Lou's Spring Training Slowdown

Resting veterans; roster management we can believe in

We've discussed this before, and it holds true. Spring training isn't important.

Sure, for some rookies, some minor league guys, it is. A good spring training performance against pro talent -- or talent somewhat closer to the pro level than AA ball -- can solidify a guy's place on a roster, or cause his organization to send him back down to the little leagues. It can be make or break.

For veterans? Not so much. Anyone with a few years experience in the majors knows what to expect. They realize that the games don't mean anything except to get some practice swings (or throws) in. They're useful for warming up the baseball muscles, for getting back into the game, but they're not to be taken too seriously and they're not to be played hard. Save it for the real games. Get your swings in. Be safe. You get the point.

Finally, it seems Lou Piniella is too. After a career of managing his veterans in strict spring training fashion, Piniella said he plans to "tone it down" this spring. What does that mean? It means not forcing your veterans to play in every spring training game:

While Dempster gets a chance to work on his material, manager Lou Piniella will try to get his regulars plenty of rest. Derrek Lee, Geovany Soto, Mike Fontenot and Ryan Theriot will play in the opener, with Milton Bradley, Alfonso Soriano, Aramis Ramirez and Reed Johnson getting into the lineup Thursday. [...] This figures to be a different spring, and even if the Cubs start slowly, Piniella probably won't be as upset. More minor-leaguers will get chances to prove themselves, though the only roster battles are for the final bullpen slot and perhaps a backup infielder in case Fontenot or Aaron Miles doesn't work as Ramirez's replacement at third.

Last year, Piniella was furious about his spring training pitching. This year, it appears as though he's mellowed out. It's a small thing, one that doesn't necessarily warrant a huge discussion, but if it keeps players healthy -- if it helps Milton Bradley play 135 games instead of 110, or keeps Rich Harden's arm from exploding in June -- then it will have been well worth the losses this spring. And hey, you never know: Maybe the next Geo Soto is in Arizona just waiting to be discovered. Now he gets his turn. Win-win.

Eamonn Brennan is a writer, editor and blogger hunkered down in Lincoln Park. You can also read him at Yahoo! Sports, FanHouse, MOUTHPIECE Sports Blog, and Inside The Hall, or at his personal site, eamonnbrennan.com.

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