Posted on: March 7, 2012 9:02 pm
TEMPE, Ariz. -- He's just a glove machine.
Which isn't exactly what you would expect for a guy whose bat did all the talking last summer.
But once the Angels signed Albert Pujols, Mark Trumbo went from AL Rookie of the Year runner-up to Man Without a Position.
The plan is to employ Trumbo at third base, but that's contingent on him learning the position this spring. There's always left field if that doesn't work out.
Strange transition, moving from the 29 homers and 87 RBIs of 2011 to collecting leather in 2012.
How many gloves has Trumbo stockpiled?
He pauses. He glances at the two by his feet. He wheels around to take inventory in his locker. He crinkles his eyebrows. Finally, he thinks he has it.
"Over 10, easily," Trumbo says. "I have a first-base glove, third base, outfield. Some are shaped differently."
Such as: For now, he's playing third base with an outfielder's glove, instead of a smaller infielder's mitt. He likes the size.
"I'm a proponent of the bigger glove," Trumbo says. "A lot of plays at third base are reactionary. You knock the ball down. You're not turning a double play. Things happen super quick."
As such, Trumbo is more comfortable with the bigger glove.
But the outfielder's glove he uses at third is different from the glove he'll use when (if) he plays left. The one he's using in the infield is broken in so it's more round and wide. The tips of the fingers are pushed down toward the glove's heel.
The outfield glove, it's broken in so it's more slender and narrow (almost like folded in half). It looks larger.
Since the Angels signed Pujols in December, Trumbo estimates he's added five gloves to his collection for test-driving and experimenting with. Options are good.
"It's an art form," he says. "What's comfortable for you, nobody else can tell you."
Biggest danger now as he moves across the infield, it appears, is Trumbo pulling the wrong glove out of his locker.
"It's getting a little cluttered," he says, chuckling.
Sunblock day? Another windstorm took the temperatures down to 60 degrees Wednesday.
Likes: The baby back ribs at Don & Charlie's in Scottsdale. Hadn't been there in several years, but it's a classic old baseball hangout during spring training. Was there the other night and saw George Brett, Robin Yount, Bob Uecker, Baseball Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson, former agent Dennis Gilbert, Joe Randa. ... Maxine Nightingale's old hit Right Back Where We Started From. Heard it on the radio today, and can't help thinking of the great flick Slap Shot every time I do. ... Very enjoyable watching Yu Darvish in Peoria on Wednesday. Particularly enjoyable the way he attacks hitters and doesn't dink around.
Dislikes: A stiff wind really made for a chilly day in Arizona on Wednesday. I'll take Florida's early spring weather over Arizona's.
Rock 'n' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Well, I don't know, but I've been told
"You never slow down, you never grow old
"I'm tired of screwin' up, tired of going down
"Tired of myself, tired of this town
"Oh, my, my. Oh, hell, yes
"Honey, put on that party dress.
"Buy me a drink, sing me a song.
"Take me as I come 'cause I can't stay long"
-- Tom Petty, Mary Jane's Last Dance
Posted on: March 24, 2011 9:41 am
PEORIA, Ariz. -- He's just 24 and, were the Mariners not fielding a lineup that includes retreads Jack Cust, Jack Wilson and Milton Bradley, Justin Smoak would be the face of Seattle's rebuilding effort.
Instead, the Mariners aren't rebuilding so much as retooling. So the biggest name acquired from Texas in last summer's Cliff Lee trade remains a face of the future, not the face of the future.
Which probably is just fine. Lessens the expectations, you know.
"I don't feel much pressure," Smoak says. "They brought me in here for a reason. I just have to go out and play my game."
The hope is that the first baseman eventually develops some pop, and the Mariners caught a glimpse of that last summer when he batted .239 with five homers and 14 RBIs in 30 games for Seattle. Before that, Smoak struggled in Texas, hitting just .209 with eight homers and 34 RBI in 70 games.
One thing that could be a plus as the switch-hitter grows into his major-league size is, Smoak is not griping in the least about leaving Texas' hitter-friendly ballpark for Seattle's, uh, less-than-hitter-friendly Safeco Field. In fact, Smoak's mindset on hitting in Seattle is impressive.
"I think it will be better for me," he says. "Batting left-handed in Texas, I wanted to pull everything. And it got me messed up.
