Is Anthony Rendon destined for shortstop for the Washington Nationals - Luis M. Alvarez – AP

While it’s tantalizing to look at MLB spring training stats to think about how each team will do in 2012, it’s not very realistic. Pitchers are just slowly getting themselves up to speed as are most batters as well. But the first week of games does tell some very interesting stories about where players might play this season.

heinnews took a look at box scores over the first week and MLB fans might be surprised to see who is fielding grounders at shortstop for Washington, third base for Houston, second base for Detroit and first base for St Louis among other spots while there are some guys getting used to different routes in the outfield. As it’s still very early, this report will not include any pitchers.

Let’s start with Washington – being that far down in the alphabet they are usually towards the end, so time for a switch. All the hype this spring training is if Bryce Harper can make the team (he just went down with a mild calf issue). Well manager Davey Johnson has freed up rightfield for the 32-year-old as Jayson Werth has been patrolling centerfield this past week.  So it appears that it’s Harper’s job to lose at the moment.

But staying with Washington, it’s worth taking a quick look at the infield. Now that the Nationals have locked up Ryan Zimmerman to a long-term deal, many were questioning what would happen with top 2011 draft pick Anthony Rendon. Many thought Washington would try out the slugger at second base. Well Rendon – who played third at college at Rice – has been seen playing shortstop thus far this spring – with one day at third as well. Not sure exactly what that means for him and his future – or that of Ian Desmond in fact – but it’s an observation. One more note on the Nationals, Mark de la Rosa has already cracked out his first baseman’s glove in the spring.

Where will Houston Astros corner infielder Brett Wallace play - Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images North America

The Houston Astros are not expected to do much this season but they are two players many fans are watching as far as where they play. Jed Lowrie came over to the ‘Stros from Boston in the deal for Mark Melancon with a history of playing all over the infield for the Red Sox, though predominantly shortstop. And that is exactly where Lowrie has stuck the entire spring thus far. Manager Brad Mills just wants to let him not worry about what his position will be and just concentrate on hitting. Another guy Houston is expecting to hit is Brett Wallace. But Mills is still trying to figure out where that should be as Wallace – a third baseman in college – has bounced back and forth between first base and the hot spot. It would seem that Wallace would play first with Chris Johnson playing third last season. But this decision appears very much so undecided, especially with talk of Carlos Lee playing first base.

Much of the league is anxiously looking at Detroit to see how Miguel Cabrera takes to being back at third base now that Prince Fielder is manning first base. But an intriguing battle is going on at second base where Brandon Inge is getting the majority of the reps thus far after failing to hold his spots with the Tigers at catcher and third base. Inge is battling Ryan Raburn for the spot.

The other big name first baseman to leave his team was Albert Pujols, who left a huge gaping whole in St. Louis. And new manager Mike Matheny has a couple of options as to how to fill it. The most obvious one would be to have veteran Lance Berkman come in from his right field position. But two others are battling for the spot. In addition to the injured Allen Craig, there is 27-year-old Mark Hamilton, who has been in the Cardinals system since 2006 and played in 38 games for the Red Birds last season. But the other choice is 23-year-old Matt Adams, who crushed 32 homeruns last season in Double A in the Texas league and is getting a bit more of the playing time than the others. Adams has a grand slam and a three-run triple to his credit this season.

Can rookie Matt Adams win the job to replace Albert Pujols in St. Louis - Mark Harrell/Springfield Cardinals

Another first base battle is on-going in San Diego where the Padres are now in Year 2 Anno Adrian. Giant (the guy is 6-foot-6 and about 270 pounds) Kyle Blanks was considered blocked while Adrian Gonzalez was manning first base. But he was hurt much of last season and this off-season the Padres traded Anthony Rizzo (who came to SD in the Gonzalez deal from Boston) to the Chicago Cubs after getting Yonder Alonso in the Mat Latos from the Cincinnati Reds where Alonso was blocked at first by Joey Votto. So, all these moves basically have Alonso duking it out with Blanks for first base. And right now Alonso is getting more playing time with Blanks playing both left and right field when he doesn’t play first thus far this spring.

