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Tag:2012 Spring Training
Posted on: March 6, 2012 3:56 pm
Edited on: March 6, 2012 3:57 pm
 

Posey runs bases, moves closer to game action

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The San Francisco Giants' 2012 season inched forward 90 feet at a time Tuesday. On a back field away from the crowds, Buster Posey ran the bases.

It was another step in the comeback from his devastating ankle injury suffered last May, and count it in the "two steps forward" department, which beats the heck out of the "one step back" slot.

"That's kind of how my rehab has gone," a pleased Posey said. "When I challenge it to do something new, things seem to go better."

The Giants still do not Posey scheduled to make his Cactus League debut on a particular date (not publicly, at least). But running and sliding are the last things on his rehab list. He's getting closer. Manager Bruce Bochy insinuated the other day that he could make his first game appearance by this weekend, though likely as a DH.

Posey estimated he ran "in the 60- to 70-percent range."

He also said when he is ready to play in a game, he'll be ready. Neither he nor the Giants are interested in slotting him into real competition with restraints, such as ordering him not to do certain things.

"When you're playing in a game, you've got to play the game," Posey said. "I feel like so much of my game is instincts, anyway ... when you're out there, instincts take over."

In a perfect world, Posey said, he would touch each base with his right foot as he circles them at full speed (he tore three ligaments in his left ankle and broke a bone in his lower left leg in the play at the plate against the Marlins last season). But it all depends where his stride is, he said, meaning he could touch a base with his left ankle, and that's where he's got to have both full healing and full confidence in the foot.

"I'm definitely itching to get into a game," he said. "At the same time, we're just four games in. Today's the fifth. I still think there's plenty of time."

Tuesday's running of the bases was the first for Posey in what he estimates is "a week to 10 days" in what has been an encouraging spring of work.

"Since the start of spring, I've been able to do all baseball activities," Posey said. "Catching, blocking, live batting practice, and everything's felt good.

"We knew from the time I was injured that running the bases would be the last thing to come, and [trainer Dave Groeschner] was right.

"I think we've been lucky. Everything has gone well."
Posted on: March 5, 2012 5:58 pm
Edited on: March 5, 2012 7:25 pm
 

Pujols: "That was fun"

PHOENIX -- Maybe Albert Pujols knew there was a designated hitter in the American League. But did anyone tell him you get to bat every inning in the Junior Circuit?

Forgive him if he begins to think that's the case after his first Cactus League game. He christened the Angels' portion of his career with a 2 for 3 afternoon against the beleaguered Athletics, including saying hello with an RBI double in the first.

"That was fun," Pujols said after being removed from the game in the fourth with the Angels leading 9-0. "Hopefully, we get to do a lot of that this year."

The Angels' two high-priced free agents each debuted on an overcast Monday afternoon. C.J. Wilson, who signed a five-year, $77.5 million deal during the offseason, worked two scoreless innings, facing eight batters.

Pujols chopped a hanging curve for the double in the first against Oakland starter Brad Peacock, scorched a line single to left in the second and flied to right in the third. He saw nine pitches.

"He comes up in the first inning and knocks in a runner," Wilson said of Pujols. "We all were looking at each other in the dugout like, 'Oh yeah. That's what Albert does.'"

Pujols admitted to some pre-game jitters. He said in a typical season, he gets nervous three times: Before his first spring training at-bat, before his first regular-season at-bat and before his first postseason at-bat.

That last part is what the Angels are banking on: Pujols' Cardinals only missed the playoffs four times during his 11 seasons in St. Louis. Anything short of a run deep into October -- and, arguably, a World Series title -- will be a disappointment for the 2012 Angels.

Pujols, who signed a 10-year, $254 million deal with the Angels last winter, easily has been the focal point of the Angels during their first two weeks of camp. Not just from the fans' perspective, but from inside the clubhouse as well.

"It's cool, man," right fielder Torii Hunter said. "Pujols has been blending in just fine. Vernon Wells and I hit with him, and we're picking up a lot."

One thing that has impressed them early is that Pujols is as interested as learning from his new teammates as they are from him.

"He's not afraid to ask questions," Hunter said. "A guy like that, who has achieved so much, you'd think pride would set in and he wouldn't ask anybody for any advice. But he does. He's that humble.

"He has two World Series rings, three MVPs and he still wants to learn. I love that."

One thing Angels manager Mike Scioscia has learned about Pujols through various conversations up to and early in spring training is, Pujols likes to work in the spring, especially early.