"In Safeco, you've got to go gap-to-gap, use the whole field. Hopefully, that will help me. Because when I'm going good, I'm going the other way."
Safeco definitely prevents hitters from getting too pull happy. And that should allow a guys like Smoak to avoid falling into bad habits that sometimes can take several days to work out of. He talks of what a "great opportunity it is here in Seattle. Everybody's excited in the direction we're headed."
"It's a good group of guys here," he adds. "I think this year is going to be a lot better than it was last year. It's got to be better. The clubhouse has been good. Everybody's loose."
Of course, it's a lot easier to be loose at 0-0 than it is en route to 101 losses, as Seattle suffered last season. Part of Smoak's job in his first full season with the Mariners will be to help keep it that way -- and hit to all fields.
Sunblock Day? Killer. Back up in the high 70s with a warm sun.
Likes: Opening day, a week away. ... NCAA basketball tournament, four more wild days starting today. ... Spring training always is a great time of the year, but at this point, it's always nice when it's time to go home.
Dislikes: So long to my Chrysler Sebring convertible rental car here in the desert.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"It's time to move on, time to get goin'
-- Tom Petty, Time to Move On
Posted on: October 10, 2010 7:11 pm
ARLINGTON, Tex. -- This postseason is becoming Made to Order for the Yankees.
As the New York Daily News comically -- and correctly -- pointed out early in the week, they received an "EZ Pass" in drawing the Twins in the first round.
Texas' failure to finish off Tampa Bay in three or four games pretty much assures the Yankees that they will not face the winner's ace -- the Rangers' Cliff Lee or the Rays' David Price -- until Game 3 of the AL Championship Series.
Lee and Price will oppose each other in the deciding Game 5 of the Rangers-Rays Division Series on Tuesday night.
The ALCS begins on Friday. The Yankees will have had five days off to prepare, with ace CC Sabathia fully rested for Game 1.
Meantime, there are a couple of other angles playing into the Yankees' hands: Neither Texas slugger Josh Hamilton (ribs) nor Tampa Bay cleanup hitter Evan Longoria (strained quadriceps) is playing at full strength right now.
Hamilton, who missed most of September after breaking a couple of ribs colliding with the outfield fence in Minnesota (is that the center whereby all breaks fall for the Yankees?), is hitting .143 over the four games of this AL Division Series. He's struck out four times in 14 at-bats.
The outfielder, of course, insists that the still-healing ribs are not bothering him.
"I wish I could use that excuse, but they're not," he said. "This is the whole thing that makes baseball fun. You figure them out, and then they figure you out. If it was easy, nobody would play."
Texas manager Ron Washington acknowledges that Hamilton is not at 100 percent but is keeping details in-house.
"I don't think no one is 100 percent right now," Washington said. "But you understand Josh hasn't seen live pitching in a month and he's up there fighting, and he's fighting hard. It's not an excuse, but he is facing some pretty good pitching right now."
Longoria is faring better at the plate, especially in Tampa Bay's 5-2 Game 4 win Sunday when he cracked two doubles and a two-run homers. He's batting .250 for the series, with a .294 on-base percentage. The two-run homer are his only RBIs.
What's particularly bothersome about Longoria, though, is watching him run. He's clearly slowed by the left quadriceps both running the bases and in the field.
"He's under strict managerial orders to not run hard, although he can't anyway," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "What you're seeing is pretty much where he's at right now. I want him to guard that leg. As we get deeper into the playoffs, it shall get better. But for right now, I'm good with what he's doing."
Likes: Texas second baseman Ian Kinsler on Game 5 Tuesday in Tampa Bay: "Everyone understands it's just one game now. It's the same game, there's just more cameras. The bases don't eject out of the ground. Guys aren't throwing 150 miles an hour. There's a little more intensity." ... The Rangers taking the field for Game 4 to Tom Petty's Running Down a Dream. ... Sundance Square in Fort Worth. ... Southwest Airlines, where you don't get the feeling you're bothering the employees when you fly with them. ... Monroe (Mich.) St. Mary Catholic Central High School's football team blasting Carleton Airport 34-21 on Friday night. The Falcons now are 6-1, clinched at least a share of the Huron League title and clinched another berth in the state playoffs. Way to go, boys.
