LEADING OFF: Lee, Darvish take the mound for spring debuts
A look at the highlights of what's happening all around spring training in Florida and Arizona today:
Cliff Lee, who made his final start of 2014 on July 31 because of a strained left elbow, starts for Philadelphia against Houston in Kissimmee, Florida. Lee, the 2008 AL Cy Young Award winner with Cleveland, was sidelined from May 18 until July 21 because of a left flexor pronator strain, and cut short his third start back in the third inning. The 35-year-old was 4-5 with a 3.65 ERA in 13 starts. ... Texas' Yu Darvish makes his spring debut after last season ended prematurely for him due to elbow inflammation. Darvish was shut down after a start Aug. 9. He was 10-7 with a 3.06 ERA.
Left-hander Barry Zito takes the mound against professional hitters for the first time since 2013 when the A's play the Cubs in Mesa, Arizona. In camp on a minor league deal with the team he won the 2002 AL Cy Young Award with, the 36-year-old Zito took off last year.
HOPING FOR AN ENCORE
Clayton Kershaw makes his spring debut against the White Sox. Kershaw led Los Angeles to the NL West title last year, going 21-3 with a career-low 1.77 ERA. He won his second straight NL Cy Young Award and his first MVP trophy but faltered in the Dodgers' first-round playoff loss to St. Louis.
Indians outfielder Michael Brantley makes his spring debut after being slowed by a stiff back. An All-Star for the first time in 2014, Brantley finished third in AL MVP voting after batting .327 with 20 homers and 97 RBIs.
Milwaukee outfielder Ryan Braun is going to test his surgically repaired thumb in a game for the first time when the Brewers play the Angels at Tempe, Arizona. Braun hit only 19 homers last year, and the 2011 NL MVP says the nerve problem in his thumb played a significant role.
A LITTLE COMPETITION
St. Louis isn't wasting any time getting a look at the three pitchers vying for the fifth spot in its starting rotation. Right-hander Carlos Martinez gets the ball for the Cardinals' opener against Miami in Jupiter, Florida. Left-hander Marco Gonzales starts Friday against Houston, and lefty Jaime Garcia, coming off shoulder surgery, will start Saturday vs. Washington.