Scenes from Spring Training: Red Sox Nation South Part 2

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As I walked down to the field I realized that the fates kept placing me at the park where the biggest news of the day was going down: Nathan’s UCL on Tuesday and Nomar’s retirement on Wednesday.  Upon realizing this I thought that I should charge the other writers $500 a head to hear where I’d be heading today so that they too could be where all the action was.  Then I was humbled:

“Hey! Where you headin’?”

The tone implied that I was not at the friendly Minnesota Twins’ complex anymore.  Not that the person demanding to see my papers and to know my destination was unpleasant with me, exactly. Just far, far more businesslike than what I’d become used to the previous few days. This was all a part of that major league vibe I was talking about, at least compared to the other camps. Whereas at Port St. Lucie and Hammond Stadium you end up seeing the same three smiling employees over and over who quickly come to recognize you and generally leave you alone, City of Palms was crawling with employees checking credentials and making sure you never go where you’re not supposed to go.  I dunno. Maybe they just do it with unfamiliar faces like mine. I mean, I’m guessing they don’t constantly ask to see Amalie Benjamin’s press pass.  Like I said before. I’m kind of an interloper everywhere I go this week.

But regardless of the reason, that vibe continued all morning. You can’t get quite as close to the batting cages in Sox camp as you can elsewhere. You can’t wander quite as far down the lines.  When you start taking pictures of stuff, someone starts watching you a little more closely.  Again, this isn’t unfriendly or anything — it’s not like anyone was ever rude to me — it was just much more, I dunno, formal.

Still, I did manage to wander a bit, and since I’m probably into the tens of thousands of words with these things thus far, how about a nice photo tour?

Maddon Fungo.jpgTito 1B.jpgUnlike La Russa, who couldn’t be bothered, Joe Maddon hit fungoes and Tito Francona played some first base during infield drills.  Hands on managing. I like it.  Know what else I like?  This machine:

fly ball machine.jpgJust a pitching machine set on a higher trajectory for fly ball practice, but there is something immensely satisfying about the “clunk” noise it makes as it shoots each ball into space.  I’d like to get one of these for the home.  Query: would I catch more hell for bringing one of those things home, or two of these things?

Hello girls.jpgYep, Hooters girls, wandering around giving out coupons by yelling “free beer!” to everyone.  This and any number of other promotional activities going on in the concourses are the sorts of things that led to that big league vibe I was talking about. I realize that every ballpark is essentially a giant marketing experience, but it’s taken a bit farther at City of Palms. As too is the Super Fan thing:
 

Cowbell Kid.jpgYeah, this guy is a Rays fan, but there were Sox fans dressed up just as loopy.

And though it’s hard to believe, neither the active managers, the Cowbell Kid, the fly ball machine nor the Hooters girls were the best thing about the pregame at City of Palms.  This was:

Lego Fenway.jpgThat’s right: Lego Fenway Park.  When I get back to Ohio I’m heading straight to the Lego store to buy everything I’ll need for Lego Tiger Stadium.  Then I’ll be heading down to the basement for a while. If you don’t hear from me in two weeks, forward my mail.

Travis d’Arnaud’s position in Wednesday’s box score read “3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B”

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The Mets had to scratch both Jose Reyes and Wilmer Flores an hour before Wednesday’s game against the Yankees due to ribcage injuries, so Travis d'Arnaud — normally a catcher — borrowed David Wright‘s glove and played third base for the first time in his career. He had played some third base in spring training, but as far as an official professional game goes, he’s never been there.

The first two batters the Yankees sent up to the plate in the first inning were left-handed. But when the right-handed Aaron Judge came up, manager Terry Collins swapped second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera with d’Arnaud. It became a thing. The two swapped once more in the first inning, three times in the second, once in the third, five times in the fourth, once in the fifth, three times in the sixth, four times in the seventh, once in the eighth, and twice in the ninth. It worked, as d’Arnaud didn’t have an opportunity to make a play until catching Todd Frazier‘s pop-up for the first out of the ninth inning — as a second baseman. Cabrera had a handful of opportunities, including immediately after having swapped with d’Arnaud.

The Mets lost 5-3. At the plate, d’Arnaud went 0-for-3 with a sacrifice fly. Cabrera was 1-for-4.

Matt Reynolds and Gavin Cecchini are being recalled from Triple-A Las Vegas so the Mets don’t have to do the “3B-2B shenanigans,” as MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo put it, again.

John Lackey stole the first base of his career

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Cubs starter John Lackey stole the first base of his 15-year career on Wednesday against the Reds. Of course, he spent the first 11 and a half years of his career in the American League, where opportunities to bat, let alone attempt to steal a base, were rare. Lackey entered Wednesday having taken 250 plate appearances, reaching base just 31 times on 17 singles, seven doubles, and seven walks for a .134 on-base percentage. One can imagine the 38-year-old is not exactly the swiftest base runner.

Still, Lackey managed to swipe a bag in the fourth inning. He singled with two outs against Homer Bailey. Then, with an 0-1 count on Ben Zobrist, Lackey broke for second even before Bailey began his windup. Tucker Barnhart stood up to alert Bailey that Lackey was running, so Bailey wheeled around and threw to second base, but Lackey slid into the bag easily safe. It wasn’t a pretty slide, but it did the job.

Lackey, however, was picked off of second base by Barnhart later that inning. Bailey threw a 3-2 fastball wide of the strike zone, walking Zobrist. Lackey had wandered too far off of second base, so Barnhart threw behind Lackey and the tag was applied by Zack Cozart. Lackey was called safe initially. The play was reviewed and the ruling on the field was overturned, ending the fourth inning.

Base Ba’al giveth and Base Ba’al taketh away.