February 2013

Spring Training, Day 4: The streak continues

So, I have a pretty cool streak going right now.Today was the third straight day I’ve seen at least one of the top prospects in baseball play a significant role in a game. On Tuesday it was Oscar Taveras (No. 3 according to MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo) and Jackie Bradley Jr. (No. 32). Yesterday it was Dylan Bundy (No. 2). Today, Nick Castellanos (No. 21), and for good measure, Matt Moore, who was a consensus top-5 pick one year ago.

They’ve pretty much all impressed in the limited time I’ve seen them, and Castellanos was no exception. He had three hits, including a sweet line drive to right-center on an inside-out swing. I am decidedly NOT a scout, but I enjoyed watching him hit.

I was also very excited about finally writing and filing a story I’ve been tossing around in my mind for, no exaggeration, several months. It’s about the Rays, and it should be on their site soon. Do check it out.

Today’s game in a nutshell: Anibal Sanchez was pretty sharp, the Rays’ relievers were not, and the Tigers rolled to an 11-2 win. Austin Jackson homered and Miguel Cabrera had a single and a double.

Quote of the day: “This is an organization where people are allowed to be themselves. We all, just like in our citizen life outside the baseball field, we all have views. We all have beliefs. We all have different opinions on things. But here, we accept everyone’s beliefs and personalities. The differences that we may have as individuals. But we also like to use that as variety. We all bring something to the table. As a group, we all work together to accomplish that same goal where we’re unified to go out there and win baseball games, be good teammates, care for each other. Regardless of what our differences are or where we come from. It doesn’t matter. We’re allowed to be ourselves, and the end result is we play well together, we care for each other, and it’s a good formula for success on a baseball field.” – Luke Scott, whose views and beliefs have certainly attracted some attention.

Player of the day: What the hey, let’s go with Castellanos. 3-for-3, a run, an RBI, and now 6-for-9 with four runs scored on the spring.

Miles driven: 97 so far today, 533 for the trip.

Miles run: 3 today, 9 for the trip (all on the treadmill; need to change that)

Starbucks trips: 1 today, 4 for the trip (People, seriously, the line inside is going to be quicker. I promise. Get out of your car. No, wait. Don’t. I like getting in and out of there quickly.)

Up next: I’ll see these Rays one more time, and the Blue Jays for the first time, in Dunedin. I’ll be on columnist duty, trying to figure out something to write about the Jays that hasn’t already been written 10 times in the past four months.

And, finally, the playlist:

They were playing a lot of Stones this morning at the ballpark, and I’m always in favor of that. But I’ll go for a little twist, and make it five Stones favorites from the post-Tattoo You years.

“One Hit (To the Body)”
“Wanna Hold You”
“Saint Of Me”
“Baby Break It Down”
“Slipping Away”

-M.

Spring Training, Day 3: Now THAT’S Spring Training

After a long drive up the coast last night, I have settled in for a stretch of several days based out of Tampa. Today was my first time working at Steinbrenner Field, a place where I did once sit in the stands (and saw Chris Duncan hit a home run off Randy Johnson, back when it was still called Legends Field).

Anyway, I had two assignments today: a column (which will be up soon) and helping out my teammate Brittany Ghiroli with Orioles coverage. The O’s had a day-night split-squad, so Britt stayed back in Sarasota for the night game while I took the day game in Tampa.

Manager Buck Showalter’s hope before the game was a quick one, so that he could get on the road and back down to Sarasota without having to cut it too close before the 7 pm start. No such luck. The game lasted nearly 3 1/2 hours, including a Yankees rally in the bottom of the ninth.

So sometime around the 7th, the Orioles PR rep told me and the only O’s beat writer who made the trip that we would get Showalter a little after 4 pm, regardless of whether the game was finished. The plan was that he would duck out, miss the end of the game if need  be, and hit the highway.

Didn’t happen that way. Showalter wanted to see young Devin Jones pitch. So three of us media types were escorted down the tunnel to the entrance to the dugout. We waited right there for the top of the 9th to finish. When the bottom of the 9th began, Showalter made his way over to us.

He began answering questions while also watching the game. He’d be asked a question, start an answer, pause, lean forward to see the pitch, then return to his answer. It went on like this for a few minutes. We got what we needed, thanked him, and left.

Not exactly the kind of thing that happens in July.

Today’s game in a nutshell: A lot of runs. A lot of hits. Five — count ‘em, FIVE — Yankee errors. A very rough start for Nik Turley. Some heat from Dylan Bundy. And a spectacular play deep in the hole by Ryan Flaherty. O’s win, 10-7.

Quote of the day: “Whoever might be predicted last in the American League Central would probably have a great argument as to why somebody was wrong. People that play the game know that ‘they say’ is the biggest liar. I know what they say about us. We’re supposed to be in last place. That’s all right. Our guys, they’re used to that environment. … I kind of like that we’re getting some help, putting us back in that same mentality.” – Showalter

Player of the day: Bundy. He wasn’t perfect. Might have missed his location a couple of times. But he’s got the stuff to get away with the occasional miss, and boy did he unleash some beauties. Two innings, one hit, one walk, one strikeout.