Another opening at first base still to be determined is in Philadelphia with Ryan Howard still out indefinitely following his Achilles surgery. The 28-year-old John Mayberry Jr. has been getting most of the reps thus far this spring with 41-year-old Jim Thome due to get a couple spot starts during the year. The other option would be Ty Wigginton, who has already played third, first and second base for manager Charlie Manuel – just like Wigginton has done for years.
Brent Lillibridge appears destined to roam the Chicago White Sox infield as he has already played third base, second and first after playing every position besides pitcher and catcher for the South Siders in the last two seasons.

A player who will like Lillibridge and Wigginton will play everywhere on the infield is Jeff Keppinger with the Tampa Bay Rays. Keppinger has already filled in at second base and first base for manager Joe Maddon and could take grounders at third if needed. But there is a position battle going on in Rays camp. After playing shortstop, second, third, first and outfield last season, Sean Rodriguez has played solely shortstop this spring and will challenge Reid Brignac for the starting spot.

One has to feel a bit sorry for Minnesota Twins middle infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka. A shortstop in Japan before coming to the States before last season, the Twins moved Nishioka to second base and he broke his leg in a play at second base. Minnesota ended up playing him mainly at shortstop the rest of the season in 2011 but he has played equal time at second and short this spring.

With Marco Scutaro gone to Colorado, the Boston Red Sox appear set on giving their everyday shortstop position to Mike Aviles, who has been given the majority of the playing time at short this spring. Aviles, who has only played short thus far in 2012, played at least 14 games at short, second and third last season (46 at third being the most) for Boston and Kansas City.

The Texas Rangers meanwhile are not yet sure what they want to do with Mike Olt. The 23-year-old slugger is coming up through the Rangers system as a third baseman but the Texas hot corner is manned in the long term by Adrian Beltre. And while all the world seems focused on Yu Darvish’s transition to America and Neftali Feliz’s move to the starting rotation, manager Ron Washington is deciding where Olt will fit later down the road. For this season veteran Mike Young is becoming more and more of a liability in the field and Mitch Moreland has failed to impress with his given chance. Olt however is still a bit away as he played last season in A ball.

Another player going back and forth between first and third is Chicago Cubs corner infielder Josh Vitters, who has been given time at both spots (though more at third than at first). First base appears to be a battle between Bryan LaHair and Anthony Rizzo, which means Vitters is battling new acquisition Ian Stewart for the open third base job – left vacant with Aramis Ramirez’s departure to Milwaukee.

A couple of other notes on first and third base playing time this spring, Adam Dunn has been receiving ground balls at first for the Chicago White Sox, who are desperately trying to figure out what happened last season to Dunn; Jerry Sands played a game at first base for the Los Angeles Dodgers; Mark Trumbo has been spotted at third base for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim; while Mat Gamel has received most of the playing time at first base for the Milwaukee Brewers; Chris Carter is getting starts at first for the Oakland A’s; and even washed out pitcher Adam Loewen has earned some playing time at first base for the New York Mets.

There are not a lot of outfield moves which really stuck out. One of notice though was with Seattle, which is a team in total disarray with players moving back and forth and every which way. The Mariners are really trying to get a look at three players. Italian Alex Liddi has played third in the minors but Kyle Seager held his own at the end of the 2011 and is getting his fair share of at-bats at third this season. Liddi is also getting time at third but he is also playing some at first. The first baseman job appears to be Justin Smoak’s but Mike Carp has also been given time at first as well as reps in left field. Chone Figgins meanwhile has been pushed to the outfield this spring, playing center field – though he did get one game at shortstop. The 34-year-old Figgins has not played more than two games in the outfield since 2007 with the Angels.

One other team we wanted to look at was the Cincinnati Reds and their infield. Of course their core of Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips and Scott Rolen is set. But some of their infield combinations this spring have left some Reds supporters shaking their heads. These were a couple of the infield starting line-ups this spring (third, short, second, first): Miguel Cairo, Zack Cosart, Wilson Valdez, Todd Frazier; Rolen, Paul Janish, Valdez, Cairo; Valdez, Janish, Kristopher Negron, Cairo; and Negron, Janish, Chris Valaika, Cairo. Phew! Some advice to Reds fans: don’t watch any spring training for a couple weeks.



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