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Posted on: March 3, 2012 12:20 pm
Edited on: March 3, 2012 3:58 pm
 

Padres lock up Maybin through 2017

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 2, 2012 1:12 pm
 

Don't tell Homer Bailey pitchers shouldn't hit

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Let the debate begin anew over whether it's time for the National League to adopt the designated hitter.

Pittsburgh's A.J. Burnett is out two to three months with a broken orbital bone suffered while bunting in the batting cage. And while he waits for the healing to begin, plenty of folks are chiming in, using him as Exhibit A for those who think it's time pitchers stopped batting altogether.

That's all well and good. But don't tell that to Reds pitcher Homer Bailey. The Cincinnati right-hander batted .282 with a .300 on-base percentage in 45 plate appearances last summer. He knocked home two runners.

"I think pitchers should hit in both leagues," Bailey says.

As for Burnett's injury ... hogwash, says Bailey.

"You have position players that foul balls off their feet and get hurt," Bailey says. "It's just a freak deal. You could have a position player do the same thing.

"Typically, pitchers are better bunters."

He's right. As ever, there remains no reason why pitchers should be such non-athletes that they're hopeless cases at the plate. Pitchers who can handle a bat, even to get a bunt down, help themselves. That's an advantage. Why take that advantage away?

"If it's that much of a problem," Bailey said of Burnett and the idea of pitchers injuring themselves batting, "then how come position players get hurt fouling balls off of their legs? They suffer torn hamstrings running to first, or torn knees.

"Look at what happened to Ryan Howard last year."

Howard this spring continues rehabbing the Achilles he tore during the last play of the Phillies' NLCS against St. Louis.

Sunblock Day? Nah. Jackets needed Friday morning as the temperature continues to struggle to get past 60 and a stiff wind blows.

Likes: Copies of USA Today's daily crossword puzzle and Sudoku puzzle stacked on a table in the middle of the Cincinnati clubhouse and several Reds stopping by to pick one up to work it. Those Reds, they're thinkers. ... Eric Davis in Reds camp, as usual, as an alumni coach. He loves everything about it, but don't tell him that the players keep him young. "I look younger than most of these guys in here," Davis says, and he's right. ... The jerk salmon at Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville restaurant in Glendale. Surprisingly tasty. ... Heard a tune by The Hollies in a restaurant the other day, which reminded me of how unappreciated The Hollies are today. So much good stuff -- Bus Stop, Carrie Anne, Just One Look, (Long Cool Woman) In a Black Dress, On a Carousel, Under My Umbrella, The Air That I Breathe. They're celebrating their 50th anniversary this year, too, just like the Beach Boys and the Rolling Stones. ... The burgers at Five Guys. ... Learning that the Monkees actually have a direct link to David Bowie. Turns out, the latter's real name was Davy Jones. Yep, same as the Monkees' legend who passed away this week. So as an aspiring musician in the 1960s, knowing he couldn't be known as Davy Jones, he became David Bowie.

Dislikes: The photo cameras at red lights and, especially, the ones designed to catch speeders. They had a bunch of those on the freeways in Arizona a couple of years ago, but they're gone now. Someone told me one of the problems was the gun-toters here periodically would shoot the cameras on the freeways to put them out of operation. No idea whether that's true. But I sure like to think it is.

Rock 'n' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"If you don't eat your meat
"You can't have any pudding
"How can you have any pudding
"If you don't eat your meat?"

-- Pink Floyd, Another Brick in the Wall

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

Posted on: February 28, 2012 5:25 pm
Edited on: February 28, 2012 5:57 pm
 

Indians off to rough start with Sizemore, Perez

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Indians and their fans remember the vintage days of Grady Sizemore: All-Star, Gold Glover, Silver Slugger, game-changer, face of the franchise.

Now, they just hope there's room left for Grady Sizemore, major-leaguer.

Though the Indians said he was around Tuesday, he was nowhere in sight. He was off getting his back checked out after another injury in a string that makes you wonder whether there are many days left in his career.

"He was one of the reasons I came here to manage," skipper Manny Acta said Tuesday. "I was like, 'Man, that guy is going to win some games all by himself. The excitement, when you have a guy like that."

