Tag:Steve Azar
Posted on: March 8, 2012 7:59 pm
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Driving Florida's back roads with Maybin & Alonso

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: February 29, 2012 7:10 pm
 

Arizona's Drew comes back one grounder at a time

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- He works slowly, methodically. One ground ball at a time.

The Diamondbacks remain steadfastly non-committal about whether shortstop Stephen Drew, returning from a devastating ankle injury, will be ready in time for their April 6 opener against the Giants. Odds are against it.

They are insistent that no timetable is set because, well, once a timetable is there, then the player can start to rush, maybe push things a little too hard and that's the last thing anybody wants.

"He's probably ahead of where we thought he'd be," Arizona general manager Kevin Towers said Wednesday. "His range looks good. His arm looks good.

"With him, it will be recovery time. It will take some time to break up the scar tissue."

Drew broke his right ankle and severely damaged several ligaments sliding into home plate in a game last July 20.

How ugly was it? Giants catcher Buster Posey, who broke his own ankle during a play at the plate last May, said this spring that he'll watch replays of his own collision before he'll watch a replay of the Drew play.

"I cringe," Posey said.

It's been a long, tough rehabilitation since then for Drew. Add surgery for a sports hernia over the winter to his list of obstacles, and you can see why the Diamondbacks are determined to let Drew go at his own pace and not screw this one up.

"From what I've seen, he looks great," starter Daniel Hudson said. "We don't want to rush anything.

"Hopefully, when he comes back, he'll be the old Stephen Drew and he can help us with a playoff push."

In 86 games last season, Drew hit .252 with five homers, 45 RBIs and four steals. In three of the four years before 2011, he played in at least 150 games.

"There's a long way to go until he's ready, but it will be great to have him back," Diamondbacks right fielder Justin Upton said. "He's a big part of our team. Everybody knows, he's so big on defense."

Certainly, Drew's return is as important as anything for Arizona this spring. Towers helped keep the Diamondbacks in first place after the shortstop's injury last summer with his savvy acquisition of Aaron Hill and John McDonald from Toronto.

McDonald and veteran Willie Bloomquist will share time at shortstop until Drew returns.

A big test will be his first Cactus League game action, and that's an unknown, too. He will not be ready when Arizona opens exhibition play Saturday. The next big thing, then, will be to see how he responds playing in back-to-back games, and when he plays three or four days in a row.

"We're pleased with the way he's fielding balls, his body control when he makes plays, his range," Towers said. "I think he feels good where he's at."

Sunblock Day? The wind moved out of the Valley and the temperature crept back up to the mid-60s. The sun returned and all was good. But it will be better Thursday and Friday, with the temps expected back in the 70s.

Likes: What a difference in Diamondbacks camp this spring compared to last. Now, they're defending NL West champs and the talent level and depth is impressive. Then, they were coming off of a 97-loss season, Kirk Gibson was running his first camp as manager and they had no idea what was ahead. ... Frank's enchilada plate at Frank and Lupe's Mexican Restaurant in Scottsdale, Ariz. Great food, great off-the-beaten-track atmosphere. Delicious hand-made tortillas. ... Steve Azar's Slide On Over Here. ... Listening to Diamondbacks coach Alan Trammell work with some of the kids on a back field the other day during work on cutoffs and relays, and hearing him explain to them that they had better learn it now to the point where they can do it instinctually. Because when you get to the major leagues, the crowds are so loud you often don't hear the other player hollering instructions.

Dislikes: Awww, sleep well, Davy Jones.

Rock 'n' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Oh, I could hide 'neath the wings of the bluebird as she sings
"The six o'clock alarm would never ring
"But it rings and I rise wipe the sleep out of my eyes
"The shavin' razor's cold, and it stings
"Cheer up, sleepy Jean, oh what can it mean
"To a daydream believer and a homecoming queen?"

-- The Monkees, Daydream Believer

 
 
 
 
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