Scenes from Spring Training: Red Sox Nation South Part 3

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Price hand.jpgBack up to the press box, I got my lunch on.  Much more elaborate spread than the Mets or the Twins put out. Lasagna, hot dogs, cold cuts, chicken salad, fresh fruit, cake and all kinds of other stuff. And though I didn’t hang around that long, there was a sign saying that they did a press box dinner too.  Given the amount of copy Red Sox beat writers generate I’m surprised they don’t have breakfast and a room full of cots for allnighters too.

Eventually, a game started.  Some random observations:

  • There were three fans in Rays shirts standing in front of their seats just below the press box,stretching along with the team. They were doing the same drills and everything. And it’s not like it was smartass college kids. It was a woman in her late 50s or early 60s and a guy around my age who was probably her son. Odd;
  • When I got to the press box that morning, all the windows were closed. I assumed at some point people would begin to open the windows so as to, you know, be able to enjoy the weather and listen to the sounds of the game. As the first pitch drew near, however, everyone’s window was still closed.  Given just how many seasoned pros were there I didn’t want to be the first one to open a window. Maybe there was some dumb ritual involved? Protocols beyond my understanding.  A sacred rite of window opening that, should I violate it, would cause unspeakable horrors to be visited upon me. Ah screw it. I opened my window. Then everyone else opened theirs. I tend to over think stuff like that;
  • Garciaparra threw out the first pitch, which was caught by his college and pro teammate, Jason Varitek. It went over the plate and, amazingly, Nomar didn’t rupture or strain anything.  David Laurila of Baseball Prospectus was standing near me when it all went down and he had a great idea: Nomar should have stood at short and made a throw to first base instead.  Assuming he can still make that throw I think it’s an awesome idea.  If anyone who matters in Red Sox Nation is reading this, you should totally do that at Fenway sometime this season;
  • Adrian Belte’s bat broke in the second inning, sending a shard in David Price’s direction. It hit him on the hand and forced him out of the game with an abrasion. BatGlove anyone?
  • Jacoby Ellsbury hit two home runs.  What with all the power I guess it’s safe to say that he’s taking that move to left field to heart;
  • After Ellsbury hit the first one, the PA announcer said “this home run was brought to you by Germain Toyota!”  Germain is actually a Columbus, Ohio-based car dealer, who opened up a Fort Myers branch a few years back.  Earlier in the day I heard a promo on the Ft. Myers NPR station saying that the show was “brought to you by Roetzel & Andress,” which is an Ohio law firm that happens to have a couple of south Florida offices. The main drag through Ft. Myers is called Cleveland Avenue. A half hour north of town there’s an exit off of I-75 for Toledo Blade Blvd., obviously named after the newspaper.  Call me crazy, but I think the Ohio invasion was a success.  Governor Strickland should come down to Tallahassee and accept Charlie Crist’s surrender;
  • Things you forget when it’s been a while since you’ve seen a baseball game in person:  they call it a “base knock” because I’ll be damned if doesn’t sound just like someone knocking on a solid wood door when it’s the ball is hit just right.  So simple. So satisfying.

OK, here’s the Jonny Miller story:  Miller keeps meticulous score during the game. Doesn’t miss a play. Around the fourth inning the Red Sox PR guy comes by and tells Miller that Jon Lester is available for interviews. Miller turns to me and says — doesn’t really ask, just says — “you make sure to keep score for me while I’m gone.”  Despite the fact that I rarely if ever keep score during games, I nodded and said I would.  Crap.

OK, so I start keeping score, utilizing my sloppy, inconsistent system, in smeary pen on the paper score sheet they hand out in the press room.  Miller is gone a long time. Two thirds of the Red Sox half of the third and the entire Rays half of the fourth, during which they sent ten guys to the plate. My score sheet is a complete disaster at this point and there’s no way Miller’s going to be able to follow it.  I can read it, however, so I figure that I’ll just read it back to him when he returns.

Miller comes back and says “hand me your score sheet.”  I tell him it’s hard to read. He either doesn’t hear this or doesn’t care and just repeats “hand me your score sheet.”  I give it to him and nod my head in shame. He starts writing, then stops. Then he just kind of looks at me with an expression that seems to say “kid, you got problems.” He hands it back to me and says, wearily, “just tell me who got the RBIs.”  I only knew this guy for about three hours at this point, but I felt like I was disappointing my father or something.

We parted on a great note, however.  The game was running really long, and since I had to drive up to Bradenton afterward to meet my mother-in-law for dinner, I figured I’d skip the postgame interviews and get on the road early.  As I was packing up, Miller asked me if I was leaving. I explained and he understood.

“Long game today,” he said. “Could go four hours. You’d better go see your mother-in-law.”

“Yeah, just too long for me today,” I said.

“March 8, 1973. Longest spring training game I ever been to,” Miller says. “Red Sox and White Sox in Sarasota.  Twelve innings.”

