so his Cubs arbitration clock won’t start running yet, robbing him of a year towards free agency.
The Padres are down to 28-veteran players in camp with three more cuts to make. And they won’t be easy.
They have 13-pitchers for 11-slots. Odri Despaigne, the Cuban sensation, had an ERA of just over 2.20 this spring. Keep him, or use an option to hide him in El Paso for the start of the season. They traded for reliever Brandon Mauer; does he wind up in AAA with options, or on the disabled list? They gave decent money to ex-Blue Jay Brandon Morrow, who has loads of experience. What do you do with kid southpaw reliever Frank Garces, who has thrown zeroes much of the spring? A couple of them have to leave.
There are 7-infielders left, following Medica’s shipment out. Does Corey Spangenberg’s versatility make him valuable?
In the outfield, Cam Maybin had a great spring (.302); Carlos Quentin, with the big contract, seems healthier now than in years, but he becomes an off the bench guy; and what to do with multi-position guy Will Venable?.
Granted none of these guys are a Kris Bryant caliber player, but these are tough calls to make. Do you trade one or two for younger prospects? Are you better served to keep Quentin’s potential big bat as a role player-insurance policy for injuries; or keep the younger Venable who can play lots, if injuries crop up?
Between now and 12-noon Sunday, the roster has to get to 25. Between now and then, manager Bud Black will have to sit and tell a couple of them, there’s is no room right now, take your bat, glove, and sometime impressive stats, and go back to the minors and see if the phone rings again.
The excitement of opening day is everywhere, but somewhere this weekend, there will be upset players, tough decisions, disappointment, hurt and anger. It is what roster cutdown day is, and that is part of baseball too.