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Two Days in the Valley

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It was a pretty full weekend in Arizona. And yes, I took that picture of Matt Harrison. Kinda proud of it.

I left Tempe Diablo Stadium on Friday afternoon and decided to get some food and a drink. I ended up getting that plus a poor man’s Raymond Carver story out of it, so that was good. You’ll have to read all of that to appreciate it, but it was the first time I’ve ever had a date to go to a baseball game blown off in favor of a Popeye the Sailor man tattoo, but that’s where we are.

My girlfriend flew in for a quick weekend getaway on Friday night. When she landed I broke that diet you guys are sick of hearing about in order to make an In-n-Out Burger pilgrimage because you sort of have to do that even if you’re trying not to die of a heart attack in your 40s. It won’t help it, but you sorta have to do it.

Saturday we headed out to Salt River Fields at Talking Stick to take in a game as fans rather than media. Since it was a Diamondbacks game we amped up the grit factor by eating dirt, rocks and gravel for breakfast. Then we ran through a brick wall. We hoped that that demonstration of gamer-ship would keep Kirk Gibson and Kevin Towers from having security throw us out.

Salt River Fields is fantastic. Kinda on the cushy side, even, which probably pisses off Gibson to no end.

Gibson: I’d like to take out the overhangs which provide shade from the desert sun and replace the molded plastic seats with small boulders.

Owner Ken Kendrick: Kirk, please, keep the grittiness to the roster. The fans have to have some luxuries. This is Arizona. Many of them are older.

Gibson: [under his breath] Turnin’ our fans into a bunch of pampered Uptons …

There were over 12,000 in attendance that day but it didn’t feel half again as crowded as some of the older parks feel when they’re packed with 7,000-8,000 fans. It’s practically a major league park. I suppose it’s inevitable that the places will get nicer and nicer as time marches on, but it’s almost disorienting going from that sort of place to, say, Phoenix Municipal, which is how the Soviets would build their stadiums if they had the good sense to like baseball. Oh well.

The game itself was pretty par for the course in early spring training: lots of errors, base running mistakes and at bats which looked a little less-than-planned-out, both from the hitters’ and the pitchers’ perspectives. The highlight of the game for me was messing with the Diamondbacks’ Vice President of Communications, Josh Rawitch:

source:

I guess I wasn’t technically “messing with” Josh. Because I really was stealing the press box Wi-fi.

Random observations from the game, which pitted the Grit-Meisters against the Texas Rangers:

  • Lance Berkman was the leadoff hitter for the Rangers. He didn’t attempt to steal, but he drew a pickoff throw from Wade Miley while on second base. Spring training is cool.
  • In the space of a few short minutes Martin Prado made a bad throw from left field and Randall Delgado got knocked around a bit and looked kinda sloppy. I guess the Braves win the Justin Upton trade.
  • Kila Ka’aihue came to the plate for the Diamondbacks. Kila Ka’aihue? On the Dbacks? Who knew?
  • I watched Nate Robertson warm up in the Rangers’ bullpen for a while. Over the winter we heard about how he was coming back and how a big part of that comeback was him developing a sidearm motion that was totally different than anything he did before.   After warming up he flashed that sidearm action for several pitches in the pen. It looked good too. Then he went into the game and threw his old overhead business. I guess he doesn’t trust it yet. I’m going to Rangers camp today and I’m gonna ask him about it.
  • Oh, and some skeezeoid hit on my girlfriend:

All-in-all a pretty good day at the park.

I woke up yesterday, read a bunch of weapons-grade stupid from a guy who should know better, and then headed out to Camelback Ranch to take in the Dodgers and Indians.

I like Camelback well enough as a media member, but as a fair skinned person of mostly British/Irish extraction, seeing a game as a fan there is akin to a death sentence given the lack of shade in that place.  Unlike just about every other park in Arizona, it faces south-southeast instead of northeast, which means that the roof of the grandstand provides almost no shade. I have no idea why they built it that way, but they did. We lucked out in that it was pretty cloudy yesterday, but I’d like to hear the explanation for that design choice.

