Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said at the MIT Sloan Analytics Conference over the weekend that one of his team’s pitchers was so strongly opposed to defensive shifts that they cut back on using them when he was on the mound. The identity of that pitcher was a mystery until right-hander Zack Wheeler came clean to Mike Vorkunov of the Newark Star-Ledger today:
“I don’t want to piss anybody off but, honestly, I don’t like it,” he said. “Teams are starting to be more analytical these days. So I hate to say that numbers don’t lie because I don’t like analytics all that much but I’m not the boss here. I really can’t control it. They know where I stand on that.”
We hear about hitters who are frustrated with shifts all the time, so it’s interesting to see a pitcher also raise concerns. Wheeler’s feelings about analytics aside, his criticism toward defensive shifts is that it sometimes doesn’t reflect his arsenal of pitches and changes his mentality on the mound. For instance, he might be hesitant of throwing a slider in the dirt if a runner is on third and the third baseman is shifted over toward shortstop. If the ball gets away, the run would score easily. He also said he gets frustrated if a left-handed batter hits an outside pitch to left field if the infielders are shifted over to the right side.
These are hypothetical situations — if applied correctly, shifts can at least put the odds in the favor of the defense — but Mets manager Terry Collins told Vorkunov that they ultimately listened to Wheeler’s concerns because they didn’t want it affecting his confidence. A young pitcher has enough to worry about and Wheeler is way too important to their future. It’s nice to see that the Mets were sensitive to his concerns, but as Alderson said in the conference, sometimes these situations arise when the benefits aren’t properly communicated or illustrated to the players. That’s on the Mets. Wheeler’s reluctance shows that there’s still work to be done here.
While veteran reliever Joel Hanrahan is headed to see a specialist about his continued arm soreness, today was mostly a positive day for the Tigers on the health front.
According to Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press, Miguel Cabrera took on-field batting practice today for the first time this spring and said it felt “good.” Of course, he’s making his way back from offseason surgery on his left foot and just received clearance to increase activities less than two weeks ago. He’s still running on an anti-gravity treadmill, but the early signs are promising. The Tigers are hopeful he’ll be ready for Opening Day or at least right around it.
The good news doesn’t end there, as Victor Martinez arrived in camp today and did his first workout. Specifically, he took 30 swings off a tee from both sides of the plate and also ran on the anti-gravity treadmill. The 36-year-old had surgery less than one month ago to repair the medial meniscus in his left knee, but the expectation was that he would be ready for full activities in 4-6 weeks. Barring any setbacks, that puts him on track to be ready for the season.
Finally, shortstop Jose Iglesias saw his first game action in a year today when he played one inning in an exhibition game against Florida Southern. It wasn’t much — he recorded one put-out on a pop-up and grounded out in his only at-bat — but it’s nice to hear for someone who missed all of last season with stress fractures in both of his shins. Iglesias is a ton of fun to watch play shortstop and Tigers pitchers are surely hoping he’ll be able to stay healthy this year.
The moment the baseball world has been waiting for is almost here. OK, maybe I’m overdoing it a little. After facing a pitching machine during an intrasquad game today, Alex Rodriguez is ready for his first real-live game action since September of 2013.
According to Wallace Matthews of ESPN New York, Yankees manager Joe Girardi said this afternoon that Rodriguez will make his Grapefruit League debut Wednesday against the Phillies at Steinbrenner Field. The plan calls for him to serve as the DH and get two or three at-bats.
The Yankees actually begin their exhibition schedule tomorrow against the Phillies in Clearwater, but Rodriguez won’t be making the trip. Instead he’ll stay back to take batting practice and field grounders at third base and first base.
It’s worth noting that Wednesday’s game will be shown on both MLB Network and YES Network, if you are so inclined.
Athletics outfielder Coco Crisp missed more than a week down the stretch in 2012 due to pinkeye and John Hickey of the San Jose Mercury News reports that he’s dealing with it again.
Pinkeye, which is also called conjunctivitis, involves redness and swelling between the eyelid and eye surface. It’s contagious, so the Athletics don’t want to take any chances. He’s likely to miss a few days.
“We’re hoping we’ve caught it early,’’ manager Bob Melvin said. “He came in with it yesterday and we’ve got him at home now hoping this resolves itself quickly.’’
Crisp, 35, batted .246/.336/.363 with nine home runs, 46 RBI, and 19 stolen bases across 126 games last season. He’s expected to serve as Oakland’s regular center fielder again in 2015.
After trading the likes of Justin Upton, Jason Heyward, and Evan Gattis as well as adding a handful of veteran free agents, the Braves have a ton of new faces in camp this spring. All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel thought it would be a good idea to make up some special t-shirts so everyone could get to know each other better. Check out the t-shirt issued to infielder Phil Gosselin, courtesy of the Braves’ official Twitter account:
So simple, yet so brilliant. This could be a rough year for the Braves — and heck, Kimbrel might be elsewhere eventually — but at least they can try to have fun with the situation.