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Brett Cecil, Luiz Gohara have lost tons of weight

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Early spring training dispatches spend a lot of time on players’ weights. Makes sense, as one of the first things players do when they report to camp is to step on a scale. Most of the time that scale-stepping is not notable. These are athletes and most of them work out all winter, know their weight to a tenth of a pound and don’t make a point to tell anyone about their weigh-in.

It’s a bit different for some guys, though. Especially bigger fellas who are coming off disappointing years. If and when they come back to camp having cut a bunch of weight, you can bet that we’ll hear about it. It’s not quite a Best Shape of His Life situation, but it serves the same purpose: to send out an early signal that things are going to be better and different this year.

We have two such dispatches today:

Cecil, who is entering the third year of a $30.5 million, four-year contract, is coming off of a terrible season in which he posted a 6.89 ERA, and walked more guys than he struck out in 32.2 innings. His season was interrupted by shoulder and foot injuries, though it’s not entirely clear that they were directly conditioning-related. A bigger issue was probably the great deal of personal setbacks he experienced : his wife lost her father and, before that, her mother was on life-support for a while. He even had to put his dog down last year which, man, that’s terrible too. I can imagine it was hard to concentrate with all of that. Obviously the conditioning improvement will help, but just having a calmer personal life will likely help too.

Gohara’s had a similar mix of tragedy and injury. His father died last offseason which, yeah. He also hurt his ankle and, obviously, wasn’t in great shape. He’s an immensely talented young guy — and as that interview with Braves’ GM Alex Anthopoulos I talked about yesterday revealed, the Braves are putting a lot of pressure on him to step up this year — so coming into camp in shape is a good sign. And really, his personal situation is obviously better this winter than last.

Anyway: now that everyone is done getting weighed, they can start throwing baseballs.

The Yankees and Red Sox will play on artificial turf in London

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Major League Baseball wants to give the United Kingdom a taste of America’s pastime when the Yankees and Red Sox visit next month. Based on the playing surface they’re going to use, however, they may as well have sent the Blue Jays and the Rays:

Major League Baseball has access to Olympic Stadium for 21 days before the games on June 29 and 30, the sport’s first regular-season contests in Europe, and just five days after to clear out. The league concluded that there was not enough time to install real grass.

Starting June 6, gravel will be placed over the covering protecting West Ham’s grass soccer pitch and the running track that is a legacy from the 2012 Olympics. The artificial turf baseball field, similar to modern surfaces used by a few big league clubs, will be installed atop that.

At least they will not use the old-style sliding pits/turf infield that you used to always see. That’ll all be dirt. There are comments in the article about how it’s a cost savings too since they’re going back next year and won’t have to bulldoze and re-grow grass. Aaron Boone and Xander Bogaerts were asked and they don’t seem to care since it’s similar to the surface they play on in Toronto or down in Florida against the Rays.

Still, this whole deal is not aimed at doing whatever is minimally necessary to pull off a ballgame. It’s supposed to be a showcase on a global stage in a world capital. I have no idea how anyone thinks that doing that on a surface everyone has decided is obsolete for baseball playing purposes unless the ballpark is either outdated or in an arid environment is a good idea.

It’s certainly not baseball putting its best foot forward. Major League Baseball could’ve avoided this by choosing a different venue or even building a temporary one like MLB has done on a few occasions in the past. That, I suppose, would limit the revenue-generation capacity of these games, however, that’s off the table in the Rob Manfred Era.

Yankees and Red Sox on turf. What a decision.