Posted on: March 20, 2008 9:16 pm

Dodgers back, name Penny Opening Day starter

PHOENIX, Ariz. -- The Los Angeles Globetrotters, er, Dodgers, touched down in Phoenix, whipped the Chicago White Sox 8-2 in their first Cactus League game and then promptly named Brad Penny as their Opening Day starter.

"We sort of had it planned that way if he kept progressing this spring," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. "Going into the sixth inning today, he had thrown only 61 pitches."

Game-time Thursday didn't come a moment too soon, either. The Dodgers actually landed in the Valley of the Sun following their two exhbition games with San Diego in China a couple of nights ago, and they worked out at Papago Park here adjacent to Phoenix Municipal Stadium on Wednesday.

Because Oakland hadn't yet vacated the facilities for Japan -- the A's left following their game Wednesday -- the Dodgers dressed for their workout in Salon B at the Phoenix Ritz Carlton Hotel and clomped out toward the team bus and cabs from there.

"It was pretty impressive that our clubhouse staff made it work," pinch-hitter Mark Sweeney said. "It was nice to see training tables under chandeliers."

Sweeney noted it was a bit unusual to go to get his car from the valet in full uniform, but not quite as unusual as catcher Gary Bennett running into Starbucks in full uniform for the morning coffee. That was the deal Sweeney drove for giving him a ride to practice.

The Dodgers were able to move their equipment into Oakland's now-empty home clubhouse Thursday morning, and they'll be temporary residents here for the rest of the spring before breaking camp -- such as it is, after shutting down Vero Beach and then spending three days in China -- next week.

The real fun then begins once they're back in Los Angeles, where the Dodgers, as part of theit 50th anniversary celebration, will host the Boston Red Sox in an exhibition game at the Los Angeles Coliseum next Saturday.

The Dodgers, who played at the Coliseum when they first moved to Southern California before Dodger Stadium was built, are expecting 115,000 fans for the nostalgic game.

And while there, the Red Sox may notice that their Green Monster suddenly seems pretty small. Because of the configuration of the Coliseum, left field will be -- I am not making this up -- 200 feet from home plate. The old Coliseum wasn't quite as "intimate" because, as you might remember from old Olympic footage, there once was a track ringing the field. But that's gone and the seats are closer, so what the Dodgers will do while attempting to keep the pitchers sane is erect a 60-foot high wall in left-field.

Wonder what Manny Ramirez will think of that?

As for the Dodgers, I'm sure they'll just be happy to be home.

Oh, and by the way, Thursday at Phoenix Municipal Stadium? The club's gear gear got moved in on time, and the Dodgers actually dressed in a clubhouse again.

"It was nice," Torre said. "And we get to do it again tomorrow."

Likes: Big pro-Dodgers crowd of 7,654 in attendance. ... White Sox hitting coach Greg Walker singing along with Johnny Cash's Folsom Prison Blues as it was playing on the Phoenix Municipal Stadium sound system during batting practice before Thursday's Cactus League game with the Dodgers. ... Another classic A.J. Pierzynski moment in Thursday's game: He lofted a high foul pop down the left-field line and was called out even though nobody caught it. Reason? Dodgers left fielder Andre Ethier ran into one of the White Sox relievers as he was warming up on a bullpen mound. The Sox pitcher didn't move out of Ethier's way, and the umpires thumbed Pierzynski out because of the obstruction. ... The mountains in the background at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. Beautiful setting here.

Dislikes: The USA Today story the other day pointing out that one in 25 residents of New Orleans is homeless. That is an unbelievable and pathetic number for a country as supposedly advanced as ours. Yeah, great job, Brownie. ... No more wireless Internet in the Phoenix Municipal Stadium press box. The Oakland A's packed it up and took it with them when they broke camp Wednesday. Seriously, don't know whether it's on the plan to Japan or on the bus back to Oakland. Whatever, it was awfully inconvenient attempting to get work done at the Dodgers-White Sox game here Thursday. The Dodgers replaced Oakland at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. ... Arizona already on Pacific Time instead of remaining on Mountain Time, as it often is at this point in March. The problem? Once the NCAA tournament starts, we get games out here at 4:10 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. at the end of the day, as opposed to 5 and 7:30. That hour makes all the difference when you're working during the day and attempting to finish in time to see some hoops.

