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March 4, 2014

The Week in Quotes

February 24-March 3

by Nick Bacarella, Morris Greenberg, Chris Mosch and Nick Wheatley-Schaller


THE HIGHS AND LOWS OF THE KNUCKLEBALL

“I put too much into the game to just walk away without giving the last resort option a chance. Every pitcher who loves what they do has at least played around with a knuckleball grip at some point. Now it was no longer a joke pitch; it was my savior and I decided to give it my heart and soul.”
—Blue Jays pitcher Tomo Ohka, on how the knuckleball saved his career. (Brad Lefton, Toronto Star)

“I scoured the internet for images of knuckleballers. There’s not much out there, so I probably watched the same stuff a thousand times. I bought a net for my garage and just threw hundreds of knuckleballs into it every day. Between that and throwing it from a mound, I’ll bet I threw many hundred knuckleballs a day. Sometimes my fingers would start bleeding… I had been overusing my fingernails for a long time. Then one day, I just discovered a better feel when I used the skin on the tips of my fingers. That meant filing the nails down so they wouldn’t get in the way.”
—Ohka. (Brad Lefton, Toronto Star)

“(Being a personal catcher) doesn’t last forever. R.A.’s getting older. I’m still young. I still have a lot of time. So if I spend all my time catching the knuckleball and lose all my time catching the conventional guys, then all of a sudden I’ve really shortened my career. At the end of the day I want to be an everyday catcher. That’s what it comes down to. Whether I am or not, if I’m a backup catcher, that’s fine, but I want to train myself and train my body to become an everyday catcher.”
—Blue Jays catcher Josh Thole, on being billed a “knuckleball specialist.” (Richard Griffin, Toronto Star)

HOW TO MAKE A MILLION DOLLARS AND NOT PAY TAXES

“It feels good. The Angels could have easily done the same thing they did last year. … It makes you feel good inside. It makes you feel like they want you here. It means a lot.”
Mike Trout, on his new $1 million contract. (Bill Shaikin, Los Angeles Times)

“Honestly, because I think we felt like his performance was exceptional. There are players that force you to break a rule, and what Trout just did for two consecutive years forced us to break our own rule. There's nothing in the game that's hard and fast. We felt like his performance certainly merited treating him differently than the others.”
—Angels GM Jerry Dipoto, explaining the rationale behind giving Mike Trout the largest single season pre-arbitration contract. (Alden Gonzalez, MLB.com)

MORE THOUGHTS ON HOME PLATE COLLISIONS

“Mindset-wise for baserunners, it's going to be an adjustment for guys, especially on those bang-bang plays. In those situations where a sac fly may be medium depth, it's going to be a challenge, So many things go into it—the strength of the outfielder's arm. You bank on that guy not making an accurate throw. But sure, those medium fly balls or soft fly balls, you definitely have to think twice because you don't have that weapon to be able to run over the catcher any more. That's gone. It's definitely going to be an adjustment.”
Miami Marlins manager Mike Redmond, on the new home plate collision rules (Joe Frisaro, MLB.com)

“I disagree with it. I understand why they're doing it, but next, they’re going to tell us that you can't slide into the guy at second base. It’s one of those things, as a big-league catcher, I signed up for it. You never want to see guys get hurt, and you never want to see guys go down because of it, but it's part of the game you signed up for.”
—Red Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski, on the new plate collision rule to be implemented experimentally during the 2014 season. (Bob Nightengale, USA Today)

BURNETT SQUARES OFF AGAINST PIRATES IN FIRST SPRING GAME

“I don’t know. I might’ve planned it that way? Nah, I didn’t. But it wasn’t weird, it was just facing another team, and it just happened to be those guys [Sunday]. It was good to see them. Definitely a tip of the cap. I always respect everyone and everything in this game, it doesn’t matter who you play against.”
Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher A.J. Burnett, on facing the Pirates, his previous team, in his first spring training game (Jenn Menendez, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

“We always laugh because I hit a lot of guys in the back foot, but they swing. He always got a kick out of guys swinging and getting hit. So I said, ‘You should have swung, you could have been on the highlight reel! That was you. I need you to swing at that.’ It cost me another six, seven pitches. But, yeah, he knows how much I hate it, too, to get ahead and hit him in the back of the foot. So, just a little gesture.”
—Burnett, on hitting former teammate Pedro Alvarez with a back-foot slider (Jenn Menendez, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

