The first story line of the exhibition season: Can a college kid upstage the New York Yankees?
No, seriously. The Yankees open the Grapefruit League season Tuesday against Florida State, and the Seminoles’ roster includes Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston.
Winston closed Florida State’s 5-0 victory over Georgia on Sunday by striking out the final batter, Jess Posey, younger brother of San Francisco Giants star Buster Posey. In three relief appearances this season, Winston has given up no runs, no walks and one hit in four innings.
Although no major league team plays another until Wednesday, the Yankees and Detroit Tigers face college squads Tuesday. The Tigers’ opponent: the Moccasins of Florida Southern College.
As the exhibition season gets into full swing, five story lines from the Grapefruit League:
Captain and Tanaka
The Derek Jeter farewell tour is underway — his last scheduled stop in Southern California comes May 5-7 in Anaheim — but the chances of one last postseason appearance for him depend largely on Japanese rookie right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, on whom they recently spent $175 million. The Yankees desperately need Tanaka to do for them what countryman Yu Darvish has done for the Texas Rangers, so here’s the comparison: In 2012, his first year in the majors, Darvish’s earned-run average was 3.60 in spring training, 3.90 in the regular season.
‘Core four’ of Braves
The Atlanta Braves plan to move into a new suburban ballpark in 2017, and they have invested in four core players to take them there. The Braves this month have signed first baseman Freddie Freeman, shortstop Andrelton Simmons, starter Julio Teheran and closer Craig Kimbrel for a total of $267 million. That “core four” does not have the same ring as the Yankees’ Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada — let alone five rings — but the Braves can hope.
Same old story?
The Tigers got to the World Series two years ago and the American League Championship Series last year, still trying to win a championship for 84-year-old owner Mike Ilitch. They need two of their veterans to hold off Father Time for another season — outfielder Torii Hunter, 38, whose .300 seasons in 2012 and 2013 were the first of his career, and closer Joe Nathan, 39, a six-time All-Star signed to erase memories of the erratic likes of Jose Valverde, Fernando Rodney and Todd Jones.
Red Sox fill in holes
No team has won consecutive titles since the Yankees in 1999 and 2000, the capper to a run of four World Series victories in five years. As the Boston Red Sox try for their fourth in 11 years, they do so without any major additions. In center field, Jackie Bradley Jr., 23, replaces Jacoby Ellsbury, who left for the Yankees and $153 million. At catcher, A.J. Pierzynski, 37, replaces Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who left for the Miami Marlins and $21 million. At shortstop, Xander Bogaerts, 21, replaces Stephen Drew, still jobless.
Shuffling the Cards
The team the Red Sox beat in the World Series has redone its infield. At shortstop, the St. Louis Cardinals spent $53 million on Jhonny Peralta to replace the no-hit, shaky-glove Pete Kozma. They traded third baseman David Freese to the Angels for center fielder Peter Bourjos, enabling them to shift Matt Carpenter from second base to third base and try rookie Kolten Wong at second. If Wong flops, the Cardinals have former Dodger Mark Ellis as veteran insurance, the kind the Dodgers lack if rookie Alexander Guerrero flops.
Wednesday: a Cactus League primer.