Random things from the Dodgers and Indians:

  • On the way to the park Allison and I wondered who was pitching and each of us agreed that we didn’t care as long as it wasn’t Josh Beckett because he’s a drag to watch pitch. It was Josh Beckett.
  • The Dodgers play a bad cover version of “Centerfield” before the game. It was the only time in my life I’ve pined for John Fogerty’s version.
  • Michael Bourn and Jason Kipnis were the only two bona fide regulars in the Indians lineup. I know that veterans usually don’t travel, but I’ve seen split squad games with a better showing than that. I guess everyone else got Sunday off.
  • Jason Giambi was there, however, DH-ing. I tried my best to relish his plate appearances because I think there’s a non-trivial chance he never gets another regular season at bat in the bigs. This really could be it for him, which is kind of sad. UPDATE: Or not. What do I know?
  • Matt Kemp’s bat shattered and a shard of it stuck in the ground like a javelin or something:

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Kinda scary. We’re gonna have another player impaled by a bat one of these days.

  • Yasiel Puig came in late in the game and hit a three-run homer. And it wasn’t a cheapie. He tattooed the ball. I’ve seen him play three times in five days now and I have been impressed. He’s raw and all of that but boy howdy I can’t wait to see more of him.
  • Late in the game someone hit a foul ball and it went back into the open window of Ned Colletti’s box. Colletti retrieved the foul ball and gave it to a fan. Then Colletti gave the fan three years, $30 million. The Dodgers, man.

With the game over I put my girlfriend on a plane and then went and climbed a butte. Mostly because “butte” is a funny word. Say it. Tell me it’s not funny.

This morning I’m off to Surprise to see the Rangers and Padres. Surprise being approximately three miles east of Los Angeles, it may take me a while to get there.

James Shields lasts only 2 2/3 innings, gives up 10 runs to the Mariners

SEATTLE, WA - MAY 31:  Starting pitcher James Shields #33 of the San Diego Padres pitches against the Seattle Mariners in the first inning at Safeco Field on May 31, 2016 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
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James Shields has had better afternoons. The Padres’ starter couldn’t make it out of the third inning on Tuesday, ultimately serving up 10 runs on eight hits and four walks with one strikeout in 2 2/3 innings. The Mariners plated one run in the first inning, six in the second, and three in the third against Shields.

The runs came via, in order: a Kyle Seager RBI single, a bases loaded walk to Robinson Cano, a Nelson Cruz two-run single, a three-run Seager home run, and a three-run Seth Smith home run. Things continued to get worse once Shields left, as reliever Luis Perdomo gave up a two-run home run to Franklin Gutierrez in the fourth to make it 12-0. In the fifth, Smith homered again with the bases empty, and Adam Lind later drilled a three-run shot, pushing the score to 16-0.

The White Sox were reportedly discussing a trade involving Shields with the Padres as recently as Sunday. Shields entered Tuesday’s start with a 3.06 ERA and a 56/23 K/BB ratio in 64 2/3 innings. Presumably, a team wouldn’t let one start affect its interest in a player, but Shields’ outing certainly doesn’t help.

Atlanta Braves trade reliever Jason Grilli to the Toronto Blue Jays

ATLANTA, GA - MAY 28: Jason Grilli #39 of the Atlanta Braves throws an eighth inning pitch against the Miami Marlins at Turner Field on May 28, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
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Multiple reporters including Robert Murray of Baseball Essential, Mark Bowman of MLB.com and David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution report that the Atlanta Braves are trading reliever Jason Grilli to the Toronto Blue Jays for a prospect. Murray says the prospect is minor league reliever Sean Ratcliffe

Grilli is having a subpar year but was a more or less effective closer last season. For 2016 he’s got a 5.29 ERA in 21 appearances and has a K/BB ratio of 23/13 in 17 innings. Nice strikeout total, but oof those walks. Last year he saved 24 games for a bad Braves team and posted a 2.94 ERA, struck out batters at the same rate and walked many fewer. Maybe a change of scenery and an adjustment would do him good.

Ratcliffe was an 18th round pick in 2013 for Toronto. He has only played in rookie ball and low A. He hasn’t pitched yet in 2016. Nothing in his previous three seasons shouts “great prospect” but you never know.

Jose Bautista: Rougned Odor “tried a hundred percent to hit me in the face.”

ARLINGTON, TX - MAY 15:  Adrian Beltre #29 of the Texas Rangers holds Jose Bautista #19 of the Toronto Blue Jays after being punched by Rougned Odor #12 in the eighth inning at Globe Life Park in Arlington on May 15, 2016 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista is still convinced that Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor was “looking for a fight” on May 15, when the two teams butted heads at Globe Life Park. Bautista also believes he deserves credit for not hurting Odor.