Dislikes: Error on me in writing that Tampa Bay had not played a noon game all season before Sunday, including spring training. That was the word in Tampa Bay's clubhouse. The truth of it? The Rays have short memories. They actually had an 11 a.m. start in Boston on Patriots' Day and three 12:10 p.m. starts in Tampa during the season. Thanks to alert reader Daniel Frederick for pointing this out.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Well it's funny how it's the little things in life that mean the most
-- Zac Brown Band, Chicken Fried
Posted on: May 6, 2010 8:19 pm
Edited on: May 6, 2010 9:09 pm
Most ironic development in the 2010 season?
Retired ace pitcher Tom Glavine, now a special assistant to Braves president John Schuerholz, signing on as a spokesman for the company that developed and licensed the technical aspects of a certain computer program to ... Questec.
As in, the computerized strike-zone grading mechanism that caused freaked-out umpires to squeeze the zone a few years back ... which nearly blew up Glavine's golden years in the game.
Funny how in life our enemies can become friends, and vice-versa, huh?
The pitching program Glavine liked well enough to sign on with is called PitchSight, and it was developed by L-3 Communications of Burlington, Mass., about a year-and-a-half ago.
In a nutshell, PitchSight is a computer-based system that has the capability of tracking a number of elements designed to aid a pitcher's growth and development. Two cameras and a computer help spit out graphs charting a pitcher's release point, pitch speed, arm angle, the break of a pitch and the location of a pitch.
The intent is that by using the program, a pitcher will be better able to repeat arm angles, pitches and other technical aspects that needs repeating to be successful.
Glavine, who won 305 games in the majors and should be inducted into baseball's Hall of Fame in 2014, likes and believes in PitchSight for several reasons.
"It's pretty simplistic -- there are not a lot of bells and whistles," he says. "You can get instantaneous feedback. You can be in the middle of a bullpen session, stop and immediately dial up a pitch and get information that is pertinent with no guesswork.
"One thing that separates it from video is that in video, there's some gray area as to what you think you're feeling and what you see when you're watching."
By its graphic nature, Glavine says, with PitchSight, "what you see is what you get. There is no guesswork."
"Virtually every year down the stretch, I'd go through a period where I wasn't comfortable," says Glavine, who also offered tips and helped tweak the program while it was in development. "Sometimes you feel way off when in actuality you may be only a little off. Sometimes you feel just a little off when in actuality you may be way off.
"Sometimes you'd watch video, but there was still room for interpretation."
Glavine thinks this program would have helped him ("I'm not saying I would have won 100 more games").
And just think, if he's right, it probably could have done so with far fewer words than it took, say, former Braves pitching coach Leo Mazzone.
"And less expletives," Glavine says, chuckling.
The system sells for $30,000, plus installation. Ken Riddle, L-3 Communications vice-president, says Boston College is among those currently testing the system. The company is hoping its system will catch on with some major-league teams, which it thinks could benefit in expediting the development of younger pitchers in minor-league systems.
As for the idea that it's revenge for Questec?
"This is absolutely something to help pitchers out," Riddle says, chuckling. "I'm not sure I'd call it revenge. It's a different application of technology."
Or, as Glavine says, "You're stealing an evaluation tool pitchers were not real fond of, and now it could be an evaluation tool that is beneficial to pitchers. That's why I like it."
Likes: Still love the XM radio baseball package where you can listen to every game every night (and the MLB Extra Innings package on the tube, too). If only XM had been around a couple of decades ago, just think how many folks could have heard Ernie Harwell then. ... How about the play of Andruw Jones this year? White Sox fans may love it, but Dodgers fans surely are thinking about how badly Jones stole Los Angeles' money. Michigan summers. ... The Hold Steady at the Belly-Up Tavern in San Diego (actually, Solana Beach) on Tuesday night. Their new disc, Heaven is Whenever, sounds great and the show was stellar. Constructive Summer and Stay Positive were among the many standout numbers in the live show. ... These opening acts for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' summer tour: Joe Cocker, Drive-By Truckers, ZZ Top, Buddy Guy, My Morning Jacket and Crosby, Stills & Nash. Now that's strong. ... Finally, season four of Friday Night Lights debuts on Friday night. Nice job, NBC, keeping it on ice for so long that it again faces long odds of getting good ratings. Talk about giving a great show no chance. Of course, there was no room on the schedule, I know, with the lame Jay Leno 10 p.m. show going.