Instead, while rehabbing his knee the other day following arthroscopic surgery this winter, Sizemore suffered a back injury and will be sidelined indefinitely. Then, in what has been a nightmarish first couple of days of camp, closer Chris Perez suffered an oblique strain. It's estimated he will be out for four-to-six weeks.

Suddenly, one of the few teams in the AL Central that at least has a chance to challenge Detroit already is playing from behind.

"Better to happen now than during the season," Perez said after his own day of rehab. "We're not missing any games yet.

"Me, personally, I'm just happy it's not my elbow or shoulder. It's just an oblique."

Perez predicts he'll be ready for Cleveland's April 5 opener against Toronto. Because he only pitches one inning at a time, the Indians think all he'll need is four or five appearances to be ready.

Whether or not that's overly optimistic, barring some other setback, the Indians should be able to count on Perez sooner rather than later this season.

They have not been able to count on Sizemore, whom they brought back on a one-year, $5 million deal this winter, since 2009. That's the last time he played in as many as 100 games (106).

Microfracture surgery on his left knee limited him to 33 games in 2010, and he made three different trips to the DL last season (both knees) in a 2011 season in which he played in only 71 games.

Quite a difference from 2005-2008, when he played in a total of 639 of Cleveland's 648 games. Given the wear and tear a player takes in center field, especially someone who plays it with the reckless abandon of Sizemore (think: Darin Erstad), you wonder if he's used up his nine lives.

Veteran Michael Brantley is the probable center fielder and lead-off hitter if Sizemore can't make it. But that leaves left field wide open for someone among a cast of several -- veterans Aaron Cunningham and Shelley Duncan, rookies Russ Canzler (the MVP of the Triple A International League last summer) and Thomas Neal. ...

One thing the Indians don't need is another season of pain. A year ago, they raced to a 30-15 start -- only to see that sabotaged in no small part by DL stints to key players. They used the DL 22 times, second-most in the AL. Sizemore, Travis Hafner, Asdrubal Cabrera and Shin-Soo Choo were together in the same starting lineup for a total of just 17 games in 2011.

Less than a week into camp, already there are warning flares around Sizemore.

"You feel bad for the kid because he's dying to be out there," Acta said. "He's such a dynamic kid, such a big part of what we do.

"He doesn't seem to catch a break."

Sunblock Day? At your discretion. The wind storm blew through, and it cooled down to the low 60s.

Likes: Enjoyable evening Monday at Arizona State University's Cronkite School of Journalism, where a panel of us discussing spring training coverage. Really enjoyed meeting the kids, and some good questions. ... He was difficult to deal with as a player, but it was cool to see Albert Belle visit the Indians for the first time since he left Cleveland at the end of the 1996 season. Belle was a visitor at Tuesday's camp thanks to persistent recruiting from guest instructors (and former teammates) Carlos Baerga and Kenny Lofton. ... Killer stuff from Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band on Jimmy Fallon's show Monday night. Wrecking Ball and We Take Care of Our Own were absolutely smokin'. ... The mesquite grilled shrimp burrito at Rubio's. Rarely do I stray from their fish tacos, but this was worth it. ... Good chicken enchiladas at Matador Mexican Restaurant in downtown Phoenix the other night, but no margaritas to go with 'em. They told us they had lost their liquor license a couple of days earlier. I'd recommend they figure out a way to get it back soon, because a Mexican place that does not serve margaritas soon will not be a Mexican place. It will be, I don't know, a flower shop.

Dislikes: Any school shooting is just inexplicable, and so it is with another, the one at Chardon (Ohio) High School on Monday. Indians owner Larry Dolan has extensive ties to that community and issued this statement: "On behalf of the Cleveland Indians baseball organization, and specifically the Dolan family whose roots are deep in the Chardon community, we offer our deepest sympathy to all involved in this senseless tragedy. We pray that the strength necessary to endure all the pain will come to the survivors. We hope for all of you peace and tranquility in due time."

Rock 'n' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"The silicon chip inside her head
"Gets switched to overload
"And nobody's gonna go to school today
"She's going to make them stay at home
"And daddy doesn't understand it
"He always said she was as good as gold
"And he can see no reason
"'Cause there are no reasons
"What reason do you need to be shown?"

