Tag Archive | "Workouts"

Oscar Taveras Needs to Find Motivation in Minor League Assignment

Oscar Taveras, one of the St. Louis Cardinals’ top prospects, was supposed to be competing for a spot on the 2014 major league roster at this point in the spring.  He was supposed to be earning at-bats, showcasing his talent and pushing manager Mike Matheny to make a very tough decision to send him to the minor leagues.  That decision was not so hard.

OscarTaveras3

Due to an ankle injury that required surgery near the end of last season, Taveras was very reluctant to step onto the field this spring.  Though team doctors had cleared him to play, he continued to favor the ankle, fearing that he may aggravate the injury and take another step back in his progression.

While hesitant to trust his ankle, Taveras ended up straining his hamstring.  Speculation has surfaced that the hamstring injury my be related to the unwillingness to test the ankle, as Derrick Goold of theSt. Louis Post-Dispatch points out when he writes, “With Taveras unable to take the field and do many of the workouts, his conditioning started to wane, and favoring his right ankle may have contributed to the right hamstring injury.”

Taveras, slowed by the injuries early on, has been reassigned to minor league camp.  He has made his debut on that side of the complex already and has begun the journey to try to reach the major leagues this season.  That journey is something that Matheny wants him to think very hard about.

Mathney is a strong believer in hard work and earning your spot.  The reassignment to minor league camp should be a motivational factor for his young star.  Matheny’s personal blog reflects that sentiment very well:

With almost 60 guys left in camp right now, I realize that I will have almost 35 of those tough conversations with guys who will not be able to make our club. I hope to remember the feeling of not making that team, many years ago, and the disappointment of a dream being delayed. I realize that I will most likely be part of their motivation to get better and make it to the next level, and I hope that I am around to celebrate with them when they beat the odds, and use their disappointments to help them reach their dream of getting to the Big Leagues. I will tell them, just like I told my son, ‘get to work and prove ‘em wrong.’

Over the next few months, Taveras can let his production speak for itself.  He can show a strong work ethic and prove that he wants to be in St. Louis.  He has the opportunity to do exactly what his future manager expects him to do.

Indeed, Taveras has every chance to “get to work and prove ‘em wrong.”

Bill Ivie is the founder of i70baseball.com.
Follow him on Twitter to discuss all things baseball throughout the season.

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Remember when St. Louis Cardinals spring training was more about baseball than contracts?

St. Louis Cardinals players reported to Jupiter, Fla., last week to kick off spring training 2013, but that first week was full of contract talk instead of baseball talk, an unfortunate situation that has become the norm at Cardinals camp in recent years.

MoAndMatheny

The Cardinals even went bigger than usual in the first week this year by having three contract announcements, but at least two of those were positive announcements. The organization picked up the option on manager Mike Matheny’s contract for the 2014 season, and it signed general manager John Mozeliak to a three-year extension.

The other announcement wasn’t so joyful. Adam Wainwright and the team said contract negotiations with the pitcher are not active at the moment, and there is not a timetable for when that situation will be put to rest.

All of these are necessary procedures for a Major League Baseball organization, but it takes away from the excitement of spring training and shifts the focus away from what we all want to enjoy: players on the field preparing for the upcoming season.

Unfortunately, early spring training workouts have been an afterthought in the past three seasons.

In 2010, Albert Pujols arrived at spring training camp in much the same situation Wainwright walked into camp this year. Pujols was headed into the final year of his contract with the Cardinals, and people spent an incredible amount of time talking and analyzing Pujols’ situation, nevermind the team was actually preparing for a season that would end with a World Series championship.

Spring training in 2011 wasn’t as bad, but that’s more because the result turned out much better for the Cardinals. Pujols had left the Cardinals and signed with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in December 2010, but the Cardinals had another important part of their team heading into the dreaded final year of a contract.

That important player was Yadier Molina. People were already speculating about him joining Pujols in Anaheim after his contract expired at the end of the year, but Molina and the Cardinals squashed that talk early in spring training when he signed a five-year, $75-million extension to stay with the club.

Then came this year, and the Cardinals are again stuck in contract negotiations with a star player. It’s anybody’s guess how Wainwrights contract situation will play out, but that’s what keeps people talking about it even though we are less than a week away from the start of actual spring training games.

Understandably, high-profile contract negotiations are part of the way of life for Major League Baseball teams these days as salaries rise to the next astronomical amount and the performance-enhancing drugs topic refuses to go away.

