Scenes from Spring Training: A day with the Twins, Part 2

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Tom Kelly and Mark McGwire.jpg

“I’m tellin’ ya, Mac. If you simply do what I did and say boring things all the time, those pesky reporters would leave ya alone. Now, what say you and me go beat up Gardenhire so I can get my team back?”

I may have gotten that quote wrong. Can’t find my notes. A pity, really.

After the Nathan news I decided to just walk around and see what I could see. As evidenced by the above pic, Tom Kelly talking to Mark McGwire is one of the first things I saw.  Nothing particularly interesting was exchanged, but it seemed like a good photo to take.

The Cardinals took batting practice right after that, with Big Mac standing behind the cage, just a couple of feet in front of me.  I studied the subject for a while. He seemed to talk like a normal person, giving some instruction to the batter in the cage. He sneezed once, which suggests even more human traits. At one point he checked his watch, which suggests that he’s concerned of matters temporal, while most monsters tend not to be.  It was almost enough to make me think that everything I’ve been reading about the man was wrong.  I risked speaking to him:

“Hey Mac, what are the biggest differences between spring training as a player and spring training as a coach in terms of routines, preparation, things like that,” I asked.

“Well,” McGwire started, not taking his eyes off the hitters, “the biggest thing is I don’t have to do it.”

Do it?  What could he mean? Shoot steroids?!  Freebase the bone marrow of infants?!

“Train. A lot less physical stuff, that’s for sure.” McGwire chuckled.

After that, the guy hitting fungoes asked La Russa — who was standing nearby — if he’d hit them for a while. La Russa said he had to do something else so the other guy kept hitting.  I asked McGwire why they don’t ask him to do it.  He said “the guys say I hit ’em too hard.”

It was at that moment that I decided that Mark McGwire is just a plain old hitting coach. Just as I couldn’t think of anything particularly interesting to ask, say, Howard Johnson or Don Baylor, I can’t think of much interesting I’d ask Mark McGwire.  Nor do I think he’d say anything all that interesting even if I could think of a good question.  McGwire was an interesting diversion for a couple of cold, news-barren months.  Now he’s just a coach. No more, no less.

I left the field and made a slow walk to the press box.  I passed a brick wall with the National Professional Scouts Hall of Fame on it.  It wasn’t the most impressive Hall of Fame I’ve ever seen, but I’m sure the enshrinees’ mothers are proud. All four of them.

Back upstairs I sat down and watched the grounds crew clean up the divots and detritus of a morning’s worth of BP and infield practice and prepare the field for the ballgame.  If there’s anything more aesthetically satisfying than watching fresh chalk lines get laid down, I’m not sure what it is.

Shohei Ohtani will undergo Tommy John surgery once the season ends

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The Angels announced on Tuesday that P/DH Shohei Ohtani will undergo Tommy John surgery during the first week of the offseason (next week). The surgery will be performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles. The Angels don’t have a timetable for Ohtani’s recovery yet but will provide more information when it becomes available.

Ohtani, 24, underwent an MRI earlier this month which showed new damage to the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. He decided to play out most of the remainder of the season before making a decision. While Ohtani certainly wouldn’t be able to pitch next year, the Angels are confident that he will still be able to function as a full-time DH with no issues.

Ohtani had an outstanding first season in the majors. He hit .280/.361/.564 with 21 home runs, 56 RBI, 55 runs scored, and nine stolen bases in 347 plate appearances. As a pitcher, he posted a 3.31 ERA with 63 strikeouts and 22 walks in 51 2/3 innings across 10 starts.

The Angels have five games left this season, all at home. They have two more against the Rangers, are off Thursday, then wrap up the season with a three-game set with the Athletics.