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.

Julio Urias to undergo season-ending shoulder surgery

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The news has gone from bad to worse for Dodgers’ left-hander Julio Urias, who is scheduled for anterior capsule surgery on his left shoulder next Tuesday and expected to be sidelined through the middle of the 2018 season. His MRI came back negative on Wednesday, giving the Dodgers some hope that the 20-year-old’s bout of shoulder inflammation wasn’t masking any structural damage, but the pain lingered several days later and prompted further concern from the club. The procedure will be performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache.

Urias was optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City in late May and placed on the disabled list with left shoulder discomfort several weeks into his assignment. At the major league level, he owned a 5.40 ERA, 5.4 BB/9 and 4.2 SO/9 through 23 1/3 innings, going 0-2 in five starts with Los Angeles. He made a brief rebound in Triple-A, posting three wins and striking out 17 of 67 batters in 17 1/3 innings before landing on the DL.

It’s a tough blow for the southpaw, who had yet to hit his stride in the majors before getting sidelined with shoulder issues. The Dodgers were especially mindful of this outcome for Urias, and had taken preventative measures to protect his arm by establishing a strict innings limit last season. According to club president Andrew Friedman, there’s a small silver lining here: while Urias’ injury will keep him out of work for at least 12 months, he doesn’t appear to have sustained any damage to his labrum or rotator cuff, and could be facing a much more streamlined recovery process as a result. Whether he’ll be able to rebound once he takes the mound again remains to be seen.

Tigers release Francisco Rodriguez

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Tigers’ right-handed reliever Francisco Rodriguez was released on Friday, per a team announcement. The club recalled fellow right-hander Bruce Rondon from Triple-A Toledo in a corresponding move.

The former closer got the boot after losing his closing role in early May, giving left-hander Justin Wilson a chance to impress at the back end of the bullpen. It’s been a rough year for Rodriguez, who manufactured six blown saves and a 7.82 ERA, 3.9 BB/9 and 8.2 SO/9 over 25 1/3 innings for the Tigers. The final straw, it seemed, came with Robinson Cano‘s grand slam in the seventh inning of the Tigers’ 6-9 loss to the Mariners on Thursday.

While the demotion to a clean-up role and an apparent lack of communication caused Rodriguez considerable frustration, he’s two years removed from his last dominant performance as a major league closer and has shown few signs of returning to form. His recent slump doesn’t diminish the impressive totals he’s racked up over his 16-year career — 437 saves and six All-Star nominations among them — but if he can’t break out of it soon, he may not receive the kind of high leverage role he’s seeking with another big league team, either.