Tim Brown at Yahoo Sports 22 hrs ago
SURPRISE, Ariz. – "Russ-OHHH!" the little girl cried during batting practice.
"Russ-OHHH Weeel-SON!" she begged. "I'm yer biggest FAAAAAAN!"
Then her little sister popped her one in the tummy, a shriek followed, mommy stepped in and neutral corners were assigned.
The soundtrack Saturday morning at Texas Rangers camp had turned noticeably 12th man-ish, as Seattle Seahawks quarterback and accidental Ranger Russell Wilson took ground balls at second base and a few rounds in the cage, then delivered the lineup card for an exhibition game against the San Diego Padres.
Eleven miles from where the whole thing came up a yard short two months ago, there sprung Seahawks jerseys and chants and signs, along with the unshakeable optimism Wilson seeps. And if it occurred to you a yard short in the Super Bowl isn't much different than a strike short in a World Series, then you know where a lot of the conversation went Friday night, when assistant general manager Thad Levine hosted a barbecue for Wilson and many of the Rangers' younger players, and into Saturday morning.
Pretty cool, you'd think.
The Rangers haven't yet.
Tim Brown at Yahoo Sports 2 days ago
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Spring can be a mystery, with at least as many opinions as there are sun-hatted people to hatch them, and even then the truth is just as likely to be hiding inside a balled sanitary sock.
Consider the recent labors of rookies Yasmany Tomas and Kris Bryant.
One is having to adapt to a strange new culture in his new city, acclimate to the curious customs of the locals, parse an entirely different kind of language, even sacrifice his diet so that every meal isn't an adventure, just to find his way in a place that beyond all else will expect him to perform as an elite ballplayer, perhaps in a position he's just sort of trying out.
The other is Yasmany Tomas.
Two of the hottest names in the Cactus League, they're attempting to find their way at third base, which suddenly seems like a very difficult position to play, and might both end up in left field anyway.
He hasn't said much about it lately, but a few weeks ago Tomas told reporters, "I want to be the third baseman on this team," and the Diamondbacks would like nothing more.
"We haven't decided to take him off third yet," Hale said.
Tim Brown at Yahoo Sports 3 days ago
TEMPE, Ariz. – The bench coach's younger son, 6-year-old Trey, was airborne, heaved by Mike Trout and headed toward Albert Pujols, his arms paddling against gravity. Trey howled, this being one of the great games of toss-a-small-human ever. Trout grinned as the boy flew to the waiting Pujols, whose bald head shone in the Wednesday morning sun. When Trey arrived into his arms, Pujols was laughing harder than any of them, and composed himself just enough to re-launch Trey.
"Who's your favorite player?" Pujols demanded.
When Trey again lifted a shy finger toward Trout, as Trey has been raised to tell the truth, up he went again.
"Yaaaaah!" Trey squealed, and Pujols squealed with him, and they all laughed again.
The general manager of the Licey team in the Dominican Republic – the former big-league manager Manny Acta – turned to identify who among the Los Angeles Angels was calling his name, though he had a decent idea. He turned and waved to Pujols, who had Trout by the jersey. In Spanish, Pujols was offering to Acta a new center fielder for winter ball.
"Si, si!" Pujols cried.
Trout had other ideas.
"Nah, nah," he said, polite as he could.
Tim Brown at Yahoo Sports 4 days ago
MESA, Ariz. – Hours before he'd try this again, before he'd pitch a few more innings for the Oakland A's, Barry Zito was in front of his locker, his chair rocked back a few inches, his cap on backwards, thin white wires leading to his ears. Overhead, taped side by side, one photo of his smiling wife and daughter, and another of his smiling daughter alone.
The three lockers to his right had been cleared by late-camp cuts. To his left, a broad doorway that led to the field at Hohokam Stadium or, were he to walk the opposite direction, home.
In a clubhouse that tends toward A.J. Griffin's guitar work, Billy Butler's full-throated observations and Josh Reddick's full-throated responses, Zito, going on 37, was the picture of serenity.
"I used to pitch as him in video games," Kendall Graveman said, not loud enough for Zito to hear.
"I only have so much control, you know?" he said after shutting out the Chicago Cubs for four innings. "I don't want to get caught up in that whole game. Just throw the ball. That's kinda where I'm at right now."
"No," Zito said, in fact. "I haven't had those thoughts."
Tim Brown at Yahoo Sports 7 days ago
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MESA, Ariz. – Kris Bryant, 23 years old, smiled and looked out over the tops of the heads around him. He’d hit two more home runs Saturday afternoon, one of them against Felix Hernandez, was batting .480, had played a capable third base and had all of Chicago Cubs fandom rallying behind him. The spring in which he’d been dared to play himself onto the team was going handsomely.
“You really can’t beat baseball right now,” he said. “The sun is shining and hopefully we win this game. I’m still here and I’m still standing.”
Twenty-five at-bats in, Bryant has eight home runs and 14 RBI. Against the Seattle Mariners, he laid off a nasty one-ball, two-strike fastball from Hernandez and hit the next pitch – a changeup – high onto the left-field berm at Sloan Park. Two innings later, he drew a full-count walk against Hernandez. In the fourth inning, he picked out a fairly lifeless breaking ball from veteran Kevin Correia and hit that on the berm, too.
