Spring Training isn't just a source of optimism; it's a source of strangeness. And that strangeness comes at us in waves in the spring's first days, when a flurry of news stories emanate out of camps as players give their first interviews and everything feels brand new.
So in case you've had trouble keeping up with all the oddities, here's a rundown from Spring Training's first week.
Bryce Harper knows why he regressed last season -- but won't say why
Harper wasn't terrible last season (.814 OPS, 116 OPS+), but he was a far, far cry from his NL MVP Award-winning effort of '15 (1.109, 198). There were reports that he was playing through a shoulder injury, and Harper has fanned those flames with his statement over the weekend that he knows "exactly why" his performance dropped. But Harper also told GM Mike Rizzo, manager Dusty Baker and the training staff last season that he was healthy.
You add this remark to Harper's post-Adam Eaton trade "Wow…" tweet that was unfortunately given no further explanation and his measured response to Noah Syndergaard's social media post insulting him, and it's just not fair.
Don't listen to the haters, Bryce. On behalf of the baseball community at large, we don't want Cryptic Bryce Harper. We don't want Vanilla Bryce Harper. We don't want Evasive Bryce Harper. We want the real Bryce Harper -- the "Make Baseball Fun Again" guy. Make Bryce Bryce Again!
They might flip the batting-practice order
Death, taxes and the home team taking BP first. These are a few of life's concrete components.
Except the New York Post reported that MLB is considering a flip-flop that would incentivize early arrivals by putting home teams second in the pecking order, so that their sessions would overlap with the opening of gates.
The Major League Baseball Players Association is still weighing the pros and cons of the idea, which has come up from time to time in the past but never gained traction. Though the fan-friendly nature has some appeal, Orioles manager Buck Showalter noted some cons.
"The downtime players get after the home team hits at home is very precious," Showalter said. "Those who haven't been in the arena don't understand that. There's no media, no fans, and, for an hour, they can drop their guard and get ready for the game."
Eric Gagne is attempting a comeback
Gagne hasn't pitched in the big leagues since 2008, which … be right back, I have to run some numbers … yeah, that was a hella long time ago. But he is on the Team Canada roster for the upcoming World Baseball Classic, and, while serving as a guest instructor in Dodgers camp, he sharpened his skills in a bullpen session Sunday in front of the team brass. Gagne is expected to throw a couple more 'pens before all is said and done, and despite being 41 years old and having pitched just 9 1/3 innings in independent ball this decade, says "it's almost scary" how good he feels.
Here's a theory: Zach Britton is 35 consecutive saves from tying Gagne's record of 84 straight from 2002-04. So maybe Gagne is gearing up to retaliate should Britton break his mark.
Phil Hughes kept his removed rib
The rib was removed as part of the thoracic outlet syndrome surgery Hughes had last season, and, as he told reporters, "plating it with some sort of precious metal is one way to go."
This surgical souvenir is a weird thing that … actually might not be very weird. Dr. Robert W. Thompson of Washington University, who does more than 200 thoracic outlet syndrome surgeries per year, told USA Today he's only had one patient in 20 years who didn't want his rib back after the procedure.
Well, hey, people do love ribs. Who's up for some Tony Roma's?
Brian Flynn goes through the roof
Spring Training is a notorious time for weird injuries, and, though this one doesn't technically count as a Spring Training injury (Flynn injured himself just before leaving for Arizona), it's definitely unusual and certainly unfortunate. The Royals reliever was replacing some roofing panels on his barn to ensure no rain would fall through while he was away, but he lost his balance and fell through the roof, landing on the concrete 12 feet below. He suffered a broken rib and three non-displaced fractures in his vertebrae.
Though the injury tally could have been much, much worse from this more-literal case of the "shingles," Flynn might miss upwards of half the season.
Grady Sizemore is a player development advisor with the Indians
And Bartolo Colon, the veteran the Tribe traded way back in 2002 to land a player package that once seemed highlighted by Sizemore, is still pitching.
Not that this is surprising in the here and now, given the litany of injuries that invaded Sizemore's career. But man, this is not a scenario you could have envisioned in 2008, when Sizemore was collecting down-ballot MVP votes and Colon was in the midst of a steep downward trajectory that saw him pitch just seven games for the Red Sox.
The lesson, as always, is that Colon endures.
The Rockies changed their purple
If you thought the Rockies wore purple before, adjust your iris-inspecting eyes in time for Cactus League play: Their uniforms are now quite a bit purpler. It's a brighter shade, devoid of deep blue hues. An homage to the late Prince? No, just an attempt to be more purely purple, people, something that will maintain its true hue under the lights. This is important.
BREAKING: MAJOR change within the Rockies organization. They have settled on a new shade of purple pic.twitter.com/WDUbEumE67- Sports A Mile High (@SportsAMileHigh) January 31, 2017
Syndergaard wants to throw harder
He spent the winter eating venison (just call him SynDEERgaard) and put on 17 pounds in an effort to add more zip to an arsenal that already includes, per FanGraphs' data:
a) The highest average fastball velocity (97.9) among qualified starters by 1.4 mph.
b) The highest average slider velocity (90.8) by 1.6 mph. Syndergaard approaches the radar gun the way Nigel Tufnel approaches his amplifiers.
The Phillies put the phrase "Ya Gotta Believe!" on a wall in their spring complex
It's part of a tribute to Tug McGraw and, in the Phillies' defense, McGraw did take the phrase with him in his post-Mets career -- a 10-season stint in Philadelphia.
Still, it's hard to deny the close association of that phrase to the 1973 Mets, which makes its presence at Phillies camp either a disorienting misstep or, as I personally prefer, an "Amazin'" troll job. They should just keep it going and put up other phrases like "We Are Fam-i-ly!" and "I Want to Thank the Good Lord for Making Me a
Yankee Phillie" or maybe just a picture of the Rally Monkey.
People are still interviewing Goose Gossage
He sounded off about one-inning relievers. Whatever. The "old man yells at cloud" stuff is tired any time of year. But in the first week of camp? How could you be bored enough to interview Goose Gossage in the first week of camp?!
Anthony Castrovince is a Sports on Earth contributor, MLB.com columnist and MLB Network contributor. Follow him on Twitter @Castrovince.