ROBBING MORSE ONCE ISN’T ENOUGH FOR REDDICK

“After the second one, I turned and looked at him, because I knew he was going to have something to say. We've known each other over the years. He just held his hands up, like, 'Why?' and gave me a little air fist pump. All I could do is bend over and laugh at him and kind of say, 'I'm sorry.'”
—Athletics outfielder Josh Reddick, on making two spectacular catches to rob Giants outfielder Michael Morse of home runs on Wednesday. (Jane Lee, MLB.com)

“For being on the road, especially against this team. I was really surprised of the noise that was made between just those Giants fans. It was unreal. It goes to show they respect the game just as much as they do the rivalry. It was something special, had my heart pumping for a little bit.”

—Reddick, on Giants fans giving him a standing ovation after the first catch.

“On a scale of 1-10, that was a 12.”
—Athletics pitcher Jesse Chavez, on Reddick’s first catch. (John Hickey, Oakland Tribune)

TWITTER

—At least Reddick offered to take Morse to dinner.

—Joba Chamberlain is making the best of his Tommy John surgery scar.

THE REST

“It was probably better than winning a national championship.”
—Florida State quarterback and pitcher Jameis Winston, on playing the Yankees in an exhibition game. (Mark Feinsand, New York Daily News)

“Literally, the only people in the stands are the scouts. That's kind of cool because you have to perform. That's the first time you kind of play against higher competition. It's a lot of Double-A and Triple-A guys. Maybe some guys with some big league time sprinkled in. That was my first time playing above A-ball. I played low-A, high-A, and in the fall I went over there.”
—Miami Marlins prospect Christian Yelich, on playing in the Arizona Fall League in 2012 (Joe Frisaro, MLB.com)

“There’s always risk when you take any player, and there is risk when you take a player out of a small town, and he may not have faced the competition that others have faced,” said Rob Antony, Twins vice president and assistant general manager. “You just can’t be sure. Now you see what he can do, and it means everything to an organization. You get a guy you can build around, and with Byron and Miguel Sano, we have two who have a chance to have a great impact on a majo- league lineup in the near future. It’s a credit to our scouts that they recommended Byron, and it’s a credit to Byron that he has handled himself so well.”
—Rob Antony, Twins vice president and assistant general manager, on the decision to draft Byron Buxton, who grew up in Graham, Georgia, a rural town of approximately 5,000 people. (Jim Souhan, Minneapolis Star Tribune)

“Oh yeah. I looked up all the stuff on Munson. I think, when they say something like that, it’s just an acknowledgement that I show up every day, prepared. And that’s what I’ve done since I got here. I’m getting to know all the pitchers, developing a rapport. You want them to feel comfortable with you. I didn’t know what (the Yankee brass) had thought about me in their meetings. But once we had that first dinner together, I knew this was going to be a perfect fit for both sides, that this was the place I wanted to be.”
—Yankees catcher Brian McCann, on recent comparisons to Thurman Munson. (Bill Madden, New York Daily News)

“I’m excited just to listen, for sure. From talking to people that either coached him or played with him, everybody said he had a very straightforward, simple approach. To me, that’s a huge part of hitting, trying to keep things as simple as possible.”
—Giants catcher Buster Posey, on having Barry Bonds as an instructor during spring training. (Henry Schulman, San Francisco Chronicle)

“Todd is the best I have ever seen at digging balls out of the dirt, but that can't be the standard. It's not realistic. But I do feel like Justin is a very solid defender. What I have seen in camp so far tells me that, and watching video of him, I was impressed.”
—Rockies manager Walt Weiss, on first baseman Justin Morneau (Patrick Saunders, The Denver Post)

“I threw a lot of sliders last year. I’m hoping to get away from that a little bit. I’m not even throwing it in the bullpen, and obviously not in games… I feel like my curveball can be a better pitch than the slider was. So that’s the idea. I decided before I came to camp that I needed to get my curveball back to what it was. Not coming in here trying to reinvent myself or anything—I felt like I had a good foundation. I got away from it last year, obviously struggling with what I was doing. So I talked to [pitching coach Rick Anderson] a couple of times this winter about what I wanted to do, and getting my curveball back was a big thing.”
—Twins pitcher Phil Hughes, on the changes he’s made to his repertoire heading into the season. (Phil Miller, Minneapolis Star Tribune)

