Some things to read while guarding a locked door.
Finally, after months of waiting, we have pictures of Brewers in baseball related activities. My favorites from the weekend:
- Jason Kendall with the first "Wow, does your body really bend that way?" of spring.
- Dave Bush's looks of intense concentration could be a neverending source of comedy.
- Yovani Gallardo bunts with his tongue out.
- Trevor Hoffman, Braden Looper and Yovani Gallardo throwing simultaneously. Apparently the Brewer bullpens are arranged in chronological order.
- Ken Macha is talking but, of the four players pictured, only Jorge Julio looks like he even might be listening.
Bill Hall is already throwing, could take ground balls by midweek and expects to be back much sooner than the 4-6 weeks projected last week. I appreciate the enthusiasm, but if he ends up further damaging a partly torn muscle and missing time in the regular season, he's going to feel pretty stupid for rushing himself back to spring training.
Speaking of injuries, I'd like someone to explain this to me. From Tom H.'s camp report from yesterday, here's Gord Ash's quote on the hip surgery of Ramiro Mendoza, who failed his physical and left camp:
What's "the risk" here? If Mendoza can pitch, and Ash notes that he pitched all winter, then why does the severity of his recent hip surgery matter? Worst case scenario, Mendoza injures his hip again and requires further surgery. Were the Brewers so scared of having to pay for Mendoza's hip surgery that they sent home a potentially useful pitcher?
Elsewhere on the transaction wire, the Mariners claimed Luis Pena off waivers and Vinny Rottino cleared and was sent to Nashville. Rottino will remain in big league camp for the time being.
Two weeks ago we mentioned that WGN announcer Cory Provus was the lone remaining candidate to fill the spot in the radio booth vacated by Jim Powell. It hasn't come up since then, and until this morning I had completely forgotten that it still hasn't been officially announced. The first Brewer spring training broadcast is February 25.
Yovani Gallardo still hasn't decided if he'll pitch for Mexico in the World Baseball Classic. I'm really surprised the Brewers aren't making a stronger effort to keep him out. An awful lot hinges on his ability to throw 180-200 effective innings this season, which is more than he's ever thrown before and about 160-180 more than he threw last season, so why would they want him pitching in the WBC in March?
Meanwhile, Seth McClung will work as a starter this spring. Chase Wright will too, but I lost the link for that one. You'll just have to take my word for it.
I think he's a great young pitcher and could develop into something special, but is Manny Parra really the kind of star athlete that has to worry about getting in trouble away from the ballpark? Apparently he's been hanging out with celebrity babysitter Julian Jones during the offseason. I'm not sure why I read that one.
If he was white we'd call him scrappy, but he's not so he's just short. Lisa Winston of MiLB.com has a profile and Q&A with Angel Salome. An awful lot of it is about how short he is.
Barring an injury or something unforeseen, Salome will open 2009 in Nashville, where Greer Stadium is undergoing a facelift. Some of the upgrades appear to be legally required, but new ownership appears to realize the stadium needs some serious work.
I'm guessing the rankings were compiled before the Looper signing, but Wrigleyville23 points out that Jayson Stark talked to 15 noted baseball writers and ranked the Brewers as the third least-improved team in all of baseball. Actually, with Looper, Chase Wright and Nick Green added to the fold, I'm not entirely unhappy with this offseason anymore. I think better things could have been done with the money given to Trevor Hoffman, but I do feel like the Brewers have done their due diligence to remain competitive.
Sticking with the "least improved" theme, though, Cybermetrics ranked Jeff Suppan as one of 2008's least improved pitchers.
On the transaction wire:
Angels: Agreed to a four year deal worth $30 million with Ervin Santana, avoiding arbitration.
Braves: May be competing with the Mariners for Ken Griffey's services.
Giants: Noah Lowry, currently on the outside of the Giants' rotation, has implied that he may be available via trade.
Indians: Signed Tony Graffanino to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training.
Mariners: Reached an agreement with Josh Fields, their #1 pick from the 2008 draft. They also designated IF Tug Hulett for assignment to make room for Luis Pena.
Mets: Signed Livan Hernandez and Ramon Martinez to minor league deals.
Phillies: Signed Miguel Cairo to a major league deal and invited him to spring training. They also are looking for a home for Adam Eaton, who is due $9 million in 2009 and will not accept an assignment to the minors.
Yankees: Signed Brett Tomko to a minor league deal.
Major League Baseball is reportedly considering making exceptions to the rules and allowing Juan Cruz, Orlando Hudson and Orlando Cabrera to be signed and traded by their former teams, as all three players' markets have been hurt by the compensation required for signing a Type A free agent. I realize the market for these guys is rough, but if baseball changes the rules this late in the game the teams that passed on these players have every right to be furious.
All of these stories fit into the obvious spring training themes:
- Unrealistic expectations: New Red Willy Taveras thinks he can steal 100 bases in 2009.
- The comeback: 49-year-old Oil Can Boyd, who has not pitched in the majors since 1991, is attempting a comeback.
The new gimmick: New Met Francisco Rodriguez is wearing red contact lenses to
get in on this new vampire faddecrease glare.
Here's another story we usually see multiple times every spring: Orioles P Alfredo Simon is having visa issues and is late to spring training. I realize this is probably harder than it sounds, but with roster spots and big time money on the line, wouldn't you go out of your way to make sure your visa was in line?
So it turns out Joe Mauer, who had minor kidney surgery in December, still has limitations on what he can do in spring training and hopes to be ready by Opening Day. Replacing an MVP-level catcher isn't something any team wants to be thinking about right now.
The amenities of big league camp got a little nicer in Tampa this season, where the Rays' new facilities have multiple person hot and cold tubs. Mine is nice, but getting everyone involved to agree on a temperature is still a challenge.
Oh, and any Yankees Elimination Program is something I can get behind.