If I had any skills I’d create some sort of interactive bingo card for the right-hand margin on which we’d put chips every time a player is reported this spring to (a) be in the best shape of his life; (b) be working on a new pitch that he thinks will make the difference; (c) have added some muscle to help his stamina; (d) have leaned up to increase his flexibility, etc.
Don’t get me wrong — I love these stories, if for no other reason than once they start appearing it means that baseball is right around the corner. And of course, they speak to that eternal spring optimism that makes baseball the wonderful thing that it is. But are they meaningful? Not particularly. This morning Rod Bradford has the latest entry in this eternal game. It’s about Mike Lowell, whose agent says that “this year he has been on a mission,” and that he’s been working out four or five times a week.
I like Mike Lowell so I hope that’s true. But at the same time, I’m assuming that he and the Red Sox have a pretty well-orchestrated plan to talk up how ready he is for the season, how quickly he’s healing and all of that. Indeed, I wouldn’t be shocked to hear something from the Sox soon talking about how, you know, they may just even keep him and play him a lot he’s so darn healthy.
After all, if they don’t, how else are they going to sucker someone into trading for him?
The Cubs wrapped up a four-game series against the Reds at Wrigley Field on Thursday afternoon, suffering a 13-10 loss to split the set. They’ll match up again against the Reds next week for a three-game series in Cincinnati. That’s good news for Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant, because that means he’ll get to see Reds first baseman Joey Votto some more.
As CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney reports, Bryant has grown quite fond of Votto. Bryant has already won a World Series ring, a Rookie of the Year Award, and an MVP Award, but he still looks up to Votto. According to Bryant, Votto is “the best player ever.” He added, ““He’s my favorite player. I love watching him. I love talking to him, just picking his brain. He gets a lot of (heat) about his walks and working at-bats and some people want him to swing at more pitches. But, gosh, I mean, he does an unbelievable job. You know that he’s going to give you a great at-bat every time he goes up there. It’s definitely a guy that I look up to and I can learn from.”
Bryant said that Votto is “a future Hall of Famer, that’s for sure.”
Bryant also explained how his approach changed by watching Votto. He said that in his rookie season, he was “swinging at everything.” Votto, however, is “aggressive, but he’s not going to swing at a pitch until he wants it.”
Indeed, in Bryant’s rookie season, he struck out in nearly 31 percent of his 650 plate appearances. This season, he has struck out in only 19 percent of his PA. His walk rate has also increased by more than 2.5 percent since his rookie campaign. Compared to last year, Bryant is down in HR and RBI, but his average is the same, his on-base percentage is markedly better, and his slugging percentage is only down by a minute amount.
Diamondbacks second baseman Daniel Descalso hit his team’s third inside-the-park home run of the season during Thursday’s 4-0 win over the Astros. In the top of the fourth inning, with the score 1-0 and the bases empty, Descalso ripped a 1-0, 83 MPH change-up to right-center field. The ball caromed off the wall, heading towards left field, which sent center Jake Marisnick on the chase. Marisnick tried to pick up the ball with his glove, but dropped it, which sealed Descalso’s destiny for an inside-the-parker.
It had only been five days since the Diamondbacks’ last inside-the-park home run. David Peralta hit one against the Cubs on August 12. Ketel Marte legged out his club’s first ITPHR on July 26 against the Braves.
As ESPN Stats & Info notes, the Diamondbacks have three as a team, which is amazing because the other 29 teams have hit seven combined.