Remember when people thought AT&T Park was going to be a bandbox?

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AT&T Park.jpgIn my Twins preview I wondered how Target Field will play this season. We get a chance to see it in action on Monday. But based on Henry Schulman’s excellent walk down AT&T Park memory lane in today’s San Francisco Chronicle, we shouldn’t necessarily take what we see in the early going at face value:

For three months, everyone thought it would be great for hitters and
death for pitchers.In January, even before there was grass on the field, the Giants took
batting practice at what was then Pacific Bell Park on a foggy but
windless day. Bonds kept hammering balls over the right-field wall and
ended his session a happy man.

On April 1, 2000, the Giants played a night exhibition against the
Yankees, also on a windless night. Bonds christened McCovey Cove with
one of six homers hit that night.

In the regular-season home opener 10 days later, a 6-5 Dodgers
victory, 35-year-old Los Angeles shortstop Kevin Elster hit three home
runs, two off Rueter and one off Felix Rodriguez. Only four times in 12
previous seasons had Elster hit two in a game.

I remember Elster hitting those three homers, as it was nationally-televised. My first thought: total bandbox.  While AT&T doesn’t depress runs quite as much as it did a few years ago, it’s certainly not a hitter’s paradise.

Most people who know things about park effects know that you can’t get a good read on how a park plays for at least a couple of years. So, even though it’s the small-sample size season (Will Big Papi ever hit the ball again?!) we shouldn’t draw any conclusions from Target Field’s first few days. Or months. Or really even the year.

Mets leaning on Jay Bruce, Neil Walker as Lucas Duda insurance

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MAY 12:  Pinch hitter Lucas Duda #21 of the New York Mets walks back to the dugout after striking out for the first out of the ninth inning against Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on May 12, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  The Dodgers won 5-0.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.

Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”

Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”

The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.

Jason Kipnis diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Jason Kipnis #22 of the Cleveland Indians celebrates after scoring a run on a wild pitch thrown by Jon Lester #34 of the Chicago Cubs (not pictured) during the fifth inning in Game Seven of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.

There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.

Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.