Dislikes: Farewell, Hall of Famer Robin Roberts. What a bad week. First Ernie Harwell, now the ace of the Phillies 1950 Whiz Kids.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Mama, take this badge off of me
-- Bob Dylan, Knockin' on Heaven's Door
Posted on: July 26, 2009 8:16 pm
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- A dominant question here for the past 20 years has been the specter of Pete Rose's status, and there appears to be no end in sight.
Commissioner Bud Selig deflected a question at the All-Star Game about possibly giving the banned Rose another hearing, saying his status remains "under review."
Here in Cooperstown this weekend, some wondered whether the number of Hall-worthy players stained by steroids could actually help Rose's candidacy in coming years.
"I don't know," Hank Aaron said. "I think the Pete Rose thing is a little different than the steroids. To me it is. From what I gather, from commissioner to commissioner before Bud Selig was in, they think that the [anti-gambling] rules were so obvious on the [clubhouse] doors. I don't know how they eliminate that, really.
"If I had been Pete, I think I would have asked for forgiveness many, many years ago. And I've got a feeling that this country, the most forgiving country in the world, people would say, 'Hey, everybody makes a mistake.' He made a mistake, let's go on with something else.
"I would certainly like to see him in. He belongs in."
Is it too late for forgiveness?
"His career has been one that, I think, he needs to be dead in the middle of all of this," Aaron said. "I know Pete, he's a friend of mine. I sometimes feel sorry that he hasn't made it yet."
One of Rose's ex-teammates, Hall of Famer Tony Perez, definitely misses him.
"Pete should be in the Hall of Fame," Perez said. "I always say he should b in the Hall of Fame."
Likes: It was a very emotional Dave Stewart who watched his boyhood friend, Rickey Henderson, be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Sunday. Stewart, the longtime major league pitcher, called it "one of the proudest moments in my life. I feel like my brother is going in." ... Former manager Sparky Anderson sitting next to former Yankees great Whitey Ford on the stage during Hall of Fame induction ceremonies Sunday. Sparky, Whitey, the shock of white hair atop each man's head ... perfect. ... The legendary Stan Musial was missed again -- he hasn't been able to travel here the last couple of years -- but they rolled a video of him playing Take Me Out to the Ballgame on his harmonica from several inductions ago and it was very well done. ... Wonder how Jim Rice would have done as a football player? The University of Nebraska offered him a scholarship back in the day. ... Former broadcaster Tony Kubek gave a very nice speech accepting the Ford Frick Broadcaster's Award. Among other things, he told Hank Aaron, "You've overcome, just like Jackie Robinson, Martin Luther King and President Barack Obama." Kubek also said of Cooperstown, "This place is magical. Somebody put this here with a purpose." ... And finally, congratulations to friend Nick Peters of the Sacramento Bee, inducted into the writer's wing of the Hall. Peters, recounting his days when he was named as Alaska's Sportswriter of the Year, quipped that the best thing about being in Alaska was that he could see Russia from his house.
Dislikes: Not here in Cooperstown, on Hall of Fame weekend. Pure baseball, and a terrific place.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Oh baby, don't it feel like heaven right now
-- Tom Petty, The Waiting
Posted on: April 24, 2009 12:21 am
One of the most impressive transformations in the majors this season is taking place in the Detroit pitching staff where, through Thursday, the Tigers had issued the fewest walks in the American League (42), and the second-fewest walks in the majors behind Philadelphia (40).
This after walking more hitters a year ago than every AL team except Baltimore.
There are several reasons why the Tigers were 8-6 and tied with Chicago and Kansas City for first in the AL Central heading into their series finale in Anaheim Thursday night -- as opposed to 4-10 and dead last after 14 games a year ago.
But the fact that their pitching staff is pumping strikes -- Edwin Jackson's rocky fourth inning later Thursday night notwithstanding -- is among the biggest.
"I don't say, 'We're not going to walk guys', but I want them throwing strikes," first-year pitching coach Rick Knapp says. "I want them to attack the strike zone.
"I want them to think analytically how they're going to approach each guy in the strike zone with their strength, not necessarily pitching to a hitter's weakness."
