Willie Mays

Scenes from Spring Training: Hall of Famers out the wazoo

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The original plan was to head out for the Dodgers-Cubs tilt. But as I was considering it last night I decided that I just wasn’t in the mood. I didn’t want to go clear out to Glendale, I wanted to go to a park with character and not one of the new mega-complexes and I didn’t want to have to think too hard about McCourt stuff, because that’s just depressing. So I called the audible and decided to come to Scottsdale for the M’s-Giants.

It was a good call, because I got to meet Gaylord Perry, Willie Mays and Ernie Banks, all before 9AM. Holy Hall of Famers, Batman!

These legends were just sitting in the Giants clubhouse, reading newspapers and shooting the breeze. I talked to Perry for a while and then just listened to the others. You’ll note that Willie Mays had prime rib last night. It was “not bad.”

A few minutes later Giants announcer Jon Miller came in, and some actual baseball talk went down. Miller was a fountain of facts and figures, asking Perry and Mays if they remember such-and-such a game from 1960-something.  Perry was as sharp as a tack, remembering details like the 23-inning, seven-hour plus game in 1964 where Mays played three innings of shortstop against the Mets while Perry pitched ten innings of shutout ball in relief, getting the win.

I’m guessing that game stands out, so maybe remembering it wasn’t that big a deal. But standing right there while Perry talked about it, Mays added some details, and Ernie freakin’ Banks just nodded and enjoyed the story is one of the highlights of my baseball life.

Standing near me, also soaking it in, was Dave Dravecky. I walked over to him and joked about it just being another boring day in the clubhouse. He laughed, but then got serious and marveled at how awesome it is to have this sort of thing go down and how fortunate the younger players are to have resources like Mays and Perry just sitting there, drinking coffee and standing ready to talk baseball.

I’ll try to get a pic of those guys when they’re wandering around later, but I really wish there wasn’t a firm no-photos-in-the-clubhouse rule, because seeing them just sitting there was a sight to behold.  And one I’ll never, ever forget.

Seung-Hwan Oh finally receives his work visa, will be on time for Cardinals camp

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At last check, new Cardinals reliever Seung-Hwan Oh was still awaiting a work visa from the United States Embassy in South Korea and there was some worry that he might not be able to arrive on time to spring training in Jupiter, Florida.

But that is now officially a non-story.

Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Oh has recieved his work visa and is expected to report to Cardinals camp next week along with the rest of the club’s pitchers and catchers. Oh might even show up a bit earlier than the Cardinals originally asked him to, per Goold.

Oh saved 357 games in 11 seasons between Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball and the Korea Baseball Organization before inking a one-year contract with St. Louis this winter. He also registered a stellar 1.81 ERA and 772 strikeouts across 646 total innings in Asia, earning the nickname “The Final Boss.”

Oh is expected to work in a setup role this year for Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal.

John Lamb had back surgery in December, will likely get off to late start in 2016

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John Lamb was part of the Reds’ return package in last July’s Johnny Cueto trade and he had a strong showing at the Triple-A level in 2015. But the young left-hander posted a 5.80 ERA in a 10-start cup of coffee with Cincinnati late last season — his first 10 appearances as a major leaguer — and now comes word from MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon that Lamb will probably have to get off to a late start in 2016.

Lamb underwent surgery in December to repair a herniated disc in his back — a surgery that went unreported by the Reds until Tuesday afternoon. Reds manager Bryan Price acknowledged on MLB Network that Lamb is behind the team’s other starting pitchers and will likely open the coming season on the disabled list. The hope is that he might be ready by mid-April.

It’s a small but frustrating blow for a rebuilding Reds team that will be looking to establish some foundational pieces in 2016. Once he is recovered, Lamb will be expected to fill the Reds’ fifth rotation spot behind Raisel Iglesias, Anthony DeSclafani, Brandon Finnegan, and Michael Lorenzen.

This is going to be an ugly year for Cincinnati baseball fans.

Yu Darvish will report to spring training on time, hopes to begin mound work in March

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Rangers ace Yu Darvish missed the entire 2015 season after undergoing Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery last March 17. Most starting pitchers take 13-15 months to fully recover from that procedure, and the Rangers aren’t counting on Darvish until sometime this May.

His rehab so far has gone on without issue.

Darvish offered some very positive updates Tuesday to Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram …

Darvish, 29, boasts a 3.27 ERA and 1.196 WHIP in 83 career major league starts. He can also claim a whopping 680 strikeouts in 545 1/3 career major league innings.

Texas has him under contract for $10 million in 2016 and $11 million in 2017.

Masahiro Tanaka throws off mound for first time since October elbow surgery

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According to the Associated Press — via Chad Jennings of The Journal News — Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka threw off a bullpen mound Tuesday for the first time since undergoing a cleanup procedure on his right elbow last October.

The throwing session took place in New York, and Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild later told the media in Tampa that all of the reports he heard were good.

Tanaka might be behind some of the Yankees’ other pitchers when spring training officially begins, but he should be ready for the start of the 2016 regular season.

The 27-year-old native of Japan posted a 3.51 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, and 139/27 K/BB ratio across 154 innings last season for New York. He owns a 3.16 ERA (123 ERA+) in 290 1/3 innings since becoming a major leaguer in 2014.

Tanaka is still pitching with a partially-torn ligament in his right elbow that could eventually require Tommy John reconstructive surgery. His surgery last October was of the arthroscopic variety and simply removed bone spurs.