A pitcher's first start of the spring is usually brief, but Zack Greinke took it to a new level Thursday.
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Greinke's spring debut lasted just four pitches, exiting with a mild right calf strain after facing just two batters. The right-hander felt something in his calf after delivering a pitch to Diamondbacks second baseman Cliff Pennington. Greinke tried to pitch through it, but he quickly realized the injury required more attention.
"I don't know exactly what it was, but felt kind of like a cramp," Greinke told the Los Angeles Times. "Stuff like that will happen all the time and then the next pitch it's gone. But this time, the next pitch it wasn't gone and then it took a little while."
Greinke hasn't been injury prone over the course of his career, but he did miss over a month last season due to a broken collarbone sustained in a dust-up with Carlos Quentin. Asked about his readiness for the opening series in Australia a little under a month from now, Greinke didn't offer much in the way of an indication either way.
"We'll see," Greinke said.
The noncommittal answer suggests it may be slightly more serious than Greinke or the Dodgers are letting on. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly had previously been hesitant to name the team's starters for the two-game series, saying they would have four starters prepare as though they would pitch in Australia. That hasn't changed in the wake of Greinke's abrupt exit.
"I know you guys think we've been playing with you; it's the reason we've been getting four guys ready," Mattingly said. "We know that at any moment something like that can happen and maybe it changes things."
If Greinke is unable to pitch on March 22, the Dodgers will likely turn to Hyun-Jin Ryu in his place. Clayton Kershaw is still likely to start the first game of the set.
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Cruz Finds A Home At Camden
The Orioles took a while to plunge into the free agent market, but they made their second splash in two weeks when they nabbed slugger Nelson Cruz this week.
The Orioles signed Cruz to a one-year, $8 million deal Monday, five days after inking Ubaldo Jimenez to a four-year deal worth $50 million. The O's sacrificed a first-round draft pick in signing Jimenez, so Cruz only cost the team a second-round pick.
For Cruz, the deal represents a concession that his rejection of the Rangers' $14.1 million qualifying offer earlier in the offseason was a mistake. The outfielder was the first to accept a deal that was less than the original offer, and other free agents have said they won't accept a similar deal from a team. It's been suggested that Ervin Santana, Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales would all rather sit out until after June's MLB Draft than accept a one-year "pillow" deal for less than the qualifying offers they rejected.
"It was a frustrating process, but I'm happy for the decision that I made," Cruz said at his introductory press conference.
Cruz started in left field for the team's intrasquad game Thursday, and he'll likely spend the majority of his time in left and at designated hitter once the season rolls around. The Orioles aren't rife with great options at either position, so even at his reduced price tag expect Cruz to be in the lineup somewhere every day.
Shoulder Continues To Plague Garcia
Jaime Garcia thought he was out of the woods after last season's shoulder troubles, but another setback is cause for concern for the left-hander.
Garcia left Cardinals camp last weekend after experiencing shoulder discomfort, less than a year removed from surgery to repair a torn labrum. The 27-year-old flew back to St. Louis to be examined by the team doctor, and Garcia also saw Dr. James Andrews for an opinion on the shoulder.
The reports came back mostly positive -- no structural damage was found -- but Garcia was given a cortisone injection to deal with some inflammation in the shoulder. It'll still be days before Garcia has a plan of action to return from the setback, though.
In his absence, Cardinals starting rotation candidates Joe Kelly and Carlos Martinez stand to benefit the most. Both will have a shot to win Garcia's job -- assuming Garcia isn't ready to go by March 31. Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said even if Garcia does make it back, his spot in the rotation won't just be handed to him.
“He’s got work ahead of him,” Mozeliak told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “The depth here is going to create a very tough competition."
It's one battle to definitely keep an eye on as camp moves along.
National League Quick Hits: Mat Latos experienced a "simple flare-up" in his surgically repaired left knee while doing exercises Thursday. The right-hander didn't seem concerned with the setback, and he should still be able to return to a mound soon ... An MRI of Jon Niese's throwing shoulder Thursday showed no major structural damage. The southpaw is already headed back to Florida, and he's likely to resume his throwing routine in the coming days. Niese owners can exhale, for now ... Carl Crawford (quad) is aiming for a Saturday return to Cactus League play. Crawford felt some tightness after scoring from first base during Wednesday's game and sat out Thursday as a result. The injury isn't expected to affect his status for the season opener ... Cody Ross (hip) is set to make his spring debut on March 13. Ross hasn't played since August after undergoing surgery to repair a dislocated hip. There's still a good chance he begins the season on the disabled list, but it may not be an extended stay if all goes well ... Eric Young Jr. (side) hit off a tee Thursday. The outfielder isn't expected to see some Grapefruit League action until sometime next week ... The Diamondbacks remain open to the idea of trading one of their promising young shortstops, preferably for a top-notch catching prospect, GM Kevin Towers said. The D'Backs have Didi Gregorius and Chris Owings battling for the starting job this spring, and the loser could be shipped out before the season opens ... Brewers manager Ron Roenicke auditioned Jean Segura in the leadoff spot Thursday, an indication that the shortstop could see time there this season. Segura had just a .329 on-base percentage last season despite a .294 batting average, but fantasy isn't reality -- hitting leadoff would increase the 23-year-old's value for 2014 ... The Dodgers signed Cuban shortstop Erisbel Arruebarrena to a five-year contract worth $25 million. The 23-year-old will need to improve at the plate before he pushes Hanley Ramirez off short.
American League Quick Hits: Matt Harrison (back) played long toss from 120 feet Thursday. Harrison was cleared to resume his throwing program Monday after an MRI on his back showed no issues. Even with the expedient recovery, it's unlikely Harrison will be ready for the start of the season ... Hisashi Iwakuma will see a doctor Friday to get an update on his strained middle finger. Iwakuma is hoping to be cleared to throw, which may a bit aggressive at this point. Still, the fact that he feels good enough to throw suggests he may be on track for the shallow end of the original 4-to-6 week diagnosis handed down February 12 ... The Yankees inked Brett Gardner to a four-year, $52 million contract extension Saturday. The 30-year-old was due to be a free agent after the season ... The Yanks also agreed to terms on a minor league deal with Andrew Bailey. Bailey most likely won't be ready until September, but the deal could be worth as much as $2.5 million depending on how he meets the incentives ... The Red Sox signed Chris Capuano to a one-year, $2.5 million contract. Capuano has started and pitched in relief in recent years, and he'll likely fill a swingman role with the Sox ... The Indians and Justin Masterson are talking about a long-term deal. The two sides have been speaking about an extension since they avoided arbitration with a one-year, $9.7625 million deal last week. Masterson will be a free agent after this season if no deal is reached ... Shane Victorino has been held out of workouts in camp due to concerns about his core strength. Red Sox manager John Farrell said that despite the issues, he expects Victorino in the lineup on Opening Day ... The Red Sox placed Ryan Dempster on the restricted list for the 2014 season. Dempster announced recently that he won't pitch in 2014 due to neck issues and a desire to spend more time with his family.