Cleveland Guardians looking good at Spring Training
The Guardians are in Goodyear, Ariz. for Spring Training ahead of their season-opener March 30 in Seattle. Ideastream’s sports commentator Terry Pluto travels each year to check out the team. He said this year has a much different feel.
A lot came into focus when Pluto saw Bradley Zimmer come in to play center field for the Dodgers.
“He was a former Cleveland number one draft pick, really came up quickly and had a chance, I thought, to be very good and then all of these injuries hit. But I remember last spring training, Cleveland was trying to get Bradley Zimmer to hit a little bit. They wanted to play him in center field and they wanted to play Bobby Bradley at first base," Pluto said. "And they wanted Yu Chang playing at second base. Listen to those names, how long ago that was. They didn't even know that they were going to have all these different people coming up from the minors to end up with that team that won 92 games and went to the playoffs. The roster is really set where a year ago was in flux.”
Pluto said so far, Steven Kwan and Jose Ramirez are looking like they’re ready for Opening Day, and there are no serious injuries to any of the team's core players.
However, Pluto does have some concerns about the pitching, most notably, Zach Plesac. “He's had a miserable spring with his control and he's supposed to be one of their starters,” Pluto said.
He’s also concerned about the bullpen.
“Just because, every year, even though your bullpen is good and they have Emmanuel Clase as the closer, you're still trying to fill in there," he said. "And remember how Terry Francona, the manager, loves to go to the bullpen, sort of sorting through all these different guys.”
Pluto said he’s also unsure about the durability of new catcher Mike Zunino.
“He is a guy they picked up from Tampa Bay who strikes out a lot, hits home runs, but he's coming off major shoulder surgery," Pluto said. "He's been playing and healthy so far. But, you know, that's a bit of a concern."
Pluto is also getting a first look at some of the rule changes Major League Baseball is implementing this season, starting with a pitch clock.
“It's out there in center field. It's 20 seconds to get in there and throw a pitch. So, at one point, there's a rookie (batter) for the Dodgers. He stepped in and he stepped out. He had two strikes on him. Suddenly the clock expired. They pointed and sent him the dugout. So that was strike three," Pluto said. "And then another time, James Karinchak, who's the Guardians reliever, he was like, has the ball in one hand. He's like throwing it to himself up and down. He's looking at birds. So, this is designed actually to stop people like Karinchak from taking a minute or two between pitches and just throw the ball.”
And Pluto said the idea isn’t just to speed up the game, it’s to keep it exciting for fans.
Another rule fans will notice is a limitation on infield shifts. The new rule states that all four infielders must have both feet within the outer boundary of the infield and two infielders must be on each side of second base when a pitch is delivered.
“Jose Ramirez would hit these bullets to short right field and it would be caught by the second baseman who's almost 180 feet from home plate. Not anymore. That's a single. And I just think it rewards people for hitting the ball correctly,” Pluto said.
Overall, Pluto said he likes what he’s seeing so far from the Guardians.
“It's a spring training a good team has, where they're just kind of getting their regulars ready to go and they’re filling in just a couple extra spots — totally different from a year ago,” he said.