The 2014 Major League Baseball season may be technically underway following the Dodgers-Diamondbacks two-game series in Australia, but North American fans can still look forward to celebrating the primetime opener between the Dodgers and Padres this Sunday night, followed by MLB's official opening day next Monday.
Ahead of that, here are a few things you need to know about what happened in the off-season to get you ready for the first pitch:
Big names in new places
- The Yankees you know and love* are back! The Bronx Bombers broke open their piggybank to land former Red Sox star Jacoby Ellsbury, Cards outfielder Carlos Beltran, Braves catcher Brian McCann, and starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka from Japan.
- New York will be without the services of American League MVP candidate Robinson Cano, who signed a $240-million US megadeal with the Seattle Mariners, and outfielder Curtis Granderson, who moved across town to the Mets.
- First baseman Prince Fielder will attempt to regain his 30-home-run form with Texas in the hitter-friendly Rangers Ballpark in Arlington after being acquired in a trade that sent second baseman Ian Kinsler to Detroit.
- Shin-Soo Choo cashed in on his big season with Cincinnati, getting $130 million US over seven years from the Texas Rangers.
- Outfielder Mark Trumbo, acquired by Arizona in a trade with the Los Angeles Angels after clubbing a career-best 34 home runs, should get comfortable fast in a better hitting environment.
- Starting pitcher Doug Fister was traded by the Tigers to the Nationals.
- Ubaldo Jimenez will be taking the mound for the Baltimore Orioles.
- In addition to starting pitcher Matt Garza, the Milwaukee Brewers also added what could be a key piece of their clubhouse moving forward:
*Most fans do not love the Yankees.
Worth another look
Baseball has long been accused of resistance to change, but in 2008 MLB joined other North American professional sports leagues by adopting video review to examine close home run calls.
Taking another step forward this past January, baseball took a page from the NFL's book and approved a manager's challenge. Teams are allotted one review per game, on any call aside from balls and strikes. If the challenge is successful, the manager will be allowed to challenge again.
The new system got its first test from Toronto Blue Jays manager John Gibbons, who requested another look during a Grapefruit League game against the Minnesota Twins.
The season hasn't started for most teams, but for some of their pitchers, it's already over.
Patrick Corbin was due to start for Arizona during the Australian series, but now he's looking at a year on the sidelines after partially tearing his ulnar collateral ligament. That usually means ligament replacement, or Tommy John, surgery.
Corbin isn't alone. The Braves' Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy had their second career Tommy John surgeries, while Oakland's Jarrod Parker and the Dodgers' Luke Hochevar are also shut down for the season.
It seems like a disproportionate amount of pitchers have been injured in 2014, and Red Sox manager John Farrell spoke to The Associated Press about the rash of injuries.
All quiet on the northern front
After picking up a reigning Cy Young award winner, making a blockbuster trade with the Marlins, and completing a big free-agent signing in last year's off-season, the Toronto Blue Jays were much quieter this time around.
The team made overtures to Ervin Santana, but the pitcher was lured to Atlanta by the Braves. The reason why the Jays lost out? According to GM Alex Anthopolous, the hurler wanted to play in the National League.
Most of the pieces from the Jays' lacklustre 2013 season are returning, but there will be some changes. Manager John Gibbons has mapped out his rotation, with Brandon Morrow named the fifth starter and Ricky Romero sent to the minors to try to rediscover his game.
There will be a number of familiar faces missing from the rosters of major league clubs in 2014. Here’s a list of notable players that retired from the majors after playing last season:
- Mariano Rivera
- Andy Pettitte
- Mark DeRosa
- Ted Lilly
- Roy Halladay
- Chris Carpenter
- Rod Barajas
- Lance Berkman
- Michael Young
- Roy Oswalt
- Carl Pavano
- Rick Ankiel