Sunblock day? It's warming up. Into the 80s and you'd better coat yourself with sunblock several layers of sunblock. Otherwise, you'll burn.

Rock-n-Roll lyric of the day:

"Sittin' here resting my bones
"And this loneliness won't leave me alone, yes,
"Two thousand miles I roam
"Just to make this dock my home"

-- Otis Redding, (Sittin' on) The Dock of the Bay

Posted on: March 19, 2008 10:46 pm

Day ahead in Japan, day behind here

PHOENIX, Ariz. -- Boston and Oakland players took an admirable and righteous stand Wednesday before departing for Japan. Who doesn't think the lowly coaches and trainers should be compensated? Especially if the players are earning $40,000 each?

But before delivering too much praise, let's all take a breath and remember that it was the players who dropped the ball on this one to start with.

While negotiating their deal last fall, the players negotiated to make sure they were taken care of, but nobody bothered to think about the managers and coaches.

Had they done so then, Wednesday's drama/Keystone Kops routine would have been deftly avoided.

That would have been the best option of all.

And though it was important to get it right in the end, this entire thing wound up making baseball look silly -- and revealing how uninformed the players really are.

While Boston's camp in Florida was the nerve center, the Athletics pretty much just played follow the leader all day. I was in their clubhouse at 8 a.m. Pacific time, and all the A's were hearing at that point was rumors.

"I was under the impression that the coaches and everybody would be taken care of," veteran reliever Alan Embree said.

He could have been speaking for everybody else, pretty much. The Red Sox also were under the same impression, apparently, until the last minute.

As the A's heard about what was going on and tried to keep track of the situation by watching television (ESPN was scheduled to broadcast the Boston-Toronto game, which started late because of the Red Sox players' meeting), several phone calls were exchanged from the Oakland to the Boston clubhouses. Athletics first baseman Mike Sweeney spoke with Boston pitcher Curt Schilling, among other calls.

"I want to go to Japan," Oakland shortstop Bobby Crosby said. "We're all packed up. But it's not right. I'm glad they're doing something about it."

The Athletics went into their own team meeting not long after Crosby spoke. During that, across the country, the Red Sox took the field to play Toronto. Negotiations patched things up.

Just as quickly as the storm broke out, the skies cleared.

And the planes took off for Japan.

The most astute comment of the day came from Oakland player representative Huston Street: "From here on our, there has to be more communication on every front and less assumed.

"This isn't a small-time operation."

Even though on Wednesday, it looked like one.

Likes: An item printed from the Internet posted on a bulletin board in the Oakland clubhouse entitled, "17 Ways to Make Your Trip to Japan 10 Times More Enjoyable". ... A's general manager Billy Beane standing in the Oakland dugout before his club's Cactus League finale with the Los Angeles Angels, shooting the breeze while wearing "Arsenal" shorts -- an English professional soccer team -- and a T-shirt. Looked like he was going straight into the weight room. ... This quip from one of the San Francisco writers before Wednesday night's game with the Cubs when a reporter asked what the clubhouse access times are: "Bonds is gone. There is no policy. Do what you want."

Dislikes: Knowing Ted Williams' head is still frozen somewhere near Scottsdale Stadium. ... Thinking of the sad, early death of Kirby Puckett every time I drive by the Scottsdale Hospital right across the street from the stadium. It's where Puckett was first taken when he had his stroke two springs ago.

Sunblock day? Yes, but still not real hot. Sunny and a comfortable 75 or so.

Rock-n-Roll lyric of the day:

"You can't stop us on the road to freedom
"You cant stop us cause our eyes can see
"Men with insight, men in granite
"Knights in armor intent on chivalry"

-- Van Morrison, Tupelo Honey

Posted on: March 18, 2008 12:53 am

Kings of Pain

PHOENIX, Ariz. -- I can't remember a spring training this painful.

And I'm not talking about the usual run of back spasms, sore arms and hamstring strains.

I'm talking about -- and I'm cringing as I type this -- Houston second baseman Kaz Matsui and Chicago Cubs outfielder Felix Pie.

Matsui will open the season on the disabled list following surgery to repair an anal fissure.

Pie returned to the Cubs' Cactus League lineup this week following surgery to repair a twisted testicle.

I'll pause here so you and I can both regain our breath.

