Spring training is back

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AP

New Cleveland Indians first baseman Edwin Encarnacion.

Will Sieracki, Reporter

     Spring Training is here, and it’s the first game action Major League Baseball players have seen in months. It’s essentially practice, as the results don’t matter. It’s always fun to see who reports to camp overweight or in the best shape of their lives, though. There’s a fair share of publicity stunts as always, like Mets outfielder Tim Tebow and Joe Jackson, the great-great-great nephew of the infamous Chicago White Sox player of the same name.

 

     It was a short offseason for the Cubs, who hopefully can avoid a post-World Series hangover. The Cubs are playing their 39th straight spring training in Mesa, Arizona, which is the longest streak in the Cactus League. There are a lot of interesting storylines surrounding the team, like the competition for the last rotation spot between Mike Montgomery and the newly signed Brett Anderson, or whoever gets the last bench role on the 25 man roster. It could go to any one of left fielder Matt Szczur, utility infielder Tommy La Stella, or an up and coming prospect. The Cubs are ready to repeat, with a stacked lineup that includes Kyle Schwarber, reigning NL MVP Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, and Ben Zobrist. If Jason Heyward can bounce back from a bad 2016, and if Javier Baez, Jon Jay, and Albert Almora provide enough offense to compensate for Dexter Fowler’s departure, the Cubs will be a nightmare for opposing pitchers.

 

     A lot of eyes will be on the Boston Red Sox, waiting to see if third baseman Pablo Sandoval can return to being an elite hitter, if Chris Sale will succeed in his first season in Boston, and if free agent acquisition Mitch Moreland can fill the gap in the lineup left by David Ortiz, who retired.

   

     Can the Cleveland Indians make it back to the World Series? A blown 3-1 lead leaves chips on a lot of shoulders. But with shutdown relievers Andrew Miller and Cody Allen, and a solid offense including shortstop Francisco Lindor, free agent signing Edwin Encarnacion, and third baseman Jose Ramirez, they’re certainly primed to make another run at a championship.

 

     The Atlanta Braves will be fun to watch. Their team is filled with aging veterans like Brandon Phillips, knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, and Bartolo Colon. They have young guys like shortstop Dansby Swanson, and a superstar first baseman in Freddie Freeman.

   

 Long home runs are hit, double plays are turned, and prospects fight their way onto Major League rosters. The games themselves may not matter, but that’s irrelevant. Baseball is back, and hope springs eternal for all 30 teams.