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HBT at the World Series: Greetings from workout day

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ST. LOUIS — Check me out. A dateline. You know that means things are getting real.

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Greetings from St. Louis, where the World Series is pausing for one day before Games 3, 4 and 5 go down. Today is a workout day for the Cards and Sox. As I write this from the auxiliary press box down the right field line the Cardinals are taking infield, BP and long-tossing as the most eclectic mix of music blasts from the speakers. We’ve gone from Material Issue to Robin Thicke to the Rolling Stones. I don’t know about their fans, but I’ll say the Cardinals have an argument for The Best Music Guys in Baseball. They program workout music the right way.

In a little while the managers and Game 3 starters will be available for interviews. In the meantime I’m wandering, both the city and the ballpark. When I got to town I met up with HBT’s own Drew Silva. I’ve worked with the lad for four and a half years but this was the first time I met him in person. We met near where he lives, a neighborhood called The Hill. Which is far more famous for being the boyhood home of both Yogi Berra and Joe Garagiola. I’m not sure if Joe got a park named after him, but Yogi did:

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No one goes there anymore, though. It’s too popular.

Across the street from that park is a great sandwich place called Gioia’s Deli. It’s known as “the home of the hot salami,” so naturally Drew and I met there. We’re all about cured meats. Drew suggested the Hill Supreme, which is an off-menu thing. Lots of salami and peppers and stuff. How was it Drew?

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I’ll take that as a “good.”

On to the park, where I hung around the team store and walked around the grounds.  The Cardinals have lots of statues of former greats. No Mark McGwire on the grounds, of course, even though the statue has been made and is sitting in a warehouse someplace. They also don’t have an Andy Benes statue. It’s like they just hate their history or something. Of course there’s this guy:

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You know, if a pigeon pooped on that statue, it’d come to life, chase him around and tackle him. That’s the way they did it back in his day.

I ducked into the team store, where I saw the most terrifying thing ever. This is suspended from the ceiling:

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Where is your god now? It’s like a scene cut from the “Flash Gordon” movie except without any sweet jams from Queen in the background. Pure nightmare fuel.  After that I needed a palate cleanser:

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Ahhh. Much better. Thank you, Stan.

Into the park and watching some warmups where I was happy to run into Jonny Miller of WBZ radio in Boston, who will be in the next suite over from me here in St. Louis. Miller, longtime readers will recall, once thought I was pathetic because I messed up his scorecard down at a spring training game in Fort Myers. I reminded him of that. He didn’t remember. Then I told him it was the day Nomar Garciaparra announced his retirement. Then it clicked. “Ah, I didn’t care,” he told me today. “You should know how to keep score better, though.  You’re a baseball writer for crying out loud.”  Yes, sir.  I really love that guy.

Anyway, off to listen to managers spout cliches. Should be fun.  Be sure to keep checking back to HBT all weekend as I report from St. Louis and Games 3, 4 and 5!

 

Report: Teams reluctant to gamble on Cliff Lee

Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cliff Lee throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park Thursday, July 31, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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In Saturday’s column for the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo suggests that free agent Cliff Lee is seeking a guaranteed major league deal between $6 and $8 million plus incentives. That is turning some otherwise interested teams away, as the lefty is still recovering from a torn flexor tendon in his left elbow. Lee hasn’t pitched since July 31, 2014.

Last month, Lee’s agent Darek Braunecker said the pitcher would need “a perfect fit” to pitch in 2016. He also noted that Lee has begun a full offseason throwing program.

In his most recent season, Lee compiled a 3.65 ERA with 72 strikeouts and 12 walks in 81 1/3 innings for the Phillies. The Phillies had signed him to a five-year, $120 million contract in December 2010 but declined a club option for the 2016 season, instead buying him out for $12.5 million.

Orioles reconsidering signing Yovani Gallardo

Yovani Gallardo
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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In an article for MASN on Friday, Steve Melewski noted that the Orioles were reluctant to forfeit their first round draft pick (14th overall) in order to sign free agent starter Yovani Gallardo. The club is now reconsidering its stance and rechecking the right-handers medicals, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.

Gallardo, who turns 30 on February 27, posted a 3.42 ERA with 121 strikeouts and 68 walks over 184 1/3 innings for the Rangers last season. The Rangers had acquired him in a trade with the Brewers, sending Luis Sardinas, Corey Knebel, and minor leaguer Marcos Diplan to Milwaukee.

Gallardo has posted an ERA below 4.00 in six of his last seven seasons. He remains unsigned into February, however, because his strikeout rate has rapidly decreased with each year since 2012. Per FanGraphs, that rate was 23.7 percent in 2012, then went to 18.6 percent, 17.9 percent, and 15.3 percent progressively. Some of that may have to do with diminishing fastball velocity, as Gallardo’s 90.4 MPH average marked a career low among his eight full seasons with at least 100 innings pitched.

The Orioles lost starter Wei-Yin Chen, who signed with the Marlins, and the back end of their rotation is highly speculative with Kevin Gausman, Mike Wright, Odrisamer Despaigne, and Tyler Wilson. Adding a veteran like Gallardo, even if he is apparently declining, may be stabilizing.

Freddy Garcia is calling it a career

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Elsa/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez passes along word from the Dominican Republic that right-hander Freddy Garcia will hang up his cleats for good after Sunday’s Caribbean Series championship game.

Garcia will start that game for the Tigres de Aragua out of Venezuela. He’s taking on Mexico’s Venados de Mazatlan.

“Venezuelan fans are expecting something good from Freddy and so is everybody,” said Tigres de Aragua manager Eddie Perez, who also serves as the bullpen coach for the Atlanta Braves. “Knowing that it’s his last game is going to make it very special. We all hope he pitches a really good game so he can retire in a good way and bring the title for Venezuela. Everybody who is rooting for Venezuela expects him to do well.”

Garcia’s last major league game was in the 2013 postseason. The 39-year-0ld will finish with a 4.15 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 6.4 K/9 in 2,264 career regular-season innings. He had a 3.26 ERA in 11 playoff starts, winning a World Series title with the White Sox in 2005.

Video: 2016 will be a season to remember

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Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com put together this very cool video montage reviewing the 2015 season and setting us up for what should be a wild 2016. Young stars, veterans chasing milestones, unpredictable divisional races.

It’s so close to spring training. Let’s do this.