-- Boomtown Rats, I Don't Like Mondays

Posted on: February 28, 2012 1:51 pm
Edited on: February 28, 2012 6:09 pm
 

Albert Belle tolls again in Indians' visit

Albert Belle, center, shares a laugh with former Indians teammates Carlos Baerga, left, and Kenny Lofton. (AP)


GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Spring training is one big reunion after everybody scatters for vacation. And the best part is, you never know who you'll run into.

Sometimes, it even draws recluses out of hiding.

"I wanted to see the guys," Albert Belle, 45, said as he surveyed Indians camp Tuesday morning. "We're rehashing old memories."

It's not quite that simple. But then, with a man as complicated as Belle, it never was.

Two stars from the classic Cleveland teams of the mid-1990s are in uniform for part of the spring as guest instructors. And Carlos Baerga and Kenny Lofton aren't alone: Their former manager, Mike Hargrove, is suiting up, too.

Anyway, Belle lives across the Valley in Scottsdale, and Baerga and Lofton were the driving forces behind the impromptu, unexpected and totally shocking reunion.

Belle has had zero contact with the Indians since leaving as a free agent following the 1996 season. Not even a trip back to Jacobs/Progressive Field for some ceremonial honor or first pitch.

"Carlos put in a couple of extra harsh words" to coax him to Cleveland's camp, Lofton said, grinning.

"I really miss Albert a lot," Baerga said. "And I wanted to see him."

His close-cropped hair almost all gray now, his trim beard containing far more salt than pepper, Belle smiled and laughed often Tuesday morning. He was clearly touched and happy to be back with some of the guys who helped him produce his greatest moments in the game.

"You know what?" Belle said. "I got hurt in 2000, and I couldn't play in 2001 and I was just devastated," said Belle, who was forced into retirement that spring with a hip injury. "I didn't watch any baseball until Game 7 of the World Series in '01 when the Diamondbacks beat the Yankees."

Those painful days having receded with the years, Belle said he now keeps up with baseball on television and usually attends one Diamondbacks game a year. Not long ago, he went to Arizona's new spring training complex and visited with old teammate and current D-backs pitching coach Charles Nagy.

"I'm seeing the guys one at a time," Belle said.

The early-morning scene outside, just behind the Indians' clubhouse, was touching, funny and, for those who remember how a baseball team turned a city on with its fire, utterly nostalgic. Those Indians won five consecutive AL Central titles from 1995-1999 (Belle left via free agency for the White Sox after the '96 season). They played in front of a sellout streak in Jacobs Field that would reach 455 consecutive games.

Baerga, Lofton, Belle and Hargrove swapped stories, asked each other questions and, for a short time, were joined by former catcher -- and current Indians coach -- Sandy Alomar Jr.

The men clearly hadn't seen each other in quite awhile and were thoroughly enjoying the reunion. Belle said he hadn't seen Baerga since the former infielder was playing for the Diamondbacks in 2004. Said he hadn't seen Hargrove since 2000, when Hargrove was managing the Orioles. Hargrove asked Belle where he's living now.

"I think our '95 team was pretty incredible," Belle said. "The Yankees had a pretty good team in '98, but I think our lineup was way better than theirs. It all started with Kenny Lofton at the top. As soon as he'd get on base, he wreaked havoc and we started licking our chops. ...

"I think everybody in Cleveland had some kind of Indians jersey or cap."

Talk about glory days.

"We got to the World Series, and it was incredible for the fans. ... We had a great time," Belle said. "I thought we could have pulled it out.

"I wish we could have stayed together as a team for a few more years. It just didn't work out."

Those cheers now faint echoes, Belle is a "stay-at-home dad", a father to four girls ranging in age from 11 to "almost two." Still guarded, he said he preferred not to reveal their names.

He smiled when asked which was tougher, facing David Cone and Roger Clemens back in the day or being a dad.

"Facing Cone and Clemens was easy," he joked. "Seems like all the kids get tired and cranky at the same time."

The kids know their pop was a baseball player, he said, via the random baseball cards that still arrive in the mail with autograph requests, or when he periodically pops DVDs of the old days into his system.

Had his hip allowed, he would have liked to have played longer. He had resurfacing surgery on his right hip in 2001, he said, and he'll have surgery on his left hip this winter.

