FULL COUNT: Three spring storylines


Teams have reported to their respective camps in Arizona and Florida, and here are three storylines to keep an eye on this spring.

Defensively sound catcher Kurt Suzuki looks to be the Minnesota Twins’ everyday signal caller with six-time All-Star Joe Mauer moving to first. Early reports indicate Suzuki’s been working with starters Ricky Nolasco, Phil Hughes and closer Glen Perkins to get comfortable handling the staff and vice versa. His only competition is second-year catcher Josmil Punto. Suzuki signed a one-year, $2.75 million deal with Minnesota this offseason after spending 2013 with the Washington Nationals and Oakland A’s.

Kansas City acquired right fielder Norichika Aoki from the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for pitcher Will Smith in an offseason trade. Aoki reported to camp early alongside pitchers and catchers so he could begin getting acquainted with his Royals teammates. With a .287 MLB average, 321 hits and 50 steals on 70 attempts, he’s the favorite to be the Royals’ lead-off hitter on Opening Day. Aoki played two productive seasons in Milwaukee after a long career in Japan, where he was a seven-time All-Star.

Of course the big story is the New York Yankees’ newly-signed starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, who recently rented a commercial jet to fly him from Japan to New York. Tanaka threw just 25 pitches in his first bullpen session before getting tired, though he’s gradually increasing his sessions. He’s destined for a spot in the rotation no matter how he performs this spring. The Yankees want their $155 million on the mound. The pressure’s on him to perform like he did in Japan. The front office hopes his output is more like Hiroki Kuroda than Kei Igawa or Hideki Irabu.

Drew Morita, a Yonsei from Kaua‘i, writes from San Francisco. Follow him @drewmorita or e-mail him at drew_morita@yahoo.com.

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