“You guys might think it's spring, but for me, it's a baseball game. I'm just one of those guys where it's, 'A new season, you get to start over. Let's go.' I'm at the point where I'm not throwing everything I have in my repertoire. I'm just working on locating my fastball and then working on a changeup. Putting that in my repertoire and getting it better and better. It's kind of one of those things where if you're not throwing your only off-speed pitch good, tee time. They put the ball in play really hard—I don't like that—but it's just get back to where I can do it again.”
Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher Matt Garza, on giving up four runs during his spring training debut (Todd Rosiak, Journal Sentinel)

“I am not trying to be political, I play baseball but I care about people. My mom and dad are still there. We have so many people dying and that’s not the way my family raised me.’’
—Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli, on the unrest in Venezuela and his determination to focus on baseball. Cervelli was photographed with CC Sabathia, Ichiro Suzuki, and numerous other Yankees holding up a Venezuelan flag and signs reading “PAZ” (“peace” in Spanish). (George A. King III, New York Post)

“Amped up. Really amped. Too amped. The adrenaline was flowing. The nerves were going.”
—Giants reliever Erik Cordier, who hit 100 mph on four occasions in his first spring training appearance. Erik was picked 63rd overall in the 2004 draft, while Hunter Pence was picked 64th and Dustin Pedroia 65th. (Andrew Baggarly, CSNBayArea.com)

“I feel like I always was that guy. I always was the leader. That’s just how I was raised. It was something I needed to step back and realize. It’s not like I was speaking over veterans, but it’s more about keeping your head down and working hard. I should’ve just watched more and learned more.”
—Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks, on how the success of his rookie season affected his approach to the game in 2013. (Scott Lauber, Boston Herald)

“It made me realize how much ­crazier that life is than ours. And ours is pretty crazy.”
Chicago Cubs second baseman Darwin Barney, on his experience acting in the movie Calvin Marshall (Gordon Wittenmeyer, Chicago Sun-Times)

“How many years from now? Why that long? He could have a drink tonight and say, ‘I struck out Papi.’”
—Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz, encouraging Northeastern University pitcher James Mulry to advertise his achievement as much as possible. (Steve Buckley, Boston Herald)

“We are singularly attracted to guys who can get outs, and we appreciate they come in all different shapes and sizes… It's a relatively small sample size, but we've found with guys who are more vertically challenged—I'm allowed to say that—that they come with a chip on their shoulder and a certain level of competitiveness that we really value.”
—Rays executive vice president Andrew Friedman, explaining that height is not of primary concern in scouting pitchers. Friedman himself is 5-foot-8. (Marc Topkin, Tampa Bay Times)

“I actually feel bad right now, I really do. I’ve got a good feeling we will be talking about something else concerning Josh Hart than that at some point. He’s a talented kid. … He’s a good looking player boy.”
—Orioles manager Buck Showalter, on the one-page written report on Frank Robinson he assigned to minor leaguer Josh Hart. According to Showalter, Hart didn’t know who Robinson was when the Hall of Famer came to speak at Orioles camp. (Eduardo A. Encina, Baltimore Sun)

“I didn’t get through the minor leagues hitting only left-handed pitching.”
—Royals infielder Danny Valencia, who is out to prove that he is a complete player. (Blair Kerkhoff, Kansas City Star)

“I called him and I chewed him out. I just told him, ‘We talked about it last spring. Don’t try to get there and do too much. Just get your feet wet and do what you are doing. The next thing I know, I’m watching you on TV and you are trying to hit the ball nine miles. I’ll be on you all spring.’”
—Hall of Famer Rod Carew, on the advice he’s given to Twins outfielder Aaron Hicks. (La Velle E. Neal III, Minneapolis Star Tribune)

“No. I mean, I’ve been playing 10 years. Life happens every year. I thank them for giving me an excuse, but nah.”
—Rangers first baseman Prince Fielder, on whether personal issues affected his play in 2013. (Drew Davison, Detroit Free Press)

