Best Shape of His Life is not the only harbinger of spring. There’s “[Player] is poised for a big year,” which often comes after he’s had a crappy one. There’s “[Pitcher] is working on a new pitch,” which often comes after the pitcher has had a crappy year and/or lost velocity. Note: that link has the new pitch, the “poised for a big year” AND an “added 20 pounds of muscle”/BSOHL thing. They’re covering all the bases in Detroit.
But another one is the thing about running more. Normally it’s a new manager talking about how his underwhelming team plans to run more, focus on the fundamentals and that sort of thing. It’s some good old “I’m gonna manage the heck out of this team” rhetoric that makes scribes who have to find something new to write about every boring spring day happy. I’m sure we’ll hear plenty of that starting in late February.
Yesterday we saw a variation on that one: a manager talking about how an individual player is going to run more. Take it away Tito Francona, who says Michael Bourn is going to run more. From the Plain Dealer:
We’ve talked to Bournie a lot,” said Francona. “He’s one of the most conscientious and nicest kids you’ll ever meet. But quite frankly, whether it’s because of injuries or not, he hasn’t been the kind of guy who wreaks the havoc that we kind of envisioned when we signed him when it comes to stolen bases . . . Brad Mills (bench coach) went and watched him workout and said he’s really getting after it. He understands what we need from him. When he gets on base, he has to disrupt the game.”
Bourn, of course, has just 33 total over the last two seasons and has been caught 18 times, which is not a good ratio in case you didn’t know. A lot of that has to do with the fact that he’s had a lot of leg injuries. But he’s also 32 now, and 32-year-olds not named Rickey Henderson tend not to have base stealing, havoc-wreaking and game-disruption as their strong suit.
Of greater concern is Bourn’s .314 and .316 on-base percentages over the past two seasons. That’s way more disruptive to the Indians’ offensive attack than anything his legs can be expected to do to the opposition.
Back in June the A’s purchased left-hander Brad Mills from the Brewers for one dollar when they needed some short-term rotation help. Mills was later claimed off waivers by the Blue Jays before becoming a free agent in September.
And now the A’s have re-signed him to another minor-league deal with an invitation to spring training, according to Joe Stiglich of CSNBayArea.com.
Oakland has plenty of starting pitching options with several 2013 regulars coming back from Tommy John elbow surgery, so Mills will have a hard time cracking the Opening Day roster. He’s pitched poorly in the majors, but the 29-year-old southpaw did have a 2.01 ERA and 103/23 K/BB ratio in 107 innings at Triple-A this season.
For the past few days we’ve been previewing the 2013 season. Next up: new things to watch for in the coming year.
We’ve previewed the teams, so now let’s look at some of the new things to watch for in 2013:
Nothing too drastic, but the changes that were made will be pretty visible:
- When visiting the mound, managers and coaches will be allowed to bring interpreters with them in the event the pitcher is not fluent in English. No word on whether Phillies pitchers gets interpreters to translate manager Charlie Manuel’s 1940s detective novel slang-speak (hint: “what’s the rumpus?” is Manuelese for “how does your arm feel?” and “give this guy the kiss-off” is when he orders an intentional walk;
- Teams will be allowed to have seven uniformed coaches in the dugout. Previously the limit was six. This change was necessitated because many teams have hired assistant hitting coaches. Which I suppose was simpler than spending the effort trying to figure out what the existing hitting coaches actually do in the first place; and
- The pickoff move in which a right-handed pitcher fakes to third base and throws to first is now a balk. Broadcasters are now scrambling to find another oftentimes useful play which they can erroneously claim “never works.”
With the Houston Astros going from the National League to the American League, giving us 15 teams in each league, it will now be required that, at all times, an interleague series be taking place. This contrasts with past practice of interleague series all occurring during specified blocs during the season. This will also lead to teams playing 20 interleague games a piece instead of the 15-18 interleague games in previous years. There will still be the old construct of “interleague rivals” which in good cases lead to series like Yankees vs. Mets and Giants vs. Athletics. And in bad cases lead to Pirates vs. Tigers and Astros vs. Rockies. Eh, this is where we are now. Those of us who remember and pine for the days of the NL and AL being separate are closer to AARP membership than we are to relevance in this now-over debate.
Six teams will sport new managers in 2013:
- The Red Sox fired Bobby Valentine and hired former Blue Jays manager John Farrell;
- The Indians fired Manny Acta and hired former Red Sox manager Terry Francona;
- Jim Tracy resigned as Colorado Rockies manager and was replaced by rookie manager Walt Weiss;
- The Astros fired Brad Mills before last season ended and hired former Nationals coach Bo Porter;
- The Marlins fired Ozzie Guillen after one season and replace him with rookie manager Mike Redmond; and
- The Blue Jays essentially traded John Farrell to the Red Sox and hired former manager John Gibbons
- The Astros, befitting a team with a new owner, new front office, new manager, new league and a throughly-reamed roster, have a whole new look. Gone are the brick red/sand colored uniforms of old and back come the traditional orange and blue the team sported from their inception and on through the early 90s. There’s a bit of a twist to the orange and blue look — they’re not throwbacks to the rainbow days — but it is definitely a familiar and welcome look;
- The Mets are going with two new alternate jerseys: a home alternate with “Mets” in script and a road alternate featuring “NEW YORK” in block. These look at lot like the 1980s duds.
- The Cardinals are joining the trend of off-white home alternates which almost always look fantastic. They are also adding “St. Louis” to their road uniforms for the first time in 80 years. All teams should have their city name on the front of the jersey. It’s just cool. And frankly, probably leads to more jersey sales due to local pride and stuff like that.
- The Pirates have a new home alternate for Sunday games. It’s essentially a throwback to their look from the 1970s, complete with the yellow caps.
- The White Sox continue last year’s tradition of an alternate throwback uniform. This year it honors the 1983 team. This is a guilty pleasure uniform for me even though it came from the dark days of the pullover double knits; and
- The Brewers are going to go all-gold on special occasions which they used a couple years ago but had abandoned for a while.
Of course, for all the changes, it will still be baseball.