However, the quality of life for teams, players and their fans might be better if people spent more time talking about exciting new players or position battles instead of off-the-field issues.

Spring training is a seemingly magical time of year when teams go to the tropics to work on aspects of their game so they are ready to debut for an excited fan base when they return home for Opening Day.

Baseball is great when it is little more than those quaint storylines. It’s too bad much of that gets overshadowed by the modern realities of the sport.

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Is Lance Lynn Out Of Line?

The St. Louis Cardinals opened camp on Tuesday morning with the traditional pitchers and catchers workouts.  It did not take long for the first quote to fire up the fan base to come out.

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Lance Lynn has arrived at camp looking fit having dropped a reported 40 pounds.  He has successfully avoided using the phrase “best shape of my life”, is on the heels of an 18 win season, and addressed the one thing that critics had for him last year by improving his offseason diet to hopefully address the fatigue that set in at the end of 2013.  In the midst of losing starter Chris Carpenter and the buzz around three young rookies hoping for a rotation spot, Lynn is a bright spot in early camp.

Then, on Tuesday morning during a media scrum, a quote came flying out from Lance Lynn.  It may or may not be “out of context”, but it seemed to fire up the fanbase pretty quickly.  Via Twitter, beat writer Jenifer Langosch shared Lynn’s thoughts on the rotation competition this spring:

Lynn on rotation competition: "I was an 18-game winner last yr w/ an All-Star appearance. I have to do a lot of things to lose a spot, IMO."
@LangoschMLB
Jenifer Langosch

It is easy to see how that could rub some fans wrong.  That is not the way players tend to act around St. Louis.  Players that have been in the league for years, won multiple awards, and are solidified in their positions for years to come say “I’m here competing for my spot on the team”.  It shows a cockiness and brash attitude that this team, and it’s fans, are not accustomed to hearing.

The question here is: was it really wrong to say?

He is right, isn’t he?  I would say, due to the news of Chris Carpenter’s injury, that Lynn’s spot in the rotation is his to lose and in order to lose it, he would have to collapse pretty hard this spring.  His season last year was impressive, especially considering the second half issues he ran into.  The work he has already put in to attempt to fix that part of his game deserves accolades.

The St. Louis Post Dispatch ran an article on Tuesday as well, discussing Lynn with his manager.  Matheny had high praise for his starter and his offseason work.  The manager also had this to say about early perceptions that Lynn was not guaranteed a spot in the rotation this year:

“I know (that) made Lance a little frustrated,” said Matheny “I told him, ‘We want you coming in competing for a spot. We don’t want you rolling in thinking this is yours.’”

It is not easy to say if there is a right or wrong here.  Some will say “Carp would have never said anything like this.”  Others will point out that Lance Berkman was a breath of fresh air and would tend to be brutally honest with the media and the fans.  It is easy to see that type of quote being attributed to Berkman and fans would have applauded his honesty.  So why the outrage that Lynn is doing so?  Is it because of his age?

I freely admit that my immediate reaction was negative.  I don’t like it.  I don’t want a young player who, in my mind, still has some things to prove to sound so cocky.  I want him to talk about working hard to prove that last year was not a fluke.  I also admit that this is a personal preference.  Personally, I don’t like what Lynn said.  However, I also don’t feel what he said was incorrect.

The basic thought is there: an All Star pitcher made a statement that most of us were already thinking.

Is there anything really wrong with that?

Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball
Follow him on Twitter here.

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Spring Training Report #2

Spring Training Report #2: Games Just Days Away
Former Naturals Hitting their Stride in spring

SPRINGDALE, AR – The Kansas City Royals wrapped up their first week of workouts last week, and position players have officially reported and begun to work out this week.  Some of the Highlights from the first week of Spring practice included former Natural Greg Holland.  Holland, who will be competing for a spot in the major league bullpen with a host of others has reportedly come to camp in great shape and thrown several solid sessions in the bullpen.

Some baseball observers believe that Holland has the ability and stuff to be a closer in the near future, although he’s most likely to begin 2012 as the set-up man for Joakim Soria.

Ned Yost has also come out with his “ideal” lineup for the 2012 season.  This lineup has former Natural Johnny Giavotella hitting in the number two spot.   This would indicate that as position players get set to begin their first full week of workouts that Giavotella has a leg up in the competition to earn the starting job at second base.  He will be competing for the spot this spring with major league veteran Chris Getz.

