Posted on: March 8, 2012 7:59 pm
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Small world, baseball. So it's not a shocker that Yonder Alonso knew a few Padres when he was traded from Cincinnati.
He was teammates with three current Padres at the University of Miami -- catcher Yasmani Grandal, outfielder Blake Tekotte and catcher Jason Hagerty -- on a Hurricanes team that was the No. 1 seed entering the 2008 College World Series.
But the best story is his acquaintance with center fielder Cameron Maybin.
"My first impression was, 'Geez, who is this guy?'" said Maybin, who first encountered Alonso when they were playing Florida travel ball as high schoolers.
Maybin was playing for the Midland Redskins, Alonso for the Florida Bombers.
When the two met, Maybin says, Alonso went 4 for 4 with three home runs.
"I still have the tape of that game," Maybin says.
Playing alongside Alonso for the Bombers: current Blue Jays catcher J.C. Arencibia, Reds pitcher Mat Latos (whom Alonso was traded for, ironically), Athletics second baseman Jemile Weeks, Twins third baseman Danny Valencia and Cardinals outfielder Jon Jay.
"They were sick," Maybin says.
The Twins drafted Alonso in the 16th round that year (2005), but he passed and went to the University of Miami instead.
"I needed it," Alonso said. "I wasn't ready for pro ball. I needed more baseball in me, and I needed to mature a little bit more."
Sunblock Day: Cool Thursday, but the wind stopped and that made all the difference. As predicted, the high was right at 60 degrees.
Likes: Chris Getz, vying for a job as Kansas City's second baseman. Good kid. He loved the fact that I was wearing a "Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band" hoodie in Royals' clubhouse (hey, it's been cold ... and he's from the Detroit area). ... Sour cream enchiladas and frozen strawberry margaritas at Los Olivos in Scottsdale. Perfect combo... Spotting a Culver's Frozen Custard in Arizona. ... Old Town Scottsdale. You can't go wrong. ... The Jacuzzi at my hotel pool, which provides some pretty solid therapy for this doggone oblique strain that has been nagging at me (yes, spring training can be tough for writers, too!).
Dislikes: Clocks changing Saturday. Ugh. I like the idea of it being light later and later. Love it. But man, I hate giving up that hour of sleep Saturday night.
Rock 'n' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"We're gonna need each other
"So I'll drive while you sleep
"And when I get too tired you can take the wheel from me"
-- Steve Azar, Hard Road
Posted on: March 3, 2012 12:20 pm
Edited on: March 3, 2012 3:58 pm
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Because he seized the opportunity they gave him last year at this time with grace, flair and production, the Padres have hitched their long-term plans to center fielder Cameron Maybin with a five-year, $25 million deal that takes him through 2016, according to sources with knowledge of the talks.
The deal also includes a club option for 2017 that could push its total value to $33 million.
"It's a great thing," Padres manager Bud Black said Saturday. "It gives Cameron some security and stability, and it gives us a player under contract that we're excited to have."
Maybin flourished with the Padres last summer in the opportunity of a lifetime following two rough seasons with the Marlins in which he shuttled up and down between the majors and minors. The Padres made it clear to him last spring that they would give him every chance to win the center field job. But, carrying scars from the way the Marlins pulled the plug on him multiple times, it took awhile for him to relax and push away the paranoia.
"Even until the halfway point last year, I had days where I was looking over my shoulder," Maybin said following Saturday's workout. "You hear it, but you don't believe it.
"There came a point around the All-Star break where I knew I was the guy. Going into this year and having this [contract] done, I think it helps me even more. ... I think there's a lot more in there. There's a lot more to come."
In 137 games in San Diego, Maybin batted .264, nine homers and 40 RBI. He stole 40 bases, compiled a .323 on-base percentage and played an excellent center field. His .901 zone rating ranked second among qualifying NL center fielders.
He ranked fourth in the majors in thefts. His 82 runs scored and eight triples led the Padres. He also legged out 37 infield hits, sixth in the majors and second all-time in club history behind Eric Young's 40 in 2000.
At 25, as you would expect following a year in which he established himself, it's an even more mature Maybin preparing for the 2012 season this spring.
"A couple of things I see, I don't want to say he's more at ease, but he's more confident," Black said. "As much as we told him last spring that he was going to be our everyday center fielder, I think there was some doubt in his mind that that would be the case.
"He knows there's a responsibility that comes with being an everyday player. The organization reached out to him with a long-term commitment, and he realizes what that means."
Wearing a dress shirt with a patch above the right breast reading, "Courage is knowing what not to fear", Maybin said he senses that at this point, with this deal, the Padres are making him the face of the franchise, "which I'm more than ready and willing to be."
