This is why players practice

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Nasty winds swirled in Lakeland yesterday for the Tigers’ exhibition against Florida Southern:

The Tigers scored more runs than their traditional local opponent, but it was the wind that actually won Tuesday. Because it was the wind that blew a fly ball into Brennan Boesch’s face, causing a
nasty laceration that required stitches above the outfield prospect’s
left eye.

“It opened him up pretty good,” said starting pitcher Phil Coke, who saw Boesch in the trainer’s room.

Eleven stitches, according to Tom Gage, which is not a good thing to have happen on your first day of competitive baseball of the year.  Still, there was something cool from yesterday’s game, as Al Kaline’s grandson Colin Kaline hit two singles and a walk.  He’s a junior at Florida Southern.

Which means that he’s probably a year or two older than Kaline was when he won the 1955 batting title.

Why Ryan Zimmerman skipped spring training

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All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.

The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.

It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.

It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.

Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