Fredi Gonzalez is not pleased with two players who didn’t report early

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This isn’t a full-blown Terry Collins situation — Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez didn’t offer a serious tirade or anything — but he made a point to voice his displeasure yesterday about two players who didn’t show up to spring training early: Jordan Schafer and Tyler Pastornicky. Dave O’Brein got Gonzalez’s joking-but-pointed comments:

“We’re waiting for [Pastornicky] again this year.  Schafer probably has a tough time getting travel arrangements. He’s another one I’m going to grab. He only lives two exits up the road here; I haven’t seen him yet … I didn’t know he signed a deal with Frank – he’s got a five-year deal, guarantee to play one of the three outfield spots.”

Position player reporting day was not until today, but Gonzalez went on to say how he told them both that it would be in their best interests to show up early.

Which, yes, it probably would given that neither Schafer nor Pastornicky have secure jobs on the team. I presume that if you or I were in their situation we’d show up early too because we’re sensible folk who don’t like to leave that much to chance.

Still, the shop steward in me bristles when I hear managers going on like this. There’s a reporting date for a reason. If a guy shows up on time, he’s on time. Doing that bare minimum doesn’t make him a great worker. It doesn’t do him any favors. But I’d hope it would exempt him from public reprimand like this.

Why Ryan Zimmerman skipped spring training

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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. 😉