Spring training games aren’t loaded with the weight and thrill of the regular season, at least not when it comes to stacking wins and building a case for contention in the playoffs. Still, there’s nothing to say we can’t enjoy the 13-run wins, foul ball mishaps and mammoth home runs from some of baseball’s greatest players.
Take National League MVP Kris Bryant, for instance, who catapulted a grand slam off of right-hander Brock Stewart during Saturday’s 9-3 win over the Dodgers:
The Cubs were up 3-2 in the fourth inning when Bryant struck, padding the lead behind starter Kyle Hendricks in the team’s bid for their second Cactus League win of the spring. It was his first home run of 2017, albeit not one that will count towards his total when he attempts to repeat his success as MVP and World Series champion later this year.
Bryant slashed .292/.385/.554 with 39 home runs (only one of them a grand slam) and 102 RBI in 2016, leading his team — and the rest of the National League — with a career-best 8.4 fWAR. He’s 2-for-12 in Cactus League play through five games.
The Giants placed outfielder Hunter Pence on the 10-day disabled list with a right thumb sprain, per an official announcement on Friday. Pence initially sustained the injury during the club’s home opener on April 3, when he dove to intercept a line drive double from Robinson Cano and jammed his thumb. Weeks of playing through the pain hasn’t worked, so he’ll take a breather while the Giants give outfielder Mac Williamson a chance to start in left after getting called up from Triple-A Fresno.
Pence, 35, wouldn’t pin his recent struggles on his injury, but it’s clear that he’s having difficulty finding his footing this year. He slashed a meager .172/.197/.190 through 61 plate appearances in 2018, collecting just one extra-base hit and two walks during the Giants’ dismal 7-11 stretch. While it’s far too early in the season to make any final judgments, it doesn’t look like the veteran outfielder will be replicating the .275+ average, 4.0+ fWAR totals of years past (at least, not anytime soon).
Williamson, meanwhile, has gotten off to a hot start in Triple-A. Prior to his call-up this weekend, the 27-year-old batted an incredible .487/.600/1.026 with six home runs and a 1.626 OPS through his first 50 PA. A hot Triple-A bat doesn’t always survive the transition to the majors, but the Giants will use all the help they can get — especially as they take on the AL West-leading Angels this weekend.