“I remember I didn't say a word all of spring training. By the end of spring training, he was like, 'You know what, kid? I respect you. You sat there; you didn't say a word.’”
—Indians first baseman Jason Giambi, recalling his first spring training and his relationship with then-veteran pitcher Goose Gossage. (Zack Meisel, Cleveland Plain Dealer)

“Normally, I'm pretty good at being able to tune outside influences off, but I definitely heard them. I heard a lot of cheering. I heard a lot of Thors, too.”
—Mets pitching prospect Noah Syndergaard, on hearing Mets fans chanting his nickname during start on Monday. Syndergaard earned the nickname “Thor” after dressing as the god of Norse mythology last Halloween.

“Go 100 percent today, and then leave that day behind, start over the next day,” he said. “If something bad happens today, just back off a little bit. Review, think about it and wake up tomorrow with a fresh mind and go play the game.”
—Diamondbacks infielder Martin Prado, on his approach for this season (Nick Piecaro, The Arizona Republic)

“You’ve got to come with all your bullets in the major leagues, and when they [can] help us out, we’re looking forward to it. I don’t know what the plan is for these guys and whether [team officials] want to take it slow or what not. I know performance plays, and if you go out and don’t give them any options, sometimes you take the decision out of their hands. I’m sure that’s what those guys will tell you they’re trying to do: impress enough to where you don’t give the front office or coaching staff any options but to keep you on the team.”
—Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija, on playing with young players during spring training (Gordon Wittenmeyer, Chicago Sun-Times)

“Work fast, keep balls down in the zone, and build arm strength. Hopefully that feel (for pitches) comes back by April.”
Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Gerrit Cole, on what he is working on during spring training (Rob Biertempfel, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)

“Runners have taken advantage of me in the minors. That's one of the last things I have to take care of (before reaching the majors). I'll never be a one (second) flat to the plate. But if I can hold the ball and mix my looks (to first base), mix in a quick step here and there and show a good pick move, I think that's the package I need.”
—Pittsburgh Pirates pitching prosect Jameson Tallion, on his need to improve holding runners (Rob Biertempfel, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)

“I'm like, 'When did it happen?' because it hits you so quick. I've been blessed on fooling them, I guess. I'm doing something. I don't know what it is, but it's working.”
—Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Lyle Overbay, on being the oldest player at camp at 37 years old (Todd Rosiak, Journal Sentinel)

“You have to be smart with it. I'm a fastball pitcher. I'm going to establish that first-pitch strike with my fastball, regardless. I've still got to be able to on, 0-1, 0-2, be able to put them away with offspeed pitches. I have four pitches, and I barely threw my changeup last year. I want to get that more in the mix. Not just fastball-slider. I want to throw my curveball more this year. I felt like that second half was a lot better when I threw my curveball more.”
—Miami Marlins starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi, on improving his pitch mix (Joe Frisaro, MLB.com)

“He’s a guy with a few years of experience under his belt. I think managers in this situation probably are giving him some leeway and allowing him the opportunity of a lifetime. Not everybody gets to the Oscars. You never know who he might rub elbows with.”
—Chicago Cubs manager Rick Renteria, on Adam Dunn attending the Oscars after investing in the production company the that funded Dallas Buyer’s Club (Gordon Wittenmeyer, Chicago Sun-Times)

“Clearly, I don’t think I’m an 18-game-losing pitcher. You get the itch a little faster when you have a season like that. That offseason goes way quicker just because you’re ready to get out there… You take away 18 losses, and that makes last year’s record a lot better. At the same time, you can’t try to overdo it. You can’t try to go out and be Superman if you’re not Superman.”
—Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Edwin Jackson, on rebounding following an 18-loss season with the Cubs in 2013 (Gordon Wittenmeyer, Chicago Sun-Times)

Nick Bacarella is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Nick's other articles. You can contact Nick by clicking here
Morris Greenberg is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Morris's other articles. You can contact Morris by clicking here
Chris Mosch is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Chris's other articles. You can contact Chris by clicking here
Nick Wheatley-Schaller is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Nick's other articles. You can contact Nick by clicking here

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