There are obvious spring-training stories that pop up every year. The best-shape-of-his-life. The learned-a-new-pitch. The injury-I-didn't-talk-about-last-year-was-the-reason-I-was-awful. Jesse Spector of the Sporting News did a good job cataloging them here.
Spring is supposed to be a time for mirth, merriment, and general optimism. It's supposed to be a time for best-shape stories and new pitches. Look, over there, it's Chris Sale, let's ... wait, no, that's Pablo Sandoval! Hooray!
There's one spring cliché that doesn't get as much attention, though: The uhhhhh-that-can't-be-good. It goes like this. Hey, Marco Scutaro, how are things with you?
Scutaro, 38, said Tuesday upon reporting to the Giants' Scottsdale Stadium complex that he "pretty much" can swing a bat without being troubled by his fingers. His back is a different matter.
"It seems like when you have a bad back, your whole body feels [bad]," he said. "It's one of those things that's annoying, but you have to deal with it."
Welcome to your first freakout of the season. Here's a pane of glass and an air horn. Start with that, and we'll get you more stuff as needed. Because it's at this point that you have to completely abandon all of your expectations for Scutaro. Anything he does to help the Giants in 2014 will, from here on, be considered gravy. Likeable, whiff-averse gravy. Let's see how he does throughout the spring before getting to the official community projection, but for now, I'm expecting a combined 100 starts at second from Joaquin Arias, Tony Abreu, and/or Joe Panik.
Too much? Too pessimistic? Possibly. But these sentences have the same sort of ring for me:
"The 38-year-old second baseman is playing through back pain, but he should be fine."
"Her date's here. He's finishing his cigarette first, so it'll be a minute. I can't tell what he looks like under the motorcycle helmet, but the pentagram tattoo on the neck leaves a lot to be desired. Still, you're right, honey. It's not right to judge. It's just junior prom."
You don't know for sure. But ... you know. You have vibes, you have intuition. And I'll tell you, I think I'd rather hear about wrist issues or knee soreness, turf toe or neck spasms, before I'd want to hear about back problems for an aging second baseman. Remember, second basemen age like boy bands to begin with. Hardly any of them make it to Scutaro's age and stay productive. That's just considering slowing reflexes and other expected fun stuff. When you add in a wonky back, you need to have complete suspension of disbelief to be optimistic.
What did Panik hit in Double-A last year? I can't remember. Probably .320 with 10 homers, nothing too big.
Mmm-hmm, mmm-hmm. And this is the same Joaquin Arias from the last couple years, the unspectacular-yet-useful fellow who probably shouldn't be starting?
Mmm-hmmmm. I will be calm about this.
I will be calm. It's nothing, right? Just a spring story. Guys are limbering up, getting ready for the long season, just shooting the bull with reporters. This is nothing. This is nothing. Just a 38-year-old second baseman mentioning his back pain before the first Cactus League game.
Should be nothing.
Tony Abreu is a career .312 hitter in the minors, you know. We got this.