"Cameron has certainly emerged as a core player,” general manager Josh Byrnes said in a statement. “During his time with the Padres, he has impressed us with his play and with his character. He has shown us that he is committed to the Padres, and we are happy to secure his rights through 2017."
Though Maybin did not get a no-trade clause -- "That's something I wish we could have gotten in there" -- the Asheville, N.C., native said he feels at home enough that he'll look to move to San Diego for good.
Sunblock Day? Barely. High 60s here in the desert. But it's supposed to be 80 Sunday.
Likes: Padres manager Bud Black while discussing Matt Palmer and other pitchers on his staff: "God, I wish I had an Emerson and a Lake. Oh, what a lucky man I'd be." ... Exhibition games. Real, live baseball to watch. ... Looking forward to watching Duke-North Carolina tonight. ... The cheese enchiladas at Garcia's Mexican Restaurant (I really need to branch out, think I've eaten Mexican in three of the past six evenings). ... The jokes that were told over the dinner that I can't repeat.
Dislikes: Haven't been able to run for the past couple of days because, somehow, I wound up with a strained oblique while working out Wednesday. Didn't feel it until waking up Thursday. Ouch. Apparently, spring training is for writers to get the kinks out, too.
Rock 'n' Roll Lyric of the Day:
As games begin in the Grapefruit and Cactus League, a respectful pause today in tribute to how the late, great, Ernie Harwell always opened his first broadcast of the spring:
"For, lo, the winter is past
The rain is over and gone
The flowers appear on the earth
The time of the singing of birds is come
And the voice of the turtle is heard in our land"
-- Song of Solomon 2:11-12
Posted on: March 16, 2011 11:22 pm
PEORIA -- Outtakes from time spent hanging out with San Diego (the Padres, not the Chicken). ...
-- New center fielder Cameron Maybin breezed through an early gaffe: He tweeted at the beginning of camp that he had become ill after eating at Panda Express.
Innocent mistake. No, not eating at Panda Express, but tweeting about getting sick afterward. What he didn't know was that one of the Padres' minority owners also owns that fast-food chain.
He subsequently cleared that up on Twitter, and now it's a funny story. Not long afterward, the owner sent him a $100 gift certificate to Panda Express.
-- Ace Mat Latos is helping Maybin break in a second outfielder's glove this spring. Maybin has his gamer, but he -- and others -- always have a second glove he's breaking in. Latos' job: He's using Maybin's "future" gamer to shag balls during batting practice.
"Me and him chat in center field a lot, and whenever there's batting practice I'll get out there and use his glove," Latos says. "You've gotta help your outfielders. You think back to what Will Venable and Tony Gwynn Jr. did for me last year, making all those plays.
"He's a great guy. I've gotta put a pocket in there for him."
The glove he's using was given to him by former Rockies teammate Todd Helton, a three-time Gold Glove winner. One clue is the way "Todd Helton" is clearly stitched onto the thumb area of the black glove.
"I'm working on breaking in some other gloves, but until I get something ready, I'm using this one," says Hawpe, who was a first baseman in high school and at Louisiana State but moved to the outfield once he landed in the Colorado organization because Helton sure wasn't going anywhere.
Hawpe said the advice Helton gave him over the winter about playing first simply was to "keep everything slow."
There was not much teasing about Hawpe's impending position change.
"No," Hawpe says. "He's excited. Like he said, 'We're boys.' He was nothing but excited."
Sunblock Day: Whew boy, high of 90 on Wednesday. Hot, hot desert sun. Love it.
Likes: The Tee Pee Mexican joint in Phoenix. Funky little building and outstanding food. Recommended: The chicken burro covered with enchilada sauce. ... Tom Waits, Darlene Love and Leon Russell inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Perfect, and long overdue. Love is incredibly underrated and Waits is one of the all-time great songwriters and lyricists. And glad to see Elton John get Russell back in the limelight. Their disc, The Union, is very good. Some of Elton's best work in years. ... The Monroe (Mich.) St. Mary Catholic Central High basketball team beating Hillsdale 49-35 Wednesday night to win its first-ever Regional tournament. Next up for my Falcons: A state quarterfinal game next Tuesday against 24-0 Schoolcraft.
Dislikes: Too many teams and people left to see, and too few days left of spring training to get to everybody. It's going to take some creative scheduling.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"The piano has been drinking
-- Tom Waits, The Piano Has Been Drinking (But Not Me)
Posted on: February 8, 2011 5:03 pm
They were the feel-good hit of the summer of 2010, winning 90 games and waging a spirited pennant run until San Francisco finally eliminated them on the last day of the season.
