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.

Yordano Venutra killed in an auto accident

CLEVELAND, OH -  JUNE 2:  Starting pitcher Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals jokes with teammates as he walks off the field after the fifth inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field on June 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Terrible, terrible news: Christian Moreno of ESPN reports that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura has been killed in an automobile accident in the Dominican Republic. His death has been confirmed by police. He was only 25 years-old. There are as of yet no details about the accident.

Ventura was a four-year veteran, having debuted in 2013 but truly bursting onto the scene for the Royals in 2014. That year he went 14-10 with a 3.20 ERA in 183 innings, ascending to the national stage along with the entire Royals team with some key performances in that year’s ALDS and World Series. The following year Ventura won 13 games for the World Champion Royals and again appeared in the playoffs and World Series.

Ventura was often in the middle of controversy — he found himself in several controversies arising out of his habit of hitting and brushing back hitters — but he was an undeniably electric young talent who was poised to anchor the Royals rotation for years to come. His loss, like that of Jose Fernandez just this past September, is incalculable to both his team, his fans and to Major League Baseball as a whole.

Our thoughts go out to his family, his friends, his teammates and his fans.

Report: Tim Lincecum is not ready for retirement

ANAHEIM, CA - JULY 29:  Tim Lincecum #55 of the Los Angeles Angels during the second inning of the game against the Boston Red Sox at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on July 29, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
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Free agent right-hander Tim Lincecum isn’t ready to hang up his cleats just yet. At least, that’s the word from Lincecum’s agent, Rick Thurman, who says the 32-year-old is still “throwing and getting ready for the season” (via Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News).

Lincecum may not be ready to enter retirement, but another quote from Thurman suggests that he’ll be picky about where he pitches next. He doesn’t appear open to pitching overseas, and despite not having a contract for 2017 (or even any serious suitors), the right-hander is set on pitching in the big leagues this year. Whether or not he’s willing to take a bullpen role to do so remains to be seen.

While Baggarly predicts some interest in the veteran righty, there’s not much in Lincecum’s recent history to inspire faith in him as a starter, or even a reliever. He picked up a one-year, $2.5 million contract with the Angels following his hip surgery in 2015, and went 2-6 in 2016 with a 9.16 ERA, 5.4 BB/9 and 7.5 SO/9 over 38 1/3 innings. At this point, a minor league contract seems like the surest path back to major league success, though he’s unlikely to find an open spot on the Giants’ or Angels’ rosters anytime soon.