Scenes from Spring Training: A decision to make

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Not that there is anything on the planet truly worth complaining about down here in Arizona — life is grand, and don’t think for a moment I have forgotten that — but I do face a bit of a conundrum this morning.  Here’s the entire Cactus League schedule for the day:

  • Rockies vs. Diamondbacks 1:10, Salt River Fields
  • Dodgers vs. Angels, 1:05, Tempe Diablo Stadium
  • Dodgers vs. Giants, 1:05, Scottsdale Stadium

I wouldn’t mind actually watching the Rockies, but I really don’t think I can take a third straight day of the Dbacks.  I do want to see the Dodgers when I’m here. But I was with the Giants at Scottsdale Stadium yesterday, and given that Tempe Diablo Stadium is literally right next to my hotel — like, if walking places was’t a Class A felony in the State of Arizona I could totally hoof it over there — I should probably see the Dodgers-Angels thing.

The only reservation I have is that I tend to think that in doing so I’ll be getting the short end of the Dodgers’ split squad.  Mattingly and his bench coach Trey Hillman will be in Scottsdale.  The group facing the Angels will be run by Albuquerque manager Lorenzo Bundy.  On the bright side, Davey Lopes will be with him, and maybe he’ll go crazy and let everyone steal.

As far as players go, Hiroki Kuroda will pitch here in Tempe, and that’s better than Tim Redding vs. the Giants.  Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier will be here too. Casey Blake, Rafael Furcal and Juan Uribe won’t be in either place because they’re veterans and it’s Saturday and veterans don’t get on buses on Saturday, even in the Cactus League. Frankly, I think this all boils down to the Angels. They’re home and it’s their first day, so they’ll probably have way more starters playing than any of the teams involved.

That cuts it: I’m going down the hill to Tempe Diablo Stadium this morning. And I’m going to walk. I expect the police and several county-employed mental health experts to intercept me on the way, wondering what has gotten into me.

Dispatches from the Dodgers-Angels later today, my friends.

Must-Click Link: “Skunk in the Outfield”

Associated Press
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Sam Miller of ESPN has an amazingly fantastic story today. It’s about a high school tournament baseball game in Rhode Island in 2006. It’s not your typical game story or oral history or look-to-the-past-to-see-the-future kind of thing. The only nod to such conventionality is mention of the fact that former Red Sox prospect Ryan Westmoreland played in the game. That’s mostly a footnote.

No, the article is about a trick play — “skunk in the outfield” — concocted by one of the coaches. About how it played out and what went into it before, during and after it happened. Along the way Miller talks about the nature of trick plays and offers a good three dozen amazing insights into the psychology of young baseball players and the strategy of baseball as it unfolds in real time.

Each of these observations could anchor its own story but here they form a grand mosaic. And that’s only mild hyperbole, if in fact it’s hyperbole at all. Indeed, most treatments of such a play would be some video clip with a “wow, look what happened here!” sort of couching. Miller gives a more than ten-year-old trick play an epic treatment that is every bit as enlightening as it is entertaining.

Set some time aside to read this today.

Rubby De La Rosa to undergo a second Tommy John Surgery

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This is unfortunate: Diamondbacks reliever Rubby De La Rosa will undergo Tommy John surgery. This will be the second Tommy John procedure of his career, the first coming back in 2011.

De La Rosa has had elbow  issues for his entire career. Last year his UCL was barking again and he underwent stem cell therapy to try to avoid a second surgery, but it obviously hasn’t worked out. He’s pitched in only nine games this year, allowing four earned runs in seven and two-thirds innings, striking out 12.

I first saw De La Rosa in spring training in 2011. I thought his stuff was pretty phenomenal and figured he’d be a good one. Great stuff is often a function of heavy strain on an elbow, however, and pitchers breaking is, unfortunately, the rule in baseball far more than the exception.

He’ll miss a year at least. We likely won’t see him until spring of 2019, most likely on a minor league deal.