I'd apologize in advance if you hadn't heard about these injuries and you're kind grossed out right now.

Except I read some details about Matsui's surgery over breakfast a few days ago and, hey. If I've gotta deal with this stuff over granola and yogurt, why should you get off easy? And if you were sitting down and suddenly had to stand up because just reading about Matsui's injury made you uncomfortable, well, I don't blame you. I'm standing as I type this as well.

Unless you're a doctor, you're probably wondering -- while flinching -- exactly what Matsui's injury is.

Well, I'll tell you: An anal fissure, according to doctors, is a tear of the skin near the anus that causes bleeding and pain. Matsui will miss two or three weeks, and veteran Mark Loretta will replace him at second base and bat second for the Astros.

I'd love to hear Loretta explain to family and friends how he cracked the Astros 2008 opening day lineup.

As for Pie's surgery, doctors sewed the outer layer of the testicle to the scrotum wall. The Cubs said it was a minor procedure. Right, and the old classic that comes to mind here is, minor surgery is the kind of surgery that happens to someone else.

Apparently, the injury is not uncommon, and some men are more susceptible to it than others. More often than not, it happens in adolescence. Come to think of it, I'm pretty sure this is the same thing my friend Ollie had at the start of cross country practice our senior year of high school. He had a procedure that I believe was awfully similar to Pie's.

Of course, back then, all we did was give Ollie grief about his, uh, situation. Figured it must have had something to do with the fact that we were going to an all-boys Catholic high school, and we'd better not ask too many questions. So all we did was razz him mercilessly, sensitive guys that we were, and I don't think we ever did get around to asking those questions.

So now that I've learned Pie ran the risk of losing the testicle if the, uh, situation wasn't corrected, now I'm going to have to phone Ollie -- who alternately is called "Dogs", for reasons that existed back when we were 16 and every day was one big laugh (oh, if we could all have those carefree days back) -- and ask him some of those questions.

Silly me. All these years, I always thought the condition simply was called what we've always called it: "Ollie Dogs Disease." But I sure haven't heard the Cubs call it that.

When does spring training end?

Likes: David Newhan homering for Houston in the final game with the Dodgers in Vero Beach as Dodgertown fades to black. How appropriate -- Newhan is the son of good friend and Hall of Famer baseball writer Ross Newhan, who spent decades covering the Dodgers in Vero. Ross and David are both top-shelf people. ... Daisuke Matsuzaka pitching Boston's opener in Japan. Come on, don't you think there was some sort of divine intervention that allowed his wife to deliver baby No. 2 in time for him to accompany the Red Sox. ... St. Paddy's day. ... My daughter throwing a runner out at the plate from left field in Monday night's softball game. ... Only a couple of days until the NCAA tournament begins.

Dislikes: See the injuries to Matsui and Pie above. ... Woody Williams getting tatooed in Houston. The Astros' pitching is shaping up to be a disaster. Shawn Chacon? Please.

Sunblock day? Clouds obstructing the sun, the temps didn't reach much over 60 ... how much longer does spring training run, anyway? It's getting too cold down here.

Rock-n-Roll lyric of the day:

"Once I was swimming cross turtle creek
"Man, them snappers all around my feet
"Sure was hard swimming cross that thing
"With both hands holding my ding a ling a ling"

-- Chuck Berry, My Ding-a-Ling

Posted on: March 16, 2008 7:25 pm

Bonjour, Mr. Gagne

MARYVALE, Ariz. -- Brewers manager Ned Yost has learned to say "good morning" in French to Quebec native Eric Gagne, but other than that, Yost mostly is hands-off. And truth be told, is paying closer attention to folks other than his new closer.

Mostly, Gagne has been honing his skills on the back fields while preparing for the season. He's worked in only two "A" games so far, and three "B" games.

"He's a different animal," Yost says. "He's been in the game for quite awhile. He knows what it takes to be successful. The main thing that kicks in with guys like him is adrenalin, and you're not going to see that with Gagne until the season starts."

Yost is completely dismissing Gagne's struggles in Boston last summer when he went 2-2 with a 6.75 ERA and practically was booed out of town.

Instead, he points to the 16 saves and 2.16 ERA earlier in the year in Texas.

"Two different jobs," Yost says.

