Spring is in full swing. The big question for the coming week: Will some of our favorite players make it back to the diamond for the beginning of March?
With camps rolling along and teams bracing for the upcoming and in some cases mass exodus of players from all over the globe who will soon be joining their countries' teams for the World Baseball Classic, fans will be clamoring to see their heroes in uniform and in games. Here's an update on some of those players and how they're faring for the coming week on the schedules of the Cactus and Grapefruit Leagues.
In Glendale, Ariz., Dodgers outfield stars Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford haven't been seen in game action yet, and the word is that Kemp, who is coming off left shoulder surgery, will arrive sooner than Crawford, who's coming back from Tommy John elbow reconstruction. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said he'd very tentatively target March 1 (Friday) for Kemp's 2013 game debut but would likely break in the slugger at designated hitter. He didn't mention a target date for Crawford.
"I don't go definitely March 1 with Matt, because it might not be until March 5 or March 7 when he's ready to play," Mattingly said. "That doesn't mean anything's wrong."
In Yankees camp, one guy we won't be seeing anytime soon is outfielder Curtis Granderson, who has a fractured forearm. The team said it expects Granderson to be Major League ready in 10 weeks. Before he gets back on the field, however, it's likely that Yankees fans will see franchise icons Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera in games.
Neither is likely to play this week, but their daily workouts will be watched closely.
Jeter, who's coming back from the broken ankle suffered in last year's postseason, has been taking batting practice and fielding ground balls and might graduate to some baserunning this week. He has been ramping up agility drills and running indoors.
"I've been stepping it up every day," said Jeter, who still plans to be ready for Opening Day. "Every day is more and more. I've been increasing the workload since I started. You have to be smart. ... We've still got close to 40 days. There's no reason for me to go out there and jump all around and do things that I shouldn't be doing at this particular point."
As for Rivera, who's coming back from the torn ACL he suffered last May, the longtime closer faced live hitters on Saturday and said he's raring to go.
"The one thing that I want to do is go out there in a real game," Rivera said. "That's my goal, to go out there in a real game and see how everything responds."
That might not happen this week, but Rivera will probably throw more batting practice and maybe a simulated game over the next seven days as he prepares himself for game competition.
The Rangers haven't yet enjoyed the fruits of their No. 3 and 4 hitters, Lance Berkman and Adrian Beltre. Both have been held out of early games because of strained right calf muscles. Berkman ran the bases on Saturday, however, and could be cleared to play soon.
"I'm ready right now, but you have to go through a certain process before they let you play," Berkman said.
Beltre, meanwhile, was planning on playing for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic but had to shelve that because of the calf. He missed most of the Spring Training schedule in 2011 with a calf injury but still had a big April for the Rangers.
"I don't need a lot of games," said Beltre, who added that there's a chance he could appear in a game by the end of the week. "It depends on how my swing feels. It doesn't matter how many games you play in Spring Training. If you're physically ready, you shouldn't need to turn a switch when Opening Day comes along."
On the pitching side of things for Texas, Yu Darvish will make his 2013 Cactus League debut. Darvish is slated to start against the White Sox on Tuesday, with a first pitch slated for 2:05 p.m. CT. Darvish pitched in an intrasquad game last Tuesday but hasn't done it in front of a crowd yet.
At Rockies camp, everyone was waiting for shortstop Troy Tulowitzki to get back in games for the first time since his season-ending groin injury last May, and he did just that on Saturday. After a Sunday off, he should be back at it Monday.
Veteran Red Sox slugger David Ortiz, who is coming back from Achilles problems that ended his 2012 season a bit early, has been doing strenuous running and agility drills and could be cleared to run the bases this week.
"It's going good," Ortiz said. "I'm increasing things every day. I feel fine. I feel fine doing that. Sometimes I get a little sore after a couple of rough days, but the doctor says it's normal. I'm just doing things that I wasn't able to so your body -- your foot -- has to get used to it. Once you get used to it, it will be fine."
The man with the most lucrative pitching contract in Major League history still hasn't pitched in a game this spring, but Felix Hernandez of the Mariners shouldn't be too far away. The plan, according to pitching coach Carl Willis, is for a few more bullpen sessions, a batting practice session or simulated game and then game action.
"Then we'll get him going," Willis said. "The plan is to get him up to 95 pitches or so coming out of camp, and he'll be able to go 105 that first start."
Over at Salt River Fields, D-backs fans might be curious as to when they'll see Josh Booty in a game. The 37-year-old pitcher beat out former NCAA Division I quarterbacks John David Booty (his brother), Doug Flutie, Ryan Perrilloux and David Greene on the MLB Network show "The Next Knuckler" to win a spot at D-backs camp as a non-roster invitee.
Booty, who is trying to make the team as a knuckleball pitcher, will get at least throw one inning during a Major League game, possibly this week. Nothing beyond that is guaranteed. He will have to earn any more action than that.
"In my mind, I'm taking it serious," Booty said. "I don't want to come in here and goof off."