A new average attendance record set for spring training

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People of a certain age remember spring training being a sparsely-attended affair. People milling about in the mornings watching workouts and then a thousand or two watching games that afternoon. Not anymore.

Major League Baseball just announced that the average attendance for spring training games reached a record high of 8,078 fans per game over 447 games this year. That’s a 7.3 percent increase over last year. The previous record for annual attendance 7,793 per game set in 2008. For total attendance this year’s spring training tally of 3,610,738 fans was the fifth-highest ever.

A lot of the attendance increase is attributable to the Cubs new park in Mesa, Arizona, which averaged 14,254 fans per game. Into the early 90s the Indians and Braves wouldn’t come close to averaging that for regular season games. Before then it was common for multiple teams each year to fall short of that mark.

It’s just a difference scene in the Cactus and Grapefruit leagues these days.

Video: Jake Arrieta hits a 465-foot home run off of Zack Greinke

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Jake Arrieta‘s bat is in midseason form already. The Cubs’ ace swatted a solo home run to center field off of Zack Greinke in Thursday afternoon’s Grapefruit League exhibition game, his first homer of the spring.

The blast went 465 feet, according to MLB.com’s Daren Willman.

Arrieta has hit two home runs in each of the past two seasons. Madison Bumgarner (eight) and Noah Syndergaard (four) are the only other pitchers to match or exceed his output in that department.

Greinke, meanwhile, is hoping to bounce back after a miserable 2016 season. He finished with an uncharacteristic 4.37 ERA in 26 starts in his first year with the Diamondbacks.

Luis Valbuena to miss four to six weeks with a strained right hamstring

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Angels first baseman Luis Valbuena will miss the next four to six weeks with a strained right hamstring, Pedro Moura of the Los Angeles Times reports.

Valbuena, 31, signed a two-year, $15 million contract with the Angels in January and was on track to get the lion’s share of the playing time at first base. While he’s out, however, C.J. Cron will handle first base on a regular basis. When Valbeuna returns, the two will likely form a platoon.

Last year with the Astros, Valbuena hit a solid .260/.357/.459 with 13 home runs and 40 RBI in 342 plate appearances.