Miles driven: 4 so far today, 428 for the trip.

Miles run: 3 today, 6 for the trip

Diet sodas consumed: Still sitting on 2.

Starbucks trips: 1 today, 3 for the trip (proud of myself for not making a coffee stop on the trip up from Fort Myers last night)

Up next: Back down the coast to Port Charlotte for a promising Rays-Tigers tilt. I’ll be on columnist duty, rather than beat work.

And, finally, the playlist:

I’ve been buried deep in a mid-90s hole lately, revisiting the stuff I loved most in college. So here are five of the songs you’d have been most likely to hear blaring out of my dorm room between September of 1992 and June of 1996:

Everclear, “Her Brand New Skin”
Smashing Pumpkins, “Mayonaise”
New Order, “Regret”
Oasis, “Champagne Supernova”
Pearl Jam, “Leash”

-M.

Spring Training, Day 2: Back on the beat

Definitely an interesting and enjoyable day today, as I was back on my old stomping grounds in a way. I had the keys to my old beat, the Cardinals, for the day in Fort Myers. And as seemingly always happens when I come back to the Cardinals, there was news.

See the story on the site for all the details, but Mike Matheny said before the game that he hopes to speak with Joe Torre of MLB about home plate collisions. Matheny would like to see them removed from the game. He spoke at length, with a sincere interest and had clearly given the matter a lot of thought. It’s worth seeing his comments.

Then the team went out and throttled the Bosox, despite sending a lineup that had maybe — MAYBE — three regulars including Jaime Garcia. The game lasted nearly four hours, but we still did manage to beat the rain that hit so much of Florida today. So that’s fortunate.

Today’s game in a nutshell: Jaime Garcia was sharp, especially in the first inning, and the Cardinals amassed 14 hits and six walks — most of them in the late innings against Red Sox pitchers with very high uniform numbers.

Quote of the day: “We’re talking about the brain. It’s just been so shoved under the rug. I didn’t want to be the poster boy for this gig, but I was able to witness in ways I can’t even explain to people how that altered by life for a short period of time and changed the person that I was. It’s scary. So that being said, you look at this game, can this game survive without this play? And I say absolutely. You’re putting people at risk.” – Matheny on concussions and collisions

Player of the day: Cardinals outfield prospect Oscar Taveras, who is just tremendously entertaining to watch do, well, everything. He had three hits, one of them of the infield variety. He caught the final out. And he did it all with… brio. The last time I saw Taveras in person, he was 18 and taking hacks in the batting cage during pre-Spring Training minicamp in 2011. I’m looking forward to seeing him play in more game.

Miles traveled: 7 so far today (but a good 140 or so left tonight), 271 for the trip.

Miles run: 3 today (on the treadmill, ugh), 3 for the trip

Diet sodas consumed: 0 today (per the very sage order of my lovely wife), 2 for the trip

Starbucks trips: 1 so far today, 2 for the trip

Roadside sight of the day: An ex-armadillo. Kind of surprising it took me nearly 48 hours to see one.

Up next: Driving tonight to Tampa, which will be my base of operations for the next several days. I’ll be covering an Orioles split squad at Steinbrenner Field, while Britt Ghiroli takes the other half of the O’s when they play a home night game against the Red Sox.

And, finally, the playlist:

Tracks from some of the albums that have caught my ear so far in 2013:

The Joy Formidable, “This Ladder Is Ours”
Solange, “Lovers in the Parking Lot”
The Virginmarys, “Just A Ride”
Foals, “Inhaler”
Torres, “Honey”

-M.

Spring Training Day 1: Hello, homeland

So, you may have noticed that this blog has gone fallow over recent weeks and months. As the season gets rolling again, hopefully that will no longer be the case. I’m intending to blog every day over the course of my Spring Training travels, a trip that will cover most of the next three weeks.

Today’s game in a nutshell: Rays beat the Red Sox, 6-3, behind excellent relief pitching and a couple of “crooked numbers” in the early innings. Ryan Roberts’ two-run single was the big hit.

Quote of the day: “I’m just here to tell you, all those… broadcasters that always say, ‘that play never works,’ had no idea what was going on with that play. I thought it was a relevant play. Now it’s something that hopefully we can utilize to our benefit.” – Joe Maddon, on the fake-to-third, throw-to-first move

Player of the day: Rays veteran right-hander Jamey Wright, vying for a spot in the bullpen. Wright, who I covered when he was briefly a Cardinal in 2002 (!), faced three batters. He struck out Dustin Pedroia and Shane Victorino, and got Jonny Gomes to ground out to third base.

Miles traveled: 52 so far today, 212 total on the rental car.

Diet sodas consumed: 1 (2 total for the trip)

Up next: Weather permitting, I’ll be filling in for Jenifer Langosch on the Cardinals beat for a day (heaven help me if I can’t handle THAT gig!). They’re playing the Red Sox in Fort Myers, with Jaime Garcia set to take the mound.

And, finally, the playlist:

New Order/Moby, “New Dawn Fades”
Depeche Mode, “Rush”
Pet Shop Boys, “Opportunities”
Camouflage, “Love Is A Shield”
Nine Inch Nails, “Sanctified”

 

-M.

 

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