Associated Press

Baseball players turn to football-style training

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) Carrying their bats and gloves, they leave the weight room and walk the palm tree-lined path past the baseball diamonds to the track.

Weight sleds and tires await the boys of summer for the kind of workouts typically reserved for men who make their living on the gridiron in the fall. At the Coach Tom Shaw Performance camp at Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex, it’s common to see Carlos Gonzalez, Martin Prado, Ender Inciarte and several other major leaguers working out alongside football players preparing for the NFL combine and doing the same kind of drills.

Players believe these nontraditional winter workouts, a mix of strength- and endurance-training, football cutting drills and some more common baseball moves, make them quicker, more prepared for spring training and better equipped to stay healthy for the 162-game season.

“Quickness, footwork, all the stuff you use in baseball he perfectly adapted to our workouts,” said Prado, an infielder for the Miami Marlins who has been working out with Shaw since October as part of his ninth year in the program. “He tried over the years to combine football workouts with less intensity for baseball players. … He mixes it up in a way that you actually feel comfortable working out with football kind of workouts but converting to baseball.”

Shaw won three Super Bowls as speed and conditioning coach of the New England Patriots, and his facility is known as a place where Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, potential draftees and other football players come for intense workouts. He had no baseball background prior to nine years ago when Prado and Jordan Schafer were among the first players from that sport to seek out a different kind of offseason training regimen.

Over the better part of the past decade, more players have joined, including Cleveland Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor, Seattle Mariners infielder Dee Gordon and Milwaukee Brewers utility player Hernan Perez. Gonzalez tried the program after injuries limited him to 70 games in 2014, and he has since rounded back into All-Star form with 79 home runs and 254 RBIs.

“What we all do here, we feel ready,” Gonzalez said. “We feel ready from the get-go, from the first day of spring training. Obviously your body’s going to feel stronger and you’re mentally prepared, too. … It’s a great way to keep us in great shape during the offseason. When you feel that strong and you feel healthy, all you’ve got to do is just maintain through spring training and the regular season.”

There are 31 players of various levels all the way down to high school taking part in Shaw’s baseball program, which prioritizes explosive speed that players can use in the field and running bases.

“Speed changes the game, so all the drills that we do here, they correspond to every sport,” said trainer Kelsey Martinez, who runs Shaw’s baseball program. “Whether we’re doing straight-ahead speed work or side-to-side movements – anything like that – we’re trying to gain speed and gain ground in those drills.”

One day, that means loading sand bags into tires and first walking and then sprinting down the track. Another day, it’s cutting like wide receivers or using the sand pit to provide some extra movement resistance.

Sure, there’s work in batting cages and on the field, but it’s not your typical winter wind-up.

“It’s all about building athleticism,” said Schafer, a natural outfielder who’s also now pitching for the St. Louis Cardinals. “If you can build athleticism, usually you can make adjustments quicker. The more athletic you are, the more core stability you have, the more explosiveness. It’s not baseball-specific, per se, but all that athleticism translates whether I’m in the outfield and I have to turn to go get a ball or stealing a base.”

Baseball players aren’t as big or strong as their football counterparts, so the workouts aren’t exactly the same. Shaw is careful not to change players’ running forms, so sleds and weights are reduced from typical pre-combine drills with the long haul in mind.

“We want to make sure we’re working on things they’re going to actually do on the field,” Shaw said. “A baseball player is going to do things to get stronger and more explosive and they got to last a long time. … We’ve got to make sure they’re ready for that.”

Inciarte feels ready. Coming off an All-Star season with the Atlanta Braves, the 23-year-old thinks previous training techniques contributed to injuries, and he sees the “complete work” done by incorporating football methods as a way to help with injury prevention.

“In baseball you always have to do a lot of movement,” Inciarte said. “Those kind of movements help us most of all to stay healthy. Sometimes because you don’t work on it all the time in baseball, when you react like that you can get hurt. But once you’ve been doing it on a consistently daily basis, you’re going to be ready for anything that happens on the baseball field.”

New York Mets catcher Jose Lobaton is used to what happens on the baseball field but had never worked out with football players before. Lobaton talks to the other baseball players about the way the football guys run and lift, learning something along the way even while they find the strength disparity in the weight room daunting.

“Sometimes it kind of sucks because they’re just so much faster and stronger,” Los Angeles Dodgers minor leaguer Edwin Rios said. “But it is cool just to kind of hear the stuff they do, the explosive stuff they do.”

Running back Kapri Bibbs, who signed with the Washington Redskins late last season, admires how hard the baseball players work out when they’re still months from starting the season.

“They don’t want to have a cap on their talent, so they work harder than most people I’m ever around,” Bibbs said. “It’s awesome working out with CarGo and all those guys because they go to the extreme.”

There’s an added benefit of having baseball players working alongside football players, and not just the occasional playing around like when Detroit Lions linebacker Jarrad Davis joined them for fielding drills. Put highly competitive professional athletes together in one complex, and they’re bound to try to outdo each other.

“Baseball is always trying to compete with football,” Martinez said. “They always want to be better, and they look at the football players as like these extreme athletes. But really the baseball (players) are all-around great athletes, and to see them work together and compete together is really, really cool.”

Cincinnati Reds fire Bryan Price

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The Cincinnati Reds have fired manager Bryan Price. He’ll be replaced on an interim basis by bench coach Jim Riggleman. The team also fired pitching coach Mack Jenkins. The club also added Louisville manager Pat Kelly to the staff as the new bench coach and Double-A pitching coach Danny Darwin as the new big league pitching coach.

It was only a matter of time for Price, whose Reds have begun the season 3-15. This was Price’s fifth season at the helm and the Reds never won more than 76 games in any of his previous seasons, doing so in his first year, in 2014. They won 68 games in both 2016 and 2017 and 64 games in 2015. While that’s far more attributable to the Reds talent level than anything Price ever did or did not do, at some point the manager will take the fall for a team that makes no progress.

Price’s tenure will likely be considered largely forgettable in the view of history, but he did have a pretty memorable moment as Reds manager in April of 2015, when he went on a profanity-laced tirade at the media because they reported the availability or lack thereof of certain players for an upcoming game. Which is part of the media’s job, even if Price didn’t fully grok that at the time. The tirade itself was pretty epic, though, with then Cincinnati Enquirer reporter C. Trent Rosecrans reporting that “there were 77 uses of the “F” word or a variant and 11 uses of a vulgar term for feces (two bovine, one equine).” 

Taking over will be Jim Riggleman, who last managed in the big leagues with the Washington Nationals, resigning in June of 2011 because he was unhappy that he did not get a contract extension. It was a weird episode, the sort of which a lot of guys couldn’t have come back from, perhaps being considered quitters. Riggleman took a job managing the Reds’ Double-A team, however, then moved on to Triple-A and then the Reds’ big league coaching staff. There’s something to be said for persistence. And for being a big league lifer.

Anyway, Price’s exit is not likely to change the Reds’ course too much in 2018. But, as it is so often said in baseball, sometimes you gotta make a change all the same.