Gagne also is a different animal in that he essentially missed two seasons, 2005 and 2006, with injuries, then did well in Texas for part of last season and then was terrible in Boston. Plus, he was named in the Mitchell Report as a suspected steroids user.

So how can a manager be completely confident that Gagne will become Mr. Dependable Closer? Blind faith?

"Absolutely he's ready to go, and it's not even blind faith," Yost says. "It's solid faith."

Gagne says he is throwing "awesome. I'm feeling good. No pain. No stiffness. I'm throwing free and easy."

He's got no restrictions physically, and he's thrown all of his pitches -- including his nasty change-up -- in each of his past two outings. Before that, he says, he only threw his fastball while working on arm strength and location.

"That's why I like 'B' games," he says.

Meantime, the man who signed a one-year, $10 million deal is very happy in his new home.

"They're young here," Gagne says. "They've got a lot of energy.

"It's pretty cool."

Likes: Prince Fielder mimicking batting stances from other players -- both Brewers and non-Brewers -- in the Milwaukee clubhouse, and outfielder Mike Cameron nearly doubled over in laughter. ... Justin Upton ready to start in right field for Arizona at 20. ... Barry Zito winning a Cactus League game despite surrendering seven runs and seven hits in 5 1/3 innings. The ball flies in the thin desert air. ... Monti's Steakhouse in Tempe. ... Chatting with former Oakland skipper Ken Macha in Tempe the other day. Macha, entering his second season after being fired by Oakland, is itching to get back into uniform. ... Butler in the NCAA tournament, but not playing South Alabama in Alabama. Come on, the Bulldogs deserve better.

Dislikes: The Mets' Carlos Delgado needing stitches after getting speared by a broken bat. Forget, for a minute, base coaches now being forced to wear helmets. Talk to anybody in uniform over the past few years, and one of the greatest fears is a jagged, broken bat doing some serious damage, and possibly killing someone. Thank goodness Delgado got out of it with only four stitches. ... Atlanta's Jeff Francoeur getting beaned in the lip by St. Louis pitcher Todd Wellemeyer. If the situation was reversed, why do I have the feeling that Cardinals skipper Tony La Russa would be starting World War III, and going on about how it's never an accident when a pitch sails near somebody's head? ... Arizona coach Kirk Gibson turns 51 in May? When did he turn 50?

Sunblock day? We avoided the predicted thunderstorms -- at least, in the Phoenix area -- and got a mix of sun and clouds. But the temperature dropped toward the 50s. More long pants and jacket day than sunblock day.

Rock-n-Roll lyric of the day:

"This old heart of mine been broke a thousand times
"Each time you break away I feel you're gone to stay
"Lonely nights that come, memories that flow
"Bringin' ya back again, hurting me more and more"

-- The Isley Brothers, This Old Heart of Mine

Posted on: March 15, 2008 7:19 pm
Edited on: March 15, 2008 11:42 pm

We signed WHO?

TEMPE, Ariz. -- So you follow every single move your favorite team makes, and you've tracked so many rumors involving moves your club eventually didn't make that you need a stronger glasses prescription each year.

You wonder where that middle-of-the-order bat will come from, how your team will beef up its bullpen and when maybe it'll add to its rotation depth.

Now for this breaking news flash: Ya know, not every player bothers paying close attention to what his team is doing all winter.

Take Angels starter Jered Weaver, with whom I had an entertaining talk Saturday morning.

As the Angels' high-powered winter rolled along -- they traded Orlando Cabrera for pitcher Jon Garland, signed Torii Hunter as a free agent, and spent weeks trying to trade for Florida's Miguel Cabrera -- Weaver remained blissfully ignorant.

"I don't pay attention to anything anybody does in the winter," Weaver said. "I just found out Nick Swisher was with the White Sox when we played them the other day. I was out with a buddy over the winter when somebody test messaged him that we signed Torii Hunter.

"That's how I found out we got him."

Hey, nothin' wrong with separating your work from the rest of your life, right? It's healthy. You don't obsess over the office when you're on vacation, do you?

