Stars back on the field as pitchers, catchers begin workouts

Justin Verlander is looking forward to a full season with the Houston Astros, while the New York Mets are hoping for a healthier year for their starting staff.

The New York Yankees? Well, this season may not be about their pitchers and catchers, but they can still send some pretty impressive arms to the mound.

In many ways, Wednesday was the first real day of spring training, with over 20 teams scheduled for their first workouts with pitchers and catchers. The Astros, Mets and Yankees were among that group, and so were the Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs. In both Florida and Arizona, some of the game's biggest stars were back on the field.

"I'm excited to be here for the whole season," Verlander said. "I'm excited to be here for spring training and to be part of this whole thing from start to finish."

Verlander reached the summit last year but missed much of the journey. He was traded to Houston at the end of August and became a key part of the Astros' run to the World Series title. Houston beat the Dodgers in Game 7, and both of last year's pennant winners figure to be strong again.

"You've just got to take that as a motivation and remember that bitter taste," Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen said. "We all were crying and all that stuff in the clubhouse and we all were emotional. You have to take that as a motivation to push and don't take anything for granted, because we know how hard it is."

The Dodgers won't have right-hander Yu Darvish this season. He's with the Cubs now. In fact, the Dodgers may have to compete for attention in their own area after the Los Angeles Angels added two-way Japanese star Shohei Ohtani.

There was a group of Japanese fans on hand for Ohtani's workout with the Angels .

The Yankees made a huge offseason move of their own, adding Giancarlo Stanton to a lineup that already included slugger Aaron Judge. Those two power-hitting outfielders may be the headliners in New York this year — the big news Wednesday was that Judge hit in a batting cage — but the Yankees will need pitching too. Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka threw a bullpen session Wednesday.

New York also has a new manager in Aaron Boone.

"We've been working toward this day," Boone said. "So there's an excitement not just for me but the coaches and the players to finally get out here and know that the clock on the season in a way kind of started."

Boone's excitement was shared by Ron Gardenhire, who took over this offseason as manager of the Detroit Tigers. Gardenhire fielded some grounders at Detroit's workout, helping out with a drill in which pitchers practice covering first base.

"This is a game, and we're going to play it like a game and we're going to have fun, and I'm going to laugh at some of these guys," Gardenhire said. "I don't know if I'll yell at anybody. I don't really know if I'll do that at spring training too much — maybe not during the season."

The Mets have a new manager as well. Mickey Callaway was previously the pitching coach in Cleveland, and he could have some impressive starters to work with if the Mets stay healthy. Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler have had their share of injury issues.

Wheeler, Syndergaard, Seth Lugo and Matz were all lined up throwing their bullpens under the watchful eyes of general manager Sandy Alderson and new pitching coach Dave Eiland. When he was done working out, Syndergaard signed autographs for fans draped over the chain-link fence along the right-field warning track.

"I think we're all able to learn kind of in our own way how to deal with a certain amount of adversity through injury," Syndergaard said. "But in terms of us being able to control that, we can only control so much. We can only put so much effort and time into the weight room. After that it's really in God's plan, what happens."

The Mets at least could have some upside if they catch a few breaks. The Miami Marlins traded Stanton as part of an offseason payroll purge and face what figures to be a tough short-term future. Derek Jeter, the Marlins' CEO, was at the team's camp Wednesday, and he signed autographs as he left.

"There's obviously a lot of new faces," Miami manager Don Mattingly said. "In the locker room you feel the youth and guys who are excited and know there's an opportunity here. ...We all look at it as this is a start. This is brand new. This is a beginning."


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