“That had to be a killer,” I said.

“No. It was great.”

And you can tell by his tone that he truly meant it.  I’ll remember that the next time I’m bitching about a long game.

Chapman has trouble remembering convo with Cubs management about off-field behavior

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CHICAGO — Star closer Aroldis Chapman joined the Cubs on Tuesday, arriving to a mixed reaction in Chicago and saying he couldn’t remember what management told him about off-field expectations and behavior.

After Chapman’s awkward introductory news conference, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein insisted Chapman understands what the Cubs expect of him after an offseason domestic violence incident.

When the Cubs announced the trade with the New York Yankees on Monday, the team released a statement from Chairman Tom Ricketts saying they were aware of his 29-game suspension to begin the season under Major League Baseball’s new domestic violence policy.

Ricketts said he and Epstein talked by phone with Chapman before the deal was completed and “shared with him the high expectations we set for our players,” adding that Chapman was “comfortable” with them.

But when asked repeatedly about that phone conversation before Tuesday’s game against the crosstown White Sox, Chapman said through an interpreter that he couldn’t recall details because he was taking a nap at the time the call came in.

The question was asked several more times. A Cubs spokesman once asked the question himself to the interpreter, coach Henry Blanco.

“It’s been a long day,” Chapman said. “Trying to remember.”

Asked again several minutes later during the group interview if he could now remember what Ricketts said, Chapman shook his head.

“I still don’t remember,” he said in Spanish.

Epstein called it a misunderstanding and that Chapman was “pretty nervous” as he faced seven cameras and more than two dozen reporters.

“I was on the call, Tom was on the call, Aroldis was on the call and Barry Praver, his agent, was on the call. It happened and it was real,” Epstein said before the Cubs’ 3-0 loss to the White Sox.

Chapman was accused of choking his girlfriend and firing eight gunshots in the garage of a Florida home in October. The woman later changed her story and no charges were filed.

“You learn from the mistakes that you make,” Chapman said.

The case caused the Los Angeles Dodgers to back out of an offseason trade for Chapman. Cincinnati eventually traded him to the Yankees, and after his suspension, the 28-year-old Cuban converted 20 of 21 save chances for New York.

The Cubs have long boasted of stocking their roster with high-character players, helping earn the “lovable losers” label they’ve carried for decades since their last World Series title in 1908.

But the Cubs (59-40) have retooled their roster under Epstein and have the best record in the major leagues despite Tuesday’s loss in which Chapman didn’t pitch. Chapman, who threw a 105 mph fastball last week, fills perhaps the team’s largest hole as he replaces Hector Rondon as closer.

The Cubs sent four players to the Yankees, including shortstop prospect Gleyber Torres, to get one of the game’s top relievers. Epstein said they wouldn’t have made the deal if not for the phone call he and Ricketts had with Chapman.

“Tom laid out the exact same standards that he lays out to everyone in spring training,” Epstein said. “He said, extremely clearly, `Look, Aroldis, I tell all the players this in spring training and it’s important you hear it and I need to hear from you on this. We expect our players to behave. We hold our players to a very high standard for their behavior off the field. And we need to know you can meet that standard.’

“Aroldis said `I understand. Absolutely, I can.'”

The Cubs activated Chapman before Tuesday’s game and designated left-hander Clayton Richard for assignment.

Reaction to Chapman’s acquisition in Chicago has been tepid. While there were supportive fans on talk radio, the Chicago Tribune carried a front-page column Tuesday criticizing the move. The back of the Chicago Sun-Times tabloid read “Spin City” over a picture of Epstein.

Chapman said he expected a “good reaction” from Cubs fans. He was also asked during the 20-minute meeting with reporters in the visiting dugout at U.S. Cellular Field if we would consider working with organizations looking to prevent domestic violence. Chapman said no.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon defended Chapman.

“He did do a suspension, he has talked about it, he’s shown remorse,” Maddon said. “Everybody else has the right to judge him as a good or bad person. That’s your right.

I want to get to know Aroldis. I think he could be a very significant member and he’s got the potential, yes, to throw the last out of the World Series. And if he does, I promise you I will embrace him.”

Report: Padres working on trading Andrew Cashner

ST. LOUIS, MO - JULY 21: Starter Derek Norris #3 of the San Diego Padres pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals in the first inning at Busch Stadium on July 21, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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Jon Morosi of FOX Sports and MLB Network reports that the Padres are working to trade starter Andrew Cashner. He notes that a deal may be consummated before he takes the hill for Tuesday’s start in Toronto against the Blue Jays. The Marlins, Orioles, and Rangers have had reported interest in Cashner.

Cashner is 4-7 with a 4.79 ERA and a 61/27 K/BB ratio in 73 1/3 innings. He missed over three weeks between June 11 and July 2 due to a strained neck.

The right-hander is earning $9.625 million this season and will be eligible for free agency after the season.