Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Spring Training Blog: Feb. 23 NEW DAY FOR TIGERS (7:24 p.m. ET) Detroit Tigers catcher Gerald Laird is especially eager to get going this season.
Laird hit .225 last year after the Tigers acquired him from Texas, then was arrested in late December at a Phoenix Suns home game after a brawl.
Laird said he pleaded no contest and has been attending anger management classes. He said he wanted to have the legal matter cleared up before starting spring training.
"The sooner it was over, the better," Laird said Tuesday. "I don't really want to get into it, but it's behind me and now I get to concentrate on baseball."
Laird said he spent most of last season working on learning the Tigers' pitching staff. Manager Jim Leyland said Laird called a good game last year but that he expected him to hit at least .260 in 2010. Reserve catcher Alex Avila batted .279 in 29 games over the last two months of the season.
"We need to get more production out of (Laird)," Leyland said, "He knows our pitching staff now and if he can raise his average by about 30 points, that's all we need. We know he can catch. I love the way he handles our pitching staff."
Leyland and the Tigers held their first full-squad workout under overcast skies and manager, who has been a part of spring training since 1963, was extremely upbeat. Everyone reported on time and except for some minor bursitis in setup man Bobby Seay's shoulder, there were no injuries.
New left fielder-designated hitter Johnny Damon was among the first to arrive, just a day after signing a one-year, $8 million deal to play for the Tigers.
Leyland met early in the morning to meet with his other left fielder-DH, Carlos Guillen, to sort out his role with the team. Leyland promised Guillen the starting left field job after the end of the 2009 season, never imagining the Tigers would sign Damon.
-- The Associated PressJAYS WEIGH CLOSERS (6:36 p.m. ET) While Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston ponders this spring who among a dozen candidates will be in his starting rotation, he also has to look at the other end of the game.
Who among three or more pitchers will be Toronto's closer -- or closers?
Right-hander Jason Frasor and lefty Scott Downs pretty much shared the role last season after the oft-injured and ineffective B.J. Ryan was released. Of the Blue Jays' 25 saves, Frasor had 11 and Downs nine. Added to the mix this year is more experienced closer Kevin Gregg, signed to a one-year, $2.75 million contract.
"Whatever role we all end up in, you're making that bullpen pretty deep," Gregg said. "Looking at the starters, and seeing these guys are pretty young, with what they've done and what they've accomplished, it allows us to shorten the game."
"We're not going to have to push those guys and try to get them into the seventh and eighth inning. When you've got three guys that can close the door at the back end, it really helps out the starters and their situation, too. It lets everybody grow."
Gregg was a middle reliever for the Angels from 2003-06. With Florida in 2007-08 and the Chicago Cubs last year, the right-hander compiled a 3.86 ERA and 84 saves, but had 20 blown saves as well.
He had left knee surgery after the 2008 season and in his final 26 appearances for the Cubs last year, Gregg's ERA ballooned to 7.83. Batters hit .258 against him, he saved four games and blew four, and he lost the closer role to Carlos Marmol.
-- The Associated PressICHIRO ALL SMILES IN CAMP (5:19 p.m. ET) Ichiro Suzuki can talk about separating the way last season ended from the start of a new year, but all indications are that the good vibes will linger with the nine-time All-Star.
The Seattle Mariners won their final game of 2009, finishing with 85 wins, and had the fans at Safeco Field wishing the season could go on. Teammates carried Suzuki, the team's biggest star, off the field on their shoulders.
Fast-forward to Monday and Tuesday, with Suzuki returning the love through a lot of hugs and handshakes and joking with his teammates in a jovial clubhouse and on the field.
Suzuki was particularly glad to see Ken Griffey Jr. Junior held Suzuki back from starting his shuttle run during Tuesday's workout on purpose, drawing laughter from onlookers. Later, as Suzuki ran, Griffey jogged alongside, egging him on.
"I think he came back this year to do that to me," Suzuki said through an interpreter. "He said he needed to do more against me than last year, so I guess this is a good start for him.
