Spring training games officially have gotten underway, and as players around Major League Baseball get accustomed to the new rule changes, early signs were encouraging for the league.
In a tweet by Jeff Passan, he reported that the first two spring training games lasted just 2 hours, 29 minutes (Padres vs. Mariners) and 2 hours, 33 minutes (Rangers vs. Royals). As the league looks to condense game times, this is a promising start.
As we inch closer to Opening Day, let’s take a look at some of the biggest stories of the week in MLB.
Astros Already Dealing With Injuries
The defending World Series champion Houston Astros received some bad news this week. Starting pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. is dealing with a muscle strain in his pitching arm and will be sidelined to start the season.
McCullers had Tommy John surgery back in 2018, and he has been dealing with arm issues ever since. Still, both McCullers and the Astros hope that he will be able to return after some rest and that he can avoid a prolonged absence.
With McCullers out, it is expected that rookie Hunter Brown will slot into his spot in the rotation. Still, after losing Justin Verlander in free agency this offseason, a relatively deep Astros’ rotation all of a sudden looks a bit vulnerable.
Elsewhere, slugger Yordan Alvarez is still dealing with some hand soreness that hampered him throughout last season. While he wasn’t swinging a bat earlier in the week, the expectation was that he would be by the weekend.
Last year, Alvarez hit .306/.406/.613 with 37 home runs, 97 runs batted in, and 95 runs scored in 470 at bats.
Houston is currently the favorite to repeat as World Series champions at +600.
White Sox News On Middle Infielders
The Chicago White Sox made some news this week at both of their middle infield positions. At second base, the team signed veteran infielder Elvis Andreus to a one-year deal worth $3 million.
Andrus was signed by the White Sox after being released by the Oakland A’s last year. In his time on the South Side, he hit .271/.309/.464 with nine home runs, 28 runs batted in, 25 runs scored, and 11 stolen bases in 181 at bats after coming over from Oakland.
The 34-year-old primarily played shortstop last season for Chicago, but he could see time at second base this season as Tim Anderson returns from injury.
Speaking of Anderson, MLB.com’s Scott Merkin reported this week that the shortstop is “…hopeful of getting another deal done as quickly as possible.” Anderson is technically under control for the next two seasons. He will be paid $12.5 million this year and has a $14 million club option for next year, but it appears he wants some more long-term stability in Chicago.
The 29-year-old Anderson hit .301/.339/.395 with six home runs, 25 runs batted in, 50 runs scored, and 13 stolen bases in 332 at bats last season.
The White Sox currently have the third-best odds of winning the AL Central at +250.
Couple Of Smaller Signings
While most of the heavy lifting is done for general managers around the league, there were a couple small signings this week.
First, in Chicago, the Cubs signed reliever Michael Fulmer to a one-year deal worth $4 million. First reported by The Athletic’s Sahadev Sharma, Fulmer went 5-6 with a 3.39 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, and struck out 61 in 63.2 innings between the Tigers and Twins last season.
The Milwaukee Brewers also brought in some depth as they signed first baseman Luke Voit to a minor league deal. In 500 at bats last season between the Padres and Nationals, Voit hit .226/.308/.402 with 22 home runs and 69 runs batted in.