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Miles to go before they sleep

By Scott Miller | Senior Baseball Columnist
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Hang around the Grapefruit League, you need a map of the state of Florida. Even if you're the Miami Marlins.

Wednesday, they bused across the state to face the Rays here, and they were pleased to clock in at under three hours, one way: 2 hours and 55 minutes, to be exact.

Two days earlier, the Marlins crossed the state to play the Red Sox in Fort Myers. That bus ride took 2 hours and 45 minutes each way.

"It happens," said Miami first baseman Gaby Sanchez, though that matter-of-fact demeanor didn't stop him from looking heavenward and mouthing the words "Thank you" when acknowledging that he was only required to make one of the two trips from Florida's East Coast to West Coast in the past three days.

Also on Wednesday, the Minnesota Twins rode up I-75 to play the Phillies in Clearwater, about a two-and-a-half hour ride each way. And the Twins cross the state to play the Marlins in Jupiter on Saturday, a trip that will take nearly three hours.

Meanwhile, as his former teammates motor through another spring getting intimately acquainted with buses and freeways, Michael Cuddyer is having none of it. Not since signing with the Colorado Rockies as a free agent over the winter. He's getting a first-hand glimpse at the ease of the Cactus League travel he's heard so much about after 11 seasons with the Twins.

"They were calling me 'Road Warrior' because I traveled two days in a row to Mesa and Scottsdale," Cuddyer said, chortling, of his new Rockies teammates. "I may as well have gone to the grocery store."

The ride from Colorado's place in North Scottsdale to the Cubs' spring park in Mesa is 15 miles. And it's even less -- nine miles -- to the Giants' Scottsdale Stadium.

"I was really traveling, I can tell you that," Cuddyer joked. "It almost takes as long to walk to the dugout here [at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick] as it does to drive to Scottsdale Stadium."

Sunblock Day: Drop-dead gorgeous. Temps in the 80s, sunshine ... brilliant.

Likes: Wade LeBlanc dominating this spring for Miami. Through 10 1/3 innings, he's got a 0.00 ERA, has whiffed nine and walked none. He's allowed only two hits. "If spring training had a Cy Young Award, he'd win," manager Ozzie Guillen raves. "This kid is pretty good. He's the best pitcher we have." ... Absolutely wonderful job of renovating Charlotte Sports Park by the Rays and the county. Sweet spring training digs now, as opposed to back in the day when the Rangers were here and the décor was cinder block everywhere. The difference between a carnival and a prison yard. ... Rays phenom Matt Moore. Smart, personable kid. And wonderful stuff, of course. ... Don't know that "great" is a word for them, but what terrificly exciting games Tuesday night to open the NCAA Tournament. Western Kentucky was dead, right? Poor Mississippi Valley State. And Iona had that 25-point lead over BYU. They don't call it Madness for nothing. This is a great week, with two more games Wednesday night and, of course, wall-to-wall tournament action Thursday through Sunday. ... Still hard to beat The Very Best of the Eagles,especially when the sun's coming up at 7:30 a.m. and the road is lonely. Tequila Sunrise, Ol' 55, Desperado and Peaceful, Easy Feeling hit the spot. Not only is Desperado very underrated, it also brings you back to the Seinfeld episode when Elaine has a thing for a guy who falls into a trance each time he hears the song. Fabulous.

Dislikes: The Drive-By Truckers are passing through my home turf tonight and I'm nowhere near to see them. Worse, they played Phoenix last night and I left there on Friday. Always hate to miss the Truckers, one of my favorite bands.

Rock 'n' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Six in the morning
"Gave me no warning
"I had to be on my way
"Well the trucks are all passing me
"The lights are all flashing me
"I'm on my way home from your place
"And now the sun's coming up
"I'm riding with Lady Luck
"Freeway cars and trucks
"Stars beginning to fade
"And I lead the parade"

-- Tom Waits, Ol' 55

 
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