Conforto, Kluber, rookie Carroll off to good spring starts
PHOENIX (AP) — Michael Conforto’s once-ailing shoulder appears healthy and the veteran slugger is back to mashing baseballs.
The Giants have eased the 30-year-old back on the field after he missed all of 2022 following right shoulder surgery. But even in limited at-bats in the Cactus League, he’s hit four homers, which was tied for the spring lead through Wednesday’s games.
Conforto signed a two-year, $36 million contract with the Giants in the offseason. This spring is a reminder of how good the former New York Mets star can be when healthy. He was an All-Star in 2017, hit a career-high 33 homers in 2019 and batted .322 during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.
Conforto hasn’t played a regular-season game since Oct. 3, 2021, when he was with the Mets.
Here are a few more standouts during MLB’s spring training games in Arizona and Florida:
Corey Kluber, Red Sox, RHP: The two-time AL Cy Young winner has been impressive so far this spring, with a 2.13 ERA and 14 strikeouts over 12 2/3 innings. Kluber was one of the game’s most dominant and durable pitchers from 2014 to 2018 before injuries derailed his career. He missed most of 2019 and 2020 before playing for the Yankees in 2021 and the Rays in 2022. He signed a $10 million, one-year deal with the Red Sox in the offseason.
Corbin Carroll, Diamondbacks, OF: The 23-year-old opens the year as one of the favorites to win the NL Rookie of the Year. He was impressive in a 32-game cameo last year and has followed that up with nine hits in his first 26 spring at-bats, including three doubles, two triples, seven walks and two stolen bases. The D-backs signed Carroll to an $111 million, eight-year deal last weekend that should keep him with the team through 2030.
Spencer Strider, Braves, RHP: The hard-throwing 24-year-old finished second in the NL Rookie of the Year voting last season behind teammate Michael Harris after striking out 202 batters in just 131 2/3 innings. He looks strong again this spring with 17 strikeouts over 12 innings and a 2.25 ERA.
Bo Bichette, Blue Jays, SS: The 2021 All-Star has grown into a cornerstone for Toronto’s lineup after two consecutive seasons leading the AL in hits. He’s been in midseason form during Grapefruit League play in Florida, with 12 hits in his first 31 at-bats (.387), including two doubles and two homers.
Jeffrey Springs, Rays, LHP: The 30-year-old emerged as one of the Rays’ top pitchers last season with a 2.46 ERA in 135 1/3 innings. That success doesn’t look like a fluke during Grapefruit League play this spring: He hasn’t allowed a run over 9 2/3 innings and has struck out 16.
Triston Casas, Red Sox, 1B: The 23-year-old looks like he’s locked down the starting first base job this spring with 13 hits in his first 34 spring at-bats, including two homers. The 2018 first-round pick flashed plenty of power in limited playing time last season, hitting five homers in 76 at-bats.
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By DAVID BRANDT
AP Sports Writer