A's eqipment bag

Scenes from Spring Training Coco Crisp is an anti-baldite too

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Yeah, it’s another equipment bag shot. At this point I probably need an intervention. If you see me out someplace, kneeling on a warning track, squaring up a photo of an equipment bag on the grass, you are authorized to knock me over and take my camera away from me.

I’m at Phoenix Municipal Stadium to catch the Reds-A’s game today. As I mentioned earlier, it’s Yoenis Cespedes Day, but I was looking forward to it anyway because I like this place. I dig the extremely municipal touches like the large, featureless parking lot and the pedestrian bridge over the road to the park. I dig the poured concrete columns and roof over the press box. I dig the 1960s design flourishes. If the “Mad Men” people wanted to put in some Phoenix-in-March subplot, they could film here and all they’d have to do is to cover up the electronic scoreboard.

The clubhouse was fun this morning. Manny Ramirez walked in right after I did. His locker, by the way, is two down from Cespedes’ locker, so I’m guessing the A’s are making sure Cespedes has a strong mentor and spiritual guide as he enters the big leagues.

I went over to talk to Manny, hoping that it would be as interesting as some of his past chats. I chickened out on the surrealism, though, and decided to ask him some basic stuff. For example, how he feels after a couple weeks of workouts following what amounted to a year off:

Me: Do you feel close to where you were in past seasons at this point, or is there still some rust?

Manny: Well, it’s like my dad says, ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day.’

I’m going to assume that Manny thinks his dad invented that phrase. It makes me happy to think that.

I wandered around a bit more. Coco Crisp walked toward me, smiling. He said “bald must be the hot new hair style for you guys. Everyone here is wearing it.” I looked around and saw Danny Knobler of CBS Sports.com, who is bald. There were a couple other bald reporters in there too.  Crisp had a point.  But really, between him and Bastian’s taunting, I’m just gonna start wearing hats when I leave the house.

Other notable stuff:

  • Jonny Gomes was talking to a player I didn’t know. He was claiming — in a bad Spanish accent — that henceforth he shall be known as “Juan Gomez.”  Something tells me that’s not gonna stick;
  • For the entire hour I was in the clubhouse, Cesepedes sat in front of his locker. He occasionally talked to an older guy who I assume is his translator, and he talked with Manny a bit, but he didn’t really mix. Big day for him. You can never really tell just by looking at someone, and it’s possible that he is just a shy guy, but I got the sense that maybe he’s a bit nervous.
  • It was apparently free gear day today, as there was a rep from Nike there with a big box of sunglasses, passing them out to the players. There was also a glove guy showing off his wares to Kurt Suzuki and breaking in gloves for other players who kept coming by.  Outside the clubhouse they had set up a table with catalogs and samples of clothes. Baseball players get all kinds of cool perks.
  • Above Wes Timmons’ locker were taped two baseball cards. One was Josh Reddick. The other was Chipper Jones. Timmons wasn’t there, so I have no idea why he had those two. Jones might make sense as a mentor as Timmons was in the Braves organization forever. But really, this is the kind of thing that is gonna bug me for a while.

Maybe I can track him down now, as the A’s have left the clubhouse and are out doing their stretching and stuff.  I’ll check back in later.

Cubs, Jake Arrieta avoid arbitration at $10.7 million

Jake Arrieta
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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The Associated Press is reporting that the Cubs and starter Jake Arrieta have avoided arbitration, agreeing to a $10.7 million salary for the 2016 season. That marks the highest salary on a one-year deal for a pitcher with four years of service, the AP notes. Arrieta and the Cubs were set to go before an independent arbitrator but now can simply focus on the season ahead.

Arrieta, 29, is in his second of three years of arbitration eligibility. He had filed for $13 million while the Cubs countered at $7.5 million. The $5.5 million gap was the largest among players who did not come to terms with their respective teams by the January deadline. The $10.7 million salary is $450,000 above the midpoint between the two submitted figures.

Arrieta won the National League Cy Young Award for his performance this past season, narrowly edging out Zack Greinke, then with the Dodgers. Arrieta led the majors with 22 wins, four complete games, and three shutouts. With that, he compiled a 1.77 ERA and a 236/48 K/BB ratio across 229 innings.

Once a top prospect in the Orioles’ minor league system, Arrieta struggled in the majors but found immediate success with the Cubs in 2013 after the O’s traded him along with Pedro Strop in exchange for Steve Clevenger and Scott Feldman.

Giants sign Conor Gillaspie to a minor league deal

Los Angeles Angels third baseman Conor Gillaspie is unable to hold on to the ball after catching a grounder hit by Kansas City Royals' Lorenzo Cain in the fourth inning of a baseball game at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., Friday, Aug. 14, 2015. (AP Photo/Colin E. Braley)
AP Photo/Colin E. Braley
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Per Baseball America’s Matt Eddy, the Giants have signed infielder Conor Gillaspie to a minor league deal. Gillaspie was selected by the Giants in the supplemental round of the 2008 draft, then was traded to the White Sox in February 2013.

Gillaspie, 28, hit a meager .228/.269/.359 with four home runs and 24 RBI in 253 plate appearances between the White Sox and Angels during the 2015 season. Almost all of his playing time has come at third base but he can also play first base if needed.

The Giants, thin on depth, will allow Gillaspie to audition in spring training for a spot on the 25-man roster.

Joe Nathan plans to pitch in 2016

Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Joe Nathan throws against the Chicago White Sox in the ninth inning of a baseball game in Detroit Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
AP Photo/Paul Sancya
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Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that free agent reliever Joe Nathan, recovering from Tommy John surgery, plans to pitch in 2016 according to his agent Dave Pepe. According to Pepe, Nathan’s workouts are “going well” and the right-hander is “definitely planning on playing this year.”

Nathan, 41, got the final out on Opening Day (April 6) against the Twins before going on the disabled list with a flexor strain in his right elbow, causing him to miss the next 161 games. He will likely be able to contribute out of the bullpen in late May or early June if he has no setbacks. On a minor league deal or incentive-laden major league deal, Nathan could make for a low-risk gamble.

Over a 15-season career that dates back to 1999 (he did not pitch in the majors in 2001 or 2010), Nathan has 377 saves with a 2.89 ERA and a 967/340 K/BB ratio over 917 innings.

The Rays are considering reliever Tyler Clippard

New York Mets pitcher Tyler Clippard throws during the eighth inning of Game 4 of the National League baseball championship series against the Chicago Cubs Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
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On Thursday, we learned that the Diamondbacks were still considering free agent reliever Tyler Clippard. You can add the Rays to the list as well, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.

The Rays traded lefty reliever Jake McGee to the Rockies in exchange for outfielder Corey Dickerson in late January, so Clippard would be able to slot right in behind closer Brad Boxberger. Clippard, 30, compiled a 2.92 ERA with 64 strikeouts and 31 walks over 71 innings in a season split between the Athletics and Mets. The strikeout rate was at its lowest since the right-hander become a full-time reliever in 2009, and his walk rate was at its highest since 2010, which may be a factor in his still being a free agent in February.