He plays a lot of golf these days, watches baseball (Albert Pujols is his favorite hitter) and he sometimes thinks he'd like to return to baseball in some capacity.

"I've thought about it," he said. "Maybe one day I will. I like to stay at home and raise my kids. Maybe someday it will be different.

"Before I got married, I interviewed with a couple of teams and it didn't work out."

He remembers his first major-league hit, against Nolan Ryan in old Municipal Stadium, to help spark a three-run first on July 15, 1989. He remembers "all of those incredible come-from-behind games at the Jake, the city in an uproar."

Lofton and Baerga reveled in the scene as Belle talked, sprinkling comments into the conversation when they felt something needed to be said or to help spark another memory.

Someone asked a question about Progressive Field, and Lofton interjected.

"It's The Jake," Lofton said. "It's forever The Jake. Sorry."

Belle talked about how intimidating those old Indians were, still appreciating how pitchers like Dennis Martinez and Jose Mesa protected their hitters.

"The game's different now," Belle said. "

Asked about mending fences in Cleveland, Belle said, "I thought the fences were already mended. That was a long time ago."

That's the thing about free agency, he said wistfully, and it is. Players come and players go. The great times can be fleeting, and sometimes you don't realize how great they were until they're gone.

Who can forget Game 1 of the 1995 playoffs against Boston when, after then-Red Sox manager Kevin Kennedy asked the umpires to check his bat for cork after his 11th-inning homer tied the game at 4-4, Belle looked into the television camera near the Indians dugout and pointed to his biceps?

"That was a fun time," Belle said. "We were a great team. We had a lot of come-from-behind-stories."

He was always on edge, usually surly and often froze out the media. In a classic moment a few years ago, Indians beat man Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer asked him during a conversation whether he ever used steroids. No, Belle told Hoynes, "I was just an angry black man."

Tuesday, smiling, he said, "I talked to the media. They just didn't like the words I was saying."

Yes, he said, he enjoyed himself immensely throughout his career, even if it did not always appear like it to those on the outside.

"I look back, and there are some great memories," said Belle, who finished with 381 homers, 1,239 RBI and 1,726 hits over 12 seasons. "I had a nice career."

As a few current Indians trickled out of the clubhouse to begin their day, they couldn't help but notice the spectacle they were passing. Laughter, jokes and, for the longest time, the pulse of a team that produced some of the greatest hardball moments Cleveland has ever witnessed.

"What we should do is get a uniform and scrimmage those guys," Lofton joked.

And they all laughed like it was 1995 all over again.



Posted on: February 27, 2012 5:40 pm
Edited on: February 27, 2012 5:50 pm
 

Angels, Pujols take first steps toward 2012

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Was it the Angels, or were their halos actually glowing a little brighter in the Arizona sun as they convened for their first full-squad workout with Albert Pujols on Monday?

"Absolutely, you can feel his presence," ace Jered Weaver said.

"There's a sense of excitement, with all the big names," second baseman Howard Kendrick said.

There wasn't any real drama to Monday's workout, unless you count the crush of fans down the right-field line near the team's clubhouse entrance that surged forward so intensely when Pujols stopped to sign that a couple of those in the front row were pinned dangerously against the fence. One cried out in pain.

Maybe that's why Pujols didn't stick around very long to sign.

But though there was nothing to write home about on the field, not even Pujols' live batting practice session against journeyman reliever Brad Mills, the Angels were marking this day on their calendars anyway.

And from Pujols' perspective, he didn't appear to lose his bearings at all.

"He was everywhere," veteran outfielder Torii Hunter said. "He was where he was supposed to be.

"He ran with us. He stretched with us. He hit in the right group.

"He was following Erick Aybar. Aybar knows where he's going. As long as he wasn't following Howie Kendrick. ..."

Kendrick chuckled when he heard that.

"Torii might be right," Kendrick said.

Following more than a decade of spring training with the Cardinals in Jupiter, Fla., Pujols said there really isn't a dramatic difference in the way St. Louis and the Angels conduct things. It's not like, say, there's a secret entrance to the infield at Tempe Diablo Stadium.

"Camps are the same," Pujols said. "There's nothing different."

The nuances will come later.

