WEST PALM BEACH, March 4 (UPI) — Josh Bell and Francisco Lindor were among several MLB All-Stars to debut in new uniforms this week at spring training. The elite cast already has injected optimism and excitement into their new clubhouses and fanbases.
Bell went 1 for 2 in his debut Sunday for the Washington Nationals. The All-Star first baseman hit his first home run of spring training in a loss to the Miami Marlins Wednesday in West Palm Beach, Fla.
One fan yelled “Welcome to D.C.,” as Bell rounded the bases after the 410-foot bomb to dead center field.
“He has been everything as advertised — so good,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez told reporters in a pre-game Zoom video conference. “He brings a lot of energy.
“He is going to be a big addition for the middle of our lineup.”
Bell joined the team in a December trade from the Pittsburgh Pirates. His bat should provide more balance for the Nationals lineup and create more favorable situations for All-Star outfielder Juan Soto, the 2020 National League batting champion.
“I think [Bell] is going to be a really good piece for our team,” Soto told reporters Wednesday on a Zoom video conference. “I have talked to him a lot.
“He is a really nice guy who likes to work hard. It’s going to be good to have a guy like who gives 100% every day.”
Kyle Schwarber, who signed with the Nationals in free agency, also hit a solo home run in Wednesday’s loss. He went 1 for 3 in his debut Sunday in Jupiter, Fla. Schwarber should provide some protection for Soto.
Opposing pitchers will be less likely to put Soto on base with intentional walks when he is surrounded by other capable hitters.
Former Chicago Cubs pitcher Jon Lester also signed with Washington as a free agent this off-season. He has yet to make his debut for the Nationals due to a thyroid gland issue. Lester recently flew to New York City for surgery.
Mets’ Lindor “living a dream”
A COVID-19-reduced crowd of about 1,200 cheered for new New York Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor as he flashed his token wide smile and walked to the plate for his first at-bat against the Miami Marlins on Monday at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium in Jupiter.
Lindor went hitless in two at-bats in his first game, but still smiled throughout his postgame interview as he discussed his appreciation for baseball.
“I’m living the best life I’ve ever dreamed of,” Lindor told reporters Monday during a Zoom video conference. “I’m in the dream. There is no excuse for me not to work. My parents have always told me to be consistent and stay positive.”
The Mets hope that attitude, work ethic and production inspire the team and lead to a postseason run. Lindor joined the team — along with pitcher Carlos Carrasco — as part of a January trade from the Cleveland Indians. Carrasco has yet to make his Mets spring debut.
The Mets and Cubs were the final teams to make their spring debuts Monday. MLB’s 28 other teams started their preseason schedules Sunday in Arizona and Florida.
Lindor has already been praised by teammates this spring for his positive attitude and strong work ethic. Those traits helped him become a four-time All-Star in Cleveland.
Nolan Arenado also used his talent and work ethic to become one of the best third basemen in the game during his eight-year tenure with the Colorado Rockies. He was then involved in one of the other most-significant moves this off-season.
The five-time All-Star joined the St. Louis Cardinals in February as the centerpiece of a blockbuster trade.
The Gold Glove infielder went 0 for 2 in his debut, a 4-4 tie with the Nationals on Sunday in Jupiter. He drove in his first run of spring training Wednesday, with an RBI single against the Mets.
“It’s just nice to see that name [Arenado] in the lineup,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt told reporters Sunday during a Zoom video conference.
“It’s nice to have that anchor in the lineup, and clearly it’s just a really exciting time for the organization and for Nolan.”
Other All-Star debuts for new teams
Chicago Cubs: Former Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson went 0 for 1 with a walk in a 1-0 win over the San Diego Padres on Monday Peoria, Ariz. Pederson also hit his first home run of spring training on Wednesday.
San Diego Padres: Former Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Blake Snell allowed no hits and no runs and had a walk and a strikeout in an 8-5 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers on Wednesday in Peoria, Ariz. The Padres have not announced when former Cubs pitcher Yu Darvish will make his spring training debut.