“I couldn’t be more happy with where I am right now,” he said.
The Cubs seem to be saying Bryant’s glove needs work. Bryant’s bat seems to be saying, Are you kidding?
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Tim Brown at Yahoo Sports 8 days ago
MESA, Ariz. – It's March and he said he's not hurt, not in any pain, just weary, and yet Jon Lester, the Chicago Cubs' $155 million investment/hero, skipped a spring training start on Saturday, so, yeah, everybody under your beds.
The sky falls so often on the North Side they carry iron umbrellas. (Not to be confused with the hardhats, which are for the endless Wrigley renovation.) Given the history, given the occasional promise that always – every single time – mutates into something that must be chained to a post in the basement, the news that Lester's schedule would be even slightly altered surely led to some squishy moments on the El.
"Of course there's going to be a lot of [public] consternation," Cubs manager Joe Maddon allowed.
Maddon said Lester's condition was routine, and it is routine in that many pitchers in particular complain of similar physiological lifelessness at some point during camp. He said no one was concerned that Lester could be injured or could be becoming injured, including Lester. No big deal, he said.
"I don't really feel like anything. More a total body deadness."
Tim Brown at Yahoo Sports 8 days ago
MESA, Ariz. – The bat cracked – something in the wood or in the pitch or, perhaps, in the mechanics of the 29-year-old utilityman who lurched at that Friday afternoon fastball from the Los Angeles Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw.
They all shrugged and laughed about it after the loss to the Oakland A's, because it was never as bad as it looked or could have been, and besides if they really thought about this stuff who knows what sort of turmoil would follow. They can't play the game and avoid the game at the same time. So they rely on the small favors of skill and luck and, need be, wood grain.
The bat cracked because Kershaw had a true fastball on Friday that did not leak or tail and Andy Parrino, in the brief time he had to decide if this was a strike he should hit or if this would pass too far inside, misjudged it some. The bat hit the ball but well short of the barrel. By the time the farthest areas of Hohokam Stadium would be soothed by a sound that was less threatening, there was the sight of Kershaw in a defenseless tangle and attempting to locate the ball before it did him.
"No blood," he said.
A jagged edge. He had lost part of a tooth.
Tim Brown at Yahoo Sports 9 days ago
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Famously and handsomely decorated every other Fall since 2010 – which is maybe not so much a dynasty as it is a live-and-die-nasty, maybe a bi-nasty – the San Francisco Giants now aren't very good in odd months either.
March is an odd month. Not odd in the sense that it observes something called Employee Appreciation Day that no employee has ever heard of, not even at Hallmark (we're guessing), but odd in that it's the third month. The season starts in the fourth month. The Giants are 5-12, and while not a single person has once looked at spring training standings and thought, "Yeah, that's pretty much how the next six months will go," Bruce Bochy did the other day look at a 10-0 loss, the manner of the losses before it, and the way the club had performed for two weeks and observe, "We're not doing anything very well right now. …We're not even close to being ready."
Which is mostly fine, because the season isn't even close to being started.
Except these biennially fallow seasons were on Bochy's mind more than a month ago, when guys were just beginning to show up.
Which might explain why Bochy was a little cranky.
Tim Brown at Yahoo Sports 15 days ago
DUNEDIN, Fla. – The trip from Tampa isn’t much, 22 miles door to door. Takes maybe 35 minutes, if you hit the lights wrong. The drive is nice, though. A lot of it comes with a bay view. By the way folks were talking about it, though, you’d have thought Alex Rodriguez was going to run the whole way in catcher’s gear.
He took the bus instead. The big one with business class seats and air conditioning. If that still sounded onerous to you.
He did stretch along the left-field line as game time drew near. And if you were among those who hoped hardship was waiting on the other end of the causeway, he did have to stand through two anthems.
Rodriguez responded by tapping former teammate Russell Martin on his shin guard, asking how he was doing and then striking out on three pitches from 21-year-old left-hander Daniel Norris – fastball, curveball, fastball, here’s the keys go sit in the van.
Anyone looking for disaster, for humiliation, for disgrace, they’ll have to wait on that.
He was 1-for-3 Saturday. He ran the outfield warning track. He pulled on a green University of Miami golf shirt and turned, revealing tan lines etched across his face from weeks of sunglasses.
Tim Brown at Yahoo Sports 16 days ago
CLEARWATER, Fla. – It looked Friday morning like there may have been some good news coming out of Philadelphia Phillies camp, a place where organizations, ATVs, flexor tendons and hope go to break down.
The players’ union guys would be there – Tony Clark, Dave Winfield, et al. – which meant they’d bump into the Yahoo guy in four different camps over four consecutive days. They’d immediately contact the house lawyer to see about a restraining order. But that wasn’t the good news.
Chase Utley was to play. More accurate, for the first time this spring and the first time since he stepped on a baseball a couple months ago, Chase Utley was to bat. In a game. With people around. And teammates. They would keep score. He was to hit third as the designated hitter.
This would qualify as a happy day, and there are too few of those.
“The whole dynamic has changed,” Howard was saying happily on Friday. “We’re all moving in the right direction.”
Nobody likes change.
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