"I wasn't missing it at all, but I was prepared for it," Suzuki added.
Let the fun begin again in what was last year a good-time environment among the Mariners.
"I feel very comfortable this year because when you talk about the coaches we've been having, new coaches almost every year, that's what it seems like. But this year, we have one new coach but besides that everyone's all here. Besides that, it's hard to hug someone you don't know," he said.
-- The Associated PressPIRATES NOT SELLING (5:20 p.m. ET) After two years of roster upheaval and trading away veteran players, the Pittsburgh Pirates plan to reverse course this season.
That was the message delivered Tuesday by principal owner Bob Nutting and president Frank Coonelly, who addressed a team meeting before the first full-squad workout of spring training.
"The last couple of years there's been the concern of who's going to be with the team in September," Nutting said. "That's much less of a discussion now. This team needs to jell, to set its own standards and perform."
"The expectation level has been raised," Coonelly added. "We believe this team can be the one that turns this franchise around. And instead of being concerned about subtractions from the team, this is a core to which we can add."
Since Coonelly was hired in 2007, the Pirates have jettisoned experienced players such as Jason Bay, Nate McLouth, Jack Wilson, Freddy Sanchez, Adam LaRoche and Matt Capps. The Pirates will begin the 2010 season with a payroll of about $35 million, likely to be the lowest in the majors.
Last season, after Sanchez and Wilson were dealt, the Pirates went 19-41 to close out their 17th straight losing season. Management hopes roster stability will lead to better results this year.
-- The Associated PressFAMILIAR UNIFORM, NEW POSITION FOR TEJADA (4:24 p.m. ET) Miguel Tejada manned a new position and moved to the next phase of his career at the Baltimore Orioles' first full-squad workout.
Tejada is moving over from shortstop to third base after rejoining the Orioles, who signed him to a one-year deal last month. He took ground balls Tuesday from infield coach Juan Samuel and launched monstrous home runs during batting practice
"It's the first day with the team, but I'm feeling comfortable," said Tejada, who spent four seasons with the Orioles before being traded to the Houston Astros in December 2007. "Since I signed I've been working out at third base, and today was real exciting. I'm like a little kid with a new toy. I'm enjoying today."
Tejada's name surfaced in the Mitchell report the day after he was traded from Baltimore to Houston in 2007. He later admitted to an age discrepancy and received a year's probation for lying to congressional investigators about the use of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball.
"Everybody knows that I've been through a lot of stuff off the field, but it's all behind me now and I feel like I'm going to start a new career," he said. "The last five years I came to spring training with a lot of stuff on my mind. Now my mind is clear. Now I'm just thinking every day what I can do to help this team."
-- The Associated PressBAY: BALLPARK, CITY NOT FACTORS IN SIGNING (4:20 p.m. ET) Jason Bay arrived at the New York Mets' spring training camp Tuesday and talked about everything from his health to his defense to his reaction to Canada's loss to the U.S. in Olympic hockey.
"That stung a little bit," said Bay, a British Columbia native who became a U.S. citizen last summer but was quick to add, "I'm still a Canadian, through and through."
He's also a Met, having signed a four-year, $66 million contract as a free agent in December.
Bay, a three-time All-Star and the 2004 National League Rookie of the Year, said neither the size of the market nor the ballpark was a factor in his decision to sign with the Mets.
"I honestly never gave a ballpark any second thought," said Bay, 31, who batted .267 with 36 home runs and 119 RBIs for the Boston Red Sox last season.
"I'm confident with myself," he added. "At the end of the day, I try to get on base and try to knock in runs. If you knock in 100 runs with 10 home runs, so be it. That's by no means my plan."
-- The Associated PressCHAVEZ TAKES ON NEW POSITION (4:06 p.m. ET) Eric Chavez is trying to get comfortable at a new position for the Oakland Athletics.
Chavez got his first workout Tuesday at first base during Oakland's practice in Phoenix.
Chavez won several Gold Gloves at third base for the A's. He's been limited by injuries during the past three seasons, but Oakland wants to try to keep his bat in the lineup this year.