Likes: Padres 3, Dodgers 3 in China. As one press box wag cracked, the Chinese already were going to have a difficult enough time deciphering this wacky American game without having to have ties explained to them. ... Using the phrase "press box wag." You just don't hear that often enough anymore. ... Randy Johnson still pitching. ... Arizona manager Bob Melvin's reply when I blanked for a second and called him "Doug" Saturday morning. Not to be confused with Milwaukee general manager Doug Melvin, of course. I apologized and he said, "That's OK, Jim." Touche. ... Wall-to-wall college hoops for the next few weeks. ... How about the ending of the Minnesota-Indiana game in the Big 10 tournament? What a shot. ... Coffee Plantation on Mill St. in the Arizona State area. ... The thin crust pizza at Oregano's, followed by the pizza cookie. Only time I ever eat dessert after eating pizza. And I woke up the next morning not wanting to eat anything. ... The tortilla encrusted Mahi at Richardson's Cuisine of the Southwest. Hoo boy, is that place good.

Dislikes: Sunday's weather report. Keep reading.

Sunblock day? Not so much. Cloudy off and on, even a little on the cool side. It's supposed to drop down into the 50s for a high Sunday in the desert, which is a load of hooey. I mean, come on, we're entering the final two weeks of the spring. People are shoveling snow in much of the country, and it'll disillusion you if it turns cold down here, won't it?

Rock-n-Roll lyric of the day:

"Your Mama's yappin' in the back seat
"Tell her to push over and move them big feet
"Every Monday morning I gotta drive her down to the unemployment agency
"Well this morning I ain't fighting tell her I give up
"Tell her she wins if she'll just shut up
"But it's the last time that she's gonna be riding with me"

-- Bruce Springsteen, Sherry Darlin' 

Posted on: March 13, 2008 8:58 pm

Desperation meets mediocrity in St. Louis

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Kyle Lohse has lots to prove and, obviously, based on the difficulty he had finding a job and St. Louis' tepid reaction upon signing him to a cut-rate deal Thursday, expectations are low already.

Question is, can he rise even to meet those?

History says don't get too excited, Cardinals fans.

Time was when Minnesota thought the world of Lohse, but he didn't take well to coaching back then, didn't make the necessary adjustments and clashed with manager Ron Gardenhire. He couldn't win in his second chance in Cincinnati, then got enough run support in Philadelphia last season to help the Phillies win the NL East title.

He sought a multi-year contract in the neighborhood of Carlos Silva (four years, $48 million with Seattle over the winter) and even in a game flush with cash right now, nobody was silly enough to award that kind of charity to a guy whose ERA usually is higher than the league average.

"If it were a perfect world, we wouldn't have had to go down this path," St. Louis general manager John MOzeliak said. "But it's not and we're going to need someone to pitch every fifth day."

As I said, not exactly a ringing endorsement. It's like Casey Stengel's classic line one year when he didn't like any of his catching prospects. You need a catcher, Stengel explained, otherwise the ball will roll all the way to the backstop.

And you need someone to pitch every fifth day ... especially in St. Louis right now, with Matt Clement in the midst of a slow comeback, Joel Pineiro no guarantee physically and with Chris Carpenter and Mark Mulder set to start the season on the disabled list.

The best thing you can say about Lohse is that, if he lasts the season in the rotation, he'll log a lot of innings -- probably, close to 200 worth. They may not all be quality, many may be ugly, but he'll take the ball.

-- Don't be surprised if left-hander Horacio Ramirez, released by Seattle this week, eventually lands in Florida with the Marlins. They've inquired about him in the past. Cincinnati also continues to bottom-feed in the search for starting pitchers.

-- Regarding this Yankees-Tampa Bay business, yes, you can make a case that Rays youngster Elliot Johnson went into the plate too hard when he bowled over young Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli, breaking his wrist. But let's remember here that part of spring training is about young kids trying to make their way into the game, and that includes trying to impress their manager and teammates with hard-nosed play. It's unfortunate that Cervelli was seriously hurt, but the play was not the dirty play that New York manager Joe Girardi made it out to be.

Besides, wasn't Johnson playing the way Girardi insists that his teams play?

Now Shelley Duncan's spikes-up slide into second baseman Akinori Iwamura is another story. That clearly crossed the line. And regarding Duncan's explanation that he has been taught since he was young to kick the ball out of the fielder's glove in that situation, check out the pictures: Duncan's left leg is waist high toward Iwamura's right side. Only problem is, Iwamura's glove (containing the ball) is on the other side of his body. If Duncan was attempting to kick the ball out of Iwamura's glove, his aim is more off-target than the Yankees' claims that they weren't trying to retaliate.

