MLB Spring Training amps include Cougars alumni

GENEVA—With warm thoughts of Major League Baseball spring training now underway, many former Kane County Cougars are gearing up for the 2014 season with their respective big league clubs. This year’s Cougars team has yet to be finalized as Cubs minor leaguers open camp at the organization’s new spring training complex in Mesa.

Building on 2013
Detroit Tigers infielder Miguel Cabrera (’01 Cougar) is the two-time reigning American League MVP. Cabrera underwent off-season surgery to repair core muscles damaged by a groin tear that hindered the end of his 2013 season. Cabrera is attempting to become the first player to win three consecutive AL MVP awards.

Quite a few former Cougars, including Cabrera, were involved in the MLB postseason last fall. Oakland pitchers Sean Doolittle (’07) and Dan Straily (’10) will be counted on heavily in 2014 as Oakland tries to defend the American League West division. Doolittle appeared in 70 games out of the A’s bullpen last season and Straily started 27 games.

Los Angeles Dodgers infielder Adrian Gonzalez (’01) bagged another season of 100 or more RBI for the sixth time in the past seven seasons as the Dodgers won the National League West for the first time since 2009.

Pittsburgh pitcher Vin Mazzaro (’06) contributed to Pittsburgh advancing to the postseason for the first time since 1992.

San Diego pitcher Huston Street (’04) recorded 33 saves last season, his highest total since saving 35 games in 2009. Street is 36th in big league annals with 234 career saves. Padres teammate Tyson Ross (’08) was a rotation regular for San Diego for much of the summer, posting a 3.17 ERA in 35 games.

A change is in order
Pitcher A.J. Burnett (’98) was signed by Philadelphia shortly before spring training. Burnett pitched with Pittsburgh last season, starting at least 30 games for the sixth straight season and winning 10 or more games for the ninth straight season.

Pitcher Ian Krol (’10) made his big league debut with Washington last season and was dealt to Detroit this past off-season. Krol made 32 relief appearances with the Nationals last season.

Pitcher Ronald Belisario (’02) signed with the White Sox after spending the last several years with the Dodgers.

Infielder Jemile Weeks (’08) was dealt to Baltimore after spending his entire professional career with Oakland.

Veteran infielder Alex Gonzalez (’96) has been invited to Baltimore’s spring training camp.

Outfielder Michael Choice (’10), who made his big league debut last season with Oakland, was dealt to Texas and could break camp with the big league squad.

Pitcher Ryan Webb (’05) was signed by Baltimore after making a career high 66 appearances with Miami last season.

Other storylines
Former Cougars manager Rick Renteria (’99) is the first-year manager of the Cubs. Renteria will be working with and evaluating several Cougars from last season’s team who were invited to big league spring training camp, including Albert Almora and Armando Rivero. Catcher John Baker (’03) has been invited to Cubs big league camp as well.

Pitcher and former first round pick Kyle Zimmer (’12) was invited to Kansas City Royals big league camp.

Pitcher Bo Schultz (’10) was invited to Arizona’s big league camp and like Zimmer, are both aiming to make their big league debuts.

Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Josh Beckett (’00) missed much of last season due to surgery and is hoping to bounce back this season.

Pitcher Ryan Dempster (’96) won’t pitch for Boston this season, citing medical reasons and the desire to spend more time with his family. Dempster and pitcher Andrew Bailey (’07) were part of Boston’s World Series Championship team last season.