Schwarber, Verlander and Hamilton highlight day one of MLB Spring Training

Pitchers and catchers began to report yesterday and there is already exciting stuff going on in the world of MLB. It’s only fitting that Spring Training began with a meteoric blast from the Schwar Hammer.

1. All bow to the Schwar Hammer

The Chicago Cubs Kyle Schwarber is the coolest guy in Major League Baseball. I used to think it was Andrew McCutchen, who is still a close No. 2 (have you seen this guy’s wife?) but I have been following Schwarber since he was drafted, and he has taken the top spot.

As you know, I once edited a minor league site (Grading on the Curve) and still write for one (Minor League Ball). It is of great advantage for me in my fantasy baseball league, especially since we have a Minor League slot on our keeper league roster. When I went to my teammate — the infamous J.D. — last year telling him we needed to stash this guy, his response was the usual: “No idea who this guy is, but I trust your judgement.”

After his first week stint in the big leagues, J.D. text me that he wanted to keep Schwarber for his entire baseball career. I do to. He is just fun to watch. Moon shot after moon shot, he just launches the ball into the air. Some times the home runs are so big you just laugh, like you are watching a comedic movie with computer graphically enhanced home runs shots.

And that’s how he started Spring Training. The Schwar Hammer launched a batting practice pitch into the parking lot and destroyed a fan’s windshield. De — stroyed. But like I said, Schwarber is the coolest guy in baseball. He came to the rescue, tweeting Safelight asking for their help in the matter.

How cool is that?

2. Verlander to be Opening Day starter.

I love this move by Brad Ausmus. Justin Verlander deserves it.

This decision came with a lot of naysayers, especially on the heels of Jordan Zimmerman‘s $110-million deal. I mean isn’t that what a $110-million guy is? Your go-to Opening Day ace?

This isn’t Game One of the World Series. It’s Opening Day. And as far as I’m concerned, when it comes to the rotation, this is Justin Verlander’s team until he no longer dons the Detroit Tigers emblem.

I know 2014 was a nightmare for Verlander and everyone wants put the innings hex on him. It’s hard to deny. Verlander threw a ton of innings in his early career, and even though he is 32, his arm is closer to 35 in pitching years.

That being said, Verlander looked like — well — Verlander after the All Star Break. Check this out:

Like I said, not too shabby, right? He even had a 112-pitch complete game shutout in there that was nearly another no-no to add to his illustrious list of accolades. Beginning in August, Verlander struck out 78 batters while walking just 20 in his final 82 innings of the 2015 season, including seven starts that he last seven or more innings. That’s who Verlander was, a guy that could get you deep into games.

And don’t bring that 5-8 record business up. That Tigers team was the worst Detroit has put out in over five years. Their one pitcher with a winning record was traded to Toronto. You want numbers that matter? How about a 3.38 ERA (3.49 FIP) and 1.09 WHIP.

This is a terrific move by Ausmus. It says: “Look, Justin, you looked good done the stretch, this is still your team. Let’s go show the world it still is.” And if he fails in April, Ausmus simply adjusts his rotation because it isn’t that hard to do that early in the season.

3. The Hamilton saga continues.

How badly must Josh Hamilton want to start a season with no surrounding drama? Every season, this guy has issues. Whether it is falling off the wagon, the mondo-biazzaro relationship in Anaheim that saw them essentially pay the Rangers $68-million to take him back, or constant injury, Hamilton hasn’t been the same person since he left Texas in 2012 for greener grasses in the Los Angeles (Anaheim) Angels biggest bust since Mo Vaughn.

Now he is hurt again, forcing the Rangers to look else where for a Major League ready bat. They do have two interesting decisions to make. Is Joey Gallo ready for the big leagues? What about 20-year old Nomar Mazara?

Gallo has a big bat, but has shown to be a liability every where else. He’s your typical Rob Deer-esque boom or bust hitter. Mazara — the Rangers top prospect — has a mere 20 games experience above Double-A, but as Carlos Correa showed last year — when you’re good, you’re good.

I don’t see the Rangers jumping into the season with Mazara, but he will be at Spring Training. That 20 game performance at Triple-A was awesome, but the problem is that he has been primarily a right fielder thus far. Replacing Hamilton would need a left fielder. Mazara definitely has the arm to do it (he’s thrown out 41 runners from the outfield in his brief three-year career) but may lack the footwork to adjust to a more fast paced left field. At just 20 years old though, it may be worth the risk.

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