-- Just one question regarding Billy Crystal's appearance/strikeout with the New York Yankees in Florida on Thursday: Did he pass baseball's steroids test? Or will he simply become the latest Yankee to be linked with performance-enhancing drugs?

Likes: Mel Stottlemyre healthy enough to be serving as Seattle's pitching coach. ... The Yankees sending their starting lineup to Virginia Tech, site of last spring's horrible shootings, for an exhibition game Tuesday. Class move. ... The bulletin board in Kansas City's clubhouse with the heading "Who Do YOu Love?" and photos of various Royals' families and loved ones thumb-tacked to it. ... The Pontiac Solstice convertible I was able to upgrade to for this stint in Arizona without an additional fee. ... The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report with Stephen Colbert on at 10 and 10:30 in Arizona, early enough for a tired scribe to catch some of before lights out.

Dislikes: Godspeed to former pitcher and current broadcaster Rick Sutcliffe as he battles colon cancer. Thank goodness it was caught early and it looks like he'll make a full recovery, but a few prayers certainly can't hurt.

Sunblock day? Yes, another beauty in the 70s but, alas. Word is thunderstorms are due Sunday.

Rock-n-Roll lyric of the day:

"City girls seem to find out early
"How to open doors with just a smile"

-- The Eagles, Lyin' Eyes 

Category: MLB
Posted on: March 12, 2008 10:45 pm

Sir Sidney, the scales and the Airborne Rangers

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- So what, exactly, was Sidney Ponson doing throwing two scoreless innings deep in Texas' 5-4 Cactus League victory over the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday and behaving as, dare we say it, a real, live major league pitcher?

First, let's get the automatic chuckle out of the way with Sir Sidney (hey, he was knighted in his native Aruba).

"You look like you're in pretty good shape," I told the notoriously hefty Ponson -- in all seriousness -- when I saw him before Wednesday's game.

His replay was classic: "I thought so, too, until I weighed in today. That was a little disappointing."

Last week, Ponson said, he was at 250 pounds and happy.

Upon stepping on the scale here Wednesday morning, he said he was "255, 256."

"I don't know why. Altitude?" he joked. "I'm just worried about throwing today, getting people out."

He did that, too. Faced the minimum six batters over two innings, walking one and fanning another.

He's not exactly a lock to make this team -- he just signed a few days ago, and arrived here on Sunday -- but he's certainly in the right place. Last time Texas had any pitching, they were defending The Alamo down in San Antonio. Or something like that.

Ponson hasn't pitched in the majors since Minnesota released him last May 15. He was 2-5 with a 6.93 ERA. Year before that, he struck out with both the Cardinals and Yankees.

He went home to Florida last May, took a couple of months off and then started working out again. He pitched a bit in the Dominican winter league, making three starts.

Though it seems as if he's been around forever, he's just 31. "I'm still pretty young," he says. "I'm a young veteran."

If this latest comeback road takes him back to Triple-A for awhile, he says, "I'm fine with that. I just want to get back to the big leagues."

Rangers starters last season combined to pitch the fewest innings of any rotation in the majors. There is a definite need here. And, conversely, if Sir Sidney can't hang on here -- whatever his weight -- then, well, maybe it will be time to remove the "Sir" from his title.

Likes: Nice complex in Surprise that the Rangers and Royals share, but how anybody ever thought to build anything out there in that part of the desert, I'd love to hear the explanation. ... I could do without his tattoos, but Josh Hamilton's is the kind of story you can't help rooting for. ... Tampa Bay at Yankees April 4-5-6-7, the first weekend of the regular season. Boxing gloves, anyone? ... Gov. Eliot Spitzer jokes. ... Make that former Governor. ... New Texas president Nolan Ryan's reply when general manager Jon Daniels asked how he dealt with the heat when he pitched for the Rangers: Ryan told Daniels that, on any given night, his goal was to last longer in the game than the opposing starting pitcher. ... This dry bit of humor from Bob Dylan on XM's Theme Time Radio Hour on Wednesday's program, with birds as the theme: "The average wingspan of a duck is 27 inches. Though if you own one and its wingspan is a little less, don't be concerned." ... Dairy Queen drive-thrus.

Dislikes: Cell phone batteries that don't last as long as they should.

