Most guys are looking forward to getting out of Arizona at this point, but Jake Arrieta has extra motivation.
Arrieta was shelled by the Giants on Thursday, allowing five first-inning runs, before exiting with a blister on his right thumb. Arrieta said the dry air in the desert has contributed to his issues.
"It was tender, and the skin was starting to come apart again," Arrieta said. "It's from the dryness out here.
"Everything was slipping off my thumb. Couldn't really finish or get the good rotation on my breaking stuff. It's really not that bad."
To that point, Arrieta said the issue won't affect his readiness for Opening Day. If anything, the short start -- he threw just 34 pitches before being removed -- may have an impact on how deep he can go in that first start, but even that isn't a huge concern for the 30-year-old.
"If I hadn't been built up arm strength-wise, maybe it would be an issue," Arrieta said. "Next time out, I'll be 80-plus [pitches]. As far as getting built up, I'll be fine."
The reigning NL Cy Young Award winner is poised for another monster year in 2016...assuming he doesn't have to face the Diamondbacks in Phoenix too many times.
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Braun Dealing With Back Stiffness
Arrieta isn't the only one downplaying injury as Opening Day draws near.
Ryan Braun was scratched Thursday due to lower back stiffness, the first issue he's had with his back this spring. Braun had offseason surgery to repair a herniated disc in his lower back.
Despite the nature of the ailment, Brewers manager Craig Counsell said the team isn't getting worked up over the issue.
"He had some lower back stiffness this morning," Counsell said Thursday. "I don't think it's a red flag. I'm not concerned. We're going to be overly cautious at this point."
Braun is expected to return to Cactus League play as early as Saturday.
Despite missing 22 games, Braun re-established himself as one of the game's best speed-power threats last season. The 32-year-old batted .285/.356/.498 with 25 home runs, 84 RBI, 87 runs and 24 stolen bases in 2015. Health assumed -- a risky assumption when it comes to Braun -- he should be in for another strong all-around year.
Editor's Note: Dave "CheeseIsGood" Potts has won not one but TWO $1 million prizes playing daily fantasy baseball. Get ready for Opening Day on FanDuel by checking out his RotoGrinders column on "Transitioning from Season-Long to DFS MLB."
Norris Dealing With Multiple Fractures
It's been a rough few years for Daniel Norris.
The left-hander, the key prospect in the Blue Jays' midseason trade with the Tigers for David Price last year, is set to start the season on the disabled list after a back specialist diagnosed him with three non-displaced fractures in the spinal process. Team trainer Kevin Rand said the ominous-sounding diagnosis "sounds a whole lot worse than it is."
"It doesn’t seem to be anything long term."
That's good news for the 22-year-old, who was diagnosed with a malignant growth on his thyroid in October, a growth he successfully had removed the same month, and missed time following the trade last year due to an oblique strain. Norris was expected to win a rotation spot this spring.
With him out, at least for the start of the year, the team will likely choose between internal options Shane Greene, Buck Farmer and Matt Boyd. Ausmus said an external candidate, namely Kyle Lohse, wasn't in the cards at this point.
Quick Hits: Jacoby Ellsbury felt some discomfort in his wrist Thursday during batting practice. He hasn't played in a Grapefruit League game since March 19 due to discomfort, but the Yankees are hoping he'll be able to play Saturday ... Edwin Encarnacion (oblique) is expected to make his Grapefruit League debut in the next couple days. Encarnacion will take batting practice on Friday, his first workout since being shut down on March 15 with the injury ... Corey Seager (knee) batted in a minor league game Thursday. Assuming the knee responds well, Seager should still be a good bet for Opening Day ... Howie Kendrick was scratched Thursday due to left calf tightness. The Dodgers are saying he's day to day ... Matt Wieters (elbow) played long toss from 120 feet on Thursday morning. He's been limited to DH duties in games, and with time running out, his availability for Opening Day is in question ... Steven Wright is expected to open the season as the Red Sox' fifth starter. His tenure will likely be temporary, as he's just keeping the seat warm for Eduardo Rodriguez ... Tyler Skaggs (elbow) made his Cactus League debut Thursday. The southpaw, who is working his way back from Tommy John surgery, allowed an unearned run over two innings of work ... Asdrubal Cabrera (knee) will return to game action Sunday. Cabrera suffered a strained patella tendon early in camp but is still a candidate for Opening Day given his recent progress ... The Astros, Braves and Brewers discussed a three-team deal last month that would have sent Jonathan Lucroy to the Astros, MLB Daily Dish's Chris Cotillo reports. The deal didn't get done, but the Astros could still have interest with Max Stassi out and Jason Castro not blowing anybody away at the dish.