Big League Stew contributor David Brown continues his spring swing through Florida's Grapefruit League with a stop in Jupiter to check on the Dominican Republic's World Baseball Classic team, along with the Cardinals and Marlins — who both train there. Three birds. One stone. Rather, one bird, one fish and one Papi. Dave'll be posting throughout the day — both to the Stew and his Twitter feed — plus he'll also be filing a report each night from his day's action, complete with photos, videos and observations.
First of all, none of the guys pictured will definitely get cut; Kyle McClellan (middle) tossed 75 innings in 2008, though he melted down, imploded, blew up real good, etc., in the second half. So, pitching coach Dave Duncan will be watching closely. McClellan, if you recall, gained fame by driving to work every day on a cooler.
Fernando Salas (left) was a Class AA closer in '08 with a 100-to-16 K/BB ratio. A non-roster invitee, he bears watching. Bears aren't watching him, hopefully.
The left-hander is the rarely photographed Ian Ostlund, whose name sounds Australian but actually is West Virginian. He spent five years in Class A and stalled at Class AAA in the Tigers system before coming over in the off-season. His numbers tended to be good in the minors; nice K/BB ratios, OK hits allowed and he even strikes out nearly one an inning. Duncan's more or less the best pitching coach in the league, and the Cardinals always seem to need 30, 40 pitchers a season. I hope that has nothing to do with Duncan or I'll have to take back what I just said.
* * *Is that Hanley Ramirez or a Jedi knight? He's wielding that bat, not swinging it. And, are the Fish playing the Dominicans, or the Cubs?
The local fans enjoyed watching HanRam take on his regular-season club (Derek Jeter wasn't the only All-Star shortstop to do so). Ramirez had a big day at the plate, but it could have been better if Dan "You So" Uggla hadn't made a diving grab on a rocket off Ramirez's bat.
Ramirez, playing it up for the fans and teammates, shook his head as if to say, "You got me that time."
Wally Pipp Robert Andino got the start at short for the Fish. He made a nice play in the field, I recall, but nothing caught on BLS cameras. The Miami product will have to enjoy himself at short for as long as he can, because Ramirez probably will want the position back.
* * *
If you ever need to book someone to sing the Dominican Republic’s national anthem for an event, this is the guy: El Torito, AKA Hector Acosta, sang “Isle of Beauty, Isle of Splendor” before the Dominicans faced the Marlins in an exhibition game on Tuesday.
The Dominican state song sounds more like a love ballad than rigid anthems such as the “Star Spangled Banner” and “O, Canada” (which are beautiful in their own ways). El Torito (“the Little Bull”) is huge in the Dominican (despite being shorter in stature) and he's popular here, known as one of the top tropical Latino pop music singers on the planet. El mundo.
He’s obviously a big baseball fan and all of the Dominican players seemed to know and/or hugged him. At first, I was wondering who he was — Duran Duran being more my speed — but then I was filled in.
Gotta get a pic of this guy, said I. He was giving me the “Who’s THIS vato?” as I started snapping shots of him outside the D.R. clubhouse at Roger
Dorn Dean Stadium. But then, being the performer Torito is, he smiled for the camera. Way to go, cantante!
* * *
OK, that's a wrap, Stewies. I wonder where Wednesday will take me?