Former Royals manager Trey Hillman was on WHB radio in Kansas City over the weekend talking about the end of his tenure with the Royals. I thought Hillman’s words, upon being asked how it felt to manage his last game despite knowing he had already been fired, were rather sweet and poignant:
The thing that kept clicking in my mind was the appreciation that I
had for the opportunity in the first place, looking around the stadium,
the appreciation for the big league atmosphere. It was a perfect day
for it to be kid’s day out there quite frankly. I mean there is a
little irony there because having grown up in Arlington, Texas, and
having an opportunity to grow up in a major league ballpark and still at
forty-seven years old a major league manager and remembering the
excitement of being at a ballpark and how oblivious I was as a kid on
most days I was competitive and most days it was the enjoyment of being
at the ballpark. I didn’t really care whether our team won or not. I
was there to support them whether they won or they lost. It was an
appreciation that I have gotten to do what I have done for the last
twenty years in little, bitty A-ball towns, and AA venues and AAA across
the ocean in Japan and certainly here in Kansas City.
Hillman’s words put me in mind of a post from River Ave. Blues’ Benjamin Kabak last month, in which he introduced the concept of “Zen Baseball.” I don’t know that I’d recommend that the manager of a Major League baseball team approach the game from such a mindset, but it’s kind of nice that Hillman got to go out with the pleasant feeling of a (relatively) stress-free day at the park as oppposed to a quick meeting in the GMs office and a quick exit out the back door.
The San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser reports that Athletics’ right-hander Sonny Gray will not pitch in the World Baseball Classic after failing to meet the necessary criteria for insurance coverage. He missed 70 days on the disabled list with forearm tightness and a back strain in 2016.
According to Oakland GM David Forst, Major League Baseball tried to persuade the insurance carrier to waive the requirements for Gray to pitch for Team USA, but the request was ultimately refused. Without coverage, Gray will be unable to participate in the competition, though Forst adds that the 27-year-old is still in perfect health as Opening Day approaches and should benefit from a slower spring training schedule without the added commitment on his plate.
Injuries complicated a down year for Gray, who pitched to a career-worst 5.69 ERA, 3.2 BB/9 and 7.2 SO/9 rate through 117 innings in 2016. His 1.4 HR/9 and 17.8% HR/FB rates suggested that he felt the effects of the home run spike more than most, capping a disappointing follow-up to his All-Star campaign during 2015.
While Gray works up to a healthy and productive start to the 2017 season, the Athletics will still see two players on WBC rosters next month: right-handed reliever Santiago Casilla, who is scheduled to pitch for the Dominican Republic, and fellow righty John Axford, for Team Canada.
Rangers’ outfielder Josh Hamilton is scheduled for another knee exam on Monday, according to Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Hamilton left camp last week after feeling some pain in his left knee and received a PRP injection to alleviate the symptoms. Wilson notes that both Dr. Walt Lowe and Rangers’ assistant general manager Mike Daly noticed little improvement in the days following the injection.
More drastic measures could be necessary if the 35-year-old intends to return to the field this year. MLB.com’s TR Sullivan adds that the Rangers are considering arthroscopic surgery for Hamilton, which would set him back at least 4-6 weeks and eliminate any real chance of his making the Opening Day roster in April. Until they see the results of the surgery, however, the Rangers won’t rule out Hamilton’s potential return to the big leagues in 2017.
Hamilton is looking at his third major procedure since the end of the 2015 season. He missed all of the Rangers’ 2016 campaign after undergoing reconstructive knee surgery last spring and has not seen a full workload in the majors since his 2013 run with the Angels. Should he make a full recovery this season, he figures to see some time at first base/DH or the corner outfield.