Ostensibly, the Rangers were still salty about Bautista’s bat flip during the ALDS last year. In the last game of the series — and the clubs’ last regular season meeting — on May 15, pitcher Matt Bush hit Bautista in the ribs with a fastball. When Justin Smoak hit a ground ball prime for a double play attempt, Bautista slid hard into Odor receiving the feed at second base. Odor then punched Bautista cleanly in the face, and the benches emptied.

Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated has the quotes:

“Was [Odor] out to play baseball that day? Maybe partly,” Bautista told Verducci. “Part of me also thinks that he was looking for a fight.”

[…]

“I could have hit him,” Bautista said. “I could have hurt him. I chose not to. My cleats were down. I slid through the bag. Was it late? Yes, a hundred percent. But what can I do after they hit me? Should I ask my manager to let me pitch, which he is never going to let me do? Like, what am I supposed to do? Just sit there and take it?”

[…]

“I’ve been playing baseball for a long time,” Bautista said. “I know exactly what he was trying to do when he threw the ball. He tried a hundred percent to hit me in the face. And it’s not the first time he’s done it against me or some of my teammates. And there’s video to prove that.”

Bautista received a one-game suspension which was upheld upon review. Odor’s eight-game suspension was reduced to seven games which Bautista believes was “unfounded” and “unfair.”

What’s on Tap: Previewing Tuesday’s action

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 25: Starting pitcher Steven Matz #32 of the New York Mets works the first inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on May 25, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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Welcome back to normalcy. Most of us were treated to a three-day holiday weekend for Memorial Day. Hopefully you spent it doing what makes you happy.

We have two afternoon starts today between the Astros and Diamondbacks, and the Padres and Mariners. The focus tonight will be on the fading White Sox, losers of seven consecutive games. They lost three out of four to the Indians, were swept by the Royals in heartbreaking fashion, and lost Monday’s series opener to the Mets behind seven shutout frames from the struggling Matt Harvey.

In tonight’s 7:05 game at Citi Field, the White Sox have to contend with Steven Matz, who has been nothing short of brilliant in eight starts this season. The lefty owns a 2.36 ERA with a 50/9 K/BB ratio in 49 2/3 innings. In a rotation that has heavy star power in Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, and Jacob deGrom, it’s easy to overlook Matz. Meanwhile, the White Sox will counter with Mat Latos. Latos got off to a great start, putting up a 0.74 ERA over his first four starts. In the five starts since, however, has a 7.09 ERA. The advanced stats made Latos’ fall to earth easy to predict — overall, he has a rather unimpressive 26/18 K/BB ratio — but he was giving the White Sox rotation longevity after Chris Sale and Jose Quintana.

The rest of Tuesday’s action…

Texas Rangers (Colby Lewis) @ Cleveland Indians (Corey Kluber), 6:10 PM EDT

Boston Red Sox (Eduardo Rodriguez) @ Baltimore Orioles (Kevin Gausman), 7:05 PM EDT

Washington Nationals (Joe Ross) @ Philadelphia Phillies (Aaron Nola), 7:05 PM EDT

New York Yankees (CC Sabathia) @ Toronto Blue Jays (J.A. Happ), 7:07 PM EDT

Pittsburgh Pirates (Gerrit Cole) @ Miami Marlins (Jose Fernandez), 7:10 PM EDT

San Francisco Giants (Jake Peavy) @ Atlanta Braves (Matt Wisler), 7:10 PM EDT

Los Angeles Dodgers (Scott Kazmir) @ Chicago Cubs (Jake Arrieta), 8:05 PM EDT

St. Louis Cardinals (Mike Leake) @ Milwaukee Brewers (Wily Peralta), 8:10 PM EDT

Tampa Bay Rays (Drew Smyly) @ Kansas City Royals (Dillon Gee), 8:15 PM EDT

Cincinnati Reds (Jon Moscot) @ Colorado Rockies (Jon Gray), 8:40 PM EDT

Detroit Tigers (Anibal Sanchez) @ Los Angeles Angels (Hector Santiago), 10:05 PM EDT

Minnesota Twins (Tyler Duffey) @ Oakland Athletics (Eric Surkamp), 10:05 PM EDT