The Tigers hired Knapp from Minnesota, where he spent the past 12 seasons as the Twins' roving minor-league pitching coordinator, after firing Chuck Hernandez following the '08 season. While manager Jim Leyland is reluctant to praise Knapp excessively because he does not want to disrespect Hernandez, it's clear that the fit has been a good one.
"When a guy is in the minor leagues for 12, 13 years, you know one thing: He likes baseball," Leyland says. "He's going to work his ass off because he loves the game. That's one thing I really liked about him."
Part of the Tigers' early strike-zone sharpness is because of winter changes, such as the additions of starters Jackson (acquired from Tampa Bay) and Rick Porcello (Detroit's first-round pick in 2007) and reliever Brandon Lyon (signed as a free agent). Part of it is the program Knapp has incorporated with those who were here last year, such as veterans Justin Verlander, Zach Miner and Armando Galarraga.
"One of his things is to avoid the three-ball count," backup catcher Matt Treanor says. "He keeps an unofficial stat on three-ball counts, that there are a lot more foul balls on those. And then you get a couple of foul balls, then you try and trick somebody and you go away from your game plan."
Too, as Knapp says, "One sure-fire way not to walk a batter is, don't throw three balls. If you don't get to ball three, there's a pretty good chance you're not going to walk the guy."
Another thing the Tigers pitchers do several times a week is "touch the mound."
Translation: "All of the pitchers have the opportunity to throw off of the mound every day," Knapp says. "Not top-speed, eyeballs-popping-out."
It's from the practice-like-you-play philosophy. Knapp likes his pitchers to throw at least every other day from a mound, even if it's just playing catch, so that they can work on their deliveries. Lyon, for example, has a higher release point with his curve than with his fastball, and in a recent game he lost track of his arm slot on the fastball. He was a prime candidate after that to cruise by Knapp a day or two later and say, as Tigers pitchers do now, "I need to touch it today."
"You have to tip your cap to the pitchers, they've worked very hard," Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski says. "And it's something Rick Knapp has brought along with him."
Together, it's worked very well. But it remains way early, and this newfound familiarity with the strike zone, of course, will remain a work in progress. Thursday night in Anaheim, Jackson, who went to a three-ball count just once against 26 batters in his Saturday start in Seattle, walked two Angels home during a rocky fourth inning.
No doubt, he'll get a few subtle reminders from Knapp long before his next start, Tuesday in Detroit against the Yankees.
"When you get into an advantageous count, you can dictate what they swing at," Knapp says. "There's not much you can do when it's 2-and-0. But there's a whole lot you can do when it's 0-and-2."
More often than not, Detroit pitchers have been living that first-hand this season.
Likes: Did you see Milwaukee third baseman Bill Hall's spectacular play in the eighth inning as David Bush was gunning for a no-hitter against Philadelphia Thursday? The Phillies' Greg Dobbs smashed a bouncer down the line, and Hall absolutely robbed him.. ... Interesting watching the subtle changes in Detroit slugger Miguel Cabrera. He's been around so long it seems like he's older than 25 (he broke in at 19), but now in his second season with Detroit, it's clear he's more comfortable with the organization, the American League and with himself. "He considers this his team now," Tigers batting coach Lloyd McClendon says. McClendon also adds that Cabrera "thinks he had a bad year last year." This after leading the AL with 37 homers, collecting 127 RBI but hitting only .292. So how does McClendon respond to that? "I told him I dreamed of years like that," McClendon says. ... Bob Verdi's column in the Chicago Tribune on late Phillies broadcaster Harry Kalas brings it on home. ... National Public Radio's Don Gonyea, proud son of Monroe, Mich., on Mark "The Bird" Fidrych. ... U2 heading out on tour this summer. ... Claritin. If we had allergy medicine like this back when, I would have set some serious cross country records in high school (ha! hahaha!). It helps to run when you can breathe. It helps to do anything when you can breathe.
Dislikes: The NFL draft is proof that if you're a clever enough marketer, you can sell anything. The draft might be the single-most overrated thing in the country. I'd rather weed a garden for 12 hours straight in 100-degree temperatures than watch even one round of that thing.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Well some say life will beat you down
-- Tom Petty, Learning to Fly