"He historically feels like he wants his at-bats on the higher side in the spring rather than on the lower side," Scioscia said.

Pujols finished with 65 plate appearances last spring with the Cardinals (.288, three homers and 14 RBI). Look for a similar workload this spring (though for a time it appeared as if he might reach that total on Monday alone).

As for Wilson, he tinkered with his mechanics over the winter and is looking to incorporate a changeup as an important weapon this summer.

"For me, the changeup is a priority," said Wilson, who faced eight batters, walking one. "So I can add efficiency to my repertoire."

Though he worked a career-high 223 1/3 innings last season, he essentially was out of gas in October.

He figures if he can throw fewer pitches -- "you're looking at one more out a game, one less walk, one more ground ball" -- both he and the Angels will benefit.

The focus on that will come in time. But for now, the Angels remain giddy over the one-time St. Louis icon joining them. And for his part, Pujols senses the respect from even veterans like Hunter and Wells.

"It's what you have built," Pujols said. "It's something I learned in St. Louis 11 years ago. I had great teammates, and I took advantage of the veteran guys."

He ticked off a whole flurry of names, including Woody Williams, Matt Morris, Placido Polanco and Mark McGwire.

"They taught me how to play the game the right way."


Posted on: February 27, 2012 12:54 pm
Edited on: February 27, 2012 12:55 pm
 

Abreu meets with Scioscia, discusses playing time

TEMPE, Ariz. -- The new season for the Angels' Bobby Abreu started with a meeting in the manager's office.

Abreu, Mike Scioscia and general manager Jerry Dipoto met early Monday before the Angels' first full-squad workout to discuss Abreu's concern that there will not be enough playing time for him on a loaded team that includes Albert Pujols, Kendrys Morales, Torii Hunter, Vernon Wells and Mark Trumbo.

Scioscia assured Abreu that there will be a way to get him 400 plate appearances. Abreu has gotten fewer than 600 plate appearances only once in the past 13 years and told reporters after the meeting that he still would like to be in the 600-700 range.

"The situation right now, how it's going to be handled, we'll see," Abreu said.

Abreu, who told ESPNDeportes last week that he would rather be traded than accept a diminished role, reiterated to reporters following the meeting that he still wants to play every day but said he is satisfied -- for now.

"[Scioscia] said he's going to find a way to give me some at-bats at DH, left field, right field," Abreu said. "He said I'm not going to be on the bench for a whole week.

"That's fine. I just want to be on the field."

The situation will evolve as the spring lengthens, no doubt. But clearly, the Angels have an abundance of riches, and if Morales is healthy, there is going to be a squeeze on DH plate appearances.

The Angels project Wells in left field and Hunter in right, with Morales as the DH. Mark Trumbo, still recovering from a stress fracture suffered last season, is in the mix as well. Trumbo, who slammed 29 homers and had 87 RBIs as a rookie last season, will work at third base but likely will get some DH at-bats as well.

Morales had 34 homers and 108 RBI in 2009 and finished fifth in MVP voting that year. But he broke an ankle in May, 2010, and has not played since.

"I think he'll be in that range," Scioscia said of Abreu and 400 plate appearances. "If you look at our outfield situation, guys might get a day to DH or a day off to get off of their feet. How many days Peter [Bourjos] plays center field, how many days Vernon plays left field ... there are going to be starts. There are going to be chances for Bobby to contribute."

"I've played 150 games or more [a season] my whole career," Abreu said. "I love this game. I love to play.

"I just [told them] I want to be on the field every day."

Asked if he would waive his no-trade clause for a deal to a non-contender rather than sit on the Angels bench, Abreu said he'll take a wait-and-see approach.

"Let's see," he said. "It's tough to answer right now. We have a lot of opportunity to win now right here. When I was in Philly, when I was in New York ... I missed two rings there.

"I just want to be a part of it."
Posted on: February 25, 2012 4:14 pm
Edited on: February 25, 2012 6:13 pm
 

Manny to Oakland pitcher: "Get me some video?"

PHOENIX -- Athletics left-hander Brett Anderson was not joking when he fired off this tweet Friday evening: "Manny just asked if I was the video coordinator ... our relationship can only go up from here."

Anderson was dead serious ... and the result was gut-bustingly funny.

Starter Dallas Braden, between belly laughs, confirmed the exchange between Anderson and Manny Ramirez on Saturday morning.

"I was in the room when Manny asked Brett if he could get him some video," Braden said. "I died laughing."

