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Scenes from Spring Training: Camelback Ranch is pretty darn impressive

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Camelback Ranch is a nice joint.  As far as player facilities and overall handsomeness of the place, it may be the best in the entire Cactus League.

Like the Dbacks and Rockies place out at Salt River, Camelback has large buildings behind the left and right field walls for the Dodgers and White Sox, respectively. Inside of each building is everything a training baseball team could want, from meeting rooms to training rooms to a comfortable and well-appointed clubhouse.  The chairs may not be quite as cushy as those in which the Rockies and Dbacks sit, but like I said last week, that may not be an altogether bad thing.

The game doesn’t start for a couple hours so who knows how that rolls yet — and I’m partial to the older, cozy joints for actual in-game experience anyway — but you can’t deny the sheer beauty of this ballpark.  My wife works in the architecture/design industry and this place looks a lot like the covers of the highbrow trade magazines floating around her office. Frank Lloyd Wright-meets-HOK-meets-that nice resort you stayed at in Sedona that year.

But rather than stay in the main part of the park and gawk I strolled over to White Sox Central to see what’s going down. You’ve heard my descriptions of these places all week, so I’ll skew photo tour:

That’s a sorta rare sight: an outfielder — Alejandro De Aza — working out with pitchers Chris Sale and Freddy Dolsi. Usually the pitchers and position players stay pretty separate. Separate lockers, separate stretching groups and everything.

That’s Lucas Harrell getting his pitching in.  I sat and watched him a long damn time. There’s nothing more enjoyable for me than to watch a pitcher throw up close. It’s just satisfying on so many levels. Speaking of throwing, this was overheard a few feet over:

Coach 1: Wait, wasn’t Burls supposed to throw? [meaning Mark Buehrle].

Coach 2: I thought so too, but he came out wearing basketball shoes this morning.

Coach 1: Huh. Guess he ain’t throwin’ this mornin’.

This was fun:

There are approximately 467 workout fields at this joint, but for some reason the Dodgers and White Sox were working out on the same one for a while this morning.  Talking to a guy with the Diamondbacks the other day he said that they see Rockies players so seldomly that he tends to forget they share a home with them.

I probably wasn’t supposed to take this picture — no photos inside the building, the sign says — but I couldn’t resist. The Sox have a long hallway with GIGANTIC photos all up and down it. Photos from the 2005 World Series, Buehrle’s perfecto, and just about anything else you can imagine.  The one in the foreground is a photo of Kenny Williams presenting Obama with a Sox jersey.

This was cool too. It hangs on the wall as you enter the White Sox team offices.  Though I sorta wish it was out someplace in the ballpark.  I bet if you polled 100 fans that only a couple would be able to tell you anything about Charlie Lau, and that’s kind of a shame.  Coaches are probably the most invisible men in baseball history.

Game time — my last game down here this year — is 1PM Mountain time.  I’m gonna go wander.

A Mexican team wins the Caribbean Series for the third time in four years

Mexican players celebrate their victory in the Caribbean Series baseball final against Aragua Tigres of Venezuela, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016. Designated hitter Jorge Vazquez hit a game-winning home run leading off the bottom of the ninth inning Sunday, lifting Mexico's Venados de Mazatlan to a 5-4 come-from-behind victory and the championship of the Caribbean Series. (AP Photo/Roberto Guzman)
Associated Press
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For those who aren’t familiar, Serie del Caribe, or the Caribbean Series, is the highest club level baseball tournament in Latin America, pitting the champions of the winter leagues in Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela against one another in a bacchanalia of baseball that, if there was justice in the world, we’d all be watching instead of football.

This year’s installment ended last night with Mexico’s Mazatlan Venados beating Venezuela’s Aragua Tigres 5-4 in the final game at Estadio Quisqueya in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Jorge Vazquez — who Yankees fans may remember from a few years back — provided the winning margin when he hit a home run to lead off the bottom of the ninth inning.

This is the third Serie del Caribe title for a Mexican club in the past four years, with Naranjeros de Hermosillo winning in 2014 and Yaquis de Obregón winning in 2013. Pinar del Río from Cuba won it last winter. This is the first time the Venados have won it.

As we noted yesterday, this was longtime MLB starter Freddy Garcia‘s last game. He gave up four hits and allowed two earned runs over five and a third innings for the Tigres, getting a no-decision.

Report: Teams reluctant to gamble on Cliff Lee

Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cliff Lee throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park Thursday, July 31, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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In Saturday’s column for the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo suggests that free agent Cliff Lee is seeking a guaranteed major league deal between $6 and $8 million plus incentives. That is turning some otherwise interested teams away, as the lefty is still recovering from a torn flexor tendon in his left elbow. Lee hasn’t pitched since July 31, 2014.

Last month, Lee’s agent Darek Braunecker said the pitcher would need “a perfect fit” to pitch in 2016. He also noted that Lee has begun a full offseason throwing program.

In his most recent season, Lee compiled a 3.65 ERA with 72 strikeouts and 12 walks in 81 1/3 innings for the Phillies. The Phillies had signed him to a five-year, $120 million contract in December 2010 but declined a club option for the 2016 season, instead buying him out for $12.5 million.

Orioles reconsidering signing Yovani Gallardo

Yovani Gallardo
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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In an article for MASN on Friday, Steve Melewski noted that the Orioles were reluctant to forfeit their first round draft pick (14th overall) in order to sign free agent starter Yovani Gallardo. The club is now reconsidering its stance and rechecking the right-handers medicals, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.

Gallardo, who turns 30 on February 27, posted a 3.42 ERA with 121 strikeouts and 68 walks over 184 1/3 innings for the Rangers last season. The Rangers had acquired him in a trade with the Brewers, sending Luis Sardinas, Corey Knebel, and minor leaguer Marcos Diplan to Milwaukee.

Gallardo has posted an ERA below 4.00 in six of his last seven seasons. He remains unsigned into February, however, because his strikeout rate has rapidly decreased with each year since 2012. Per FanGraphs, that rate was 23.7 percent in 2012, then went to 18.6 percent, 17.9 percent, and 15.3 percent progressively. Some of that may have to do with diminishing fastball velocity, as Gallardo’s 90.4 MPH average marked a career low among his eight full seasons with at least 100 innings pitched.

The Orioles lost starter Wei-Yin Chen, who signed with the Marlins, and the back end of their rotation is highly speculative with Kevin Gausman, Mike Wright, Odrisamer Despaigne, and Tyler Wilson. Adding a veteran like Gallardo, even if he is apparently declining, may be stabilizing.

Freddy Garcia is calling it a career

Screenshot 2016-02-07 at 10.16.43 AM
Elsa/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez passes along word from the Dominican Republic that right-hander Freddy Garcia will hang up his cleats for good after Sunday’s Caribbean Series championship game.

Garcia will start that game for the Tigres de Aragua out of Venezuela. He’s taking on Mexico’s Venados de Mazatlan.

“Venezuelan fans are expecting something good from Freddy and so is everybody,” said Tigres de Aragua manager Eddie Perez, who also serves as the bullpen coach for the Atlanta Braves. “Knowing that it’s his last game is going to make it very special. We all hope he pitches a really good game so he can retire in a good way and bring the title for Venezuela. Everybody who is rooting for Venezuela expects him to do well.”

Garcia’s last major league game was in the 2013 postseason. The 39-year-0ld will finish with a 4.15 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 6.4 K/9 in 2,264 career regular-season innings. He had a 3.26 ERA in 11 playoff starts, winning a World Series title with the White Sox in 2005.