Getting flushed from Flushing might seem like no easy matter, not when price was an object, not when the rules require the employment of some sort of ninth player somewhere on the field, and not when convention demands that it involve some warm body standing between the shortstop and the first baseman. But none of that could spare Luis Castillo the axe. With the daintiness of Anne Boleyn on the block, the Mets' second baseman was prepped, placed, and whacked, with almost inevitable celebrations.
Last night's bullpen disaster was no Surprise surprise.
Last night's Rangers contest provided news good and bad for Ron Washington's ballclub. Perhaps the most important item of business was gotten out of the way first, as C.J. Wilson looked close to ready, coping quite well with pitching from the stretch and dealing with putting eight of 22 batters faced aboard, allowing just two runs. Adrian Beltre hit his first homer of the spring, while Chris Davis ripped a double and a homer off Jason Hammel. If everything about this time of year is about reps and building up strength, then no worries, right?
Back-end rotation heroics for the Cubs and Rockies, plus notes on two developing AL West bullpen quandaries.
MESA—Tuesday's game was one of those unsexy yet critical real-world fights that reflect spring training's high-end purpose. Sure, it exists to get people in shape, and also as a warm-weather money-making venture for the franchises and the attendant tourist industry. Still, at its root, there are actual job fights to be resolved. HoHoKam was exactly that sort of battlefield, as two of the leading contenders for the fifth slot in their respective teams' rotations squared off: Esmil Rogers of the Rockies and Randy Wells of the Cubs.
Admittedly, in each case the competition is a bit theoretical. Wells is being put through his paces, but the inclusion of journeymen Braden Looper and Todd Wellemeyer, or organizational soldiers James Russell and Casey Coleman, in the race to round out the rotation seems a matter of polite formality, not actual menace. Wells and Andrew Cashner and Carlos Silva are the pack, from which just two will emerge, and both Cashner and Wells pitched yesterday in split-squad action, to mixed results.
Uneven outings for Jake Peavy and Cory Luebke, plus thoughts on the ChiSox bench.
CAMELBACK RANCH—Seeing Jake Peavy take the mound is always going to be interesting, for any of a number of reasons. You might be wondering whether Kenny Williams is going to get any significant fraction of value for the former Pads ace that he acquired under circumstances almost as controversial as those that attended the addition of Alex Rios, or merely skeptical that Peavy can be good for 26 starts this season (where we've got him initially for 2006). How he does is no minor matter: with that projected playing time, PECOTA pegs Peavy as the club's top pitcher via WARP (4.0) and VORP (38.8).
Every new day with Peavy on the mound represents a new, interesting suggestion that maybe, just maybe, Herm Schneider's White Sox training staff have pulled off another of the everyday miraculous recoveries that have ranked theirs among the best training-room units in the game. However, there's also the necessary grind of getting in gear, and yesterday's contest was a great example of process. Peavy's coming along well, but he's also not all there yet, as a series of near-misses and struggles to get out of jams because of problems pitching from the stretch finally came to a head in the fourth inning, when he gave up three runs. In the second and third innings, Peavy got the first two outs, only to put a man on, then each time give up a base hit to a lefty hitter while pitching from the stretch. In the fourth, he didn't get the benefit of the early outs, as Cameron Maybin led off with a single through the infield, with two lefty batters due. Cedric Hunter then doubled, scoring Maybin, and Mike Baxter homered.
I had expected to go to see yesterday's Indians game, but real life got in the way, in that I was moving from one host's home (family friends out in Mesa) to that of an old college classmate. Catching up with Jeff's wife face to face (instead of on Facebook) for the first time in years was time well spent, and was followed by another rare opportunity: a chance to drop in on the concluding banquet celebrating the completion of this year's Nine conference.
It's day three in the Cactus League with a trip out to Camelback Ranch to see the White Sox's digs.
Trekking out to Camelback Ranch to see the Cubs and Sox square off made for an interesting battle of the presumed alphas in each team's rotation: Ryan Dempster, already lined up for the Opening Day start for the Cubs, versus Mark Buehrle, who's drawn the assignment for the Sox three years running, capped by last year's game and his remarkable between-the-legs flip sure to remain on highlight reels for as long as there are Web Gems being broadcast. These things loom fairly small at the moment—as Cubs skipper Mike Quade commented before the game, "I'm not ready to make any harsh criticism"—but the outcomes couldn't have been more different.
A battle between the Indians' and Cubs' low-velo righties leaves both teams feeling buoyant.
MESA, Arizona—Thursday, March 10 marked the Cubs' observance of Ron Santo's passing in HoHoKam. With so many tributes to come—including a statue at Wrigley Field, perhaps a pointed reminder not only of the love for him in Wrigleyville, but also of the signal failure of the BBWAA and however many iterations of the Veterans' Committee to include him among Cooperstown's bronzed ranks—yesterday's affair was more no-frills, as the Santo family got to speak about the man they loved to an audience already in a loving mood.
Perhaps the only sour note was that the Cubs weren't allowed to wear special #10 hats in Santo's honor—the MLB fashion police were duly offended by the lack of an MLB logo. Apparently, Bob Watson's dictatorial writ in all matters sartorial extends all the way to Arizona, right down to exhibition action. Who says the NFL is the only “no fun league”?
The Cubs face off against the Royals, with developments big and small.
As I noted yesterday, spring training is an exercise with its own echoes, whether as a matter of careers, characters, or ballclubs. Arriving at HoHoKam Stadium in Mesa provided me with ample opportunity to ponder the present and future as well as the past, because the Royals and Cubs gave us something to see, even in the course of what might get demeaned as “just” a 13-4 blowout.
MESA, Arizona__Getting to Phoenix to take in Cactus League action might be seen as one form of heaven or another. After all, there's an almost unlimited amound of baseball on tap in easy driving distance, every day, for weeks on end. Add in tacos, hiking, and warm weather, and there are few better balms to break from Chicago's winter doldrums. Even a two-hour delay on the flight out couldn't really be a buzzkill--I'm going to be out here for two weeks, flitting around to a few different camps to check in as many of the teams as possible, and writing about what I see and whatever develops. Add in the chance to stay with friends old and new--family friends in Mesa one week, and a former fraternity brother and his family in Scottsdale in another, and it pretty much dovetails with my idea of perfection.