Spring Training trip wrap-up

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Press pass and booze small.JPGMy spring training trip ended with a flight back home yesterday afternoon.  The tale of the tape:

  • Five games, one rainout;
  • One meal with my mother-in-law;
  • One meal with, and four pieces of new media from, Old Gator;
  • A couple dozen awkward conversations with ballplayers who didn’t know me from Adam;
  • A dozen or so conversations with front office/management/PR types, a couple of whom did know me from Adam, but none of whom would tell me all of their deepest, darkest organizational secrets. Yet;
  • Something like 600 miles on the rental Corolla; no sudden accelerations;
  • A serious shortage of fresh vegetables and salads. It’s hard to eat healthy on the road, especially in Florida, especially when you’re in ballparks all the time;
  • A good 15 anecdotes from writers I was told I couldn’t repeat, and a half dozen dirty jokes that I can repeat, but not on this website;
  • A distinct impression that, Joe Nathan’s injury aside, the Twins are going to be pretty good this year;
  • A distinct impression that the Red Sox, Rays and Phillies are going to do more or less what everyone expects of them;
  • A distinct impression that the Pirates may be even worse than people realize, even if they’re a little better off organizationally speaking now that they’ve accepted reality and allowed themselves to hit bottom;
  • A new found appreciation for how tough a job the beat writer has, especially the ones who have to deal with Tony La Russa every day;
  • An affirmation of what I’ve long suspected but never knew for sure before now: watching games from the press box, while interesting, is nowhere near as cool as watching games from the stands or, in some cases, your own living room;
  • An affirmation of what I’ve long suspected and pretty much knew for sure but was glad to have affirmed anyway: watching games from the press box is 100 times better than working in an office;
  • A chance meeting with the son of a famous, now-retired major league umpire, who is absolutely hilarious. The son, I mean. No idea if the umpire is hilarious, though I kinda doubt it.
  • The surprising realization that gang bangs really aren’t all that fun or, to be honest, satisfying.

Most of all, and most importantly, is that I got a much closer look at the way teams prepare and train for games, approach their jobs and execute in an up-close and personal fashion. There are so many little things you see while watching these guys that impact the way you view what they do on the field. No, not nearly as many as some crusty old beat writers will tell you — contrary to what some of them say, you don’t have to be on the field to understand the game — but enough stuff that I think it will better-inform my writing and analysis going forward.

Anyway, it was a good week. Hope you enjoyed the dispatches from the road. Assuming the content and sheer size of my reimbursement requests to NBC don’t get me fired, maybe we’ll do this from Arizona next spring.

And That Happened: Monday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

White Sox 7, Twins 6; Twins 10, White Sox 2: The Sox and Twins cancel each other’s win out in this twin-bill. Yolmer Sanchez homered and drove in four runs and Jose Abreu went deep in the first game, as Jorge Polanco hit a three-run homer in a losing cause. In the nightcap Jorge Polanco hit a three-run homer in a winning cause. Brian Dozier hit a three-run homer as well, while  Byron Buxton and Jason Castro each added a solo shot. The Twins have won five of six.

Orioles 7, Athletics 3: Adam Jones hit a pair of solo home runs, scored three times and went 4-for-4 on the evening while Jonathan Schoop added a three-run homer. Boog Powell hit a homer for the A’s. It was the first homer of his career, but the 134th time any Boog Powell hit a homer in Baltimore. The last time: September 28, 1974.

Dodgers 6, Pirates 5: Curtis Granderson hit a grand slam in the Dodgers’ five-run seventh — it was his second salami in the space of a week, one with the Mets, one with the Dodgers — and Yasiel Puig hit a solo homer in the 12th inning that put the Dodgers over. The Pirates have lost seven of nine.

Indians 5, Red Sox 4: Cleveland wins on a walkoff bunt from Roberto Perez + a Brock Holt throwing error trying to get the runner at third. That led to a celebration for Cleveland, but there was much to worry about too, as ace reliever Andrew Miller flashed low velocity before leaving with patella tendinitis in his right knee.

Diamondbacks 3, Mets 2: It was 1-1 after regulation but A.J. Pollock hit a two-run homer in the top of the tenth, which was better than Michael Conforto‘s solo shot in the bottom half, giving Arizona the win. There were 12 pitchers used in this game, obscuring the fact that Arizona’s Taijuan Walker (5.1 IP, 7 H, 0 ER) and New York’s Robert Gsellman (6.1 IP, 5 H, 1 ER) pitched pretty darn well.

Mariners 6, Braves 5: Andrew Albers got the win — his second in a week after going four years since his last one — and he also (all together now) helped his own cause with an RBI on an infield single. Two sac bunts too, which is a pretty dang good day for an AL pitcher in an NL park. All the nicer that he did it against Atlanta, whose minor league system he had been in all season before an August 11 trade to Seattle. He pitched well there too, so you can imagine he wanted to show them.

Rangers 5, Angels 3: Cole Hamels allowed two runs on three hits over seven and Adrian Beltre hit a three-run homer. The loss dropped the Angels a half-game back of Minnesota for the second AL Wild Card. The Rangers are in the mix too, and they closed to within two games of the final spot. It’s pretty much chaos, however, as eight teams are within four games of each other in Wild Card contention. It’s gonna be a cluster for a good three weeks I suspect. Maybe longer.

Giants 2, Brewers 0: Chris Stratton and three relievers — one of which was Matt Cain, which is hard to get used to seeing in a box score — shut out the Brewers. Stratton’s six shutout innings added to six and two-thirds shutout innings in his previous start to give him a nice little streak. He only struck out one, however, which seems like a violation of the laws of physics in 2017.

Andrew Miller left Monday’s game due to reaggravation of patella tendinitis

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Indians reliever Andrew Miller lasted only six pitches in Monday night’s appearance against the Red Sox. He walked Mookie Betts on six pitches before being relieved by Dan Otero. Per MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian, Miller reaggravated the patella tendinitis in his right knee.

Miller, 32, missed a couple of weeks earlier this month with patella tendinitis. He was activated last Friday and got two outs in a scoreless appearance against the Royals that night.

Bastian pointed out that Miller’s velocity has been lower than usual. He averaged 92.1 MPH on his fastball on Friday and 90.1 MPH on Monday, well below his normal average around 94 MPH.

The Indians should have more on Miller’s status after Monday’s game or on Tuesday. The lefty is carrying a 1.65 ERA with a 79/16 K/BB ratio in 54 2/3 innings on the season.