Teams practicing shift-related drills during spring training
“A runner on first, stolen base, and the third baseman covers (second base on the steal attempt) because we’ve shifted (David) Ortiz or we’ve shifted Ryan Howard or we’ve shifted Adrian (Gonzalez) or whoever’s going to shift, and the pitcher has now a responsibility to go to third,” Hinch said. “Our pitchers, when I was an active player, never had a responsibility on a stolen base other than to back up third if I (as the catcher) threw the ball away. You don’t want to be surprised on the field in competition with any play. So we spend a lot of time on a dry-erase board trying to figure out every single play we can think of.”
—Astros manager A.J. Hinch, on the club implementing more shift-related defensive drills this spring. (Evan Drellich, Houston Chronicle)
“The shift has grown to a level where everyone, it’s a topic for everyone,” Hinch said. “Used to be just a topic for the starting pitcher or the relief pitcher that’s in the game and whether or not they’re comfortable. And then it lead to the infielders. … Now it’s turning into the hitters have an opinion on the shift because those that are being affected by it hate it. That means it’s working. I think every player on the field has to understand it’s part of our game until things change and the rules change. People are getting very efficient with their information and they’re utilizing it at an elite level, and 30 teams use it, whether they admit it or not.”
“For example, we'll set the guys up in a shift and then hit the ball over the center fielder's head. Okay, how are we going to line up because this is something different than we've done before. Let's say David Ortiz is hitting and we're setting up in the shift and all of a sudden he hits the ball to left-center. How are guys going to rotate to get out there? That's difficult. What we've come up with, and I'm not saying it's the right way, but in talking to the players and so forth, we're going to wind up having one guy go all the way out and the second guy is going to be late getting there, but he's got to be in the area.”
—Indians bench coach Brad Mills, on shift-specific drills the team is practicing. (Paul Hoynes, Cleveland.com)
Royals hope Rios can bring defensive upgrade over Aoki
“Even though Nori was really OK out there, you just knew these games were going to hinge on one run somewhere,” Yost said. “And you couldn’t take a bad route, or you couldn’t not get to a ball that would lead to that one run that would result in you losing that game. I don’t foresee that happening with Alex Rios, if he’s healthy.”
—Royals manager Ned Yost, on having to bring in Jarrod Dyson as a defensive replacement for Nori Aoki last season. (Andy McCullough, Kansas City Star)
“He knows the angles, the way the ball is going to hook and tail and slice,” Kuntz said. “He brings more experience to the position. And he understands situations a whole lot better.”
—Royals first-base coach Rusty Kuntz, on the addition of Alex Rios.
“It’s an upgrade,” Dyson said. “Because, first of all, you can communicate with Rios. He’s got way more experience in the outfield. And he is somebody that Rusty can talk to, break something down to, and he’s gets it, like that.”
—Dyson, on Rios in right field compared to Aoki.
Wheeler voices frustration with shift
“I don't want to piss anybody off but, honestly, I don't like it," he said. "Teams are starting to be more analytical these days. So I hate to say that numbers don't lie because I don't like analytics all that much but I'm not the boss here. I really can't control it. They know where I stand on that.”
—Mets starting pitcher Zack Wheeler, on the club implementing defensive shifts behind him. (Mike Vorkunov, The Star-Ledger)
“It put him in a tough situation because his stuff is so good. He was right. We said 'Listen, we're not going to take the shift away. We're just going to alter it a little bit because the numbers tell us they're still going to hit the ball over here. We made a little adjustment. His argument was legitimate. You got some guys, they give up a hit against a shift and the first thing they say is 'That darn shift'. Well, we can't be everywhere.”
—Mets manager Terry Collins, on Wheeler’s concern about being able to bury his slider with a runner on third and a shift against a left-handed batter because of the extra lead the runner could get.
“Say a guy is a pull hitter, a lefty, and you're pitching him away. He's a major league hitter, he's going to go that way with it like you're supposed to. But when the shortstop is playing second base and the ball goes straight through the hole, I'm like 'Seriously, that's out.' If you're playing baseball the way it started from Day One, that would have been out. And I'm just like an old school guy — I'm young but I'm an old school guy at the same time. I believe in all the old school stuff.”
“I think that's the important part of the process. Then it's a question of how does it translate to what goes on on the field. There's several stages from collecting the data to actually executing on the field. One of those things is making sure the players — as well as the coaches initially — understand how it's intended to benefit the team.”
