Victor Martinez homered again. That's two in two games, both from the side of the left side of the plate -- the one that gave him so much trouble coming off knee surgery last year.
"I feel stronger this year," Martinez told MLive.com. "I feel I'm able to use my legs a lot more. I'm the kind of hitter that I use my feet in my swing. I'm aggressive and I'm able to do that."
That's a perfectly plausible explanation for the struggles given the way he rushed back from the procedure. It's a situation I addressed just two days ago, so I don't mean to be redundant, but the Tigers seem convinced he's going to be a different player this year. And for the cost of a late-round pick, I'm not sure it behooves anyone to disagree. Remember: This is a player who finished second in AL MVP voting two years ago.
As for where it ranks in terms of Tigers developments so far this spring, "it's top three," manager Brad Ausmus said. "I don't know if I could name two more, but it's top three."
Likewise, Freddie Freeman is getting healthier by the day. He hit his first home run Thursday after hitting a double in his first game. Here's what he had to tell MLB.com about his troublesome wrist:
"Everything is going well, no pain," Freeman said. "I've got a consistent medical plan, and I just want to keep that going."
Now then, on to some fresher takes.
1. Fister bump
Remember when Doug Fister was good? Not like Cy Young good, but something in the neighborhood of Jordan Zimmermann? He had put together ace-like stretches thanks to his outstanding control and a better-than-expected strikeout rate given his so-so stuff.
That so-so stuff became bottom-of-the-barrel last year, when he averaged 86 mph on his sinker (basically, his fastball), and the results were as you'd expect. On Thursday -- his first time taking the mound, mind you -- he was routinely hitting 88 and 89, which is more in line with his former self.
The results again spoke for themselves. He struck out four in two scoreless innings. I made a case for Tanner Roark as the top relief-pitcher eligible starting pitcher Thursday, but Fister, thanks to his banishment to the bullpen in the second half last year, has a claim to that title as well.
2. Fine Story
You may have heard that the Rockies shortstop situation is up in the air. With Jose Reyes sidelined until his domestic abuse case is heard and then presumably suspended beyond that, they're looking to replace him indefinitely (with an eye on definitely).
The most promising possibility for Fantasy owners is Trevor Story, a second-tier prospect with the capacity for first-tier numbers playing half his games at Coors Field. He's coming off a 20-20 season in the minors and showed the extent of his power potential with a 442-foot home run to dead center Thursday.
"You always want to get off to a good start, make a good first impression, and he certainly did," manager Walt Weiss told MLB.com. "It's where the big boys go -- he's shown that power, has got ability to hit the ball a long ways."
He'll be getting drafted in mixed leagues in no time.
3. Dickerson does damage
Story's home run wasn't the only monster shot of the day. A quick look through the MLB.com video library reveals this one:
How's this for a big fish story? The Rays public relations staff says the ball didn't stop rolling until it was 569 feet away from home plate. According to MLB.com, Dickerson has already wowed teammates with his power behind the scenes, giving them every reason to believe he's the middle-of-the-order thumper they've lacked.
Now seems like a good time to remind you that Troy Renck, former Rockies beat writer for the Denver Post tweeted this immediately after the trade that sent Dickerson to the Rays:
"Covered a lot of Coors Field creations. He's not one."
More and more, I get the feeling that Dickerson's career home-away splits are making for a fine bargain in the middle rounds.
4. Profar, so good
Granted, Profar already made a good impression in an intrasquad game Monday, but this time his accomplishments actually show up in a box score somewhere. He went 1 for 2 with a walk Thursday against the Royals. Playing shortstop, he charged a Paulo Orlando chopper in the third inning and made an off-balance throw to first, offering the clearest demonstration yet of his health. He's talking like the weight of the world is off his finally healthy shoulders.
"It was a very good day," he told MLB.com. "I was having fun playing baseball again. It feels good. I wish I could have had more ground balls."
Keep in mind this was the No. 1 prospect in baseball just three years ago. If he recaptures that this spring, the Rangers are going to find at-bats for him. He might be the most overlooked sleeper in mixed leagues right now.
5. Richards redux
Garrett Richards emerged as a Fantasy ace in 2014 before a devastating knee injury -- one that carried over to last season -- sidelined him for the playoff stretch. And though he was adequate after returning last April, he wasn't as dominant, averaging 7.6 strikeouts per nine innings compared to 8.8. But now, we may have an explanation why.
The knee had his delivery "a little bit off throughout the whole year," he told MLB.com. "It kind of [disabled] me from sinking the ball. The two-seamer would just kind of arm-side run."
The numbers back it up. FanGraphs.com rated the two-seamer Richards' worse pitch by far last year, and as a result, he threw it only half as much as two years ago. Obviously, removing a weapon from a pitcher's arsenal is going to limit his effectiveness. He wasn't great in his first start Thursday, allowing two earned runs in two innings, but now that he has identified the problem, he can work toward correcting it.
To me, he's the ideal third starting pitcher in mixed leagues for the possibility he bounces back as a No. 1.