"It's going to be fun once we start right-side defense," said Kendrick, who will play next to Pujols on that side of the infield. "That's when we'll start interacting.

"I've got to figure out what his range is, how he likes to play. I think with the Cardinals, it looked like he went to his right pretty well. It didn't look like he was afraid to go to his right.

"If he does that, then that allows me to play up the middle more. And we can cover a lot more ground."

Weaver said he got to know Pujols some during the 2006 World Series, when Jered's brother, Jeff, pitched for the Cardinals.

"He's a great guy," Weaver said. "He's always been nice to me and my family. Plus, not only can he hit, but he's a Gold Glove first baseman [winning in 2006 and 2010].

"It's not going to take him long to fit in, I know that. It's exciting. This is my seventh spring here, and there's always been talk in the offseason of us going and getting some people, and we haven't always done it. But with him and C.J. Wilson and LaTroy Hawkins. ..."

The Angels did it this winter, and now they can't wait to get going.

And that scene with the fans as Pujols was leaving the field for the day?

"It also helps with the autograph hounds," Weaver said, chuckling. "They all run to him.

"It takes a little pressure off the rest of us."

Sunblock Day? Sure was, for now, at 78 degrees. But by the time the Angels were wrapping things up around 12:30 p.m., the wind gusts were already starting to howl. Strong winds are predicted to sweep through the desert tonight and knock the temperature down to a high of 62 Tuesday.

Likes: Looking forward to being a panelist this evening at the Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State in a forum discussing spring training coverage. Other panelists: Bob Nightengale of USA Today, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and Janie McCauley, the AP writer in San Francisco. ... Not only is Bobby Valentine going to be great as a manager in Boston, it's going to be great fun with him at the helm. Ex-Red Sox manager Terry Francona had barely finished calling Boston's clubhouse beer ban a "PR move" on the radio Monday morning when Valentine fired back after the Sox workout. "Remember, you're getting paid over there for saying stuff," Valentine said. "You get paid over here for doing stuff. I've done both." Nice. ... Love Craig Counsell moving from the field to being a special assistant to Brewers general manager Doug Melvin. And how about this: The other day, Counsell and Brewers pitcher Zack Greinke went together to scout a pitcher during a game at Arizona State University. ... Dodgers GM Ned Colletti in the crowd at the Oscars on Sunday night, with great seats not far behind Michelle Williams, who was up for Best Actress for My Week With Marilyn. ... Man, with Colletti and Athletics GM Billy Beane both attending the Academy Awards (Beane to support Moneyball, of course), next thing you know, Cubs GM Theo Epstein will become a regular at the Grammys. ... Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band on Jimmy Fallon's show Monday and Friday nights this week. ... Love what I've heard of Wrecking Ball, the new Springsteen record out March 6. Some rock, some Seeger Sessions-style stuff, some gospel, some folk ... great mix.

Dislikes: Aw, Johnny Cash would have been 80 on Sunday. Happy birthday anyway to the Man in Black. Got a chance to walk through his tour bus a couple of years back when it was on exhibit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. Very, very cool. Reading daughter Rosanne Cash's memoir, Composed, now. In turns, a very thoughtful, emotional and introspective work.

Rock 'n' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"I go out on a party
"And look for a little fun
"But I find a darkened corner
"Because I still miss someone"

-- Johnny Cash, I Still Miss Someone
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 26, 2012 12:18 am
Edited on: February 26, 2012 2:39 pm
 

Athletics hope to start season with Oscar win

PHOENIX -- If they don't all gather around their television sets Sunday evening, the Oakland A's will nonetheless be keeping one eye toward Los Angeles as they root for Moneyball to win Best Picture and Billy Beane, er, Brad Pitt to win Best Actor at the Academy Awards.

"I think we need to pull for it," A's second baseman Jemile Weeks said Saturday morning. "The movie got some good feedback. There's some credit due, I guess."

"If [Pitt] brings Angelina Jolie up on stage, that would be cool," quipped Jonny Gomes. "If not, I think it's all for the birds."

On a serious note, Gomes said that "Billy and Brad are both way ahead of the curve in what they do."