Braden thought it was so funny that he ran toward the clubhouse to tell the rest of the Athletics, taking a short cut through the trainer's room so he could break the news. But he said Anderson still beat him to it.

"It was funny," Braden said. "It was hilarious. You always wonder when you get a new teammate what the interaction will be.

"Not only is Brett Anderson a pretty decent left-handed pitcher, now he's Manny's video guy."

Anderson, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery and is not expected to rejoin Oakland's rotation before August, is 21-23 with a 3.66 ERA in 62 career starts.

"We left a baseball card of Brett in Manny's locker today," Braden said. "To remind him that while Brett may be queuing up video for Manny, he'll also be pitching every fifth day."

Posted on: February 24, 2012 5:50 pm
 

K-Rod digs Milwaukee: "I want to make that clear"

PHOENIX -- Meanwhile, over in the non-Ryan Braun corner of the clubhouse Friday, former closer Francisco Rodriguez took time out from contemplating a lawsuit against his former agents to report for duty as the 2012 Brewers' set-up man.

In what could be termed as a mild surprise, Rodriguez was smiling and appeared happy. Once intending to declare free agency over the winter and find a job as a closer, K-Rod wound up discovering a tepid market and wound up accepting a one-year, $8 million deal from the Brewers.

Unhappy a year ago because he did not pitch in one save opportunity after being traded to Milwaukee on July 12, Rodriguez again is slated to pitch the eighth innings while Milwaukee closer John Axford works the ninth innings.

Though Rodriguez is contemplating a malpractice and fraud suit against former agents Paul Kinzer and Arn Tellem of the Wasserman Media Group because they failed to file a no-trade provision on his behalf when he pitched for the Mets, he emphasized that he is not unhappy to be returning to Milwaukee.

"I want to make that clear," said Rodriguez, who had the Brewers listed among 10 teams he could not be traded to in the paperwork that was never filed. "Some newspapers said I did not want to come here, and that's not the point.

"Three years ago when they asked me about the list, it was not that I did not want to come to this city or this team, but the closer was Trevor Hoffman. It had nothing to do with the fact that I did not want to come to Milwaukee.

"That's true."

Because of Hoffman's presence, Rodriguez explained, he placed Milwaukee on his no-trade list because he never intended to pitch for a team on which he would not close.

"I'm honored and happy to be here," Rodriguez insisted. "If I didn't like the city, trust me, I'd go my separate way."

Sunblock day? Great day. It's heating up in the desert, close to 80 degrees. You want to see Cactus League clubs, you'd better slather on the sunscreen.

Likes: Looking forward to serving as a panelist at Arizona State University's Cronkite School of Journalism on Monday night. I'll be joining Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Janie McCauley of the Associated Press and Bob Nightengale of USA Today in a panel discussion talking about covering spring training. ... Cool scene with the Rangers with Yu Darvish in camp. His parents are really nice folks. ... Meatballz Italian Deli in Peoria. Had the eggplant parmesan the other night and it was great. And I don't say that lightly: I've never before had eggplant parmesan. But it was Ash Wednesday, and I was going meatless, so I skipped the chicken parmesan. ... The shrimp creole at Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen in Phoenix. ... Sirius/XM Satellite radio's E Street Channel. Been digging the unveiling of a new track each day from Bruce Springsteen's forthcoming Wrecking Ball record.

Dislikes: Grady Sizemore, hurt again in Cleveland. Poor guy, and poor Indians. What was shaping up as a brilliant career now looks certain to fall way short of that.

Rock 'n' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Kiss a little baby
"Give the world a smile
"And if you take an inch
"Give them back a mile
"'Cause if you lie like a rug
"And you don't give a damn
"You're never going to be
"As happy as a clam"

-- John Prine, Big Old Goofy World
Posted on: February 24, 2012 12:49 pm
 

Thrilled Brewers back Braun, angry over leak

PHOENIX -- A happy bunch of Brewers had two overwhelming reactions while reporting to work and awaiting newly cleared slugger Ryan Braun's arrival Friday morning.

"I'm thrilled," outfielder Nyjer Morgan said. "It's like another Christmas."

"He's the best player in the league," outfielder Corey Hart said. "That's a pretty good pickup we got."

But they were far less pleased that Braun's ordeal became public in the first place, and that Major League Baseball essentially declared him guilty of steroid use in a statement saying the league "vehemently disagrees" with the arbiter's decision overturning his 50-game suspension.

