Monday, February 20, 2006

Dateline Viera

Spring has sprung. Nats are in the gear. And Opening Day is only a month-and-a-half away!

Spring always inspires weepy poetry about the game, drawing broad analogies about how the game reflects life and blah blah blah. It's great when masters do it, but there are far fewer masters than hacks. Despite my overly large ego, I know that I lay closer to 'hack' on that scale, so I'll save you the displeasure of a paean.

All I know (and many of you would argue that it isn't much!) is that I'm starting to get excited.

There were a bazillion and one spring training articles over the weekend. In the interest of sanity, I won't link them all, just pulling out a few tidbits here and there. I'd refer you, especially, to Ladson's stuff at He's been writing up a storm. He has the advantage of not having any limit on his column inches, and he gives you the minutiae that nutballs like you and I crave.

  • The Nats signed Kevin Gryboski to a minor league deal. I'm not sure what happened with Gryboski last year to make it so that he was still floating around at this point. But he's the kind of player who's good to have, and would be excellent injury (or trade) insurance, given his track record of success -- even adjusting for the Mazzone effect.

  • Frank claims that all the pitchers will be healthy and ready for the season's start -- which'll create a helluva logjam. The ones who have the most question, Armas and Drese, will be the ones we'll need to watch most closely.

    Here, Drese says that his arm is feeling good, and that he's finally able to get his arm angle back up where it belongs.

  • The AP ran a nice profile of Chad Cordero. Frank acknowledges that he overused him, and is open to the idea of letting him share the role (in non-threatening situations: ie three-run leads?). Also, Cordero, at this point in the spring, can't run a mile without walking. Maybe he needs the Babe Ruth hot springs treatment?

  • Fick says he's learning a lot about throwing by working with Bob Boone. I hope this isn't just a typical Spring Training roses and sunshine quote:
    "He was talking about my hands and how I should receive the ball," Fick said. "The rap on me is my throwing. He said he is going to make me an accurate thrower to second base. I have the arm strength, but I haven't had the accuracy. We talked about the correct form. It was different information than I ever heard before."

  • Ladson reports that Patterson is working on a changeup. If he can throw a functional one, he'll be deadly. As it was, his curveball was an excellent changeup, playing off his fastball exceptionally well. Recall that it was a changeup, taught to him by Randy St. Claire, that transformed Hector Carrasco from a Korean league refugee to a dominant reliever and a second-round pick.

  • Comcast SportsNet's Scott Hanson has started up a Spring Training blog -- showing the pointless, but strangely interesting, things that aren't worth writing more than a sentence or two about.

  • In a mailbag, Ladson indicates that the team is likely to head north with 11 pitchers. Who'll be the odd man out? If only they could trade Stanton.

    Bill Bray, as we'd expect, has almost no chance of heading north.

  • This year marks Frank Robinson's fiftieth year in uniform. If you were reading last year, you'll know that I don't think much of Frank as a field manager. But there's no denying that he's an inner-circle hall of famer -- one who's definitely underappreciated by the public at large. He had the misfortune of splitting most of his career between two cities. In the first, a racial backwater, he left on bad terms. In the second, he was overshadowed in retrospect by a similarly named player who played his entire career in the black and orange. I wonder how many people even know that he was the first African American manager?

    I've told this story before, but it remains my favorite Frank Robinson story. He was asked once who the best player he ever managed was. Remember that he's managed Vlad Guerrero, Cal Ripken and Joe Morgan. His answer? Himself. That takes hubris. But he's also right.


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