—Mets general manager Sandy Alderson, on conveying the benefits of analytics from the front office to the on-field personnel.
“People talk about just slapping the ball through the six hole — I'd like you to name people who can do that. On the ground in the six hole. Name someone who does it… Ichiro. Tony Gwynn did it. Who else? Next? No one. It's one of those things, it's a good idea, a good theory, but the player I am and the player people expect me to be, slapping balls on the ground to the six hole, it really isn't the plan. The plan also isn't to yank everything down the line. I don't go out there trying to pull the ball. My approach is to hit from left-center to right-center and stay in the big part of the field and get good pitches to hit and drive the ball”
—Reds outfielder Jay Bruce, responding to those who say he should try to hit ground balls to the opposite field in order to avoid infield shifts (Cincinnati Enquirer)
"We're all in this together, and every opinion matters," Silverman said. "As we were considering such an important decision, we felt that the players had an important voice. It opened up conversations about their feelings not just on the manager position, but the organization and how it operates. And I believe those conversations led to some outcomes, and to better dialogue between the front office and the clubhouse. … There are certain things I learned that I wasn't aware of, and wouldn't have known, given my prior position. The more information that we have, the better decisions we can make.”
—Rays head of baseball operations Matt Silverman, on letting the voices of top players such as Evan Longoria and Alex Cobb be heard before making some moves this offseason including the hiring of manager Kevin Cash. (Marc Topkin, Tampa Bay Times)
“Believe me, there's no Glory Days stuff going on. It's by necessity. Yesterday, we didn't have any position players and coaches needed to run. Today, we had six pitchers and two catchers and we tried to get them out of here as quick as we can. There hasn't been one time where I thought I needed to get in there and take some swings. But I watch these guys catch. I miss that and I love doing it. And sometimes, you can get a different perspective.”
—Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, on catching pitchers during a bullpen session (Rick Hummel, St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
“We never really talked about it, but I definitely knew. Like, `Oh, he’s right behind me,’ or, `He’s right ahead of me.’ It’s fun to compete with someone you know and care about, and whose success you care about. It was cool to see him have his success, and I’m looking forward to seeing him today.”
—Cubs prospect Kris Bryant, on keeping track of how his home run totals compare to childhood friend and Rangers prospect Joey Gallo (Gordon Wittenmyer, Chicago Sun-Times)
"I have never seen quicker arm speed out of a pitcher. He's 6-foot, 6-foot-1. He's a little smaller than I am, but he throws it so hard its ridiculous, and its looks so easy, too. A lot of writers and baseball people say that it looks easy coming out of my hand, but the way he throws it's so smooth and ball just fires out. I've never seen anything like it live. I know that he has a bright future ahead of him. We're probably going to be playing together this year and hopefully for many years to come."
—Nationals pitching prospect Lucas Giolito, on teammate Reynaldo Lopez’s potential (Byron Kerr, MASN Sports)
“I think that’s a trap a lot of groups fall into, that ‘I’ve got to try harder,’ or ‘I’ve got to do more,’ ‘I’ve got to step up.’ I really don’t like the phrase ‘step up’ at all. That insinuates that you’ve not been trying prior to that.”
—Cubs manager Joe Maddon, on how player should approach the beginning of the season (Patrick Mooney, CSN Chicago)
“I think it's the perfect way he dealt with it. Perfect. I think Bobby did what I would do and a number of other guys would've have done. The captain made a statement and it wasn't really adhered to and Bobby said, 'Maybe he didn't hear it'. David Wright says its gotta be dealt with and it's got to be dealt with now. Obviously it was important enough for him to deal with it. He's the captain. I'm in his corner.”
—Mets manager Terry Collins, on veterans David Wright and Bobby Parnell disciplining top prospect Noah Syndergaard for eating lunch in the clubhouse during an intra-squad game. Wright reportedly told Syndergaard to sit on the bench with the rest of the team and Parnell followed up by throwing Syndergaard’s lunch in the trash. (Mike Vorkunov, The Star-Ledger)
“There's a couple of different things that could happen. He could pitch through it and it could be scar tissue breaking up and it could be resolved. He threw the next day [after his Thursday's outing], on Friday and Saturday, and as he threw he got better. Typically, it's the other way around, where you start throwing and it gets progressively worse. But again, we have to be alarmed, we have to be concerned because it's the same area and he's feeling something.”
—Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro, on pitcher Cliff Lee’s elbow injury (Jake Kaplan, Philadelphia Inquirer)