Sunblock day? Yep. Perfect. Not too hot, but a warm upper-70s with a bright sun.

Rock-n-Roll lyric of the day:

"My shadow's the only one that walks beside me
"My shallow heart's the only thing that's beating
"Sometimes I wish someone out there will find me
"'Til then I'll walk alone"

-- Green Day, Boulevard of Broken Dreams

Posted on: March 11, 2008 8:30 pm

Experimentin' and thinkin' with Cy Peavy

PEORIA, Ariz. -- National League Cy Young winner Jake Peavy was clubbed by the Los Angeles Angels in the first inning of an 8-4 Cactus League loss Tuesday, surrendering four runs and five hits.

To those in the crowd of 5,784, and in the raw box score, it no doubt appeared that Peavy was getting hammered.

Well, yes.

But this also was the textbook example of a pitcher taking time in the spring to work on a few things, which is why Peavy was very pleased afterward.


"I hate the fact that in spring training you get ambushed," he said.

Translation: The Angels had some young guys in their lineup who came out swinging more aggressively than usual in the first inning.

Being that Peavy's goal for the afternoon was to work on locating his fastball, it wasn't an optimal matchup for him. Because as he threw a steady stream of first-inning fastballs, Robb Quinlan, Erick Aybar, Kendry Morales, Jeff Mathis and Nathan Haynes made him pay for it.

So Peavy adjusted his strategy in the second and third innings -- and held the Angels hitless.

As he said, even though it's the spring, there comes a point when pride takes over. So after the rocky first inning, he mixed his breaking balls in, which didn't allow the Angels to sit on first-pitch fastballs, which transformed the game away from glorified batting practice. Peavy went from throwing and locating to pitching.

"There's just something in me," he said. "I just couldn't go to bed tonight without mixing in some breaking balls with those heaters to those young kids."

By the end of it, Peavy said, he "got a ton out of it." He threw 65 pitches. He threw all of his pitches. He worked some pickoff plays with Angels on the bases. And he worked on speeding up his delivery to home -- he was clocked in 1.1 seconds on a couple of occasions -- while attempting to give catcher Josh Bard a chance to throw out some would-be stealers.

Two summers ago, Peavy was as slow as 1.35 to the plate, and when he tried to speed it up, pitching coach Darren Balsley thought his arm suffered.

"I was rushing it, and my arm (slot) was down a little, and I wasn't feeling that good anyway," Peavy said of a summer in which he battled shoulder tendinitis.

Morales nailed an 0-and-2 "back foot breaking ball", Peavy said, a cutter. "That's the only time I tried to put somebody away and it didn't happen."

By the end of the outing, Peavy was smiling in the clubhouse and couldn't stop talking about what a perfect spring outing it was.

"I couldn't let some of those guys go to bed tonight thinking, 'Man, that Peavy was a little flat,'" he said.

The regular season soon will be here.

For now, this is pretty good.

Likes: San Diego manager Bud Black's sense of humor. He was downright giddy Tuesday morning before leaving for China. ... Terrific facility here in Peoria that the Padres and Mariners share. ... Mark DeRosa back playing with the Cubs. Thank goodness that heart episode was nipped in the bud. ... The Cactus League drives sure are easier than the Grapefruit League drives, with clubs more concentrated in two areas (mostly Phoenix, with three down in Tucson). ... The Italian Grotto in Old Scottsdale, a spring staple. ... The University of San Diego over Gonzaga the other night. USD's energy was impressive. ... Van Halen's Dance the Night Away on the stadium sound system.

Dislikes: Any chain restaurant/shopping outlet/fast food joint you've ever heard of or might want to visit, you can find it on Bell Rd. heading from I-17 in toward the Peoria Sports Complex. ... The wireless Internet access at the Peoria Sports Complex retricting access to any entertainment Web site.

Sunblock day? Yessir. Seventy-some degrees and sunny. A dry heat. A sunscreen with moisturizer badly needed.

Rock-n-Roll lyric of the day:

"Went home last night
"Heard a noise
"I asked my wife what was that
"Went home last night
"Heard a noise
"I asked my wife what was that
"She said, 'Man don't be so suspicious
"That ain't nothin' but a cat

-- Blind Boy Fuller, Cat Man Blues

Category: MLB
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or