-- The Associated PressMIJARES' LATE ARRIVAL NOT AN ISSUE (3:32 p.m. ET) Minnesota Twins reliever Jose Mijares has arrived at spring training a day late.
The left-hander joined the team for the workout on Tuesday. He says he missed his scheduled flight to Florida from his native Venezuela and arrived at the airport five hours early on Monday morning to make sure he made it.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire says he has put aside his disappointment with Mijares. Conditioning has been a problem for the burly Mijares in the past, but the manager praised the 25-year-old's work ethic on Tuesday.
Gardenhire says he expects Mijares to again assume an important role in the bullpen this season. Mijares posted a 2.34 ERA in 71 appearances last year for the Twins.
-- The Associated PressDiNARDO SIDELINED BY LEG INJURY (3:11 p.m. ET) Athletics left-hander Lenny DiNardo will miss a couple of days after straining his left Achilles tendon.
A's manager Bob Geren said Tuesday that the 30-year-old felt something while throwing a day earlier and will be held out of drills for the next two days.
DiNardo, who last won a major league game in April 2008 while with the A's, signed a minor league contract in January and was invited to spring training as a non-roster player.
He's spent parts of the past five seasons with the Boston Red Sox, Oakland and the Kansas City Royals.
-- The Associated PressREDS LOOKING FOR CUETO TO STEP FORWARD (2:56 p.m. ET) Cincinnati's chances of making an impact in the NL Central would be helped considerably by a breakout season from pitcher Johnny Cueto, whose performance in 2009 was eerily similar to what he did in 2008.
Cueto, 24, posted an 11-11 record with a 4.41 ERA after going 9-14 with a 4.81 ERA as a rookie. But his strikeout total declined markedly and he continued to have problems with the long ball; Cueto has given up 53 home runs in 61 big league starts.
"The more experience he gets, the better he's going to be,'' general manager Walt Jocketty said of Cueto. "He needs to use his changeup more, but he's still learning, He's still a baby.''
-- Jerry Crasnick, ESPN.comTEIXEIRA SAYS YANKEES WON'T SIT BACK (11:53 a.m. ET) Mark Teixeira believes the defending World
Series champion New York Yankees will not be complacent and are the
favorites this season.
The first baseman says that complacency won't be an issue
"because we're the Yankees," and that winning a championship
"just makes you want it even more."
"Once you taste that victory, you realize it's everything you've ever hoped for," said Teixeira, who reported to camp Tuesday.
As for considering New York to be the 2010 favorite, Teixeira
says the Yankees "have to feel that way every single season."
Teixeira is in the second season of a $180 million, eight-year contract. He hit .292 with 39 homers and 122 RBIs last season.
-- The Associated PressPHILLIES WILL NEED TO FIGURE OUT WERTH (11:42 a.m. ET)
Sporting a thick, scraggly beard and long hair flowing beneath his baseball cap, Jayson Werth caused a stir with his appearance Monday at camp.
His look -- described by teammate Brad Lidge as "a cross between Jesus Christ and the Geico Caveman" -- might be drawing double takes, but it's his future with the Phillies that will need another look.
Werth is entering the final year of a $10 million, two-year deal, and it's uncertain whether the Phillies will be able to afford him when he becomes a free agent this offseason. Werth, who will be 31 in May, might be considered a late bloomer, after missing all of 2006 as he recovered from a serious wrist injury. But last season, he batted .268 with 36 homers, 99 RBIs and 20 steals, earning a trip to the All-Star Game in his first full season as a regular.
Does that mean Werth would be willing to give the Phillies a hometown discount to stay? His price tag on the open market could be comparable to the $66 million, four-year deal Jason Bay signed with the New York Mets.
"It's tough to say right now," Werth said. "I'm very grateful for what they've done for me ... I don't want to be sitting here blowing smoke. I love the Phillies, I love Philadelphia, I love playing there, I love my teammates. I'm just focused on the task at hand."
-- The Associated Press