Tomorrow sees the first spring training game, with Billy Buckner getting the start in Tucson against the Rockies. So let's go into that by wrapping up various bits and pieces of news on Russ Ortiz Tuesday. First off, I trust the Diamondbacks are feeling a little better today. As noted by 'Skins, it appears a good chunk of the training done over the weekend, consisted of players and coaches calling for Ralph and Hughie on the big white bullpen phone, thanks to what the team called "a gastro-intestinal condition." They really should have known better than to let Coach and Willie's cater the clubhouse buffet... Looks like it was just a 24-hour thing, though the players affected were treated a bit more gently than usual on Monday.
Final rosters were announced for the World Baseball Classic, with a grand total of eight Diamondbacks making the grade. There'll be two on the Mexican (Augustin Murillo and Augie Ojeda) and Australian (Travis Blackley and Trent Oeltjen) squads, and one each playing for the Canadian (Luke Carlin), Puerto Rico (Felipe Lopez), Venezuelan (Gerardo Parra) and Dominican Republic (Tony Peña) teams. Games start on March 5, but the first Arizona players won't see action until a couple of days later, with Canada, Venezuela, the DR and Venezuela opening pool play on March 7. All the games will be televised, either on ESPN or the MLB Network, so look forward to seeing a good number of those.
Max Scherzer had a 35-pitch bullpen session yesterday, and everything seemed to go smoothly, a relief after a couple of bumps on his winter training progress. He said, "First one of the year so obviously things were a little rusty. Overall I thought it was a good one for a first time." Interestingly, however, it has been floated that he'll start the season on the disabled list - simply because we won't need a fifth pitcher for the first week of the season, and can then use the roster spot for someone else. All those games until the 15th are at home; my instinct is that an additional bullpen arm could be useful against the Rockies, Dodgers and Cardinals.
Our likely leadoff hitter, Felipe Lopez, has talked about his Jekyll and Hyde season last year. While poor communication in Washington was apparently involved, he admitted, quite frankly, that Lopez himself is what caused it. "I can't put any excuses out there. You can point fingers, but at the end of the day you look in the mirror and that was it. My work ethic... You learn from it, but I'm accountable for everything. I blame myself for letting that get to me and not working the way I was supposed to." We trust there will be no such repetition in 2009, but if the projections are true, we're going to be in a tough pennant race from Opening Day, so motivation should not be an issue at all.
The man he replaced, Orlando Hudson, is blaming his wrist for not getting the contract he wanted. "We know if it wasn't for the wrist injury, it probably wouldn't have taken this long." O RLY? Juan Cruz and Manny Ramirez - both with perfectly fine wrists - might beg to differ on that conclusion. We got some more details of Hudson's contract with the Dodgers - and you thought Tom Gordon's deal was convoluted. Take a deep breath and look at this little beauty:
- 380,000 signing bonus, deferred without interest to a time not designated
- $3 million base salary for 2009
- $150,000 each for 150 and 175 plate appearances
- $200,000 each for 200, 225, 250, 275 and 300 plate appearances
- $250,000 each for 325, 350, 375, 400, 425, 450, 475, 500, 525, 550, 575 PAs
- $10,000 for EVERY plate appearance from PA #576 through PA #632.
[57 PAs for total of $570,000]
- BEGINNING WITH 550 PAs, these incentives are deferred without interest to a time not designated.
- Hudson must donate $25,000 to the Dodgers Dream Foundation
To save you the math, Los Angeles might pay up to $6.55 million this year, if Orlando hits 550 PAs. The rest - between $380 K and $1.45 million - is deferred to some future time. Between this and Andruw Jones, it seems the Dodgers are adopting the Colangelobacks approach to financing. And we all know how well that ended...
Speaking of money, a couple of interesting notes on other Phoenix sporting events, some of which appear largely to be a result of the recent economic crisis. The Coyotes have been getting bailed out by their Glendale landlords: "A record of lease payments by the Coyotes shows the city has been letting the team play virtually rent-free at Jobing.com Arena for seven months." And finance firm Friedman, Billings, Ramsey have declined their option to keep sponsoring the Phoenix Open golf tournament after next year. On the other hand, it was officially announced this afternoon that Wrestlemania XXVI will take place in Arizona at the UofP stadium on March 28, 2010. A-Rod vs. Bazza is penciled in as the main event, with Mickey Rourke as guest referee...
Nick Piecoro's blog continues to be a mine of fun stuff and tidbits, such as that Clay Zavada got a key tip on his change-up from Jason Neighborgall. If you haven't heard of the latter, he was a phenomenal D-backs prospect, with a 100 mph fastball, who was the ultimate Wild Thing. In 42.1 minor-league innings before retiring, he struck out 48...and walked one hundred and twenty-eight. Yes: you read that right. More than three per inning. In five games for South Bend in 2007, he faced 22 batters, retiring only three: he walked twelve, hit three and uncorked nine wild pitches in that one inning of work. Pitching tips from him would seem like getting PR hints from Bernie Madoff, but Zavada appears to have made it work.
The Republic finally covers Brandon Webb's fishing contest for charity down in Mexico. Nice to see they're on the cutting edge of news coverage there, given it took place at the start of January and we reported on it four weeks back. There are some nuggets of significance there though, such as Adam Dunn saying "he had given his promise more than once to former CEO Jeff Moorad" that he wouldn't accept arbitration. If that's true, it seems we gave up two draft picks without reason. Webb and Chris Snyder also discussed their "worst-ever teammates". No names, but they are "one current, and one former" player. Jon Rauch and Johnny Estrada would seem to be the likely front-runners then, at the start of the year anyway..
And finally, an appropriate news...er, flash for a slightly-chilly Mardi Gras here in Arizona:
RIO DE JANEIRO - It's a record that can only be broken in Rio de Janeiro. A samba dancer has worn the smallest scrap of clothing ever in a Carnival parade. The O Globo newspaper says model Dani Sperle sported a sparkly silver headdress, a necklace, matching arm bands - and nothing else but a 3-centimeter-long patch of cloth.
I'll repeat that. Three centimetres. Google Images is probably your friend, if you want to see exactly how that works. Though probably not if you are at work. Happy Mardi Gras! And Happy Spring Training!