Then they traded All-Star Adrian Gonzalez and ... they'll be better in 2011?
Hard to imagine that until we see where the San Diego runs will come from. And general manager Jed Hoyer isn't necessarily predicting it. But he won't be surprised if it happens.
"I think the idea that we were entering a fire sale period where we were not going to be competitive ... it was born of reaction from the Adrian deal and the uncertainty after that," Hoyer said during a recent conference call. "It is our intent to field a competitive team.
"We can't replace Adrian with one guy. ..."
Perhaps they won't be able to do that even with five key newcomers -- shortstop Jason Bartlett (acquired in a trade with Tampa Bay), free agent second baseman Orlando Hudson, center fielder Cameron Maybin (acquired in a trade with Florida), free agent Brad Hawpe (who will replace Gonzalez at first base) and veteran utilityman Jorge Cantu (the Padres also are taking a flier on starter Aaron Harang).
But, Hoyer said, "I think we are more talented one through 25 than we were a year ago. We have balance and depth."
One of the GM's goals was to improve up the middle, and the Padres think they did that with Maybin, Bartlett and Hudson.
They no longer have a big bopper in the middle of their lineup, so on-base percentage and smart execution will be a vital.
"This is the most humbling sport there is," Hoyer said. "We were fortunate to win 90 games last year. A lot of things went well for us.
"Four other teams in our division had good offseasons. ... It was an interesting offseason. We executed our plan well. At the same time, there's a lot of uncertainty. And a lot of good teams competing against us."
Posted on: May 29, 2010 10:07 pm
Edited on: May 29, 2010 10:08 pm
Roy Halladay blew through South Florida on Saturday night with hurricane force and a surgeon's precision. Perfect? It was an understatement.
The way Halladay was hitting the corners and moving the ball in and out, it's a wonder 16 Marlins even put the ball in play against Dominant Doc. Halladay struck out 11 and dazed everybody else. You will not see a pitcher more sharp than this.
"I don't know what to say," Halladay sputtered to Phillies' television analyst Gary Matthews seconds after the lights went out -- literally -- in whatever they're calling Florida's stadium these days.
It was the perfect visual.
The Marlins were clicking out the lights for a postgame Saturday night concert.
But Halladay beat them to it.
It is the first time in modern baseball history that two perfect games have been thrown in one season, let alone in one month. Halladay's perfecto, though, was nowhere near the surprise that Dallas Braden's Mothers Day masterpiece was. Not even close.
The only surprise here is that Halladay has been pitching more than a decade and hadn't yet thrown a perfect game. Or a no-hitter. Or started more than one All-Star Game.
His years of taking a backseat to Roger Clemens, Pedro Martinez or anybody else in the game have long since been over.
It's just that, because Halladay was buried up in quiet, out-of-the-way Toronto for the past decade, lots of people were late to pick up on it.
As 2008 World Series MVP Cole Hamels said this spring during Halladay's first few days with the Phillies, "Roy Halladay is the greatest pitcher in the big leagues. To be able to see how much he goes the distance. You envy a guy who pitches nine, 10 complete games every year. It's so unheard of in this day and age."
Saturday's already was Halladay's fifth complete game, more than twice as many as any other pitcher in the majors. Nobody else has more than two.
As he was closing in on Saturday's masterpiece, Halladay opened the seventh by punching out slumping Chris Coghlan on a 91 m.p.h. cutter away, then closed it by punching out batting champion Hanley Ramirez on a 92 m.p.h. cutter in at the knees. In-between he threw a full-count curveball -- curveball! -- to induce a harmless pop fly to left from Gaby Sanchez.
That's one snapshot of what the Marlins faced all night. Plate umpire Mike DiMuro's strike zone was liberal, he was calling pitches two or three inches off the plate at times. Didn't matter. Halladay was the Invisible Man on this night. The Marlins weren't going to touch him.
Besides, DiMuro's zone worked great for Florida starter Josh Johnson, too. And Johnson was very, very good -- the game's only run scored when center fielder Cameron Maybin butchered Chase Utley's long fly ball to center in the third, allowing Wilson Valdez to score from first.
But Halladay, whose closest previous brush to immortality came when he no-hit Detroit for 8 2/3 innings on Sept. 27, 1998, before Philadelphia-native Bobby Higginson broke it up, was as dazzling as a pitcher can be.
"We felt like we got in a good groove by the fifth or sixth," Halladay said, referring to himself and catcher Carlos "Chooch" Ruiz. "I was just following Chooch. I can't say enough about the job he did.
"By the fifth or sixth, it was a no-brainer. I was just following him."
Braden, and now Halladay. What a month for pitching. What a month for perfection.