Many Kansas City sports fans would consider themselves traumatized by the events of this week. Lorenzo Cain got his first hit in someone else’s uniform. Eric Hosmer donned a uniform with the wrong shade of blue. Mike Moustakas can’t find a job and Dayton Moore seems to have ruled out a reunion. Even across the parking lot deals are being struck which don’t sit well with many.
But today you receive the best salve in sportsdom. There is not a more hopeful time than baseball’s Spring Training. Technically, it started last week when pitchers and catchers reported. But today is the first time the hometown Royals will play an actual game against an actual opponent. No, the scores won’t count but that won’t prevent even this single game from spawning dozens and dozens of hot takes and sparking the optimistic imaginations of kids and adults everywhere.
Today the Royals, who are missing many old, familiar faces, will unleash one of their new faces on the mound in the form of right-handed pitcher Jesse Hahn (a.k.a. J Hood). He is exemplary of the sort of thing Spring Training is good for in that he probably won’t be very useful, but there are lots of reasons to think he could be under the right circumstances. He has an interesting pitch repertoire and has had success in the big leagues, before. The biggest thing holding him back is his health. Since this is Spring Training there’s no reason to think he won’t be able to finally figure out how to be healthy for the Royals and therefore win some games for them.
Starting for the Dodgers will be Zach Neal. He hasn’t had a ton of success in the big leagues, yet; he’s had short stints for Oakland primarily as a reliever each of the last two seasons. He’s the kind of pitcher that the Royals might be able to knock around a bit. Doing so could give Royals fans an opportunity to hope that their hitters might not form the worst every day lineup this century, after all.
This is the first year since the Royals moved to Surprise, Arizona that their first official Spring Training game will not be against the Texas Rangers. The first spring game of the season also frequently serves as a good guide to who has the inside track on jobs and where they might fit in the lineup. Obviously things can change and Drew Butera will not regularly be the starting catcher for the Royals in 2018 barring injury, but it wouldn’t be foolish to think Alex Gordon might have the inside track on the CF job while the Royals, as has been rumored, view their infield as likely containing Cheslor Cuthbert at third while Hunter Dozier will play first.
Anything can happen. That’s why they don’t play the game on paper. Baseball is 90% mental. Insert other cliches, here. There’s a reason the saying goes, “Hope springs eternal” and that reason is Spring Training baseball.