"I was actually disappointed that major league baseball didn't wait until Ryan spoke before they said something," Milwaukee player representative Chris Narveson said. "We're definitely in favor of drug testing. We just want it done right.

"All it takes is one administrative mess-up to cause a fault. There can be a glitch in the system."

"It's a problem when you're guilty until you're proven innocent," veteran pitcher Shaun Marcum said. "In a court of law it's the opposite.

"It's a crappy situation. Ryan is one of those guys who's not going to do anything like that. The guy rarely puts alcohol into his body. I don't see him putting steroids in there."

The fact that what was supposed to have been a private process leaked to ESPN in December bothered all of them.

"The things that happened with this can't happen again," Hart said. "Because of what happened, I assume things will change. You hurt the reputation of one of the best players in the league.

"He'll get it back, but fans are always going to wonder. And it's not fair to him.

"He's one of the hardest working guys I've ever seen. For his reputation to be messed with, it's discouraging."

Brewers catcher Jonthan Lucroy said he was "disappointed" in MLB being so quick and so aggressive to publicly dispute the verdict.

"It's almost like they're being a sore loser," Lucroy said. "It was a low blow. I don't think it's right to do that. This is the process, and it worked in the player's favor one time and they react like that?"

Bottom line, the Brewers have their MVP's back and say they believed in him the whole time.

"I think it shows that if you come out and do it the right thing and tell the truth and be honest, it means something," Lucroy said. "The process worked."
Posted on: February 21, 2012 6:56 pm
 

Mariners shuffle lineup, Ichiro out at leadoff

PEORIA, Ariz. -- The game's worst-kept secret finally was uttered publicly -- and definitively -- by the Mariners here on Tuesday: Ichiro Suzuki, leadoff man extraordinaire for most of the past decade, will be bumped down in the lineup in 2012.

Suzuki, at 38, is coming off of his worst season in the majors. That, combined with the Mariners' persistent failure to score runs over the past two seasons, made it impossible for Seattle to justify keeping Ichiro atop the lineup.

Eric Wedge will begin the season with Ichiro hitting third. The manager envisions Chone Figgins, who was an All-Star as the Angels' leadoff man in 2009, returning to the top of the lineup in what likely will be a last-ditch grab at past glories for Figgins. Though it is not cast in stone, Wedge said second baseman Dustin Ackley likely will hit second.

Wedge said he and Ichiro talked on Monday before the Mariners made their decision public a day later.

"I sat down and explained to him the whys and wherefores," Wedge said. "This wasn't out of left field.

"He's on board with this. I was very clear with him, and he was very clear with me. This is all about the team. ...

"You look at the impact he can have in the middle of the lineup, it's greater than the impact that he can have at leadoff. It's that simple."

Suzuki, a lifetime .326 hitter, batted a career-worst .272 in 2011. It was the first time in 11 seasons that his average dipped below .300. The 2001 AL MVP's .310 on-base percentage also was, by far, a career low.

"I came in prepared mentally because there was a possibility I'd be hitting elsewhere," Ichiro said through a translator following Seattle's workout Tuesday.

Asked if it will be strange to not hit atop the lineup, Suzuki said: "Anything can happen in this game. It's not just leading off. That's the fun part of the game. Like I fell you guys all the time, I'm ready to pitch."

That likely will not be happening anytime soon. Though some Mariners' fans might swear at this point that Ichiro will take the mound before Figgins will bounce back.

Part of Wedge's thinking, he said, is to get Figgins back into his comfort zone. A colossal disappointment after signing a four-year, $36 million deal before the 2010 season, Figgins bottomed out last season at .188/.241/243. He suffered while doing so, managing what was thought to be a sports hernia through much of the season's final four months but what turned out to be a torn labrum in his hip.

"I'm happy to be healthy," said Figgins, who was married in the offseason. "We talked about what might happen [with the lineup], but I'm just happy to be healthy."

It's no secret that Figgins has been a fish out of water during his two years in Seattle, from having to adjust to a different (non-leadoff) spot in the batting order because of Ichiro to failing to figure out a way to fit his offensive game into Safeco Field.

Clearly, the Mariners are hoping that no small part of this move will result in a boost to Figgins' confidence.

"I'm going to give Figgins first shot at," the leadoff role, Wedge said. "I'm confident that Figgy can get back to his old self as a leadoff hitter. He got on base, scored runs, and really was a pain to opposing teams when he led off in Anaheim."