Another former Natural Aaron Crow was in the news in the first week of camp and is expected to get a chance to make the starting rotation this season.  Crow was very successful last season in relief for the Royals.  The primary concern with moving him to the rotation would be his workload having only worked 60.2 innings last season.  Yost has reportedly said that he will be going with a six-man rotation early in spring training due to the large number of pitchers that he has at his disposal, before shaving back down to the traditional five-man rotation for the last couple of weeks of Spring.

The Royals will be playing their opening spring training game on Sunday March 4 when they take on the Texas Rangers at 1:05pm.  All games will be webcast on royals.com.

Naturals/Texas League Notes

Naturals in Other CampsJuan Abreu (2009) is in camp with the Astros and is expected to compete to be the team’s closer.  He will be competing against Brandon Lyon and with former Texas Leaguers David Carpenter and Wilton Lopez.  Abreu made his major league debut with Houston last season.  Angel Sanchez (2008) is in camp with Houston as a non-roster invitee and will look to make the roster as a utility infielder after the Astros traded for Jed Lowrie.  Kila Ka’aihue (2008) is also in camp with the Oakland Athletics and is expected to compete for playing time at first base and designated hitter with Daric Barton and former Texas leaguer Chris Carter (Midland, 2009).  Ka’aihue is out of options, and must make the big league roster or be exposed to waivers prior to being sent to the minor leagues.  Former right-hander Jeff Fulchino (2008) is competing with among others major league veteran Chad Durbin for a bullpen role with the Washington Nationals.  Other former Naturals in spring training this season include Dan Cortes (Nationals), and a trio of players who are in camp with the Atlanta Braves  Dusty Hughes (2008), first baseman Ernesto Mejia (2010), and outfielder Jordan Parraz (2009).

Transactions:  The Royals extended the contract of former Naturals’ catcher Salvador Perez on February 27th.  Perez agreed to a five year deal worth $7 million in guaranteed money and the deal includes three options that could potentially keep Perez in Kansas City until 2019.  The deal makes Perez the first former Natural to sign a multi-year major league deal.

Manny’s Surgery:  One of the early stories in camp this season for the Royals was the injury to Manny Pina.  Pina was expected to compete for the back-up catcher job with the Royals, but suffered a knee injury twisting his knee while trying to catch a foul-tip during batting practice on February 23.  The injury was later revealed to be a torn meniscus, and Pina has undergone surgery, and could miss the rest of spring training.  He is projected to miss 3-4 weeks depending on how quickly he recovers after surgery.

Other Injury Notes: Several former Naturals were also hampered by a flu-bug that was passed around the clubhouse during the first week of spring training.  The players affected included Jake Odorizzi, Everett Teaford.  Paulo Orlando was diagnosed with a sports hernia on February 22, it is not yet known how much time he will miss, or whether surgery will be required.  He flew to Philadelphia late last week to see a specialist.

Check nwanaturals.com for our Spring Training Report, where we’ll continue to follow Royals’ minor leaguers in spring training as well as cover other baseball information that pertains to the Naturals and the Texas League.

The Northwest Arkansas Naturals are the Double-A Texas League affiliate of the Kansas City Royals and play at state-of-the-art Arvest Ballpark, located in Springdale.  Visit our website, nwanaturals.com, for information on season tickets and ticket plans.

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Royals Invite Brandon Sisk To Surprise

ROYALS INVITE LEFT-HANDED PITCHER BRANDON SISK TO SPRING TRAINING

KANSAS CITY, MO (February 2, 2012) — The Kansas City Royals announced today that the club has invited left-handed pitcher Brandon Sisk to Major League Spring Training in Surprise, Ariz.  Sisk becomes the 17th non-roster player to receive an invitation.  The Royals have now invited eight pitchers, three catchers, three infielders and three outfielders.

Sisk, 26, opened 2011 at Double-A Northwest Arkansas, making 16 relief appearances.  The Elkhart, Texas, resident was then promoted to Omaha (AAA) where he went 4-2 with two saves and a 1.41 ERA in 25 outings, all in relief.  Signed from the Independent Bay Area Toros on July 8, 2008, Sisk was also a part of Major League camp in 2011.

Pitchers and catchers will report to Surprise on Monday, February 20.  Workouts for pitchers begin the following afternoon, Tuesday, February 21.  The remainder of the squad will report on Friday, February 24 and begin workouts for the 2012 campaign on Saturday afternoon, February 25.

