I was never a big Tommy Lasorda fan back when he was a manager, but I kind of like retired old man Tommy Lasorda. He was a hoot working the room and telling war stories at the Winter Meetings. Reminded me of my late father-in-law, who also happened to be a large and jolly Italian man with a zillion stories of dubious provenance. Once he got past, oh, 65 we just let him be him and happily went along for the ride.
Same goes for Lasorda. The latest: Tommy tweets “I’m teaching our young pitcher Kenley Jensen my curveball.” Here’s the pic to prove it. Then he tweets “It’s the same curveball I used to strike out Stan ‘The Man’ Musial and ‘Say Hey’ Willie Mays.”
And he did strike out Musial once. It happened on May 5, 1955. In the first inning. Lasorda got the start, and dadgummit, Stan the Man went down swinging. Of course, it may have been in self defense. Lasorda walked two guys and threw three wild pitches that inning, allowing a run to score without allowing a hit. He was removed to start the second.
Sadly, however, Lasorda’s memory may be failing him — or his whimsy running away with him — when it comes to Willie Mays. Lasorda never faced him, let alone struck him out. At least not in a major league, regular season game.
But just like I used to let my father-in-law tell the story about how the Beatles once tipped him with an autographed photo when he was delivering pizzas in Hamburg, Germany, I’ll let Tommy Lasorda tell people he struck out Willie Mays once.
Veteran utilityman Reid Brignac is in camp with the Astros on a minor league deal. The 31-year-old is close to being done as a major leaguer as he owns a career .219/.264/.309 triple-slash line across parts of nine seasons. In an effort to prolong his big league career, Brignac is now attempting to become a switch-hitter, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports.
I’m going to try it out this year. It was something that I just thought long and hard about and I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to try and see how it goes.’ I used to switch-hit when I was younger off and on, nothing consistent. I could always handle the bat right-handed. I play golf right-handed, so I do a lot of things that way that feel natural.
I just want to get to the point where I’m trying to stay in games, not get pinch-hit for, not starting games because a lefty is starting. … That could help me stay in the games longer. I’m trying to add a new element. I play multiple positions and now if I can switch hit and be consistent at it, then that can only help me.
As Brignac mentions, he’s also verstile. He’s a shortstop by trade, but has also logged plenty of innings at second base and third base, and has occasionally played corner outfield.
There aren’t any examples — at least that I can think of — where players began switch-hitting late in their careers and actually succeeding in the major leagues. As the saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But here’s hoping Brignac bucks the trend.
Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons fell off the map a bit last year due to a combination of the Angels’ mediocrity, Simmons’ lack of offense, and a month-plus of missed action due to a torn ligament in his left thumb.
Simmons is still as good and as smart as ever on defense. That was on full display Monday when the Angels hosted the Padres for an afternoon spring exhibition.
With a runner on first base and nobody out in the top of the second inning, Carlos Asuaje grounded a 2-0 J.C. Ramirez fastball to right field. The runner, Hunter Renfroe, advanced to third base. Meanwhile, Asuaje wandered a little too far off the first base bag. Simmons cut off the throw to first base, spun around and fired to Luis Valbuena at first base. Valbuena swiped the tag on Asuaje for the first out of the inning.