Players, teams in need of strong springs

Can Ryan Howard prove in spring training that he can still effectively hit lefties? AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall

Eduardo Perez spoke on the podcast Thursday about how his perspective on spring training changed after Tino Martinez joined the Cardinals in 2002. The numbers don’t count, the wins and losses evaporate once the regular-season starts, but what Perez took away from his time with Martinez was the importance of competing and striving to succeed in every opportunity, regardless of whether any of the results appear in a record book.

Any time you hear that spring training is meaningless, remember that hundreds and hundreds of decisions are being made based on what happens in Florida and Arizona over the next four weeks. Scouts are filling the seats behind home plate and jotting down observations as they prepare for possible acquisitions. Team staffers meet regularly to talk about who looks good and who doesn't. A fringe major leaguer who has a great spring can push his way into the conversation about who makes the team, and a fringe major leaguer who looks awful can find himself in the minor league camp by the middle of March.

New pitches and new swings are tried, and often they’re ditched; sometimes they’re not. Trevor Hoffman discovered his Hall of Fame changeup in a spring training game.

For some players and teams, spring training results could be especially important this year -- not because of the numbers, of course, but because of the direction they indicate.