From Zachary Levine of the Houston Chronicle comes word that the Astros have promoted Tony DeFrancesco from his post as manager of the Triple-A Oklahoma City RedHawks to the position of interim manager at the major league level.
DeFrancesco, who’s never managed in the bigs but served as the A’s third base coach in 2008, is filling the spot left vacant by Brad Mills’ firing. He has not been guaranteed anything beyond the 2012 season but told reporters Sunday morning that he wants to be “the guy who changes the environment out there.”
The Astros have also named Dan Radison as interim first base coach and Ty Van Burkleo as interim hitting coach after firing first base coach Bobby Meachem and hitting coach Mike Barnett alongside Mills late Saturday night. Houston enters play Sunday against the Diamondbacks with an MLB-worst 39-82 record.
All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.
The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.
It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.
It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.
Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