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8 Hot Starts in Spring Training That Won't Continue

Doug MeadCorrespondent IMarch 8, 2013

8 Hot Starts in Spring Training That Won't Continue

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    Spring training for many veterans in Major League Baseball is just a long, drawn-out affair. It's even more pronounced this year with the World Baseball Classic extending spring training by two weeks.

    Hot starts in spring training can be attributed to many factors, such as prospects making a concerted effort to impress their bosses and fringe players doing everything they can to lock down a roster spot.

    For hitters, they might have an edge in early exhibition games as pitchers work on specific areas of their game and not worry about results. For pitchers, some are bearing down hard early on just to gain an early edge in competition.

    Here are eight players who have gotten off to hot starts in spring training that will likely not translate into regular-season play.

Chris Gimenez: Tampa Bay Rays

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    Catcher Chris Gimenez has served in a backup role since making his major league debut. He has yet to see action in more than 45 games since 2009.

    Trying to latch on with the Tampa Bay Rays this spring, Gimenez is currently leading the team with a .500 batting average. Gimenez's best year at the plate was with the Rays last season, hitting .260 with a career-high nine RBI and .645 OPS.

    Gimenez carries a .199 lifetime batting average. While his spring thus far has been impressive, it's a stretch to think he'll carry his hot streak into the regular season.

Cliff Pennington: Arizona Diamondbacks

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    The Arizona Diamondbacks acquired shortstop Cliff Pennington from the Oakland A's last October in the deal that saw center fielder Chris Young shipped to Oakland.

    Pennington was not the answer for the A's at shortstop. He was added more for depth as Arizona searched for a better long-term solution.

    In early Cactus League games, Pennington has been hot, hitting .389 with one home run and four RBI. With Didi Gregorius still recovering from an arm injury suffered during the offseason, Pennington will likely open the season as the Diamondbacks' starting shortstop.

    But don't expect anything close to a .389 average—Pennington hit just .215 last season.

Tyler Pastornicky: Atlanta Braves

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    Tyler Pastornicky opened the season last year as the starting shortstop for the Atlanta Braves. He was riding the bench by the end of the year as Andrelton Simmons took over and impressed.

    Pastornicky is on a hot streak right now, hitting .409 in early Grapefruit League play with two home runs and seven RBI.

    While it's entirely possible that Pastornicky has figured things out at the plate, he's likely not a candidate to be among baseball's batting leaders during the regular season.

Steve Pearce: Baltimore Orioles

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    Steve Pearce is trying to latch on as a reserve with the Baltimore Orioles this spring. Thus far, he's doing a great job of impressing.

    Pearce is currently hitting .500 and leads the O's with three home runs and 10 RBI. A reserve throughout his career, he saw action with three different teams last year and played in just 61 games overall.

    Pearce has done a great job of showing the Orioles he has value, but with a .234 lifetime average, no one should expect Pearce to continue raking as he has thus far.

Ryan Raburn: Cleveland Indians

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    After excelling for five seasons as a utility man for the Detroit Tigers, Ryan Raburn suffered through an abysmal 2012 season, hitting just .171 with one home run and 12 RBI. The Tigers declined to retain Raburn at the end of the season.

    Signed to a minor league deal by the Cleveland Indians in January, Raburn has clearly stated his case for inclusion on the Indians' 25-man roster for Opening Day.

    Raburn has hit .550 thus far for the Tribe, leading the team with four home runs and 11 RBI.

    However, it's important to note that Raburn hit six home runs with 19 RBI for the Tigers during spring training last season—that certainly didn't translate well into the regular season.

    While Raburn's hot start is encouraging, recent history suggests it's not an indication of things to come.

Rick Ankiel: Houston Astros

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    Rick Ankiel should be given a lot of credit. He's worked hard over the years to convert from a pitcher to a regular position player. He had success early on in his transition with the St. Louis Cardinals in the late 2000s, hitting .264 with 25 home runs and 71 RBI in 2008.

    The past few struggles have been much more of a struggle, however. Ankiel has been more of a bench player and late-inning defensive replacement who can occasionally provide some pop.

    That's why no one should look at Ankiel's hot start this spring with the idea that he has turned a corner offensively. Ankiel is currently hitting .467 in early Grapefruit League action with the Houston Astros.

    Considering the Astros are moving to the AL West division this year, Ankiel would have value as a bat off the bench. But with a career .244 average, including just a .236 mark over the past two seasons, Ankiel shouldn't be expected to suddenly morph into Tony Gwynn at this stage of his career.

Brian Barden: Los Angeles Dodgers

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    With first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and third baseman Luis Cruz playing in the World Baseball Classic, Brian Barden is getting a chance to show what he can contribute to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

    Barden hasn't played in the majors since 2010, and he's a long shot to grab a roster spot for the Dodgers at this point.

    But Barden is at least stating his case, hitting .579 through 10 Cactus League games this spring.

    With Dee Gordon, Juan Uribe and Nick Punto also in camp, Barden's chances of making the team as a reserve are slim. With a .211 lifetime average, his hot start is a welcome sight. But he may just simply be an extra body to help fill out the lineup card for the Dodgers while regulars are participating in the WBC.

Casey Kotchman: Miami Marlins

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    Once considered a rising star with the Los Angeles Angels, first baseman Casey Kotchman is now just trying to earn a roster spot with the lowly Miami Marlins.

    Kotchman was not invited back by the Cleveland Indians after hitting just .229 last season. He was signed to a minor league contract by the Marlins in January. With Logan Morrison still recovering from offseason surgery, Kotchman's hot start this spring has created a battle between him and Joe Mahoney for playing time.

    Kotchman is hitting .500 with one home run and five RBI, while Mahoney is hitting .238 with two homers and five RBI.

    Morrison will take over at first when he's ready, but thus far Kotchman is working hard to convince manager Mike Redmond that he's worthy of a roster spot.

    Kotchman's defensive skills are not in question, but the 1.319 OPS is definitely an aberration considering his lifetime mark of .715.

     

    Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.

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