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Scenes from Spring Training: Boppin’ around the Indians and the Reds

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The Reds and Indians share the Goodyear complex.  The team clubhouses and practice fields are about a half mile down the road from the ballpark. Neither the Reds nor the Indians take their BP or infield in the main park, even on game day, so I’ve spent most of my morning driving and walking long distances around the joint.

It’s quite new — it opened in 2009 — so it’s a lot like the hella-complex out in Salt River Fields in terms of its modernity and conveniences and sheer space.  It does lack that high-polish shine of Salt River, however, and I think in some ways this is a good thing. I still have this lingering feeling that the clubhouses in Salt River are too comfortable. This place seems like a nice balance between the spartan locker rooms of the old places and the VIP lounge-feel the Diamondbacks enjoy.

Or maybe it makes no difference. For what it’s worth, my observation of the Indians’ clubhouse today was that it was young and loose and fun. If the Indians are going to be one of the worst teams in baseball this season, no one has told them about it.  Especially Carlos Santana who, like Pablo Sandoval the other day, was bopping around the place with his headphones on, shirt off, singing and dancing like no one was looking. Must be a catcher/corner infielder thing.

From there I moved a quarter mile further down the road to the Reds’ place. By the time I got there they had left the clubhouse and had made their way out to the practice fields. I stood against a fence near where they were playing long toss.  Ryan Hanigan missed one and it hit me on the arm on one hop. Amateur hour, starring Calcaterra. I may or may not have heard a chuckle from the guy standing next to Hanigan.

That aside — and I can’t talk about it anymore on the advice of my attorney (Ow! Ow! The pain! The suffering!) — the Reds workouts were fun.  Dusty Baker was loose and joking. The Reds beat guys — including Mark Sheldon of MLB.com and John Fay of the Cincy Enquirer — were nice dudes.  The coaches and the team employees were all cool.  Just a relaxed bunch.  But effective. I couldn’t tell you what makes for a crisp set of infield drills vs. a not-so-crisp set, but Baker clapped his hands and yelled “good infield, good infield” after it was over.

Then it was back to the ballpark.  On the way there I decided to study this statue that sits outside in some detail:

I don’t know either.  The plaque at its base says that it’s called “The Ziz,” by Donald Lipski. It also says it’s “named for the giant mythological bird.”  Here’s an explanation of the mythological bird. It’s something out of Jewish mythology. Annie Savoy taught me, however, that there are 108 beads in a Catholic rosary and 108 stitches on a baseball, so at least as far as this statue is concerned I’m all kinds of confused, theologically speaking.

Well, not too concerned, for I have perfected Zen:

Sorry to do that again. It just seemed right. And no, that stuff on my shoe was not anything intended for Dusty Baker. It’s wet warning track clay. I can think of nothing I’d rather have sticking to the bottom of my shoe.

An hour or so until game time.

Joe Panik says he’s “100 percent” recovered from back injury

San Francisco Giants second baseman Joe Panik follows through on a single off Colorado Rockies relief pitcher Scott Oberg in the eighth inning of Game 1 of a baseball doubleheader Saturday, May 23, 2015, in Denver. The Giants won 10-8. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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Giants second baseman Joe Panik missed nearly all of August and September last season due to a nagging back injury, but he told Alex Pavlovic of CSNBayArea.com on Friday that he’s feeling “100 percent.”

Panik, who earned his first All-Star selection last season, originally landed on the disabled list in early August due to what was described as lower back inflammation. He made his return in September, but appeared in just three games before being shut down. The good news is that he was cleared by doctors in mid-December and considers himself “back to normal.”

“It was right around the time of all the signings,” he said, smiling. “I was able to fly under the radar. I got tested and everything had healed up. I got cleared and was able to have my full offseason workouts. I’m good to go. I’m happy to be feeling good and going back out on the field to show that I’m healthy. My swing feels strong.”

Panik altered his offseason workout routine and plans to spend less time in his spikes in the early part of spring training. The hope is that these changes will prevent future issues.

After a strong showing as a rookie in 2014, the 25-year-old Panik proved to be one of the best second baseman in the majors last season by batting .312/.378/.455 with eight home runs and 37 RBI over 100 games while playing solid defense.

Baseball America names Corey Seager as baseball’s top prospect

Los Angeles Dodgers' Corey Seager follows through a single that scored Austin Barnes, in front of Colorado Rockies' Wilin Rosario during the sixth inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)
AP Photo/Danny Moloshok
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Baseball America unveiled their top 100 prospect list Friday night during a special on MLB Network. It should come as no surprise that Dodgers infielder Corey Seager came in at No. 1.

This makes Seager the consensus top prospect in the game. He was also ranked first by MLB.com, Baseball Prospectus, and ESPN’s Keith Law. Twins outfielder Byron Buxton was ranked second on all four lists.

Baseball America has the most aggressive ranking of Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada from the Red Sox, who checked in at No. 3. He was followed by pitching prospects Lucas Giolito from the Nationals and Julio Urias from the Dodgers to round out the top five.

You can see Baseball America’s full top 100 list here.

Jenrry Mejia: “It is not like they say. I am sure that I did not use anything.”

New York Mets' Jenrry Mejia reacts after getting the last out against the Milwaukee Brewers during the ninth inning of a baseball game Friday, July 25, 2014, in Milwaukee. The Mets won 3-2. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)
AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps
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Mets reliever Jenrry Mejia was permanently suspended on Friday after testing positive for a third time for a performance-enhancing drug. The right-hander is maintaining his innocence, as ESPN’s Adam Rubin notes in quoting Dominican sports journalist Hector Gomez. Mejia said, “It is not like they say. I am sure that I did not use anything.”

Mejia has the opportunity to petition commissioner Rob Manfred in one year for reinstatement to Major League Baseball. However, he must sit out at least two years before becoming eligible to pitch in the majors again, which would mean Mejia would be 28 years old.

Over parts of five seasons, Mejia has a career 3.68 ERA with 162 strikeouts and 76 walks over 183 1/3 innings. He was once a top prospect in the Mets’ minor league system and a top-100 overall prospect heading into the 2010 and ’11 seasons.

Bryce Harper on potential $400 million contract: “Don’t sell me short.”

Bryce Harper
AP Photo/Nick Wass
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Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper is at least three years away from free agency, but people are already contemplating just how large a contract the phenom will be able to negotiate, especially after taking home the National League Most Valuable Player Award for his performance this past season.

When the likes of David Price and Zack Greinke are signing for over $200 million at the age of 30 or older, it stands to reason that Harper could draw more as a 26-year-old if he can maintain MVP-esque levels of production over the next several seasons. $400 million might not be enough for Harper, though, as MLB.com’s Jamal Collier reports. He said, “Don’t sell me short,” which is a fantastic response.

During the 2015 season, Harper led the majors with a .460 on-base percentage and a .649 slugging percentage while leading the National League with 42 home runs and 118 runs scored. He also knocked in 99 runs for good measure. Harper and Ted Williams are the only hitters in baseball history to put up an adjusted OPS of 195 or better (100 is average) at the age of 22 or younger.