While the Mariners sort through the top two spots in their order and hope Figgins and Ackley can produce solid enough springs to solidify their roles, the heat will be on Suzuki, who has one year and $17 million left on his current Mariners' deal.

His slugging percentage has been below .400 in each of the past two seasons, and in three of the past four. His OPS has been below .800 in three of the past four seasons. He tweaked his batting stance over the winter, and now is utilizing a more wide-open stance this spring.

"I want to perform better," Suzuki said when asked why he made the changes. "We all make changes to perform better. That's one reason. That's the only reason."

He said he does not view the three-hole as requiring him to hit for more power, though that view likely will be at odds with other folks' expectations (starting with his employer). His career-high is 15 homers, in 2005. He had five last season. In his view, situations dictate some actions at the plate.

"I've always performed when wanting to hit a home run," he said. "Even when leading off, you want to hit a home run when it's the right time.

"That will not change."

His once jet-black hair now dotted with flecks of gray, Suzuki, according to Baseball Prospectus, saw his batting average on balls in play (BABIP) drop 100 points on line drives and 40 points on ground balls. Some of the former is attributable to luck (bad), while some of the latter likely is because of his age (getting old).

"I want him to make it his own," Wedge said of Ichiro and the three-hole in the lineup. "He's as smart a baseball player as we have in there. He wants to do what's best for the ballclub."

Said Ichiro: "I was always prepared to do what's best for the team."

Sunblock Day? Best day of the week so far. Temperature hanging in the mid-70s. Warm sun. Life is good.

Likes: Carlos Guillen, trying to stay in the game with the Mariners, intently watching the clubhouse television after practice. What was he watching? Footage of Prince Fielder joining his old Tigers teammates in Lakeland. ... Padres bullpen coach Darrell Akerfelds staying strong while batting pancreatic cancer. He underwent off-season surgery to determine whether his tumor could be removed, but doctors said it could not be because it was entwined with surrounding arteries. But the good news is, it hasn't grown since last year and Akerfelds is back in uniform for San Diego this spring. ... Mariners general manager Jack Zdurencik has put together quite a front office, including relatively new additions Ted Simmons, Joe McIlvaine and Chris Gwynn. ... Gwynn says his brother, Tony, is doing great after last week's surgery to remove a cancerous tumor inside his right cheek. The brothers spoke over the telephone, and Chris says Tony, who had a nerve removed from his cheek and another transplanted from his neck/shoulder area to replace it, sounds "normal." ... Best scene Tuesday: A father leaning over close to his young son while Felix Hernandez was throwing a bullpen session and telling the boy, "Listen to him pop that glove." ... One heck of a story from Thomas Lake in the current Sports Illustrated looking at Wes Leonard, the Michigan high schooler who made a winning basket and then died on the court last winter, and the Fennville community. ... The sesame swordfish with orange chile salsa at the newly opened Richardson's in Phoenix. Fabulous meal the other night.

Dislikes: Manny Ramirez signing with Oakland. More on that later in the week.

Rock 'n' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"I been stumbling on good hearts turned to stone
The road of good intentions has gone dry as a bone

-- We Take Care of Our Own, Bruce Springsteen
Posted on: February 19, 2012 3:44 pm
 

Giants' Wilson hopes to be ready by March

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Brian Wilson, the 24/7 personality who helped the Giants win the World Series and became a cult hero in the process, said Sunday that he hopes to be game-ready by the second week of Cactus League games.

The proclamation was notable for a couple of reasons. One, Wilson appeared in only six games after last Aug. 1 while battling a strained elbow. And two, he clammed up about the time his elbow went south, and he hadn't spoken publically in about seven months.

"I wasn't frustrated," Wilson said in a brief interview before San Francisco's first workout for pitchers and catchers. "It was nothing I could have controlled. I was never frustrated."

Wilson said he hopes to pitch in the second week of spring games, which would be the week of March 11. After leading the NL with 48 saves during the Giants' dream season of 2010, Wilson managed 36 last summer before succumbing to the elbow, just one more thing gone wrong in a season of bad news for the Giants.

Still, Wilson tried to pitch through the pain. After making four appearances between Aug. 5 and 15, he was shut down for a month, his next appearance coming on Sept. 18. But it was evident then that things weren't right, and he wound up pitching just one more game, Sept. 21, before being shelved.

"It's what I do," Wilson said of trying to push through the injury. "I don't ask for days off. I don't complain. I don't ask for a time out until I can take a breather."

Wilson said he feels good now and is hoping that he's given the elbow enough time to heal.
 
 
 
 
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