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Are You Ready For Some Football?

While it is certainly Royals fans hope that Bubba Starling will eventually sign with KC, it would be fun to get some feel for how he would perform as a college quarterback.

It looks like we may never know.

The Nebraska Cornhusker signee has yet to see the field.

Bubba Starling

After much hullabaloo over his attendance of off-season workouts in Lincoln, Starling has yet to engage in actual football practice. Message boards buzz and the Nebraska media keeps close tabs, but Starling has yet to throw a pass, run an option, or take a hit as a collegian.

The Cornhuskers started working out last Saturday – the first contact coaches were allowed to have with players. Coach Bo Pelini said afterward that Starling won’t participate in team activities until at least Aug. 15, the signing deadline for recent MLB draftees.

While his attendance at NU is certainly a bargaining chip in contract negotiations, it also seemed Starling wanted to be in Lincoln to experience, if only briefly, the life of a college football player.

It looks now like that won’t happen. He’s not listed on the team roster and isn’t working out with the squad. He may hang out with football players in the dorm, in the cafeteria or around town, but he’s not a football player. Not now. And maybe not ever.

Coach Pelini even went so far as to say that it “would not make sense for him to practice as long as there is uncertainty about his future.”

One has to wonder if the “I might play football, I might not…” game alienates Starling from his NU coaches and teammates. In a sport where commitment is paramount, Starling appears to be manipulating the Cornhuskers strictly for his own benefit.

Real football players are not the type who shun contact or avoid the potential for injury. Starling, wisely, is doing just that, but it’s just one more way he’s not truly “one of them.”

Bubba Starling fans (not necessarily Royals fans) would like to have some idea how Starling would stack up on the gridiron. A couple of intense weeks of competition would give them at least something.

Certainly Starling has no chance of cracking the Cornhusker lineup. Not with Taylor Martinez firmly entrenched for the next three seasons. His best hope would be to show in practice that he could beat out red-shirt freshman Brion Carnes, sophomore Ron Kellogg III, and true freshman Jamal Turner on the depth chart.

But now it looks like not even that will happen. It is generally assumed that Starling won’t dare turn down the $7 to 10 million that he will get for signing with KC. Not when his success at quarterback is far from guaranteed. And not when new labor agreements in both baseball and football could decrease his earning potential in future years.

Many fans hoped to follow reports from Lincoln of Starling’s daily work at quarterback over this week, adding to the drama leading up to Aug. 15.

But unless the Cornhuskers pull some major upset, we’ll always wonder just how good Starling the quarterback could have been.

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Winter Warm Up: The Long Road Ahead

Prepping for the Grind

While Lohse and Freese have to exercise caution going into the accelerated workouts of Spring Training this year, other players finished 2010 healthy and that allows them to achieve top form well before the start of the preseason.

Friend of the site Cadence and Jon Jay

Chris Carpenter is excited about the way his body and arm feel. “The last two years were the best I ever felt going into Spring Training, and this year is no different,” Carpenter said Saturday. He starts mentally preparing for the upcoming year after Thanksgiving; once Christmas and New Year’s Day pass he starts throwing and that signals “go time.” Carpenter feels the 2011 Cardinals’ rotation gives the team a chance to win every night. He praises having all five starters locked up early in the offseason because it allows the group to talk as a unit and keep track of each others’ workout routines up to and throughout the season.

Jon Jay realizes he is still a young player, but that doesn’t stop him from seizing every learning opportunity he can. He was happy with the way he broke in last year and he wants to use that experience to help him going forward. “I’m just trying to make the team right now,” Jay said. “I don’t look at (the outfield situation) as a battle; I know if I take care of what I can take care of I’ll be all right. I’m just trying to do the best I can do and go from there.”

Colby Rasmus has spent a lot of his offseason in the woods hunting. After a 2010 he calls “a learning experience,” Rasmus knows he can’t change anything that happened on or off the field. He didn’t pay any attention to the trade rumors that mentioned his name earlier this offseason, so he’s ready to move forward. He doesn’t expect to change much about his workout routine, and he already feels good and ready to go. “I’m enjoying the time (in the offseason), but I get to go on the Cardinals Caravan with some of the older players, so it’s kind of time to start buckling down after I get back.”

Chris Reed is a freelance writer from Belleville, IL who also writes about the Cardinals for InsideSTL on Mondays and Bird Brained whenever he wants. Follow him on Twitter @birdbrained.

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