Most of the Athletics attended the red carpet opening of Moneyball last September. Gomes, who played for the Reds last year, saw the movie on his own. Impressive thing is, a group who could be awfully critical about areas where the movie was exaggerated, corny or just plain wrong mostly loved it. Credit director Bennett Miller with getting so much of the baseball part right.

"I think it would be pretty cool to see a movie made about our organization and our GM win," catcher Kurt Suzuki said. "You talk about the Oscars, you're definitely aware of what a prestigious award it is.

"It definitely would be cool if Moneyball won. It's a great movie. You've got Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, some front-line actors. It's pretty cool."

Beane is in Los Angeles this weekend to attend the Oscars.

Alas, he didn't bring any of the A's with him.

"No, I've got work to do," Suzuki said, chuckling.

"Apparently, he's a fan of Honorable Mention," Braden said in mock outrage. "I feel like I could have added to his chances, him and Brad Pitt.

"But it's exciting to see."

***

I've seen seven of the nine movies up for Best Picture, all but The Artist and War Horse (and it's my shortcoming that I failed to catch up with The Artist). My amateur film critic ranking of the seven I saw:

1. Hugo. Totally and unexpectedly charming. You feel like this is real, old-time movie-making. I normally am strongly anti 3-D, figuring it's just a scam to soak more money out of our pockets, but I even loved that aspect of this film.

2. The Help. Terrific acting and a meaningful story. I know it's taken a beating by some over sort of a sanitized racial story, but if it helps further the conversation in that area, it has value.

3. The Descendents. Some laughs, some moving moments and some really good acting. George Clooney is always good, though as a friend of mine says, he always seems to be playing George Clooney. But as the widowed father of two daughters who sometimes seems beleaguered and overmatched, he's perfect and the film really captures life's messy family relations and small moments.

4. Midnight in Paris. Wonderful time-travel of a film back to 1920s Paris. Though my pal Jim Caple is steamed that Corey Stoll did not get a Supporting Actor nomination for his outstanding work as Ernest Hemingway. And Jim is right.

5. Moneyball. Much better than I thought it would be. Really well done, and I don't mean to diss it by ranking it fifth. But enjoyable as it was, it's not a Best Picture. That said, Pitt really nails Beane, just a terrific job of acting. And one of the best, most underrated parts is Kerris Dorsey, the 13-year-old actress who plays Beane's daughter, singing Lenka's The Show -- "I'm just a little bit caught in the middle. ..." Absolutely perfect.

6. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. Cannot believe I saw a movie tied to 9/11 and felt very little emotion. But I did. This was an absolute clunker, thoroughly mawkish and ham-handed. Embarrassing for the Oscars that it's anywhere near Best Picture category.

7. Tree of Life. Either I'm not smart enough to understand it, or it was utterly dreadful. I'll volunteer the former. Some people think it was brilliant and spiritual. I'm not an action-movie guy, I prefer quieter films that tell a story. But this lost me even before the dinosaurs appeared. And what was that about?

Sunblock Day? Great day, 79 degrees, got out for a much-needed long run. But the cooldown is coming to the desert. By Tuesday, the predicted high is only 61.

Likes: Friend Bill Chuck in his Billy-Ball blog notes that the only Oscar in the Hall of Fame is Oscar Charleston, who was inducted by the Negro League Committee in 1976. ... Also according to Chuck's research, infielder Oscar Grimes and pitcher Oscar Judd are the only two Oscar All-Stars in history. ... According to my own research, the greatest Oscar afro ever belonged to Oscar Gamble. ... The Jukebox of Dy-no-mite on the Sirius/XM '70s channel. Pure cheese, but fun. ... Thai Elephant in Tempe.

Dislikes: Arizona not having a helmet law for motorcyclists. I don't ride a bike, but I do not exactly want to see some biker's head explode like a pumpkin on the freeway, either. I was driving the other day for a time next to a bald-headed biker, and just imagining what could happen gave me the chills.

Rock 'n' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"I'm just a little bit caught in the middle
"Life is a maze and love is a riddle
"I don't know where to go, can't do it alone
"I've tried and I don't know why
"I'm just a little girl lost in the moment
"I'm so scared but I don't show it
"I can't figure it out, it's bringing me down
"I know I've got to let it go and just enjoy the show"

-- Lenka, The Show
 
 
 
 
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